Small Business Sundries

Small Business Saturday was yesterday, but it’s never too late to shout out for great small businesses. Here are some of my favorites:

photo cred Backporch Vineyard

Backporch Vineyard – This is Virginia’s best new winery! Yes, I’m biased, but I’m also quite familiar with lots of great Virginia wines and vineyards, and my amazing cousin and her business partners knocked it out of the park. They have a wine for everyone, and I thought I had a favorite, but the more I drink… I love them all, truly. However, I’m going to shout out to the chardonnay, because Andrea’s Flock supports ALS research. Please click over and learn more, and follow Backporch on Facebook too for their foodtruck schedule and more.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’ve found my apron again, as in my Pampered Chef Consultant’s apron! You can shop my personal website here, or follow my Facebook business page here. The air fryer is my current favorite, new item. As usual, I’m late to the party, but wow! Hand-cut sweet potato fries are my jam, but I want to know what your favorite air fryer recipes are.

photo cred Pampered Chef

Oh – and dishwasher-safe cast iron is pretty awesome, and pretty too. Clean-up is my least favorite part of cooking, so being able to just shove it in the dishwasher is a huge plus!

Perhaps my all-time favorite small business is Erin McDermott Jewelry. Erin makes each piece by hand, and I can’t even count how many pieces I have! I have earrings galore, necklaces in every type she makes, bracelets…

Can you imagine running a bed and breakfast during a pandemic? My dear friend and her husband are doing just that. Please follow them on Facebook for recipe ideas and more, and consider snagging a gift certificate if you aren’t traveling right now. I’m going to see if there’s still time for her to whip up a few Christmas masks for me too; she’s not only an innkeeper, but she’s quite a seamstress too!

What are your favorite small businesses?

Always the fur-girls

There are just some blocks on the calendar that are bittersweet, and no matter how I plan to focus on the sweet, it’s tough.

On October 24, Missy Sissy, Queenie, DIVA and so much more, would have been 13 years old. Gretchen and I have lived more than two years without her, and they have been challenging, rewarding, well-lived days. Neither of us are spring chickens, but we’re still going and growing!

The day before that, we celebrated Gg’s Gotcha’ day. For twelve years, that cute little imp and I have been together. She’s a curious mix of courage and anxiety, clingy and independent, and I love watching her continue to evolve and enjoy life. We can’t remember Gretchen’s arrival without honoring her remarkable big sister, who didn’t mind at all that her first birthday present was a puppy.

Yes, I would have loved more time with Sissy, but she lived the life she had with a gusto I still can’t begin to reproduce. Life was a party. She loved big, and never let anything slow her down… until the very end. Even when she hurt and just living was hard, she made sure her pack knew how deeply she loved us.

Somehow, she loved little Gg so well that when we were certain she wouldn’t make it without Sissy, the little one came into her own and is happier, sassier and yappier than ever before. Thank you, Sis-ma.

It’s more than ironic that the day after the 13th anniversary of her birth, I had my first above average eye pressure readings. After multiple re-checks, they settled down, but I can honestly say I was never worried; after almost 8 years with Sissy and her glaucoma routine, I know it’s manageable if it becomes an issue.

Thank you Sissy, for everything you taught me. You were such a strong spirit, and you loved as you lived, with no regrets, no fears. Gretchen and I are better, stronger, kinder, wiser, because you loved us.

Things I’m *NOT* Doing

This trying to get back in the habit of writing/blogging regularly isn’t going so well. Thankfully, there are always Sunday Sundries, so I can just throw mud at the wall and see what sticks. Here’s a quick update with the theme of things I’m NOT doing:

