Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Not Your Father’s Grandma

I have to admit that aging is made easier for me thanks to my heroes. My heroes are those women I run into everyday who are amazing, dynamic, fun human beings in addition to being older women. I just recently met two of them.

While Christmas shopping, I stood behind one of them in the long, long bathroom line at the department store. She looked a little like a jeans-clad Auntie Em. “I say we storm the men’s room,” she announced, elbowing me conspiratorially. “We can do it if there are several of us. Are you in?”

I laughed and nodded, but this was before I realized she was serious. “It’s not like I’ve never done that before,” she laughed. Well, me either, frankly. But I found out men get very upset when women go into their bathrooms, even though all of those stalls just sit there while we needlessly suffer. Go figure! But besides that, men’s rooms creep me out a little. That foreign wall décor is just icky….

My almost-partner-in-crime, Auntie Em, was a little miffed with me when she found out I was a wimp. That’s okay. She was still my hero just for thinking about it.

Then there was the woman I talked to at my hiking group. She had to be close to twenty years older than I am. In town visiting her mother, she said. The mother was in her nineties. The daughter, the hiking one, is a therapist, she told me. Still working, of course.

When she started asking questions about me and I told her I was divorced, she turned to study me for the first time. Her eyes took my breath away for a second. My mother’s eyes. Fierce eyes. Fiercely sharp and fiercely good, all at the same time. She pronounced me a “courageous woman” in a way that made me feel frightened and moved and oddly transparent. I like to believe that sometimes God sends people to deliver the messages we most need to hear. Courageous woman. I secretly carry these words like a totem, a gift from a wise Earth Mother, hug them close to my soul.

She told me about her various groups. Biking is over, she lamented, as is kayaking. And swimming of course. So she hikes. That was when I realized she had been slowing her pace to stay behind enough to talk to me, because I was starting to get a bit winded on the hills.

I know who I want to be like…when I don’t grow up.  Happy New Year!

That is what you love a friend for: the ability to change your angle of vision, bring back your best self when you feel worst, remind you of your strengths when you feel weak. ~Erica Jong

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snow Stuff

Jules asked about some of our favorite Christmas memories. The one that immediately came to my mind was lying with my head under the Christmas tree every year and looking up at the blinking lights while “Silent Night” played on the music box that my grandfather made.
That inside view of my Christmas tree was going to be today’s show and tell, but the picture just didn’t do justice to the experience. No matter. We had the first white Christmas in ages yesterday—a lacy, lazy, Christmas card snow. This picture doesn't capture it, either, but I finally decided that nothing really could. Favorite Christmas memories? Yesterday, for one. Hope you are enjoying this magical last week of the year.

Genius is childhood recaptured. ~Bauldelaire

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Memories: The Gifts We Give Ourselves

Some of my favorites:

My son, aged three, excitedly pointing to a nativity scene: “Wook! The Baby Cheese-It!!!

Riding through a Christmas light display with the children when one of them gasped with reverent wonder, “OOOH! It’s the Taco Bell sign!!!”

My children, trying to recite the names of Santa’s reindeer: “…and Comet and Cupid and Cancer and Dander….”

When I was a kid, the thing that made me wonder about Santa was the oranges. Santa used to leave a big old orange in the toe of our stockings. Worse, none of my friends got oranges. I was a late-in-life baby, and I think this tradition came from having much older parents than those of my friends. No one (except possibly my dad) ever ate the stupid orange—it just went right back into the fruit bowl. But the worst thing was that our fruit bowl in the kitchen was always filled with oranges, except on Christmas morning. On Christmas morning, that bowl was conspicuously emptied. That was when I figured it out. Not only was Santa sort of cheap for wasting valuable stocking space on worthless oranges, HE HADN’T EVEN BROUGHT HIS OWN ORANGES! HE’D JUST USED OURS!

Have a very merry Christmas, and make some wonderful memories!!!

At Christmas play and make good cheer,
For Christmas comes but once a year. ~Thomas Tusser

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Silly Stuff: Have a Super Christmas

 Years ago someone gave us a gorgeous collection of four ornaments that spelled out the word, “NOEL.” But when the “L” fell, it shattered beyond anything that glue could accomplish. So some years we spell “ONE,” and others, “EON.” Sort of like Christmas Tree Scrabble.

After lamenting the fate of the “Christmas EON,” my daughter created this treasure. It is a super ball covered in foil candy wrappers and plastic wrap. Her reasoning, of course, was that Christmas ornaments should be shatter-proof. Heck, they should bounce if they fall!

I like to think that someday, many years from now, someone will unwrap this objéct de Christmas art and exclaim, “What the heck is this thing?!” Christmas is about symbolism, and to me this heirloom beautifully illustrates both my daughter’s practical and creative sides. Every year I hang it front and center. I like to think it is the true Christmas Eon.

Conversation with my daughter when she was in third grade:

Daughter: I signed up for the school’s Hanuka pageant!
Me: Wow—that’s great! Why did you decide to do that?
Daughter: Aren’t we Jewish? 
(This is only funny if you realize that we’re not. She was baptized Catholic thanks to her dad. I think she got confused because I used to have an interest in world religions and tend to be an over-explainer. When she'd asked me about our religion, I'd waxed on about how Christianity came from Judaism, yadda yadda, when the poor kid had only wanted a name she could recite to people, like “Methodist.”    Oh, and belated happy Hanuka…and joyous NOE .)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Unexpected Holiday

My daughter and I sat and watched the names of school closings scroll along the bottom of the news show, holding our breath as the alphabet neared our district. We compared stories. The rain was freezing on everything, encapsulating it in sparkling ice. When she went out to cover her car, she slid the whole way. When I wheeled the garbage to the curb, I skated.

Around us, the Christmas lights twinkled. It took two weeks, but they’re up. The dog wound his way between us, cat like, asking to be scratched, looking hopefully at his stocking. Although he checks his stocking daily, he’s learned in his 14½ years that it isn’t Christmas until we gather. He was clearly wondering: did this make it a holiday?

And it did, in a way. Odd, to me, that the times I remember most fondly through the years often have to do with bad weather, because it forced us to stop and come together, united against the elements. One of my favorites was the time the thunderstorm took out our power. My middle school- and grade school-aged children were torn from their lights and electronics, and we all gathered in the dark and comforted the dog and laughed even louder than the thunder.

We were lucky, of course. Lucky that the roof was okay, that the ice hadn’t knocked out power, that we were warm and comfortable in our home. That our district announced its closing the night before. That we had another unexpected holiday, the best kind.

“[Miss Maudie’s sunhat] was suspended in a thin layer of ice, like a fly in amber….” ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird. (I’ve used that one before, but it seems too fitting to pass up.)

Friendship doubles our joy and divides our grief. ~Cicero

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Book Signing

Becky Povich, Teresa Sanders, Linda O'Connell, and me (with Deborah Marshall in back)
Saturday’s book signing was a rousing success. Turnout was great in spite of the rain, and we made it just before the snow moved in. We sold lots of books, collected lots of food for the local pantry, and laughed until our sides hurt. Below is a shot of Vicki’s lovely store, Main Street Books in Old Town Saint Charles (Missouri).  If I could sum it up in a word, that word would be warm. Warm store, warm hearts, warm friendships, warm soup…warm souls. What a great place to be for the holidays!

P.S. I’ve been translated into French!!!  Scroll down to the last story on the left, "Le meilleur chien au monde."

There is an electricity about a friendship relationship. We are both more relaxed and more sensitive, more creative and more reflective, more energetic and more casual, more excited and more serene. It is as though when we come in contact with our friend we enter into a different environment. ~Andrew M. Greeley

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Surprise Stuff from Around My House: Decorated Tree for Christmas

Every year, I put my tropical brugmansia tree in the unfinished basement storage room that my kids dubbed “the scary room.” That room is cool and dark enough that the tree goes dormant. We store the Christmas decorations in the same room. So this year, when I went down there to get the Christmas decorations, this was what I found. We’re still working on decorating the “real” tree, which is in fact plastic. Don’t you just love irony?

