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Sans Souci : without worry : free of care

That unmistakable September light

I started this post weeks ago when the month was brand new. New month, new energy and that smidgeon of crispness you get in the morning. Even though we’re a week away from October, it seems only fitting to recognize this gorgeous month. Hello September! Some months, a select few for me, sparkle more, and I’m more inclined to sift through whatever is heavy, break it up, and move it out. This is that time.

You know it’s fall and summer has surely slipped away when you get that pool eSplash notifying you that pool hours have now been reduced. For at least a second year in a row, we visited all of one time this year, making that lone visit a several hundred-dollar swim. Why do we keep signing up for this steep madness? 

Ben’s cat, Rufus

My boys’ rooms are now morphing into storage areas for various things – linens, clothes, and all that other stuff you put into bins. Some of their belongings are still in there – swim ribbons and soccer trophies, clothing they never chose to wear, little figurines a child keeps on a dresser, wopsy pillows, and long-ago bedtime books still tucked away in Pier I and Ikea Billy bookcases. My babies, now men, are both in college and settled into their own apartments, and one even just adopted his first pet, a cat named Rufus.

But it is here that their rooms remain, albeit picked over and missing an energy, unless a cat chooses to nap in there. Aside from the rooms’ storage utility, the beds are at least made, but my younger son’s is missing its pillows. He returned the other day, the Grinch from Ga Tech, plucking the remaining ones to join his other two. I get it, it’s easier to study when you’re all propped up, but whenever I pass that room, the naked bed calls out, “Get me some pillows, will you?”

This void isn’t sad, it’s just airy, especially now, since off each bedroom is the construction start of a bath and closet. The timing for this renovation is ironic, though not unique. Kids leave and only now do time and resources present. For the cats, the open air behind those plywood doors is fascinating, and sometimes when the 16-pounder’s paw succeeds in prying it loose, exposed is all manner of goodness for both to explore. I’m not always sure when they’ve snuck in there, but when they show up for mealtime, exhausted, and with cobwebbed whiskers and filthy paws, you can tell how they spent their day. 

The void isn’t sad, it’s just airy.

This month has me taking care of things. My laptop was throwing fits, so I dialed up the nice folks at AppleCare. They patiently hear me out each time, logically break down my problems, and leave me restored and empowered. The AppleCare guy wanted to share my screen, which I allowed, but not without first apologizing for the embarrassingly large mess of icons littering my desktop. I’m cluttered, and this busy screen is a sampling of my world.  Sure, we’re in the midst of a house renovation, but who are we kidding? I was no minimalist before. I once read somewhere that clutter is dodging decisions, and along these lines, there’s a movie called Minimalism http://minimalismfilm.com/watch, with Dan Harris (author, Ten Percent Happier), that I want to watch. It’s going to change things up and push me to ask that illuminating, simple question: Is This Useful? Stay tuned for the transformation.

Clutter is dodging decisions.

I’ve begun working part-time from home, a little editing gig which, if consistent, will help offset one of our boys’ apartment rents each month. I do love details and this job unquestionably challenges that hunger. Other than sharpening my eye for detail, on the list of things to learn if I’m going to function in this working world is a way to stop spell check from flying away with my email the second it has completed scanning it for errors. There is always that other thing I wanted to look at or fix, but once spell check is complete, from my laptop’s speakers emanates a flock of birds gleefully flying away with my message as fast as their wings can carry them. Without that final review, any remaining errors are carelessly flapping in the wind.

The house where we live and work has little storage, and flat surfaces fill up quickly, mantles included, all seven of them. I once had some tenants who were remarkably reductive – no labels visible anywhere. Pasta pulled from its box to stand vertically in tall glass canisters. Same for laundry detergent, shampoo, coffee beans, all of it. Unlike me, these people were calm, too. There’s a connection there. Clean, airy rooms open up space in your head. I know this to be true. Every time I load the car and head to a donations place, I never look back. I always leave lighter, happier someone else can use these items, and proud of myself for driving them to their next chapter.

