Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Being Fabulous is Exhausting

Sheila, being fabulous in NYC!
Our engagement celebration vacation ended just in time before we ran out of steam! Sheila remarked that it seemed like we were away for a very long time yet it had only been 6 days. But 6 days away is:

Sunday - Working on the House

We flew into Newark and landed about 6:15. After taking the sky tram to get the rental car (what, exactly, is the big deal with that sky tram?) and driving to Spotswood, we stopped at a traditional Jersey diner for a bite to eat and then went into the Spotswood house.

Broken door at the car rental place ... classic Jersey look
What a wreck!  We (and I say "we" now, meaning Sheila and me) (hey, we're getting married, so my mess is her mess) had a company come in about 4 weeks ago to do an estate sale, and while they sold some stuff they didn't even come close to emptying that house. That was the purpose of the estate sale ... Get rid of junk! What they DID do was sell the shelving and take everything that was on the shelves and dump it onto the floor. And, put all of the contents from the kitchen cabs on TOP of the counters.

No, it's not a movie, just a screen shot

So, we (italics added for emphasis) had to get the house straightened out since it was now a huge mess. Sheila was fantastic in getting a lot of the kitchen and studio stuff organized and directed the Donate-This-Crap drive for stuff going to Goodwill. It was close to 10:30 pm (10:30 PM, like night time 10:30 pm) by the time Sheila ran out of steam. For those who know Sheila, 10:30 pm is like a normal person's 3:30 am ...

Oh, did I tell you the A/C wasn't working properly? So all of this is being done in a house registering 84 degrees with all of the windows opened and fans running ...

Monday - Work on House, Donate Junk, Dinner w/Family 

Monday morning continued the cleanup, just about straight through until 4:00 pm or so. Pretty lousy start to our vacation, huh? I did a run to Goodwill and donated a bunch of stuff, mostly doll furniture, Christmas themed goods and clothing. Sheila had some great ideas about moving furniture and staging the house so it would show better, so we moved some stuff around and cleaned counters and bathrooms and floors (all of which were in pretty good shape BEFORE the estate sale) (I don't know what those folks did to mess that place up so totally).

Staged, thanks to Sheila
We got cleaned up and ready to go to dinner at my brother Frank's home. Frank's wife, Jill, made a fantastic meal (really, really good) and we enjoyed a nice relaxing evening with Frank, Jill and one of my other brother's, Buzz. We left at 9:30 or so and went back to Spotswood ... yes, the house was STILL hot inside! And it was, again, 10:30 before we settled in. Sheila was on a roll ...

Tuesday -  Ferry to NYC, Garment District, Wicked 

We decided to take the ferry (NY Waterways) from Belford NJ. It was about a 1 hour trip and the views were wonderful (Sheila had never seen the famous NYC skyline). Parking was free in Belford, so it was much better (and cheaper!) than fighting NYC traffic to get to the hotel.

NYC WTC view from ferry
NY Waterways has a shuttle bus that takes you to various points in Manhattan, all part of the ferry trip fee. We took the shuttle to Times Square and had a short 5 block walk to our hotel. We were a bit too early for check-in so we left our luggage with the bellhop, grabbed a quick lunch and then walked down to the garment district (not far, 10 blocks or so).

Our first stop in the district was M&S Schmalberg Custom Fabric Flowers. This place was coolio, for sure! This is not a traditional storefront like Michaels or Joann's ... quite the opposite. You go into a commercial building and take the elevator to the 7th floor. There is a small conference room  that exhibits some of the most magnificent flowers you'll ever see, and for that alone the trip is worth it. But the real gold lies in the manufacturing area where you can see these creations being made, by hand, in all of their beautiful detail. 

There is something about being shown the "behind the scenes" operations that result in major stars wearing the goods you're seeing designed right in front of your eyes! While we were there Warren (the owner) let us see a custom order for the Broadway show "Wicked", which we were on our way to see that evening. It was really cool ...

Sheila was in fabric heaven ... after M&S we visited a bunch of other places, one of which had more zippers than either of us ever imagined existed (Sheila had a custom zipper made for one of her dress ideas). Another place had imported Italian blouses, in a style Sheila really loved, at crazy low prices! It was a wild afternoon ...

That evening, we had a real NYC fast dinner of pizza slices and espressos at a little joint (you have to say "joint" when you're in the city) (you could say "pizza place" but then you look like a tourist) just down the street from our hotel. 

A few short blocks away, we arrived at the Gershwin Theatre to see "Wicked". 

Overall, a fantastic day and evening! We didn't get to bed until about 11:00 pm! Can you imagine that!!

