Monday, December 26, 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 on the right - but that does not make them less of a necessity.  You know what I am talking about – lose weight, more exercise, learn to Mambo.  
Some change with age and maturity – kiss a boy, marry Ricky Nelson (for you younger readers, he was like the 1950’s version of Justin Bieber), live happily ever after. I’ve done all those (except marry Ricky), and losing weight turned out to be the hardest and less fun.
Resolutions – I feel like I should break into song here, but you wouldn’t want me to do that - just know that I believe in them.  I make several every year about this time in preparation for the real thing – LIFE - that little four-letter word that loves to screw with all your well-thought-out plans.
Let’s Mambo!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Merry Christmas, Daddy

My dad was born on December 24th. 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 81st 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 84th birthday, my dad hunted for a snack in his dark kitchen in the early morning hours. He tripped, hit his head on the corner of a counter, and collapsed unconscious to the floor.

My daddy died the next morning, January 8, 2006.

I understand when someone tells me they find the holidays difficult. I understand when they tell me they are lost in grief.

My father taught me to walk, read and write, and dance. He’d come home from work, take off his suit jacket and tie, and play tea party like a pro with me and my dollies.

I never really cried when he passed away, though I will admit my eyes sometimes mist over. I forget he is gone and I reach for the phone. I hear a silly joke and remind myself to share it with Dad. I refuse to be sad. My life is full of memories of him that still make me smile and laugh; my heart is still full of his love.

Merry Christmas, Daddy.


Monday, December 12, 2011

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 desserts.
They charm me with coupons.
After all is consumed (after all it is my Christian duty to clean my plate; some poor child in a third world country is counting on me), I reason with myself.  I assuage my gluttony with promises to do better tomorrow. 
The next day as I struggle with my stretch pants or drag my dress over my derrière, I . . .
blame the dryer.


Monday, December 5, 2011

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 day
Those who believe - 2012’ers - are so franticly preparing for the end of the world that they forget that life is measured by how we live it, what we accomplish, how we made a difference. 
They hoard and spend their time and money building underground silos in remote destinations, avariciously protecting their hoards of MRE’s. They lament the ticking of time, frightened of dying. They ignore the beauty around them today in preparation for a post-apocalyptic tomorrow.
Parties weren’t meant to last
I’d rather dance my life away

I am just as scared as the next person about death, but as far as I know, no one survives that inevitability.  Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to exist without my family, my friends, the fantastic life I enjoy now.

I prefer to live life now - with no regrets, happy, and accountable for my actions.  I will not let Internet rumors, prophets listening to telepathic messages from alien planets, or a disaster movie with bad ratings distract me from my true focus.  If I have lived my life to its fullest potential, then why should I fear my death?
But – Psst! - just in case, I have a couple of packages of D batteries I am willing to sell you real cheap. 
Oops, out of time -

Monday, November 28, 2011

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 reading an Oprah Book Club novel.
I admire folks who face huge obstacles with positive attitudes. They make the best of a situation, or they know when to walk away and start over.  They don’t see the glass as half empty because they don’t have time for clichés. 
Positive people face their struggles as challenges; they don’t respond constantly whining. They persist. There is a time and a place for an occasional pity party.  Grief is inevitable in one’s lifetime, but so are recovery and healing and joy. They soldier on and shoulder on.
I have no patience with whiners.  I’m mean like that. Okay, life sucks.  Love sucks.  The job sucks. Instead of acting the victim and wallowing in your vortex of gloom, seek a solution and try smiling. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

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 red rose over the bleached white spot on my shirt.  I fixed the tiny rip. I order only what I will eat at one sitting, I make only enough for one meal, and I recycle leftovers in the refrigerator until they are truly inedible.
Where did I learn my frugality?
I AM imperfection: the sock with the tiny hole on its toe, the chipped bowl, the ripped hem.


Monday, November 14, 2011

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 everything that is “good” is good for me.  Three servings of dairy a day is a death sentence to a person like me who is lactose intolerant. Money is “good” for me, but I’m dangerous with an ATM card.  A square of chocolate and a glass of wine is “good” for a woman my age, but that can lead to ancillary problems (and a more entertaining blog). You get the picture.
One that won’t make my mouth too dry
Or make my eyes too red
My doctor has scolded me for years to get more exercise, but I could care less.  I can take her.  She's at least forty lbs lighter than I am. But I will say this - the one thing that convinced me that I needed to do something besides take pills was the mirror. Okay, maybe also the huge pair of jeans I had to buy at the end of last summer. Or the inability to tie my own shoes.  Or the fact that I was breathless just getting to the driveway from the front porch.
Or make me feel three feet thick
I wish I was only 36 inches thick. Have you seen Huey Lewis lately? He looks good, and we’re the same age.  It just isn't fair.