Clean, airy rooms open up space in your head.

Heading home and still cloaked in calm, I typically come upon an insane intersection near my house where, to turn left, you must cross oncoming traffic and merge into two lanes of traffic. Merging puts you on the left, and next you must creep over to the right if you’re going to head in the direction of home. I scan the drivers’ faces – are they friendly, or pretending to ignore me, or will they choose to floor it at the precise moment I could slip in front of them? I take great care to lock eyes with that one driver who will feel my struggle and do the right thing. I read them wrong most times, yet still assuming the best of these people, I attempt to inch in front of them only to have them close the gap the instant the light turns. But there, lurking in the sea of motorists, is that occasional driver who surprises me and motions me to tuck in and join the procession. 

And so, I keep going, one thing at a time. Lately it’s washing dog beds. Lucie was spoiled silly, a comfy bed always a few paces away. From the looks of things, you’d presume I was a canine inn-keeper, fluffing up for the next guest, but for now, I’m dog-less, and simply cleaning and storing. My favorite bed I bought her last year right before Christmas was a plush sage green orthopedic one. I was thrilled to find I’d scored the last one, plucking it from its high shelf and hauling it out of the store just as a light snow began to fall. I knew it would quiet her arthritis and bring on solid sleep. Instead, her paws got stuck in the deep plush quilted panels between the tufts, making it hard to get up, offering little incentive to get back in. She didn’t mind this waste of a gift taking up space, and instead just plunked back down on her familiar half-inch gel mat. 

And so, I keep going, one thing at a time.

This clutter thing has been interesting. I know the way out is a place for everything and everything in its place, but there’s just too much stuff that sends my brain spinning. Where can it all go? I’m learning for most of it, the answer is “out!” I’m getting there, but, still, with no real closet to call my own, but for the Ikea armoire in the hall, any wardrobe additions find themselves homeless. Closets, plural, are coming. I recently sold a pair of lamps, and the lady who bought them texted me the next day, thrilled with her find, including a photo of how her living room was shaping up. For me, this made the sale. 

In the spirit of taking care, I’ve been justifiably consistent with medical visits. Recently, during an ultrasound, I found myself once again in an exam room undressed from the waist up and waiting to be seen. Why is it they always barely knock and simultaneously open the door? How do they determine how much time to allow before going in? Is there a set time it takes a woman to get topless and into a gown, opening to the front? Mind you, I’m no slow undresser, but am certain for those who are, that scant knock and immediate open door affords an awkward zero time to respond. Makes you wonder.

At another appointment – the annual bilateral mammogram – after a long stint in the waiting room where I loved comparing notes with a lovely woman waiting on her own results, a gentleman wearing a dress shirt and tie (you can be sure getting assigned the well-dressed male is never a good sign) came to get me. He had a question, and on the walk to find a room for our Q&A session, the only question I could envision was, “Ma’am, why is it you have such astonishingly shitty luck?” I soon learned he was confused why my scans showed a second pin in my breast. They knew about the first marker they’d placed from an earlier biopsy but didn’t know I’d had another one at a different hospital. All this was long ago, but new to him. Nothing to see here, just a little shrapnel from the war zone. I assured him that was it, and it was then that I was released back into the world of regular people. At least for another year. 

Sans Souci, Jekyll Island Club

Last weekend we got to go to Jekyll Island for my husband’s conference. Our stay at the Sans Souci was true to its name, quiet and with the quirky combination of Covid and mid-September, the hotel was at just two thirds occupancy. It’s refined and grand in its well-built simplicity and old, 1896 old. I studied every bit, soaking in the rich details: the moldings, buttery soft bannister, heart pine floors, stained glass transoms, porch floor paint colors, curved trim, all of it. With our 1860s house getting its own loving care, I imagined the many people who built this place with their own hands. There were framed pictures to prove it. 