History is merely a list of surprises. It can only prepare us to be surprised yet again. ~Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chicken Soup for the Soul…Christmas for the Spirit

Coming This Saturday, December 11th: “Chicken Soup for the Soul, Canned Soup for the Body!!!”

Linda O’Connell, Becky Povich, Teresa Sanders and I will be signing books this Saturday from 1:00 to 3:00 pm at Main Street Books for the second year in a row. Last year was such a good time. Be sure to bring a canned good to donate to the local food pantry! A publisher accidentally sent me an extra carton of books that I was told I could keep, so I will also be giving away free books (as long as they last) with a purchase.

It’s worth a trip just to see Main Street St. Charles (Missouri) this time of year. Come out and get into the spirit of Christmas…and of Chicken Soup for the Soul!

We are each of us angels but with one wing. And can only fly by embracing each other. ~Luciano de Crescenzo

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Stuff from Around My House: Gone Cold

December was going to be silly-Christmas-decorations-month, but we don’t have our tree up. And if you are one of those people who has all of your holiday shopping done, please, please don’t tell me. I am proud merely that I started mine before December this year.

Soooo…I have a Possessed Coffee Thermos. It clicks, groans, shrieks, hums, and makes such an interesting assortment of noises that it’s really pretty entertaining. Oh, I guess the scientific explanation is that the stainless steel outside broke away from the insulated inside, and the two parts expand and contract differently according to temperature changes. But it’s more fun to think of it as possessed.

Adding to that notion is the fact that it also traps water in between the layers when it’s washed. As I drive to work, the thermos adjusts to the temperature of my car. That means that more often than not, The Possessed Coffee Thermos celebrates my arrival at work by letting out a shriek and relieving itself all over someone’s desk. Or my shoes.

I kept this for a shockingly long time only because it was one of those things that I just kept forgetting to replace. I’ve now retired it.  But I have to admit that I miss its entertainment value sometimes.

Certain flaws are necessary for the whole. It would seem strange if old friends lacked certain quirks. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lawnmower Stuff: Ten Steps for Mowing a Lawn, from the Girly Gurus

When my son went to college a few years ago, my daughter and I were left with a lawn that kept growing and an old, unreliable machine that we had no idea how to work. After several years of practice, I’m happy to report that my daughter and I about have our lawn mowing techniques down. And we have had lots of practice since our front lawn is one of those uselessly huge corner-lot things with pointless side yards and lots of wasted space. Usually my daughter is the one who mows, but these days she is so busy that I do have to do it from time to time. This recently happened when I used the mower to mulch leaves. So as I mowed and mulched for hours and hours, I came up with these instructions on how to mow a lawn at my house:

Step 1. Make sure it has gas in there. Gas makes it go.
Step 2. Be prepared. Point it in the direction you want it to go just in case it starts this time.
Step 3. Mess with the little handle thingy until it’s halfway between the bunny symbol and the turtle symbol. This is because we don’t know which one is right. My daughter prefers bunny and then switches to turtle, whereas I tend to favor the halfway point, where I imagine some imaginary freak hybrid animal should live. Like maybe an armadillo.
Step 4. Say the Mower Good Luck Chant, which goes something like, “Please please please turn on!”
Step 5. Think angry thoughts (but not too angry so as to offend the mower) in order to give your arm some oomph, and pull the ripcord a bunch of times while saying the Chant. If it miraculously starts, jump up and down and say the Thank You Chant. Do NOT—this is important—do NOT swear at it or call it names if it won’t start! I have never known the mower to start after swearing has begun.
Step 6. Mow the worst parts first in case it quits halfway through, even though this means you weave in random patterns and create crop circles. The Laws of Mowing clearly state that mowing SOME lawn is better than mowing none at all. If the mower quits and we leave that weird reverse putting green again, the neighbors will at least know we tried, and the really nice ones’ grandson might come over on the riding mower. (So far it’s only happened when my daughter has been mowing in shorts, but you never know.)
Step 7. Do NOT stop the mower for any reason, even if you see sticks in your way, because it may not turn back on. So just close your eyes real tight and run over stuff, and say “Sorry, mower!!” to appease it. Alternately, say, “Ow ow ow”—whichever is required.
Step 8. If the mower does poop out again, repeat all the steps. When you are tempted to swear at the mower, call the Lawn Goddess, the resident teenaged daughter. She will consider a moment, nod, blink sagely, and ask, “Did you say ‘Please?’” You will of course report that you did, three times, at which point she may prescribe adding just a few more “pleases.” Because she has the most technical knowledge in our home, she may also suggest something like “more bunny” or “switch to turtle.” That’s pretty much the extent of our cumulative knowledge.
Step 9. If, by some miracle, you manage to mow the whole thing, put your hands on your hips and survey what you have done. Say to yourself, “I am She-Mower, Conquerer of the Lawn, and I am awesome.” Be sure to repeat the Thank You Chant.
Step 10. The preferred alternative to all of this is, of course, hiring the cute bronzed Lawn Guy with the rocking biceps. Check his progress often by sneaking peaks out the window. Sometimes he takes his shirt off.

Remember, happiness doesn't depend on who you are or what you have; it depends solely on what you think. ~Dale Carnegie

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ten MORE Good Things About Getting Old!

Because there are so many more than ten good things about aging, I originally made one very long list and then split it up. In fact, at some point there may be more....

11. A bad reputation is no longer bad; it’s almost kind of cool. (Not that I have a bad reputation…but I hope to someday.)
12. You get to call people “young man.”
13. You learn that what Jane Austen said over 200 years ago about the importance of character is still true today, because the reason she’s still relevant is that she captured the essentials of human nature so well. You choose better friends and learn who to stay away from.
14. There are better products on the market now, such as teeth whiteners. That means that some body parts can actually improve a bit as you age.
15. I used to walk carefully in public when my shoes were wet to keep them from squeaking. Now I squeak them on purpose (much to the humiliation of my teenaged daughter).
16. My fear priorities are more straight. I am less afraid of what others think of me and more afraid of the things that really can and do kill.
17. Sagging makes me look frowny. People take me more seriously because I scare them a little bit without even trying.
18. You know what to say to people when they have a crisis because you’ve been through it yourself.
19. I may not be able to remember much, but I really can synthesize information better.
20. No need for Blueray or high def TVs—if I want an unusually clear picture, I just put on my glasses.

“…forgetfulness can be a blessing. When I forget what I'm angry about, I figure it must not be important.” ~Donna Volkenant

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Stuff: Thank Like an Egyptian

Is it an Egyptian god of some sort? An asp that got run over in the middle? The Loch Ness monster? Small Viking ship? Nope! Those moms among you probably figured out “turkey platter” right away. If so, you are awesome. Happy Thanksgiving from me and Pharaoh Turkeykhamun.

P.S. Some of my pictures are disappearing! Does anyone know why? They are my photographs, so it can’t be a copyright issue. Also, I have two quotes today because I couldn’t decide:

Conversation overheard at grocery store between a teenaged girl and her mother:
Girl: Mom, I can’t tell whether this is an orange or not.
Mom: That’s a grapefruit.
Girl: (Dropping fruit like it’s burned her) Ewww!

Hank, the day after Thanksgiving is, in my opinion, the biggest shopping day of the year. And I will not spend another year giving Dallas Mavericks crap because the Cowboys stuff was all sold out. ~Peggy Hill, “King of the Hill”

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I Am Thankful for Blogger Buds

Thanks so much to Lisa Ricard Claro of Writing in the Buff for awarding me the Beautiful Blogger Award!!! Lisa can zero right into the naked heart of a matter and magically clothe it with heart of her own…using her keen insight, humor, wit, and that charming Southern-lady-graciousness. And congratulations to her for being almost done with her NaNoWriMo word count EARLY. I am so awed, but inspired as well.

I have a hard time passing along awards because there are just too many talented people, but this is a great chance to note my three newest followers! I’m flattered that they’re so diverse.  Welcome Reckless Driver, Domestic Sweetheart, and Avery James Photography!  You are all amazing. 

