Thursday, August 28, 2008

That Little Accessory

I wish I was a hat person.

Some people can pull off sporting a ball cap,
a sophisticated little beret,
or even a big, bouncing bonnet.

I envy the woman who can flip on a huge,
furry lumberjack cap and look simply luscious.
Or pop on a straw hat and seem as fresh and beautiful
as an FDS ad.

Not only was my head not made for hats,
it seems sometimes that it was not made
for hair, either!

Every morning I wake up to the Screaming Banshee look.
Wild spikes and crazy curls and frenzied flips
poke from my scalp like untamed SciFi creatures.
I look in the mirror and see
Chewbacca on steroids!

Pasting it down with sprays or gel is a waste of time.
Brushing and combing does no good.
Wetting and scrunching leaves it worse.

To give it a thorough shampoo again is the only remedy.
Needless to say, I have the cleanest hair in the world!

To have the option of pulling on a cute hat
that would not only disguise my hair monstrosity-
but also enhance my looks-
would be a double blessing.
That final, little accessory could be life changing!

So, I decided would give wearing hats another try.
I mean, I've seen middle aged women looking quite sharp
in those little furry dealy-bobs or the spiffy gaucho hats.
Some women even look fantastic in scarfs.

I went to a store that had a good variety of hats
and began trying every one of them on.
I tried to hide, but the mirror was positioned so that every
other department in the entire mall
could see me and my hats.

I tried on the dress hats, the walking hats,
the beanies and the skullcaps.
I modeled the fez hats, visors, Panama hats
and Newsboy caps.
I posed in straw, wool, fur, and felt.

There was something "so not right"
with all of them.
I looked out of place, uncomfortable, manly,
in pain, twisted, or puffy.
Some made me look old, pale, fat, or just plain ugly.

After an hour of struggling with every hellish hat
in the entire place,
I glanced one last time into the mirror...

I suddenly realized it wasn't the hats
that looked bad after all.
And it wasn't even my hair causing the problem!

It was my face.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sister Weekend Sabbatical

Fifteen years ago, my four sisters and I decided it was time
to celebrate our sisterhood.
Work, children, and other obligations had
slowly widened the gap between us
and the years had made us practically strangers.

Without realizing that we were creating a new tradition,
we planned a Sister Weekend.
And for fifteen years now -we've celebrated.

Because we all love yard sales -
we have made that the number one priority of our weekend.
We always plan a day of scanning the nearby towns
and country roads for garage sales and flea markets.
We have such a great time talking and laughing
and getting our exercise!
Even now, when I look at certain objects in my house,
I remember the Sister Weekend that I found it
and had to have it.

We made up a game called "What Were They Thinking?"
The idea is to find something at the yard sales
that makes you wonder why on earth anybody would
buy such a thing-have such a thing
or keep such a thing!

We hide our "game loot" and at the end of the day,
we reveal our discoveries to one another.
All the time oohing and ahhhing and
"What Were They Thinking?!"

Our second priority is food,
so of course we incorporate that into our weekends also.
A nice sit down meal with drinks and appetizers
is always welcome after our full day of yard sale jaunts.

Then it's back to a comfortable motel room
where we'll strip down to our pajamas,
break out the snacks, and share our stories.
We play board games and watch movies
and pass around pictures.
We laugh so hard it hurts
and we cry so hard it's funny.

Through these weekends, we we've grown closer.
The gap has grown thinner.
The memories thicker.

We have become the best of friends.

Our Sister Weekends have become our lifeline
to one another-
a family tie that that has knotted
into a lasting bond of love.

Our sister Barb passed away a few years ago.
But, she is still with us.
She'll be here again for this Sister Weekend.
And so is our Mom.

They guide us to the best yard sales with their wings,
cackle with us as we roar with laughter,
and they cry silent tears right along with us.
Their presence is felt, heard -
and always expected.

So, I may not be writing for a few days.
Sister Weekend starts Thursday morning
and we are all looking forward to it.
We are hitting Route 61
and 61 crazy, beautiful, treasure-packed miles
of yard sales!

Sixty-one miles
of sisterly love-

And two angels in tow...

A Place Called Home

There is something about this time of year that makes me want to clean and decorate my home.
Maybe it's just a nesting instinct- that urge to fluff pillows and smooth bedsheets and clean windows till they sparkle.
Somehow there is a great satisfaction of changing the door wreath or the kitchen tablecloth or the garden flag.
It might just be that we all need a change.

Although I do dread winter, I anticipate autumn.
Summer has given us too many hot days, too many weeds in the garden and too much yard to mow.
Autumn comes and puts an end to outdoor slavery.
It's a time to relax- to plan and to reflect-
before the two biggest holidays unfold
and the snow shovels appear.

Decorating is part of the welcoming process-
a hint to friends and family to come on in-
have a mug of cocoa -
wrap yourself up in the warmth of
scented candles, baking cookies
and just relax.

We all develop a certain attachment to our homes.
Sometimes it may not seem that way,
but they become a special part of us-
the heart of our lives.

