It’s okay to have a change of heart

Here’s the deal. I had what I thought was a great idea to keep me occupied in my retirement. I started my web page, Where My Girlfriends Go.  Take a look, if you haven’t visited. I’ll wait right here for you.

So, although I’m not actually retired yet, I thought I should get a plan in motion, rather than waste a minute of actual retirement time being bored.  Heaven forbid that I’d risk finding myself at loose ends, which I’ve always pictured as sitting forlornly on the floor contemplating a frayed rug.

What was I afraid of?

Was there a serious risk that I’d be looking for trouble if I had spare time? Take up smoking again and hang out on street corners with the dogs? Fall in with a gang of other bored retirees seeking thrills, like maybe dine-and-dash during the geriatric coffee hour at Panera or take turns distracting the stock boy while somebody swipes Glucosamine gel tabs from the shelves at Discount Drug Mart?

old people with coffee

Oh, yeah. It’s all fun and games at Panera until you break a hip trying to run to the car without paying the bill. They’ll only trace you back to your Panera Club frequent coffee-drinker-and-cinnamon-roll-eater card, anyway. (I’d like to credit the photographer but I “borrowed” this from Google Images where it appeared in some medical pamphlet and these people may actually be yucking it up over the joys of Viagra, for all I know.)

Without a plan, I’m thinking the worst thing that could happen to me is that I’ll hang around with the dogs in the house in my bathrobe for a few days (or weeks) until I decide that sucks and I want to do something else.

So I changed my mind. I decided, well, fuck that. I don’t need to have a plan. And if I don’t have the entire next glorious stage of my life mapped out by the time I actually retire next May or so – big deal.

I read recently on Facebook that a very successful woman I admire is leaving the publishing company she’s been with for years and is taking a long sabbatical to see what she wants to do next. Cindy obviously is far wiser than I am and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Step back and think about things for a while.

Huh. I like it.

I don’t know what I want to do next, either. I certainly want to keep writing. But do I want to drum up a following on “Where My Girlfriends Go” and write at least one story a week and post on the WMGG Facebook page regularly and maybe Tweet and put photos on Instagram and . . . ?

I don’t think so. It makes me a little tired just thinking about it. I don’t want to make that commitment. Or, at least I don’t want to make that commitment NOW. And that’s okay.

So, I just moved the photo banner-thing over here to my blog site. I figure sometimes I can write about things I do with my friends, but not exclusively. Or reliably. I do think my buddy Carol and I should check out more donut shops. I’ll tell you some stories about my trip to Italy with Sue, too. I just started working on a photo book – before I forget where in Italy I actually took half those pictures.

I don’t know what I’ll do with the WMGG Facebook page. Like Scarlet O’Hara, I’ll think about that tomorrow. (And I mean “tomorrow” figuratively, not literally.)

And that’s it for now. I’m thinking sabbatical next year, guys. Just stop and smell the roses and think about what might be fun to do. Maybe learn about and plant roses? Nah. I don’t like dirt or bugs. Fortunately, the possibilities are endless. I’m not even going to rule out the possibility (dare I say, likelihood?) of scheduling a guilt-free period spent reading lots of books and wearing my bathrobe all day.

I’ll keep you posted.

 

Happy anniversary from my very dear friends at United Airlines

So I’m crammed in my seat, waiting for the plane to load for the Cleveland to Chicago leg of my trip to Italy, when a flight attendant approaches me and asks if I’m Kathleen Mahar. He looks surprised that I am, indeed, that very person, and hands me a little envelope.

I open it to discover that United is congratulating me on 30 years of being a Mileage Plus member.

mileage-plus-rotated.jpg

Imagine that.

Kudos to United for recognizing this particular milestone. But . . . it’s a card. No upgrade to first class, or maybe a pass for a visit to a United club. Not even a free drink ticket. Nada. I’m not exactly feeling the love. It’s just kind of weird, honestly.

