Ponder Emporium

Nothing specifically and everything entirely

Part Time Lover January 13, 2015

Filed under: For the sake of writing — Cara Badalamenti @ 1:53 am

My friends have been trying to sell me on the idea to have a casual fling. Saying things like there’ll be no hurt feelings, no need to express yourself, it’ll relieve something, there are so many good-looking ones out there, take one for the team, blah, blah, etc. They say these things with such conviction and enthusiasm that it’s really entertaining to hear what they come up with. Here, I must point out that I adore my friends with all my heart and soul and am using this topic to write about because A, it’s funny, and B, it’s been a repetitive topic in our lives lately. Ultimately it’s just light conversation. But is it?


Since they are all in seemingly happy committed relationships, it’s been said that they are vicariously living through me and aren’t able to indulge in some otherwise {emotionally} meaningless casual encounter. I don’t know whether to be appreciative of their intent in looking after my sexual well-being, or to feel sorry for their possible lack of satisfaction in their own relationship. I doubt it’s the latter. However with their persistence, someone as contemplative as me, and as single and unattached as they point out, I feel compelled to process this scenario with allegory.  After all it is a choice we make, hopefully whence fully comfortable with ourselves, to be in a committed relationship. I must also point out that I fully support the choice to share one’s life with another. I also support vows one takes for something as sacred as marriage, to include whatever rules a couple deems appropriate for the success of their union. Conversely, I think it’s commendable, albeit difficult, for an individual to admit when they feel the relationship has run its course and in a timely manner, as if not to allow for a potential loftier disaster.  And although it’s natural to have fantasies, no one can, in place of you, fulfill something that might be missing in your life. If it feels like something needs to be fulfilled than I urge that person to assess their current situation.


Simply, “Taking one for the team” doesn’t actually work. I am now in my 30s and have had the opportunity to experience both fulfilling and not so fulfilling committed and non-committed relations. Obviously my friends don’t actually want me to hook-up at their delight; rather, they want me to feel comfortable to delight in a casual hook-up…and they’re doing so by use of persuasion. Clearly we’re at different junctures in our journey as to how we see sharing ourselves with another at the opportunity of being unattached. Because that idea might spark fantasy for anyone, doesn’t mean it should be someone’s reality. Likewise if it is, that’s fine too. Another thing to be taken into account is one’s story. Is the person coming out of a relationship? Whose choice was it? Was it good/bad? Is there something traumatic going on in that person’s life? What kind of environment are they in? Is it small town like an island, or a metropolis like London? Who knows, someone could have gotten out of a relationship that left a lot to be desired and now they’re finally able to experiment with their new freedom. Alternatively, someone could have recently felt suffocated in their relationship and now wants nothing more than emotional and physical separation. Perhaps this is an adult version of peer pressure. I am happy to say that I will not be naively swayed by my friend’s coaxing, but I will embrace their comical gesture to get me laid and suggest that maybe they look into some role-playing at home.


The Last Memory November 11, 2013

Filed under: For the sake of writing — Cara Badalamenti @ 4:48 pm
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The last memory of my father before he passed away was in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. It was at our family’s townhouse, the same townhouse that we’ve had since the 1980s. In March of 1995 he had flown down from N.Y. for Mike’s 15th birthday. He had rented a Ford Thunderbird of the same year, which we all thought was a pretty hot car. The only thing we ever really had to compare it to was our maroon family Buick. He took us to the empty church parking lot nearby and let us take turns driving for our 1st time. Naturally, Mike got more time behind the wheel since he was older. Dad took us for coconut sorbet and seafood dinners that week. Best of all he took us to our family beach, Bathtub Beach, the exact beach that had been the deciding factor 3 years earlier to move to Florida from our seemingly flawless life in N.Y. as a family.


Today I received a call from my Grandmother confessing that it’s time to sell the house. All those nights spent giggling with Mike in the dark telling goofy stories while we lay in our sleeping bags in the walk-in closet – because it was always so much more fun to “camp out” in mom and dad’s room than in our own bedroom with twin-sized beds. All those days spent catching lizards and housing them in our critter cages only to see that the ants have unwittingly ate them alive overnight. All the playing on the kitchen and living room floor with our Sea World stuffed animals, our most prized possessions from one of many weeks away from N.Y. Dad playing Jaws in the community pool, grabbing our ankles from under water. Cupping his hands to launch us into the air to spin ourselves in elaborate twists and turns while trying to make some of the largest splashes, always trying to prove to the neighborhood “Grinch Who Stole Vacation” that it’s impossible to make our vacation anything less than perfect. Because it always was.