Several years ago my family and I moved from
our home in the country to a temporary place in town.
Looking back, it was a traumatic experience for me.

This is the journal entry that I made at the time:

"It is just after midnight and I write by the light of the Christmas tree. For the first time in eleven years we aren't at our house- the comfort of our home. How many beautiful trees did we have there? How many memories? And why, oh why, does everything that was ever said or done in that house seems magnified into huge glorious days and nights that break my heart? In all honesty, I am homesick. Nothing seems right, feels right, tastes right. I suddenly envy people in their little houses with their perfect little lives with concrete driveways and door wreaths and mailboxes and cute little flowers and mailboxes and bird baths and clotheslines and waving "hello" as I pass. Now I see evening lights glowing at dinner over dining room tables. I see their little trees all lit in the windows and they're all happy and singing songs and snuggled into warm, familiar beds, and they are HOME..."

I truly feel sorry for homeless people and
even those people who never seem to form
an emotional attachment to their homes.
People who are too busy working and traveling
to ever make a soft dent in the sofa cushions,
that never know the colors of the sunset from the kitchen window,
never grow familiar with the family of wrens in the rafters,
fail to enjoy the scent of the nearby lilac tree-
never memorize the hum of the refrigerator at 3 a.m.-
or neglect to know the pesky mouse that skitters about in
the garage on occasion.

I also feel sorry for those people who live in
perfect, plastic homes-
those strict people who have never had jelly on their drapes,
finger paints on their dining room table,
ants in their pantry
or a racoon in their garden.
The same people that would never take a chance
at painting their walls orange or eggplant
or find a yard sale treasure that
fits wonderfully in the living room.

I have a home
and I am proud that it's not perfect.
Some of my furniture is as old as I am.
There is a mouse hole in the laundry room.
I decorate with flea market finds and rummage sale castoffs-
and not because I have to- but because I want to.
Because in some strange way,
I am making a home for these homeless things
in my home.

Right before we found the house that we live in now,
I made this entry in my journal:

"I want a house with a yard. That's where I'd be right now. With the sun on my face, the wind in my hair, and spring- like a flower- blooming in my heart. God has plans for us. A real home. So I wait. And know with utter faith and belief that it is well worth waiting for..."

And it has been.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Scare Tactics

I remember when I was a kid -we used to tease my brothers about having a "tape worm".
They were thin and scrawny at one point- (very "Alfalfa" looking)-
and of course the only excuse Linda and I could think up to taunt them
was to diagnose them with the dreaded tape worm.

It must have been a common disease back then.
Even Mom got in on the medical analysis.
We'd watch TV and see a real skinny guy-
"Probably got tape worm," Mom would say.
Or when one of us kids starting feeling badly
and wouldn't eat much -
Well, "probably got tape worm".

It never occurred to us what might cause this tape worm madness
or how it could be prevented
or why on earth didn't Mom take us to the doctor
to have us "wormed".

I think we just kept watching for some little white ribbon
of non-poop consistency to appear in the toilet.

It never did.

As Linda and I got older, we actually hoped
to catch the perilous parasite ourselves-
causing us to suddenly grow slimmer
and thus,
more attractive.

What Mom never told us-
and what she obviously never knew herself-
was the real identity of these worms.

Tapeworms can grow 15 to 30 feet in length
and attach themselves to the wall of the intestine.
Egg bearing sections are passed in the stool.

People acquire the tape worm by eating raw
or uncooked meats or freshwater fish.
The worms produce larvae which attach
to your muscle or other tissue and form cysts.
These cysts hatch and form new adult worms
and then those worms start hatching eggs.

I just read where a Chicago man has
sued a restaurant for serving him undercooked fish
from which he became violently ill
and passed a nine foot tapeworm!
Personally, I have problems
passing corn kernels,
so I hope this guy gets
a million dollar settlement!

But what I want to say right now to my brothers
that I am soooo sorry.
You guys both irritated me,
but I would never, ever wish tape worm on you.
And if you guys had really known
what we were accusing you of having,
you would have freaked out and
ran screaming bloody murder!

But, shamelessly I have continued
the infamous tradition
of the tapeworm story.

I told my husband what I had learned-
all the gory medical ramifications
of tape worm-
with no details spared whatsoever.

Now when he sees
a Victoria's Secret model on TV
and begins to drool,
I just say nonchalantly -

"Probably got tape worm."

Friday, August 22, 2008

You Are Now Entering The Nameless Zone

"There is a fifth dimension beyond
that which is known to man.
It is a dimension as vast as space
and as timeless as infinity.
It is the middle ground between
light and shadow, between
young and old,and it lies
between the pit of woman's fears,
and the summit of her knowledge.
This is the dimension of
fashion and folly.
It is an area which we call...

I am still re-cooperating this morning from yesterday's shopping trip.
I feel as though I drank a whole pitcher of margaritas,
got run over by a bus
and was beaten with a stick.
It's a good thing that I don't shop very often.
I'd be a dead woman!

