Every year on January 1st my father, G.K. would sit down with his yellow legal tablet and calculate how much money he spent on booze, dogs, and guns. I think he must have been satisfied with the number, because he continued to spend his time and money on booze, dogs, and guns. That’s a good life, no?
His health went south in his late 60’s and he paid the price. He had a series of small strokes and ultimately died from a heart attack the day he was to enter the nursing home. It took about 10 years to die. That’s a long time. Comeuppance.
I remember the day he died- November 3, 1995. I was happy that he at least got to stick around to see the OJ Simpson verdict on October 3rd. He was watching the trial daily and I think he would have been irritated to miss the ending. I was in my 4th year of optometry school in Oregon- also addicted to watching the trial on CNN. It gave us something to talk about. It brought us closer. Isn’t that crazy?
Today, I did my own reckoning. I went back a few years to get a better idea of where I stand. Basically, I factored how much time and money I spent on doing things that were optional and gave me pleasure or made my life easier.
2019: Plane tickets (Florida, New Orleans, Las Vegas, North Carolina 2X, and a driving trip to St. Louis), gambling trip to Vegas, writing workshop. 2019 was a good year for me- both personal and business. Worked hard/played hard.
2020: Sauna, stressless recliner, grocery delivery. This was a hard and sad year for me. I was lonely and scared. I gained 9 pounds in 9 weeks when the office was closed. I had to stop baking. You can bake if you can give it away. No one person needs a lemon meringue pie. I’m still working on getting the weight off. Dammit.
2021: Doggie daycare, work/friend trip to Las Vegas, new technology. Stevie Nicks, the black lab puppy came into my life late 2020. She is a darling, and my best friend. I’m not lonely anymore. I had a trip before things went COVID crazy again and it was a mixed bag. Adding technology has made my life easier- both personally and professionally. Infrastructure is good.
This year is still up in the air- but I hope to manage a trip or two.
I love to travel. Sometimes, I go to favorite places that are familiar and remind me of good times. Sometimes, I go somewhere new. That is probably the most exciting and good for me because it requires me to try new things, be flexible in mind and body, and open to the possibilities of whatever comes my way. Traveling somewhere new is a good challenge. I’ve never been to Paris. It’s on my list- but not this year. A girl needs to be practical. A trip to the mountains is in the works- fingers crossed.
Vegas: Vegas for me is about relationships. I have two groups of friends whom I meet in Vegas. Both sets of friends are important to me. It’s an easy destination- and we all enjoy a good time. Short and sweet. One trip involves gambling, one does not. Vegas for me falls into the same category as G.K.’s booze, dogs, and guns. I do it for fun. I don’t feel bad about it. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink very much, I don’t bowl or play darts… it’s my only naughty thing. I think a person can have one naughty thing as long as it doesn’t make you go broke or land in prison. What happens in Vegas…I’m going to a slot tournament in February with the gambling girls. Wish us luck.
My third vice? Hmmm…. I am a bit stuck on that one. I used to golf- but I didn’t golf at all last year. I golfed every Friday for years. Usually followed by a fish fry dinner. When Mom died, so did my golfing and fish fry dinners. I love boating- but don’t own a boat. That puts me at the mercy of friends, ex-boyfriends, or family to take me out on the water. That can get tricky…for obvious reasons.
If I don’t have golf or boating- I don’t know what to do with myself. Who am I?
I might buy a riding lawn mower. I bought a house with a humongous yard. Last summer, I used my ancient push mower to get the job done. It was the talk of the neighborhood- they all thought I was crazy. One time, it was very hot. My neighbor squirted me with his hose because he thought I was in danger of having a stroke. It was slightly inappropriate considering what I was wearing… but we laughed, and I told him to squirt me again. I have good neighbors. I also have a good fence. Mom always said, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
I think I prefer reckonings over resolutions. It’s like the old saying, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”
I like going into my infrared sauna to sweat it out. It helps with stress reduction. My regimen is to bake at 140 degrees for 50 minutes. It gets the toxins out. Ideally, it is best to come back to temperature naturally. Because I like to sauna later in the evening, I cannot come back to temperature, take a shower, and get to bed at 9:45. Heavens, I stay up past my bedtime! The best night for me is the night before clean sheets.
