Wednesday, January 13, 2016

the old Janine in 2016

We’ve sailed into a brand new year, but not far enough that people are throwing their resolutions overboard. I can tell because there’s still a wait for treadmills and elliptical machines at the gym. Yet, for some reason, I haven’t been able to latch on to a resolution of my own. Of course, the tried and true are always there -- to tone up so that nothing jiggles and my collar bones protrude, and to give my house a colonic, meaning that I get rid of all the shit! Those are constant goals in my life and voices in my head, but trying to find a really good cause to strive for this year has eluded me… until now!

It struck me that maybe the way to be the best new Janine is to go back to being the old Janine.  I mean, she was pretty great!  Here are a few reasons why:

The Old Janine...

  • Went to church more religiously
  • Wrote thank you notes on stationary and mailed them with cute stamps -- she didn’t email or text a letter of thanks
  • Helped keep Hallmark in business by sending greeting cards to family and friends, sometimes for no reason at all except to say, “thinking of you”
  • Took classes at the local community college, such as photography, singing and Italian…
  • Played tennis weekly with a group of friends she met from the tennis class she took at the local community college
  • Signed up for 5 and 10K’s where she’d often be walking/running in a pool of tears because of how beautiful it was to see so many people committed to raising money for, calling attention to, and eradicating a common cause
  • Tried new exercise classes at the gym -- sure, zumba looks like fun, but I don’t want to look like an idiot trying to figure it out, so I just say NO
  • Hosted theme parties, such as the “Celebration of Love” Valentine’s soiree where everything was heart-shaped, home made, and impossibly adorable… like the lines of poetry that I hand wrote on strips of paper, rolled up and put inside tulips that would open throughout the night and reveal what was inside. I basically Martha Stewart-ed the crap out of these events! They required an arduous amount of work, but were insanely fun!
  • Went to the beach alone and wrote in her journal
  • Kept a journal and wrote in it much more faithfully than she does today
  • Volunteered and did charity work -- these days, often the most I can do is bake for school functions… or “fake bake.” “Fake bake” is when you buy baked goods at the store, then put them in your own cute wrapping (cellophane bags tied with twine and a sprig of lavender, or a cute gingham ribbon) and make it look like you really baked.
Full disclosure -- some of the things on this list were the pre-marriage, pre-two kids, pre-divorce, pre-head of the household Janine. They’re from back in the day when the biggest decision I had to make was whether I’d get my nails done in baby pink or fire engine red.  I’m not ridiculous enough to think I can go back and be the more responsibility-free me, but there are parts of the old young girl that I can still tap.

So I resolve to be a little more like the old Janine in 2016! It’s my personal journey back to the future, back to when I had a little more gusto, a little more drive, a little more creativity, and a lot more energy, time, and patience… and maybe, just maybe I was a little more me. I raise a sugar-rimmed glass of a special cranberry martini I once made for a theme party, and I toast to the new adventures of the old Janine!

Happy New Year, Everyone... and may we all be our best selves!

Friday, January 1, 2016

blue balls

Christmas 2015 with my brothers, Jerry and Jeffrey

A personalized metallic blue Christmas ball from Aunt Rose meant you were in! That ornament was my Godmother’s signature gift to those joining our family, either by marriage or birth. When my wasband* unwrapped his ball the first Christmas after our wedding, it was official… he was family!
*wasband : A former husband from whom a woman is now divorced.

Christmas presents aren’t the only things that get unwrapped this time of year. Those boxes in the garage that house the decorations also store a lifetime of memories.

For one of my dear friends, 2015 was her first single Christmas. She dug out her boxes Thanksgiving weekend and realized that they held many shared treasures not accounted for in the divorce settlement. She asked me how we divvied our decor following my divorce.

It was easy. I explained that once that time of year had rolled around and my ex had settled into a new home, I put his blue ball in a box. Along with it went the Peter Pan ornament I bought for him the year he declared “I won’t grow up” would be his mantra, and the Superman ornament I purchased because, all joshing aside, the man has always had superhuman physical strength. He demonstrated it a year or so before our wedding when I was moving apartments within the same complex. Rather than enlisting help, he strapped my refrigerator onto his back, carried it down a flight of stairs, across the courtyard, then up a small flight of stairs to my new place… all by himself. I gazed at him in awe, and found myself growing wildly turned OFF! In his head, I’m sure he was thinking “strong like bull,” but in my head I was thinking “dumb like dirt!”

Now that Christmas is in the rearview mirror and it’s time to undecorate, do yourself a favor… only pack those storage boxes with good memories, ornaments, decorations, and mementos -- the one’s that bring joy and harken to a happy time. We all have unnecessary blue balls hanging around. Take a cue from Elsa and simply “let it go!”

My babies!
Cheers to a happy, healthy 2016!


Monday, December 14, 2015

Oooh, Christmas Tree!

December 2011

Christmas trees are for the happy, for the safe and secure, for those tight knit, hot-chocolate-drinking, marshmallow-roasting families to sit around in their adorable flannel pajamas. They’re NOT for the hurting, the sad, the bitter, and the lonely... or so I thought.

There were years before and after my separation and divorce where buying a tree seemed physically and emotionally arduous to me, more depressing than uplifting. The only reason I carried out the obligation was because I had two children who depended on me to make the season bright, to uphold the old and create the new traditions.

When my marriage first started to sour, the last thing I wanted was to celebrate Christmas, and I certainly wasn’t going to get a tree. My dear, sweet, super-Jewish friend, Shari, never had a tree growing up, but those Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie visions danced in her head and she wanted in. Shari begged me to let her come to the tree lot with us. At first I agreed, only to later confide in her that I wasn’t much in the mood for the season and we were going to skip out on a tree that year. The next night there was a knock at my door. I looked through the peep hole and saw only green. When I opened the door, there was the most perfect tree just standing there. Behind it was the most perfect friend, holding it up. I’ll never forget what Shari did for me that year, and how she knew that even if I didn’t want a tree, I needed a tree.
December 2011 with my beautiful mother

My mother said no one should ever shop for a Christmas tree alone. I’ve done it. She’s right. She made it a priority to always meet me at the lot, even surprising me one year when I’d completely had it! I turned around and there she was... with a smile, open arms, and a piece of crumpled Kleenex from her pocket to dry my tears.

 In the years since she’s been gone, my aunt and my dad have been there to help us find the straightest, plumpest, fullest, fattest Douglas fir in town. 

December 2014 with my Dad
December 2013 with my Aunt Shirley
One thing that will never change is that once the tree is securely tied to the top of the car, I play Kenny Loggins’ “Celebrate Me Home,” and drive slowly down the street. It’s my favorite 12-minute ride of the year. I’ll bet that whoever sees us thinks we’re on our way to a perfect night, and they’re right. It’s OUR perfect!

Back when I was taller than my kids, the biggest pain was trying to figure out how to get the damn tree off the car and into the house. One year we flagged down an alarm company patrol guy.   Other years, my brother, my prom date, and a buff neighbor rode to the rescue.  
December 2008 with my brother, Jeffrey

Here’s a piece of advice for the single and anyone else who’s harried, frazzled, and stressed -- ask for help and accept help when it’s offered! Tis NOT the season to kill yourself trying to do it all! Now that my 15-year old son tips the scales at 180 and hovers near the 6-foot mark, he does the honors.

I’m glad I didn’t bah-humbug it, and thankful that my friends and family wouldn’t let me. Christmas trees aren’t just for the happy. They’re for the hopeful, for the grateful, for the loving, and the loved… and they can be a shining light when all else seems kind of dismal and dark.

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree,
Such pleasure do you bring me!