Directionally Impaired

I’m directionally impaired.medium-Compass-166.6-2348.gif

Have been since grade school when I learned that north is at the top of the compass and south is at the bottom. Naturally I thought that meant north was always in front of me and south was behind me. I made it happily through my childhood years without any major traumas due to my directional deficiency, but this handicap became a problem when I got my driver’s license in high school in Phoenix a few lifetimes ago.

Phoenix, being the “valley of the (scorching) sun,” has some gorgeous natural landmarks surrounding it. Problem is one mountain looks pretty much like another. So when someone would say, “Go toward South Mountain, then head east on such-and-such street,” I was clueless. South Mountain, North Mountain, what’s the difference? My only saving grace was when my destination was somewhere in the vicinity of Camelback Mountain. Appropriately named, that was a mountain even I could identify.

After high school I spent five years in EuroBitburg.12pe, courtesy of Uncle Sam, and never got lost; much to my family’s amazement. That’s because in Germany, I usually traveled by train or bus, plus most of the towns and villages near our American Air Force Base were so small even I could find my way around them. And in London they have this great color-coded underground subway system called the tube.

Piece of cake. Cup of tea.

It was when I returned stateside that the trouble began. While I was overseas, my family had moved from Phoenix to Sacramento, where the myriad of freeways in California’s capital city boggled my mind. They all sounded so similar: Interstate 80, Business 80, and “the old 880.” To further confuse unsuspecting travelers, the old 880 is now I-80 and the old I-80 is now Business 80. Got that? I don’t.

Even my then-eight-year-old nephew Joshua knew his way around better than I did. One day he was in the car with me when I was trying to figure the way to a friend’s house in a part of town I didn’t know very well. This time, I knew the general direction I needed to go, but was bewildered by the variety of freeway options to get me there.

Josh suggested one, but I disregarded him. After all, he was only eight. But as the lights of Sacramento receded in the distance, he piped up from the back seat, “Aunt Laura, we’re on our way to San Francisco.”

(Excerpted and adapted from my first book, Dated Jekyll, Married Hyde.)

How about you? Are you directionally impaired? Or is it just me?

Not High Maintenance; Highly Sensitive

Sunroom
Sunroom sanctuary

I’ve never thought of myself as a highly sensitive person. Somewhat sensitive? Yes. But highly sensitive? Not so much. However, after reading this eye-opening article by Jenn Granneman discussing “The Highly Sensitive Person”, a book by Dr. Elaine N. Aron, I realized I’m a lot more sensitive than I thought.

I thought I was just high maintenance. Or old. Here’s a few things this highly sensitive person (HSP) needs:

  • Time to decompress – According to the article, “noisy, busy environments can wreak havoc on a sensitive person’s highly reactive nervous system.” Yes! Crowded restaurants with blaring music, shrieking kids, and 17 TVs playing sports make me want scream, “Shut the hell up!” Instead, I just get the hell out of there. (This is also why I don’t frequent heavy metal concerts, clubs, or jam-packed stadiums.) I’d rather curl up with a good book and a “cuppa” in my quiet little cottage.
  • Plenty of sleep – Everyone gets irritable when they don’t get enough sleep, but the article says, “lack of sleep for the sensitive person can make life almost unbearable.” Preach. Eight hours of sleep a night is my ideal, but I can manage on seven. Any less than that and it’s not pretty. Trust me. Ask my husband.
  • Healthy meals spaced regularly throughout the day – Thanks to this article I learned a great new word: “hangry.” That’s me when I don’t eat regularly. The author says this is because “extreme hunger can mess up a sensitive person’s mood or concentration.” Got that right. Michael knows to leave a clear path to the kitchen when I announce, “I need to eat something RIGHT NOW!”
  • Time to get things done – “Sensitive people hate busy schedules and rushing from one thing to the next.” Can I get an Amen? Packed weekends without any downtime especially stress me out. I can’t be going, going from one activity to another all weekend long, no matter how fun it is. That’s why I never schedule things on Sunday nights (and preferably after Sunday lunch). I need my Sunday nap. Naps are delicious. Almost better than chocolate.
  • A space of my own – HSP’s need “a quiet place to retreat to” when they need to get away from noise and people. My home is my retreat. And luckily I have several retreat rooms to choose from: sunroom, den, living room, bedroom. My favorite newest retreat spot is our patio where I’ll stretch out in my gravity chair next to the new fountain Michael got with his last work bonus. Running water, a meditative margarita and sweet Mellie-girl sprawled across my chest. It doesn’t get much better than that.
  • Beauty – When the author wrote, “I’m deeply affected by my surroundings, especially the way they look. Cluttered, chaotic, or just plain ugly environments bother me,” I did an inner fist pump and breathed out, “Yes!”
    IMG_0858
    (Excuse the catty-wampus chair. Other than that, all that’s missing from this bucolic outdoor scene is me, Mellie, and a margarita.)