For memory has painted this perfect day with colors that never fade, and we find at the end of a perfect day the soul of a friend we’ve made. ~Carrie Jacobs-Bond

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ten Good Things About Getting Old

(Accompanied by garden pictures taken in the past couple of weeks.  The top is viburnum carlesii, and the bottom is passiflora 'Incense.')
1. Your face no longer breaks out. Unless you’re me, that is! But I mean if you’re normal, meaning not me, you probably stop getting zits.
2. The fact that you’re coloring the gray gives you an excuse to change your hair color often.
3. You and your hair have cohabited so long you’ve been forced to get along with each other. You’ve worn it poodle-permed and stick-straight. You’ve had almost every hair length, cut, and color that exists, so you know firsthand whether a certain style will make you look like Betty Boop…or poopy-doop. You even know exactly where to put the perm rods, how long to hold the hair in the curling iron, and which products make it look stringy. You have the home number of that perfect stylist who knows, via some sort of divine telepathy, exactly what cut you need even if you aren’t terribly sure yourself. You’ve had years and years to learn exactly how to subdue, control, and manipulate your hair in all kinds of weather. As a result, you have A LOT fewer bad hair days.
4. Young men no longer do favors for you as an excuse to get your phone number. They do favors for you because you look like their mom. Then they say, “You’re welcome, Ma’am” and go on their way.
5. You can be crabby and people sort of expect it.
6. Nobody heckles or grabs your rear end anymore.
7. Better friendships. Your best friend no longer breaks your plans to spend time with her boyfriend. She breaks her plans with her husband to spend time with you.
8. You can take a crisis better because you’ve been through only too many of them and know the pattern. You’ve learned that you are strong, and that this, too, really shall pass.
9. That whole wisdom thing. What you lose physically, you really do gain emotionally.
10. You can wear what you want because nobody cares. No one looks at your arms or legs, anyway, so you might as well go sleeveless and wear shorts! And make them purple!
“’Tell me one last thing, said Harry. ‘Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?’
Dumbledore beamed at him….’Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?’” J.K. Rowlings, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Throw Open Those Doors…to Poetry

A couple of months ago, I won Karen Elaine Greene’s book of poetry, Three Thousand Doors. I didn’t know much about Karen other than the fact that I enjoy the writing prompts she posts every Monday on one of her blogs, “The Absinthe Road.” Plus…sometimes you just have a feeling about people, you know?

Of the title, Karen says, “Sometimes, life presents you with so many opportunities the toughest decision is choosing which door to walk through and every opportunity, every door, leads to hundreds more.” Wow, do I know that one. As soon as I read the first two lines of her introduction, I knew she was a kindred spirit: “Why do I write? Because I HAVE to.” Yes. Yes, this is someone who knows.

I’ve always believed that good poems are the delicacies of the writing world—precious as truffles or good wine. They can’t be guzzled. They are rich and rare delights which must be savored by the senses with a timing that allows them to transcend the mind and settle the heart and soul with a satisfied ahhhh.

Karen’s book was that sort of treat for me. Treats, I should say, because though I enjoyed them all, I felt touched on a deep level by far too many to name. When I gazed into “Self-Portrait,” it was myself I saw. In “Kathy,” I met my childhood friends again. In “Twister,” I saw the troubled people I’ve known who only seem to feel validated when they are drawing others into their disturbing personal storms. My soul danced with the imagery in “Rain Dance” and soared with the imagery in “Soft” and “Goddess” and so many, many more.

This book itself was more than a gift. Each poem, each word is a gift, a treasure.

I was so inspired, as a matter of fact, that I started thinking about my own poetry. I hadn’t written much of it in years, but a while back I started trying again thanks to Linda O’Connell, who teaches poetry and often urges people to just give it a try. So I put together some things for the haiku section of the Springfield Writer’s Guild’s 2010 literary contest and forgot all about it until this nice surprise came:
Looks like the 2009 winners are published on their website, but I don’t see 2010 yet. Will let you know.

So thank you again to Karen Greene for a gift that truly did open more doors!!

I crave the rush of power necessary to push words through my pen and onto the page…. ~Karen Elaine Greene, Three Thousand Doors

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Silly Show and Tell: Put on Your Nerd Glasses

I bought these magnifying lenses as actual reading glasses, and I don’t think they were even intended as a joke. Even the dog refused to model them. Why I got these, I can’t tell you. Did I need glasses, or what? Oh…right.

But still, I can’t believe I was too blind to notice that they are just butt-ugly. And they’re not even women’s butt-ugly—they are men’s butt-ugly glasses. Nerd-man-glasses. I think the reasoning was that the lenses were nice and big so as not to get in the way of the print, but they are so big that they fall off my face. Although I have known reading glasses to evaporate into thin air, “The Woody Allens” are perennial. Even the gremlins don’t want them, I guess.

I usually use my own pictures and quotations I’ve already collected, but today I specifically looked up Woody Allen quotes. Like those potato chips, I couldn’t have just one:

-Eighty percent of success is showing up.
-Tradition is the illusion of permanence.
-You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.
And finally:
-I've never been an intellectual but I have this look.
~Woody Allen

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

When You Look at the Steps in Your Life and Realize You Were Learning to Dance All Along

Wow—what a week!! I had a significant birthday recently, and everyone kept asking me if I was okay about it.

When I think back to my last significant birthday, I felt so miserable and so terrified and so alone.  In this past decade I experienced a great deal of hurt. But I  learned from it. Am learning from it. And what I am learning is how wonderful it is to be around truly loving souls again.  
And can you guess what some of the kind, loving souls in my life did? They threw me a dinner party…to distract me from an even bigger surprise party! These pictures show the birthday glasses they made me wear. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. My former sister-in-law even flew out here from San Francisco.  As if their presence wasn’t enough of a present, I felt absolutely showered with love. Then they gave me gifts—both silly and serious—and a journal in which every person there told how we had met and become friends…a gift that is, like these friends, truly among the greatest treasures of life.

When I was a teenager, my goal was to become a fully self-actualized human being by the end of my life. It’s been a much longer, harder road than I ever could have imagined. But as I age, I learn that life really is more about the journey than the arrival. It’s about knowing we are, at this moment, on the right path. Or maybe even just on a path. When I look back at my past and see all of the mistakes I’ve made, I’m horrified. But when I look back at how very far I’ve come with the help of my genuine loved ones, I am much more satisfied. And how far I’ve come has so altered the quality of my life that I awaken every day and am so grateful that I’ve been allowed another day, another step.

That’s what aging is. Another day. Another step along the path. Another chance to love more, to learn more. To dance more.
Okay with aging? Seriously? It is one of many ironies in life that the longer I live, the more I love life. Sometimes I think this aging thing is absolutely the greatest thing ever invented. When I am thankful for every day, every day I find I have so much to be thankful for.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. ~Buddhist Proverb

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ~1 Corinthians13:13

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Stuff from Around My House: Just Curious

Twins separated at birth, perhaps?

What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies. ~Aristotle

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tricky and Certainly Not a Treat

Conversation with two trick-or-treaters:

Me: Oh, aren’t you cute! Are you a Barbie doll?
Little Girl: No, I’m a girl from the 80s.
Me: Oh…uh…and are you…a clown?
Little Boy: No, I’m a hippie.

Crap, no wonder I didn’t recognize them. They were my youth. I quit asking children what they were from then on. It’s scary when your youth is being sold to children as Halloween costumes.

It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell. ~Buddha

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween Stuff from Around My House: More Dog Toys and More Scary Bunny Rabbits

“Scary Bunny” is, of course, my dog’s favorite toy and has been since this Christmas gift from my truly thoughtful sister-in-law was unwrapped. The squeaker seems to be unkillable. And I’m sure he likes the very thing we hate: it looks too much like a real rabbit. Since it’s easiest for him to grasp across the back, he often puts it down sitting upright. The result is that we’re startled by what appears to be a stray form of wildlife that’s wandered into our home. Angry, vengeful wildlife. You’ll sneak and put it away—ever so quietly—and then you’ll wake up in the morning to see it next to your bed…watching you. It is the Chucky doll of dog toys. I had a terrible time photographing it since the dog stood by, worrying that I was committing acts of vengeance. As you scroll down, be sure to mentally play in your head some “Psycho” sound effects. And happy Halloween…wahahaha….