And so I drag my aging, overweight backside to the gym five days a week. I chain ball, side step, pony, hustle, and do other insane flapping movements trying to keep the inevitable at bay – this rocker chick is getting old, but she plans on getting a whole lot older.


Monday, November 7, 2011

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 would do; nothing less, please.

I actually made a list in my journal, then I got down on my aging knees and shared it with Him.  I needed a man who was morally strong, intelligent and well-read, had a sense of humor and liked to smile.  He had to have integrity, and he had to be kind and protective of those he loved.  These are not unusual qualities, but what would make this man special (if he existed at all) - he would have to love and understand my idiosyncrasies.  (I am a tiny bit difficult.)

HoneyBunch met all those qualifications and more. I didn’t ask for handsome or sexy, yet he is.  AND, how can you not love someone who calls you Goddess every, single day?

People call our meeting on the Internet a modern-day romance, but I'm too busy being in love to bicker over semantics. I say our relationship is a testimony that God has a plan for each of us.  HoneyBunch and I (the Goddess) married three months after our first date, and we celebrate our “ever afters” as happily as we can.

Monday, October 31, 2011

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. My membership was running out and I was still dateless.

In the end, I whittled the list down to three:  a widower who talked only about his late wife, a man who went on and on about his beautiful eyes, and a proud dad with a previous married life similar to mine.  

I deleted the widower - who wants to compete with the memory of a dear wife? The man who was so into his own looks probably never noticed that I was gone, so that left the lonely dad.

Swapping emails with him was like looking into a mirror, and I wanted something different, something new. He sounded too serious, but still, maybe we could continue chatting once my eHarmony membership expired. Maybe we could just be friends.

To be continued. . . .  

Monday, October 24, 2011

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, I was eating Pop Tarts for dinner and chasing them down with a glass of Roscato.

I was slowly becoming that eccentric great-aunt who lives alone that everyone talks about at Thanksgiving (sans the cat - I don't like cats). 

When eHarmony showed up in my Spam and offered me three months for the price of one, I had nothing to lose. The worst possible scenario – nothing would happen, no dates. But my pillows and I would have something exciting to chat about in the wee hours of the night. The best possible scenario (I was shooting low here) – a date, one, something to write about in my old spinster diary.

So I paid my dues and took their long 29 Dimensions of Compatibility tests . . . .

To Be Continued.








Monday, October 17, 2011

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 uncle.) 

Mama is now 83; Dad would have been 90 on his next birthday, so one day our youngest sister will take over the care of our little brother, but he has all of us, his slightly older brothers and sisters, to remind him how much he was loved by his real parents, the mother and father who took responsibility for him and stepped up to claim him, regardless the odds.

Monday, October 10, 2011

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 parking a plane.

The man looked at me in horror and swerved around me, squealing his tires as he sped for the exit.  His sodas splashed onto the pavement; the bags of food went flying into the street. I bet he didn't discover his mistake until he reached home and the kids asked for their Happy Meals. He must have thought I was trying to solicit a ride, money, or - eek! - something else from him.   

In either case, I did not get the keys to the city or a citation for my citizenship.  I got nothing for risking my neck, other than horrified looks, but that is why it is called a random act of kindness.  It is not often that one attempts such an intrusion.  I succeeded in my efforts with the pantyhose mishap and failed in saving the family's dinner, and if I had to do it all over again - I would. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

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. I heard all the same stuff I already knew: I should create intriguing, “real” characters; Every single word I put on paper should move the plot forward; Revision and self-editing are my best friends.

In yoga, the Warrior Three pose looks easy at first.  Your complete body, both arms, and one leg are parallel to the floor, while you balance seamlessly on the other leg for a good amount of time. You kind of look like Superman zooming to the rescue. When I actually attempt it, I look like a sick flamingo in baggy yoga pants, flapping desperately to stay in flight.

It is doing the work and balancing it all with some level of competence, not mediocrity, that proves one's mettle.


Monday, September 26, 2011

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 several educational degrees, and overcame more than my share of adversity, and now I am just some old lady that others dismiss?

I don’t think so.

I certainly don’t want to live the next third of my life being ignored or being treated condescendingly. My hair might be gray and my collagen may be collapsing, but I still know how to rock and roll, baby.




Monday, September 19, 2011

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, sí.  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.”
“Sí, 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 dejé.”
“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 gym.”
Silence.  

“Let me go see if there’s a bigger size.  That dress looks so good on you, Comadre.”
Silence.

“Let’s go to Kohl’s.”
“Sí, vamos.  You get more dress for your money there.”
Muffled noises, hangers clinking, heavy breathing. There is silence in the  dressing room  next to mine.