  • Cruising the aisles in the grocery store – They could charge me an arm and a leg and I’d still opt in. I have always hated grocery shopping, and now, I don’t have to! My time is valuable, and never again will I have to lose my temper at self-checkout. I first tried it on a hot summer day when I couldn’t leave THE GIRL in the car, but didn’t want to have to take her home and come back to town. I’m hooked. My substitutions have been less than one per order, and honestly, they pick better meat and produce than I do.
  • Traditional shampoo/conditioner haircare – I’ve been a fan of “co-wash” since I first tried Wen, way back. (Thanks, Ruth!) My hair prefers a different brand, but at least once a week, sometimes twice, I reach for the conditioning wash rather than traditional shampoo. After a frizzy summer, I’m researching and dabbling with the Curly Girl Method and letting my waves run wild. (My hair has been described as surly – not straight, not curly – and that’s accurate. It can lean in either direction, but the only thing I can count on is my hair will do what it wants.)
  • Not going to the gym – As with pre-ordering my groceries and having them almost magically appear in my car, this wasn’t planned, but COVID played its part. Gyms closed, and while they have re-opened, I haven’t gone back. I hit ladies group when I can on Saturdays, but otherwise, I’m doing my own thing. It feels safer on so many levels, and while I miss barbells and a huge selection of dumbbells and kettlebells, I’m doing just fine with my very limited offerings at home.
  • Reading – This one needs to change. I miss reading, but can’t seem to pick up any of the dozens of books waiting to be read. I’ve managed a few here and there, but can’t seem to get back in the habit.

What are YOU not doing? Any tips for me on online grocery procurement, making peace with my wild hair, or how to re-connect with my lifelong reading habit?

Face your fears

Gretchen’s battle with anxiety inspires me almost daily, but this post is about my fear, specifically the one I’ve named since the day our vets were exposed to Covid 19 and had to change the way they do business. They are still not allowing non-staff into the building, and I knew that would be a challenge for Gg when she had to go visit.

What I didn’t know is that an unbreakable, pain induced, six hour long anxiety attack would get us there. Turns out she was yelping and trying to get me to take her somewhere (to the vet??) because she had another raging urinary tract infection, but it was an all-day diagnosis, because she’s very modest about the whole sample thing.

Happier hour Saturday afternoon

She lived through it. I lived through it, and if it was possible to respect and adore my vets and their staff more, I do. It appears she is back to being afraid of nighttime, but she has had a no-symptoms of the UTI pain day, and I’m delighted.

Valium is NOT her friend. We had tried it before, years ago when she was an awful (read: makes a mad cat look easy to pill) patient, and Friday night, I had to coax her to take it, hidden in her favorite pill pocket. Last night, she was already in full panic mode, so I’m shocked it went down even in the pill pocket, smeared with her favorite egg and cheese.

She panted and shook for three hours after that before exhausting herself. Tonight I’m going to take the Valium (kidding!) and give her more melatonin, which she doesn’t mind as long as we don’t stay heavy too many nights in a row.

Current situation with mild tremors

I’m sitting with her on the deck now, and feel we need to change things up with her sitter. SOMETHING (loneliness? a poorly timed bee sting?) sets her off about this time nightly. It isn’t even dusk yet, so I welcome any and all ideas. She prefers to be outside, and we often find her on the back deck when we get home, regardless of the weather, or amount of light left in the day.

Not being able to protect her from her fears is my greatest fear. What is yours?

12 or 64?

Yesterday was Lady Gretchen Greer’s 12th birthday. According to two different internet sources, that makes her roughly 64.

That chart gives me more hope that we have many years together yet to come. It also means I’m less inclined to let her dictate the pace and distance of our runs. Yeah, she’s a senior, but the girl isn’t ready for a doggy rocking chair yet!

Hanging with the ladies on a Saturday weighted vest walk. Credit Toni J

It’s been a rather unremarkable year and that makes it very special. Her meds didn’t change, other than varying her nightly melatonin dose according to her current state. Her thyroid is properly supported, and so is her emotional well-being. We’ve dodged the contactless Covid operations at our local vet thus far, and there have been no injuries or issues other than her dental surgery, immediately pre-Covid. (That was basically her first cleaning with a known broken tooth to complicate things; it was all but a non-event.)