Usually Sunday. Some deviation for unexpected dirtiness. I go from the sauna to my bed all sweaty and gross. I sleep like a baby. Stevie Nicks, the black lab puppy, jumps into bed with me and we snuggle. She doesn’t mind sweaty and gross.
Not every day can be the night before clean sheets… because that would make you a slob. The next morning, you rip off the dirty sheets upon waking so that you are not tempted to go one more day. In a perfect world, the fresh sheets go on right away- but sometimes life happens- and you forget and walk into your bedroom late that night to a bed with no sheets! Dammit.
A decision must be made- put on clean sheets, sleep in the guest room, or have no sheets and just roll up in the comforter. I have done all three. I never sleep well in the guest room, or with no sheets- wrapped up in the comforter. Take the time to put them on and sleep well. Mom always said, “You sleep better with clean sheets.” She was right.
My mom, Betty, was a true believer. She believed in God, and she lived her life pretty much according to the rules of the Catholic church. Betty believed in the Church, but she was an avid reader and I think she loved books almost as much as she loved God. Betty used to say, “If you want to read a juicy story- read the Bible!”
She read everything and she allowed her children to read everything. No censorship. Thank you, Mom!
I remember when the middle school morality police confiscated my copy of Judy Blume’s Wifey. I had purchased the book on my own, with my own money, and without the consent of Betty. Truth be told, the content was a bit too adult. I was hoping for another Forever. I love Judy Blume and have watched her class on Masterclass several times. She is a treasure. Anyway…. I was not punished for buying that book.
Mom had the theory that if I was brave enough to walk into a bookstore and buy a book with my own money- I could handle the story. Amen.
Christmas Eve we always went to Mass. Front pew. Everyone knows the story… there was a census and Joseph took his pregnant virgin bride Mary to sign up and she went into labor and there was no room in the Inn. Jesus was born in a manger, was greeted by wisemen, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It’s a lot to digest in one sitting. It takes about 50 years to fully understand the beauty of unconditional love.
Betty had a portrait of Jesus above her bed. It was the one where Jesus looks kind and has a lovely tan. He has long brown hair. brown eyes and is bathed in beautiful light rays. Very attractive. To this day, I am a sucker for a brown haired, brown eyed man. On a trip to Seattle, WA in 1976 we visited my Aunt Virginia and her family. My cousin Kevin looked just like Jesus! We thought he was “hot” and to show our love we filled his shoes with pinecones.
I think that when they used to say we should love Jesus, they didn’t mean we should LOVE Jesus!
Jesus isn’t the only hot guy with brown hair and brown eyes from my childhood. My best friend, Elaine, is 100% Greek with brown hair and brown eyes. Now, I love Elaine dearly and she is a very attractive woman… but her brother John… he was a gorgeous creature. Tall, dark, and handsome. He was also as lovely on the inside as the outside. He went to Heaven way to soon and left a void. He is one of my angels. My warrior angel. He gives me strength.
My father was a difficult man. He was highly intelligent, opinionated, and raised by an overbearing mother. His father died when he was 8 years old. I am his youngest daughter- the last hope for a boy.
For the first 10 years of my life, I was his little buddy. We went hunting and fishing. We went to the bookstore. I remember those years fondly. My parents were old to be having me- Dad turned 50 the year I was born. So, if you do the math… he retired when I was in middle school. Mom and Dad would go off fishing and leave me alone. Mom would leave me five bucks and a note saying, “Take Elaine to The Hut for dinner. Back at 8pm. Love, Mom. XO
That’s what we did. We did more than just go to The Hut. We ran wild and did mostly what we pleased. I think that turned us into some interesting and independent girls.
