A Tantalizing Tale

This tale begins with a toilet. A toilet that was giving us problems….

For the past year (I swear that’s how long it was going on!) we were having problems with our toilet. It would not flush well on occasion and as you can imagine, this was quite a frustrating situation.

We live in a small ranch style home, out in the country and we don’t have public sewage. We have a septic system and just one flushing toilet for the four of us.  It’s hard to believe this would be the case (only one toilet, you may ask?) but public sewage is coming our way so there’s no sense in taxing our already aging septic system with another toilet.

So one morning, I finally had it with the toilet that refused to flush decently. I sent my husband a text message and invited him to the local home supply store for an evening date. We’d have dinner somewhere then go pick out a new toilet (what an exciting date?! my one girlfriend noted). Jim text-ed back his confirmation- OK.

That evening, after a summer dinner of sandwiches and salad, we headed for toilet territory. While Jim was off in the garden center, I checked out the vast array of tantalizing toilet selections. There were rows of them, in all different shapes, sizes, heights and tank capacity sizes. My mind was boggled with toilet tank options, gallon capacities, and colonial white or regular white options.

Jim showed up to look over the toilets. Of course he was looking at the $200 toilets but frugal minded me was checking out the $98 ones. I couldn’t see what the heck you’d need an expensive toilet for anyway?

Enter Mark Lee. He was the home supply salesman who happened to walk down our aisle and ask if we needed help. He was young, tall and very handsome. He looked like he could be a magazine cover model in sexy jeans with no shirt on. (The young girls probably go crazy over him)  I took one look at him and decided, on the spot, that he likely knew nothing about toilets.

This is where I was wrong. Dead wrong. Mark Lee launched into a sales pitch worthy of an infomercial. The first thing he said was “You get what you pay for. This is an item you will use every day, many times” (he smiled when he said this and we did too).  Jim agreed of course and was probably relieved that thank goodness, here was an ally in his quest for a non-cheap toilet. Jim asked him which toilet he recommended and Mark Lee pointed to the gold standard of toilets- The American Standard.

Mark’s sales pitch lasted a couple of minutes. I remember the last thing he said, “And, this toilet will flush a bucket of golf balls…..” At this statement, Jim and I both raised our hands in the air and said “SOLD!” The next thing I knew we were wheeling a $239 toilet to the front desk.

Since then, I’ve realized a couple of things. The old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is still true. Clearly, I made a judgment decision about Mark Lee that was dead on wrong. He was a spectacular salesman. Second, nothing beats a great flushing toilet with a smaller water tank capacity. I can just imagine what we’re saving on the water bill!

Footnote: Guess what was stuck in our old toilet? A PENCIL!

Join me on my graceful journey.

Abundance…In True Anne Lamott Style

One of my favorite writers is Anne Lamott. You’ve probably heard of her or might be a fan of hers already. She has written a number of faith based books (Traveling Mercies) and some fiction novels as well. Her latest book is entitled “Some Assembly Required” and it is a beautiful journal of her grandson’s first year of life.

The first thing I loved about this book was Anne’s decision to be called “Nana” by her grandson. (My grandson calls me Nana too!) She “journals” her way through her fears about everything from her son and his girlfriend’s relationship, to the baby’s birth and early development. She calls close friends when she is losing it and always comes back to faith and humility by letting everyone live their own life. She is such an inspiration.

Here’s one of my favorite stories from the book:

(Anne says) “I have a new perspective on spiritual abundance, thanks to my friend Michelle, who told me about going to Starbucks the other day for a pecan sticky bun. She normally doesn’t order pastry at Starbucks, because it’s fattening, but the other day she decided to treat herself to a pecan sticky bun. She spent quite a lot of time picking out the exact one she wanted, which meant the one with the most pecans. She pointed it out to the counter person. He had to move a few others that were in the way, so she took her coffee and sat down.

He brought the sticky bun over, all wrapped up and on a plate. She started taking it out of the paper, and instantly saw that it was the wrong bun, not the one she had chosen. This one had only three pecans on top. She wrapped it back up and walked to the counter, where she pointed this out to the young man, with crisp annoyance. He looked at her incredulously. “Lady,” he said, “turn it over”.

And on the other side, the bun was tiled with candied pecans.”

I just loved this story. How many times have I had an attitude about something which turns out to be abundance in disguise? If we’d all remember to count our blessings, what a pecan studded world this would be!

So, if you’re looking to read with abundance this weekend, pick up a copy of  Some Assembly Required!

Join me on my graceful journey.

Laughing at Myself

You grow up the day you have the first real laugh….at yourself.

Ethel Barrymore

I have done some silly stuff lately.

One chilly morning this winter, I was outside cleaning the snow off my car. When I came into the house, my glasses fogged up immediately after hitting the warmth of my mud room. I ran into the kitchen, thinking I had left the oven on.