After staging the townhouse myself this past summer – bringing the late 1980s décor to a more modern, minimalistic, gender neutral, I’ve stayed hopeful for both my Grandmother and myself that it’ll rent, and therefore it’ll stay here in our lives, my life. Never able to bear the thought of the house not being in my life, now I’m faced with it. The last location I’ve seen my father is now going to be sold at a price- a price that is impossible to put on its true worth to me.


The reality and practicality of it hits my gut as if I knew deep inside like it was inevitable. But the raw emotion behind it stings just as much as my denial. I wish there were a world where we could stay in our happiest moments to live that way forever in all its simplicity and love. That was my childhood and our family vacations to Port Saint Lucie. I thought I was finished mourning childhood losses, but perhaps this is truly and finally the last Band-Aid to be removed.


Diaries of a Microwave Oven October 2, 2013

Filed under: For the sake of writing — Cara Badalamenti @ 11:03 pm
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Today marks the end of something wonderful and the beginning of something hopefully just as wonderful. A little too dramatic, some friends would declare. But hear me out. This afternoon my 12 year old microwave oven finally died. Just like that. Actually, it wasn’t just-like-that. Earlier this year the buttons along the right side of the panel stopped working. The 3, 6, and 9 were kaput, if you will. Astonishingly the start button was still operable.  A few months after the right side had quit, the clock went dead after a local power outage. I hadn’t noticed until the days that followed how often I relied on that clock as my dominant source of timekeeping. I toyed with the idea of replacing it then. But against all odds it was still satisfying my microwave oven needs in the capacity of a microwave oven. Maybe not fulfilling all the amenities it once furnished, but still fulfilling the ultimate task that it was purchased for. Is it just me or is that deeply metaphorical? I digress.

So what’s the big deal that my microwave oven died? Nothing, it’s a replaceable appliance. The big deal is the massive amounts of history that flooded me…the years that since that purchase have brought me, showed me. My microwave and I can’t take all the credit though. In actuality, my mother bought me the microwave. I was 20  (or was I 19?) and had just moved to Los Angeles, California. A city and state where I knew not a single soul and my three roommates were just as unfamiliar. As was living in a high-rise building with 7 underground levels of parking, garbage shoots, and a lobby attendant to welcome you home.

Here’s the big deal: This microwave has seen me through 2 countries, 5 cities, 3 storage units, 9 apartments (or “apartments”), and 12 years of my life to include ALL of my twenties. It has [literally] seen me through friendships, roommates, relationships, and family members. Also college homework, movie nights, parties of all varieties, dates, holidays, sickness, and the most emotional roller coasters of my life, as if one’s twenties aren’t tumultuous enough. It’s astounding for an appliance such as this to rough it out for as many years as it has, after going through such change, physically, mechanically and otherwise, and to continue working, press-time, albeit some minor failures and glitches along the way. For my friends that would declare my sensitiveness here, I’d like to think of this metaphorically to the past 12 years of my life.

As one steadfast microwave oven salutes our connection with respected departure, a newer, lighter, more svelte and of-this-decade model enters the very same day. Only this time with every bit of appreciation, mindfulness, and wisdom (me, not the microwave). This Hamilton Beach has some pretty large shoes to fill!


The Non-Home Owner Home-owner August 26, 2013

Filed under: For the sake of writing — Cara Badalamenti @ 5:12 pm

Although I do not own a home, I definitely feel as though I do lately. With all the emotional stress that comes along with it, according to my home-owning friends. Things like legal and financial stress (which is loaded), electricity, plumbing (which I’ll go into more later), pest, roof, window, door and foundation condition, etc. etc. etc. And if it’s a vacation-home-turned-rental-property there are rental legalities, management options, competition, modernization and a slue of added stress.

I’ve recently taken on the responsibility, voluntarily, to manage my Grandmother’s vacation property in Florida while she still resides in Brooklyn. Although I am not regretting the commitment, I am finding myself to be stretched a little thin, especially most recently, and here’s why. I’m not living in or near the town that the property is located. Heck, I’m not even in the same country!