Trouble is…. Sometimes Dad’s don’t want their teenage daughters to be interesting and independent. We had some issues. Issues related to self-esteem, commitment, and how to disagree without starting WWIII (aka effective communication). Control.
I’ve been a harsh critic. I’m softening up a bit as the years go by- mostly because I have turned out to be my father’s daughter. I have crashed and burned and made many of the same mistakes.
I sometimes run into people who still remember Dad fondly. It reminds me that being a father is only one aspect of a person.
He was a good friend. He loved the outdoors. He loved to read. He was a life-long learner and intellectual person. He was fair.
I recall an occasion when one of my sisters was being treated unfairly by a teacher. Dad went to school – meeting with the principal and teacher. He applied his critical thinking and stood up for my sister. Problem resolved. We celebrated the victory at home, and I clearly remember us all being ecstatic. Dad showed up and made mincemeat out of the competition. He may not have been 100% involved 100% of the time, but he was 100% that day.
He was not one for a lot of praise or demonstrative with affection.
For some strange reason- I despised peeling oranges. Every winter we would get a couple of boxes of citrus from Texas. Oranges, grapefruit… stored on the basement stairs. Probably purchased as part of one of the endless fundraisers for band or choir. Dad would tell me to go get an orange. I would watch as he would carefully peel the orange, making sure to get all the bitter pith off. He was very good at peeling oranges. He had very long fingers and kept good care of his fingernails. I remember this clearly… I can see him peeling the orange.
I realize now, peeling that orange was an act of love. He couldn’t say it, but he could peel me an orange.
Usually, Elaine was with me- and he would peel for us both. Dad was particularly fond of Elaine. She called him Mr. A. I have very specific memories of the three of us practicing math and vocabulary flash cards. We were competitive- but in a good way. It’s good to be smart. Thank you, Mom and Dad for not raising dodo birds.
Where am I going with this?? I have no idea.
I think that this year has been a trying year. There is so much information to digest. So many opinions, so many decisions to make, so many expectations. It’s overwhelming.
My hope is that on Christmas Eve you can remember the good times, acknowledge the bad times, learn from mistakes, forgive yourself and others, and understand that we are all human. We can agree to disagree. Peel an orange for someone you love. When in doubt, put on clean sheets. You sleep better with clean sheets.
I woke up this morning. That was a good start, and it got even better. It was early- 5:24am to be exact. No alarm, my sweet puppy Stevie Nicks lying peacefully by my side. I feel blessed, excited and dare I say it… content?
It’s a good feeling. One I haven’t felt in a while. Welcome back, old friend.
In March of 2020 I closed my optical shoppe for 9 weeks. It was unexpected, both mentally and emotionally crushing, and physically isolating.
For the last 2.5 years I had worked in the downstairs portion of my historic building and lived upstairs in a super cute remodeled historic apartment. I was technically living alone, but not a lonely person. In 2019, I treated the apartment like a condo and basically left almost every weekend to travel both near and far. It was fantastic and I was on a roll. The practice was thriving, and I was thriving. Full stop.
Covid hit. Office closed. I wanted to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, so I stayed home. Alone. I went to the grocery store once a month. I watched CNN constantly. I tried doing the 9 jigsaw puzzles I had sent over from the game store across the street. I think I managed to complete two puzzles in 9 weeks. I had no energy, no creativity.
The one thing I did manage to do was cook and bake out of my pantry. I made some good stuff, ate it, and gained 8 pounds in 9 weeks. Uh oh. Looking back on it now, I was doing a dance with a bad date called depression. I had no idea.
Luckily, a dear friend noticed I was losing it. She insisted I visit her. She was in a COVID bubble, I was in a COVID bubble… we should be COVID bubbles together. I fretted about it and finally gave in. I visited and we cooked and laughed, and I managed to find a few pieces of her jigsaw puzzle. We walked her rural road. I went to visit her several times over the next month or two. Depression started to lift. Thank you, dear friend.
