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Showing posts from 2011

Plan B and C and D

I am one of those annoying people who not only makes New Year’s resolutions but actually keeps them.   No big surprise, since every day is the start of a “new year” for me, and I have a lifetime of experience. As mother and wife, I have had no choice but move with the flow or get knocked over.   As an ex-teacher, every school year offered new challenges - new assignments, new personalities (administrators, parents, and students), and new horizons. As a writer, we call it Revise and Edit. If life is how you react to Plan B, then you are in for a rough ride unless you learn to use your flexible gene. I have lived through Plan B.   And C.   And D.   If truth be told, I have gone through the alphabet several times over.   I am an expert at bending with the wind .   (Okay, I don’t do “outdoor stuff” very well, but you get the picture.) There are certain resolutions that get listed every year that they have become as rote as the heading on a school composition – full name on the left, date

Merry Christmas, Daddy

My dad was born on December 24 th . He was a very intelligent man, an accomplished musician, and a respected accountant. Through all that seriousness, he had another side to him. He was a terrible tease and a practical joker, so when he said he and Baby Jesus had a lot in common, Mama would scoff and we would giggle. He had a stroke a few months after he turned 60, but strokes don't kill you; they just leave you disabled. He was unable to work, write his beloved poetry, or play his clarinet. Right before his 81 st birthday, he had a heart attack and needed surgery. My father had always been physically and emotionally strong, so it pained us to see him frightened and frail. We prayed that God would assuage his fear and return his courage. It took him the better part of one year to recover enough before he was allowed to go home. One morning right after his 84 th birthday, my dad hunted for a snack in his dark kitchen in the early morning hours. He tripped, hit his head on th

Blame the Hamburger

I blame the drive-thru hamburger or the coffee shop with the creamy drinks.   I’ve been misled by the Mexican food restaurant with the bottomless bowls of chips and salsa and the to-die-for enchiladas. I’ve been snookered by bags of Snickers and seduced by salty chips, two-timed by an egg and bacon taco (or two), and hoodwinked by a side of hotcakes.    It’s their fault my belts won’t buckle and my jackets won’t zip. I blame them for my shortness of breath and my aching back as I carry armloads of Blue Bell ice cream and glazed donuts to the car. I know I am not alone, so I say we sue those who have made us this way:   they force me to eat that taco (or two) for breakfast; they lure me with their double lattes topped with whipped cream; they snare me with their Number One specials (then try to mask the truth with side salads and diet sodas); they sing their siren songs after a long, hard day with their “Hot and Ready” pizzas and drive through dinners that come complete with des

2012 - Out of Time

I bought enough batteries to last a year, uncooked beans and rice in 20 lb bags, filled every gasoline can we owned to the brim.   I collected empty plastic milk jugs for a year then filled them with tap water.   I bought several boxes of old-fashioned matches and several pallets of barbecue briquettes. I even learned now to load and shoot the two firearms we owned. The sky was all purple There were people running everywhere Many laughed at me. It was 1999 and I was preparing for the big Y2K digital meltdown. When nothing happened, it took me several months to water the patio plants with the 250 gallons of water I had hoarded.   It took longer to use up all the other supplies. (I still have some leftover D batteries in the bottom junk drawer in the kitchen.) Now an even bigger disaster is predicted – December 21, 2012 - the day Bolon Yokté K’uh, a Mayan god of war and creation, will descend from the sky, and the pages on the Tortuguero Monument calendar end. We could all die any

Whiney Babies

I recently read a book on body language, ingesting enough info to make me a dangerous armchair expert. What impressed me more than the ability to tell if someone is lying or flirting with me (or both at the same time) was how attitude or posture affects the brain. For instance, if you dread doing something, admit it out loud but then counter it with an affirmation that you are going to do it anyway. Do it with a smile. These simple actions trigger measureable chemical and electrical impulses in your brain that actually help you get through the cumbersome task. Gloomy and depressed? Smile.   Hate your job? Straighten your shoulders, take a deep breath, and trudge forward.   The mere affectation of a positive attitude and the brain responds in kind. The reverse is also true.   If you dread a task, whine about it. Continuously. Keep on frowning. Feeling unloved? Hunch your shoulders, make a hangdog face, think sad thoughts.   Before long, you’ll be watching The Remains of the Day or

