Thursday, April 22, 2010


I have been teased by several friends that I am on Facebook way too much. And they are probably right. So I did kind of back off a bit.

I look at Facebook as a communication tool. And a reconnection tool. I send off short messages to friends about all sorts of things, exchange personal information and to announce what is going on in my life and to catch up what is going on in theirs. Unless you've been asleep at the wheel, music and dance are the top two in my passion list. Sometimes there is nothing going on for days, and other times it seems like I am shooting out breaking news broadcasts like CNN.

I like to share with my dance friends where the next cool zydeco or blues dance will be. I like to share with them if I have travel plans. And I am sad to say that I had to share the news that two of our high school classmates had passed on. This seems to fall to me as I am on the high school reunion committee.

But what I love most about Facebook is the ability it has given all of us to reconnect. One of the things that always bothered me as time went by were the friends that I loved that just seemed to drop by the wayside as life went on.

Friends that moved, friends lost through divorce, friends lost just because life got too busy with a full time job and raising children and just basically trying to get through life as best as one can. I hope I am over trying to get through life. I hope I am in that phase where I am living my life with eyes wide open, consciously and in the moment.

I no longer have to get kids to dance lessons, school functions, doctor appointments or help with homework. Though I loved doing all of this it was exhausting and it just seemed like there were a lot of years where I would drop into bed and wonder where the day went. I felt like the hamster on the proverbial wheel.

Now I have more time to do exactly what I want. And I do. For the most part. There is still that part of the day dedicated to work, but now a lot of my work is like play. And I like that. I know it won't always be this way, but it's good for now.

Now for the reconnection part of Facebook. I saw a friend tonight that I have not seen in almost 20 years. Her ex-husband was the best man in my wedding. Her daughter was the flower girl. It was at her daughter, Tiffany's, 40th birthday party that I was blessed to see Rhonda again. We had sent a few emails back and forth the last few months but that's not the same as actually seeing somebody in person. Rhonda lives in Eastern Washington now, so we just couldn't stop and have a cup of coffee.

But we saw each other tonight and ran into each others arms. I loved this woman and I know she loved me. As couples we would spend hours and hours in each others company, having dinner, bbq's, watching TV, playing cards. Rhonda and I would make candles for Christmas together. We drank gallons of coffee together and talked about our worlds. She taught me how to make lasagna. She taught me how to be a good mother.

But what we shared the most was just telling it like it is. I like women like that. No BS, here is how I feel, here is what I said, here is what I did. I like that. And we shared laughter, lots and lots of laughter. That is one of the things Rhonda does best, telling it like it is and laughter. Her eyes twinkle, her smile lights up a room and her laughter is contagious.

Rhonda was divorced, remarried and moved away. I was divorced. Our paths never crossed. But now that we have reconnected, we are promising to keep in touch.

And when I got home tonight there was a FB email from a neighbor, again, removed from friendship by divorce and moving to Wisconsin about 20 years ago. Another woman that I loved. She was bright, funny and very loving. I've always missed her, thought about her often but.... Now we have FB to catch up on our lives and what is going on with our kids.

I have reconnected with friends from parochial school, high school (Love you, Viv!), people I used to work with and just friends that had faded into the sunset and my life is better for it. I have made new friends (Lori , Karen, CeeCee!), new business associates. I keep in better touch with people in my life that matter to me, nieces and nephews who are now in the kind of life that is ruled by their jobs, their kids, their spouses. So it's nice to just get a little line once in a while, to reconnect and to stay connected. I left my house tonight feeling a little sad, a little disconnected. Now the balance is back, all is right with the world and I've plugged back into it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jazz Babies

About six weeks ago I had the highest of honors awarded to me. I was allowed to volunteer and help "The Friends of Frank DeMiero." These friends (pick me! pick me!) help Frank and they create the most incredible three day learning experience at Edmond's Community College for high school (and elementary school!) jazz vocalists and musicians. Each evening is culminated by a concert at Edmond's Center for the Arts showcasing the talents of the professional and almost professional musicians that volunteer to help. These incredible musicians come in from near and far and they touch each and very one of the students lives in the most profound way.

I was lucky enough to be able to spend Wednesday doing the shuttle runs to the airport to help in the picking up and delivery of the out of town talent. First in from Osaka, Japan was Atsuko Hashimoto. A beautiful little sprite of a woman, she showed Seattle that she knew her way around an organ. Yes, I said, organ. This tiny little thing played jazz on the organ and you would swear she was making it talk, It was, in short, incredible.

Went back to the airport and did a double pick up out of Los Angeles and felt quite important standing with the limo drivers holding up signs that read Jeff Hamilton and Graham Dechter. Jeff is apparently the drummer to end all drummers. Like he is supposed to be one of the best in the world. He has played for Tommy Dorsey, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, the list is endless. A big bear of a man with a very dry but funny sense of humor.

Graham is not only a very young and cute jazz guitarist, again he is at the top of the heap in this category.

Also joining us was trumpet virtuoso, Byron Stripling, local jazz vocalist Greta Matassa, Sara Gazarek and Kathleen Grace, again amazing jazz vocalists and (be still my beating heart) Marc Broussard. There was also a myriad of other singers, musicians, groups but way too many to list here. Suffice it to say, there wasn't a hack in the bunch.

OK, you are going along here thinking jazz, jazz, jazz and then Marc Broussard? Long story short, Marc did us a big favor by stepping in at the last minute for an artist that became ill.

But this is not about the artists (well, not really) it was about the kids. I spent the next three days from seven in the morning till six working with kids from high schools from all over Washington and the Soundsation students from ECC. Then attending the concerts from seven to ten.

I am here to say that as an old fogie, I don't have to be worried. And neither should you. These kids were wonderful, amazing, smart, funny, kind, talented, and helpful. Well, there was one girl but she got put in her place (don't mess with me!). All of the students that are part of the Soundsations worked their butts off. I only had to ask once for something and it was put in my hands. Not one of them said "I dunno" and walked away from me.

The first morning I was so honored to be allowed to oversee "The Vocalist Room". In this room, local Seattle Jazz Diva, Greta Matassa and her jazz trio presided over the next three days. Greta comes in with a big bag, ready for the day. She pulls out a thermos and fills up the first of many cups of green tea. And she is no-nonsense. The vocalists are given 15 minutes. We call out their name, the vocalist gives their music to the piano player, the music begins and the student sings their song choice. Greta makes notes and when the music stops she gets up and sits or stands next to the student. Greta then makes some very magical suggestions: breathe here, clip this note, stand straight, sit up, hold this note longer, do it with a Latin rhythm. Then the student sings the song over taking in consideration Greta's suggestions and voila! The song is amazing!
I am paraphrasing here because I overheard this and it's true - Greta Matassa is a musical surgeon. She does it without one word of criticism, just no-nonsense suggestions and encouragement. This woman is my new hero!

Byron Stripling stood in front of an auditorium full of students and basically explained to them the meaning of life. He never played one note in the session I was in. He held those kids in the palm of his hand as he explained to them that they were somebody, that they were important and if they wanted to become a person that is accomplished (in anything, not just music) they had to practice, practice, practice. You could have heard a pin drop this man was that good.

