Category Archives: relaxation

A woman’s work is easily undone

Is it housework or punishment? Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Is it housework or punishment? Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Did you ever wonder why a clean house, weed-free yard and washed and waxed cars in the driveway matter?

Yeah, me too. And yet I keep doing those things, only to see them get dirty/overgrown/muddy again. It’s like being on a diet for six days, only to have the ice cream truck break down in your driveway on day seven. All the counting calories and fat and carbs, then the goop hits the eating device.

It’s the classic definition of a vicious cycle. And in my case, I actually guilt myself into the everlasting cleaning parade by worrying about what people will think about the yard (don’t want it to look like we abandoned the place), the house (a random human could stop by and white glove-judge the coffee table and countertops) and the cars (The Husband is an ex-racer and lifelong automotive junkie, so when it comes to cars, I have to keep up with the in-house Joneses).

And worst of all: I clean my house completely before I go on vacation.

I could be talked out of doing some of these chores, if anyone cared to try a little arm-twisting. My mother worked, and had a once-a-week cleaning service, a tall blonde Valkyrie of a woman named Helga. She never said much, but her capacity for work was astounding. She certainly gave credence to the phrase “heavy lifting,” back in the day when everything was ironed (including sheets and pillowcases), all the floors were washed and waxed and furniture wasn’t just dusted, it was polished. I’m no slouch, but Helga’s ability has me beat any day of the week. I cannot imagine having a stranger in my home to clean it, though. I’d never stop wondering what they were thinking.

I look forward to the occasional day or weekend away because it forces me to break the cycle. Of course, I return from the time off in a panic, because now I’m “behind” on things and “have to” catch up. Is it too late in the year to make a resolution to do less housework, or am I doomed to run forever on the cleaning carousel, like a gerbil on speed?

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Filed under home improvement, relaxation, thought

Suitcase Blues: Love Travel, Hate Packing

Suitcases

Suitcases (Photo credit: Rog42)

I enjoy going on the road: discovering offbeat restaurants, meeting new people, eating, seeing new places, finding great food.

Did I mention I like to travel for food? It’s true.

But I hate getting ready for a trip. I look at it as a chore, an unpaid job and a source of extreme stress.

I like the planning portion of a trip. I want to do the research: look up routes and maps, admission prices and history. I print and punch holes and place everything in a loose-leaf binder, tagged and sorted by date, city and activity type. Yes, I know I could do this on a Blackberry, an iPhone or other digital planner, and have a Siri-like reminder tell me what’s next each minute of each day of my trip. Oh, and I could use my iPad to take notes on the trip. I hate to break it to you, but I still use paper notebooks. At least I’ve moved into the twentieth century and switched to a digital camera, so give me a little tech credit.

My distaste for the travel procedure centers around packing. I hate to do it. I can never decide what to take, what to leave behind, and when I do make my choices, how to make them fit without making the bag look less like an overstuffed turkey and more like the suitcase of a seasoned, sensible traveler. 

Maybe the problem is that I begin to pack too early, like two weeks before the trip. I give myself too much time to plan and think and ruminate about what I want to take, when I should consider only what I really need. I pack for every possible bad scenario, instead of realizing that if the worst case scenario happens, I will still be close enough to civilization to buy what I need.

I have no idea how people visit third-world countries for a month with only a backpack and duffel bag, much less consider sharing a single suitcase with their spouse. I’ll be doing the latter with mine, and I’ll let you know how that turns out – assuming we survive being in the same car for a week.

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Filed under food, relaxation, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

When In Doubt, Just Take A Nap

Sometimes, I don’t know why I fight the urge to take a nap.

It’s not like I ever sleep in anymore. I’m up early (at a time a friend of mine refers to as “the butt-crack of dawn”) and working out, followed by getting ready for work, followed by working, followed by working around the house (either cleaning it, fixing food in it, feeding the animals/Husband in it), followed by writing or researching things to write about. There’s not a lot of down time these days.

I promise myself every day that I will go to sleep earlier. It never happens. I’ve tried every method possible to retrain, rethink and reconfigure my routine, in an effort to get more sleep. I’ve found that it’s one thing to get into bed, but quite another to turn off the brain cells by telling them, “Hey guys, lights out, playtime over. And quit thinking about THAT, too. I don’t care how good-looking he is. NOT NOW.”