Some of the initial difficulties that arose earlier on were things like Grandma not having email, a printer, scanner, fax, or even having the mobility to get to a local service provider that offers those modern-day necessities. The fix: good old-fashioned ink and postage. But before that monstrosity I had to find a realtor, which itself could be daunting. Add the inconvenience of my faraway home address and my options were slim. Luckily, after some poking around my address book I know a person who’d owned a house in that same area and they agreed to refer me to their previous realtor. Luckily still, she’s reputable, experienced and we see eye-to-eye.

The next huge setback was the legalities of having a local bank. And by local I mean a bank that has a branch locally in the town of the property/realtor. Sounds like a piece of cake, right? These days most banks have branches in most towns all across America. Not the case in my situation, or my Grandmother’s situation I should say. Turns out her banks are located in only a couple handfuls of states and Florida isn’t one of them. After diligent, determined research to find, for the love of god, some way around this even larger overwhelming mess (and speaking to some very friendly financiers over the phone along the way) I found an itsy bitsy branch the next town over that “doesn’t deal with bank transactions, but if you do XYZ, we can send it off to be processed”. I’ll take it! I don’t care that they are a wealth management service; if XYZ works for them then it’ll work for me. And it sure beats having to figure out a way for me to open a bank account for Grandma in Grandma’s name outside her home state without her there and unable to transact electronically. Or worse, me managing the expenses in an account of my own and doing a whole lot of transferring to Grandma’s account and the truly enormous legalities that would entail. Ugh. Just thinking back at all of that makes my eye sockets hurt.

Next, the staging and modernization of the very dated home – think Grandma’s late eighties tropical vacation home with lots of pastels, textured wall paper and silk plants. Yikes! Add to that heinous list and I have next-to-no budget. The good news, although the appliances are equally as dated, is that everything is in great condition. Nobody has ever lived in this home. So even though I can’t afford to uproot the mauve carpet, I can slipcover the aquamarine couch. I might not be able to replace all of the everglades-inspired furnishings, but I can paint some of the important accent items. I might not be able to replace the in-your-face peach vertical blinds, but I can remove the equally horrific valance above it.

Turning on the water was its own feat upon my arrival. We all know that there is water shut off at every faucet or water source of a home- at least we should all know that. But Grandma’s water main was shut off, which sent me on a wild goose chase. I was told it is on the backside of the unit. If I took that advice literally the back side of the unit is a shared wall. So that wasn’t it. After walking all around the building (with a setting sun) and with the neighborly assistance of a nearby cigar-smoking community member, we found the unmarked levers. And after playing a game of eeny, meeny, miny, moe with the levers, the water was flowing like a dream. It wasn’t until the next day I learned about hot water. I thought because the water had been shut off for so long it was just going to take a day or so to heat up. Silly, naive me. I informed Grandma of the possible problem before us and she told me simply that there is a switch in the fuse box that turns on the hot water. I opened the door to the fuse box and went cross-eyed with the amount of switches before me. How on earth am I going to find the hot water switch! Then, my worries were dissolved right before my eyes when I saw a sticky note that read: “Hot Water” located next to the correct switch. This made me think that someone in the past (possibly Grandma herself) found themselves in my same situation. Crisis diverted yet again!

After the much needed changes over the course of a grueling, sweaty, back achy and thinned wallet weekend, the before and after pictures speak for themselves. In the moment I didn’t allow myself to dwell on how upset my Grandmother might be at my donating most of the artifacts in her condo. It wasn’t until everything was gone that I thought, she’s going to kill me. I started light, admitting that I did in fact get rid of all of the wall hangings. All I could do was apologize and tell her that by doing so I added the male population as a possible renter. Things were looking up.

Within days of posting the after pictures with the realtor we had received positive and interested responses. Here’s hoping a renter comes along soon!

BEFORE: Living Room

BEFORE: Living Room

AFTER: Living Room

AFTER: Living Room

BEFORE: Master

BEFORE: Master

AFTER: Master

AFTER: Master



AFTER: Guest

AFTER: Guest


Responses May 14, 2013

Filed under: For the sake of writing — Cara Badalamenti @ 6:29 pm

While reading the spring issue of my Ashford University Alumni Magazine, I was moved by one man’s outlook on a tragic experience and his journey on an unlikely recovery. Chris Norton, student of Luther College, Iowa fractured his C3-C4 vertebrae while playing football in 2010. Doctors told him he had a 3% chance of regaining movement below his neck. While realizing that not all those with spinal cord injuries recover, sometimes due to lack of insurance or care, Chris’s unwavering determination and perseverance remained strong through therapy. Recently he stood up unassisted for more than ten minutes and took his first steps with a walker. While visiting an Ashford University Saints basketball game, Chris spoke humbly to student athletes, coaches and administrators about his experience and attitude:


“Something I learned early on in life was that the most important thing in life is your responses, not your circumstances. We all face challenges and go through adversity, but one thing is for certain, you have to respond to whatever circumstance you’re dealt with. You can’t allow your circumstance to determine who you are or what you will be”.