Cuttlefish clatch?

I got in a little beach time, too, and concluded late September is the sweet spot for getting to the Georgia coast when the glaring hot sun is replaced with a sweeter, gentler one, and the beaches aren’t crowded. You notice more in that dappled light and without all the people – sandpipers, flitting, looking for lunch, their curving paths skirting the foam at the water’s edge, seagulls parked on the sand, chatting it up and flying further down the beach as I approach, and sand dollars, lots of them, sweet round perforated miracles, dotting my walk. The next day there were no sand dollars, but instead, a livelier surf and sky chock full of sun, and even a sweet dog who let me toss him a tennis ball. Every new beach day is so very different from the last. Every any day is.

Dog Love, Family, Grace, pets

All Dogs Go To Heaven

We had a dentist growing up I couldn’t stand. From upstairs, my sister Anne and I could hear our mom scheduling the appointment for this twice a year misery, and the weeks leading up to it were tinged with dread. We could be having a perfectly lovely summer day and one of us – maybe as a joke to freak the other out, I don’t know – would throw out those two words, “Dr. Pike”, and instantly fun turned to fear. 

Dr. Pike didn’t wiggle the inside of our cheek when he gave us Novocain like my dentist does now, so it hurt more than it needed to. He didn’t wait long enough for our mouths to get numb either before he filled our cavities. His one room two-chair office had a strange smell, a foul cocktail of toothpaste, that burnt metallic drill smell and the sour cup of liquid fluoride he’d sloppily smear across our teeth with a Q-tip. 

One time I shared an appointment with a boy around my age – we were maybe 12 at the time. Dr. Pike asked him if he had a girlfriend and, sheepishly, he shook his head no. Then Dr. Pike asked me and got another no. He wrapped up his taunt with the proposition that maybe we could be boyfriend and girlfriend, and did we each want that? Mortified and blushing so badly my face burned, I had nowhere to go in that one open room that I had decided surely was hell.

This week brought traces of Dr. Pike dread, but this time I’m the mom making the appointment – not for a dental, but instead for a loving goodbye. I set it up from my car in our driveway, not that Lucie can even hear me since her hearing went a few years ago, but she needn’t be saddled with that same dread. She still tracks me with her sweet eyes from across the room, still gorgeous and eating well and smiling when she can, but she is painfully uncomfortable moving around, especially sitting down. I see her struggle more each day, yet I have to move past my own pain with this decision as I know it’s the right thing and the right time. She will be comfortable and at home with all her family near and with her dignity, and without a trace of shame or fear or pain. Of course, I want her to live with me forever, but if you love someone, sometimes you have to let them go. 

Lucie and I are so in tune I sometimes forget she’s an entirely different species, one that I knew intellectually going in would have a shorter lifespan. Yet now, despite an impressive 14 ½ years together, it still seems too short. In our house growing up, our pets got such royal treatment and my mom always said that in her next life she’d like to return as a pet in our household. On hearing this and knowing how close she and I were, my boys used to suggest that maybe Lucie is my late mom who’s returned as our husky/shepherd? Each time I offered Lucie a lamb bone and she’d happily whittle it down as effortlessly as if it were a flaky croissant, they’d ask, “Did your mom like lamb?” “Why yes! Yes, in fact she did!” I’d exclaim. This happened with countless other foods and we’d smile and laugh knowingly at each other and Lucie, happy we’d found a way for the kids to meet my mom.

I could have easily named her Grace for her beauty and elegance and the way she soared like a gazelle over the ravine at the dog park, and also how she tenderly sniffed and snuggled the cats. She never showed any food aggression and I could be on the floor with my face in her bowl and she would have gladly shared her kibble with me. Same with hand feeding her scraps which she gingerly took from my hand, never once biting; she knew I’d keep my fingers outstretched until she got it all.

