How to successfully pee in a Hellman’s jar while Dad is driving!

Traveling with Dad meant riding by his rules. He was the driver, so it was his way or the highway…no pun intended. Dad’s rule? Once we left the driveway, we drove until we stopped for the night, needed gas or reached our destination. Whichever came first.

To accommodate Dad’s militaristic travel missions Mom would pack lunches, snacks, cold drinks and, just in case, a pee jar.

One summer vacation, several hours into our car ride west, after a picnic lunch traveling at top speed and a much coveted bottle of cold Coke, only allowed on trips and special Friday nights, I had to pee. Dad never broke speed, his one hand on the steering wheel, the other holding a cigarette, his elbow hanging out the opened window.

Mom moved into action. She was on pee duty. She knew the drill and she didn’t seem to mind. Perhaps it was a little distraction to the monotony of Route 80 or perhaps she considered her options. Supervise and assist her 6 year old daughter peeing into a jar or let me do it myself and take our chances on my aim.

She climbed over the front bench seat of our white Rambler Station Wagon with the agility of a gymnast, pee jar in hand. She settled in between my brother and I and opened the repurposed Hellman’s Mayonnaise jar. I also knew the drill and dutifully went along with this absurdity.  After all, what did I know? I assumed cars came equipped with pee jars, just like AM/FM radios and power steering.

I filled the jar. I felt very much relieved, I had an empty bladder and had peed as successfully as my brother. I hadn’t spilled a drop.

Mom’s approach to waste removal was to toss the contents of the jar out of the window. I guess the number of fluid ounces of a mayo jar would not accommodate the entire trip with two kids aboard. I always wondered about the car behind us when mom did this. I think I asked about this once. I don’t remember if anyone answered. With all the car windows open it was hard to hear each other, so we didn’t talk much. I am not sure what our reason was for the same behavior at home.

So mom positioned herself for another successful toss. But, for some reason, this time, instead of throwing it out of my window, she reached into the front seat and threw it out of her window. Aerodynamics forced my still warm pee back through my open window where Mom and I unsuspectingly sat. We were drenched.

This was not supposed to happen. No one said a word.

Dad pulled over.

Sometimes you just have to stop!






Have my friends always talked about retirement and I didn’t notice or is it that we are all old enough now that it comes up as often as our hot flashes, knee replacements and acid reflux?

Either way, I have noticed it is a common topic, especially at dinner parties. I listen, as only a therapist does, with interest and curiosity.

Where seems to be the first topic of retiremental discernment* discussed. Ideas of places to retire fill the room. Somewhere sunny. Somewhere inexpensive. Portugal. Mexico with other x-pats. Near their children. Or grandchildren.

What is the next topic. Usually because I can’t stand it anymore and I have to know. “What will you do?” I ask a little too intensely. I can tell because the speaker startles, like when you start to nod off and wake yourself up as your chin heads for your chest.

I ask because am hoping someone will have a great idea. One that I can consider if I stop doing what I am doing.

“Not Work,” they say with a lilt that sounds more like a question than a statement.

“But WHAT will you do?” I press on. Another trait of a therapist. We want to understand.

“Oh, I don’t know. Read more. Travel,” their voice trailing off. I am not sure if they are enraptured by a vision of themselves relaxing on a white sand beach, margarita in hand,   the book Retirement for Dummies, dogeared and highlighted, sitting beside them or they are noticing their plan seems a bit dull.

As I listen intently to my dinner-party-friends musings, trying to find the place in me that wants to read and travel more, I come up empty. I just can’t seem to find my desire to stop doing what I am doing.

Maybe, I wonder, I am not old enough to be thinking about retirement. But my friend, sitting across the table who is younger than me, is actively looking on-line for retirement friendly places. Or, perhaps I am not confident I can afford to retire, so I unconsciously protect myself from disappointment by not entertaining the possibility. “Expect nothing and you shall not be disappointed,” echoes in my head. Or could my high tolerance to discomfort be masking my secret wish to throw in the towel?

Yesterday I was talking with my dear friend Kathleen. We raised our kids together. Not to mention each other. She is thinking about her retirement. I listened. Interested. Brainstorming possibilities. Places? What she would do? When?

In a quiet moment she asked, “What about you? Do you think about retirement?”