I cannot imagine how people with kids do it all and still remain vertical. Managing for themselves plus the little people who depend on them is work. Do they keep pushing with the promise to themselves that there will be endless time someday to lay in a hot bath, snooze in a hammock or relax on the couch? Remember when we were kids in nursery school and kindergarten, and nap time was part of the curriculum? You had to bring a blanket or towel from home, and sometime during the day, everyone spread them out on the schoolroom floor, and pretended to sleep, fidgeting and giggling all the while? How come we never appreciated nap time back then?

I’d like to schedule a good nap during the day, but curling up on my desk at work really isn’t an option. So I’m going to give it a shot for the weekend. I’m going to schedule a weekend nap, starting this weekend. I have no idea on this Monday night if I will actually need it, but it sounds like such a luxurious thing to do, like booking a little vacation, except it’s on the couch, it’s free, and I’ll do nothing except close my eyes.

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Filed under inspirations, relaxation, thought, Uncategorized, vacation

Party-Pooped,or Why We’re Home for New Years 2012

If ever there was a pair of  no-party animals, it would be The Husband and me.

It’s not that we’re antisocial. We see friends on a regular basis, and relatives when the need arises or the event calls for our presence. We can converse sensibly, chew with our mouths closed and generally behave like civilized creatures when an invitation to socialize hits our mailbox.

But we’re not the textbook definition of “party people.” Neither of us has the  flashy wardrobe (though The Husband has far more of the closet filled with his clothes than I do), the cash (good food and better booze isn’t cheap, especially when you dine and drink out) and frankly, the time and stamina necessary to maintain a long-term relationship with the woo-hoo side of life. I work two jobs, and work out every day. The Husband is retired, but I keep him on a reasonable leash via a steady honey-do list, plus there’s all that work to do maintaining his cars, the yard, and watching NASCAR nine months a year.

So, no time, no money, and the wrong attitude when it comes to celebrating the new year. But I don’t think we’re alone on the stay-at-home thing tonight. I asked among my friends, and found out that very few are going out tonight, and those who are won’t venture far from home. Many will go out for an early dinner, or to family or the neighbors for dinner or drinks, and actually head home before midnight – on purpose. When I asked them why, their answers were all quite similar. Of course, they said they wanted to be off the streets, out of the path of drunk drivers, gun-toting tipplers and folks with live fireworks in one hand and firewater in the other. But they also wanted to be peaceful tonight. They wanted to hear the sounds within their own walls;  the voices of their families, or the sound of good music, a bit of television, or conversation with a good friend or two. The party hats, noisemakers and all-night beer-and-buffet doesn’t have much attraction. Maybe it’s a been-there-done-that issue. Or perhaps because it’s been such a tough year financially for so many people, an elaborate celebration simply isn’t possible, or doesn’t seem appropriate.

But if it’s your thing, don’t let anyone stop you from heading out to party, whether it’s to Times Square or your small town’s main square. Just be safe out there. I’d like to have you back here and reading and commenting in 2012.

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Filed under family, Holiday, New York City, relaxation, thought, Uncategorized

I’m Mindless in The Morning, and Not Proud Of It

I’m a fairly busy person, working two jobs and hoping to make it in the literary world. I normally work seven days a week, because I write at least four times a week and do research/interviews on two days, in addition to the full-time “real world” job.

Nevertheless, I like starting my day with some mindless task. I envy those folks who can leap out of bed and focus on the day’s list immediately. I couldn’t do that with a perpetual coffee drip permanently inserted into a vein. My brain cells simply don’t line up at attention first thing. Blame it on being a night person for too many years. I worked second shift for a long time, and while I say I’ve adjusted to a nine-to-five world, I often wonder if some small part of my mind resists the change.

I like to start the day reading or writing, even if it’s just yesterday’s newspaper or refining an upcoming column. Then it’s on to the exercise regimen, something I cannot do without, for reasons of health and sanity. Exercise does require concentration, but once started, it’s automatic, and therefore becomes almost mindless. I like yard work and housework for the same reason. Both require movement (good for the body) and not too much thought (good when the brain’s not quite awake).

For some people, religious services first thing in the morning are the way to go. While I am not particularly religious, nor do I promote any one religion over another, I can see the value in that idea. And no, I am not suggesting that religion is mindless.  Whether simple prayer at home, or organized services in a house of worship, it is for many a means to focus rebellious brain cells, souls and spirits in a disciplined way towards a single vision.

For others, the way to start the day is with study, in the hopes of getting or furthering their education. Whether it’s a fresh-faced high school student or laid-off, middle-aged executive in need of a fresh start, shaking off the night’s sleep comes when the textbooks are opened, the MacBook is turned on and the gathering of knowledge begins again.