    I can’t stand chaotic, messy environments. Cluttered dining room tables–aka the drop zone–are a pet peeve. Bills, groceries, junk mail, glasses, magazines, pens, snacks, piles of paper, errant tools and all manner of things get dropped on the table. Makes me twitchy. And that other word that sounds like that. The only thing the dining room table should hold is that week’s tablecloth, Pimpernel place mats, candles, and a jug of fresh flowers. Although I do allow food and dishes at mealtime.

  • I also like a clutter-free living room. (Stop laughing, Lana. And Shane.) There’s a difference between warm and cozy and full of things that matter to us and cluttered with stuff that doesn’t belong. I’m a big believer in beauty and everything in its place. Before I go to bed (in addition to making sure the front door is locked) I’ll put Mellie’s toys in her basket, pick up books, shoes, jackets, and any empty cups or glasses and return them to their rightful place. Then I’ll straighten coasters, adjust crooked area rugs, tuck in slipcovers, plump pillows, and angle pictures. It only takes five minutes—seven at the most—and in the morning I wake up to a pretty, tidy living room. And all is right in my world.
  • I wish I could say the rest of my house is always as neat and tidy, but I’m not Wonder Woman. During the work week, clothes get dumped on bedroom chairs at night, shoes multiply in front of the closet, and Mellie’s random dust bunnies polka-dot the hardwood floors. By the end of the week though, the piles of clothes and shoes really agitate my aesthetic sensibilities so I spend an hour Saturday mornings doing a quick power clean so I can relax and enjoy the rest of my weekend. Thankfully, after 25 years of marriage, my sentimental pack-rat-man knows the importance of keeping the common areas clean and clutter-free. Sure, when unexpected guests drop by we may have to do a quick scoop and dump into the back room (his bursting-at-the-seams office/studio) but that’s what doors are for.

Any other Highly Sensitive Person’s out there who can relate to this? Don’t be shy; I know I’m not the only one who needs my Sunday naps and drop-free-zone dining room table. What pushes your HSP buttons?

 

Tub Travels

Bathtub Vacation

Everyone needs to get away from it all occasionally. That’s why people take vacations to such exotic locales as Greece, the British Virgin Islands, and Hawaii. Some of us, however, have to settle for the economy excursion, or as I prefer to think of it, the budget-bathtub plan.

My tub is my ticket to paradise. All I need is a good book, some hot water, and Calgon (lately replaced by Bed, Bath & Beyond) bath salts to “take me away.”

It’s not the same for Michael. He’s a shower-guy. I enjoy showers too, but I’d IMG_0832much rather settle in for a long evening’s soak. And I come prepared. A cup of steaming hot tea with milk and sugar and some English shortbread on a flowery plate is essential if I’m reading Maeve Binchy or Rosamunde Pilcher. If I’m reading Sue Grafton, Daniel Silva or David Baldacci, I’ll have a margarita. But if it’s Harry Potter, Little Women, or Mitford, I choose milk and cookies.

Just not Oreos. Dunking’s too difficult in the tub. (Those little crumbs from the chocolate cookie outside have a tendency to adhere to the skin when there’s bath oil in the water.)

It took my husband a little while to adjust to my bathing habits. We’d been married less than a month when one night I told him I was going to “have a bath” (an English turn of phrase I’ve held onto after living there years ago; so much more elegant and Downtonesque than “take” a bath.) Michael was busy in the other room when I informed him of my bathing intentions, so just said, “Uh huh,” and continued with whatever he was doing.

An hour later, however, he called in to me, “Are you all right?”

“Yes. I’m just reading.”

“Okay.”

After another hour had passed and I still hadn’t surfaced, he knocked on the bathroom door, then poked his head in, concerned. He found me in the empty tub. Buck naked and bone dry. Clutching my John Grisham.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Trying to finish this. I’m on the last chapter.”

“But there’s no water in the tub.”

“I know. It got cold, so I let it out.”

“Wouldn’t you be more comfortable in a chair or on the couch?”

“Not now. I only have a couple pages to go.”

(Adapted from Dated Jekyll, Married Hyde)

How about you? Do you take tub vacations too? What kind of refreshments do you bring for the trip?