Plug Me In  

Photo Plug Me In

One thing led to another and now I am the proud owner of multiple devices that need to be plugged in, as part of my daily beauty regimen.

It all began quite innocently. Times were changing and the big move from a bubble hairdryer to a blow dryer seemed the right thing to do. The electric toothbrush was all my dentist’s idea. The Waterpik would water floss my teeth to better health, so said the dental hygienist. The ex-foliation brush was prompted by my esthetician; who doesn’t want their skin rejuvenated?

I’m sure that Mr. Wiz* can hear the strange sounds coming from behind the closed bathroom door; the hums, whirrs, buzzes and the occasional ear piercing shrills when two or more warning alarms signal that their units need recharging. Though he never comments, he does sometimes appear wide-eyed as he asks me if I am all right. And while I’m happy with my little gadgets oscillating and vibrating away, I’m sure that there are new products that are reminiscent of a day spa in space.

Imagine that your smart refrigerator takes one look at you via its touch screen and alerts your iPhone to call and make an emergency appointment with your hairdresser and cosmetologist. Sensing this would make an ideal date night, Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant that is now a member of your household, calls your husband and your favorite restaurant to schedule a reservation. When his car’s GPS notices that your husband is driving to a local florist, it contacts Siri, who intervenes to assure him that an important event has not been forgotten and flowers are not necessary.

You might as well utilize your facial mask complete with LED light therapy and thermotherapy (hot and cold settings) and your skin toning device that helps tone and firm body skin and contour the body using metal spheres to channel electric waves through the skin. You have an extra few minutes so you decide to do a quick scan, place your iPhone on your forehead and analyze your skin’s hydration, pore size and formation of fine lines.

While some of these devices are directly from Allure magazine’s beauty technology update and some are directly from my imagination, you get the point. If we let ourselves, we will become obsessed with every bell and whistle that hits the market.

And naively, all I was going to hint for was the gift that keeps on giving; a small generator so I should never experience life without my four little gadgets when all-around me, alien contraptions are infiltrating our world and stimulating our body and our economy.

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

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 When You Just Gut to Rehab

Photo Gut to Rehab

Our elderly neighbors ran up to us and hugged us tightly. “…We heard you are moving north and we hate to see you go. Are you heading to Minnesota? …” “… No…” I said “…Just to the north side of the building…”

Back then, it was a win-win situation. Mr. Wiz* was eager to renovate and Big A* and I didn’t want to move, so we compromised. We moved three times in the same Chicago condominium building, buying and renovating units that were in their original condition.

There’s a price you pay for the privilege of transformation:

– A deep, intimate and complicated relationship with your contractor that, for the moment, takes precedence overall else. He is your lifeline to the construction-free world that you long for. You hunger for his voice, delight in his every word, sulk when he forgets to return your calls and look forward to his visits with unbridled anticipation.

– Those sleepless nights, as you review your decisions over and over again. Did I hear the salesman say, under his breath that it was just a representative sample? Do I really want my appliances to look like NASA space modules, communicate with my smartphone and plan my meals without me? Is brown the new black or is black the new brown?

– We came up with a sophisticated privacy system to counter the lack of doors (yelling “…Don’t come in! …” seemed to work), took turns vacuuming the paper protecting the wood floors (which also served as a means of communication) and washed dishes in the bathtub (still not sure why the new sink had backed up).

Even though we felt as if we had done our homework, we came up with some useful ideas that seemed to be missing from the how to books:

– Designate one person in your household to handle all communications with your contractor. This will eliminate any confusion or misunderstandings.

– When working on drawing up a contract, offer as much detail as you can. We prepared spreadsheets by room with the headings entitled “Demo, Construct, Electric and Cabinet and Fixtures.” Names and model numbers of any items to be purchased were also included.

– Remember that if you veer off the signed contract in any way, a change order must be written and signed by both parties.

– Affix sticky notes directly to any areas that are still in need of completion. This will bring attention to the work that is still outstanding and get it done in a timely manner.

Each time the work was completed and I had found just the right spot for my most cherished possessions, I couldn’t imagine packing them up and moving. But, pack, unpack and relocate them again we have through the years.

It’s that rush of excitement that comes with the visual culmination of all your plans and design ideas created into something new that never gets old. Funny how, at that moment, any unpleasantness is never recalled.

For those of us that can see the light at the end of those dust bunny filled tunnels, we’ll continue to move through life glancing affectionately at the Home Depot circulars, drawing up design ideas on cocktail napkins and searching for the next place to hang our hat.

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

The Interview

Photo The Interview

One last chance to check for a trace
Of breakfast crumbs on your face

Remember to exude confidence
Be yourself; don’t get tense

It’s stiffer competition than I’d bargained for
I don’t think I can take much more

My pulse is racing, my hands are clammy
What must it be like for the interviewee?