Leftovers and Hand me downs

My grandson reached down and found a hole in his comfy pair of socks.   He worked on it and worked on it, trying to make the hole bigger.     “Don’t do that.   I can fix it.” “That’s okay.   Mama can buy me more.” His older brother hadn’t worn a favorite shirt in a long time. “It’s missing a button.” “Bring it over.   I can fix it.” He looked at me as if I were speaking in tongues. We chip a tiny corner on our favorite cereal bowl. We accidentally bleach a white spot on a new shirt. We don’t wear a dress or a pair of pants because we don’t have time to mend a rip. And they go into the recycle or the donation pile.   Ignored. We do the same with food. We order too much lunch, we make too much for a meal, we serve ourselves more than we can eat at one sitting.   We keep leftovers only long enough until we can pitch them in the trash without guilt.    What waste:   one tiny imperfection; one slight abuse, and we discard, erase, start over. I darned my grandson’s socks.   I appliquéd a r

I want a new drug.

I want a new drug. I am the oldest anyone in my immediate family has gotten without having had a stroke or heart attack. According to my internist, I am literally a time bomb set to go off at any second. She scours my lab reports every six months for any slight increase in blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood glucose levels, then she prescribes light doses of Lipitor and Avapro and heavy dosages of exercise. Not just any exercise – she wants me to do aerobic exercise.   One that don’t cost too much Or come in a pill There is a reason why the word EXERCISE consists of eight letters – it’s a double four-letter cuss word.   I don’t care that it’s good for everything, including the failing economy of this nation.   Name it; it cures it (or delays it):   aging, anxiety, arthritis, blood pressure, cancer, cholesterol, depression, dementia, diabetes, flexibility, heart problems, immune systems, lung capacity, sexual dysfunction, sleep disorders, yadda, yadda, yadda. So what? Not every

HoneyBunch, Chapter Three ~ And Ever After

HoneyBunch asked me out several times before I agreed to meet him in person. We swapped emails and phone calls, but I was hesitant to take our relationship any further. It was a little lopsided at first:   he proposed on the first date; I, on the other hand, kept telling him after each one that it was our last. Somewhere in there HoneyBunch’s persistence and patience overcame my persnicketiness and paranoia. Also, when I tell people that I suspect God had a hand in this, they think I am being poetic, but it is the truth. Two months before (while I was perusing my pathetic pool of gentlemen callers on eHarmony), I had a serious conversation with my Creator. I let Him know it was okay if there was no one “out there” for me.   I was grateful for all the blessings He had given me. To ask for more would be greedy.   But just in case (after all, He’s omniscient), if He saw someone who would be an excellent fit for me, I sure would appreciate if He nudged him my way. Only excellent

HoneyBunch, Chapter Two

It took me two-three sessions on eHarmony’s website to answer all the questions.   I pushed the last button and went to bed thinking I’d wake up to find a long list of men dying to date me. I had zilch. I rechecked all the steps, and the website advised me to wait a few days – it was searching its entire pool.   Zilch, again. I prayed the mob trying to log on had crashed the website, but I knew better. On the verge of pathetic, I went back in and readjusted my answers and expectations. I enlarged the search area to include a fifty-mile radius outside of the metropolis. Obviously the many million inhabitants weren’t a large enough pool to find me one man.   I also extended the age range I was willing to consider. (I just needed him able to get around on his own.) I even lied. (What? I wasn’t applying for the Medal of Honor; I just wanted one date.) Finally, I had nibbles.   Most of the matches were sad; few of the men interested me, none enough to venture dating any of them. M

HoneyBunch, Chapter One

I met my husband on the Internet, eHarmony to be exact.   I joined the site to find a date, maybe some romance, but I ended up with something much better – a husband. I wasn’t looking for one, but I am not complaining either. I had been single for several years and loved my independence. I dated often in the beginning. Friends set me up on blind dates, and others were old friends who asked me out themselves. I was never very good at this game, so my dating pool had dried up. I felt God had blessed me once with a husband and family, so I was in no hurry to date or get serious with anyone. If I got asked out, good; if not, okay. I embraced my singledom. But then things started to change that made me rethink my attitude. One, my wardrobe: I was slowly replacing my size 8's with elastic waistbands, comfy cardigans, and beltless dresses, and my sexy heels gathered dust while I wore out the sensible crepe soles. Two, I started naming my pillows. Yeah, they had names, so what? Three,