People moving around unpredictably made her nervous, and the few times she nipped friends and family at our house, it was so sudden and secretive and upsetting. Her DNA test came up as half Husky, half German Shepherd, with trace amounts of Australian Shepherd, so it made sense that she was a herder. After learning that,  we secured her when company came over.

She sometimes lifted her leg to pee, odd behavior for this gorgeous girly girl who was still all dog rolling outside in stinky things, sniffing cats’ butts and other dogs’ too. Dogs smell for the same reasons we read – to gather information or get caught up in a story – and Lucie was a voracious reader, often rereading her favorites, stopping to sniff a familiar tree or shove her snout down the same chipmunk hole. 

The Siberian Husky in her loved when it snowed, and her little paws left the cutest imprints in the pristine sparkling blanket outside. A few times we connected her leash to the sled and the kids shouted “mush!” curious if she’d instinctively take off pulling them. Instead, Lucie just stood there and smiled, clueless, lapping up the incredible white wonderland. Car rides were another favorite and keys jangling would find her at the door, hopeful, patiently waiting. I taught her to shake, lie down, roll over, and kiss. Her kisses were licks on our arms and faces or we’d get the snout bump, nose bumping against our mouth, getting it done and more importantly, getting the treat.

She loved her walks but her Husky “I’ll do what I want” attitude made training a challenge, and often she pulled. One night after dark on their first walk together, she broke Joe in when she happened on a dead squirrel, and he got the pleasure of plucking it from her jaws. Her wanderlust kept her mostly leashed except during the occasional tennis ball toss in the yard. If the ball went deep, she’d take off running for a catch me if you can game toward the street behind us, terrifying me each time.

We walked a lot around our little town and its surrounding neighborhoods. She’d go where I wanted, the leash a tiller I could adjust ever so slightly for a change in direction. Some shop keepers knew her and invited her in and gave her treats. Her beauty – that striking white wolf face with perfectly applied eyeliner and a plush creamy apricot coat – was extraordinary, and people wanted to get near her. In the first weeks I had her, walking downtown near the subway station, we came upon an elderly woman who ambled over to us, stopped for a moment, hands on hips, and proclaimed, “That dog is pretty as shit.” That was all and she walked away, satisfied she’d told us what was on her mind.

Lucie was a great car rider and we took her on short trips – to parks and to the mountains and once to the beach near Charleston. We had never taken her swimming before and were delighted to see what fun she had dog paddling in the surf, and watching her soaked little wet chicken legs trotting down the beach. She was game for most anything, walking when I wanted to, resting when I rested, and one morning waking up in the dark with Ben and me to watch the sun come up. I felt safe with her by my side and honored to introduce her to the majesty of a sunrise over the ocean.

She used to follow us room to room and upstairs in the evenings to sleep on the floor beside me. These days, she watches me in the kitchen from her corner spot on the floor, and now with severe arthritis, only gets up to eat or go outside. This has been our little world together for weeks now. 

She’s grown bored with her usual fare and she’s all over the new change in menu. Sometimes sweet potatoes and broccoli mix in with her kibble and a little bone broth to bind it, or even better, crumbled ground beef. The other night it was Costco seared tuna – a huge hit. I wrap her medicines in deli meat, which goes down easy. She still loves rice and I always let her lick the pot, and cut up fruits too – watermelon, strawberries, bananas. Good food and big bowls of ice water, rest and medicine fill her days, and while she’s never been a hugger, she’s allowing it. Oh, how I’ll miss her!

Mornings are sweet. I come downstairs and wipe her face with a hot cloth, cleaning her crusty eyes and wiping down her forehead, snout and cheeks. I often whisper, “How was your flight?” as these gentle towels take me back to my first trip to Europe flying Lufthansa. In that quiet cabin at the beginning of dawn, the nicest flight attendant handed me a hot towel, whispering, “I hope you slept well.” I felt so loved and cared for waking up in this way, and Lucie is getting that same sweet care.