                                          *** WEEEET! WEEEET! WEEEET! ***

Watch the original scene here:

That's the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on ….That rabbit's got a vicious streak a mile wide! It's a killer!. ~Tim, Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Friday, October 29, 2010

Senior Sex(less) and the City: a Final Word...Um, Okay, Maybe a Whole Lot of Them

Lest you think I’ve been mean talking about the odd men I’ve met, be assured that I have left out a lot. For example, I have it on good authority that one of the ones I poked fun of a bit has had two restraining orders placed against him by old girlfriends. Scary. But I leave out a lot of other stuff as well…like the good ones. Fortunately they are everywhere, but they are simply not that funny. And even if a guy is great, it doesn’t automatically mean I’m attracted to him. Or him to me, certainly. And sad to say, there very well could be some man writing about me somewhere. I’m sure I would fall under several undesirable lists.

I did briefly think about writing about some of the single women I’ve observed. And although there are definitely the clingy types and the man-haters and the sort of scary ones, the bottom line is that it forced me to think about which categories I would fit into. And that is just not fun at all.

One happy discovery I’ve made is that, contrary to what those infamous dating ads suggest, all men of a certain age do not necessarily want younger women. In fact, I’ve met a surprising number of men who don’t seem to mind older women at all and one who actually prefers his women on the mature side. Really.

I also met a man who was funny and witty and handsome and oh my the air around him felt right and he just smelled good. But our meeting was far too brief. Since then I haven’t run into him again. Sure hope I do in the future.

Here are a few others I’ve left out. When I complained about my deck falling in (it was structurally unsound in the first place, and now it’s literally crashing in), one very nice man offered to come over and fix it. Several times. I haven’t felt right taking him up on the offer, but people like him make me feel happy about humanity.

When another one heard that a woman’s ex husband broke in and hit her, he was there to help her and drive her to the hospital. He bought groceries for a woman who couldn’t afford them (because it is absolutely shocking how impoverished Missouri law leaves some women in divorce cases). He then got her in touch with the correct social service agencies to help her get future meals and medical care. Whenever a woman shows up in his single’s group looking devastated, he goes out of his way to make her feel at home. Oh, I suppose some might call him a rescuer, but he is always a gentleman of the finest order and truly a good human being whom I admire a great deal. Here is a real-life Superman in a world that desperately needs heroes.

I started to write about another I called Down in the Dumped Dude, who said he’d had two spouses run off with other men (presumably not the same one). What made me ache was that I witnessed him telling all of this to a woman who may well have run off from a few spouses herself. I started to wax on about how affairs are no more about sex than brownies are about hunger for a lot of people; they are often about self esteem. In many cases, it’s not so much the sex that the dedicated non-monogamous lust after, but the sexy—that is, the need to feel sexually validated by as many people as possible. And I still think that’s true for many serial cheaters, just as it’s absolutely necessary to be an accomplished liar in order to cheat successfully. But I also know that adultery is a roiling stew with far too many complex ingredients for me to tackle with just a taste. So…forget that one. Besides, I’m happy to report that “Down” seems to have found someone who is perfect for him, and he seems neither down…nor likely to be dumped.

I wanted to write about bad hair. Bad hair is funny. But fortunately toupees no longer look like a piece of greasy black road kill that decided to expire on the side of a bald guy’s head. And although I did see a dye job that was apparently done on Pandora and glowed with a radioactive half-life (it was an odd yet vibrant color), the worst hair I can think of is Donald Trump’s. For pete’s sake, can’t the man buy new hair? But I also get quite a shock when I get a look at my own. Oops. No more hair jokes, people! That’s just mean!

And I couldn’t bring myself to write about a man I met who has an obvious mental illness. I’ve been close to someone with a mental illness—I find that an awful lot of women who write have—and that kind of illness is no more funny than diabetes. Okay, maybe this particular guy’s was just a little. BUT I’d take an obvious imbalance of brain chemicals any day over their truly dangerous counterpart who’s not nearly so easy to spot: the sociopath.

But I’ll save that one for another day. Suffice it to say that every single man I’ve mentioned here is worth far, far more than one of those—with the possible exception of those I suspect could very well be sociopaths themselves.

Fortunately for me, I am genuinely blessed with wonderful children and friends. Although society seems to dictate that we are somehow incomplete without a spouse, I simply don’t agree. Whether I meet someone and fall in love again or not doesn’t bother me too much, honestly. I am having far more fun than I had twenty-five years ago. Again, really. Why? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go back, but go back knowing everything you know now?

Yup. It might be in a much older, fatter, and wrinklier package, but…I’m back.

The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy.  What a caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly. ~Richard Bach, Illusions.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Not so Random Tuesday

A couple of weeks ago, a very dear friend was over for lunch when my teenaged daughter backed out of the driveway and hit her car. My daughter was mortified. Certainly she should have looked to see what was behind her, but I know only too well how we’ve come to concentrate on dodging my son’s car which is parked on the driveway while he’s in college.

Fortunately for all of us, my wonderful friend was as sweet as could possibly be throughout the whole thing. And of course I felt awful for everyone. Later my friend commented that it was nice that I wasn’t mad at my daughter. Anger never occurred to me. This is a child who has done blessedly little in life to make me angry with her, and she certainly didn’t mean to do this. I am grateful for her every day of my life. In fact, she’s had so little experience making mistakes that I truly felt horrible seeing the look of shock on her face that captured a harsh reality: sometimes in life, in spite of our best intentions, we make mistakes.

I hugged my daughter and told her something it’s taken me a long time to learn: Don’t waste your energy trying to be perfect or worrying when you’re not. We’re better off spending our energy trying to be good at being imperfect. Simply do the best you can and work to handle your mistakes intelligently and graciously. It’s the best we can do.

If you are willing to serenely bear the trial of being displeasing to yourself, then you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter. ~Saint Theresa of Lysieux

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Show and Tell of Dog Toys: “Virus Model”

This was supposed to perform some sort of miraculous tooth and gum stimulation when the dog chewed it. However, the dog has never actually chewed this or otherwise played with it. Ever. Yet for some reason he can be relied upon to take it out of his toy basket and place it on my bedroom floor directly in the path to the bathroom absolutely every time I put it away. Notice the landmine-like configuration, perfectly designed for maximum foot-mangling when you step on this in the dark at 2:56 AM.

It doesn’t make noise, but it causes plenty in the form of shrieking, stumbling and a few sleepily mumbled swear words.

So maybe that’s how the dog derives entertainment from it?

Yesterday I was a dog. Today I’m a dog. Tomorrow I’ll probably still be a dog. Sigh! There’s so little hope for advancement. ~Charles M. Schulz

Friday, October 22, 2010

Senior Sex(less) and the City: #15

Attila the Hunk
He’s a huge, Viking of a man who is only missing the hat with the horns. He laughs with gusto; it is a laugh I would imagine booming from Poseidon’s mouth while stirring up a tsunami. What’s wrong with this guy? Other than the fact that I suspect his home is decorated with animal carcasses?*  I have no idea. I scared him off before I had a chance to find out.

I had just met him at a single’s event at an outdoor concert. We were having a nice talk in the line to buy water. And then…. Okay, in my defense, it really sounded like Attila said, “I’ll get yours, too.” I said, “Oh…uh…thank you.” When he looked briefly confused, I realized with horror that he may have said, “I think I’ll get two.” Did I just trick a total stranger into buying my water? Oh my gosh oh my gosh! How embarrassing! Was there a way to fix this?!

So I plunged ahead with my standby, good ol’ honesty. “Wait,” I blubbered. “I’m sorry, I can’t hear well over the music. What did you just say?” This did not improve the situation any. In fact, it was a little like saying a stupid thing, and then holding up a giant flashing neon sign that says, “I JUST SAID A STUPID THING!” Now Attila was embarrassed, too, and I could sense he was trying to figure out a way to extract himself from this weird woman who was making such an issue of a bottle of water.