The office was closed, but we started to get some orders for contact lenses. My staff took turns meeting me at the office every few days to send off orders. We masked and stayed apart. It was a saving grace for me. We shared stories about lockdown. It gave me perspective. I realized that being alone during a lockdown can be easier than being in lockdown with others. There are two sides to every coin.
The office opened 9 weeks later. It was a beautiful thing and still is. My team and I did everything we could to maintain safer standards. Patients did their part- they came in and were willing to do the COVID shuffle. My schedule was full. I have since seen over a thousand patients, and I can count on one hand the number of issues we had regarding COVID policy. Of course, I remember those incidents. When I do the math- statistically it was a minute percentage. This helps me to remember… most people are fundamentally good, kind, and willing to help.
For me, the hardest part is accepting help. It’s a flaw. I blame it on my upbringing, which is what I do whenever I face issues about myself that I don’t like. The problem with blaming everything on your upbringing is that somewhere around age 30 it gets old and worn out and your friends and family get sick and tired of it. Around age 50, the people you like to blame for your issues are dead. Your excuse is gone for good. Time to take a good look in the mirror and figure some stuff out.
I am learning. I am learning how to ask for help, accept help and be thankful for it.
Fast forward 3 months. I’m working hard now. Busier than ever. Still a little lonely as things are not back to ok with COVID. No vaccination yet. I’m starting to have COVID envy. I have a few friends and family that got COVID and recovered and are going out to dinner. Son of a bitch.
I would love to go out to dinner and be served. I don’t care what it is. If someone were to ask me, “Ma’am would you like another?” I would respond immediately, “Yes, please.” I don’t care what it is. I just want to be pampered and waited on. If I had my choose-it’s I would prefer an VO press Old Fashioned with pickled mushrooms, but I would settle for a cold Bud Light. Envy. Envy- the green-eyed girl. Wanting what other people have is usually a recipe for disaster. This includes medical conditions, choice of spouse and children, and bank accounts.
Fast forward another 6-7 months. I’ve now acquired a darling black lab puppy named Stevie Nicks. She is my new best friend and is living up to her name. She is beautiful, independent, maybe a little wild and very loving. She was an unexpected addition to my life, and I will be forever grateful. Stevie and I had some crazy times living upstairs and trying to get potty trained in the middle of winter in Wisconsin.
Stevie and I went downstairs every two hours and walked around the little park next to my office. In my work clothes, in my yoga pants, in my pjs and robe! The neighborhood folks got used to it and we made friends.
I had been looking for a little house to buy for some time. If you have been paying attention to the real estate market, you will know that it’s a real challenge to find a house. I looked, looked, and looked some more. Just when I gave up… yep, my dream house found me. I bought it. Stevie has a yard and I have a kitchen. We are happy clams. It’s perfect, and I didn’t change a thing. Timing is everything.
The tricky part is how to handle life when life’s timing isn’t in sync with my timing. There are many books and memes and prayers that address this very issue. A friend sent me a little meme during the pandemic. I can’t remember the whole thing… but it basically said, “You are Loved.” There was some other stuff I can’t remember, and “You are Enough.” Those two things I remember. I hope you remember them too.
Life has slowly returned to almost normal. I’ve been socializing a bit and seeing friends. I am one of the youngest people in my group. Some of the others are a bit older and starting to retire. I’ve been around when the talk turns to retirement and money. I was feeling bad about it. I am late to that game. I spent most of my youth and adolescence screwing around. I did what I was told by my parents, went to the same college as Dad and The Sisters. I stayed in the same dormitory, I took the same classes, went to the same underage bars. Haha! I was young, naïve, and not particularly driven. I mostly liked to have fun. I was pretty good at it, but that doesn’t really show well on a resume or add to the retirement account.