I know our situation is not unique and so many go through this but still, it’s tough. You’re in that no man’s land between feeling guilty and all the while seeing your baby struggle. You have to grow up, be the adult and make hard choices. These days, these 14½ years, this life with Lucie has been wonderful, and I’m doing all I can to keep it together and honor her with a dignified loving sendoff. I’ve recorded a hymn for her, Amazing Grace, which seems right for this moment. I’ve added in some of my favorite photos too. 

She’s going to a place where there will be spectacular sunrises and sunsets, car rides with the windows rolled down, fluffy mashed potatoes and turkey that’s juicy for a change, tennis balls to run after where you don’t have to bring them back, endless meadows of monkey grass to wade through, walks in the rain and magical snowfalls. She will be free to roam untethered. I love her to pieces and am lucky to have found her and she me. Lightness and love, my sweet girl, fly high.

Arthritis, Dog Love, pets

My Best Girl 🐾

Today wasn’t a good day. I feel this cloud hanging low over me and I can’t get out from under it. There will be little high notes sometimes, but then that dang cloud covers me again. I’ve been holding my breath again too and I’ll catch myself and take deep deliberate breaths instead, hoping to make up for all that breath holding of late.

I’ve been busy. My dog is in deep decline. She’s on several different meds and takes 17 pills a day. We’ve been at this routine a while and it’s kept her comfortable and ambulatory and smiling. However twice over this last week I’ve called the sweet folks at Lap of Love and talked through my options. I know how it will end and I know it will be soon – they will come over and we will all crowd around Lucie and hold her as she goes peacefully. I’ve watched videos on their website and one of them talked of not only your dog’s pain but also her anxiety, and we should watch for symptoms like whining at night and panting, both things she’s been doing lately. I got the bright idea to call my vet yesterday and ask if there’s something we could give her for anxiety. In fact there is, another pill, which I picked up today. Dosing said give her 1, 1.5 or 2, so I went for the highest dose, realizing she will likely be even more somnolent than what her current regimen brings, but hoping her anxiety will lessen. 

That good anti-anxious mood I thought I’d see instead turned into a dopey sleepy Lucie who several hours in no longer could even stand. I tried helping her up but she wasn’t having it so, frustrated, she just put her head down in a who cares? sort of way. I am in the kitchen with her so often so instead I decided to take a break and step away while she rested. I gave Evan the task of taking her out after he returned from work. In that calm quiet voice he gets when something is wrong, he called me downstairs. The poor girl was on her side and had defecated underneath herself. Cleanable and not too much of a problem, but you could feel her humiliation as I went about toweling her off, and the rug, and the floor. I knew she still needed to go pee, so we tried ushering her outside, her ability to stand from today’s added pill barely improved. Evan carried her out to go and carried her back in. 

I know it’s time, or soon it will be. I know this is the right thing, but damn I’m a teary mess over my girl. On top of her breakfast and dinner she scarfed down, I made her a sweet potato yesterday and she ate little bites I doled out and looked up and beamed at me after each one, an enormous, thank you! how did you know? Oh, I know. I know what my girl loves. 

I hate when a book I’m loving ends. I mourn it a little each time. That last chapter, you savor every word, every nuance and then… that’s it. It’s become past tense. She’s much more than a book, but I feel the story is wrapping up, and I hate that. 

I remember when my sweet cat, Kitty, passed on. Obviously, I missed her but also she spanned 18 years of my life, years back when my mom was alive. Kitty knew my mom. How many people now in my world can say that? There’s power there. There’s life and memories and conversations from times long ago that are no longer. 