She did have sore toe a few weeks ago that was easily fixed by her new friend at DogTopia. Our vet isn’t doing weekend hours right now, and none of the local groomers I’ve used before (or had positive recommendations for from a trusted source) answered their phones or had any availability the Saturday morning in question, so I rang up that new place near work, and my hot mess, doesn’t like to leave my side girl didn’t even look back when her new friend met us at the car. Before I could order from my Dunkin’ app, they were back. I may never cut her nails again; for $10 and a very generous tip, Gg made a new friend and the “jammed because it was too long” nail and its friends were all cut back without incident.

Here’s to another 12 years together, sweet girl. You’re high maintenance and it took me 10 years to figure out your stressors, but I love helping you live your best life.

Scrambler

Remember the word association game? Someone says a word and you say the first word that comes to mind. Today’s word is Scrambler. The “game” started yesterday at work, and to be fair, the first two people knew they were on the same page.

Let’s stop right there. What do YOU see/think when I say scrambler?

Third person confessed he was confused; context made it clear he wasn’t on the right page. He KNEW there was no carnival ride in the parking lot. Google Images to the rescue; there are a HOST of Jeep Scramblers there.

I kinda’ feel life is just a big ol’ scramble for a lot of us right now, with the confusion of a game of telephone mixed with the word association game too. Almost everything is more complicated than it should be, and that adds stress.

For me, I’m managing that stress with sweat. No… I’m still not going to the gym, but I am working out at home. It’s still too hot for running most of the time, but that’s okay because my running partner is currently napping. We worked yesterday, and a long, full workday leaves her exhausted for at least the next day. Before I blame it on her age, she did also pitch in and help cut grass yesterday evening when we got home, so it’s not as though she’s slowing down!

I also have a phenomenal support system. We all need people in our lives who have our backs, make us laugh and build us up. Everyone needs work colleagues who know what your coffee order is, who draw smiley faces on paperwork, etc. We should all have a friend or two who sends well-timed memes, even in a work email.

On that note, let’s lighten it up. Here’s a list of sundries based on my work world:

  • Dunkin’ over Starbucks. Large iced, 2 whole milk, 2 flavor swirls.
  • Blue gel ink, not fine point.
  • All the pink “clickable” highlighters, with a green or two in reserve.
  • Chrome, even when a website says it may perform better something else.
  • Don’t give me papers; share it in Google Docs or if you’re old school, send a digital file.
  • Salty over sweet, but please Covid, bring the popcorn machine back!
  • Filtered water, but if it has to be a soda, make it Dr. Pepper.
  • ALL the post-its. Baby notes for brief comments, traditional (UNLINED!!) squares for most, but sometimes a message requires the double-sized version.

What are your not so secret keys to a happy desk life?

August Already?

I was shocked to see I haven’t posted since July 12. I’ve thought about writing more than that, but it’s hardly routine or even a hopeful habit to be at this point. Crazy as life is right now, I suppose it is a blessing time is marching on at a brisk pace.

Life is still messy. Or is it always a juggling act, and we just have nothing to hide behind right now? I don’t know… in many ways, my life is barely disturbed by the global pandemic. I go to work 5-6 days a week, I cook, I work out, I do what Gretchen wants to do… repeat. But in other ways I don’t like to dwell upon, life is so very different and it’s tough.

Because I work at an essential business, I feel quite responsible for being responsible. I don’t go to church, I don’t do big group things, and while I do sneak in a Saturday Ladies Group at the gym once in a while, I don’t feel comfortable doing it, and 99% of my workouts happen at home. My home gym needs its own space… but that’s for another day/post.

I’m a hugger who can’t hug. I still hug and touch more people than I probably should, but when former co-workers come in, I can’t squeeze them, and I truly have lost count of the friends with new babies, husbands, engagements, etc. that I haven’t been able to congratulate/meet, etc. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a small sacrifice, but … it’s a forced change in behavior and that’s not easy.

