Today a very dear friend of mine sent an email with random memories about her father.  Her memories were  stirred when she was emptying one laundry detergent bottle into another, savoring each and every drop not to waste any.  It reminded her of her father doing the same exact thing with ketchup when she was a child.   Her email was a way to honor her dad with Father’s Day upon us.  Although he (Timothy Lyons) has been watching over her from above for almost 23 years, my mind can still, as if it was yesterday, conjure up his smile, his laugh, and the odd ball times I was able to share with her and her family.  We were a mere 26 years old when her dad passed on.  It’s amazing at what a mind can remember and seems unbelievable that her dad Tim has been gone for that long.
I consider myself lucky to have had my dad in my life for 40 years.  This July will be 9 years since my dad was called from above and introduced to his maker.  But this is really not to mourn my father but to celebrate the 67 years of his life here on earth, and especially the 40 years that I had been blessed to have him in my life.   These are just random thoughts about the man I am and will always be proud to call my DAD.
One of my earliest memories of my dad was my feeding time as a very, very young child.  Whether it was breakfast, lunch or dinner, if there was something I was leery or unsure about eating, it was time to play train, plane. automobile or animal for that matter.  Whatever was on the fork or spoon took  on a life of its own, complete with sound effects.  I can hear him say…Here comes the bunny Sandra, hopping into its bunny hole…as the carrots would bounce up and down on the fork and into my open mouth.  Or here comes the choo choo train, chugachuga, chugachuga, down the track and into the tunnel….I sometimes wonder if that is why I do sound effects at least daily in conversation..those who know me should know what I am talking about,,,,dodododoo…Zap, Chom, Chom Chom, duhdump dudump dudump
Another early memory is dancing.  Ahhhh, the weddings.  Standing on my Dad’s feet.  Yes, I was Daddy’s little and only girl. I also still choke up every time I hear the song O Holy Night.  I can still hear my dad singing that. 
My father was a very hard worker and always made sure we had a vacation.  We went to every state up and down the east coast.  One of my favorite memories, though it was not funny at the time was Skyline Drive.  You see, here we were pulling a Ventura Pop Up Sleeps 8 Camper and at first it was a nice scenic route. That is, until we got to the curves and in what seemed, close to  the clouds … with no guardrails on the side of the road, just two lanes, no passing and nowhere to turn around or pull over.  My father was deathly afraid of heights.  I remember him driving totally white knuckled, sweat pouring down his forehead screaming, “nobody talk, shut up, I’m trying to drive.”  Quiet, don’t speak another word. ”  This same scenario happened going over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel in torrential rain pulling the camper.  He also made my mom the map reader for all those vacations and road trips.  My mom would be saying, Joe…I don’t see it on the map and frustrated with one hand on the steering wheel he would point, adamantly at the Rand McNally map, Jule, it is right there, see, see? With me in the backseat thinking, damn, just keep your eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel. 
My father was also a backseat cook.  He would come home and taste anything my mom was making and usually, well, more often than not, something was always missing…salt, pepper, garlic, whatnot and she would turn her back and he would be there shaking some sort of spice or adding something.  And for as far back as my memory serves, my dad complained that my mom did not know how to cut a tomato correctly/properly.  I never did look up if there is proper ways for cutting a tomato.  My father was also the King of condiments.  If it was marinade, dressing, spices, 5 types of mustard, we had it in our fridge.  The majority of the whole refrigerator door was condiments, spicy, saucy, sweet, sour, you name it. 
My dad was the only man I knew that smoked while taking a shower.  Oh, and also smoked the whole time he was eating dinner.  We named his Brown Plymouth Fury the “butt mobile.”  Funny how three of his four children (who named the car) all picked up smoking. 
As I got older, one of the things I cherished was waking up at 5 a.m. when I smelled the coffee brewing and meeting my dad at the kitchen table on Windsor Road for coffee.  He used to make the most awesome home fried potatoes and fluffy scrambled eggs and omelettes.  I loved our morning ritual, dad and daughter time.  And I have always been a morning person.
My dad  hated when people would mess up the sections of the newspaper before he got to read it.  But I would always try to get up and read the paper first as if not….I would be in for one trait I absolutely hated.  He would be reading the newspaper and say…Sandra, did you see this…and bascially read me the article.  My father was a sponge.  A bundle of information about a little bit of everything, useful and useless.  Something I know I picked up from him.  That and the messing up of the newspaper…just this morning I said to Elaine Feldman at the pantry to not to mess up my newspaper I brought in to read. 
My father also always had several projects started at once. He didn’t believe in paying for a repairman so you can imagine how that turned out!  Once he started painting the house and three years later, one side was still not finished.  A neighbor offered to finish that one side just so the house would be done before the rest of the house had to be repainted again.  We eventually got siding…LOL! 
My father also used to hunt me down.  When I was in my early 20’s (I think…Lyons correct me if I am wrong as we stayed at Doreen’s that night in “Waste Haven”) there were a few nights that I stayed out at a friend’s house.  Well, when I did not come home and he did not know where I was, Dad went out looking for me.  He drove up and down the streets of all my friends houses that he knew of looking for my car  Well, that morning I went straight into work and boy oh boy did I get in trouble the next night when he got home from work.  From then on, I learned to call, regardless of the hour of the night or morning (as he would often say…what if I was  in some ditch on the side of the road.  After that, whenever I did get in trouble…one of the first questions was…were you with Kathy Lyons?  He learned   later on that it was not Kathy who got me in trouble, it was usually me who got us in most of the situations….  But even 15 or so years later, the same scenario occurred when I was down in South Carolina and Elaine and I were out at a Video Gaming Parlor, at 3 a.m. my dad walks in to claim me/us as he was worried on where we were at such an ungodly hour.  I can’t believe that I was in my late 30’s and my father was driving all around Myrtle Beach, SC for a least an hour looking for us.
My father also had a wonderful sense of humor and basically flirted with a lot of my friends.  I remember one time a friend wrote a wish list of things she wanted after a night of drinking and left it on the kitchen table.  My father saw it and hung it up on the fridge, then one of my brothers saw it and threw it away and my father took it out of the trash, someone else threw it away and my father took it out of the trash and once again stuck it to the fridge…on the list was a new house, a new husband, breast augmentation, face list, and a big ol’ dild**.    Another acquaintance used to come over and rub my dad’s belly and say buddah…He also adopted one of my friends who was down on her luck and let her live at the house for about a year.  My dad was a very accepting person and basically befriended one and all.
Even after 9 years since his passing, I can hear him as clear as day, when I would call and say the familiar, Hi ya Daddy and he would say either “Hi ya Sandra” or “hi ya Daughter.”  I spoke to my mom this evening and we were remembering so many wonderful things about my dad, his quirks, his ambitions, but mostly his dedication to his family.  On this Father’s Day and always, Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  Keep sending me those signs of four-leaf clovers and I hope we all continue to make you proud.  Love ya forever…my father…my friend.   