In an event just yesterday, my boss said to me (from another room), Do you think Jim would go to Mastermind with you? What I heard was, Do you think Jim would go to Mass with you tomorrow? (I’m not Catholic!)

Lucy watches Little Ricky's birthday party fro...
Lucille Ball- She was funny! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I get older and (hopefully) wiser, I also seem to be becoming more funny. Maybe it is just that I am funny to myself, but no, I seem to be funny to others as well.

The deterioration of my hearing especially is enabling my funnyness. I know I’m going to need to get it checked, but the reality of that is well, I am not ready to deal with the reality of that (or the expense of a hearing aid).

I don’t know why people get so upset when others laugh at them. I see it as a special grace when we can love ourselves despite what others think (or don’t think) of us. When I was a manager, my employees loved to imitate me back to myself. Sometimes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

I used to think that EVERYONE needed to like/love me. I was such a people pleaser. I realize now that is the impossible dream. The older I get the more I realize that hey, not everyone is gonna like me. That is ok with me. I will tell you this- the deeper my relationship to God, the less it matters what others think. I like myself and what others think of me is really none of my business.

I know deep inside the kind of person I strive to be. Funny yes. Also- caring, loving, thoughtful, forgiving, huggy and kissy. Yes, that is what I want to be.

So laugh if you will. I’m laughing along with you!

Join me on my graceful journey.

Happy Birthday Chargeman!

Bad Girls (song)
Image via Wikipedia

It was May 10, 1980. The location? A disco filled with pulsing strobe lights, dancing bodies and the sounds of Donna Summer singing “Bad Girls”. I had just arrived to meet up with some old college girlfriends. They were all getting up to dance. I said I needed a minute to relax. Next thing you know, a handsome young man in a lime green leisure suit asks me if he can sit down and talk. I told him (in a stern voice) to keep moving.

I watched him walk slowly around the room again and make his way back towards me. Feeling like a jerk, I let my guard down and told him he could have a seat. We talked for the rest of the night. I loved to play pinball so we did that together for a while. I wouldn’t let him buy me a drink without reciprocating. He walked me to my car and asked me out on a date.

What a handsome young boy!

One year later we were walking down the aisle together. It has been 30 years since then and today, Jim turns 55 years old.

It is hard to believe we have been together this long. Where have the years gone? We both have thickening middles and we move a bit slower these days. And, as anyone who has been married for a while will tell you, it ain’t always easy. But obviously I was attracted to the right guy because things have just worked out.

Jim has had various nicknames over the years but Chargeman is one of my favorites. This is a name given to him years ago by a group of women who worked with him at the hospital (he’s an RN). I don’t even remember the story much but I think it’s a Superman- like designation. And, he really is a “Chargeman”.

Here’s why. I think God has given Jim a special mission. He was born to help others. If he sees someone in distress, he steps up to the plate. He’s taught me alot about honesty and about “owning it”. Owning it means fessing up to what you are doing and taking responsibility for your own actions. He genuinely wants to live a life of service and help his fellow man.

The "Love Children"

Jim has given me the gift of two great children and subsequently, my grandson. Our kids are the highlight of our union together. We have all been through thick and thin and thankfully, by the Grace of God, we all get along and actually (really!) enjoy spending time together!

A long time ago, we finally gave away the lime green leisure suit. It hung for years in our closet. (I think neither one of us wanted to give it away!) Jim’s favorite movie when we met was “Saturday Night Fever”. We watched it together not too long ago and had a good chuckle!

If you know Jim, be sure and wish him a Happy Birthday today!

Join me on my graceful journey.

Is it Odd or is it God?

Question mark liberal
Image via Wikipedia

Weird things have been happening to me lately when I publish my blog posts. Maybe they are not so much weird as they have been possible signs (to me) that maybe, just maybe, I am walking down the right path….

Here’s an example. On the exact day I published my last post “To Amy, With Love”, a new client came into my work place. Usually I never ask a new client what their address is but I had a few moments so I thought, what the heck? Here’s how the conversation went:

ME: Sue, I’d like to add your address to our database. Can you tell me what it is please?

SUE: Sure, it’s 1234 JOE CAIN LANE (blah blah blah city state zip)

ME: (incredulous) I can’t believe it. My name is Joanne Cain. My friends call me Jo Cain. Really? You live on Joe Cain Lane?

HER: Yes I do. (chuckle) Well, that is really a coincidence. I have an Aunt Joanne by the way.

ME: Really? How does she spell her name? Small “a”, with an “e” on the end?

SUE: Yes. Just like yours.

To top this all off, I went to leave for lunch and I almost put HER coat it. It was exactly like mine. Same brand, style and size.

(Yes, I thought about buying a lottery ticket that day!)

Is it odd, or is it God? What do you think?

Join me on my graceful journey.