Wednesday - garment district, Laura, jewelry, Waitress

Wednesday started off with breakfast, just basic stuff (eggs, french toast, coffee, OJ) just down the street from our hotel. Right after we finished, we hiked back down to the garment district to get stuff Sheila missed on Tuesday (did I tell you Sheila REALLY liked the garment district?). Just before lunch time we returned to the hotel to drop off our purchases and then tried (the most important word is "tried") to use Uber (for the very first time in our lives) to get to Brooklyn to meet with Laura at a vintage shop and have lunch.

I was a serious Uber-signaling failure, so I had to get a taxi to take us to Brooklyn. Of course, by now we were late and I was getting Jersey-stressed for the first time in a year. Sheila was her usual calm self, just looking at me stressing and inwardly rolling her eyes (Sheila would never roll her eyes at me when I was Jersey-stressing, but I know she was doing eye cartwheels in her brain). We finally got to Laura and the vintage shop, 10' Single by Stella Dallas, about 1 hour late.

Tons of vintage clothing jammed into this shop, racks and racks of old stuff ... Sheila and Laura we looking for dresses, or at least dress ideas, but I was somewhat lost in there. After all, I'm already vintage ... if I get any more vintage they'll be shoveling dirt over me ...

One of the things Sheila & I really like to do is to "be tall" around other people. There are times where we clearly tower over those around us, and in those moments we relish the opportunity to be tall (being tall also comes in handy when you are miffed with someone ... just be tall next to them and they'll fall into line). 

Meeting Laura really made us all feel like being tall.  I'm 6'5", and Sheila and Laura are both between 5'11" & 6'. We were definitely being tall while wandering the vintage clothing store.

After the vintage place we went around the corner to a cute little French luncheon restaurant and all had wonderful crepes. Sheila & Laura both ate healthy stuff (of course) while I had the not-so-healthy version. Owing to my poor planning with the Uber deal our time with Laura was far too short, but we'll get a chance to catch up with her & Lord (Laura's sig other) at the wedding in September!(You DO know Sheila & I are getting married in September, right?) Lord is going to officiate our wedding, so cool ...

Lunch was wonderful but over too quick as we had to make our way to Anna Sheffield Designs, the jewelry designer in SoHo. Sheila was desperately seeking some nesting rings to match the engagement ring we bought for her in Hood River OR back in June, and Anna Sheffield didn't disappoint. We found exactly what we had hoped for, in Sheila's size, and it was available for us to take it that day! Y'all will have to wait for pics on those beauties, though ...

We successfully Uber-ed back to the hotel, got dressed for dinner at the Glass House Tavern (wonderful meal) and then on to see the Broadway play "Waitress". We had purchased the Waitress tickets at the TKTS booth in Times Square, 50% off the day of the show. Great seats about 9 rows back. The show was really quite good, we both thoroughly enjoyed it!
Really great seats!!

It was another nearly 11:00 pm evening for Sheila, some kind of record must have been broken here by now ...

... almost done, hang in there ...
... I know, it's long ...
... Hey! you ought to try writing this missive ... 

Thurs. Ellen's Diner, 5th Ave, Ferry, LaTavola

We both woke up Thursday morning looking for breakfast. We had to check out by noon, but that gave us plenty of time to grab a bite and stroll around a little bit more ... because ...we get up at 5:30 every day, yes, even on vacation. So by 7:00 we are out the door and ready to get the day started!

First stop was Ellen's Stardust Diner, a famous NYC attraction where the waiters and waitresses put on show in between serving. I knew it happened at night but I didn't know they did this all day long! What a great time we had, watching the performers and just relaxing before the journey home.
Two of the waiters singing
After breakfast we took a walk along the famous 5th Avenue and gawked at the jewelry and other fantastic stuff in the windows. We didn't go in anywhere ...you could just see the security staff in Harry Winston Jewelers inwardly chuckling at us ... but it sure was fun to look!

The trip back to Spotswood was uneventful, except for when we bought some gelato in NYC while waiting for the ferry, only to realize that the gelato we make at home is about 2000% better!
Thursday night Sheila and I went to a NJ restaurant where I used to play to have dinner with Vinnie & Marilyn and to catch a set or two of jazz. Dinner was great, music was great, Vinnie & I sat in for a tune ... a great night with very good friends to close out our vacation trip!

It was great fun, all of it ... even the house cleaning ... because Sheila and I did it together. But, as told to us by Laura and stated above, being fabulous is exhausting! We were glad to get back to our home in Georgia! 