Thankfully, I have a robust work family. We are taking care of each other. I bake for birthdays and make silly cards for the folks in my department. We take turns buying breakfast and/or mid-morning coffees, and we become more of an extended family every day.

It’s hard to believe some families are doing back to school already. I am relieved that I don’t have to make such decisions, either personally or professionally. Yes, some work colleagues need training we can’t schedule, and others are trying to do “hands on classes” virtually, but despite some mild annoyance and a few unknowns (when WILL that class be available?!), it’s not stressful. My heart goes out to those of you with children, and those of you in education.

How are you doing? Do you have a place to vent without judgement or repercussions? If not, please bend my ear or blow up my email; I have no answers at all, but I’m a good listener.

Not the story

I had an epiphany the other morning.

Wait… that’s not where the story starts. I’ve had a feeling for a couple of years that my story needs to be heard, but I know there are parts that aren’t ready for daylight and some parts just don’t need to be aired. And yet, I’ve had this gnawing nag to write, to blog, to post somewhere, anywhere…

Most of you know I’m soundly middle-aged and yet don’t feel as though I am AARP card ready. (But cutting my cell phone bill in half may push me over the edge…) Age is relative and while that’s part of the story, it’s not THE STORY.

I could keep going with what’s NOT the story, because it all got me here, but for once I’m going to try to cut to the chase and tell you what hit me as I transitioned from a hard, fast, hot, humid run to waiting for the utility company while baking cookies for my co-workers.

The blogging, podcast, social media world seems to need my not so unique but not clearly categorized voice. Not all women are moms. Some of us are not moms by choice, some are not moms yet, and some desperately want to be moms. I love my mom friends, and there’s a lot we share, but I am not the only one who is constantly reminded that while motherhood is a special calling and a huge part of many women’s lives, it is not what makes us female.

Just as moms appreciate an “I gave birth and didn’t quite get the same body back” perspective, I don’t want to CONSTANTLY read about how flattering the pants are to “mom belly.” I have flab because I had an enlarged uterus for YEARS and didn’t keep working my abs (or anything else), but it’s not a mom belly and never will be. Likewise, I have friends who have given birth more than once and have covetable abs.

My workouts aren’t limited by postpartum things or scheduled around the family’s agenda. I have my own, not unique but not Mom-centric challenges. ALL women struggle with life balance, and we are wired to put everyone and everything else ahead of our own needs.

I don’t want this to be divisive; to the contrary, I want to celebrate what is universal to our experience as women. With or without the motherhood moments, we are so much more.

I’m watching Vikings, and as in Lost Kingdom, the women are warriors and go to battle whilst pregnant. Is it historically accurate? I don’t know, but I do love the strong female characters in those series. I love seeing ANYONE in a non-traditional role, in life or in fiction.

Who inspires you? What reminds you that you are a woman of strength and purpose?

Salty


I’ve found tears running down my face a lot lately. I don’t like to say I cry easily, but I’ve found my face wet when I’m very angry, I really shouldn’t watch movies without a box of tissues, and just scrolling Facebook has me weeping again.

These are trying times. We don’t know much about Covid-19, and at least where I am, the rules change by the minute, and those making and enforcing said “suggestions” are playing do as I say, not as I do. Everyone was on edge long before George Floyd’s murder brought racism back to the forefront, and now, transgender people have lost ground and critical protections, all while statues are falling (on people, in rivers…) and businesses that managed to weather the first round of the Covid crisis are facing looters…

It’s all so very personal and hard, but I’m learning so much.

I’ve always loved history… the good, the bad, the ugly. Despite my newfound ignorance, I had two of the most remarkable “history” teachers ever in Mrs. Landis and Mrs. Bailey, and my father had a special passion for the Civil War, so there was much taught at home too. And still, so much was not even mentioned:

Loving vs. Loving, in a nutshell, happened next door. I have family in and/or around Caroline County, and probably did in 1958 too, and yet NO ONE, not at home, not at school, not even in DC where I went to college, bothered to mention that the couple that took interracial marriage to the Supreme Court came from RIGHT HERE. In fact, no one mentioned it at all, until A Mighty Girl (amazing resource!) trotted out Loving Day (June 12) on Facebook this week.