Marc Broussard ended the three day event with his participation in the last concert and though I realize that his soul, swamp, blues style is not for everybody, it was the knee-knocker event for me. Marc has been my ring-tone for at least two years. I play his music over and over and over. I go to see him at the Tractor. Have I made it perfectly clear to you I love Marc Broussards music? And he's not hard on the eyes.

So at the after show cocktail party I was lucky enough to meet my idol. Shake his hand, utter several inane words and have my picture taken with him on my cell phone. Yes, the photo. Ask to see it sometime. It is a great picture of my BFF Joanie, Marc with his head completely cut off and a small portion of my cheek.

And I have to laugh about it because Frank DeMiero, his family and his friends created the whole event for the kids. We estimate that over 1,100 students took part in the activities and the concerts just that weekend alone. And it is so worth it. We live in a very scary world filled with all sorts of nasty, awful things. But music alleviates the blue meanies and creates the most beautiful moods, creative thoughts, friendships and memories. This program did not judge these students, it is not juried. This program gave to the kids important tools they will be able to use in every aspect of their lives. And I was impressed, very, very impressed.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Wild, Wonderful, Women

Part of this blogs function is to remind me that I have more blessings than any one person deserves. I have my health, for the most part. I have two of the most loving daughters one could hope to have. And Lisa picked Michael to be her life partner and he is the son I never had. I have Joanie and her family. I have brothers and sisters, Mom and Dad. And thank God, this week, I have a car that runs. And I have the Zydeco Community. Specifically, the Wild, Wonderful Women of Zydeco.

They are a varied lot. There are the tall, the medium, the short, and the shorter. They are white and they are black. They are thin, medium and thick (yours truly). The age span is close to 40 years from the youngest to the oldest. There is red hair, blonde hair, brown hair and black hair and no hair. One of these incredible women is now cancer free and one is in the middle of her chemo sessions.

And this is not to say that my tribe doesn't have great men in it. It does, but I'll blog about them later. This is about the women.

With all of those differences the women have two things in common. One - this is obvious - we're women. And Two - these women love to dance. They crave zydeco. But they also dance Cajun, salsa, fox trot, swing, Lindy, West Coast Swing and there are some of them who have done performance and competitive ballroom dancing.

As much fun as I have at every dance I attend, I always leave feeling like something didn't get done. I do a quick review: I introduced the band, check, got them water, check, worked the entrance desk, check, paid the band, check and I danced, check. And there is usually some quick,usually interrupted conversations which are hard to hear over the band. Hmm, what was missing?

A few weeks ago I figured it out again. I was dusting and I picked up a rock that is on my windowsill so that it can catch the sun. In gold writing on this rock it says "Vicki Crespo." Vicki was my friend. We traveled, danced, laughed, ate, giggled and got pedicures together. Vicki died a few years ago while undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She didn't die from the cancer but from an infection. I was on my way to spend the weekend with her with I got the call. Vicki loved the women in the zydeco community. I never saw this woman without a smile on her face and her wild, beautiful, blonde curls would be bobbing around while her red Cowgirl boots flashed past you on the dance floor. Vicki did everything in her life with a hug and a laugh.

When I saw that rock with Vicki's name, I knew, I remembered what was missing. Connection. Connection with the women in my tribe. So I sent out an email and 27 incredible women knocked on my door with bounteous dishes of food to share in their hands. And we spent the next four hours connecting. We talked, we ate, we laughed, we shared some hopes, dreams, fears, pictures of grandchildren, books and travel. We talked about our pets, our jobs, our lack of jobs.

We didn't hold any great debates. I didn't hear too much talk about politics, or tea parties. A little about the economy and the value of our homes, maybe, but we didn't find the cure for cancer (though I wish we had), we didn't come up with any life changing theories. We even talked about buying an apartment building that we could all live in and take care of each other as we age. We hugged, we held hands, we kissed each other. We connected.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hello New World

I haven't blogged in about four months. My life has changed and shifted and turned and twisted. Right now I think I am living in the eye of the hurricane. My last post in December was so happy and hopeful. And not that everything that has happened to me has been bad. Some has been sad, some has been monumental and so much has been positive. But I quit blogging because I didn't want to write about my dog. But if I don't write about him I didn't think I could go on to anything else. If nothing else, writing should be cathartic, it is a way of moving on.

Without going into a lot of details, I lost my beloved dog, Gillie (Bubba) on New Years Day. This devastated my daughters, my niece, my son-in-law and myself. We are animal people. Our animals are our babies. Bubba was my shadow. When I was home, he would follow me from room to room, if I sat down, he would jump up and lay with me. If I laid down, he would get it just right so my feet were always warm. I talked to him non-stop and I know he understood every word I said to him. I told him I loved him - a lot - and I did. And he would look back at me and I knew he loved me. He told me so everytime he would come in a room, peak around the corner of the chair and run to me. He told me everytime when I was sad and he would come over and nuzzle my hand with his cold little wet nose, letting me know he was here for me.

Bubba was also Kate's best friend. If he wasn't with me, he was with her. We would sometimes vie for his attention just to see him go a little crazy trying to love us both. But if Katy sat next to me on the couch, or if I layed in her bed to watch TV with her, he would jump up and do his damnedest to wiggle into the middle. And we would crack up because he always got his way.

If I was gone he would go to bed with Katy, but the minute I came in the house he would race out to greet me then race up the stairs, jump on the bed and turn and wait for me to reach my room where I would find him with his eyes twinkling and his little pink tongue hanging out and looking at me as if to say "See Mom, I beat ya again!" The last year of his life I started to beat him as old age and arthritis took its toll. Or we would hobble up together after a long night of dancing. Niether one of us was getting any younger. We had stairs next to the beds so he could get up and down easier.

When I was about eight years old my best friend, Christie Collins, gave me a coloring book. It was called "The Pokey Puppy". On the cover was a little black dog with a smile on his face. I colored the whole book and can you believe that it is one of the few things from my childhood that I saved? I still have this silly coloring book 48 years later.

And my Bubba looked just like the puppy on the cover. It was fate that we had him in our family. Bubba was a Yorki-Poo about 24 pounds and came up to my knee's. And we were blessed with him loving us and protecting us and keeping us warm for 14 years. When we would come home, he would greet us at the door with a howl that sounded like he was being tortured, he would be so happy to see us. Then he would race to the treat closet and sit and stare at it because he knew he had been a good boy and he deserved a treat.

Two weeks before Bubba was killed (hit by a car) we had to put our Maine Coon cat, Simon, down. He had developed diabetes and several other ailments. He had weighed 26 pounds most of his life and he was down to 10. He was 15 years old. It was just a little too much for us to lose two of our babies in two weeks.

The house is so much quieter with out them. There is no more click-click-click of their tonails on the hardwood floor. Our one remaining cat, Ginger, our orange and white tabby spent several weeks looking for them. Ginger would wander from room to room howling. He became skittish and he was never a skittish cat. I watched our neighbors dog run right up to him. Ginger never moved a muscle. He just looked bored and the dog looked baffled. He turned from a cool cat into a needy cat. He lost both of his brothers and he doesn't know why. So now he follows me from room to room and has taken up the spot on the bed vacated by Bubba.

