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.

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