When Slipping Into Something More Comfortable Means Flannel Pajamas

Each Christmas for the past 20 years, my husband has given me a gift from Victoria’s Secret. Typically, it’s an assortment of practical underclothes, plus something a little sexy. I always look forward to this gift. To me, it affirms that in his eyes, I’ve still got it.

That’s why I was surprised, and a little dismayed, when this year instead of a lacy bra or negligee, I pulled a pair of flannel pajamas out of the VS bag.

“Is this what it’s come to?” I asked my husband.

“I thought they were kinda cute,” he said.

He meant it. He was truly tickled that the pajamas had tiny champagne glasses scattered all over them.

VictoriaSecretPajamas

I thanked him, but inwardly I was concerned. It seemed we were crossing a new threshold in our marriage, one in which comfort and coziness and cuteness was superseding passion. I envisioned hot nights ahead in our bedroom; as in me sweating under the covers in my flannel pajamas while he snored beside me.

If only this were the worst of the story.

The next day, while balancing our checkbook, I saw the carbon copy of the check he used to pay for the flannels. Written on the memo line was Mom.

Mom! This was how he thought of me?

For a moment, I considered that maybe he’d intended to buy the pajamas for his mother, but decided at the last minute to give them to me. She and I were roughly the same size. Then I remembered he’d also gotten me the usual practical items, so the “mom” in the memo had to be me.

I reasoned that perhaps because he’d been shopping with our teenaged son that day, he was too embarrassed to buy something racy. That could also explain why he was thinking of me as “mom”.

That night, emboldened by a glass of wine, I asked, “Did you mean to buy the pajamas you gave me for your mother?”

He looked confused. I explained about the memo.

“No,” he said. “It was crazy in the store that day. I don’t even remember writing that.”

This I could accept. Once I had referred to him as “daddy” to my mother instead of by his name. Probably it was because I was so used to referring to him as “daddy” to the kids. At the time, I was horrified by the slip. Now I’m glad for it because it’s helping me understand the memo.

But there was still the matter of the flannels.

“I wanted you to be warm,” he said. “You’re always complaining how cold you are.”

Not wanting to sound like a complete ingrate, I didn’t point out that I’ve been complaining about being cold in winter for 20 years, yet only now is he buying me flannels. Perhaps he was growing more thoughtful with age. That or he’s tired of me cranking up the heat at night.

I found a quote that’s helping me see this episode in a more positive light:

“The most romantic story isn’t Romeo and Juliet who died together, but Grandma and Grandpa who grew old together.” ~Unknown

Probably it was a man who came up with this quote. Some Nicholas Sparks type who buys his wife flannel pajamas for Christmas.

We Are Each Other’s Angels

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer, miracles, God, and the mysteries of the universe. Maybe it’s the Christmas season prompting such thoughts. Or maybe it’s because I’ve reached a point in life where I’m pondering the purpose of it all.

There is something to be said for magical and seemingly unexplainable moments, such as:

  • Running into a person you haven’t seen in years, exactly at the moment you’re thinking of him or her.
  • Having an idea, goal or dream, and suddenly a door of opportunity opens up for you in an unexpected way.
  • Meeting a stranger by random chance who immediately feels like a long-lost friend, lover, or soul mate.

I imagine all sorts of little miracles going on behind the scenes of our lives. Some we see; some we don’t even know happened. Maybe it was the tree that fell in the middle of the road, which forced you to take a different route, which prevented you from getting into an accident. Or maybe it was being detained at work, which kept the tree from falling on your car in the first place.

Then there are the helpful people that come along just when we need them. A friend who mentions something in passing that leads you to an answer you’ve been searching for. A teacher or counselor who connects you with someone who helps you to achieve a goal.

Maybe it’s as simple as the neighbor who shovels your driveway, knowing you’re not up to the task. Or it could be as complex as someone who protected you from harm or even saved your life.

Think about all the times when you have been that helpful person.

I have a theory about these things. I believe there are angels and guides watching over us. I also believe that we are each other’s angels right here on earth.

I’m not religious, but I believe in a higher power, or intelligence, that governs our universe. And I don’t believe it can possibly handle all of the day-to-day prayers, wishes, hopes, dreams, traumas, problems, and goals of each human being on earth. It must have helpers. Perhaps some of these are celestial beings; perhaps some are those of us right here on earth.

It’s the ultimate in divine delegating. Kind of like a CEO of a large corporation who has a hierarchy of managers working under him or her to get things done.

When it comes to helpers, either being one or needing one, prayer is essential. It alerts the powers-that-be to a problem or situation that needs immediate attention. Prayer also sends positive energy out into the universe.