Then at the end of January, I lost my job. Reorganization. The bane of the American economy. I have worked since I graduated high school in 1972. With the exception of two short times where I stayed home and had my two daughters I have jumped out of bed at 5:15 and gone to work. And again, this is not a bad thing. I'm looking at many options including starting my own business. I am a firm believer in that when God does closes one door, another one opens.

But this time off is giving me the time to make some changes, create new visions, and new goals. I now spend my day looking for jobs. Who knew Craig's list had job openings, that blew my mind. I'm learning my way around the internet, I'm making contacts and I'm writing. I am taking steps to being an Entertainment Booking Agent. I bought my domain. I am setting up email to request gigs for the bands I am representing. I am creating press. I am creating templates and spread sheets. I set up business email, having business cards made, I went to Music Academy School to learn the music business, and I'm looking at web sites so that I will know exactly what I want when I start that creation.

And my life is happening. It is really happening, I know I am where I am supposed to be at this time and for that I am happy and grateful. God is giving me signs right and left. People are showing up in my life and giving me incredible gifts of friendship, guidance, visions, information and support. The sad, the bad, the happy, the positive and the mundane. But I just have to keep moving through life, creating life, processing life, experiencing life. As for all the above - Life Happens! Thank God! Thank Spirit! Thank the Goddesses!

Hello World

Hello world!September 16, 2009 by Rita Messina
Whoa. My first day as a blogger. This just might prove to be an interesting journey for me. Every night for the last 30 years or so before I go to sleep, one thought creeps into my head: I should write. I love to write. Why am I not writing? Why don’t I sit up in bed every night in a frilly nightgown and write in my lovely lavender journal with purple ink. Probably because I don’t own a frilly nightgown nor a lavender journal. I do like purple ink though. I read constantly,and I wonder if that will make my writing a little more entertaining? Or deeper? Or more profound? Who knows. I have an aquaintance that is a published blogger for the Seattle PI and she is always writing cute and quirky stories. Then she writes something that I don’t understand but I’m pretty sure it’s because she has a PHD and, well, I don’t. I have street smarts, or as close to street smarts as one can get when one lives in the suburbs of Seattle. Does it count that I do go to downtown Seattle and the waterfront frequently? All in the course of searching for the perfect dance. I am a zydeholic. There, I’ve said it. Zydeco is music that originated in the hinterlands of Louisiana. Opelousas, LA to be exact. Or Eunice, LA, depending on who you are talking to and where they are from. It’s a ka-chanka chanka music with an accordian and a rubboard. Throw in a bass, a guitar and a set of drums and you have created my nirvana. I have traveled to Oregon, California, Nevada, Texas, Louisiana, Florida and many miles of the Caribbean Ocean in search of the perfect dance. Dancing zydeco can create bliss in my mind, my heart, my soul. I forget for that brief period of time that my husband left me (I actually have pretty much forgotten that permanently), that people I love have died, that people I love are sick and are growing older. I forget that I have to work, that I have bills to pay, that I have to compromise, that there are homeless people, people out of work. All that yucky stuff we are bombarded with goes away for about 4 minutes. Then it goes away again for another four minutes, and another. Unless Geno’s playing and it can go away for about 25 minutes (I think he played 45 minutes straight for one dance on the last cruise). Then as the evening comes to a close, my endorphins have made me happy, loving and blissful. I leave the club loving everybody and probably in love with everybody. In the 30 minutes or so it takes me to get home, the muscles tighten up, I hobble to my bedroom, take an Aleve and crawl in bed, happy and satiated. And I lay there smiling and review each dance and how wonderful my evening turned out. And then I start thinking: I should write, I love to write, why am I not writing?

I'm Sparkly?

I’m Sparkly?September 18, 2009 by Rita Messina
Went to a zydeco dance last night and had a most excellent time. Ran into the woman who I wrote about in my first blog. I was surprised to find out she didn’t have a PHD. She is scary smart. I’m not scary smart and what I don’t have in brain power I make up in personality or so I’m told. My best friend, LB, told me the other day I was in a sparkly mode. OK, whatever that means. Then she calls me today and tells me she had lunch with a mutual friend who was there last night and this friend asked about me and told LB that I looked great, that I was sparkling. Now two women have said this, so it got me to thinking (doesn’t take much for the wheels to start turning in this brain). Last month I was checking my bags at the Houston airport and the porter waived the $15.00 fee for the bag and the $50.00 fee for overage. So I had done a little shopping. He told me he does that for all the beautiful women. I floated into the airport and didn’t even mind the fact I was placed into a tin can like a sardine and forced to sit with this guys elbow under my rib cage for 4 hours while hurtling through the air at 5000 mph. Such a sweet and simple remark and a month later I’m still drawing on it. It doesn’t take much to make most women go through what my friends and I call the “uglies”. One little pimple, a bad haircut, wearing that taxi cab yellow blouse when you know it’s wrong, all wrong or stepping on the scales, such minor things in our lives can throw one into the uglies. Well, except for getting on the scale – that can be major biggie for me so I just quit doing that. Why is it that something so minute can throw us into a downward spiral and again, something so insignificant can put us on top of the world. I work hard at being positive, and some days it is harder work than others. Take yesterday for example, I burned my arm on my blow dryer (don’t ask) and the cat had diarrhea. Is that a good way to start the morning? I should say not, but on the drive to work I realized I had the crappy (pardon the pun) part of the day over, the rest was uphill. So I decided to sparkle. I was in a great mood all day and even after 3 hours of sleep last night, it continued on through today. I decided to try a little experiment as I was grocery shopping this evening. I looked people in the eye and smiled at them and every one smiled back. On the way out to the car this drop dead gorgeous young man was walking towards me. I had my head wrapped around something else but looked over at him and he was staring right at me. I smiled at him and he grinned at me, quite flirtatiously. I checked to make sure my zipper was up and my blouse was buttoned which they were, thank you very much. Trust me blogladytes, I am deeply entrenched in my 50’s and have the typical Sicilian peasant body, as wide as I am tall and a face that was only going on 1 cylinder after 3 hours of sleep last night. I’m not a sappy person, I don’t pass on the cutesy emails that come to me. I send them to the burn pile. I have a biting wit filled with pithy sarcasm and I am admittedly, very self depracating. But I try to balance that out with spreading the love. Giving compliments when deserved. Holding out that helping hand. It really does something to your world when you choose to be in a good mood. When you laugh at the burn pattern on your arm. And you still love that cat that created a Pollack painting all over the laundry room.