Attila ordered THREE waters and sort of tossed one to me. “Here,” he mumbled to the ground. “Thanks,” I mumbled back, also to the ground.

Poor Attila. He could conquer the tsunami, but he sure ran from that strange woman begging for water in line at the festival!

*I know this sounds like a stereotype. It isn’t. I later overheard him talk about deer hunting. The gist of the conversation was: Antlers are desirable.

Next Week: (Probably) The Ones I Left Out

Monday, October 18, 2010

The New Books are Here!

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters is officially released tomorrow. It’s a collection of stories about weird family members, and appropriately enough, it’s decorated throughout with pictures of nuts.

Like most of them, my story is written under a pseudonym with all of the names changed. It’s about a former family member, an older woman I’ll call Laverne (though she has a different pseudonym in the book). I did not write about this woman’s talent for selecting the very thing a person does best and then attempting to compete with it, usually with amusing results—but she does that, too, especially with younger women. It’s an obvious need to assert her dominance, and Laverne is all about dominance.

For instance, she recently told my former sister-in-law about looking at colleges. The irony is that Laverne has never attended college herself or taken an interest in colleges, and to my knowledge she never took any of her children on college tours. But she does know that my West Coast sister-in-law has a son at Notre Dame and a son at Syracuse, is still traveling all over the country looking at more for her other two, and knows more about colleges than most paid advisors.

What’s funniest is that her facts sounded totally made up. Laverne doesn’t care. If she were part of a water buffalo herd being studied on Animal Planet, she would be that big old mean one that bites the others in order to remain top cow.

With me, Laverne’s issue usually involved words, although when I was eight months pregnant she told me—in her typically lofty manner—that my obstetrician was wrong when he told me that the baby got hiccups. She is fond of starting her sentences with, “No, honey….”

In honor of the book release, here is one of my favorite Lavernishments:

Laverne’s son Barry and I were sitting at Laverne’s kitchen table, and Barry was doing a crossword puzzle. Laverne was nowhere to be seen.

Barry asked me, “What’s a ‘kind of speech?’ Spelled, ‘c-a-n-blank.’” I told him I thought it was “t” for “cant.” That was when Laverne’s voice piped in from the other room, “No, honey, that doesn’t make sense!” I explained that I didn’t mean the contraction, “can’t,” but the word “cant.”

Laverne said, “No, honey, that’s not a word. It’s c-a-n-D. It’s short for ‘candor.’” Barry then asked me what a four letter word for “bovines” was. Started with “k.”

First I loudly suggested that he ask his mother. No answer. After a while, I quietly whispered, “’kine?”

That was when we heard the loud sigh from the other room. “No, honey, that’s not a word, either. It’s ‘oxen.’” Barry reminded her that the word started with “k.”

Laverne’s classic response? “Then it’s ‘cows.’ They’ve just misspelled it.”

The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here! ~Navin R. Johnson, “The Jerk"

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Stuff from Around my House: Heart-rended

I love it because my daughter bought it for me at the school fundraiser when she was little. And I hate it because she bought it at the school fundraiser of all places. Surely someone there should have caught such a glaring grammatical mistake! This hangs near my desk. All these years later, that apostrophe STILL drives me nuts. Making plural’s into possessive’s is one of my biggest pet peeve’s. Or is it a contraction for Mom IS?

But I love that she bought me a cute little heart-sign! With her little pennies! Stupid, grammatically incorrect sign!

Torture. Just torture.

Sign taped to a desk in a 6th grade science room: Mrs. McNerney Rox! Woot Woot! Ooooh ya Go go go!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Senior Sex(less) and the City: Episode #14

Moob Man
He’s slim. He’s athletic looking. Yet his ex-pecs have drooped into moobs. These B-cups could get him hired at Hooters if only they were a tad less pendulous. And why is it that men with moobs wear clingy knit tops? In this case it’s unfortunate that he’s tall, because any short woman who slow danced with him would end up with a face full of man-mammaries. He also appeared to have had a face lift. Forgive me for saying it: wrong choice of cosmetic surgeries, Mr. Man-mams!

Next week: Summary One More

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Bountiful Harvest

Or maybe Christmas came early??!! Either way, I got an unbelievable surprise yesterday with this box full of goodies from Sioux Roslawskii of Sioux’s Page. I’m afraid my photography skills just don’t do it justice, but they are (clockwise from back):

-A gorgeous coffee table collection of bylines called Writers, photographs by Nancy Campton. How interesting to see the faces of people whose work I’ve read! And I was thrilled to see that John Updike’s office looks only slightly cleaner than mine (including stuff on the floor and everything!)…but with fewer Post-Its.

-A drop-dead-gorgeous, apparently hand-knit scarf (in rich colors that will look wonderful with my winter coat!) with some beautiful beading detail on the fringe. As someone who learned to knit in Girl Scouts and never progressed from there (am not even entirely sure if I earned the badge), I am positively fascinated by how perfect the workmanship is.

-A pretty journal in warm, autumn tones.

-The most beautiful fall quilt wall hanging that has inspired me to get out my autumn decorations. On the back, it says, “This quilt was started at a guild retreat several years ago, and was finally finished in July, 1999. Sioux Roslawski, Spanish Lake, Missouri.” It is a piece to be cherished.  Ditto about the workmanship.  I know I never earned that quilting badge.

-A bright yellow “Writer” button, and

-Luscious, dark chocolate covered coffee beans. Yum!!!  Perfect for when I am having either caffeine withdrawals or chocolate withdrawals, or (typical for me) both.  How did she know??!

Wow. All I can say is that Sioux is one talented and generous lady. AND I will be entering more contests from now on!!! Thank you so much, Sioux!!!

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What? You, too? Thought I was the only one.’ ~ C.S. Lewis

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Stuff from Around My House: More Art

I teach grades 6-12, so students don’t draw pictures for me very often. Every now and then, one does. And who do you think gives me a picture? Wouldn’t you think it would be a 6th grade girl? That would be my guess. But no. Strangely enough, the person who occasionally gives me a picture is a high school aged boy—usually a junior. Really.

This has happened several times. In every case so far, he’s the sweet, gregarious type who is talking to his friends. When I tell him to get to work, he grins up at me from his seat and tells me he is done with his work. Would I like him to draw me a picture? After I make sure he’s done whatever he’s supposed to do, I tell him sure. Anything to keep him quiet enough to allow others to get their work done.

This last one asked me for my favorite vacation spot and animal. He started to ask my favorite sport, but someone asked me a question and I got distracted. So here is the picture he gave me. I thanked him for giving me a nice LARGE bottle of rum and a volley ball net, though I later realized it was a hammock. My guess is I would need that rum in order to put up with the rabid-looking wolf-dog that is about to plunge itself into the ocean in pursuit of an apparent hallucination.
 Usually I make them put their name and age on it, but sad to say, the bell rang before I got a chance with this one. It is hanging on my refrigerator, though. Of course.

Overheard from high school boy: “In school, gum is gold. Like, if you’re in the outside world, and somebody is like, ‘Do you want a piece of gum?’ you’re like, ‘no, man.’ But if you’re in school, you’re like, ‘I want that piece of gum!’”

Friday, October 8, 2010

Senior Sex(less) and the City: Episode #13

I’m-Not-Drunk Dude
The good news is that he is not a mean drunk. In fact, he’s a great guy, everyone’s friend—who can down half his weight in alcohol and not seem terribly drunk at all. He is proud of this accomplishment, and no wonder—he’s worked for years to build such tolerance. He thinks he’s no fun unless he’s drinking, so he finds an excuse to imbibe no matter where he is. He has the uncanny ability to sniff out a bar anywhere—even along a wilderness hiking trail. At an afternoon festival, he makes a beeline for the only booth he cares about—the beer garden. Whether it’s after a morning at the gym, at an afternoon charity event, or at the church picnic, every outing somehow involves alcohol. He frequently swears it off—say, for Lent—because if he can give it up for a few weeks, he’s sure that means it’s not a problem. Then he decides that God wouldn’t have put St. Patrick’s Day in the middle of Lent if people weren’t supposed to drink, and besides, he made his point. And since God said, it would practically be sacrilege NOT to! So drink up—he’s buying!

