Friday, April 27, 2018

Rules are Meant to be Broken

I am what you would call a rule-follower. I am one of those people who can’t break a rule without a ton of stress and anxiety. Last week a lady at a local store couldn’t get a dollar item to ring up so she just threw it in my bag. “Are you sure that worked? I don’t see it on the receipt,” I said, not giving up until she made sure she charged me the full amount for my single sized bag of cheese popcorn.
When it comes to rules, some are culturally established, and some we make up ourselves. My husband Tom has a rule; no shoveling after March 1st, which is usually OK because usually, March is pretty mild by Northern Michigan standards. I can stomp down a couple of inches of snow on my way to my car in March because, let’s face it, spring is on its way, and who am I to complain about a job that I avoid like the plague myself? Unfortunately, as you know, this year spring was not on its way and March was a bear. Tom didn’t get to follow his rule and was forced to move snow throughout March. When April came, he reinstated his no shoveling rule. I would be OK with that, except that with our mid-April blizzard, his no-shoveling rule interfered with my “no socks after April 1st rule.” I simply can’t stomp on a foot of snow on the way to my car with cute flats and no socks. So he was back on the job. Our neighbors, recently returning from their winter in Florida, were right on it.
            “Hey! Hasn’t your husband looked at the calendar? I thought he didn’t shovel after March 1st!” our neighbor chuckled. We also got texts from friends who are well aware of Tom’s rule. He was a good sport about it and powered on, snowblowing like it was February.
This year posed another problem with the no shoveling rule. In previous years, we had teenage boys at home who were expected to pick up the post-March 1st slack. Now that they are out of the house, there isn’t anyone to say “Get out there and shovel!” to. It’s all ours.
I have to thank my husband for being a good sport and keeping the driveway cleared this year in spite of having to go back on his rule. Regardless of what happened in March or April, spring appears to have arrived and is well on its way. Tom can resume his no shoveling rule and I can stop wearing socks. I mean really, it isn’t a rule if it can’t be broken, right?

Packed with Anxiety

I hate to admit it, but I suffer from travel anxiety, or more accurately, packing-for-travel anxiety. As you may already know, Tom and I are not world travelers by any stretch of the imagination. If you have been a loyal follower of my writing, you will remember that my very first column was about learning to love boredom because we did not take a spring break vacation that year. And if you have been a reader for the past 5 years, you will remember that more of my columns have been about not going on a spring break than those that have. In fact, I think I have written exactly two columns about spring break travel, one being when my son Robby was a senior in high school (2012), and the other when my son Sam was a senior (2015). I truly love to travel. The excitement of discovering new places is something I love to do. However, we just don’t seem to travel much for whatever reason. We take our motorcycles on weekend trips to the U.P. in the summer, or we head out East to see family, but as for real vacations, they really don’t happen much. So when I actually do get the opportunity to set out somewhere for an extended period of time, the packing is the worst. I am a chronic over-packer. In the old days, this would not have been a problem. When we could check as many oversized suitcases as we could wrestle into the airport, the painstaking task of trying to figure out what to take and what not to take was a nonissue. Now with the 50 pound limit, pay-to-check luggage, and an assortment of other airport restrictions, someone like me could possibly have a pre-trip packing meltdown. Packing for me looks something like this:
·      Take out all of the clothes I could possibly need including clothes for casual, clothes for dressy, sleepwear, swimwear, shoes, socks, and unmentionables and stack them in piles on the bed. This amounts to roughly 4 piles
·      Narrow that down to 3 stacks and then start to put it all in the suitcase.
·      Take more stuff out of the suitcase because I’m sure that I’ve already bypassed the 50 pound limit before I have even put in my toiletries and hairdryer
It goes on and on like this until I have to walk away. I literally started packing for this trip 4 days in advance and each day I took things out of the suitcase and put more things back in. I weighed the bag. It was about 30 pounds. Happily, I skipped downstairs. “I’m packed! Now we just need to run to Marshalls and get a carry-on. Oh and see if you can find that black dufflebag.” “Why?” he asked. “Oh, because you’re going to need something to put your stuff in.” For me, traveling doesn’t have to be cause for anxiety. Just careful planning and an undisclosed baggage fee.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Adjusting to Empty Nest, Part 2

           “I can tell you don’t have any kids in the house,” my friend Krista said after I showed her the video I had taken of my dog, Betsy learning to jump over a broomstick in the hallway of my house. It’s true. I’m that person. The person who has taken to teaching her dog “stupid pet tricks” to keep herself entertained now that the children have left the nest. I had posted a video on Facebook about how addictive it (social media) is and how people who are experts in making casinos addictive are hired by Facebook to make it just as addictive. When I sent that video to my son Robby he replied, “You’re the one with the chicken pictures.” Yup. Guilty. The first warm day we had, I opened the chicken coop, took pictures of my chickens happily walking around on top of it, then created a photo collage to post on Instagram. Last week I posted a picture of one of my chickens standing next to the grill with the caption,
“You do NOT want to know what goes on in there, Gerrie. #theuglytruth, #chickenlove, #backyardchickens.”
My friends have been having a good time pointing out that my new interest in dog training (check out the video of my dog putting 6 tennis balls in a plastic tub) is a sign of my current state of empty-nest syndrome. After the feeling of initial sadness went away, I felt like I was adjusting quite well. And even though I felt pretty good, (even counting the after-Christmas crying jag when the boys left), I noticed that I had been unconsciously behaving in ways that might indicate that I was filling some holes, left by our now absent children.
·      We eat frozen dinners more than I care to admit. I used to cook a lot. But now that it’s just the two of us, eating out and frozen dinners are just easier.
·      I have almost totally replaced my wardrobe with purchases from Zulily and Lularoe. I didn’t realize it was happening until I began getting what seemed like one new piece of clothing per day (some stuff I didn’t even like). Between September and October I had accumulated enough items to wear something new to work every day for 3 weeks. That prompted a trip to Good Will with a big basket of clothes.
·      I am taking lots and lots of pictures and videos of my dog, cats, and chickens and then posting them on Instagram or boring my friends and colleagues by insisting that they watch just one more home movie of my dog playing with the cat.
But some good things have happened too. I have started working out again. Tom and I are getting out more and the house stays cleaner, longer. We are going to do some traveling to places other than the Upper Peninsula. Everyone said that empty next would be hard, but we’d not only adjust, but like it, and we have. So if you see me around, it will be pretty easy to tell that I don’t have kids in the house anymore. I’ll be the one wearing a new outfit, showing people picture of my animals on my phone.

Rules are Meant to be Broken

I am what you would call a rule-follower. I am one of those people who can’t break a rule without a ton of stress and anx...