What A Week

What a week!September 22, 2009 by Rita Messina
Last night I hit the wall. Not only did I hit the wall but envision that cartoon character that hits the wall and slides down to the bottom, to be a puddle on the floor. That was me, that puddle. The last ten days worth of activities (besides working full-time) were three days of zydeco dance camp which included 7 hours total of dances, and about 6 hours of lessons, driving several hundred miles to get there and then driving home. Then my favorite zydeco band was in town this last Weds night and I danced 3 hours, then had to stay and take care of band business. But wait! Same band played in Port Townsend on Friday night, so of course had to take the ferry over there which is about a 2 hour expedition depending on the time of day. And the rubboard player had left his rubboard in Idaho, so Rita to the rescue with her rubboard. But it is one of the most beautiful drives in the world over the Hood Canal Bridge, seeing the water sparkling, the mountains in all of their majestic glory. The scenery was breathtaking. And when your best friend is LB, the time passes quickly because we can talk faster than we’re driving. And the dance was again, sublime. Not many men for the lead role, but I have learned how to lead so I can dance every dance I choose to dance.

Saturday I woke up to dreary gray clouds and drizzle. Hey, this is Washington, we live for days like this. But that was no deterrent in heading down to the beach to celebrate my darling Peggy’s victory over breast cancer. Eighteen months of treatment and terror to come out the other side victorious and with her sense of humor intact along with a beautiful new head of curls. I arrived with my offering of 2 dozen devilled eggs and enjoyed fellowship with about 50 other of her friends, wonderful food (Ralph burned my hot dog just perfect!) combined with laughter and tears in reminiscing over their journey and in a great setting overlooking the Puget Sound and the Olympics. I know the Olympics were out there somewhere beyond clouds, home to hot sexy vampires and darling werewolves, and the on again, off again drizzle.

Saturday night I then proceeded to head over to a darling town just northeast of my home, Snohomish, to a sweet little blues bar, the Oxford, to do a few spins around the dance floor with one of my dance buddies. Imagine my surprise when I found out the drummer was a young man I used to babysit and I have known the bass play about 40 years. The music was good and it was great to share this evening with friends, old and new.

Up early Sunday morning to celebrate Ken, another dear friend in my dance community. Ken has helped me in more ways than I can count. Allowing me to step on his toes and squeeze his bandaged fingers too tightly when I was first learning to dance; to standing on an extension ladder for hours painting my elevated ceiling. It was his birthday and his significant other, Selah, decided to throw him a surprise BBQ. The least I could do to show him how much I adore him was to make BBQ ribs, 3 dozen devilled eggs and macaroni shrimp salad. Not an easy feat to keep this a surprise but we did surprise him, and again, another perfect time with my dance community, great food, and lots of laughter.

Oh yes, I’ll admit that by mid-afternoon that was me in the chair with a throw cover pretending to watch the Seahawks game. I can watch football with my eyes closed, really, I can. I actually find I prefer watching football with my eyes closed.

Soon enough, it was time to leave and head over to Mercer Island where another of our friends was celebrating his 60th birthday at a very large and beautiful community center. We helped set up, kept the food organized (another donated 3 doz devilled eggs and macaroni salad – hey, you cannot make a small amount of macaroni salad), and a lovely bottle of Merlot, washed dishes and managed to slip in a couple of zydeco dances. Over a hundered of us were there not only to wish Larry a Happy Birthday but a safe journey as he leaves this week for a 5 week trek through Nepal. May God go with you Larry and keep you safe. You are precious to your family and to our community.

My point of all this is that I cannot and do not take for granted the life I have. I am overcome with the passion and happiness of zydeco music, with the vitality of the people in my dance community that I love and adore, and I feel such an awe that we come together to help each other, to celebrate, to hold, to care, to nurture, to grieve, to laugh, to dance. And I can feel grateful even though I turned into Miss Tired Cranky Pants about 9:00 last night. That’s when I do my friends a favor and go home.


BFFLB!September 23, 2009 by Rita Messina
I believe I have mentioned in passing my best friend, LB. Yes, women of all ages still have BF’s. If you are lucky, as I am, you have close friends, you have friends from your childhood (future blog material!) you have dear friends and you have friends of whom you are fond. I am blessed to have LB. LB is quite small in stature, but you can hear her before you can see her. We can be on a crowded dance floor and someone will invariably come up and ask where LB is. I put my finger to my lips and say “Shhhh” . Then I hear her and point out the direction for them to find her. Think New Jersey foghorn.

My ex and I bought our home in Sept of ‘83, LB and her husband bought their home in June of ‘83. Lucky for the two of us we each had a daughter the same age. Soon after moving in, my daughter, Lisa brought Karen over. In the natural progression of things we met LB & Russ and really liked them. The years passed, the kids grew up and we enjoyed each others company. LB and I were taking Karen and Lisa to sophomore orientation to their new high school. Lisa had been a pill all week and I figured that it was payback time. LB said Karen had been the same way, maybe it was the feeling that at 14 that they knew everything and we were Moms, therefore we were just stupid. As we walked into the school with the girls I started scratching my bum and talking loudly, LB followed suit. We signed them up for every club they never wanted to be in and it took weeks for the girls to convince the Chess Club, the Math Club and the Debate club they really weren’t interested.

About 15 years ago, my husband of 20 years decided he didn’t want to be married anymore (at least not to me) and he was removed from the family dynamics. LB and Russ held me up more times than I can count. Russ even tried to set me up with every single man he knew. Yeah, not so great setting up a sobbing woman on a blind date. He eventually learned that was not such a good thing. But he did insist that I accompany him and LB on many of their Friday nights out, where LB and I would imbibe and sing loudly and very poorly to every Patsy Cline song on the jukebox and Russ would drive us home.

Then the unthinkable happened and Russ was taken from us way too soon by an unexpected heart attack. It was my turn to hold up LB. LB had moved to Seattle against her will from New Jersey about 30 years ago as it was Russ’s home town. It was going to be a temporary move as she told everybody in Jersey, on that day over 30 years ago, she’d be back in two weeks. But here she stays close to her children and 7 grand babies. We’ve got her trapped in the state of Washington permanently, I’m pretty sure of that.

Six months after Russ’s passing, LB called me and said we were going to take swing dance classes. “I don’t think so” said I. Oh yeah, the other thing I forgot to tell you is LB can whine like a two year old wanting a cookie. She does not give up and she takes no prisoners. Finally I acceded and we began swing dance classes. It was actually quite fun but there was something missing, we just didn’t quite fit into this dance community. Our dance teacher, Miss MaryLee Lykes, then announced to the class that there was a zydeco band from Louisiana at the Tractor Tavern the next weekend. We looked at each other and shrugged and figured even if we didn’t have a clue as to what zydeco was it was a night out on the town. So off to the Tractor we went, finding our way into what is known as Old Ballard. The band started up and the crowd erupted into this wonderful gyrating, hip flinging, sliding, dirty dancing frenzy. LB and I looked at each and grinned, we were hooked. How do we get a piece of this is what we wanted to know. Miss Lykes was happy to accomodate us by providing dance lessons for months. Actually, for years, I’m a slow learner.

In the eleven years since we started on our dance journeys, LB and I have enjoyed many fun adventures together. The night we were trying to find a dance in West Seattle comes to mind. We went back and forth over the West Seattle bridge at least five times, completely lost. We eventually found the W.S. Golf Club where the dance was being held but we couldn’t stop laughing because we would just not give up and go home. Thank God for GPS now. I’m too old to be wandering around in the dark looking for dance venues and gas is way to expensive in this day and age.