I think back to 30 years ago when I signed up for my first frequent flyer card. It was a relatively new program at the time, I think. I was a bright-eyed, 30-something hottie starting a new job with Beverage Industry magazine and would be traveling fairly often. Points for miles? Cool beans.

Cleveland was a hub for Continental Airlines and I’m not sure whether that first card was with United or Continental, since United gobbled up Continental several years ago and dropped the Cleveland hub soon after (despite promises to the contrary).

Over 30 years, I can’t even imagine how much money was spent on Continental and United tickets. Granted, employers and clients paid for most of those flights, but the fact remains that plenty of cash was forked over to send me off to work all over the country.

I was lucky to have employers who allowed staff to keep their miles for personal use. I accumulated enough points on that account, through actual travel and later, by adding a Mileage Plus Visa card, to fund numerous trips. I think I went to Europe at least twice with those points and I used them one or more times to get flights for Chris to and from Australia.

I used the bulk of my points to go to Italy this month but there are still almost enough left to cash in for a domestic ticket. I don’t travel much for business now, so I guess I’ll use the Visa long enough to round up for one last ticket and then, I’m done. Thirty years and out.

It’s not so much that United is any worse than most of the airlines out there. I’ve had equally miserable trips in recent years on any number of American and foreign carriers. Have you noticed that the smaller the plane and the shorter the trip, the more generous the seat and leg room? My flight from Dulles to Cleveland was practically comfy.

Conversely, the flight from Frankfurt to DC was a butt-mashing, knee-jamming, shoulder-to-shoulder, way-too-personal encounter with strange seatmates for nine grueling hours. Ugh.

I have to keep reminding myself that it’s worth it (oh, so worth it) to put up with the discomfort in exchange for adventures in fascinating new places.

Oh, well. I’m done bitching about it. I know how lucky I am. I truly do.

But does anyone else remember when the skies actually were kind of friendly?

I’m a fish nonna!

I love my little fish pond out back with its waterfall and reeds and lily pads. Frogs hang out on the rocks ringing the water. I can hear their banjo-twanging calls at night in the spring, in particular, just beyond my bedroom window. The pond is one of the reasons why I fell in love with this little house.

AA frogs and fish

This photo is from last year. You can see some of my “original fish” hiding under the lily pads and one of the playful frogs is poking out of the water on the bottom right.

I’ve lived here for two winters and three summers now. In the winter the fish hibernate in the cold water. I run the waterfall all year to avoid the pond icing over, which would kill the fish by depriving them of oxygen. In the spring it’s like magic, seeing them awaken and start swimming around again! I believe the frogs hibernate, too. Pretty soon there’s a little family of them, as well.

The fish had become accustomed to me coming out around noon every day to sprinkle a little fish food on the water for them. It was their afternoon snack and my chance to interact with them a bit – as much as a person can actually exchange greetings with a fish, I suppose.

We were just getting into our summer routine and I noticed one day that two of the fish were chasing around a third, spotted fish I’d named Miss Kitty (calico cat, but a fish, right?). I was beginning to wonder if I’d guessed Miss Kitty’s gender correctly because it appeared that the two fish taking turns swimming right up in her business might have had love on their minds.

A day or two later, I wandered out with the dogs to deliver the afternoon snack and – the pond was empty. No fish, no frogs. Deserted. I was surprised, but thought they might have been spooked by a heron or other critter and were hiding in their fish caves (the people who put in the pond built in caves for exactly that purpose). At that time there were seven fish, but not one in sight.

When I hadn’t seen any fish in more than a week, I became worried. I had heard that a heron or raccoon or even a snake could wipe out a pond in no time at all. Had all my fish become some animal’s dinner? A couple of frogs were back, but after nearly four weeks – no fish. I felt terrible about it. Poor things.

I didn’t want to purchase new fish just to feed a predator, but after about six weeks, I decided to buy three new fish to see if they’d be safe after all that time. I tentatively released them into the pond and hoped for the best.