What Water Aerobics Class is Really Like

My husband and I are taking a water aerobics class. Lest you immediately picture a group of svelte, toned swimmers doing sleek, calculated aerobic moves in an Olympic size pool, let me clue you in. This class is definitely not a group of Baywatch babes!

There are about a dozen or so participants in our class. I would say the age range is probably anywhere from 50- 70. Nobody is thin. We all complain about aches and pains, which is the main reason we are there. We are trying to get a bit more healthy.

The class is held at a local school, through our township. It is unbelievably cheap. A whole series of nine classes is $48 per person. Sometimes I can’t believe my husband (Jim) was game to take this class with me. He has had some health issues and I thought he’d laugh at the idea when I asked him if he was interested. But to my surprise, he said yes.

Here’s how a typical class goes. All of us warm up by walking around in a large circle in the shallow end of the pool. Occasionally, our instructor (Leslie) shouts “THE OTHER WAY!” which means we turn around and start walking the other way. This causes the water to swirl and creates resistance. It’s a good way to warm up.

After warm up, we usually launch into some kicks and stretches below the water level. Leslie likes to mix it up and we get to work with weights (they float!), noodles and these circular stretchy things that go around our ankles. We do some laps too as part of our hour. The class is definitely a work out. There is however, no pressure to push beyond what we individually are comfortable doing. Thank goodness or I never would have lasted long in this class.

Here’s my challenging part of class. Our instructor is younger than us and has yet to experience the drop in hearing that comes with age 50+. The pool is in a large room that echoes. To complicate matters, Leslie likes to play loud music (upbeat stuff like Flash Dance) via a CD player near the back wall of the pool. As you can well imagine, I spend most of my class time trying to read Leslie’s lips.

This past week, Leslie created “stations” all around the parameter of the shallow end of the pool. Each station had a note card (encased in plastic of course) that gave you a different exercise to do. Leslie is very creative but she is not always a good communicator. So though I tried to get a good grip on the entirety of this exercise, I never really understood exactly how it was to work.

Apparently I was not the only one confused. A bunch of us (slightly deaf ones like me) kept looking at each other and saying “what’s next”? If I asked Leslie, she always helped me figure it out but I hated asking her every time. After a couple turns of the stations, I had a light bulb moment. No one was giving me a hard time, no one really cared that I didn’t get it. Everyone kind of did their own thing. So that is what I did.

At one point I looked around and we were all participating and splashing. It was fun, healthy and ok. It didn’t matter how I did it. It just mattered that I was there, doing it.

Afterward, when we were done with the stations, we did our (ending) cool down stretches. Leslie asked what we thought of the stations. Most of us liked it. One woman said it was not enough of a work out for her. Jim and I discussed this later and decided this woman was just not really digging in. I think this was just our way of siding with Leslie. We really like her.

Did you ever do something you weren’t really good at but you plugged away at it anyway? Because when you were all done, you felt really good about the way it made you feel? And even though you knew you didn’t look all that good while doing it, who cares?  If you’ve ever had a moment like this, share it with me!

Join me on my graceful journey.

Get ready! Saturday is Jammie Day!

Calvin and Hobbes
Saturdays are for relaxing!

I have been really busy lately. It will be June before my five day work week becomes a four day work week. And as Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes!) would say, the days are just packed. So in order to ward off a winter meltdown, I have invented a new Saturday morning splurge for myself. I fondly call it Jammie Time.

Just in case you think I am talking about grape jam or orange marmalade, let me clarify. I am talking about pajamas. Wonderful, warm and soft pajamas. Last Saturday, I happened to stay in my pajamas until NOON and did not do any form of work. I reveled in the simplicity of an endless pot of coffee, numerous favorite shows in my DVR and a pot of chicken soup simmering on the stove. What luxury! What decadence!

Lest you think I have completely lost my mind, remember I am an over-doer. Sitting around in my jammies until Noon is kind of a no-no. I usually have a line up of things to do, people to meet, goals to reach. But even God took one day off. Why not me too?

I loved my Saturday morning so much, I want to spread the idea of Jammie Time! I want to encourage everyone to have JT at least one morning a week. The catch is, you cannot do something you consider to be work. Maybe your idea of relaxation is baking. Maybe it’s knitting or reading. Whatever it may be, just go for it! Just don’t go and clean out your extra storage room. That is not relaxing!

By the way, I have to mention my new favorite pair of jammies. They are from Soma, a beautiful store at the mall. They are all cotton and oh so soft. The top is a red Henley and the bottoms are decorated with little black and white penguins that have red scarfs around their necks. They are totally silly jammies but I love them.

It is so worth it to set aside time to regroup and recharge our batteries. Join the bandwagon and embrace Jammie Time! Let me know your favorite JT activity(ies). And spread the word!

Join me on my graceful journey.