A Love Story

Eight years ago my parents found themselves providing shelter for a young, pregnant woman.   Mom was 75; Dad was 82.   A few months after the baby boy was born, the unwed mother disappeared back into the streets, leaving the little one with my elderly folks. After considering their options, they contacted CPS and asked to foster the abandoned child. As time went on, the baby’s future seemed unstable.   Someone had to take responsibility for him. My parents had fallen in love with the little man and decided to do something about it, so they became parents for the sixth time.   Mom was 77; dad was 83.   On his second birthday, Mom invited us, his new older brothers and sisters, to his birthday party at Peter Piper Pizza.   The next youngest sibling had just turned 40; the oldest was in his late 50’s.   To offset the age discrepancy, some of us brought our grandchildren to the party, so that Baby Bro would have someone to play with.   (Even they were older than their newly-acquired un

Random Acts

Years ago as I entered a local Target store, I noticed a tall, elegantly dressed woman saunter out of the restroom with the whole back of her dress stuffed into her control tops.   Without thinking twice, I rushed up to her and covered her huge backside with my body and whispered sotto voce into her ear.   She jumped at first, frightened by my nearness, then peered down over her shoulder at me. When it dawned on her what was wrong, she hissed at me to back up. We shuffled backwards, vaudevillian-style, until we reached the bathrooms, but the moment she was within feet of the door, she flung me aside and leaped for cover. The door slammed in my face as I struggled to regain my balance. Another time, I was coming out of a McDonald's when a man started out of the parking lot in his car. On the roof of his sedan was a cardboard carrier with four sodas and two large bags of food. I stepped out into his path, pointing to the roof of his car like an airplane attendant does when parkin

Warrior Balance

Back when I taught high school, I loved the honor student who opted not to take Advanced Placement and strutted into my “regular” English class thinking he would skate through, up his GPA, and maybe – just maybe – take part in class, gracing us with his superior intelligence.   I lived for the moment when he realized “regular” didn’t exactly mean below level or mediocre.   I started back to the gym last month with the same arrogance.   Because of my bad knees, I joined a “gentle” yoga class where we use chairs instead of pretzeling ourselves on floor mats.   I strutted into that class, smirk on my face, and quickly assessed my fellow participants.   Some of those folks were older than my parents.   Be it known – I had my arthritic butt whupped by a classroom full of limber octogenarians who can out-warrior and out-downward dog me every single time. Last weekend I attended a writers’ conference. I guess I’m the kind of person who has to hit bottom repeatedly before learning humility

Aging: The 60’s Are the New 40’s

First of all, if the sixties are the new forties, someone forgot to tell my bod.   The only time that aging gets to me is when I look in the mirror.   At all other times, I am still the person who dances like a native to loud rock music, cackles at outrageous situations, and shocks the children. There are times when I find myself needing a nap, when my legs swell for no reason, and I need a hand rail to climb stairs, but those symptoms are not exclusive to people my age. If the sixties are the new forties, then why do people around me treat me like I don’t exist?   Four years ago I decided to stop dying my hair chocolate brown and let the gray take over. I wanted to embrace my age and “go gracefully.” That was the day, people started helping me across the street, men started calling me “ma’am,” and every person behind a register started offering me the senior discount. What happened to me, the strong woman I still am?   I have single-handedly raised three adult children, achieved