Then there was the time we had been at the beach in St. Thomas (yes, a zydeco cruise!) and we were returning to the ship wearing fully loaded backpacks. We stepped into this very narrow dress shop to browse. Realizing there was nothing in this shop that was going to fit me, I stepped outside only to hear this mighty crash. Running back in I saw LB cradling a lady lying prone on the floor. LB kept telling the lady over and over and over she was so sorry, her backpack had knocked her over. Then in horror I saw the women’s head several inches from her body. Looking up I saw the sales clerk mouth the words to me “It’s a mannequin”.

Same trip, sitting in the plane on the runway at Ft Lauderdale, we were exhausted and had collapsed in our seats, dozing away. We had just spent 8 days, dancing, taking lessons, sight seeing, and closing down the disco at 4 each morning. We had existed on about 2-3 hours of sleep a night throughout the entire trip. I had the aisle seat, LB had the middle and Carol had the window. The flight was delayed in taking off but the crew was making sure we stayed nice and cool. To the point of seeing our own breath, cool. LB started to whine that she was cold, I was groggy but managed to reach for my backpack under the seat and whipped out a large t-shirt and put it over her like a little blanket - truly, she is that tiny. The three of us dropped back to sleep and the plane eventually took off. In my light sleep mode, I could hear the bell ding that it was safe to get up and walk around the cabin at which time many people took advantage of this. Several people passed us going up and down the aisle to the bathroom. I barely registered this as I fell in and out of sleep. I heard the drink cart coming down the aisle and the very frosty tones of the flight attendant announcing “Someone has left an article of clothing in the aisle”. I rolled my head to the side, popped my eyes open and looked down. Down to a pair of lovely, leopard skin print panties. My leopard skin print panties. My Mother’s voice is always in my head (travel with clean panties in your carry on – and that is another blog). I looked across the aisle to the two burly gentlemen who were eyeing the underwear and I was pretty sure they weren’t going to claim them. Besides that, they matched my bra, so I leaned over, scooped them up, told the attendant “Thank you very much” and tucked them in my backpack where they belonged. And the three of us laughed all the way back to Seattle.

So see, I am lucky, I have this amazing partner in crime and between the two of us we are always coming up with some kind of wonderful. Our neighbors call us Lucy & Ethel, and if LB and I fight it’s usually over who is Lucy and who is Ethel. We scheme, we plot and we worry our children to death. Heh, heh, heh…payback time.

I Am Amazed

I Am AmazedSeptember 24, 2009 by Rita Messina
I am having dinner tonight with my two daughters. The lasagne is in the oven, and to accompany it there will be garlic bread, salad, wine and spumoni ice cream. Remind me to open the wine to let it breathe soon. My daughter’s are not here to remind me, they left to go for a walk in the warm evening of this lovely gift of a fall day. They tease me that they have to check me at the door to make sure I am wearing my underwear. My once fairly sharp mind is not so sharp anymore, but I blame that on what I went through raising them. They pat me on the head more and say to me “It’s a good thing you’re cute, Muffin.” They will take my ATM card from me and finish the process if I stop to try to read the directions. But I know when we are together there is going to be a lot of laughter as we tease each other over our idiosycrancies.

Somewhere along the line, they became the best of friends. With almost five years difference in their ages it was not always the case. When Katie was born, Lisa stepped proudly into the role of big sister. Katie had a few medical problems at birth and we had to take her back to the hospital every day for a week for blood draws. They would take our tiny little baby girl and slice her heel for a blood draw. Lisa had finally had enough one day and when I handed Katie to the nurse, Lisa yelled at her loudly telling her not to hurt her baby sister.

As the years passed, there was the normal fighting and the bickering that most normal families suffer. There was one winter when the snow was well over a foot and we had been house bound for several days. I thought I would go crazy with it and we were all suffering from cabin fever. I finally put both of them on the front porch and told them to finish the fight outside, sans coats. When they were done fighting they could ring the doorbell and I would let them in. It didn’t take long for them to finish their fight in temperature’s that hovered in the 20’s. There were more times than I can count where Lisa would stomp away, angry with me, when I asked her to take her little sister with her. I didn’t feel too guilty as both of Lisa’s friend’s had little brother’s and sisters they had to watch also.

In spite of their sibling rivalry, Lisa never let go of being the protective big sister. I realized one day that a beautiful bowl from France that I loved was missing. Lisa told me she had accidentally broken it while vacuuming. How do you reprimand anybody who is cleaning the house? Years later I found out Katie had broken it playing around.

My marriage came with many fights and Lisa would quietly take Katie into one of their rooms and shut the door while my ex and I battled away and she would soothe Katie. I don’t think I will ever get over that. But in spite of all the mistakes I made raising my daughters, I did it with a lot of love and I know that they know that.

Lisa is my nurturing daughter that took care of our world. She took care of Katie, she took care of the house while we worked and she would even help to take care of the yard work. She worried about everything in spite of me trying to convince her that it was my job to do the worrying. I guess I didn’t worry enough for her so she kept doing it. Lisa tried to be the peacemaker in the family during my contentious divorce. She took care of Katie and me during the divorce and for quite a while afterwards. She grew up into a beautiful, funny, strong woman and has had the luck of finding and falling in love with her soul mate. She could not have picked a more perfect partner. Michael and Lisa complement each other and Michael has proved himself many times to be a wonderful and loving husband. When Lisa and I talk, she tells me everything and I do mean everything! Sometimes it’s just TMI but I wouldn’t trade our conversations for anything in the world. I just try not to flinch too much….

Katie is my sprite. As a baby, she would hum and sing to her food and when she learned to walk she would dance into every room on her tippy toes singing away. I learned early on to go through her pockets and remove the interesting items she had collected during the day. The worms, the beetles, the frogs, some of them still alive. She is so bright, so lovely and one of the funniest people I know. She was the child that would sit on the handlebars of her tricycle and go down the stairs which is where my pre-mature gray hair came from. As we worked diligently doing yard work she would put on her skates, pull one weed and skate down to the bucket, drop it in and repeat the procedure in spite of us telling her she was wasting time. She was doing it in her own way and making it fun. Combined with all of this she has grown into a woman with ambitions for herself and I am so proud of her. Katie is the daughter that tells me nothing, she just smiles her Mona Lisa smile as I try to dig out the latest news on the boyfriend front. But I’m not giving up on that one!

I am amazed that these two wonderful creatures came from me. Yes, my ex had something to do with it, but I’ll take most of the credit. I remember one day telling a then current boyfriend that I was so lucky to have two such great daughters. He turned to me and said “Luck had nothing to do with, it was hard work, pure and simple”. Yes, it was hard work but it was love, it was laughter, it was a wonderous journey and I cherished every moment of it. And somewhere along the line, we became the best of friends.

To Blog or Not to Blog

To Blog or Not to Blog?September 26, 2009 by Rita Messina
I have thought about this blog more often than I probably should have this week. How do you keep it interesting, how do you keep it fresh, is anybody ever going to read this? Am I just scratching the surface and when will I get dark and twisty? Do I want to get dark and twisty or keep it light and entertaining? Will it stay mostly about my dancing and zydeco and the relationships and memories I have in my life? I knew I shouldn’t have gotten rid of my Magic 8 ball!

