Questions about a well-lived life

How many times a week do you conclude that your day was one that felt as if you had lived it well? Once? Twice? Maybe more than that?

How do you personally define a day as “well-lived?” Is it measurable in some way? Is there a consistency in the components that come together to combine in a fashion that would satisfy your own criteria for well-lived?

I’ve been struggling. As a person with a pretty firm idea of how long life is (not long enough), my ability to tolerate accept witness loved ones who can’t seem to recognize and embrace the simple joys, daily miracles and random accomplishments that are present in most of our lives, is limited. Sometimes I just need to separate myself from people who do not appreciate the time they’ve been given.

How do I define a well-lived day? I’ll give you an example – on Saturday I raked up the backyard and filled three bags with leaves and yard debris, swept the deck and finally tossed a bunch of cracked flower pots, roasted some vegetables, took care of a few chores inside the house, played ball with Jeter, prepared and ate dinner with my family, went to work and took care of my guests with as much attention and competence as possible, came home and wound down with an episode of some HGTV show and a little ice cream and was in bed by midnight. To me, that felt like a day well-lived.

Was it exciting? Not particularly. Did I change the world? No, but my yard looks so much better and my deck is ready for sunshine and the plants I pre-ordered from my neighborhood association. Were there moments when I felt stressed or even melancholy? Of course, but my appreciation for the physical strength I possess which enables me to do outdoor and indoor maintenance overshadowed those instances. Would I have liked to simply remain at home or have gone out to socialize rather than go to work? Sure, but I do value the extra income and it provides me with the means to travel, something I absolutely love to do. Plus, I’m not great at going out solo. Believe it or not, I can be a little shy in social situations.

What made the day well-lived, to me, was the sense that I made good use of my time. It wasn’t even necessarily what I did with my minutes and hours, it’s what I didn’t do – I didn’t squander them or spend them doing things that didn’t give me satisfaction. The day in many ways was spent cultivating happiness – it makes me happy to have a tidy yard and a clean house and a fridge stocked with good food and guests who have enjoyed their own evening out because of, in part, my efforts. It was a good day.

How was your weekend? Did you live it well?

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Filed under aging, beauty, love, musings, Observations, relationships, Uncategorized

Brad Mehldau Trio at The Egg, 4/22/18

I know about as much about jazz as I do about wine. I like some of it, I recognize a few names and I am usually willing to try something new when it comes to both of those topics. While my favorite wines are often bright and fruity, when it comes to jazz I’m more taken by dark and smoky sounds. I like jazz that sounds like you might have once heard it played in a candlelit bar in a city whose name you can’t quite remember.

Last night I took a chance on trying something new, jazz-wise. I had seen an ad for the Brad Mehldau Trio and the description “Thelonious Monk classics, American Songbook standards…” had grabbed me, so I got myself to The Egg on Sunday and bought a ticket. After a quick stop at Cafe Capriccio for a delicious Stoli gimlet, that is.

The trio consisted of Brad on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums and each of them were mesmerizing in their own way. At times, I felt as if I were a voyeur observing the relationship that seemed to exist between each of the musicians and their instruments. It was so intimate – the curve of Mehldau’s back as he curled over the keyboards, the drape of Grenadier’s arm around the neck of his bass, the varied tension that Ballard possessed in his hands..

Closing my eyes, I absorbed the music in the center of my body. The songs rolled into one another, with some alternating solos thrown in, and after about 85 minutes or so, it was over. I was home by 9:15 with a new favorite contemporary jazz trio and a promise to myself to buy  their upcoming album and enjoy it with some wine.

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Filed under Albany, concerts, Events, Local, Music, Recommendations

(Not) Lost in translation

278790E3-7D3A-4AE8-9C22-6CA27AF25C5CAt work last night I saw something new – a rare occurrence when you’ve been a server for 35+ years. A couple, an Asian woman and white man who were dining, had a novel way of communicating with one another – an electronic universal translator. It really seemed to come in handy as they made modifications to dishes and ordered their meals, but I didn’t notice that they used it very much for actually speaking to one another. It made me wonder about how men and women might be able to utilize such a device when they speak the same “official” language, yet lack a common emotional language.

One of the biggest challenges in a romantic relationship is communication. Even though we live in a world with a dizzying array of means to communicate, it still seems as if males and females approach this exercise in very different ways. It might be unfair to generalize and assign characteristics by gender, but, in my 51  years on earth, I’ve learned a couple of things.

In my experience, men don’t often initiate conversations about topics which might be difficult to discuss. It’s kind of the way I am about household repairs – I try to ignore suspected problems (the dishwasher not cleaning plates thoroughly, for example) until they became too big of an issue to avoid any longer. It’s almost as if those fellas (and I) are hoping that the problem will somehow resolve itself without any attention. Of course, it doesn’t really work that way and instead of the glitch rectifying itself, the malfunction generally grows larger and results in an even greater problem. Ignoring a problem doesn’t make it nonexistent, it just allows it to morph into something even more expensive to repair. My machine will help to prevent these kind of situations from occurring or , at the least, escalating..