 If you Love something set it free

So how many times have we heard that quote?  If you look it up there are so many variations but basically the premise is….

If you love something set it free. If it comes back, love it forever (or it is yours), If it doesn’t then it never was yours in the first place.

When I tried to find the words to the quote above about setting something free, I found so many excellent quotes regarding the trials and tribulations of love and relationships…or friendships for that matter among other things.  So many in fact, that I will sprinkle them throughout this blog and the quotes will be in italic. 

A few weeks ago I wrote about “sometimes love isn’t enough.”  And at that time, I never thought I would be writing the following words for all to read.  But I am at a point in my life that I must admit it.  I am laying down my sword, putting on a suit of armor and once again, setting something free that I love dearly. There comes a point that “it is better to have loved and lost then to never have loved at all.” 

I am not defeated, I am not (as Pat Benatar put it…putting another notch in my lipstick case).  I am NOT bitter, I am just admitting that in my case, “love” isn’t enough.  

Think about it.  Your first crush (maybe playing spin the bottle and deciding that after that first kiss, “he” or “she” was THE ONE);  Maybe your high school sweetheart (meeting in the stairwell between classes or under the bleachers after the big game); your college main squeeze (the one you snuck into your dorm late at night); various relationships where you felt this was it for your future, your lifetime; Your first live in boy or girlfriend (who you thought would be the last); for some of you, maybe your first marriage. We have all been there and done that in one way or another. Think about how you felt when the realization hit…”This just is not going to work.”  Something had happened, something changed and most of us do move on.  Think about how you might have felt when the person was not on the other end of the phone line, you didn’t see them, talk to them, or spend time with them.  Think about how life just got in the way.  Maybe it was a good breakup and maybe it was a bad.  But somehow you endured, you survived, you actually lived through it!!! 

Eventually, over time. like a stream, we let our love flow once again further downstream, cutting new paths along the many twists and turns and obstacles in the riverbed – at times swimming against the current but usually making it through, day by day…wait … maybe minute by minute.

Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. ….Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like ‘maybe we should be just friends’ turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It’s a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain.”  Neil Gaiman

One of my faults was falling for someone I had no right to fall for … I didn’t expect it, it was the wrong place, the wrong time, the wrong situation, the wrong lifetime. 

I’m not supposed to love you, I’m not supposed to care, I’m not supposed to live my life wishing you were there. I’m not supposed to wonder where you are or what you do…

If I never met you, I wouldn’t like you. If I didn’t like you, I wouldn’t love you. If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t miss you. But I did, I do, and I will.

Now, getting back to the first quote…I believe I am a very fair and strong person when it comes to trust. respect, manners, righteousness.  I have never been vindictive with anyone from past relationships as they are all my friends on facebook (go figure!!??  LOL).  We lived, learned and I do believe or hope that we do not hold grudges against each other for the failure of our relationships. 