How am I ever going to make these kind of decisions? Then I did what I usually do, I let it go. I bore myself sometimes (most of the time ) with my obsessions which is a good thing because then they don’t stick around for long and bore other people. This blog will go where it goes. If I'm sad, get out the tissues. If I'm happy, honor it with a smile.

One thing everybody needs to know is this blog will probably never get intellectual or political or religious. And probably not sexual and I may never reveal my deepest, darkest secrets. If I ever go for that kind of blog I would probably do it under a pseudonym. I’ll just go on Face Book and get one of those stripper names after I answer 42 of the strangest questions that have absolutely nothing to do with stripping.

I do, periodically, have what my friend Sean calls, vulnerability hangovers. Not often, but once in a while. I would hate to be dancing with somebody and look over and see them smirking because then my mind would start going all over the place wondering if they had read my blog on what I did and who I did it with (or didn’t) and where we did it. And I would hate to think that I would be up for this great killer job with the CIA (maybe not the best way to put that, but I’m leaving it in) and the CIA checks out my blogging and rejects me. I mean, people, what we put on the internet stays on the internet. And my kids read this, and yes, my grandchildren will be able to read this. I want my grandchildren to think I was a great broad, a wonderful woman, the best Grandma in the world! I know, I’m getting ahead of myself since I don’t actually have
grandchildren, but someday I might. And I want to be mindful that I do not hurt anybody because that would never be my intent either. And I know I have to be careful with that because I can be sarcastic (you think?). I guess I just wanted someplace to put down the random thoughts that go through my head in a given day. One could say I am writing my stream of consciousness. Now that just sounds too intellectual, so I’ll get off that track quickly!

I am absolutely fascinated by blogs. I’ve followed some blogs and after a while you start thinking, I know this person, I could have a glass of wine with this person. Then I realize that sounds a bit stalkerish. I’ve made comments on blogs. I don’t think that is stalkerish. I think that just says “Hey, thank you for creating something and sending it out to the Universe. I read your blog and what you wrote matters and here is what I think." It is a bit of a conversation with somebody you don’t know, but it’s acknowledgement and we all want to be acknowledged in some way.

I read single women blogs, I read single men blogs (what are they really thinking?) I read travel blogs, dating blogs, divorce blogs, marriage blogs. And I guess I like reading that other people have the same fears and tribulations that I have, that most of us have. I believe that this kind of sharing connects one closer to the universe.

I can’t control what is happening in this world and I can’t always control what is happening in my own. I try (just ask my friends how controlling I can be) but it’s just not possible. But I can control what I write here, what I share of myself with the world (and with the CIA).

Menopause, the late years

Menopause, The Late YearsSeptember 27, 2009 by Rita Messina
How long does menopause last? From everything I’ve read it can be absolutely nothing to ten years or more. I belive that I am currently in my fourth year of the phenomena. I have tried soy, black cohosh, hormones, fish oil and nothing has helped. My symptoms range from frequent insomnia to debilitating hot flashes with several other symptoms in between. The “experts” say that women will usually have the same symptoms that their mother had. So, I asked my mother one time what her symptoms were and she told me she never had any. She doesn’t seem to remember the years where we fled the house as her moods vacillated from Pollyanna to Sweet Baby Jane. We don’t call our mother “The Queen of Denial” for nothing.
Here is where I am at. My words fail me frequently. I spend the better part of my days describing the words I am trying to say. I will walk out into the living room and say to my daughter “Have you seen my…uh, my, uh, my thing?” “What thing would that be, Mom?” she answers sweetly but I can see her rolling her eyes because she knows we are going to play the menopause game, Guess The Word. So I reply “You know, Honey, my thing, it’s black, and I put my, umm, my umm, stuff in it”. Again, with the eye rolling but very sweetly still “What stuff, Mom?”. So, I gather up my courage and say again ” You know, my stuff, umm, oh yeah! My wallet, my keys, my, what do you call that thing that takes the tangles out of my hair?” I hear this big sigh and she will say “Mom, you want to know if I’ve seen your purse and it probably has your hairbrush in it?” “Yes!” I almost sob the word. “Yes! That’s it!” I look in her eyes and I can see her brain as it rolls down the list of nursing homes she is already considering for me. “Your purse is on the dining room table”.
Women in the full thrust of menopause dread presentations, phone calls, long conversations with clients, any public speaking. We’re ok with each other because this is something that comes and goes and the Sisterhood will step in and help as needed. My best friend LB will be searching for a word and I almost always will know it. She was there for me last night at the club. I was stuttering and stammering and she came up with every word I needed. She’s small but I can’t take her everywhere with me so I have someone to find the words for me. And men just don’t get it. They look at you like you are losing your mind. They don’t supply you with the word you need and they start to edge away looking very nervous.
And we don’t sleep. I’m not saying we never sleep, but we just don’t get that 7-8 hours of recommended sleep, ever. Menopausal women will go to bed and fall fast asleep at 11:00 but be wide awake by 2:00. So we vacuum or clean out a closet. If we can’t sleep nobody can sleep. These women become over achievers, have immaculate homes and are on their fourth college degree. Or we will go to bed at 11:00 and read for a while. Then we turn off the light and lay there for forty-five minutes or so, turning our bodies over frequently and fluffing our pillows. We turn the light back on and read some more, turn off the light and repeat this procedure till about 4:00 in the morning. We will then fall asleep deeply to be woken at 5:15 by our alarm clocks. These women are usually featured on “Snapped” after they have murdered the first person who asks them if they got a good nights sleep.
One of the things that increases my hot flashes is red wine. Am I going to give it up? Not in this lifetime. I’m Sicilian, I’m sure that doing so would be against all the rules of Sicilian society. I frequently will have a glass of red wine before a dance. Then I get out there and in the midst of a dance I can feel my core turning into molten lava. Instantaneously, rivulets of sweat start pouring down my face and my back. My hair starts dripping and flinging droplets of sweat as I move to the music. My own mini-version of Flashdance! Within seconds I become an oscillating sprinkler! This means a trip to the ladies room and a change of top. I have a code for dances, one shirt, two shirt, three shirt nights.
I will have to admit, I use my condition as an excuse for a lot of my behavior. I ask people to email me questions or social engagements because I will walk away and not remember. This is frustrating for somebody that used to never forget anything. I will run into people I have known for years, or used to work with and not remember their name. Almost, as if it’s a badge of honor, I will shake their hand and say “I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten your name. Menopause, you know?” And if it’s a woman, she gets it! If it’s a man, he stares at me and backs away.

Fallling Away

Falling AwayOctober 6, 2009 by Rita Messina
I have always had a special affinity for Fall. There is just something about this time of year that affects me more deeply than any other season. It’s the dying of summer, it’s telling the green earth that it’s ok to get ready to take a nice long nap and to turn brown as it slumbers. We have enjoyed one of the most beautiful summers I can ever remember but it’s time to let go and embrace the changes.