For parents, their children are their literal and figurative wake-up call. Mindless moments can’t be all that common when you have babies needing feeding, changing and cuddling, toddlers opening everything and chewing anything, and preteens and teens dealing with everything from acne and Android to Justin Bieber and college board exams. There’s too much to do, and no doubt the time when a parent can allow their thoughts to drift to nothing special is something they look forward to…after the kids are grown and out.

So to all you folks who worry about your lack of concentration first thing in the day: relax about it. Accept and embrace the mindless, and find something easy to do when it’s early. Take time to focus the brain, and enjoy the opportunity. By the time your brain catches up, you’ll be amazed at what you’ve accomplished. Either the toilet will be really clean, or you’ll finally finish War and Peace.

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Filed under blogging, Children, family, freelancing, inspirations, mental health, relaxation, thought, Uncategorized

Praise the Past and Pass Me the Deviled Eggs

It’s been a rough few weeks, as I have previously mentioned. But I get a break tomorrow.

I’m getting together with friends and heading to a local amphitheater for some Shakespeare and supper on the lawn. Yes, it’s summer in South Florida. I know it’s hot outside, and even after 6 p.m. things don’t cool down a whole lot, even near the beach. But with good food, good friends and enough bug spray and adult beverages, all will be more than well. It will be excellent.

Everyone is contributing different foods: tiny sandwiches, fruit, crudites and dip, exotic chips. But my personal plan is to eat myself into a deviled egg coma. Margaret makes the deviled eggs for all occasions, and they are rich, and  stupidly addictive. She makes different-flavored varieties, and no matter how many of her artery-clogging creations she brings, none go home with her. 

Where did this most favored morsel get its start, anyway?  And why do we like them?

According to The Deviled Egg Gourmet, no one person gets credit for their invention. The idea for stuffed eggs has been around since ancient Rome, and the term “deviled egg” has been in use since the 17th century. They are classic party food and perfect finger food. They can be expensive calorie and fat-wise, yet they don’t feel like it because they seem so small;  just a mouthful. You can keep them simple, with mayonnaise, mustard and seasonings. You can dress them up with curry, capers, pickles, bacon, paprika or just about anything else you have in the fridge or pantry. I am happy to forgo most food for a day, and put in hours of exercise, for the privilege of partaking in bite after bite of firm white outside and creamy yellow filling, enhanced with just about any seasoning or additive. I don’t know why I like them, or why I am not picky about flavorings. There is something both childish and childlike about deviled eggs. Eating them is like going back to your grade-school lunchroom, brown bag and all, when choices in food, friends and fun were simple and obvious, unclouded by technology and adult concerns.

This time tomorrow, the play will no longer be the thing. The coolers will be packed, chairs folded, trashed gathered. And I’ll be feeling a little bit of cholesterol-induced guilt and shame, but a whole lot more  of “devilishly good eggs, weren’t they?”

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Filed under food, food history, inspirations, relaxation, Uncategorized

Holy guacamole! There’s an avocado in my garden!

I don’t do a lot of things to really relax. Writing is not normally stress-free, especially when I am on a deadline and searching my head frantically for the right words. I swim and run competitively, and bike occasionally for fun. I do housework and laundry, which are both relatively mindless activities, but still physical in nature.

One activity I do enjoy is working in the yard. I grow a variety of tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs, and I find that shoveling compost, pulling weeds and setting the sprinklers does loosen the tension in my jaw and shoulders, and allows my mind to wander onto subjects that don’t involve work, words and worry.

While outside this morning, pulling weeds and inspecting the yard for damage following severe thunderstorms, I spotting something on my avocado tree. It was an avocado. I’ve been waiting five years for this tree to do something besides show off flowers and leaves. Yes, I was aware when I purchased the tiny seedling that it has what’s called a “long juvenile period.” But five years? I wondered if the $20 spent on its purchase was ever going to be a good investment.

Over the years, I have wrapped that tree in blankets and plastic, to protect it against frost. I have siphoned water away from it after rain from hurricanes and tropical storms surrounded it. I have plucked the dead brown leaves and pruned the branches, in an attempt to speed its growth.

In some ways, that tree reminds me of my own journey into My Next Life. I’ve found protection in the wraparound comfort of words, both my own and other writers. I’ve fought to stay alive in the writing game as the demands of my “regular” life seep into and sometimes engulf my writing time. And I’ve had to cut and trim away some writing endeavours that simply did not work anymore. And like my avocado tree, I expect to bear even more fruit than I have so far. One avocado is a good start, but it’s not a bowl of guacamole.

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