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

1 Year Later

4 of Sheila's 5 Grandkids

It’s the 4th of July 2017 and we’re about to head out for a party at Gina’s house in Cedartown GA. Gina has a ranch, replete with horses, goats, ducks, dogs, cats and other assorted animals. I think this is a pretty big affair, lots of friends along with the usual family clan. Oh, Gina is Sheila’s younger sister … sorry, sometimes I forget that not everyone knows my whole life story …
The Rhoden girls ... Linda, Sheila, Gina
Sheila is making a cake for the party, it’s sort of a test balloon for our wedding in September. Sheila really wants to make our own wedding cake rather than paying someone outrageous coin for a cake (Sheila is practical and energetic, willing to make the cake and save some nickles whereas I would just laze out and pay someone too much), plus she makes pretty good cakes. Sheila baked the first test version for my birthday a few weeks ago and I LOVED that one, but she’s trying a few different ideas before settling. It’s a good thing we have family right here … we can off-load some of this cake without having to eat the whole thing (Sheila can tolerate a little extra weight since she’s skinny bones, but I sure as heck don’t need to put on a lot of weight) (It took me a full year to lose that last 100 pounds) (But dang, that cake is awfully good!!!)

While on the subject of baking, when did THIS happen??
Not even trying to hide the fact that they are ripping us off

Four pounds? Really?It's bad enough that coffee is now 12 or 13 oz., do we really need to get hosed for 1 pound of sugar? I feel violated, and I'm not even baking the cake ... but I do use sugar when making ice cream & gelato, so I have a right to gripe. (I'm quite proficient at ice cream and gelato preparation) 

So, while Sheila is cake-making, I’m sitting here typing and watching YouTube (Live at Darryl’s House, good series) (This one has Jason Mraz, a fav of Sheila’s) (I do like Darryl Hall). Watching the players on the show makes me think of how cool it has been to be hosting rehearsals here at the house, just a bunch of musicians playing music for themselves and not worrying about whether anyone is walking out of the club, or if it’s too loud, or too soft. If someone blows a note or skips a beat, our not-Live-At-Darryl’s-House players just laugh it off and run through it again. A bunch of good guys, all retired, not stressing, enjoying playing … like a mini “Live at Darryl’s House” in a way.
Not Live @ Darryl's House 
Of course, while sitting here typing and listening to music (while Sheila does all of the work baking), I’m sipping on some seltzer, coolio raspberry flavor, and proceed to spill it all over the new carpet … I’m just lucky it was seltzer and not some funky dark staining color. Madison came to the rescue and slurped up most of the mess, so overall no big damage done. (Yes, I fessed up to Sheila, she was outwardly fine with it) (Probably doing the silent scream in the inside, though). Bella just looked at me with the disdain only smart dogs can pull off ...
Bella's "You're an idiot" look

Today is actually 1 year ago that Sheila and I “met”. Actually, our first interchange was yesterday, July 3rd, but our first real 1-to-1 interaction was on July 4th, just a simple what-are-you-doing-for-the-holiday thing (Sheila with Shauna & fam, me at niece Gretchen & Sarah’s house). It was a tough holiday for both of us, first time being alone without our respective spouses in a social environment. We commiserated later that night about how the day went and wrote a bit about the sadness of it all. But inside, I knew something rather wonderful was happening, I just didn’t realize it was going to completely change my life.

And here we are, 1 year later, living together, engaged to be married and both happier than we ever thought possible.  For a whole lot of you that follow this blog I know it may seem like I have a tendency to drone on and on about Sheila, but she has literally saved my life in  every possible way. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without her, but it sure as heck wouldn’t be this.

I started writing this blog just about a year ago, too. My original intent was to tell others who were in my position (recently widowed after a long period of illness) how I was coping with everything. As my relationship with Sheila expanded, the blog was a way to let others know that life after loss doesn’t have to be terminal in its own way, that we can find happiness and continue to live … we just need to keep our eyes open and our hearts available for the possibility of additional love.

Finding a new love doesn’t in any way diminish all of those feelings you have for your departed partner. If anything, it frees you to explore a whole new set of feelings that may have been repressed, or lost, or forgotten as the cause that ended the life of your sig other took over every emotion you had. I know, in my case, I was so bogged down in the slow countdown to the end that those thoughts and emotions of the eventuality of it all took priority over feelings of joy, love, happiness and expectation. And while the loss was devastating, the feeling of renewal after meeting Sheila was incredible.

We both were very careful as the relationship developed, making sure the feelings that arose were not merely a reaction to the losses we both experienced. Neither one of us was looking for a temporary solution or momentary gratification … quite the opposite, in fact. I fully expected to be alone for the rest of my life, as did Sheila. I certainly didn’t expect to retire, move to Georgia and become engaged, that’s for sure!

I write this blog as a sign of hope, a real-life example of the good things that can happen if you are willing to open yourself up again. As I’ve said many times over, if it can happen to me it can happen to anyone!

The party was a huge success, as was the cake! Carmon, Gina's sig other, cooked more pork butt than all of us could ever eat, even though we stuffed ourselves way past the point of sensibility. The weather could have cooperated more, but despite some rain it was a great day!
5 of the 7 smoked pork butts
Pulled and ready to eat!
The chef's
Gratuitous goat pic for my brothers
Happy 4th of July!
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