I also believe that sometimes letting go of the one thing you love can actually show just how deep the love and care are.  Sort of like the old phrase “tough love.”  When you love someone or something so much that you can’t bear to be a part of what is happening,, the constant justifications, the consequences of the bond, the enabling of whatever might be going on.   

So I am letting go with LOVE today. Not hate, not envy, not anger, but pure love and care.     I am laying down my sword as I have no fight left in me.  Maybe some of you think this is the wrong thing to do, but the next quote by Dr. Joyce Brothers sums up where I stand today.  I am revealing my inner self and I am thinking of what is best, not how anyone else might react to my words or that I am speaking my mind, my feelings, or thoughts.    Bare, naked, vulnerable truth. 

Love comes when manipulation stops; when you think more about the other person than about his or her reactions to you.  When you dare to reveal yourself fully.  When you dare to be vulnerable.”  Dr. Joyce Brothers

I know that these words might be a shock to some, confusing to others, some may assume they know what this is about, while others will be totally oblivious to the truths before them.  But sometimes it is better to just walk away in love, and harboring no ill feelings. Most relationships (or those that failed for that matter) or friendships can stand the test of time, those that cannot does not mean that good thoughts, wishes and love are not sent often.   But I always hope that the foundation of friendship is strong enough to withstand the obvious and that someday, whether it be days, weeks, months or years from now … the friendship part, the part I cherish, will emerge, as strong as I thought, or believed it was.  I have always believed that for any relationship to survive there had to be a genuine friendship, a foundation that connects one person to another, common interests, care, love and above all trust.   I guess Julia Roberts put it the best…..

You know it’s love when all you want is that person to be happy, even if you’re not part of their happiness.”  Julia Roberts

Now, getting back to my blog from a few weeks ago. No matter where life’s path might lead I wish you ENOUGH always, ENOUGH of EVERYTHING and ANYTHING, Love, happiness, prosperity, laughter, health and fun – even if I am not a part of your happiness.  

Maybe in time you will understand my words, my thoughts or where these words came from or why.  But in this moment in time, it is what I have to do, for me and especially you.

I Wish You Enough

This morning I was sitting at the lab waiting my turn to have a needle shoved in my arm to drain out the precious fluid that controls life. For those of you who know my fears…getting blood drawn is one major fear. I looked around at the faces in the waiting room, hoping to just connect gazes with someone, anyone, to proclaim my fear. Nada, zip, zilch. I thought about who I would want by my side during this time of anxiety and thought about those who could ease my fears out of friendship and love. I imagined them right there beside me, joking, easing my tension from Milford, CT; from Dudley, MA; from Lyman ME; from Wethersfield, North Haven, East Haven, Hebron, Southington, Bridgeport, Branford and Hamden, CT and to tell ya the truth, I felt their love … well that… and I think the deep breathing and the positive mental messages (I think I can, I think I can) helped in a sense.

My thoughts were interrupted when there was this woman leaving and the attendant said to her “Have a Blessed Day and see you next week,” to which the woman replied something I could not really hear (I actually was not paying attention at that point)   but the last thing she did say was, “Sometimes love isn’t enough.” Although usually I do not get hung up on conversations I have nothing to do with, it caught my attention. You see, this was the fourth time in a matter of about two weeks I have heard that expression… “some times love isn’t enough.”

Hang on a minute…I thought “Love makes the world go round,” “Love conquers All,” “All you need is Love,” but today, after hearing this statement for the fourth time in recent weeks, I felt like something was amiss. Then I started to think, really think of the statement “Sometimes love isn’t enough.”

First I started to think of the circumstances where I first heard this statement over the past two weeks. I am going to summarize them here as I am going back over a two week span of time and recently, I cannot even remember what I had for lunch!

At the vet’s office, it was a woman who muttered the statement while she was discussing the next step for an ailing pet. We love him so much, but “sometimes love just isn’t enough.”

It was watching Dr. Phil and he had parents on who were dealing with their daughter’s anorexia. The parents expressed how they would do anything in the world to help her get better and heal but they admitted that as much as they loved their daughter dearly, they eluded to “sometimes love isn’t enough.”

It was speaking with a client and them discussing being in the hospital and sitting bedside to an ailing loved one, telling them how much they loved them, and needed them, but “G*d” had other plans and “sometimes love isn’t enough.”

And lastly, it was at the lab this morning.

Now that I am home from work, I have been picking apart this statement, thinking of this statement, examining this statement not only in all these situations but in my life. I am asking myself “can or will love ever be enough?” and I have come to several conclusions based on the past few weeks and my life.  The first one being NO, sometimes “Love isn’t enough.” Love can’t unfortunately conquer all.

Love can’t make a loved one not be called to the pearly gates – we have all loved someone in our lives (parents, husbands, wives, siblings, children, extended family, friends, etc.) and regardless of our genuine love for them, our love wasn’t enough. Think of 911, tragic accidents, unforeseen incidents. 