If I were able to invent a male-female translator I would be sure to include a feature that measured levels of honesty. A relationship that lacks such a fundamental function will never provide a truly satisfying and healthy coupling. We all are guilty of lies of omission, I suppose, but a romantic connection between two should always include a sense of security when it comes to talking about tough subjects. More honesty eventually means more opportunities for creating a relationship that can provide a couple with the strength to stand up to the everyday challenges of life as a unit. Honesty can be scary, but lack of direct honesty is far more scary.

My prototype for a male-female translator would also come loaded with a function that demands that communication comes at regular intervals, i.e. there should be mandatory limits on allowing texts/emails/vms to go unanswered. Lines of communication corrode when they go unused and a lack of time devoted to one another will kill relationships faster than an iPhone battery dies. It isn’t realistic to expect a complete accord when it comes to communication styles, but leaving your loved one hanging for too long will create an unnecessarily adverse situation. My translator will be equipped with an electrical shock function that grows progressively more painful when one party fails to respond after a particular length of time or in the case of an accumulation of unanswered messages.

What have I failed to include? Additional features you’d like to add to my prototype?

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Filed under love, musings, Observations, relationships, Uncategorized

Running for the sun and in the rain

6C2FD511-7AB1-4E36-82A5-F281E1249DEFWhile I don’t maintain a formal bucket list, I have long thought that I would like to take part in a race in NYC. When an elementary (!) school friend contacted me a few months ago about the Shape Half Marathon, I knew I had found my race. The price was a little extravagant, and the media partner wasn’t really my cup of tea, but the course was appealing and I’ll pretty much spend a weekend in NYC anytime – even if it means I have to run 13.1 miles!

Spring has been a long time coming in the northeast this year, which only made Saturday’s forecast of sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70s that much more appealing. The race, however, was being held on Sunday morning, which had much less favorable forecast. Our only solution was to soak up as much sunshine (and carbohydrates) as possible pre-race, which we did as we walked and ate our way around the city. 

2D0952C4-C7CD-44AE-A311-9A4631FD6C42Race day dawned dry, but cold. We cabbed the 30 blocks to Central Park and spent the 45 minutes or so before the start working hard to stay warm. It was a raw and miserable morning* and I regretted not adding gloves or a warm hat to my racing wear.  My legs were trembling from the cold for the first mile and it wasn’t until the 3 mile mark that my hands felt warm, but, I was running a race in NYC and somehow that made it ok. My favorite parts were when we were on the east side of the park with views of the Guggenheim and the Met, the area at the northernmost part of the park and all of the daffodils and flowering trees in bloom. It was spring in NYC!

51F7B6B0-B3DD-49A1-91BD-9B948EB8075FThe hills of the park didn’t register too much on my radar, but my pace was slow and comfortable, except for that last mile which felt like 5 miles. I didn’t have much kick left to finish strong, but I managed to get across the line in 2:23:09 with a bathroom break and multiple water stops. I was in the top half of my age group and that satisfies me. After the race I wrapped up in my first foil blanket and caught a train back to the hotel for a gloriously hot shower. Next race: The Seneca 7, a 77 mile team relay in the Finger Lakes. Let’s hope for a sunny day!

*although not as raw and blustery as this year’s Boston Marathon. Man, those runners are warriors!

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Filed under Events, Exercise, Flowers, friends, NYC, Observations, road trips, running, Spring

Two timing

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When you consider that I didn’t really own a car* until I was close to 30 years-old, the fact that I now own two cars seems kind of funny. While my initial plan had been to trade my Volvo in, I’m really glad that I was able to keep it. I’ve achieved a balance between the two vehicles, in terms of purpose, with the Mini being my commuter and road trip car and the Volvo being my errands, parking downtown and dog vehicle. It’s kind of cool – especially when owning two cars earns one the title of “baller”in the DelSo!

Switching between two vehicles, though, doesn’t come without challenges. For instance, the steering wheel controls for cruise control and the radio functions are on opposite sides of the steering wheel in my cars. This means I really need to check in mentally (probably not a bad idea when I’m driving, right?) when I’m looking to adjust volume or my speed. There’s also the perennial issue of my left foot looking for the clutch when I’m driving, which, I suppose, is better than not looking for the clutch. It’s all good.

It occurred to me last night that having two cars must be similar to dating more than one person. You have to stay on your toes to remember which companion likes Asian food and which prefers Italian. Who went to state school and who attended private university. Which one vacations at the beach and which one heads to the mountains to get away or any of the other infinite characteristics that define one person as being different from another.

To me, that’s way harder than becoming familiar with two cars. Which is why, I suppose, I’ve never been a good dater. How do folks casually date numerous people? I’m seriously not criticizing the practice at all, just curious. If you’re a serial dater, how do you do it? What are the positives? Do different companions serve different purposes? Help me out, friends. Maybe share your experiences about being in the driver’s seat when it comes to dating more than one person?

