Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Those Vacationing Newmans

My husband and I aren’t the sort of people who feel compelled to take two weeks out of our summer in order to get away from it all.  We’ve designed our lives as if we’re taking a permanent vacation.  Sure, we work – a lot – but our work doesn’t necessarily feel like work, so we’re really not that concerned with an annual escape.

An occasional change of scenery, however, is a good thing, so I enthusiastically received the news when Mr. Newman informed me a few weeks ago that we would soon return to our little corner of the Gulf of Mexico.  “Clear your schedule,” he simply said.

Mr. Newman makes things happen.  His job forces him to travel, whereas mine pretty much keeps me within a five mile radius of our home.  He knew getting out of town for a few days would prove beneficial to me.  He’s aces, no doubt about it.

The hotel we booked is only 45 minutes from our front door, so we decided to leave around mid-day.  I vowed to unplug and not think about work-related stuff that morning, but found it difficult to do so.  Without any other ideas for engagement, I did what many folks do when needing a quick diversion – I turned on the TV, ‘just to see what’s on’.  In case you’re not aware of it, Sunday morning programming is quite lacking, to say the least.   After several minutes of channel surfing, I happened upon a reality show starring Wilson Phillips. I remembered playing their early 90’s anthem Hold On back when I started in radio.  It’s a catchy tune, and the fact that they’re the daughters of 60’s pop royalty adds a certain something to their harmonizing.   I didn’t know they had a show, I think to myself.  Why do they have show?  I ask myself.  I decide to watch in order to get an answer to my question.

That question was never answered, so after the third episode you can imagine my delight when Mr. Newman tells me to get in the car.  “We’re leaving,” he announces.

He’s a take-charge kind of guy.  I like that about him.

We chat for bit during the drive, and then fall into that comfortable silence that strikes couples who’ve been together a long time.  I begin humming Hold On, and wonder what it would be like to have Alec Baldwin as a brother-in-law.

We reach our destination, change into our swimsuits, and hit the pool.  Sitting at the pool bar, I tell him that this is the first trip we’ve taken in a while in which I’m not obsessing over the well-being of our cats.  Our niece, Stephanie, and her husband recently bought a house in our neck of the woods.  Having them so close is great.  It equals increased family time and, more importantly, free cat-sitting services.  As a childless woman, the maternal instincts I have are showered upon our cats.  My pride and joy, Kramer, has entered his second decade, so it’s vital to have someone monitor him on a regular basis. 

“I guess Steph will check on them,” Mr. Newman says casually.

“Of course she will,” I reply.  “Why wouldn’t she?  We’ve texted back and forth all weekend about it.”  Stephanie is one of the most responsible young women I know, yet his comment plants the seeds of uncertainty.    What if something comes up and she can't check on the cats?  I wonder. What if she forgets?  I immediately start plotting revenge against my niece, who’s never given me any cause to doubt her. 

A second pool-side margarita eases my mind…somewhat.


Anyone who’s married to a full-time musician can attest to the fact that these guys keep vampire hours.  Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I’m in bed by 9:30 every night.  It’s never a problem at home.  Once I’m in bed, Mr. Newman has complete control of ‘the downstairs’, as we call it.  I don’t know what he does during the night, but you can bet he’s doing it with gusto.  While traveling, we’re forced to share a single room.  I don’t expect him to adopt my hours while on vacation, and he certainly doesn’t expect me to adopt his.  I fall asleep as he watches television, and awake around 2am to the sound of rustling.

“What’s going on?” I ask.

“I need a snack,” he replies.

Vowing to eat healthier while on vacation, I brought goodies such as trail mix and Annie’s All Natural Graham Cookies.  I tell him about the good-for-you-treats in the bag, and wait for his expression of gratitude.  “Nah,” he says.  “I want a Snickers bar.”  He grabs some change and heads for the vending machine.  Mr. Newman is playing a dangerous game, I think to myself.  He comes back to the room, complaining about the lack of candy in the machine.  “Try one of the graham cookies,” I smugly suggest.  “No, I got some Hostess cupcakes instead.” 


We park ourselves under an umbrella on the beach the next day.  Typically, I utilize this time to collect seashells.  As I begin my hunt, it occurs to me that I’ve more seashells back home than I know what to do with.  Earlier this summer, I tried pawning them off to my young fashionistas during fashion camp when we made jewelry.  “Don’t you have any beads, Miss Beth?”  one student inquired.  “Come on, use your imagination,” I encouraged her while jotting down the word smarty-pants next to her name on the class roster.  I immediately erased it, though, for she really did have a point.

Rocks!  Oh-my-goodness, this beach is full of them!  Each autumn, I do a bit of landscaping around the Newman house, and ‘rocks’ topped my already-written list.  Why pay $10 a bag a Lowe’s when I can get them free from Mother Nature?  I begin to fill one of the several bags I’d brought with me.  Mr. Newman watches, shaking his head, and utters what sounds like ‘silly woman’ as I bring my third bag of rocks back to our spot.

“Shall I rent a trailer to get these back to the room?”  he asks.

“No need,” I inform him.  “I can carry them back all by myself.