By this time, I had also begun bugging my son Chris, asking him if he’d please get into the pond and weed out some of the lily pads and reeds. There was so much greenery, it was hard to catch sight of the new kids, let alone try to entice them with fish snacks. It was a busy summer, and finally on Thursday, Chris got into the pond and got to work. We filled a yard waste trash can and a trash bag full of greenery.

Now, full disclosure, I had noticed after introducing the new fish to the pond that there seemed to be more than three in the mix. I realized that for whatever reason, some of the original fish had been hiding out for weeks!

fish 2 2017

And here are the fish who came over for a snack at noon today! You can only see one baby – the little black and silver spotted one near the two lighter fish in the center of the photo.

And by the time Chris finished cleaning the pond and the silt settled back to the bottom on the rocks, the clear water revealed not only five or six adult fish – but also THREE BABIES! It was like CHRISTMAS!

Since there are fewer adults than before, there’s no question that some varmint got some of my original fish family. But – they did not get Miss Kitty, and I think she is the Mama Fish of those three little ones. Is it possible that the fish that survived the incident early this summer stayed in the caves with Miss Kitty during her lying in period, or something? A combination of solidarity with the pregnant mama and fear of their attacker?

fish horizontal crop

There’s the baby orange one, too! The third one is silver, orange and black – hard to spot and wasn’t with the gang today.

We’ll never know. But I am delighted that I am now a Fish Nonna and that the happy little family is now swimming up to say hi and get a snack when they see me coming.

Oh, and the frogs seem content, as well.

Channeling Bob

I’d like to think that if my dad was still alive, and if he could have gotten his friends involved, he would have spent every morning and many afternoons of his retirement years on Facebook.

It would have taken a leap of faith on his part, but knowing Bob, he could have convinced his buddies to join him online. Bob and the guys would have exchanged jokes and funny memes, shared news about those damned politicians and pro golf tournaments and home remedies for achy joints. Time-sucker that Facebook is, he would have been wearing his blue and white-striped cotton pajamas and robe (in summer; same PJ’s with his maroon fleece robe in colder weather) in front of the computer until mid-afternoon. He’d get cleaned up and head out to play golf with the old guys on Wednesdays, but otherwise – after breakfast and reading the paper – Bob would have been surfing the web, immersed in social media. In his pajamas.

IMG_5806

Dad and me, summer 2009.

That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway. It’s almost 11:30 am and I am – you guessed it – still in my nightie and robe, screwing around on the computer. I would like to blame it on some genetic gift from Dad that makes me such a procrastinator when it comes to showering and dressing for the day. Bob called it his ablutions. Sometime before lunch he’d put down the crossword puzzle and announce that it was “time to ablute.” A member of a generation that doesn’t see the need for daily showers, his ablutions included what we called a bird bath:  filling the sink with water and using a soapy washcloth to scrub then rinse off the stinky bits. He’d also lather up for a close shave and always exited the bathroom fragrant with the Bay Rum aftershave he used, I believe, for his entire adult life. I wish I’d thought to dab a little on his cheeks before his viewing.

I finally was about to get out of this chair and get in the shower when I thought of Bob. I looked down at my own maroon chenille robe (oh, how I love my cuddly robe and a cool morning!) and felt guilty for not having officially started my day yet. I can’t help feeling that nothing counts until I’m clean and dressed.

Am I obligated to do things that “count” by a certain hour of the day, or for a prescribed number of hours in total? Because I know this for sure – Bob did not feel guilty for one minute about spending most mornings reading and putzing around in his pajamas. He worked hard all of his life to enjoy the luxury of free time. To spend his time as he wished.

It feels odd to realize that Dad was several years younger than I am now when he retired and gradually created his morning routine.

I’ve worked hard. Do I “deserve” it, too? I can’t quite make myself believe it. Maybe that’s because retirement for women is different. I’m not fully retired yet, but what woman ever hangs up her virtual apron and says she’s retiring from the endless chores related to managing her home? Maybe some married people share those chores, but I am alone. Oh – and happy to be, so please don’t think I’m moaning about it! Plus, no one is around to say, “Seriously? It’s almost noon and you’re not dressed yet?”