Next week: Episode #14 (? Send men! I need fresh ones!)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Contest Stuff

Announcement number one: the Objéct was…drum roll…An ANT, of course. A red one, I believe. Tsk, sigh…gol, you guys!   As far as what its function was—I’m convinced it is merely to add joy to my life!

Announcement number two, which should really be one: I won Sioux’s blog prompt contest! Hooray!!! I normally don’t enter contests, but Becky Povich’s was so much fun last month that I decided to just take a peek. And Sioux’s wonderful blog has some great stuff on writing, teaching, and the teaching of writing.

As soon as I saw that picture, I knew I had to enter because I had a true story that just went with it. Last year I subbed as a middle school P.E. teacher on a very warm spring day, and the kids were outside playing soccer. At the far end of the field was one lone chair smack dab in the middle of nothing. Toward the end of the day, curiosity got the best of me and I finally wandered down there. The cool, fragrant breeze that hit that chair was pure heaven. It really did feel like being on the beach with an ocean of grass in front of me. When it was time to take the kids inside for the day, I truly hated to part with that chair and that field!

All the arts depend upon telepathy to some degree, but I believe that writing offers the purest distillation. ~Steven King, On Writing

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Stuff...I Mean...Fancy Shmancy Objéct from Around My House

This stunning piece was hand-crafted by my son, I think when he was in kindergarten. Feel free to guess what it is. Sorry, you won’t get any prizes, but you will get the enviable distinction of being named the winner. Yay! And I will personally clap for you while sitting here at my computer, and probably some people will be impressed by your…um…appreciation of the finer things in life.

I used to keep this arranged on an antique table next to a Baccarat crystal candle holder because I am just that weird. I thought it was sort of funny. A Realtor with a background in home decorating was over, and I saw her eyes dart all over the table and then go back to the THING. Several times. “Oh,” she said. “This is an interesting…piece. What is this objéct d’art?”

Don’t you love it? “Objéct d’art.” I wish I could have kept a straight face and made something up (using a haughty voice) but I’m not nearly that cool. Instead, I made her guess. While she was examining it, it came apart in her hands. The look on her face makes me giggle to this day. We both ended up laughing so hard we had to fight over the bathroom.

She never guessed what it was, either. So here it is, lovingly glued back to its original configuration, although I must warn you that I really don’t know which direction it’s supposed to go. Your turn. Good luck.

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people. ~Victor Borge

Friday, October 1, 2010

Senior Sex(less) and the City: Episode #12

Mr. Pick Up
I met Mr. Pick Up on a hot summer night. The excitement at the outdoor concert was almost electrical, the band, electrifying. He was tall, muscular, handsome. Considerably younger than I am. Was it that it was so dark out or that he just didn’t care? He slid an arm around my waist and I let him. Newly divorced, he said. Yes, it was obvious what he was after, but let’s face it, after forty-five a bad reputation is quirky at worst, almost admirable at best. Heck, cougars are practically a good thing! But…the bottom line is another one of those sad ironies of life. Respect matters at my age. And the question isn’t whether they respect me, but whether I respect them. Mr. Pick Up tucked his card into my hand. “Call,” he whispered. Months later, I still have the card. But I know I keep it only so I can say: What’s wrong with me?! I could have had a hot guy!

Next week: Episode #13, The I’m-Not-Drunk-Dude

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Struggles with Awesomeness

Here’s Struggle #1. It’s mine. Ever since I got a Gmail address, Blogger will NOT let me sign up to follow some of your awesome blogs. It basically loops me through the process. So if I’m not following your blog, that’s why!! I was originally signed up to Blogger with my primary email address. But once I added Gmail, it doesn’t seem to recognize me. At first I thought a lot of people’s blogs were private. Yes, I am technologically challenged. But since then, I’ve tried shuffling accounts, coordinating passwords, etc. Yet I can sign in to post just fine.  Does anyone know what to do?

Here’s Struggle #2. It’s a student's struggle and my Quote for the Day. I like it so much, I almost gave it its own post.

Spoken by 10th grade boy: When I turn 18, should I change my name to Optimus Prime Megatron? Or should I just name my kid that?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Not Totally Done Tuesday: Paradise

Umm…okay, I know I said I wasn’t going to post these every week. But have you ever started feeling really tired of your hair, so you made the appointment to get it cut, and that seemed to make it start looking better? I guess this is like that.

Anyway. This past week reminded me what my concept of paradise used to be. I used to think it had to involve palm trees. And then I lived with a few palm trees, and I found out that paradise doesn’t automatically come attached.

Over the weekend, I woke up my own paradise. It was a Sunday morning, and the fall weather has begun to settle in, and I was under a down comforter listening to a cool rain outside my open windows. As I age, I find that paradise is less a place and more a state of being. I’m working on moving there permanently.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


JUST when you thought this blog couldn’t get more exciting!

Coming Soon: Stuff I Found Around My House! About once a week or so, I will show you something from around my house. Just makes you want the week to fly by, doesn’t it? So that’s it. Stuff. You expected more, maybe? Uhhh, nope. Well, I’ll tell you about it, too. What makes this different from a kindergartener’s show and tell, you ask? The fact that I am about 45 years older than a kindergartener and only slightly more mature.

OH, GREAT EIGHT BALL…is this a good idea?
By the way, here’s the first one. My Eight Ball. Well, really it’s my daughter’s, but she doesn’t play with it anymore, and as you can see from the fact that the Eight Ball has its own blog label, I do.

Spoken by eighth grade boy last week: “Something smells good over here. Is that you? Ma’am, would it be inappropriate of me to ask if I could sniff you?”

Friday, September 24, 2010

Senior Sex(less) and the City: Episode #11

Karma Chameleon
Karma Chameleon was slick, I’ll give him that. He was funny, witty, and interesting. There was something unbelievably familiar about him. He had an easy laugh. He had served in a public office, same party as my very political parents. Even though it’s not my party, I was astounded at how drawn I was toward this man. I later looked him up; he was telling the truth about his political background. But what I liked most was his incredibly diverse interests. Psych and journalism major. Right now he’s a counselor. My ears perked up. Writer? Counselor? At that point on, it was clear that his passions are writing and counseling. And—could it get more amazing?—when I mentioned I teach, it turns out he’s crazy about children, too. Still…it bothered me that he was trying so hard to impress me. And he later let something slip that led me to believe he still wasn’t over his divorce. Unhealed means not ready for a new relationship, and a counselor should have known that. But worse was the feeling I couldn’t shake that all of those interests and occupations were merely lines he was casting to see where the nibbles were. Something didn’t feel quite right. I decided to give him time and see what he did. The next time we met, I watched him hit on every woman in the room, one by one. When I passed him one time, I couldn’t help but overhear that he was a business owner. With another, he was in sales. Sales? Diversity is wonderful, but this felt way too much like a con. Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chameleon, you come and go. But…just go, ‘kay? 

Next week: Episode #12, Mr. Pick Up

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Totally Tired Tuesday: Randomer Randomness

I’m officially tired of Totally Random Tuesday! Will eventually post more randomness, but not on a weekly basis. But since I need some direction in my wandering little journeys, stay tuned for new stuff!

In the meantime, here’s one more random thought: Lately I’ve been thinking that it’s almost disturbing how entertained I am by the act of writing. I think publishing is like getting a free pass to play. When you’re writing, you can even say to non-writers, “I’m working!” and they will believe you.


Have a great Tuesday. Wishing you…happy randomness. Or random happiness.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Brevity is the Soul of Wit, but Limbs and Outward Flourishes are Funner

Friend and wonderful writer Becky Povich recently had her September blog contest. The rules were: using the scene in the photo (reprinted with Becky's permission, below), write a story of 100 words or less. I don’t enter contests very often, but Becky gives some great prizes. Problem was (and always is) that word count. I just could NOT do 100 words. The leanest I could chop was 112. So after struggling far longer than I could spare, I gave up. Here it is, because now I don’t know what to do with all 266 words. Happy fall, y’all.