Las Comadres

“Aye, Comadre, you take the dressing room.   I’ll wait out here until  the other one empties.” “No, Comadre, let’s share this one.   See?   It’s big.” “Bueno, s í .   Okay.” Muffled noises, hangers clinking, heavy breathing. “Aye, Comadre.   Help me.   I’m stuck.” More shuffling. “There.   Let me get the zipper.”Breathing. “Maybe they have a bigger size.” “This is my size.” “S í , pero nowadays they use less material and charge you more.   Let me go see if they have it in a bigger size.” “I need to exercise.   Me dej é .” “No, Comadre, pero como?  It’s the style of the dress.” “Comadre, por favor, I can see for myself.   The mirrors don’t lie.” “We’ll go to the gym.   I, too, have let myself go a little.” “Aye, don’t yank on it.   I don’t want to have to buy it if it doesn’t fit.” “You can keep it in the closet as incentive.” “I am not going to the gym, not looking like this.   Come to my house every day, Comadre.   We’ll work out there.   When I look better, then we will go to the gy

Blissful Ignorance

Back on July 11, 2011, I posted “Writing a Cleverly Crafted Sentence.” It advocated using mentor sentences as practice to improve one’s writing. It may not sound like fun, but let’s throw something else into the mix – passion, emotion, uncertainty. Here we are exactly two months later on the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2011. Let’s revisit this concept with that in mind. . . .   Several years ago, while I was still in the classroom, I used the following sentence with my juniors in an American Literature class.   We had just finished reading a funny, short story by Rick Reilly, entitled “Funny You Should Ask.”   I found the first sentence so curiously constructed that I decided to use it as an impromptu grammar and syntax lesson.   “Real” sentences are immensely better learning opportunities than something out of the old “Practical English Grammar” books I had as a child. Here is the sentence in a vertical column on the left broken into its word chunks (phrases, clauses, single wo

Regret and Remorse Redux

I wish I had every cent I ever spent on: ·        exercise equipment, work out videos, fat busting drugs ·        clothes choices that looked good on the store mannequin, younger or taller women, but not on me ·        cute shoes that pinched every time I insisted on wearing them ·        books I never got around to read ·        books I read that sucked after the first five pages ·        family counseling and expensive lawyers trying to save my first marriage ·        bad haircuts/fad haircuts (picture an Afro or the Kate Gosselin) ·        decaffeinated Diet Cokes ·        craft kits that I never could learn to make or finish ·        anti-wrinkle/anti-aging cosmetics ·        anything in dark blue or neon orange (I’m a winter.) ·        a black tee-shirt I would be infinitely rich.   I’d probably make the Forbes list. Funny thing about regret – it doesn’t ensure remorse.   Faced with the same circumstances, the same temptations, the same promises, I would probably squander my mo

In Pursuit of My Future

We spend our lives crossing off the days on calendars in anticipation (or reluctance) of some future date – so many more days until Friday, so many more days until my next dental exam, so many more days until vacation, etc. But as our time on earth gets shorter and the days fly from our grasp, we realize how foolish it is to dismiss each precious moment so lightly. I do not advocate remorse or regret; I am advocating living every day to its fullest.   To entertain remorse is a waste of time and to entertain regret redefines who you are at present. I embrace my past and I am stingy and hungry for my future – time is of the essence. Having achieved one career in my lifetime, I look forward to creating a new one.   Since I do not have another forty years to foolishly cross days off my calendar, I have to double time toward my goal. What helps is that I do not have to start from scratch.   Some of the “credits on my old transcript” transfer onto my new goal.   I have been bl

Born to be Wild, The Baby Years

Tired of being treated less than my sisters, I decided to run away.   I went to bed fully clothed, my hobo bag packed and hiding under my bed.   I lay there until the house sang with soft snores, then I slipped stealth mode out of bed and down the hallway to the front door. A creaky floor board ratted me out and my mother woke up instantly.   She sent me back to bed with a severe scolding. I was nine.      My grandmother smoked Lucky Strikes, and my dad “enjoyed” a cigar every once in a while.   Curious about its attraction, I snuck cigarettes and smoked them outside, out of sight from the grownups. Daddy caught me practicing smoke circles one evening and forced me to join him in an after-dinner cigar. He taught me how to prepare it, light it, and how to hold the smoke in my mouth. I never did that again. I was eleven. I tossed my long hair around in a wide circle, arms waving, my bare feet stomping out the beat.     A swat on the behind interrupted my tribal dance in mid frenzy. With