So on that note, I’ll get in the shower as soon as I hit “publish.” I’ll get dressed and take the dogs for a walk. I’ll choose something lingering on my To Do list – and do it.

Two weeks ago was the eight-year anniversary of my father’s death.

I miss you, Bob. Channeling you this morning has made me smile.

 

 

 

Going from here, to there

Hi everyone. I’m here briefly today to tell you about my new blog, Where My Girlfriends Go.  I’ve created it as a webpage, but if anyone has suggestions on how I can also share this on WordPress, please let me know. Here’s my promo video (it was so much fun to make!):

This new venture is my retirement project (although I’m not retired yet – I’m segueing into that!). I had the idea of exploring new places, activities, restaurants, etc., with my friends, then sharing that information in case others would like to do the same. This gives me a great excuse to spend time with dear friends while looking for new experiences to keep life interesting.

I’m also inviting friends (and friends of friends!) to be “Guest Girlfriends.” I’m expecting a story any day now from my friend Kari Lynn Collins about her girlfriends in Texas. Thanks in advance for being my first Guest Girlfriend, Kari! Are you interested in sharing a Girlfriend story? I’d love to hear from you . . . !

I’ll be writing about my little adventures here in Northeastern Ohio as well as in other spots I’m lucky enough to visit. I’ll be spending two weeks in Italy with my friend Sue, so we should have a number of great stories to share for anyone interested in traveling to Tuscany (in person, or via armchair).

What that means for this site is that I probably won’t be writing much here for a while – at least as long as it takes to get comfortable in my new online “home.” I see this site as a very different outlet for my writing, so I’m sure I’ll be back. I’ll definitely keep you posted.

In the meantime, I do hope you’ll check out Where My Girlfriends Go. And the easiest way to get updates for those posts will be to follow the site on Facebook:  Where My Girlfriends Go – Facebook.

Thanks so much – hope to see you there!

Funerals and Friendly Skies

Now, please bear with me here. I have two stories to tell you. One kind of begat the other. And though Gina came first, the email I received from my friend Sue later the same day is what inspired today’s post. Here’s how it started:

The hilarious author and speaker Gina Barreca’s weekly column in the Hartford Courant really tickled my funny bone this week. Click here to read “No Funeral For Me. Nobody Likes Them.”

Okay. Did you read Gina’s story? Good. Now let’s hear from my buddy, Sue Brooks:

On a recent flight returning to her home near San Francisco from a business meeting in Mississippi, Sue sat behind a woman who placed a backpack in the overhead bin . . .

“It was a typical crowded flight,” Sue said. “The smallest flight attendant I have ever seen, stood on the seats and started tugging and moving luggage to squeeze another bag in. She started to pull at the backpack. The woman seemed alarmed and wanted to hold it.

“The flight attendant continued to tug and pull until the woman burst out, ’Be careful, my mother’s in there!’”

I don’t know how (or if) Sue was able to keep a straight face. “You gotta love travel!” she says.

Referring back to Gina’s essay, I’d like to imagine that the woman on Sue’s plane was bringing her mother’s ashes to sprinkle from the Golden Gate Bridge, or something equally exciting.

That makes me wonder:  What odd objects have you seen people bring on planes, or perhaps that you even carried on yourself?

Panda on plane

Now, bringing a panda on board is unexpected! Thanks to the funny site Pleated-Jeans for this pic.

Do you have a funny story to share about funerals or surprising carry-on “luggage?” I can’t think right now of a crazy carry-on story, but I’ll start you off with one about my dad’s funeral.

My father’s last wishes were precise and very traditional. The family greeted people paying their respects during calling hours in the evening, followed by a full Catholic funeral mass the next morning. It was difficult and sorrowful for all who loved this great man. It’s hard to believe it will be eight years this month.