I have raced through the first nine months of the year with my ridiculous life. I have worked, traveled, danced, created dances, attended festivals, helped with fund raisers, helped with weddings, attended weddings, attended funerals, visited, dined, raced to the next social engagement or appointment. This summer was so beautiful I could never turn down anybody who wanted to meet for a drink at a sidewalk cafe or one of the many restaurants we have that overlook the water. To sit outside in the warmth of a summer evening has been too rare of a gift in the Northwest. But now I look out my window and see the changes in the leaves and know that it’s time for me to make a change too, even though it’s temporary.

It’s time for me to slow down a little bit. Time to go through the stack of books I’ve collected over the summer and put in the order that I would like to read them. It’s time to actually watch the Netflix movies that I order instead of dusting them periodically, then sending them back after feeling guilty that I might be depriving somebody the opportunity of watching these movies.

Even though our days in the Pacific Northwest still look like summer you can step outside and feel that nip in the air. You can smell the difference between fall and summer. I welcome the chilly dampness we experience this time of year. So to counteract that chill, I turn on the oven that I’ve ignored all summer. The other night I had to have meatloaf and a baked potato and it was delicious. I am thinking that I will have to bake a ham this week, next week will be beef stew. I will follow this up with home made chicken noodle soup with big, thick egg noodles. Because these dishes will comfort me in some way that I can’t even fathom.

I will sit quietly and listen to what is going on inside my head. I will review decisions made. I will try to look at both sides of decisions not made. And I will nap now and then. I don’t care for naps in the summer. I don’t like waking up hot and sticky and grumpy. I like to crawl into an icy, cold bed and listen to the rain as my body warms the sheets. Then that warmth starts to make me drowsy and before I know it, I wake up and it’s dark outside. I will stretch and wiggle down into the warmth. I will lay there and listen to the rain, I’ll reach over and scratch the dog or a cat, whichever is closest. I will then turn on the light, grab a book and read till my eyes close again.

I Haven't met him yet

I haven’t met him yetNovember 4, 2009 by Rita Messina
Michael Buble has a new album out and one of the cuts is called “Haven’t Met You Yet”. That’s how I feel when I think, rarely, that there might be somebody out there for me. Just the last year I started thinking, hmmm, maybe it would be nice to have somebody in my life. OK, maybe it would be nice to have somebody in my life once in a while, or maybe it would be nice to have someone just on Saturday night. I am such a huge major commitment-phobe. You would think after being divorced for over fifteen years I would get over it all. And I have, at least I think I have. But what I have now is so cool, so great, so fulfilling I am afraid that if I have to make compromises I would lose myself again.

When I was married we pretty much did what my ex wanted to do, we went or did not go, according to his wants. Now, I come and go as I please. If I want to take a trip, I take a trip. If I want to go dancing, by George, I go dancing. I walk out the door when I want and I walk in when I want without any fear there will be a fight with anybody. Though my dog can get a little put out if I’m gone for a long time but he is easily made happy with a dog treat and a belly rub. I wish men were that easy. I have no idea how he can tell I’ve been gone too long and now that I think about it he acts this way if I go out to my car to get something or just to get the mail. Must have something to do with the dog treats.

One of the relationships I had after my divorce lasted on and off for 4 years. And he asked me to marry him. A couple of times. But I knew I couldn’t do that. How can you marry somebody when that person comes over on Friday night and by Sunday night you are ready to hand them their jacket and show them the door? He was a perfectly nice man, very evolved, laid back, very loving. We travled well together, Hawaii, Denver, Reno. I have to use that tired old line. It was me, not him.

I like being by myself. I like to watch what I want to watch on TV, I like to play music I like and I love to read. I love to read in a quiet room with no TV on, with nobody walking through it. I could probably be a hermit. I could see myself for days just reading and reading and reading. I could so identify with the Twilight Zone episode that starred Burgess Meredith. ” What bomb was that, Dear?”

I like to go to bed when I’m tired, not when somebody yawns and heads up the stairs. My ex thought when he wanted to go to bed I should have wanted to go to bed. Sometimes I did but when I didn’t he would pout. Save me from a man who pouts.

I have gone from being somebody who compromised a lot to somebody who doesn’t compromise so much. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t know but I know it’s my thing. I like me, I like keeping my own company. I think for the most part I am kind and caring when it comes to my family and friends. But even there, a lot of times I will put my wants first now. My daughters will periodically tease me and try to put a guilt trip on me that I don’t spend enough time with them. But I just tell them they’ll have plenty of time to change my diapers when I’m really old and that usually ends that conversation.

My other observation is that a man in my life would have to complement my life, to add something great to my life. But what could he add that I don’t already have? I have my family, I have a best friend that enhances my life greatly. I have friends for just about any activity I would wish to do that also contribute wonderful memories to my life. Not just women but men too. I have traveled with these men and women. I go out to dinner, dancing, movies, theater, concerts, drinks, walks with them. If a sense of loneliness washes over me, I have no qualms about calling up any one of them and telling them I need to be with them.

I guess there is great love, but honestly, I’m not sure I believe in that for me anymore. Oh yes, I’ve had crushes, maybe a couple of times have almost fallen a little in love, but I laid down and those feelings passed. Does that make me a cynic or a realist? I know I have the capacity. I know I loved my ex deeply. Can you only go that deep one time in your life?

Just recently I did meet somebody who does not live in this state. That alone appealed to me. We emailed for several months then we made plans for him to come up. People kept asking me if I was excited and I really wasn’t. I was not scared, I wasn’t apprehensive. I guess you could say I was curious. Yes, I really was just curious. Could I spend four days with somebody and not want to hand them their coat?

The day arrived and I picked him up from the airport. There was no spark of recognition, no “this is the one” feeling. And then all the red flags started popping up. Oh, he drinks more than I would like a partner to drink (having divorced an alcoholic that is probably my number one hard and fast rule). And he talked about his ex girlfriends – a lot. Do men do that to impress you? Do they do that so you will want them more; thinking that if all these women had dated him, he must be desirable? I just figure he went out with a lot of really smart women who dumped him. Turns out I actually knew a couple of the women and I had to go with that, I think they are pretty smart women. And not once did he tell me I was pretty or wonderful in any way. By the time it was time for him to go, I was ready to hand him his coat at the door. But then he sent me a couple of emails that seemed to indicate he wanted to continue this relationship. I just didn’t answer the emails. I’m letting this one snuff itself out.

And the other thing is before he came to town I think I was being pursued by somebody else. Somebody I have known for years. I think I was but I can be a little oblivious to the obvious when it comes to thinking that way. This guy would call or email and ask me if I was doing this or that. And if I said, yes, why there he was. Every time, for a couple of months. He was very complimentary, very attentive but not in an aggressive or obvious way. Just the two of us went dancing one night and it was fun, but that’s all it was, just dancing and a good night hug. And there were complications with another relationship he had with somebody. Somebody I consider a good friend. So frankly, it didn’t really occur to me that it was any more than friendship till it was probably too late and my lack of enthusiasm probably stopped him. Around the time I started thinking it was really nice and that maybe there should be some conversations going on here. I’ll have to think about that one some more. No, not that this relationship really didn’t happen but how am I going to learn to read the signals men give to women? Why don’t I have the gene that makes me think I might be somebody they would want?