I searched for Lucie for a long time. Went to shelters, to private homes with dogs up for adoption, and online to various rescues. We ended up finding a dog on petfinder.com and after meeting the dog we returned home to mull it over. I emailed the owner and she said if I wanted the dog, I needed to send her my payment, which I did. Funny thing I’ve since learned about prepaying for a dog, often it’s a one-way exchange. You pay, yet you’re still dogless. After I took it up with American Express and froze my payment, this crazy lady changed her website to position her “organization” as some benevolent rescue and any money they bring in is for the welfare of their shelter and upkeep of their dogs. They do not adopt dogs but only for the loving kindness of their community do they accept payments. Can you say Capital “B”, Capital “S”? We know how this ends. I’m out $250 and back on the dog hunt.

Then there was that day soon after back in 2008 when I was doing my usual dog search all around the Internet and weeks earlier had even added Craigslist to the mix. And there she was, “Bailey”, a sweet 9-month-old husky/shepherd staring into her mama’s camera right there in front of me on Craigslist. She had a look that I couldn’t turn away. She was hauntingly beautiful but also there was a sweetness in her eyes, and I had to meet her. I quickly responded and was glad to see her cautious owner vetting me in great detail. I made the cut and we had a meeting a few days later. Bailey’s human realized she couldn’t keep a dog with her busy job. She’d been crating the pup for hours on end, and to her credit, Bailey could hold her bladder that long. Except this particular day when her mama worked longer than usual. Rushing to get to our house, her mama brought Bailey “as is” to meet me. My poor girl reeked of dried doggie pee, but did her best to stand tall and get through the interview. 

Lucie

She was other worldly soft and sweet and she met three criteria I needed her to: 1) She was respectful of and didn’t intimidate our cats who came around to sniff our visitor 2) she didn’t bury her snout in our crotches as some dogs do to say hi 3) And other than the pee scent, she didn’t smell of dog – you know that dirty sock smell some dogs have and when you visit a house you just know there’s a dog?

So Bailey moved in with us soon after we named her Lucie, and the rest has been a most fantastic run… nearly 14 years now. So many memories which I know I’ll release when the flood gates open and I’ll be instead looking back. 

But for now life is in slow motion. I moved upstairs just now as I couldn’t sit in the kitchen anymore and lock eyes with her. She wants to move but she can’t easily and instead watches us all – cats included – buzz around the kitchen doing this and that while she’s resigned to the floor, limbs akimbo sometimes underneath her at odd angles. Evan and I straighten her out and help her outside and back in, but mostly her life these last several days is about eating and drinking and relieving herself. She still smiles – or did this morning before I gave her that dang pill – but she’s also a tad demented, along with her deafness, so maybe the smile is a far-off lunacy which has ended up on her face masked as joy. I still see her though and tell her every day that I love her. She can’t hear but she hears me. And did I mention her ears? A perfect pair of caramel colored velvet triangles. 

Tomorrow I will see if she can walk or if the pill I introduced today propelled her into a deeper decline. I am going to do right by my girl. She will not remain floor bound only to watch us all live our lives moving in and out of her room, our kitchen. She will sail on and ride the calm sea and fly into the heavens light as a cloud. While bodies fail, love stories are forever. 

I saw this ad soon after I got Lucie and found her resemblance to this wolf incredible.

connection, Encouragement, Friends, Uncategorized

Mean Girls

I met my son for lunch yesterday. He’s now a fulltime worker with a direct deposit and a lunch hour, and we agreed tacos on the westside would taste good. It’s both strange and wonderful to see him midday in khakis and wearing the new J.Crew golf shirt I bought him. He’s starting to show a little fatigue from the grind, but thankfully is challenged and using his brain far more than he would hanging around the house. And a paycheck sure feels good.

Afterward I decided to pop into Serena & Lily, an overpriced home furnishings store which sends me their catalog I’ve occasionally flipped through. Its expensive beachy vibe and pillows with playful pom-poms both attract me and put me off – much like the Williams-Sonoma catalog does with similarly overt overpricing. Having never seen a store in person, I was curious. I’ve tried before but there was an “appointment only” sign on the door – in italic tasteful script of course – and so I left. This time, that tasteful off-putting sign was still there, but I thought I’m already here and besides, I don’t see any customers inside. A woman on the sidewalk nearby beamed at me, surprised at my gall; she’d wanted to browse too but admitted she didn’t dare bother with such an unfriendly, exclusive vibe.