It was Cactus Day at the “Life is a Bed of Roses” nursery, and Berta Ebbercamper was feeling a bit prickly. So she tossed on her blue Ask Me About My Grandbabies t-shirt and headed on over.

When she saw the life-sized dragon sculpture out front, though, she knew it would look cute as a button next to some windmills on her front lawn, with maybe a cement goose in overalls underneath.

But when she reached for the door, Berta felt something hot on her back. Whirling around, Berta realized that it hadn’t been a lawn dragon, after all, but a real North American Brownbeard merely posing as one!

Berta hadn’t lived with Ed for 42 years for nothing. She knew ornery. She tripped that dragon with a pot of sedum ‘Autumn Joy,’ then beaned him with chrysanthemum ‘Golden Splendor.’ Berta, once a horticulture major on a fencing scholarship, fought the dragon off with the nearest carnegiea species, eventually pinning him with ferocactus horridus. Didn’t slay him, though. Berta was a practical woman and knew a real dragon might come in handy when Ed’s back was out.

Now the dragon sits nicely on a hay bale next to a garden gnome and two pumpkins, cradling some dried corn husks and a sign that says, “I ♥ Autumn.” Berta named him Ferdish, because it sounded like a fancy name, just like her real North American Brownbeard.

“Ferdish!” says Berta, “You go on an’ haul that wheelbarrow full of pea gravel out back, will you?”

“Yes ma’am,” says Ferdish.

Yep, dragons can go nicely in the garden sometimes.

You must bring us... a shrubbery! ~ Knights who say Ni (from Monty Python and the Holy Grail)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Senior Sex(less) and the City: Episode #10

Bucket List Boy
This is the opposite of The Health Nut. He isn’t just embracing his mortality; he is hurtling himself toward it at the speed of a high-pitched scream. He has a list and he’s not afraid to plunge headlong into it…usually hanging on by something that looks a little like a large elastic ponytail holder. His midlife crisis is so out of control that the list usually involves too little oxygen and way too much gravity. He’s like an adolescent with plenty of money and no mom to yell at him.

Bucket List Boy asked me to jump out of an airplane with him. Amazingly, there was a time in my life when I actually wanted to do this. Now I have a child still at home whom I don’t want to leave homeless. But even if all that depended on me was my plumerias, I still couldn’t do it. As I age, I find that scary thrills like that lose their thrilling aspects—leaving behind just the scary part. I chickened out of the Mr. Freeze roller coaster at Six Flags and had to walk the long Loser Walk past the crowds of bubble gum-chewing tweens watching me with a combination of pity and adolescent superiority. It was the fact that they had you remove your earrings that got me. Anything that sucks the jewelry out of your body is just too much suckage. Serious, scary suckage. Besides, things already hurt at my age; do I really want to risk adding injuries? If I survive? Right now my idea of risky behavior is using a lower SPF sunscreen or skipping a year of mammograms. Worse—and this is a true confession—I am genuinely afraid that sheer terror would make me lose control of my bodily functions. And let’s face it—it’s just not cool at any age to poop on your date.

No question about it, though—Bucket List Boy is fun. He is a wild man who does everything with gusto. He has recreational vehicles galore. He loves to travel. Oh, the places you could go with Bucket List Boy! The question is, would you return?

Next week: Episode #11, Karma Chameleon

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Senior Sex(less) Supplement: 10 More Things!

It’s baaaaaaack! Inspired by “The Health Nut” and his fetching pickup lines, here are:

10 REALLY BAD Pickup Lines for Middle Aged Folks

1. Darlin’, you put the grr in girdle.

2. Shake it, don’t break it.

3. I’d like to run my fingers through your…scalp.

4. Come on, Honey, let’s get horizontal. ‘Cause I’ve been standing too long and my knees are stiff and my back hurts.

5. I’ve always liked a woman with curves. Everywhere. Like on your knees and upper back.

6. Oh my darling, let me tilt your delicate little chin…ah, neck…ah, 45 degree angle where your chin and neck have melted into each other and become one body part, thereby making it look as if your head is sprouting out of a really fleshy turtle neck sweater….

7. What’s cookin’, good lookin’? Let me put my glasses on to gaze upon…Oh. Oh, I’m so sorry. Pardon me.

8. Okay, then, can I grope your back fat?

9. Let’s play “the Tickle Game.” Go put on your Depends.

10. And the one that inspired this: Hey baby, you put the “hot” in hot flash!

P.S. I had a Viagra one, but I took it out. You’re welcome. Feel free to suggest any of your own!!!

Bleeker's mom was possibly attractive once, but now she looks like a Hobbit. You know, the fat one that was in the Goonies. ~from the movie, “Juno”

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Totally Random Tuesday: Life After Death

I think it would be interesting if, when we died, we got back all that we gave to the people who didn’t deserve whatever they'd been given. That would certainly account for heaven for some people...and hell for others.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Senior Sex(less) and the City: Episode #9

The Health Nut
We all have to face the fact that we are mortal creatures, and yes, more so at my age. But The Health Nut goes to ϋber-extremes. He is not just watching his cholesterol, but watching every particle in the environment which may or may not contribute to his demise, including toxic tooth fillings and evil air particles. True, he is slim and healthy looking, but this guy raises an eyebrow at certain organic products, even. Yet it wasn’t his diet that scared me off. What did it was the line about certain products “alleviating the symptoms of menopause.” Did I say anything about menopause? NO. Why? Because I’m not an idiot, that’s why. I don’t care how old I am, how natural it is or whether I am standing in a puddle created by my own hot-flash-induced sweat, if you’re male and not currently wearing a white coat and holding a speculum (I’m just immature enough that I can’t type that without adding: eww), that’s another fact of life you’d better avoid more carefully than your own eventual demise. My first thought was that he was trying to get rid of me (a technique which used to be known in high school as “The Gross-Out”), but it later became clear that he was just being obsessed with health and aging. I’ll take those tips when you’re ready for me to suggest that you need Viagra, testosterone supplements and male enhancement products, ‘kay, Bran Boy?

Next week: Episode #10, Bucket List Boy

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Happy Hump Day

Things You Don’t Want to Hear:
Your dog, rooting under the sofa and going *CRUNCH*CRUNCH*CRUNCH* on something that doesn’t remotely sound like food. When I chased him around, he knew from experience that I was going to reach in there and pull it out. So…GLUP!  Gone before I could take away his treasure, whatever the heck it was. The remorse was very brief and quickly replaced by defiance, the booger.

Things You Do Want to Hear:
I’ve intended to read this…and now I’ve won Karen Greene’s new book, a poetry collection called Three Thousand Doors!!! I absolutely, positively never win anything, so I am thrilled that I struck the jackpot my first time!!! Thanks again, Karen!  Will be sure to let you know when I've read it.  In the meantime, check out her wonderful writing prompts!

Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable. ~Louisa May Alcott

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Totally Random Tuesday: Books

Who is God? I know for sure on some days she is a friend with a pen.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Labor Day

What a hot summer we’ve had! Heat-warning hot. Hit-you-in-the-face-and-suck-your-breath-out hot. Zap your strength, blow open all of your pores, and leak you into a puddle of misery hot. Burn your hands on the steering wheel hot. Burrito hot. Old dog breath hot, the kind that’s humid and smelly and too close to your face until you feel like you either can’t breathe or don’t want to.

That kind of hot. So hot that when I went out to clean up dog poop, the dog didn’t bound up to accompany me, but refused to budge from the dark, air conditioned hallway and watched me instead with his droopiest hound dog face. And when I got out there, I discovered the poop had baked into little black poop-shaped charcoal briquettes.

And now that the weather is cooling and summer is considered to be over, I have one thing to say:

Over already??!