The human mind cannot fully explain the endless mysteries of the universe, nor does it need to. This is where faith comes in. To have faith is to believe that something greater than us is looking out for us, even if we don’t know exactly what that something is.

Every day we can be open to the possibility of a miracle.

Every day we can send our gratitude and thoughts of others’ well-being out into the universe through prayer.

Every day we have the chance to be somebody’s angel.

How awesome is that?

Why I’m a Last Minute Christmas Shopper

The older I get, the more I understand why my grandmother started giving checks for Christmas gifts.

I hate Christmas shopping.

I hate traffic jams at the mall and stores torn up like an apocalypse hit.

I hate wandering aisles, sifting through piles of stuff in search of the perfect gift.

I hate hearing news stories about people getting into fights over the latest gadgets.

I hate spending my hard-earned money on crap that ends up broken or stuffed away.

I especially hate the rampant commercialism and greed that has taken over the Christmas season.

buy-less-this-Christmas-consumer-free-Christmas

Whew, that’s a lot of hating. Sorry about that.

To me, it just seems crazy that for a month or so each year the entire country goes on a massive buying binge. I’d blame it on the advertisers, but the truth, as I see it, is that Christmas has become an excuse for people of all ages to engage in large-scale self-indulgence disguised as giving.

I mean, you give, you expect to get back. Not all of us, but many. We want gifts, and not just on our birthdays.

I know — I’m such a Scrooge, but the insanity of it all, and the expectation by society that I must spend a small fortune unnecessarily once per year, really ticks me off. It’s one of the reasons why I started waiting until the last minute to do my Christmas shopping. Aside from enabling me to avoid the dreaded deed until absolutely necessary, there are benefits to waiting until the last minute.

Last minute shopping forces you to be efficient. You don’t have hours to waste strolling through store aisles, agonizing over finding the perfect gift. You go in, get a gift, and get out.

(I suppose online shopping is similar in this way, but I like to see in person and touch items before I buy them. It gives the act some semblance of meaning.)

Last minute shopping requires you to be creative and think outside of the box, as in big box stores. Since you know their merchandise is going to be picked over or gone, plus it’s generally cheap junk, you’re more apt to hit up local small businesses. That’s where you’ll find unique, more personalized gifts, many hand-crafted by local artisans. You also get to chat with the owners and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you’re supporting local businesses.

You’re apt to spend less money when you shop last minute. It’s easier to lose track of spending when you’re doing it in smaller chunks over the course of several weeks or months. You’re also more likely to succumb to making unplanned last minute purchases as Christmas nears.

By contrast, when you wait until the last minute to do all of your shopping, you have a clearer sense of how much money you’re doling out. You’re more likely to rein in the spending if you see it going overboard. You can’t make unplanned last minute purchases because you’re out of time.

(Here’s an article I found that supports the theory that last-minute shoppers spend less: http://www.cio.com/article/2863173/online-marketing/why-last-minute-holiday-shoppers-are-worth-less-to-you.html)

Last minute shopping frees you up to enjoy the fun parts of Christmas. These might include trimming the tree, holiday lights, and gathering with family (well, not everyone finds this last part fun); watching movies like It’s a Wonderful Life; Charlie Brown’s Christmas, which turned 50 this year; seeing the delight on little one’s faces when they open their gifts from Santa; and listening to Bing Crosby’s White Christmas over and over because it reminds you of your grandmother, the one who wrote the checks.

Let us also remember the true meaning of Christmas, often forgotten in the buying frenzy: Jesus’s birthday. We can honor His spirit by spreading peace, love, and good will this holiday season. None of this costs a dime, but it’s needed far more in this world than the latest gadget.

nativity_scene

Merry Christmas!

Love Letter to My Soul Friend

We don’t meet people by accident. They are meant to cross our path for a reason.

One of my closest and dearest friends is a woman more than 20 years my senior. When I was drinking out of a bottle (and I don’t mean Boones Farm) and wearing diapers, she was already married with children. It was unlikely our paths would cross in friendship.

But they did. As fate would have it, 16 years ago we were simultaneously taking a yoga class and psychic development class together. From the moment we met, it felt like we’d been best friends forever.

She is one of the few people I can be completely myself around. No matter what I say or do, she doesn’t judge me. In fact, often it’s the opposite; she understands and cheers me on. What a rare gift this is in a world filled with people who feel it’s their duty to judge.