Through the door as I was peering inside, I saw three women, one wearing that anxious look you get right before a party you’re hosting is to begin. We locked eyes and I stood at the door and waited it out. She walked toward me, a head shaking no look on her face, as if I were a rat scratching to get in, and she’d once again need to remind me the answer is still, “No you can’t come in here.” My persistence paid off however and she unlocked the almighty door, poked her head out feigning ignorance as to what I might possibly want. There was a rushed exchange: HER: “We are appointment only.” ME: “I just wanted to browse quickly.” HER: grudgingly looking at her watch, “I have a 3 o’clock appointment.” Seeing as I wasn’t going away, and it was barely 2:00pm, and disgruntled by the few choices left her, she let me slink in past her and promptly locked the door behind us. 

If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

One friendly looking woman was fluffing pillows and positioning an expensive throw diagonally over the sofa’s arm.  As I looped through the store leaning in to turn over price tags – ouch! – the main woman was back at her post at the large white desk in the center of the space. She was the queen bee and it was clear behind her tortoise shell low sitting readers that she called the shots. I made my way to fabrics – one of the reasons I wanted in in the first place – but the grey windowpane Sunbrella swatch advertised online wasn’t instore. The woman working fabrics offered me a sample of a different brand performance fabric – perhaps my consolation prize if I would just leave already ?- and encouraged me to go home and dirty it up, even pull out a Sharpie, because this linen-like square was indestructible, and could even tolerate a Clorox soak if it came to that. It was beautiful but unfortunately my cats would shred it to pieces.

Looping back around to the queen’s desk, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to discuss our unfortunate greeting at her door. I asked if this appointment-only situation was due to Covid, and she nodded yes before I could even finish my sentence, happy I gave her a response to offer me before she’d have to rustle one up, using up precious energy reserved for her 3 o’clock. I told her she might find she’ll lose customers turning them away at the door. All I got next was, “We’re California-based” – as if that helps explain the unfriendly vibe? – and smiling, enthusiastically adding, “… actually, we’ve done really well.” (with the implied: … by being picky about just who we let in). Pleased with her rapid recovery from and command of our exchange, she went back to the desk and her busy downward glance mode, eyes ever watching but with readers now slid lower.

I told her she might find she’ll lose customers turning them away at the door.

I finished my two-minute sweep through the store returning to the fluffing pillows woman who seemed flustered when I asked her a product question. She revealed it was her first day and I warmly congratulated her. What I really wanted to tell her was to run now, because I can’t imagine the queen would tolerate such product illiteracy or ease her career path in any way. I considered sitting on the couch because it was gorgeous and I sort of wanted to fall in love with it, but with the puffed perfect pillows in place and three sets of side-eying eyes, I thought better of it. The price for the soft linen sofa, like most things in there, was ridiculous, untouchable and untestable, so I cut my losses and headed for the door. The queen rushed behind me as if unsure I might change my mind and stay or if I could work the lock. I surprised her with my lock turning skills and she seemed newly energized with the prospect of my leaving. I left, heard the lock turn and never looked back.

Sorry folks – I’m sure this is a great store and if you shop there and can afford the cute pillows and such and the ladies take you in and manage to find smiles for their faces, then good for you. I, however, don’t fall in that group and this experience reminded me why I don’t want to. There’s a certain feeling you get around people like that, and it’s mostly with women I’ve found. You know the sinking feeling. Like after you’ve gotten a haircut you’re unsure about and an acquaintance (or good friend even) will do the long stare, cock her head and with a knowing naivete inquire, “Did you get your haircut?” which is usually followed by a smirk, another stare taking in the atrocities and then silence. And there you are, naked AND with a questionable haircut. 

There’s a certain feeling you get around people like that.