Somehow it all worked out and now I am structured and have a roof over my head and a decent job, so I won’t go stick my head in the oven. That being said, let’s spend a moment to think about life. It does require a certain amount of intention, or things tend to go haywire. Mom used to say, “The road to Heaven is paved with good intentions.” To be honest, I never gave it much thought. That has apparently gotten me to my current state of being.
Heaven and Hell. Decision, decisions decisions…I always thought the sinners had more fun and it might be worth it. I also think the road to Hell might be paved by kombucha! What?? Seriously, I was just at the new co-op and tried some and there is no amount of Tito’s that can fix it. I promptly made a nice cup of French press coffee to go with my Thunderbird Bakery pain au chocolat and life improved dramatically. I digress. Where was I? Oh yes. Intention. Intention deserves a bit more thought.
I spent some time thinking about it and determined that for me- I want to work. For one thing, Anderson’s live a long time. Mom made it to 90 and Grandma A made it to 103! That’s a lot of years to finance. I didn’t do so hot when I wasn’t working during the shut-down. It only takes an hour or two to work out and clean your house and then what? There are a lot of hours in the day. So, I need to figure how I want to work. I’ve given it some thought.
I don’t want to work like a crazy person and be stressed out. I want to work and have a balanced personal life. I want to like my patients and staff. I want to feel valued. I want to be interested in what I do. That’s a lot of wants. I will need to make a few changes.
There is never a good time to change. I’m looking at it as a positive because I am choosing to change instead of having change forced on me. There is a difference. Let me provide an example.
About 15 years ago I worked for a doctor in his practice. I was miserable. The terms weren’t as we discussed. I tried to communicate and negotiate for a tolerable and fair situation. No go. I finally quit. Then, and only then did the doctor want to communicate and negotiate. Too late, pal. “Freedom’s just a word for nothing left to lose.” Thank you, Bobby McGee. It was a hard change. It cost me in many ways… the only thing I regret is not leaving sooner.
Good change is what I am trying to achieve. I have changed my work schedule and I am entertaining the idea of adding a sub-specialty to my practice that I find interesting. There will be some short-term pain. I am doing my due diligence and not jumping into anything without a plan. This is progress, friends. In the past I would have jumped both feet forward off the cliff with no plan. I still plan to jump, but I will be wearing a parachute, just in case. Progress.
I have a friend who is very strong mentally. He’s got a good relationship with his wife and children, works hard, is physically fit, and likes to have fun. Overall, a balanced person. One time when I was complaining about something he said, “There are facts, and there are excuses.” That shut me up.
Don’t complain about being fat if you haven’t done anything to not be fat. Don’t complain about not having enough money if all you’ve done is go out and spend money. Don’t complain about being bored it you made no effort to connect with people and make plans. Don’t complain about your house being dirty if you haven’t done your part to keep it clean.
I now use that statement in my head to help me control my actions and emotions. I used it two days ago. I turned my apartment into an Airbnb. It took a bit longer than expected to get ready, but it has turned out great. I had it booked out months ago for the big summer event in town, EAA Airventure. Every hotel is booked solid for 30 miles. It’s a money maker. Two days ago, my renter cancelled at the last minute because her teenage son and adult daughter contracted COVID. The show starts in two days. I’m screwed. I was bummed out. Then I applied my new thinking. There are facts, and there are excuses. The fact is, I did my part. The apartment is clean and ready to go. I kept my end of the bargain. Done. Stuff happens, whether it’s COVID or something else. It doesn’t matter what happened to change the trip. It’s out of my control. It’s done. Once I got my head around the situation, I felt better. It’s a disappointment, but in the grand scheme of things not a deal breaker. Mental fitness. It’s a game changer.
The other night I went on a boat ride across Lake Winnebago. The water was smooth as glass. It was a beautiful evening. We ate at a tiny restaurant by the water. This spot is known for it’s beautiful sunsets and we were expecting a treat.