Love cannot make a beloved person or pet conquer an illness. The healing power of love has been documented yet, again, “sometimes love isn’t enough.”

Love cannot heal a wounded soul that feels they are better off ending their life. At that moment in time, that person is not feeling, recognizing or even acknowledging how much they are truly loved.

Love cannot erase the bruises and scars or words from an emotionally and physically abusive spouse or significant other.

Love cannot make someone put down that needle, bottle, or next fix. This person’s love of their addiction is stronger than any love from others.

A person’s love cannot make someone else love them the same, feel the same, experience the same as what they feel when they look in your eyes or connect with your soul.

But Love is not all negative my friends. As in the same token …

Enough love or the actions of loving someone can help mend a broken heart.

The words “I love you” or enough love can bring a smile to one’s face.

Since the beginning of time, the actions of love has produced many children as most of us are products of actual love.

Simple, little gestures of love, can make a world of difference in a person’s day, week, month or year. A phone call, flowers, a note, an email, a text, or a surprise visit.

Since so many marriages end in divorce these days, enough love can make us part of the minority and PROUD OF IT! This is apparent as many of you reading this blog have been happily married for years, decades or a lifetime.

So I guess what I am getting at today and everyday in the future is that, sometimes … “LOVE IS ENOUGH.”

I wish each and every one of you ENOUGH…today and always.

Much Love… …Sandy

For those of you who actually read my last blog till the end and understood, without freaking out or assuming, this is for you.  LOL!    I had a dinner date the other night.   I guess that was naturally my first step since I declared I fell in love with myself again the other day or actually decided to try to love myself again.  Much like a new crush, I was flirting with ideas and trying to learn a little about the person I used to know but someone forgot about along the way. I wanted to take things as they struck me and really discover what I liked and/or didn’t like and how to be comfortable in my own skin and with myself.  But first things first, my dinner date…

I guess my day started as most.  I woke up, had my pot of coffee and wrote a blog.  The rest of the day was a blur to me in a sense as after I wrote….I was actually excited about my date with myself.  I cleaned the kitchen and started on a recipe conjured up in my own mind.  Those who know me know I very rarely use recipes (unless it is my Grandma Kelemencky’s Stuffed Cabbage recipe which I follow to a tee).  I decided on boneless chicken breast Mexican style.  I pounded out the chicken and stuffed it with Monterrey Jack cheese, fresh garden tomatoes, black olives, green chili peppers, a little cayenne pepper, black pepper, fresh red onions and topped it with tomatoes, a dollop of sour cream and more cheese.  I made regular brown rice on the side.  As this was cooking, I cleaned the kitchen, and especially my small kitchen table which on normal days is used as a drop-off station for keys, my work bag, mail, and whatever else I just throw on it to go through at a later time.

Next, I went out to the back yard and cut a variety of fresh flowers from the beautiful efforts of my neighbor and I and placed them in a vase on my table.  I then showered and put on some comfortable clothes (which in this season consisted of shorts and an oversized tank top).  I even plugged in my perpetual holiday tree and popped a CD into the player of Indian flute music that a friend once heard in the caves of Arizona.  I lit the Bay Breeze Yankee Candle I received as a gift recently in the parlor/living room (if you want to call it that).  I closed the front windows as not to hear the constant traffic and turned my cell and home phone on silent.  I set out one place setting of the good china (a set my mom had purchased to me for high school graduation to go into my hope chest).  Ah yes, the infamous hope chest, filled with things I would need once life really began.  I lit two candles on the kitchen table and continued to prepare for my date.

The aroma of the chicken baking with a Mexican flare enveloped my small apartment.  As I sat down for dinner, I realized that it was the first time in a very, very long time that  I was actually eating dinner at the kitchen table and not on the run, or grabbing one leftover or another from the refrigerator and plopping myself on the futon in front of the television and watching the news while taking a bite here and there.  And you know what … it felt nice.  It was nice to have a good, fresh meal – on “good” hope chest china – at the kitchen table – in my own apartment.  It was nice to see the fresh cut flowers, to admire them, smell their scent and gaze at the varying shapes and colors of the petals.  The candles cast off a nice, warm and inviting glow. The soft music in the background added to the ambiance of the evening  as the Bay Breeze scent of the Yankee Candle transported me to the present moment.  No distractions, no news of murders, accidents, traffic, the war, politics, or any of the usual storylines the news channels continuously throw at us during the dinner hour.

Along with the reduced to no distractions, I noticed something else.  I was just not eating dinner … I was really tasting flavors, feeling the textures of the food, the combinations of ingredients.  It was like noticing or experiencing something for the first time.  Something so different than what I was used to.  I also noticed how relaxed I was.  I didn’t feel the constant urge to hurry up and finish eating so I could do something else.  There was no rush, no deadlines, there was no urgency, there was no list(s) being made in my head or on sitcky notes of things to do.  I was at peace in the comfort of my home in the company of just me and my cats.  As a reward to a rather good date, I  savoured a single serving Edy’s Frozen Yogurt  Cappuchino Chip and ended up reading a book I had started long ago but pushed aside until I was ready to go to sleep.  And imagine, I actually slept in my bed and not on the futon for a change.  All in all, it was a great dinner date with myself and as I promised in my last blog, I would not be disappointed and I wasn’t.