My Idea of Heaven

On my way home there is a spot on the highway where, if the sun is setting and it’s in exactly the right spot, the brilliance of the rays captures my attention and inspires me to think of heaven.

One day it was lightly raining when I was approaching this spot and I wished I had a camera in my car to capture the image. It was sunny, rainy and hazy all at once (like potential rainbow kind of weather). When my car began to go further into the yellowy haze, I felt momentarily engulfed. For a brief second, I was scared. Then I was not. Then, I was in awe. I wondered is this what the entrance to heaven may be like? The experience lasted less than one minute. But I can bring it up in my mind anytime and I often do.

I grew up hearing about heaven and hell in church. My take on religion when I was a child and later into adulthood was that you either behaved or you were done for. God was the big police officer in the sky.

Thankfully, I no longer believe in a punishing God. I believe in a loving, forgiving God and a God with an occasional great sense of humor. My current views of heaven therefore, can involve some silly stuff. I’ll save some of my thoughts for another blog post, but today I want to share with you my absolute favorite idea of what heaven could be.

various potato dishes: potato chips, hashbrown...
Yay! Endless Potatoes!

My favorite idea of heaven is that of endless potatoes. Yes, you read correctly- potatoes. Potatoes in every way shape or form. Crispy french fries with melted cheese and crumbled bacon on them. Mashed yukon gold potatoes with lots of butter and maybe some roasted garlic cloves smashed into them. Baked potatoes with lots of butter and sour cream. Even sweet potatoes with butter and brown sugar.

Get the idea? And, of course none of these would contain any calories whatsoever. I would just eat and eat to my heart’s potato content and none of my potato feasts would show up anywhere on my stomach or thighs!

When I am with potatoes, nothing else really matters but the potatoes. Meat be gone! Salad….for bunnies! I love potatoes! Hopefully, when I walk through those pearly gates, God will be standing there with a big plate of yes, cheesy potatoes!

Join me on my graceful journey.

Coloring Outside the Lines

World-famous Crayola crayons are manufactured ...
What's your favorite color?

Coloring was one of my favorite things to do as a child. Back then of course there were no video games and limited tv channels. Life was simplier. I loved to color for hours.

That said, I remember outlining the edge of whatever I was coloring with a bold or dark color and then filling in the design, character (whatever) by lightly laying my crayon on its side and moving back and forth. I was a very neat colorer.

Recently, I came to view my husband as one who probably likes to color outside the lines. A funny incident occurred in which he was not really coloring but the thought process was quite the same. Here’s how it went. He was making an easy recipe of Stove Top stuffing, chicken, sour cream and cream of mushroom soup. And, he was making it for the entire family, including my son’s practically new girlfriend that I am hoping is (up to this point) thinking that we are the greatest thing since sliced bread.

(FYI, I want to mention that Stove Top chicken bake is not my idea of a gourmet or even a special meal, but occasionally we really love chicken and stuffing. And besides, it is a really easy meal so what’s not to love?)

But instead of making the recipe in the traditional way, my significant other did it his way. He laid the entire bag of dry stuffing on the bottom of the pan. He put the chicken on top of the dry stuffing then he mixed the soup with water and poured it over top of everything. He completely forgot (or shall I say….eliminated the sour cream). When I asked him why he didn’t follow the recipe, his answer was “it’s the same concept”.

I was tempted to either read him the riot act or pretend I had a last minute engagement I had to attend. I decided instead to let it go. When everyone was getting ready to sit down for dinner, my son’s girlfriend asked how he made the chicken bake. My husband generously offered the recipe to which I couldn’t help but add “that’s not really the recipe. he just likes to color outside the lines….”

This got a chuckle from everyone, including my husband. And how was dinner? Well, it was fine though the stuffing did not all puff up and so some of it stuck to the bottom of the pan. With a little cranberry sauce, it was just fine. Everyone declared it delicious and hey, I didn’t have to make dinner!

So though I like to color inside the lines, there are clearly others who love to go beyond and color wildly. I need to respect that. That is what makes life alittle more colorful.

Join me on my graceful journey.

Feeling a little marshmalloweeee…..

English: Marshmallows
Feeling alittle fluffy!

Lately I’ve been feeling like a marshmallow. You know, kinda soft and fluffy. Is this a good thing? Well, maybe it is ok if you’re a marshmallow but probably not if you’re a human.

With the holiday just around the corner, I decided that all I can really do is try and keep the marshmallow-ness of me at a regular softness and size. I am certainly not of the little tiny marshmallow genre at the moment. I thankfully would not call myself one of those giant marshmallows either and that’s good because they are so darn hard to toast. Getting those warm on the inside while toasting well on the outside is really a challenge.

I have a craving this morning for Rice Krispies Marshmallow Treats so I may just make myself a batch for Christmas! Have a sweet and soft kind of day!

Join me on my graceful journey.