I like to describe myself as fit and trim, but others have described me as full-blown scrawny.  Yet I am determined to get those darn rocks back to the hotel room without breaking a sweat.  “I can help you carry those,” Mr. Newman offers.  I really have no choice but to take him up on it, but only allow him to carry back one bag.  I place the other two bags, along with my 20 lb. September edition of Vogue magazine into my knapsack and begin walking in earnest.  This isn’t so bad, I think, as I walk toward the steps leading up to Seawall Boulevard.  A few short seconds later, I discover that those steps are brutal when one is carrying her own weight in rocks and magazines, but I won’t give Mr. Newman the satisfaction of pointing out the obvious absurdity of it all.

“You’ll thank me when you see what sort of landscaping I can do with these,” I tell him for no good reason.

“Sure,” he responds. 

We stand at the corner, waiting for the okay to cross the street.  I wonder what people around us must think as they witness a grown woman covered in sand, hunched over and panting, and the man next to her, whose back could give out at any moment.  That is one lucky woman is what I’d like for them to think, because it’s the truth.


Epilogue:  I’m happy to report that Stephanie took excellent care of Kramer and Tallulah Belle.  The ‘must-have’ rocks still sit in the trunk of my car.
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Monday, August 6, 2012

A Rediscovery, If You Will...

I’m not sure how my passion for fashion resulted in a spiritual quest, but it did, so just bear with me, please, as I try to get a few things sorted out…

I discovered a long time ago the power of clothing.  When we look our best, we tend to feel our best.  As I started to pay closer attention to my wardrobe choices, a little voice from inside said to me, “Go a little deeper, Newman.”  So I did.  I came to understand that fashion isn’t simply about clothing – it’s about living.  I wanted everything in my life to be as fabulous as my wardrobe, and no matter how deep I thought I was getting, that little voice (by now, a pest) kept telling me to keep digging.  So I did.

Last week, I felt as if I’d dug to the very depths of hell.  A great deal of second-hand negativity had been thrown my way from myriad sources, and by mid-week, as I fought to get around self-righteous traffic surrounding my local Chic-Fil-A, I was officially ‘done’.  And by ‘done’, I mean fed up with society in general.  I told a friend I could easily live the rest of my life as a recluse in a cave, provided the lighting was flattering and I could have my magazine subscriptions forwarded to said cave.  She looked at me and simply said, “You don’t look well.”

Of course, that only made me feel worse, but she was right.  Not only did I not look well, I didn’t feel well, either.  A disturbance within the force is the only way I can describe it.  Of course, we did experience a full moon last week, and I take mooning seriously.  I may, too, have been suffering from a sinus infection, and I don’t take infections seriously so I probably could have benefitted by visiting my doctor before things got out of hand.  But I digress….

Feeling no better the next day, I thought a little jaunt to my neighborhood library might buoy my spirits.  I needed to return some books, anyway, and after what I can only describe as The Great Alan Jackson Overdue CD Fiasco of 2012 I like to return what I’ve borrowed before the required due date.  Anyhoo, I perused the shelves and happened upon Shirley MacLaine’s I’m Over All That.  She’s one of my favorite actresses, and I find all that ‘woo woo’ stuff she’s into quite fascinating. 

I didn’t delve into the book the minute I got home.  I first felt compelled to re-Feng Shui several areas of my house.  At this point, I was desperate, and I do believe in Feng Shui, so after spending hours rearranging plants, speaking blessings as I waved a smoking sage stick into every nook and cranny, and vacuuming the floor (bits of dried sage can be murder to get out of rug, by the way), I settled in with a cup Yerba Mate Tea (‘hippie tea’, Mr. Newman calls it), and began reading the words of Oscar-winning actress and UFO abductee Shirley MacLaine.

And this is what I learned:

-we’re spirits here in human form (I already knew this, but needed the reminder)

-our every thought, word, and deed affects the rest of humanity (see above comment in parentheses)

-Dean Martin was the one with actual mob ties, not Frank Sinatra (another testament to the super-coolness of Dean Martin)

-politics is just jazz, and Ms. MacLaine is over that jazz (me, too!)

-fear taught in the name of religion is a big part of society’s problems (agreed)

-Jack Lemmon was aces (good to know, because I love him!)

I don’t know why I felt so much better after reading the book.  Perhaps it is because Ms. MacLaine managed to successfully combine two of my favorite topics, Old Hollywood and Spirituality, into one book.  Perhaps it was due to the fact that I hadn’t actually sat quietly with a book for a while. Perhaps the sinus medication finally kicked in.   Maybe I’d inhaled too many fumes from the sage stick – who knows?  I felt better, and recommitted myself to doing my part in getting our world back on track:

Since we are spirits in human form, why not make the most of it and wear cute outfits while learning our lessons here?

As an etiquette teacher, I feel I must gently remind the masses that good manners, kindness, and compassion for all will get you much further than a chicken sandwich, or the refusal of a chicken sandwich, depending on your viewpoint.

My work aside, I’ve accepted the fact that my personal beliefs may be viewed as ‘woo woo’ by some, so I won’t get too much into them at this point.  I will tell you, though, that benevolent forces are out there in this seemingly negative world, and if we learn to tap into them, we’re going to be okay.  

The negativity got to me last week – it happens to the best of us, I suppose.  We simply need to shake it off, shun it when we can, and keep on putting out as much fabulosity as humanly (and spiritually) possible.

The good of our society – and our planet – depends on it.

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