I learned a lot about myself that night.  One thing is that I do not often stop and when I do, I am forever making lists, fretting over unfinished stuff, worrying about the next day.  I also learned that by stopping and really seeing, hearing, tasting and smelling, I could get so much out of life.  How many times do you – or I  – actually use the senses we have to their fullest.  Worse yet, how many times do you – or I – look at things with “eyes wide shut,” so to speak. In black or white with no gray areas?

There are so many things in everyday life that are miracles, once in a lifetime scenes, experiences, tender or encouraging words spoken to one another or small gestures that can change a life.  These are the very things that are overlooked when I do not stop, look and listen.  I guess the important thing is to be in the present moment and really experience everything it has to offer. 

My experience brought up a conversation I had awhile back with an acquaintance who felt between her crazy hours and her husband’s crazy hours, they were losing themselves and their relationship – They had been married since the 80’s.  Their schedules turned them into ships that passed in the night working and striving for something but neither knew what exactly they were striving for anymore.  Through serious self examination, they instituted one weeknight and one weekend night each week as date night.  They could go out, stay in, do nothing or conquer the world, as long as on those nights they totally devoted the entire evening to themselves.  A beautiful thing happened between them.  They rekindled something that was slipping away and rediscovered so many things they used to enjoy together that they pushed aside.  They discovered themselves again and fell in love all over again.

So back to my main point, if there really is one in this rambling…Look in the mirror and tell me … can you really see you?  Who are you?  What do you enjoy?  Are you happy?   Do you love that person starring back at you – your own reflection?  If not, try a dinner date for one and start to fall back in love with your first love…yourself. 

I am only on the first step of this journey, and I hope, God willing, that many more steps will follow. I realize it takes time and I know there will be pitfalls, speed bumps and detours along the way.  But my hope is that I can continue to learn from this experience.  I hope you will join me in this rediscovery of life.  And maybe, just maybe, you will see something or feel something through my words.

I was always skeptic in the theory of “love at first sight” or “reconnecting with a past love.”  There is just so much that can’t be told from that first moment or trying to recreate something in hopes it will be better.  Speculation can drive a mind wild and outcomes very often do not match those tender first thoughts, impressions and butterflies.

Maybe I was wrong as today I am smitten.  I am in love and to tell you the truth, it has been a long time coming.  Do not let this scare you away and do not get the wrong idea here.   Seriously, there is a lesson to be learned so keep reading.

I knew from the moment I looked at her there was an instant connection.  Her face had a certain familiarity about it.  She reminded me of someone I lost along the journey of life and made me think of just how much my life had changed without her.  Her eyes showed a shyness and she – even in her shyness – intimidated me.  It scared me at first and I looked away, but I was drawn back to her and could not break the gaze. It was as though when our eyes connected, she was looking deep inside my mind – reaching my very soul.  Without saying a word, I studied the lines on her face.  I wondered why she looked timid and scared, maybe even unsure or worried.  But a smile started to come to her lips and I just couldn’t help myself…I smiled back.  As much as she looked familiar, she was a stranger in so many ways.  She looked older than I remember and there was a roughness about her.   

She used to be my rock and the one I depended on, through thick and thin.  She made me constantly question my very being; she embraced my triumphs, my goals and helped me understand what really mattered.  She pushed me to be better, to rage on and to be true to myself.  She always had a way of finding humor in most situations.  She had a yearning for knowledge, a “can do” attitude and usually a smile on her face. 

I tried to remember when I lost her but it all seems so foggy and unclear to me.  I don’t know if there was a turning point – one event that started it all or if it was a slow and steady demise and downhill spiral over the years.  Suddenly I felt really guilty, that I craved her and needed her back in my life.  Especially since I knew deep down that I, and my actions, was the direct cause of losing her in the first place.  I had ignored her, pushed her away and basically it was my own fault.  I questioned if the person looking in my eyes could help me become all that was possible or if I had crossed the point of no return with what I had become, the broken dreams, the pushed aside hopes, the lack of will.

During those precious minutes today so much whirled through my mind. But one image remained constant.  It was the pleading look and that first tear that drove me to the breaking point.  It made me realize that I am nothing without her.  She gave meaning to my life, my future, my goals and every breath I took.

As that first tear fell, I could not help but break down into a full-blown, tears streaming moment.  I cried along with her, pausing only to grab a tissue and to help dab her eyes and mine.