Anyway, Dad wanted to be cremated, but in accordance with the preference of the Catholic Church, his body (in a casket, of course) was present for the funeral mass and the cremation took place afterward.

At one point in the service, the retired parish priest who had known my parents for years stood near the casket flinging drops of holy water from a heavy, ornate metal scepter onto the casket. In the midst of this blessing ritual, the scepter slipped out of his hands and bonked loudly onto the wood above Dad’s forehead. The elderly priest was no doubt abashed by the slip but quickly regaining his composure, quipped, “Well, if that doesn’t wake Bob up, nothing will!”

I’ll never forget the moment of laughter that ensued and how I thought at the time, how much my father would have loved the joke. Laughter is always beautiful, in my book.

And if you’re wondering, Bob’s ashes are all over the place. He’s at his two favorite golf courses in Ohio and Florida. He’s swimming with the fishes in Lake Erie. He’s enjoying lovely Utah with my sister; and the last precious bit is in a little box waiting to keep Mom company at her final resting place one day.

So – do you have a funny or interesting story regarding a funeral or the execution of someone’s last wishes? Crazy things you’ve seen carried onto your flight?

Readers’ choice – would love to hear from you!

Don’t tell me to smile, fool

When did it happen? When was the very last time a man told me to SMILE? And despite really wanting to tell him to shut up and get away from me, I smiled. It always seemed churlish not to comply, right?

Well, it’s been many years since a man demanded a smile from me. Many, MANY years. And here’s why:  I believe a man only tells a woman to smile when he’s attempting to make a personal connection, no matter how tenuous, inappropriate, or annoying, because he finds the woman attractive. He is either hoping she will one day agree to have sex with him, or he’s using it as a power play (and wants to have sex with her). When a woman is not pretty enough (according to his taste) or young enough (again, subjective) to be fuckable, he doesn’t care if she ever smiles. Ever.

I had this epiphany about being too old for anyone to ask me to smile when I saw this funny little video on Facebook yesterday called “Smyle for Women” by Nightpantz. Check it out:

 

When I shared this video on Facebook,  my two friends named Tina commented on it. Tina #1 said men don’t tell older women to smile because they are afraid of us and know she’ll tell him to fuck off (but Tina said $%&@ off) and mind his own business.

Good answer, Tina! So even if a man were tempted to break the ice with an older woman by telling her to smile, we might guess that he’s finally mature enough to know how stupid that ploy is, or he is afraid he’ll be embarrassed by the woman telling him he’s a jackass and that he can go smile at himself in the mirror if he’s that desperate for a happy face encounter.

On the other hand, Tina #2 expressed some concern about being afflicted with RBF, or Resting Bitch Face. You know the face. Mouth automatically turns down, even though your mood is neutral or even happy. Your face, at rest, looks like you’re frowning. That can happen to men or women and is no indication of whether or not that person is cantankerous or one of the funniest sweetie pies you’ve ever met. It’s just Mouth Gravity.

Are you ever hesitant to approach a stranger with RBF? Have you reluctantly greeted someone who looked cranky and scary, but the minute you said hello and introduced yourself, her face lit up with the most gorgeous smile ever? I love it when that happens.

If she were still with us, I’ll bet Mary Tyler Moore would have RBF by now and hey, that girl could turn the world on with her smile, right? I think Rhoda had RBF at a young age. Phyllis, too, now that I think about it. RBF is not strictly age-related but – wouldn’t you know it? – it’s mostly the females of our species that get called out on it. Yeah. Don’t be put off by RBF, people.

And if you’re one of those men who still struts up to young girls and women and commands them to SMILE, all I can say is – knock it off.  If there was any chance that the lady in question might have considered sleeping with you, the odds dropped dramatically after you demanded to see her teeth. Trust me.  Women of all ages hate to be told to smile. Unless you’re with “Candid Camera,” resist the inclination, guys.

Otherwise, be aware that her smile is just barely hiding a snarl. Every time.