Grandmothers Rule

When my mother agreed to marry my father, she had one condition to which he readily agreed.   One week after they married, my grandmother came to live with them, so from 1947 until her death in 1989, Mama Ene spent the majority of her days with us.   She occasionally took a “vacation” or went to live on her own, but it never lasted very long. My parents had careers, so my grandmother ran the household. My brothers, sisters, and I had a definite wake up and bed time schedule.   We each were assigned chores and responsibilities. We always showed her our school work and grade cards first, and she made sure we studied or did our homework before our parents came home every day. After we accomplished our obligations, she shooed us outside to “get some sun,” and on days when the weather was bad, she came up with ideas to encourage our creativity. She was a no nonsense lady, but under her stern exterior, she loved and cared for us. She wasn’t the type to sit and have a tea party with me and

How to Choose a Date in Five Easy Steps

(I figured with three marriages under my belt, I have some expertise, so gather round my children.) Rule # 1:   Never date a man with better hair or a better chest than you. (Enough said, this needs no further explanation.) Rule # 2: You can always judge a man by how respectfully and lovingly he treats his mama (better yet, check out how he treats his ex-wife or ex-girlfriends).   Rule # 3: Date within a ten-year range of your real age (yes, the one on your birth certificate) instead of using the old rule: dividing your age by half and subtracting and adding that number onto your present age. It just doesn’t make sense; the span is too large. If you’re thirty, the old rule okays dating anyone between 15 – 45 years old.   Besides ending up in jail and on national news, studies have proven that the brain of the middle-aged male and a male teenager function similarly. Do you want a date or to babysit? It gets even more disparate if you are a 60 year old.   The range then spans 30-90 yea

Write What You Know (And What Would That Be?)

As novice writers, we are often advised to "write about what we know." Sounds like good advice, but what would that be? Who would want to read about our boring, little lives? Here’s a writing exercise that might help. Take a sheet of paper (or open to a clean page in your private journal), put your name at the top, and number 1 – 20 down the left side of the sheet. Skip lines, if you want, and use a second sheet. Then without stopping (this will be difficult the first time you do this), name twenty nouns that describe you. If you need, use noun phrases (the noun is embedded in the phrase itself) to describe yourself. Don’t worry about the order of these - just come up with twenty nouns that describe you. Here is an example of my list: 1. Wife/Ex-wife 2. Mother/Step-mother 3. Grandmother 4. Daughter/Sister 5. Mother-in-law 6. Friend 7. Hispanic woman 8. Retired educator 9. Inactive licensed real estate agent 10. Published author of a newspaper personal col

Why Do "I" Have to Play Nice?

  At my age, I don’t have time to suffer fools.    There is nothing cute about finding someone has used the last of the toilet paper, taken the last ice cube, or left the empty cereal box in the pantry for me to replace. I do not find it cute when someone has eaten the garnish off the main dish before I served it to guests, or that they have taken a serving off the tray, or they picked a pineapple ring off the upside down cake. It gets downright ugly when someone dares to drink my last diet Coke, helps themselves to the slice of dessert I was saving for snack, or eats the whole bag of chips without leaving me any. I get vicious when people come in late to church or the movies then expect me to move over so they can have the aisle seat.   I think unholy thoughts when they get up continuously during the one-hour church service (For goodness sake, people, see a urologist!), step on my toes during a show (Wait for intermission!), or block my view of the winning basket (hey, Hey, HEY!)

Shania, Shameless Public Displays, and Jerry Springer

I watched two back-to-back TV episodes on the OWN Channel where Shania Twain whined about the demise of her marriage (and the loss of her singing voice), blaming the traitorous BFF who slept with her husband.   When Shania claimed that the former BFF lured her “honorable” and “good natured” husband with her evil, womanly wiles, I turned off my TV and went in search of ice cream.   It reminded me of the shameless public displays on the old Jerry Springer shows where women would fight over some unemployed, toothless bozo. Shania, Shania, Shania, emotion and pride distorts our common sense and warps our intelligence. We do anything to assuage our hurt egos, but let’s call out the real traitor.   What did you expect from a man named Mutt?    Your “honorable” husband pledged a marriage contract with YOU.  Where was his honor when he broke it?  When he should have been sharing his “good-nature” with YOU, why was he with her?   She "trampled" over the lines of BFF-ness and go