Our conversations, which take place everywhere from bookstores to coffee shops to her kitchen island, tend towards deep. We contemplate topics like the direction yoga is going in this country (downhill, we feel), and why the government is trying to kill us by allowing GMOs and other questionable ingredients in our food sources.

She is a friend who, when she answers her phone, I can launch immediately into a topic without offering a greeting, and she responds without missing a beat. We talk most mornings while I make the long commute to work, and sometimes on my way home, often as she’s walking her beloved rescue dog.

We’ve had amazing adventures together. Ten years ago we completed a year-long yoga teacher training, during which we’d take spontaneous day trips to places like New York City to try out a yoga class. Once we signed up for a meditation class , befriended the instructor, and two years later were invited to Boston to visit her guru who was visiting from India. What a wild ride that was.

My friend is a woman who does what she wants, says what she wants, who thinks for herself, and doesn’t apologize for who she is – the good, bad, and ugly. When I was younger, I would sometimes find her outspokenness and honesty borderline brash. Now that I’m entering mid-life, I understand the intolerance for bullshit, the need for authenticity, and the value of being direct, even if it rubs someone the wrong way. Truth often does.

I’ve always valued our friendship, but the past year and a half my friend has become my role model, and in many ways my hero. Watching her lovingly and tirelessly care for her husband as he died of cancer was nothing short of breathtaking. Seeing the way she’s moved forward without him, navigating the new territory of widowhood with grace, dignity, and courage has inspired me. She has shown me that it is possible to keep living even after great trauma, pain, and loss.

When one hears the term “soul mate” it usually conjures up images of the perfect romantic partner. I think soul mates can also be great friends, people who were put in your life to share a unique journey with you. It’s all the better when that person is older and wiser than you, with life experience to share.

To that end, my friend is my soul mate, a true gift from God. I look forward to our continued adventures together.

 

Happily Ever After?

 

Last month I did something that I could never, in my wildest dreams, have imagined doing: I officiated my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding ceremony. I didn’t realize doing this was even possible for an average person like me, but thanks to the Universal Life Church, I became an ordained minister simply by filling out an online form. Go figure.

I was both honored and scared by the request. I mean, holy crap, I was going to marry them! This was not something I could screw up.

Thanks to much preparation and collaboration with my sister-in-law, the ceremony went off without a hitch (no pun intended), if you don’t count the fact that the guests remained standing the whole time because I forgot to tell them to sit after the bride joined the groom.  Fortunately for them, the ceremony was short and sweet.

As I guided my brother and sister-in-law through their marriage vows, and saw the love shining in their young eyes, I couldn’t help but wonder what the next 20 years would be like for them. Would their marriage mostly be smooth and problem free? Or would it hit some major bumps along the way?

This past summer, my husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. We’ve encountered more bumps than I care to remember. Like most couples, we started off madly in love and full of hope for our future. Then the grind of daily life, amongst other things, slowly took its toll.

I wish I could say that I’m a good wife, but that’s not always true. When I feel stressed, over-burdened, or plain burned out (which is too often), I am known to whine, complain, and yell. I’ve never learned how to effectively handle stress, with the exception of engaging in regular, vigorous exercise and yoga, which I don’t always have time for.

I’m too easily influenced by my emotions; take the time I was so mad at my husband that I smashed my wedding ring with a hammer. This kind of crazy doesn’t always make for a good marriage, and sometimes I feel like it negates all of the good I do bring to the union.  I’d blame it on my Sicilian blood, but that would be lame.

My husband is hardly perfect himself. On the surface he appears to be a quiet, easy-going guy. In reality, he’s not. He also doesn’t think twice about making large purchases behind my back and then leaving me to figure out how to pay for them or replace the money. He has trouble with keeping his emotions bottled up for so long that he ultimately explodes, which leads him to do crazy things, like tell a boss to f#*% off.

Still, here we are, 20 years into it. We have created a home and a family and a life together. We love each other, in spite of the bumps. Things aren’t always crazy; we aren’t always crazy. Mostly our life together is routine, with spurts of excitement and special moments sprinkled in.

That is what the romance novels don’t tell you – what happens after you say “I do”. If they did, no one would read them because they’d be too boring. But you can’t tell that to a newlywed couple, and why would you anyway? They need to have their fairy tale beginning. It’s what will carry them through the inevitable hard times, and the monotony of daily routines.

Marriages are stories that are constantly unfolding. If you’re lucky enough (meaning with lots and lots of hard work and sacrifice and compromising that no one on the outside ever sees) to make it to the final chapter (meaning the “til death do us part” ending) and still love each other, that, in my book, is the true meaning of “happily ever after”.