I think we can apply that mindset to many challenges in life. It may seem easy to give in when life hands you insurmountable odds, but giving in is not the correct response to a happier, more fulfilled life. Like Chris, his life is different now, but certainly not worse. He has founded the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)-CAN project, a non-profit organization to provide patients with the proper equipment and tools to reach their recovery goals. His story has been featured in Sports Illustrated and he is the winner of the 2011 CBS Courage in Sports America’s Choice Honor.

To read more about Chris and learn about the SCI-CAN project, visit luther.edu/scican


As Luck Would Have It February 26, 2013

Filed under: For the sake of writing — Cara Badalamenti @ 11:48 am
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It’s official. The man that I’m in love with, the man that loves me unconditionally in return has moved to the other side of the planet. I’ve told myself that I wouldn’t put anything too personal out there on my blog, but I guess the proper rule is to not put anything detrimental out there. Since this is a public journaling that I started a couple of years ago, before turning the ripe old age of thirty, my intentions were to write about anything in my life that struck a cord. Whether it is food, travel, family, dreams, weird thoughts, you name it. And last I checked love is certainly a part of life. And it definitely strikes a cord. A very sweet one, I might add. But can also be one of the most painful and debilitating.

During the last half of 2012 I was graced by Love’s sweetness. Something, rather, someone that was unexpected (and un-expecting) came into my life. Love developed where we didn’t necessarily think it would. Of course there were moments of frustration and anger and all of those other counter-emotions that accompany love. But when it’s real it puts all the other little toe-curling nuances to shame. As it turns out time proved it to be real. And now, due to his being in the Navy, he has gone away to the other side of the world. Just like that, the person that completes me has been removed from my life like a mathematical equation. And I’ve never been very good at math. In fact, I’m awful at it. So no matter how hard I try to see my way through this pain and loss I just can’t solve this equation.

My emotional turrets (as I call it) were becoming very inconvenient. Crying was a daily, sometimes hourly occurrence. So, if you are reading this and you happen to live where I live, and if you happened to see me out and I appeared to be crying, I probably was. Before discussing my intensifying feelings with him this was how I felt: I wasn’t sure how to move on. Now, if either of us wanted out of the relationship than that’s a different story; I can solve that problem. I’ve been solving those problems my whole adult life. While I knew I was not going to actually be able to “move on” for quite some time, I knew I was going to have to move on eventually. While we did have mutual plans to stay in contact with each other, I had to keep reminding myself that we’re not in a relationship anymore, and although we didn’t want to we both had to move on with our lives. Then I asked myself, how long do we keep in contact before we must sever that “holding on” feeling? Even if two years from now we’re reunited, it’s not healthy for either of us to expect that reunion, wait for it, and expect rekindled fire.

Which brings me to this: Yes the distance sucks, but distance doesn’t get in between the rest of the people we love in the world so why would we allow it to get in between us? Not that I’m any expert, but there are certain priorities that a couple must take to keep in line. To remember why you’re doing this, for whom and what is most important, and those priorities probably vary per couple. It has to be real; it has to be genuine, deep down into your bones. Communication needs to be reciprocated, requests should be taken seriously, and all that other stuff that I’m sure we’re going to learn along the way.

As luck would have it, our feelings for each other are mutual! Coming from two individuals that originally didn’t want a long distance relationship have mutually decided that we must at least try. It’d be stupid not to. Why would we foolishly throw our hands up in the face of what is real and give up? That might be the easy, albeit painful, way to go about it. But who said life (or love) is easy? It’s not. And while we’re on the road of hard life (and love) mind as well include someone that thinks the world of you, never mind the distance.

So you might ask, why not go with him, you’re an adventurer? There’s the long and short. Regardless of closeness or distance there are no rushing things. Rushing time could have a laundry list of side effects which neither of us is willing to bring into our relationship. At the same time, we both long and strive to be with one another. So the short, in this case, is time will tell.