I take a good look at myself in the mirror.

Monday, September 12, 2011

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 words).  Next to it is my attempt at emulating the same structure, except I used September 11, 2001 as my lead. 
I hope you try it as a writing practice and as a way to record that terrible moment in our lives.
April 12, 1999 -                                      September 11, 2001 –
So we were lying                                    So we were working
on our backs                                            in our groups
on the grass                                             at our desks
in the park                                               in our journals,
next to our hamburger wrappers,           happy in our blissful ignorance,
my fourteen-year-old son and I,             my twenty-six juniors and I,
watching the clouds loiter overhead,   helping each other create nonsense,
when he asked me,                            when a fellow teacher startled us,
“Dad,                                                      “Raquel,
why are we here?”                                  Have you seen the news?”

I would love to see what you create.  Post on here or on my Facebook.  God bless America.





Monday, September 5, 2011

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 money again on the same slate of lavish nonsense.
Oh, look. A sale--->>>> !


Monday, August 29, 2011

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 blessed with a skill, I have a talent that I selfishly want to share with others, and I have the courage (or tenacity) to pursue this endeavor.

The calendar on my desk is not to cross off days but to fill in each day fully, listing all I did that day in pursuit and preparation of what is yet to come.




Monday, August 22, 2011

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 a horrified look on her face, my mom turned off the record player and ordered me never to do that again.
I was twelve.
I lured my cute neighbor behind his garage and seduced him into giving me a kiss.  It was stale, sloppy, and smoochy, definitely not worth the reprimand Dad administered when he found us in our illicit embrace. He ordered me inside and Dad talked to me about my wild streak, something he and Mom expected from my older brother but not from me, then he doled out my sentence – all for my own good - I could not date until I turned fifteen, and, even then, it would be with my brother along as a chaperone.
 I was thirteen.


Monday, August 15, 2011

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 my dolls, but she would bustle about in the kitchen and return with Kool Aid and cookies to help in my pretend.

It was only after I moved away from home that I realized how blessed I was to have had three parents in one household.  Now that I am a grandmother, there is not one thing I do that isn’t guided by her hand or her advice.  She leads me through my day from the moment I arise to the moment I lay my head on my pillow at night.

Monday, August 8, 2011

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 year olds.  Really?  Come on.

I like my math formula better.  Give or take ten years from your real age and date within that age group.

Rule # 4:  Are you seeing a pattern here?  Start off with expectations.  Make a list.  Decide what you must have in a date partner. Okay, so he isn’t as tall or as handsome as you wanted, but he is kind and attentive; it is not okay when he treats his cat/his car better than he treats (his or your) children.

Rule #5:  On a more serious note, nurture those same traits in yourself that you expect in others – a sense of humor, respectful to others, mature, kind, attentive, etc. In a day and age where everyone considers intimacy a random act, be the one who doesn’t because you have more to offer and you have self-respect. Being “old-fashioned” never goes out of style.  Never settle for less than you are worth.

Now get out there and date.



Monday, August 1, 2011

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 column

11. Collector of way too many things

12. Boomer  

13. Wannabe fiction writer  

14. Christian

15. Republican

16. Movie buff

17. Child advocate

18. Cook

19. Diva

20. Anti-dieter


When you have twenty, go back and prioritize them in the order you feel they should have been numbered. Then jot down notes next to each - feelings, anecdotes, memories, etc., that tell or describe why you are an expert in that category.

For example, though I would prefer to write about the wonderful life I share with the current husband, think of all the wisdom and woe I can wring from the two divorces. Oh, the stories I could tell!

Try this the next time you need to brainstorm ideas or you need to chisel away at the writer's block.


Monday, July 25, 2011

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!) with their butts.

I find I Love Lucy episodes annoying, I don’t like Drew Carey in anything, and I really hate that celebrity stud from Austin who has made a career of starring in bachelor shows. (I refuse to learn his name.)

Say what you will, but if those fools aren't even aware of their inconsiderateness, why do I have to be nice?


Monday, July 18, 2011

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 good taste, but she did not break the law. He did. Honey, the only one left to slap is Mutt – with a suit for divorce.  

It's also time to admit that what really hurt more than anything else was your ego. Ouch. (Love your music; hate your whining.)  Regardless what your fandom and your entourage would have you believe, not everyone buys your albums nor  do they want to sleep and be married to you. 

So stop it. Get over yourself. Show some backbone and join the ranks of real women who never humiliate themselves on public TV over nameless nobodies. They have better things to do – like headlining in Vegas, getting on with life, keeping their dignity.

Girlfriend, don’t just survive this fiasco, thrive.