I will never forget that at my ten-year high school reunion three different men told me they had the biggest crushes on me when we were in high school. I asked each of them why they never said or did anything about it and all three said they did say stuff to me or flirted with me. I guess I just didn’t send the ball volleying back. But I didn’t see the ball.

I think I just like the thought that I haven’t met him yet. That maybe there is somebody out there that will stand in front of me until I realize that he is the one. Somebody that won’t walk away, that will stay there so that I will start to pay attention. That I will really feel a deep and wonderful love and he will feel the same way. He will tell me I am smart and funny and pretty and he will try to dance with me in the kitchen while we are cooking. He will make me laugh. He will shower me with kisses and find all of my sweet spots. He will want to do everything I want to do, he will like the same foods I like. But he will have great things going on in his life that I will want to know about and I will want to do those things with him. He will know secrets about wonderful foods and wines, books and movies that he will want to share with me. He will bring me the darkest chocolate he can find and a lovely bottle of red wine. We will be happy just sitting in the same quiet room and reading together. And if we look up at each other at the same time, we will just smile and go back to reading. Or do something lovely. That maybe there is somebody out there that if he comes over, I will hide his coat so he can’t leave.

I Love the Holidays, I Hate the Holidays

I Dread the Holidays, I Love the HolidaysDecember 31, 2009 by Rita Messina
Here I am again. That week between Christmas and New Years. The week where you can almost let out a huge sigh of relief and your shoulders lower from around your ears back to where they belong. But it’s the week, too, where you look at last week and think “Was that the best Christmas ever?” And yes it was, it really was.

In October I started to get that niggling feeling that Christmas was coming up and I should start getting busy. But who am I kidding? I can’t think that I’ve ever bought a Christmas present before the middle of December in my entire life. I start complaining that the stores have no right to put out anything to do with Christmas before Halloween is over. But then I have friends who by this time have purchased all of their gifts. That's not bad enough, they are even wrapped. What is that about? The mystery in my life is why would you wrap something when there are perfectly good bags that come in every size?

Unfortunately I have a daughter that has the "gene". The "Everything has to be perfect and beautiful and wrapped and decorated and matched" gene. Kate inherited this from my Mother, and my two sisters. The three of them make Martha Stewart look like a bag lady. My sister, Carol, even makes her own plate chargers to match her holiday theme. I honestly don't get that. Why buy or as in Carol's case, make, a plate to put a plate on? Sounds like more dishes to me and I am so against more dirty dishes.

My other sister Patty is also the queen of the "La Decorators". She actually took round and square Tupperware containers and wrapped them in colored cellophane. She then strung them around her office Christmas tree so it looked like wrapped candy. I would have walked in and thought I had hit the mother lode and tried to eat all that plastic.

But not me. I didn't get that gene. I do buffets. I actually use holiday paper plates (I do try to get the napkins to match or my Katie would never let forget it). I don't have a theme to my tree yet each year I think it is the most beautiful tree I've ever seen. It has little felt frames with Katie's face in it, and there is the popsicle stick Santa that Lisa made me. I always love watching Carol when she arrives. There is always this faint shudder. And even at this ripe old age, I get a giggle out of bugging my big sister. My inner brat has risen again.

Then Thanksgiving comes around and I start thinking I’d better get out to the garage and start digging for decorations and the tree. But this year I didn’t have to dig. I spent two full days in August cleaning out the garage and my daughter and I put all the decorations in bins and labeled everything. I knew exactly where everything was and it was going to make it all so easy this year. Score round one for me!

Then it’s December 10th. This is my oldest daughters birthday. I made a vow when she was born that I would never mix her birthday and Christmas and I don’t think I ever have. Then the next day is December 11 and I normally turn into the Tasmanian devil. But this year I didn’t. The decorations and tree were put up Katie. I did put the ornaments on the tree as my contribution. And I pay the housekeeper. Score round two for me!

Then it’s the 20th of December and I’m starting to get a little anxious. Just a little bit because I’m really not buying a whole lot. A couple of stores later and I am done. Because checks make great presents and that’s what most everybody wanted this year. Score round three for me!

Now comes the toughy. I volunteer my house for Christmas Eve. And I knew this year was going to be a biggy. And it was. Twenty-seven people for dinner. Set up a bar, throw in an 18 lb prime rib, twenty lbs of baked potatoes, tell all attendees what to bring and voila! Done. Again, I paid the housekeeper to come clean.

Everybody shows up and the merriment begins. Drinking and snacks roll right into a lovely dinner. Soon our little gift exchange is done and everybody is feeling quite pleasant. Ah ha! I then pounce on everybody and hand out the words to every Christmas carol ever written. This is when I head to the bar. It’s finally my turn to play a little catch-up. And since my drinking is pretty minimal it only takes one martini and I am there along with the rest of the singers, loud and out of tune! But we have the best of times. Or that is what the martini’s are leading me to believe. And I sing better after imbibing a couple of martini’s. That, too, is the martini's fault.

Next day is two Excedrins, French toast and bacon with daughters, son-in-law and his parents. This has become a lovely tradition for us and allows everybody to do and go and be whatever they want for the afternoon. I usually want to be on the couch watching a movie that has been put into my stocking.

Since I brought my niece, Jessie, out from Pittsburgh for the holidays, it’s agreed we’ll go to Grandma and Grandpa’s for a ham dinner. Some of the family have also showed up so we just sit around, eat, talk and I just keep wishing I could take a nap. This Christmas is a bit hard. Dad has just been diagnosed with cancer and it seems to be spreading rapidly. At 93, what are you going to do? And Mom is just getting smaller and frailer. This could be the last Christmas with both of them.

Finally, it’s all over except for the after Christmas sales that the girls and I hit with a vengeance. We mix it up with a little sushi and a movie and it’s been one of the best days ever. I am with my best friend, Joanie, daughter Kate, niece, Jessie and all is pretty darn wonderful.

Tomorrow night is New Years Eve. I’m sitting here thinking back over the last week and all I can do is smile. It really has been great. As far as I know there were no big fights, the left side of the family didn’t deck the right side of the family. Little brother started to make a comment and I just pointed my finger at him, glared and said “No”. I think a little fear is healthy.

Tomorrow night I will be attending the Moisture Festival in old Ballard. I have not a clue what I am getting myself into. I know it will be loud and colorful and probably weird and magical but I’m always willing to try new things. I need to go dig out my body glitter – that’s the kind of ball this will be.

Then nephew Bob comes in Thursday with his beautiful wife, Jeanne, and we have another party at my house for the whole family to see him on Saturday night. After all of the rich holiday food we have been eating, I will order pizza and make a salad. I will thenJess to the airport so she can fly home to Pittsburgh. I’m gonna miss my Baby Girl.

So as much as I dread the holidays they have a wonderful way of surprising me. They become so loving, so sweet and once again, they become a magical memory of Christmas Past.