Without thinking, I heard myself say, “I feel like I am just hitting my stride. I’m creating the career and life I’ve always wanted and I want to do more…so leaving it for another kind of life doesn’t fit for me right now.”

Wow! I didn’t know that!

I love when I happen upon my clarity. When I listen to myself and find my answers. I didn’t know how satisfied I was with myself and my life.

When I was in my 40’s, an astrologer told me I was a late bloomer. That it wouldn’t be until my 50’s that I would move into my life’s purpose in a full and felt way.

I think she was right. I am so glad to be here.







The week before Christmas I told someone, with a naughty twinkle in my eye, that I may  just spend my whole Christmas vacation in my P.J.’s. I had asked Santa for a pair of extra warm ones and I was looking forward to lounging around.

Be careful what you ask for…or joke about.

I have spent my Christmas break in my jammies. Not because I wanted to…but because I got the flu.

I am not usually superstitious. I may rethink that. I said I wanted to be in my pajamas for a week. I discussed with someone how I never get the flu shot, feeling very superior about my choice. And I just did the blog post about how I used to get sick every 7 years and how I don’t anymore.

I think I jinxed myself.

Tom took me to see our doctor Christmas Eve day. I was touched when they fit me in with an appointment last minute. I am certain they all had places they would rather have been.

I was really sick. The can’t hold your head up; need to concentrate to walk; can’t sit up on the examining table kind of sick.

After my blood pressure and temperature were taken, 150/80, 102.2, Dr. H came in. Dr. H is from Eastern Europe. She has a warm smile, kind eyes and is like a stern mom. Often I resist her firmness. This day I was comforted by it.

“Ywo dun’t lolk goood.” she said, looking over her glasses. She ordered a Flu swab.

Her nurse appeared with two, foot long Q tips. One for each nostril. She said in her best pediatrician-lie-to-the-kid voice, “This won’t hurt, I am just going to tickle your brain.”

“Tickle my brain my ass.”

Unfortunately my body did not respond to the messages of DANGER, RUN, FAST, I was sending it. I simply laid there, passive, limp, defenseless. I compliantly tilted my head back as she tickled my brain. It didn’t tickle. She lied.

The test came back negative. Whew. Just a monster cold.

Dr. H had different thoughts. She repeated how bad I looked, saying she wanted me to go the hospital to get another flu swab. She explained the hospital had a more accurate test than the one they use in the office. This test used 4 Q tips.

Sure. Sure. I’ll go. NOT.

She must have read my mind. She scooted her rolling chair a hair closer. A risky thing to do with someone that, “dun’t lolk goood,” despite the mask she wore and the mask I was given to wear. It’s hard to breath in those masks. Every time I exhaled, my glasses fogged up. I also felt like a leper. Even though I couldn’t see anyone clearly, I could feel their looks. I was the one to stay clear of. I have discovered, in my bouts of every-7-year-sickness’s, that feeling like shit alleviates shame. I was too sick to give a rats ass. A small blessing. So when Dr. H closed the distance between us, laser-locking eyes with me, I didn’t exhale so I could see her.

Over her glasses, with finger her pointed at my nose and she pronounced, “Ywo gho.”

I went.

Thankfully Dr. H had it wrong and it was only one Q Tip. I asked the nurse to be gentle. He agreed saying it would still hurt. I appreciated his honesty.

The test came back positive.

I am in my 5th day of Pajama wearing but I feel much better. Tamiflu is a miracle drug. Today, being in my P.J.’s feels more choice-ful than it did yesterday. My illusion of control is returning. I think tomorrow I will venture into some real clothes and maybe finish my Christmas shopping and cooking.

Or maybe I won’t. Maybe I have enough gifts, food, whatever else I tell myself I need to make our belated Christmas celebration feel like a cherished memory.

Being sick slows life down. Slows me down. Another way to care less. As I feel better I appreciate the gift slower movement, fewer expectations of myself, more grace. It seems I repeatedly forget this…until I get sick. Then I remember again.

I didn’t think I had any New Years Resolutions for this year, but now I do.

Stop fighting, fixing, figuring and just slow down. Do less.

Tom recently described me to someone as a high performer. I was flattered. I don’t know though if he meant it as a compliment. I think sometimes I wear him out. I know sometimes I wear me out.