My panic is soothed by a warm embrace
And the smile on my 4-year old son’s face

“…The snack was good, the playground is great
There’s a water table and a hamster named Kate…”

Relieved and exhausted, I’ve just made it through
His first kindergarten, private school interview

 

Up early and dressed for success, it’s another busy day. There’s an early morning Spanish class and a late afternoon tennis lesson. When is the piano recital? Who is your lunch date with? Will there be time for a nap? Without an iPhone, it’s hard for you to keep track, but then again, you cannot read or write yet. Thank goodness that you are able to maintain your stress levels by humming a few bars of your favorite Mozart concerto (fresh in your mind after hearing it repeatedly while still in the womb). Welcome to the life of a preschooler.

Baby boomers may have been partly responsible for originating this phenomenon. Known for their competitive and goal-centric nature, they left nothing to chance and methodically plotted out their children’s lives. As with any faction, there are always varying levels of methodology, from those that implemented a more natural and laid-back approach to those that put the “hell” in helicopter parents (a term for parents that aggressively hover over every aspect of their child’s life).

And from those seeds that were planted and meticulously tended to, the millennial was created. Born between 1980 and 2000, they are also known as the Me Generation. They have an air of confidence about them and are sometimes blamed for being a bit too self-absorbed. Given the fact that they are the first generation to have so much technology at their fingertips, they are not entirely to blame. According to Forbes Magazine“…No generation has been as publicly reviled, praised, misunderstood and analyzed as the millennials. And, with good reason. By 2025, millennials will make up the majority of the workforce…”

We’ve created a generation that works hard, plays hard and is a powerful force to reckon with. Sure, maybe our tactics may have been a bit over the top, but by the time our preschoolers hit the college campus, they learned to tolerate our unrelenting attentiveness to every aspect of their lives. And, if they could tackle that, they could handle anything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Two Seniors

 

Photo My 2 Seniors

This is how I remember it happening. It was a Friday night and I couldn’t stop pacing the room. Big A* had just left me a phone message that we might be receiving a call from his Jesuit high school to report that some students were moshing at tonight’s dance. As I hurried to look up the definition of moshing (a style of dance which involves pushing or slamming into each other), JC* called to tell me she had a blind date. I quickly gave her a rundown of safety tips, but she was more interested in what dress I thought she should wear and said she would check in later.

Back when Big A was still in high school and JC was moving to Chicago to be nearer to us, their lives seemed to collide in a parallel universe for a few short months. Contrary to popular opinion, high school seniors and senior citizens seem to have more in common than most people think.

Though one goes to bed too late and one gets up too early, their main goal in life is socialization. Having completed intense research in order to track their activities during the course of one week, I discovered that these two, party animals remained neck in neck for number of hours of communal involvement.

More in-depth investigation uncovered interesting findings. While playing rugby, Big A and his teammates would scrum, which involved players packing closely together with their heads down in an attempt to gain possession of the ball. This was not too far off from a similar strategy of a group of senior women in their attempt to gain possession of 50 percent off sale items during an outlet mall visit.

Another rugby analogy presented itself in the form of the traditional sharing of food at the end of each game. The host team would stand to the side and invite the visiting team to serve themselves first, then the ravenous players would all attack the table. Again, not too distant from the sight of a group of early bird diners and an all-you-can-eat salad bar. I rest my case.

We shopped for two microwaves and settled both into their new digs; a dorm room and a senior community (which, soon gave way to a condo when JC announced that her new neighbors were too old). In my attempt to seek out some sort of a generation gap, all I actually found were grandmother and grandson shopping together at Gap Inc.

Much time has gone by, but these two still share a special bond. I can rest assured that when I am out of town, they will take care of each other, which they did recently when they enjoyed cocktails and dinner at one of the new, hot spot restaurants and took in a Gypsy Kings concert.

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

Growing up Gastronomically

      Photo Gastronomically

Unlike most young teens my age, I sailed through my chubby stage, thanks to a fan club consisting of my parents, an aunt and two sets of loving grandparents. They’d listen attentively to the detailed accounts of my life and were an enthusiastic audience, whether I was reading them my entire school report or rehearsing my lines from the school play.

Little did I know that secret family meetings were being held to discuss such topics as to how to delicately get me to remove the belt on the knit dress that I loved to wear and how to help me curb my voracious appetite. Luckily, my Spanish grandmother’s suggestion to apply some Latin folk remedies involving herbs, a pig’s snout and a short prayer were immediately vetoed.

So, it was with a combination of elevated confidence and naivety that I found myself participating in “Operation Lindita” (in the Spanish language, adding “ita” to a name indicates affection). Each evening, as JC* prepared dinner, I joined her in the kitchen and sipped a cup of hot chicken broth in the hopes of curbing my appetite. Thanks to a combination of nutritional eating and the introduction of boys into my life, I soon dropped the weight, never to have it return again.

I am not a sweet eater. I am not abstaining to show my sugarless superiority, I just prefer salty over sweet. You can count on me to guard your Halloween candy stash with nary a candy bar missing, but I am prepared to arm wrestle you for that last potato chip. I always carry some small packets of salt with me and do not travel without pretzels. I’m not sure why; an abundance of sodium chloride just makes me feel secure.

It was in college that I was first introduced to tiny utensils. The ex-Ford model hired to turn us from high school grads (still carrying the baby fat that once made us cute) into professional career women ate with a cocktail fork and a demitasse spoon and to this day, so do I.