All-Aboard! January 22, 2013

Filed under: For the sake of writing — Cara Badalamenti @ 7:24 pm
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On somewhat of a whim, my friend and I decided to go on our first cruise. While it was a Bahamas cruise, our priority was all about the activities on board the ship, less that on shore.

An energetic Bachelor party group of guys picked up on us the first night we were on the ship. We all did body shots at the pool bar, swam naked at CocoCay in broad daylight, won BIG in the casino, upgraded to a regal suite with a massive balcony, and participated in amateur pole dancing at an obscure night club in an affluent ex-pat run part of Nassau.

That is the story most people expect, or at least would like to hear when someone returns from a cruise; especially their first-ever cruise. While all of that sounds very enthralling, sorry to disappoint, none of those activities actually took place. But that’s not to say a great time wasn’t had. In fact, we had the hangover-free kind of great time. And frankly, that’s the best kind there is. No wound-licking necessary. Instead we were able to add some pretty neat things to our life experiences list: Rock climbing in the middle of the ocean, check. Paddle boarding to a deserted island, check. Negotiate precious gems and jewelry down to a comfortable price, check.

With departing seas a little on the rough side we opted for some inner quality spa time. I must have fallen asleep three times during my hour-long hydra-lift facial. When the service was complete and I awoke from my slumber vertigo took over me as I haphazardly stumbled right into my charming South African aesthetician who graciously escorted me by my arm and delivered me back safely to my cruising pal. Each time we walked somewhere I would take three steps diagonally to the left and then three steps diagonally to the right. There was no straight line. Had this been a sobriety test I would have failed miserably. In fact, I didn’t actually need to drink anything alcoholic that first night; the seas made me feel high enough. Alas, we were successful in bringing aboard two bottles of red wine and a little extra liquid something that will remain unwritten here.

You hear people boast about food onboard cruise ships, saying that eating is half the fun of a cruise vacation. Well folks, not in this case. I don’t want to knock the whole Royal Caribbean franchise or cruising in general since I have nothing to compare it to in the industry of cruising, but Monarch of the Seas (the soon-to-retire/soon-to-be-sold off) ship was serving subpar cuisine throughout. We ate everywhere except for the private (additional cost) restaurant aboard the vessel (including room service) and the only thing they all had in common was disappointing cuisine. The dishes tasted pre-cooked, pre-packaged, and at times not cooked thru or not heated at all (isn’t a Panini supposed to be pressed and warm?) The best food we had was the BBQ on CocoCay (not even on the boat) and a cheese plate (that involves no cooking whatsoever) that I ordered twice from our stateroom.

On the contrary, the service throughout our cruise was superb! We were tempted to bring Choky, our adorable Filipino stateroom attendant, home with us. What was so surprising is that he memorized out names! We would be leaving the stateroom area passing by other rooms and we’d hear his voice from an open stateroom with a cleaning cart in front of it, “Have a good time Cara and Nichole!” On night two he surprised us by hanging a towel monkey from the ceiling.

Theater & Production: Move over Charades, we’ve discovered another kick-ass group game to play: Quest Adult game show! The host asks the groups playing to bring up specific items and to act out specific things, etc. and it gets rather hilarious (i.e.: lots of bare skin). The ship’s take on Jerry Springer, “Love and Marriage” was another amusing show to watch. And finally, the talented dancers and singers of the boat sang the top love songs that made me bawl more than I had intended in a public space. Was contemplating hanging myself from the theater’s second mezzanine as all songs reminded me of Augustine. Speaking of men, whoever told me that there are tons of single guys on cruise ships was mistaken (not that I was seeking, anyway)…there aren’t any, ladies, FYI. Which magnified the fact that the food was poor.

Regardless, Nikki and I had a great time with each other. It was quality girlfriend time. Got some shopping done in Nassau, watched some of the entertainment on board the ship (piano bar, ice sculpting, fruit carving, towel folding demo, midnight pool party, battle of the sexes, live bands, etc.), toured the spa, did some tanning, rock climbing and paddle boarding at CocoCay was sublime! It felt so rewarding to paddle from one private island to a deserted one. Just laying on our boards drifting freely in the sea was worth everything and then some. As the sun blazed hot the cool water refreshed. And sleeping in our stateroom was some of the deepest sleep we’ve had. Our room was cave-like dark and temperature controlled to our liking.

Hindsight: don’t book extras ahead of time, and go on a larger, newer ship for stabilizing and feasting purposes. BING BONG!

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