It’s my new favorite holiday. If you’ve watched or read Outlander, Game of Thrones, Vikings, etc., blended relationships have been a challenge for the ages, but we’re all the same (heart, soul, mind) inside, so I’m grateful that Mildred and Richard Loving were brave enough to buck the system and make it legal for us to love whom we love.

Juneteeth I guess was mentioned in a round about way in school, but barely. I remember the Emancipation Proclamation being a big deal every single time it fit into the timeline, but we glossed right over the fact news traveled super-slow (!?) back then, and there is still no clear-cut explanation as to how the war ended and yet, they were ignorant of the end of slavery until military force enlightened everyone.

The Tulsa Greenwood massacre was more than just an entire city district burning, but I’m shocked it wasn’t mentioned in school, especial in my fire service education. We talked of other mass-casualty fires in big cities, but somehow, that one never came up. I’m grateful a friend also shared that story on Facebook, because my ignorance sincerely thought the deep south bore the brunt of the 20th century race riots. Now I need to know what else we weren’t taught in the name of not inciting a riot or whatever the motivation was…

And we should all emulate Peter Norman. I grew up hearing about the Olympics and racial injustice, and I’m pretty sure I could draw the Gold/Bronze winners of that legendary 200 meter race from memory, gloved fists in the air. I was a 200 M gal myself, and my beloved, inspiring coach raced with/knew Carlos and Smith, so I THOUGHT I knew the details. Once again, it took a dear friend sharing the link (Facebook, my new history teacher?!) for me to learn that his name was Peter Norman and he wasn’t just standing there, ignorant of the powerful protests at his back. If you only click on one of those links, let Peter Norman be the one.

Sometimes, presence is power. Peter Norman’s story made me weep and makes me want to ALWAYS stand in solidarity with those who are fighting injustice.

All up in my feelings

This has always been a tough week for me. My mother’s birthday and Mother’s Day AND Nurses Day/Week all fall in one big clump. Even when she was alive, it was a minefield. There are no cards that say “Thanks for trying to be a good mom… I love you anyway.”

Circa 1973?

My mother struggled with mental illness her whole life. She was smart, sarcastic and a very talented nurse, so she was also good at masking her issues, until she couldn’t. She wasn’t all bad by any means, but her need to deny her challenges existed only made it harder on everyone. And the first part of May demands that I reflect and remember, whether I want to or not, whether it is convenient or not.

Here’s what I do know, and can celebrate:

  • My mother had a servant’s heart. She was a scout leader at least two different times in her life, she and my father ran the church youth group, she served on the altar guild at multiple churches, and she was her best self as a nurse. I am grateful for her example of servant leadership.
  • My mother was playful. My fondest memories are of playing in a creek, making snow angels, snowball fights, playing with puppies…
  • My mother was a voracious reader and made sure I learned to read early and often.
  • My mother was a gifted story-teller. When it was a personalized, crafted on the fly bedtime story, that was a good, loving thing.
  • My mother loved animals, and helped me remain a dog lover, despite several unfortunate encounters in my early childhood.
  • My mother was smart. Above-average intelligence was baseline, and I am still learning how far ahead of the curve she and so many people around me were.
  • My mother loved music, and cultivated the same in me. From Ella Fitzgerald to John Denver, she made sure I understood good music came in many forms.
  • My mother liked crafts. I remember macrame and latch hook, but she also taught me just about every type of embroidery there is. She didn’t knit, but she learned to crochet late in life. She wasn’t a great seamstress, but she was better with a sewing machine than I am.

We didn’t have a conventional relationship, but I do have fond memories. As time passes, I find myself remembering more of the good and less of the rest.

I wish those of you celebrating a Happy Mother’s Day, and for the rest of us, I hope for a pleasant day without drama.