It was at that moment I realized I was falling  in love again.  I felt a certain inspiration and determination that I had not felt in years.  Thoughts and images started crashing upon the walls of my mind.  I did not want this moment to end.  I wanted to tell her everything would once again be alright now if she would just let me back into her life.   I could not wait to comfort her soul and plan for the future – instead of continuing to destroy this ever important love affair.  But deep down I knew this.  I knew I was losing her slowly and watched as she slipped away, and in most cases I had only myself to blame, ignoring and not wanting to admit it.  The signs were all there, plain as the writing on the wall.

There is a reason for everything and I think at this moment in time, we had to reconnect or the results could have been tragic.  It’s a strange thing when a person loses someone, something, anything that helps define and validate who a person is.    Who am I? What am I? What can I be?  Mine was a slow demise yet I do not think that before today, a bloodhound, GPS or looking in the “Lost and Found” would have helped me.  It took the tears and a certain realization that something had to change. 

Today, while looking at my reflection in my mirror, I saw someone I did not recognize at first.  The stress line between the eyebrows, the tiredness reflected in around the eyes, the expressionless face.   Today while looking in the mirror as the steam started to dissapate, I once again found, behind MY OWN REFLECTION … ME – and yes, it was love at first sight – A love that I have not felt in so very long.  I believe that once a person admits or realizes their faults, weaknesses and demons,(not to mention their worth)  it is only a matter of time, and with  determination and perseverance that a reconnection with oneself can be made.  I think with continued strength, hope, and will, this love affair with myself will flourish.   

Today is the first day of my new journey in rediscovering and reconnecting with my first love…myself.  Welcome back Sandra Lee Hagan, I’ve missed you and look forward to working together to be the best that I can be – physically, emotionally and mentally.  It’s going to be a slow journey but enlightenting to say in the least.  So, Sandy, let’s have dinner tonight – just us?  I promise you won’t be disappointed.

HELLO….are you there?  That is what a few recent emails and messages I received basically said.  Well, that and, Where have I been lately? what’s up with no blogs?, and even a few that said they missed my rantings and the “world according to Sandy.” 

Just to ease those who have asked…I am still here – but just in my own little world and “hormonal bubble.”  The past few weeks I have realized I am in the midst of a very big MentalPause and Midriff crisis and YES, these both should be confused with Menopause and Midlife Crisis.  I will be the first to admit,finally, after refusing to believe it,  that I am in full-blown peri-menopause which adds a whole new dimension to my life, reality and world.  Mentalpause also qualifies as a good excuse for my actions, ill judgment, and whatever I can blame on these hormonal swings.  Menopause (or as I affectionately call it  … Mentalpause) affects every woman in various ways.  But with me it seems to run the gamut.  The doc says it can last 7-10 years…please do not make me a statistic in this group.  I, and those close to me, will not be able to handle it.

There is no rhyme or reason for what, when or how I am experiencing this wonderful change of life.  I can be up and high as a kite one minute with not a care in the world and ready to conquer the world or at least the day…when all of a sudden without warning, I can be crying my eyes out.  If melancholy sets in … well, frankly I am a goner.  The workers in my local Stop & Shop are getting used to me hanging on to the end cap of the aisle when a hot flash sets in.  My coworkers have stopped asking me if I have a fever when I get all flush and break out in an honest to goodness drenching sweat and those who know me expect me to burst out crying at the drop of a hat.  It even shows in the amount of laundry I have been doing thanks to the wonderful hot flashes and sweats.  I have grown accustomed to carrying an extra shirt in my car for those moments.

MentalPause and Midriff crisis are now clouding my reasoning, thoughts and daily endurance.  For example:

Cravings –Every other day it is something different.  I feel like an addict looking for the next fix as I run to Stop & Shop and get whatever it is that my body is craving.  Let’s see, I have always had the dark chocolate craving but it is now an addiction.  Then there’s the salsa craving, the sunflower craving, oh and let’s not forget the black olive craving, the fried bologna night, eating  ham salad for almost a week, and pouring Hot sauce on just about everything mood.  I still have no explanation for the cravings I get like green peas every night or the 10 tubs of humus I purchased in one shopping trip last week. 

No short-term memory….not even for something that might have happened a few minutes ago, though I don’t remember if anything actually happened a few minutes ago so am I really forgetting or did nothing just happen?  The other day I had to look up my mom’s telephone number…now that’s sad.  

I have misplaced so many things in the past few months that I have lost track of what I have misplaced.  I must admit that when I do find something I misplaced, it is usually in the most obscure place.  Like the morning I found my deodorant in the kitchen cabinet.  Or my empty, clean coffee mug in the refrigerator. 

Tiredness is another new thing.  Damn, I am just tired.  By 2 p.m. I am literally falling asleep at my desk.  Not for lack of work or boredom.  I just can’t keep my eyes open. Then on some days I come home and have to lie down because I am so tired.  Other days, I get a second wind and unfortunately end up awake into the wee hours of the morning.

Body aches and pains are constant now.  I don’t know about you but I feel like I have chronic arthritis.  I am forever sore in places I did not think muscles or tendons existed. 