There was that time I hosted a dinner party for good friends and another couple they’re close with joined in. We know this couple, but haven’t hung out with them socially, but because our friends made the suggestion, we happily included them. As I do with most gatherings I host, I busted my ass marinating beautiful meats and seafood for grilling, making delicious sides and getting the house picked up and (mostly) cleaned up for the event. The guests brought wine and the wife of this other couple, a salad. It was delightful yet simple, and there was something about it that drew me in, but I wasn’t sure what. When the time was right, I complimented her and then asked what was in it. Gatekeeper of salad secrets, she looked my way, smiled and offered up a paltry, “a little this, a little that.” I’ll stop here and admit there was a time I wasn’t as generous with giving out my recipes, and there are still a few for cookies and cakes I occasionally sell that I won’t give out. But mostly, if you liked what I made you, I’m thrilled because c’mon, folks, isn’t that the point? And if you bother to put yourself out there and ask me for the recipe, I will gladly give it to you. Thinking perhaps I wasn’t clear enough, later in the evening as we’d all further loosened up with more wine, I asked directly, “Your salad is great. I’d love to make it some time. Could you share your recipe?” And then the smile returned to her face and then… nothing. Again, I’m standing there naked before her and she won’t even throw me a towel. 

Be warned: Mr. Longlegs loves swings

Flashback to Trinity School, 6th grade and I’m eleven and enjoying time on the playground in that relaxed dappled autumn sun September brings. I noticed a Daddy Longlegs at the base of the slide and shrieked, quickly moving toward the swings. My friends noticed and snickered, but now on the swings, I was safe. After several minutes pumping my legs and climbing high into the sky, I felt something. There it was, another one climbing up the chain of my swing. Heart racing, I slowed down and jumped off, unable to silence my shriek or this terror, running inside to the bathroom where I’d stay until recess was over. Sitting on the toilet in my stall, I gradually calmed down and let the horrific events fade, when all of a sudden, the bathroom door opened, and a few giggly girls came bounding in. I stayed quiet but I knew they knew I was in there, and then they flung handfuls of Daddy Longlegs over the stall door. It was then that I endured a slow-motion horror flick, Daddy Longlegs raining down onto my head, their bent quivering legs scurrying around my scalp and neck. Of course, I had to run my hand through my hair to get them off and, thanks to the adrenaline kicking in, I stayed at it until it seemed they were literally out of my hair. 

We’re all vulnerable but often try not to look the part. Each time, the hurt that seeps in when you share your heart or fears with a friend and instantly regret it because you’re now exposed or when you ask for help when you’re feeling awkward or ashamed revealing your weaknesses, feels awful and trains you to retract back into your shell. Those times when you let your guard down and complain about a relationship you’re struggling with, suddenly you aren’t interesting any more. Your mystique has melted and faced with the real you – or the real you on that particular day – some people don’t want to look anymore, don’t want their image of you to become too real, too human, because maybe it makes them all too real as well, and feel less special, especially now hanging out with you. They need things fluffed up and crisp, like the Serena & Lily showroom promises and delivers.

Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people. – Fred Rogers

If we’re being honest, I suspect we’d each agree that it’s our weak spots that make us interesting and real, make us special, and help us grow. If only we could stop judging each other and ourselves, maybe we’d learn more about one other and really see each other just as we are. I’d like to think that there are far more women out there who are supportive, loyal, and unconditionally generous, and thankfully I know many who are. 

Maybe we could be a little less picky about who we let in, give everyone a chance, and put bullying, elitism and shaming aside, or even better, away for good. Women can be a source of great support, information and joy for one another. We can lift each other up, share our delicious secrets and do away with making the other girl undress while we quizzically stare at her. We’re all naked and imperfect and just doing our best, so please girls, let’s give each other a break and a chance to grow and learn and let go; let’s give each other some love. Ourselves too.

Nothing’s perfect, not even this gorgeous magnolia.