Maybe I could do less. You know what they say, Less is more…

I know as I write this I won’t do it. It is not me. I will slowly increase speed. But I am sure, when necessary, I will be reminded. Again.





Have you even been at the end of the rainbow?

I haven’t either until now…I took this picture while we were in Cape Cod. I stood at the end of the rainbow!IMG_0205

I tried to make meaning out of it, as I am prone to do…perhaps I will come into money, good luck, maybe I am in good favor with the gods. Or maybe it is simply a site to behold and for that I am blessed.

And I wanted to share it with you.

Many blessings,




Now I know how Eve felt, I had to have that apple…

I witnessed something very odd yesterday. A loose line of women, standing outside the door of a small shack-like building, waiting patiently while holding a previously on-line acquired entry ticket — permission to step foot over the threshold — talking quietly, like they were in a sacred place, comparing past purchases which they fondled lovingly on their wrists.

Hell I didn’t just witness it. I experienced it. I was one of them. Standing in line. Waiting. Growing anxious with anticipation hearing the stories of the women who had come before me as they exposed their wrists, stacked full by years of making the trek to purchase the latest Cape Cod Bracelet. I tried to sneak a peak into the wooden building, able to see only a few glass cases with shining objects calling to me across the distance. Patricia…PatriCIA…PATRICIA…I was intrigued and caught in the spell.

As Debbie and I made it to the threshold we were told to wait there, no craning our necks to get closer to the holy grail. The woman behind us, who was a seasoned veteran at this, quietly warned us about the keepers of the gate, the centennials of the hand made bobbles. “The sales women,” she said, “are not very nice.”

So there I stood. Part of me chomping at the bit to be permitted permission to enter the garden of Eden — the stores name is…wait for it…. East of Eden. Each hand made piece is stamped EDEN. That is how you decipher original Cape Cod Bracelets from their imitation counter parts.

The other part of me was amazed at myself and my fellow women. We were begging to spend our money, cajoling the Knights of Templar to show us the gold and silver. We had to have it. I mused with Debbie, then and for several days later, the marketing masterpiece they had concocted. Tickets to enter the store where grouchy women make you feel grateful for their attention. How did they do this?

I found out about this place earlier in the week while renting kayaks. The young woman at the counter had on a great bracelet. It was a fish. I admired it. She then introduced me to the phenomenon of East of Eden. “Get a ticket,” she said, “You can’t get in without one.” Of course I went home and googled the store, read the website explaining the need to obtain a ticket at least 2 weeks prior to visiting. The tickets for this season, however, were gone. Huh. Doesn’t that make me want it more? Brilliant.

I told Deb about the fish bracelet I had seen, knowing she would love it and to find out if she knew anything about this place. She didn’t, but suggested that tomorrow, while Tom and Jamie were golfing, we head up there. Sure, why not? I had to see this place.

We map quested the address and after some pulling into wrong driveways we found it. No signage on the road. I guess the Garden of Eden needs no advertising.

We slunk our way up to the woman standing in the front lawn, obviously in charge with her note pad and pencil. With our eyes averted we humbly explained we had no ticket and we understood if we needed to leave but we had heard so much about this place that we had to come.

She sighed a heavy sigh, looked us up and down, and said since the line was not too long we could join the others.

We had been granted access to EDEN.

It looks a bit like a serpent in this picture...hmmm

It looks a bit like a serpent in this picture…hmmm

We each bought a piece. After all that how could we not? I bought the fish bracelet with an onyx eye. Debbie a fish ring, a traditional Cape Cod ball ring and a pair of earrings for her sister’s birthday.

The rest of the week we admired each others acquisitions as well as our own. We had succumbed to masterful marketing, entered the Garden of Eden, ate of the fruit and returned triumphant with treasures.









Show Down in Savannah

We left Savannah Island at 9:30 am to begin the first leg of the 12 hour trip north to Pittsburgh. Our plan was to leave early so we could get to Savannah by 10. We had some last minute shopping to do. Tom’s favorite Broughton Street men’s store was having a moving sale and he wanted to check out. I had seen a folkloric, Haitian steel drum mermaid that I wanted to pick up for what is becoming my mermaid collection.

Finding parking was impossible. Little did we know it was graduation day for the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). We circled and swore for over a half hour. Finally we saw an open spot, but it was the wrong way on a one way street. I decided our best course of action was for me to jump out and stake our claim. I would hold it, Tom would circle the block to come at it the right way.