*I did purchase a used Volkswagen wagon in the late 80s for $200. It might have taken me 200 miles before dying on the side of Route 17. I don’t think that really counts.

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Girls’ Getaway – Manchester, VT

It isn’t always easy to find a couple of consecutive days that work for four busy and opinionated individuals. Sometimes, though, we need some recharging of the fun batteries and nothing works better than two days spent in an unfamiliar place with longtime friends. With that in mind, last week we headed to Manchester, a place I haven’t visited in probably close to 15 years, for a mini vaca.

When you’re dealing with four left handed women, organizing a getaway can be a challenge. Everyone has preferences and ideas about where to stay and what to do, but after close to 40 years of friendship, we have mastered group travel. I took charge of our accommodations and we did really well with Hotels.com landing a two night stay at the fairly new Hampton Inn for a total of $340. Divided by four, it was a real bargain at $70 each, including breakfast.

Speaking of bargains, the shops in Manchester were full of them! We did some fun and productive shopping at the outlets and each walked away with a few new items purchased at deeply discounted prices. Personally, I replaced my worn out Kate Spade wallet with a beautiful new aubergine clutch/wallet, picked up a navy blue down vest with a hood that I’m obsessed with at the Bass outlet and scored an adorable black and white print skirt from J.Crew. I also filled in a couple of gaps in my kitchen utensil collection with a new masher, sink sponge holder and some grips for opening jars, something with which I increasingly struggle. Not very exciting, admittedly, but I’m a practical girl at times and I really like buying everyday items when I’m away from home. Somehow it makes the daily seem a bit more exciting, you know?

For eating, we went with recommendations from folks who visit Manchester with more frequency than ourselves. Our first night we opted for a late afternoon drink or two which turned into an early dinner at Gringo Jack’s. Their chips had been described to me as “crack” and I’d have to agree that it was difficult to stop shoving them into my mouth eating them. My shrimp tacos were good and my margaritas were great and we left there completely satisfied.

img_4696For a light lunch we stopped in at Mystic, a wine bar cafe that was absolutely lovely. I went with the soup of the day, a flavorful broth with lamb meatballs and middle eastern spices, and it was perfect. Friday night, on a friend’s recommendation, we dined at Bistro Henry a cozy spot a couple of miles out of town. The menu presented a dilemma because we wanted pretty much everything! Ultimately we chose to share 3 appetizers, 2 salads (one large, one small) and two entrees, a decision that satiated all of us without leaving anyone too stuffed for an after dinner drink at a different spot. Particularly strong were the foie gras and the classic preparation of Steak au Poivre. A note about Bistro Henry – the wine list was filled with reasonably priced and thoughtfully selected options. We were driving  (and only two of us are winos) so we passed, but definitely consider a bottle with your meal if you go. Thanks, Dora!

After dinner we went to Mulligan’s, the only place in town that was purported to have any nightlife. Well…I suppose if you consider a bar that is open after 8:00 p.m. to be the definition of “nightlife” you might have been impressed, but we really weren’t. And that lack of evening entertainment is, to me, the only real drawback to a couple of nights in Manchester. It’s not as if we’re hardcore, late night women, but it would have been fun to go out to hear some live music or to get silly and dance and we couldn’t find an option for either of those activities. Would I hesitate to go back? No, probably not. It’s a pleasant enough drive, and a cute spot for shopping and dining, but if you’re looking for a place to cut loose and hear music, this is not the right village for you. Go to Manchester for a wholesome and reasonably priced good time.

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, friends, Recommendations, road trips, Spring, vacation, Vermont

This indecision’s (done) bugging me

Sometimes decisions come: easy – eggs poached rather than scrambled, black boots instead of brown, while at other times the choices are far more challenging – like naming a child or choosing where to make your home. The really hard decisions, though, are the ones we don’t want to make, the ones we avoid because we don’t like the available options and are holding out for additional choices. Those, well those are the decisions that can haunt a person.

Recently I had to make one of those decisions.

It definitely was one of those really hard choices and more than anything I wanted the universe to tell me what to do. I had already given myself deadlines and conditions to be met and had created mental lists tallying the pluses and minuses of the situation. I was in turns optimistic, hopeful, sad and angry until I finally accepted that the position I was in unsustainable  because…

  • if you accept less than you want, then you get what you deserve
  • when you hold onto something that does not satisfy, your hands are full but your soul remains empty
  • it doesn’t matter how much you want something or how hard you work towards a goal if your efforts are not equally met
  • life is short and I can’t justify spending anymore of it being less than happy

Last night as I filled the tub with hot water, I reached for a bath bomb given to me by a friend. I couldn’t help but smile as I read the tag: Happiness.

Thanks, universe. I’ll take it.

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