My ability to accomplish things and tasks has also changed now.  If I need to get something done, I, or whoever needs it, should schedule it for the morning as afternoons are now out of the picture.  Mornings have always been my best time and actually they still are…I think…well, I’m not sure, ohhhh, I just don’t remember now.   

My judgment is off in so many different ways.  I don’t know how to explain why I thought I could fit in a size 12…I haven’t been in a size 12 for years – but looking at them in the store, I just knew they would fit and of course I was so sure, I didn’t even need to try them on….Wrong move. (See bifocals failure and bloating/midriff crisis below).

Water weight gain  and bloating is just a fact of life at this point…and NO MOM– I am NOT pregnant.  This is where the midriff crisis comes in.  Mid life brings the repositioning of some body parts (specifically on those of us who do not exercise), especially around the mid section. Again, No Mom, I know what it looks like but really, seriously, I am NOT Pregnant!  Then again, maybe I just don’t remember…nahhhh , I think I would remember that!!  LOL

Not sure about anyone else, but I am quite the edgy person nowadays.  And it’s paranoia over stupid things such as spiders, bugs, bees and yes I am getting back my extreme anxiety of driving with others. 

Intolerance to noise – This is a new one.  I can’t stand loud sounds, loud radios, repetitive sounds, dripping water, construction, etc. and especially beeping. 

Road rage and swearing is now a norm with me, as well as giving others the finger and the familiar yell of WTF.  I know that the PMS defense has been used in the court of law before…do you think Mentalpause qualifies??? 

Bifocals failure – I feel like I am squinting at everything, like just how close is that car, where are the lines on the road, why can’t I see my computer screen and when did they change the type to something so freaking small in the newspaper.…and how could I actually think the size 12 would fit over this shell. 

Crying over the smallest things.  Like today I busted out crying cause one of the stray cats was attacking a beautiful yellow monarch butterfly.  I chased the cat away and held my hand to the butterfly.  As it climbed up, I placed it across the yard on the hydrangea and started to apologize to the butterfly and started sobbing.  What’s up with that.? Or crying over commercials, forwards from utube or half the posts on facebook. 

The “Oh Well” syndrome has also emerged.  Lately a little voice is just saying “Oh well and whatever.”  It’s not that I don’t care, I think it is more of me taking a step back and asking myself if it really makes a difference and what the options and consequences might be.  Life is too short to sweat the small stuff.  Not sure if this is mentalpause or just getting older and wiser. 

OK, well, time to get off this computer as  I am in the midst of a major hot flash and I think I have things to do, people to see, places to go.  Well, wait a minute, maybe I don’t, oh if only I could remember what or who it was…. Oh, and before I forget, will ya do me a favor, please let me know if you like my blog because the way it’s been going, I won’t remember that I even wrote this!

OK, I will admit it…I do not have a washer or dryer.  I am a renter in the Woodbridge “flats.” And unfortunately the house I live in does not allow me to even put in a washer or dryer.  A common thing or a “given” to many – a washer or dryer – yet to so many more out there those two appliances are considered a luxury. 

But this blog isn’t about washers or dryers in general, or Maytag, Whirlpool or Sears appliances.  It is about the humbling experience in my jaunts to the laundry mat – the “laundry mat of learning.”  When I first started going to this laundry mat up the street I was a bit embarrassed.  I felt poor in a way – like others would look at me and assume that I could not afford a washer or dryer.   When I owned my condo I could not have a washer and dryer in my physical unit but there was a common laundry room in the basement with five washers and dryers which all took $1.50 per load. 

I still remember my first day going to the laundry mat as I was used to my condo laundry room, a gathering place in a sense.  I had no idea about these huge machines, what I had to do or where to put the detergent, (powder or liquid as there were separate dispensers for that) versus the softener or prewash detergent for that matter.  Right away, the attendant Ella came over and explained the whole process and showed me how to put money on my Top Cat card (looked just like a debit card with their logo on it) to use the machines and where to put the detergent.  She assumed I was a Southern Graduate student (flattering in a sense). 

It was shortly after my first visit three years ago that my lessons began.  I have now gotten it down to a pretty regular schedule, going to the laundry mat either real early on Saturday or Sunday about every week or so usually around 6:30 to 7 a.m. to avoid the rush. 

In this time I’ve learned a lot about laundry, other people’s habits and my local community during the rinse, wash, extract and spin cycles.  Depending on which day I go, I see a whole group of different people.  On Saturdays, it is usually men.  They all acknowledge each other with a hug, a slap to the back and a quick hand clasp and a “hey brother or bro.” On Sundays, it is usually women and children.  They drag in their laundry in trash bags, cardboard boxes and laundry bags.  Regardless of what their laundry is in…there is one apparent characteristic…they bring tons of laundry accessories.  Bleach, detergent, fabric softener, stain remover AND they separate their whites from colors, socks from underwear and bed linens from all else.  Heck, I just throw it all in together – like my dad used to say about eating…it all goes to the same place.  I use this analogy for my laundry. It is all dirty and it needs to be washed regardless.  Maybe that is weird to you but I figure it all has to get clean and it doesn’t matter if the color is with the white or the kitchen towels are with the bedroom sheets.  As long as nothing dyes all my clothes pink (which has happened)…no problem. 