There I stood. I should have had a flag. Perhaps a Union flag. I felt  proud claiming ownership of this metered space.


A HUGE Ford 150 roughneck truck, the color of the eyes of a blue eyed Barbie, pulled up and began to back into where I was standing. I waved my arms while yelling, “WHOA.” He kept coming. The top of his tail gate was the height of my armpits.

Years ago I had a similar vehicle versus me encounter. It was at the kids bus stop. One of the neighborhood dads would drive his kids and wait with them until the bus came. When the bus arrived, his kids would jump out and run, with all the other kids, to the waiting bus. Despite the bus’s blinking red lights and protective arm stretched out like a mom reaching across the front seat, this dad would pull out and take off down the road.

One morning I had had enough. I casually stood in front of his car, sipping my coffee, waiting for the bus to arrive. The bus came. The kids ran. He put his car in gear and headed toward me. I planted my feet, looked at him through his windshield, pointing to the blinking bus to make my point. I knew I had the law on my side.

He kept coming.

I remember thinking to myself, “He is gong to hit me and it is really going to hurt.” Regardless, my feet didn’t move. I was riveted to the spot. He began shouting at me. I shouted back. By the time we were finished making our points, the bus had left. I stepped aside and let him pass.

So it went with the large southern man in his over sized, compensating for something, truck. He informed me, through his rear cab window, that I couldn’t save this parking place. I told him I could…because I was… little did he know that where I come from people save parking spaces, quite frequently, using plastic lawn chairs. I explained, over the roar of his engine, that we had been looking for parking for half an hour and I was waiting for my husband.

His face got redder and he raised his voice to bully level telling me that since he was there, with his truck, he gets the spot. I explained since I was there first, I get the spot. All the while, I was on the phone with Tom, directing him to the cross streets and explaining that a very mad guy wanted our place, so he had to hurry.

Again, my feet were stuck to the pavement. It wasn’t even a conscious choice. I remember thinking, possession is 9/10’s of the law, as my body stood her ground. I told Tom, as my heart pounded, “This Southern guy, in his big truck, is going to hit me.”

Call it chivalry or perhaps Southern awhner, but when truck dude heard that he yelled, “ I’m not gonna hit you.”  With that he gunned his engine and peeled off. “Damned Yankee,” I imagined him cursing as he stepped on the gas.

Tom found me a few minutes later and slipped our sleek new Lincoln hybrid quietly into the spot. I was glad to see him.

As we gathered our things to go shop, the owner of the tanning salon across the street came out and said he had seen the whole thing.

He congratulated me for holding my ground.

Perhaps it was my Southern blood bubbling again.

Y’all come back, ya hear





A No Sun Sunday

The perfect Sunday. The illusion that there is nothing to be done, but of course there is, my winter clothes need to be carried from their basement storage up two flights of stairs to my bedroom closet, reading and writing to be completed, phone calls to be returned. For some unknown reason, maybe Grace, maybe my attempt to stay in the moment, I remain in the illusion and have a lovely Sunday.


Even my trip to the gym, followed by a quick stop at the grocery store, is not pressured by the clock or a to do list.


Around two o’clock we decide it might be a good time to watch a DVD a friend suggested, Adventureland. She said it was a sweet movie. Seemed like a good day for a sweet movie. Shortly into the movie I realized I had seen it, I seldom remember a movie by it’s title, but I often recognize the story line. (This costs us a few extra dollars a year in repeat rentals. Oh well.)


So we both fell asleep on the couch, a fire blazing in the fireplace, Clea, (short for Cleopatra because we knew as soon as we met her she was a queen,) my cat of unknown age who we adopted when she found her way to my son’s lap during a bonfire party twelve years ago, who is in the process of dying from kidney failure, asleep with us on my belly. It was one of those great naps because in this day there is nothing else to do but nap. My whole body let go into the couch, letting the couch have all of me. Clea letting me have all of her.


Beans and greens for dinner, the beans have been soaking since last night, the organic kale we grabbed yesterday at the co op is beautiful. I feel healthy just looking at it. I know I will feel better eating it. It is the perfect no sun Sunday in November meal.



Maybe an extra hour is responsible for this leisurely day. Having more time always seems to slow me down. I relax when I believe there is enough time to do nothing.