Learning to relax and go with the flow.

My career has taken me on many adventures which have involved different modes of travel.

On one such occasion I was asked to speak on Captiva Island in Florida. I went with a friend of mine, first by air and then we rented a car to get to the island.

Sandy is somewhat of a control freak and so she wanted to drive. I was fine with that since I really don’t care if I drive or not, and so we set out in our rented convertible which we felt would make the trip even more enjoyable.

The day was exquisite and the scenery was beautiful. However, I could tell Sandy was uptight.

I asked her if she was all right and she answered rather tersely that she had to pay attention to the road and the signs so she wouldn’t make any mistakes getting us to our destination. The word “mistake” is not an option for my friend.

As we headed down a curving stretch of the road, she spotted a sign that said: Toll bridge, three miles, three dollars.”

Urgently, Sandy asked if I had any money.

I replied, “I don’t know. Don’t worry. We’ve got plenty of time before we get to the toll to find it.”

In my mind, three miles is three years away.

“I need to know if you have three one-dollar bills.” she said.

“Why? Won’t a five do?” I replied.

“No.” Sandy was starting to get irritated. “That will take too much time. Just look in your purse, will you?”

Well, now we were in trouble. My purse is not just a purse. It’s an abyss.

It’s a large leather object that weighs about 15 pounds. I have enough stuff in it to do electrolysis, open heart surgery, and cook a pizza.

Attempts to hastily retrieve any particular item quickly is a joke. But since Sandy’s face was turning purple, I dug in, looking for the elusive three one-dollar bills.

“Well, do you have them?” she asked.

At that moment, my fingers touched bottom and slid around a trove of coins. “I’ve got lots of change,” I said happily.

Sandy groaned. “We can’t give them that much change. “What are we going to do?”

Her inability to go with the flow was about to give her a stroke.

I casually responded that we could pitch a tent and wait for someone to give us the three one-dollar bills, or just pull a Thelma and Louise to end it all.

The toll person could have cared less what I gave her, and Sandy finally lightened up enough for us to enjoy our time together.

Ultimately we can control nothing. Learn to be flexible.

Black Friday benights a tradition

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving, a day dedicated to family, friends and food. I remember hours of conversation on what to make with my mother and grandmother and who was coming to dinner. I would try to straddle two worlds: The one my ex-husband lived in, which meant a traditional Thanksgiving, and another that demanded some Italian dishes.

Trying to make a traditional American meal while also satisfying two Italian women is close to impossible. And then there’s the issue of them possibly sitting next to a relative they didn’t like. You don’t want to be eating your drumstick while an Italian woman is giving you the “evil eye.” In the end you simply laughed at how close you were to being part of a soap opera. You tried to make everyone’s favorite dish but there was always someone who complained about not getting their creamed onions or puréed parsnips or “where’s the lasagna.” If it was up to my grandmother she would have stuffed the turkey with the lasagna. She loved to stuff everything and everybody.

The conversation always centered on the food, a missing relative, or periodic reprimands to the children if their behavior was not pristine. Of course there were also intermittent forays into the kitchen by my mother, who would give me the high sign to follow her. I knew what was to follow, which could be similar to the Inquisition. She wanted to know what I thought about my ex-husband’s family and how deplorable their manners were or didn’t I just hate how Aunt Mattie’s dentures kept clicking. The only way I could tear her away was to open a bottle of her favorite red wine and seduce her back to the table with its aroma.

I recall those days with great nostalgia. The time leading up to Thanksgiving was not muddled with ads for Black Friday. No one even thought about getting up from the dinner table to hurry to a store in the hopes of getting a bargain. It would have been looked upon as a total travesty. No matter how much you might have wanted to skip the whole gathering, you knew how important it was to your memory bank. Of course, retail was not one of the centerpieces of our economy at that time. But, I know if my mother and grandmother were alive today they would be have rosary beads in hand to pray for the people who left to the dinner table to go shopping.

I think we’ve gone nuts. When buying “stuff” takes the place of spending time with loved ones, then we have a real problem. The day after Thanksgiving used to be a chill-out day. You ate your leftovers and relaxed. Now there’s an incessant call to action from retailers. “Hurry, get your stuff while the sale is on.” The ultimate irony is there will always be a sale. But those who believe the hype might even go so far as to camp outside the store and cook their turkey on a grill.

What I’ve realized is that whoever came up with the name Black Friday hit the nail on the head. It is very black. And if we are going to continue this insanity then it’s time to wear black armbands and put a black wreath on the door to acknowledge the death of traditions.

I, however, am going to cook my turkey and lasagna, pour a glass of red wine and toast those those who made me realize what Thanksgiving really means.

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