These women are prepared to spend hours if not the whole morning into the afternoon, washing, folding and chatting.  It is like a neighborhood reunion.  Many times they come with children in tow, a bag of snacks, juices and smiles.  They do not consider laundry as a chore.  The kids help out when needed and all play with each other during the various cycles leading up to the emptying of the washer, separating into the dryer and the actual folding of the laundry not only into piles, BUT into who it belongs to…Dad, Mom, sister, brother, niece, nephew or grandchildren.  They have it down to a science and each and every shirt, pants, skirt, sock, underwear or linens are folded with such precision it is actually amazing.  I must admit, in some cases, the precision was better than some upper end department stores I have recently visited. 

Over the years, after seeing some of the same individuals and families, a common courtesy and respect is formed.  I see many of my work clients during my laundry mornings.  I am not going to broadcast their next appointment or what items I have in the pantry.  I will say hello, ask about their week with a “hey how ya doing?” and maybe ask about a tidbit they disclosed about their life.  We have a mutual respect for each other. While others who I have met over the years, it is like a weekly date.  I see them each time I go to do my laundry and we watch Extreme Makeover or Law and Order (the only things they usually have on the tvs) and discuss the episode we are watching. 

So where is this leading you may ask?  Well, I thought it was about what I have learned in the laundry mat of life but it goes so much further and deeper.  Here are some of the things I have learned.

1.  Regardless of how bad your life or circumstances might seem, there is always someone in a worse circumstance.

2.  Never and I will stress NEVER, think you know it all about someone else – outward appearances do NOT tell the whole story and as the saying goes…”you can’t judge a book from its cover.”

3.  Never judge a person by what you think you see unless you walk a mile (or for that matter) a step or block in their shoes.

4.  You can separate the good from the bad…all you have to do is really listen, read between the words and observe what is really being said.

5.  Everyone has a past – regardless of how bad or good it might have been.  The thing that matters is if they have moved on for the better or if they are still stuck in it.  “I always loved the saying I read like a hundred years ago in some poetry book… “As long as I hold you in contempt, I am still holding you.”  Think about it. 

6.  The Sunday newspaper might seem like a standard part of my day.  I read it and I am done.  I have gotten into the habit of giving the paper to someone at the laundry mat after I am done…minus the sale circulars I want to keep.  To me passing it on is just a small gesture as it would land up in the recycle bin…but to others who cannot afford it… it seems as if I have given them gold. 

7.  To acknowledge one’s life or circumstances can mean the world to someone. 

I have learned a lot and actually experienced so much from my bi-monthly or weekly visits to my “laundry mat of life” and in one way or anther we, the patrons are connected. 

I was deeply saddened when a child who was doing laundry with her family was killed in the crosswalk in front of the laundry mat – I remember the family and child from my visit and expressed my sympathy and placed a flower at the crosswalk in memory of the child.  No one should have to lose a child.

I watched the sparkle come back to one of the staff’s eyes when I presented her with something that was so simple to do in a sense but meant the world to her.  While I was drawing and coloring in holiday cards for my friends and family she commented on how I hand drew and personalized cards. Before I left that morning I drew and colored a personalized card for her during the drying cycle – complete with the Top Cat name and Santa working behind the counter with all the washers and dryers.  That card was proudly hung in view for all to see during the holiday season and she thanked me each time I came in for thinking of her saying no one had done something for her like that or cared enough to acknowledge her as something more than an employee, hired to meet every patrons needs.

I remember fondly the man who was dumpster diving behind the laundry mat for cans and bottles.  During my drying cycle, I went home and grabbed the bag of returnables from my home.  I presented it to him and again, it was like he struck gold out West during the Gold Rush.  His story was disheartening, a self employed carpenter who took the hit during the recent economic downturn.  Those cans and bottles that I usually gave to my neighbor who had two jobs would get him a meal, a fax to a potential job prospect or maybe a bus ride to an interview.  He too was a renter and his landlord who was having a problem paying his own mortgage on the rental property was at the point of evicting him due to the same economic downturn. 

This past Saturday as I left the laundry mat, I was humbled in so many ways.  I thought about the many people I have met over the past three years, their stories, their heartaches and heartbreaks, their tragedies.  How they landed up where they are today.  I thought about how many of us were there for the same reason, we did not have a washer or dryer due to where we lived.  I also thought about those who were trying to crawl out from whatever life threw at them and how they or we in that sense were trying to make ends meet, provide for their families and find some balance in their lives.

On Saturday, I once again began to take a serious look at my life and began to count my blessings…ONE BY ONE.  I am now up to over 200 and I know this journey and my counting will not stop any time soon.