The restaurant was struggling to serve the patrons. There was very little staffing. We were served by children- literally- age 10 if not younger. Nothing came out as ordered. But, it was okay because you can’t expect children to know how to be servers at restaurants. Clouds were coming in and the wind was picking up. There was no sunset. I paid the bill and left a huge tip.
We had jackets and foul weather gear. The ride home was bumpy. I stood up the whole way, holding onto the railing and using my knees as shock absorbers. It wasn’t exactly a fun ride home, but it was exhilarating. I’ve got a good grip. We were all laughing and shrieking as we hit the big waves. It’s good to be with people who can laugh when things get dicey. The boat and captain were solid. I had faith we would get home in one piece. Ironically, we aim for the lights of the insane asylum to find our way home. That also seems appropriate for my life. It’s the journey, not the destination.
Last weekend I made a super yummy ultimate chocolate bundt cake – which used buttermilk in the recipe. I bought a big jug of buttermilk to make the cake. I have a bunch left….so I figured…why not just make it the same way, forget the chocolate in the batter and make cupcakes. Well, folks…. it doesn’t work that way.
My first batch of cupcakes overflowed the pans and proceeded to bake on the bottom of my oven. Oopsie. I tried again with a different pan, didn’t fill as high and thought- this just might work… until I took them out of the oven and watched them go -poof- and deflate into themselves. Argh.
At that point I said bad words and left to go watch golf and take a nap. Then I was hungry for a snack. So, I ate the deflated cupcake. It looked like heck, but tasted pretty good.
Today I made a half batch of chocolate icing and filled in the divet… frosting covers a multitude of sins.
So, anyway- I still like the batter and I still have buttermilk… so what’s a girl to do??? Next batch- I am going to omit the vanilla and add corn and jalepeno peppers and cayenne pepper and bake it in my bread pans. I will keep you posted.
Sometimes, when things don’t turn out… it really sucks. Sometimes when things don’t turn out… it might not be as bad as it seems. It’s not what you expected, but it might be just as good in a different way. And who knows… down the road it might turn into something fantastic that could never have happened if the original had turned out.
This is the story of my life. Happy Sunday, friends! XOXO.
Why? Remember as a kid, you would ask your parents why they did something and they would try to explain? Finally, they would get sick and tired of all the questions and say, “Because, kid. There is no why, it just is.”
That’s how it is with my writing. I don’t know why I do it- it just is.
People often seem surprised when I tell them that I write stories. They ask me if I hope to make money by writing books so that I don’t have to be an optometrist anymore. Then they say they would be happy for me, but are going to be bummed out if they have to find a new eye doctor.
I assure them. It’s not going to happen.
Sure, making money from selling books would be great- but that is not why I do it. In fact, sometimes putting it out into the Universe for everyone to read for a price is a bit tortuous. Bearing your soul for .99 cents isn’t for the weak. Even more daring is baring your soul for a limited time free promotion and getting a bad review. It’s the freebies that give the most scalding reviews, by the way.
I write my stories because they make me happy. I have a method. Each year I start thinking about my story when Spring arrives. Time for a new beginning. I think about my story as I go on long walks and watch the trees and flowers bloom and grow.
When November 1st rolls around, I am ready. It just happens to coincide with NaNoWriMo (November is National Novel Writing Month) and I start putting words down on paper and/or screen. It starts. I work on my book for the next few months, finding time between work and the Holidays. I am not a Holidays person, so writing the book helps me get through that difficult time. I am happily sitting at my desk writing while others are dressing up to go and socialize. Two things that aren’t my cup of tea.
And then the day comes. Today is the day this year. I publish my story on Amazon as a Kindle book. I do it because friends and families are excited for me and want to read my story. I do it because it’s easy. I could try to find a publisher or self-publish a real book. But, I am not going to do that. I think it would turn my passion for stories into a job- and I already have one of those.
I will let this story live with me for a few more weeks. If all goes according to plan, Spring will start to show up in little bits and pieces and I will find a new story to tell. It’s early yet, but I can feel that a seed has been sown. It will be fun to see what grows.