At a recent family reunion, my siblings (all foodies) seemed to be curious about my petite partaking. As a souvenir of our time together, I sent each of them a cocktail fork and a demitasse spoon, tied with a red ribbon, and attached this poem I wrote:

When dining with utensils tiny
Frustration may leave you a bit whiny
So, savor each morsel on your plate
Watch your tummy slowly deflate
And smile in your spoon’s surface shiny

Remember, it doesn’t matter how big or small the bite, just as long as you take the time to savor each one. Bon Appetit!

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

The Nose Knows

Photo Sneeze

Bless you! Gesundeit! Last evening, she suffered another uncontrollable burst of sneezing during dinner and almost fell off her chair. All eyes were upon her as she excused herself from the table. We all followed the sound of the rapid fire “achoos,” as she made her way to the ladies’ room. I trailed behind at a reasonable distance and checked to make sure she was OK.

I thought she was kidding when she said she suffered from snatiation, a combination of the words sneeze and satiation. It’s a lighthearted attempt to coin a medical condition actually called stomach sneeze reflex, which is characterized by sneezing when the stomach is full.

Though there is no known cure, eating smaller meals and/or eating slowly may relieve the symptoms. It is likely to be genetic and does not cause any other health problems. I assured her that there was no need to be embarrassed. Would she rather be tapped on the shoulder while dining and reminded out loud that bathing suit season was just around the corner? I suggested she think of it as her own personal health consultant traveling with her 24/7.

This made me wonder; what would happen if our body’s reflexes continued to monitor our shortcomings?

Picture a world where every time you gossiped, you got a case of the hiccups. Baffled, the medical community would search for an explanation to justify the increasing cases of hicabber (a blend of the words hiccup and blabber). Starbucks stock would plummet as hiccupping women around the world, who normally gathered to share some indiscreet conversation over a latte, wreaked havoc on unknowing customers.

Companies of every size would follow suit as major corporations began a campaign of posting a single paper bag in conspicuous places, a subtle reminder that, though considered a hiccup remedy, at that point the damage will have been done. With nothing to do but actually work, this one simple act would surge workplace productivity to an all-time high.

Imagine incessant blinking brought about by anger. Though blander, a merge of the words blink and dander (losing one’s temper), would initially be thought of as just another means to further hostility in today’s world, the blinking component of this phenomenon could actually temper the act of feeling infuriated. Road rage became nothing more than a blinking contest. In some cases, a blink was mistaken for a wink and the flutter of eyelids led to a first date.

According to Smithsonianmagazine.org, studies have shown that we blink at predictable moments in an attempt to gather thoughts and focus attention on the world around us. A few moments of mental resting might be what we required all along to alleviate aggression.

I know what you’re thinking and yes, there is the possibility of experiencing snatiation, hicabber and blander all at once, but don’t think of them as symbols of shame. In The Scarlet Letter, Nathanial Hawthorne’s character, Hester, comes to realize that the “A” initially intended to mark her as an adulterer eventually stood for “Able” and became a powerful symbol of identity that helped her navigate the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Unfurling My Curls

Photo Unfurling My CurlsBeing a little girl with curly hair had its perks. I could launch into a medley of ShirleyTemple songs and tap dance my way to a later bedtime, but as I grew up I became tangled in its complexities.

My unruly curls and I were soon taken to my Titi Olga’s beauty salon for a consultation (Titi is an affectionate term for aunt, in Spanish). Located in the basement of her home, it most probably was being run without a license. Possibly affected by the strong odor of the chemical solutions, JC* lost all control of the situation and the decision was made to trust the illegal professional to give me a permanent. I left there with a lollipop and a hair style that gave new meaning to Curly Top, one of Shirley Temple’s hit movies.

As a teenager, the Beach Boys music reminded me that my curls were interfering with my goal of long, blonde, straight hair and living in California. Luckily, I had read in a teen magazine that I could straighten my hair on my own. The project required an ironing board, an iron and one important item that I had forgotten about: the towel that goes between the iron and the hair. It was a miracle that JC walked into the laundry room just at the right moment and shrieked, saving me from a 911 experience that would, no doubt, still be the talk of the police locker room today.

There was another article in that same teen magazine (they went bankrupt soon after) that said to set your hair with juice cans, the larger diameter helping to straighten the hair. Though my younger siblings were apprehensive at first, the little entrepreneurs set up shop, charging their friends 25 cents to view their alien older sister in her native habitat. And, when I awoke one morning, screaming, as I discovered that you could read the word “Tropicana” in bold letters across my rolled hair, those little devils raised the admission price to 50 cents.

As if out of a scene from It’s a Wonderful Life, I unexpectedly experienced life curl free when I became pregnant. It wasn’t pretty. My mind raced through the twists and turns of a life without those rowdy ringlets and I swore on my bubble hair dryer that if my curls somehow returned, I would never brush them off as an annoyance again.

In an ironic turn of events, Big A* was born with a bald little head and my curls miraculously returned, crowning my head, once again, with those wild twirls of hair that were and are the root of who I am.

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.