To live is to suffer, to survive is to find meaning in the suffering. ~Gordon A. Allport

Friday, September 3, 2010

Senior Sex(less) and the City: Episode #8

Martian Man
Remember Big Boy restaurants? Martian Man looked like Big Boy, but much more grave. He was grave on account of the Martians. It’s not for me to say whether he really did have a close encounter with a U.F.O. 30 years ago. But using that as his opening line didn’t overwhelm me with the excitement of his life. Even under the assumption that it did happen, if it was 30 years ago and that’s still all he’s talking about, it’s time to take the lawn chairs out to that hillside to stake out the firmament again. Oh, wait, he does that. So maybe time for a new kind of hobby. Or therapist.

Next week: Episode #9, The Health Nut

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Totally Random Tuesday: Forgiveness

For years I’ve wondered what forgiveness really is. The people in my experience who require the most forgiving seem to think of it as something they are owed, like a “Get Out of Jail Free” card that they automatically collect along with $200 every time they pass Go.

I’m ashamed at how many years it took me to realize that forgiveness is not something that’s handed over automatically, but something that’s earned. And it doesn’t mean giving a chance to repeat the transgression, but giving a chance to demonstrate that it won’t be.

In the end, though, forgiveness simply means moving to a place where the hurtful thing truly no longer hurts and will no longer hurt again, wherever that may be. So forgiveness is something we really only owe ourselves.

Hey—here’s a bonus question. Which Monopoly piece are you and why? I’m usually the shoe, I think because life, to me, is a journey. And I like that little handle. Also because we seem to be missing the car, my former favorite. Did you notice?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Senior Sex(less) and the City: Episode #7

“Twinkly” is a silly, sweet, wonderful man with eyes that light up a room and a soul that lights up the people in the room. He is a big person on the inside, spiritual without being remotely preachy, smart but fun. He gets along with everyone and seems to have an interest in everything. He is respectful of women, chivalrous, and kind. Whenever there’s an awkward situation, Twinkly comes to the rescue. Or if a party is lagging, Twinkly livens it up. When I was stuck next to a braggart, Twinkly came up and whispered, “I haven’t heard you say a word in ages. Is it because you can’t?” And then, eyes twinkling, he asked for my help elsewhere. Twinkly shines. If I were more ready for a relationship, I would want to be more than the friends that we are. But I’m not, and alas, Twinkly deserves someone who is. Still…I’m lucky to call Twinkly my friend.

Next week: Episode #8: Martian Man

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Running in Circles

Donna over at Donna’s Book Pub (DBP) gave me the Circle of Friends award last Friday. My week as been so crazy, though, I’m afraid it’s taken me a while to post about it. Her blog is a font of resources for writers and a welcome place to gather. Thank you, Donna!!! The other exciting part of this award is that I get to spread the fun around to five blogger friends of my own. Here are the directions, pasted directly from Donna’s blog:

Pass the link to five other bloggers.
Post a link from their blog to mine.
Notify them that they have received the award.
So, here are my five selections for The Circle of Friend Award:

1. Linda. Of special interest to my dog-loving friends—check out Linda’s blog Write from the Heart! She has a story in the book My Dog is My Hero coming out Sept. 18!!! Congratulations, Linda!
2. A Woman with a Past is a woman who can write. Visit there when you have time to read.
3. Jessica at Just Gonna Be Me! is a lovely young woman with a lovely old soul.
4. Jules of Trying to Get Over the Rainbow is like a pot of warm gold.
5. Pat over at Critter Alley posts animal pictures that are worth a thousand words and captions that are far better than a thousand words.

My final job is to notify them that they have received the award and ask them to pass it along. Enjoy!

She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind. ~Toni Morrison

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Totally Random Tuesday: Put Downs

Carving the people around you into canyons doesn’t make you into a mountain by comparison. It just makes you dirty and low.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Senior Sex(less) and the City: Episode #6

Sort of Married Guy
The divorce is almost final, he said. You know how it is, he said. Just waiting on the final signatures, he said. Almost divorced is like sort of pregnant. You are or you aren’t. No signatures? Come back when you get them. On second thought, don’t. Sort of Married Guy might as well wear a sign that says he A.)Wants to commit adultery, but B.)He doesn’t want to go after a sort-of married woman because he doesn’t want any husbands beating him up. Besides, even after those signatures, if he doesn’t take time to reflect and regroup, healthy relationships are not his priority. End of story. Except it’s not the end of this story! A few months later, I ran into Sort of Married Guy again. He asked me out again. “Get those papers signed yet?” I asked, just out of curiosity. Almost, he said. You know how it is, he said. Just have to get a couple of signatures, he said….

Next week: Episode #7, Twinkly

Thursday, August 19, 2010


It’s sad for all of us when my son leaves for college. The dog, however, mourns a little bit. And I think my son mourns the dog a little bit, too. Buddy, a lab mix, turned 14 in April. His age hangs in the air these days like a gathering storm.

My son has been packing, but he stops. “I think I’ll take Buddy for a walk,” he says.

We are empaths, the boy and I; we often sense what others are feeling. It isn’t ESP, but there are times when we are so sensitive to each other that the emotions volley silently between us, mirror on mirror. So when the rawness of what he is feeling settles on me and stops me in my tracks, we both look away out of politeness.

“Yes,” I say, to the floor. “He'll like that.”

They only go to the end of the block and back, but the dog—in spite of going blind and deaf—adores their time together. He knows that his boy will care for him always.

So do I.

The language of friendship is not words, but meanings. ~Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Totally Random Tuesday-Children

I didn’t realize how much growing up I had to do until I had children. I was an adult until they were born. Life has so many weird little ironies like that, and child-rearing has to have the most. I had a ton of things I wanted to teach my children, but over and over, they’ve taught me how much I had to learn from them. Then there was all I wanted to give them. Strange that they’ve given me so much more in return.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Caught by the Principal

In honor of school starting again, here is the true story of something that happened to me last year.

I’d dealt with an incident involving several high school kids. Although everything had worked out as well as it possibly could have, it’s always a good idea to document, so I started a rough draft of my documentation on a piece of scratch paper I had with me.

Earlier that day, I had been helping out in a history class where the teacher had been showing a PowerPoint presentation on Vietnam. Not having anything to do at the moment, I doodled.

I am a doodler. So I started doodling the picture of this Vietnamese dude. I know I should know the name, but I don’t. I’m sorry—I’m not a history buff. And I certainly mean no disrespect to anyone’s leaders. But the thing is, I was working on the guy’s beard when the teacher switched slides…so my doodling hand had to improvise. And I just don’t feel terribly responsible for what that doodling hand does.

The beard became a long braid.  Then I added a polka-dotted bow. Then earrings and a nose ring. I surrounded him with helicopters (á la M*A*S*H), palm trees, and for no explicable reason, volcanoes.

So these were the notes I used to draft my documentation. Except…just as I was finishing up the rough draft, the principal showed up at the door and asked to see me in the hall. He was happy with the way I had handled the situation, but he needed the names of the children who were involved. I started to check my notes and told him I had been drafting a statement.

“May I see it?” he asked. Um. Well. I sort of hid the paper behind myself, guiltily.

“I need to recopy it,” I explained. “But first I could just check the names….”

He told me that was okay—he could just read my draft. He held out his hand. I stood there like an idiot. “I’ve drawn all over the page,” I blurted out. “It’s a…habit. It was Vietnam, and I….It might be hard to read. Why don’t you let me recopy my notes quickly?”

He wasn’t buying it. He needed to see it, please. Now.

So I shuffled my feet and looked at the floor. Here I was, a forty-something-year-old-teacher, summoned by the principal, admonished to hand over a paper with silly drawings on it. I handed it over.

I watched his eyes dart around the page, and the corners of his mouth quivered ever so slightly. Still, I have to hand it to him, he held his face as still as possible and read my notes without giggling. Then when he was done, he sort of winked and said, “I’ll let you get back to Vietnam.”

In all fairness, it could have been much, much worse. I’m partial to silly hairdos, and I’d given the guy a sort of modified “Betty Boop” earlier but had erased it off because it just wasn’t the look I was going for.

I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam ~Popeye the Sailor Man