My little expedition just proved to me what I already knew-
Fashion is the most unorganized, illogical, unnerving experience
that a woman can summit to.
And, yet, we depend on it, rely on it, and even plan
our celebrations and events around it.

We are prisoners to every Gucci, Vuitton, and Hilfiger that struts the planet-
We are guinea pigs for Hollywood, New York and Paris-
We are puppets on stage parading a wardrobe of goofy, unpractical styles.

I suppose I am in that Nameless Zone-
somewhere between Twenty Something
and Miss Daisy.
There is not a single designer who targets
the Nameless Zone.
Even WalMart refuses to admit that we exist.
They continue pushing micro tees,
short-shorts and up-your-butt-crack thongs
stretch pants, embroidered vests
and old lady underwear that pulls up to underneath
your arm pits!

Have mercy on us, please!
We are the unfortunate souls that have reached middle age.
We don't want to dress like teens,
but we refuse to dress like senior citizens.
And just because we are aging
doesn't mean we love ugly!

Fashion Fact #1:
If the zipper on the bluejeans is only 1.2 inches long- don't bother.
Unless that is - you want major butt crack and bikini line to show.

Fashion Fact #2:
If the tag says One Size Fits All-
It's a damn lie.

Fashion Fact #3:
If there is a huge too-good-to-believe sale advertised-
when you arrive at the store there will be
all size extra small,
all items will be stone-washed,
or they will have shoulder pads.

Fashion Fact #4:
A "little black dress" in a JUMBO size
is not a little black dress.

Fashion Fact #5,6,&7
Pantie hose , slouch socks,
and sequined purses are OUT.
Wearing them only proves you shop at Goodwill.

I am still miserable from yesterday.
I was lost in this impossible style-world somewhere between
Jakie O and Paris Hilton.

I fall someplace between Rosanne Barr
and Anna Nicole.
(And that's before Slim Fast, Baby!)

I am stuck somewhere
in the Nameless Zone...

Mission Update:
Self Destruction.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mission Impossible

This afternoon I am on a mission.
It is a mission that no woman in her right mind would tackle.
It is psychologically damaging, physically abusing, and mentally challenging.
It is not for the faint-of-heart or the fickle female.
It is a mission for those who are willing to be slapped in the face,
teased, taunted, and rejected.

And all that from a little 3-way mirror...

Yes, my mission today is to go out into the size 4 world
and buy clothes for my size 14 (16?) (18?) body.
My mission is to swim through oceans of teeny, tiny tanks,
lo-cut jeans, graphic skeleton-headed tee shirts
and torture twisting underwear.
I am on an agonizing quest to discover perfect jeans,
practical tops, and the most comfortable, smoothing bras.

When entering the mall with a mission such as mine,
there are traps everywhere.
Signs will scream 50% off!
Mannequins will hypnotize you,
sales people will ambush you,
and window-displays will slyly divert your true task.

An important part of a successful mission is being prepared.
Wear something easy to remove while in the dressing room.
No layers or laces to tug and tie.
No luggage-sizes purses to drag you down.
No just-done hairdos or meticulously manicured nails.

Suit up in your best armor.
I find that pull on pants, a wrinkled tee shirt
and flip flops make the best uniform.
And-( just a personal tip)-
wear your best bra
to lift those babies up where they need to be.
Even the most expensive top can
look a little deflated when
the girls are lying down on the job.

Preparation of funds is also vital.
Debit, check, cash, and credit are all necessary items.
However, your mission budget must always be
realistically multiplied by two.
Contrary to what my husband might believe-
you just can't buy a pair of jeans for ten dollars.
And also- ruffles on blouses, gems on jeans,
and Velcro on footwear are absolute no-no's.

I meditate this morning-
Close my eyes and imagine racks of perfect clothing.
See myself sliding on sleek jeans,
effortlessly modeling terrific tops,
and finding underwear that is gorgeous but gentle.
I imagine the mirrors being gracious and flattering.
I imagine the prices being reasonable and easily reachable.

But suddenly I am jolted back to reality!

I see the true reflection of a blurred blob,
back fat,
bulbous bloating,
and cities of creeping spider-veins
and thick cellulite.

I am a sucker for punishment, I suppose.
But, I am on a mission and I must not be discouraged.
I trudge from the safety and comfort of my home
to face the truth -
the insanity -
the funky fashion world
that depresses and destroys the female ego.

What an impossible mission!
What in the hell am I in for?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

True Colors

Today I am going to share with all of you some very important, scientific information that may prove vital in a future situation.
It's amazing what psychologists and other brainy people can come up with
given enough leisure time and money.

A marketing research company based in Oregon recently conducted a survey in which asked 1900 Americans about their attitudes toward their lives at various points over the course of a year.
They also asked each of them what color car they drove most often.
From this, the researchers developed a color-confidence index.

See where you fit into their little chart:
These are the car colors and confidence levels: Emerald green 5.5% above average, Dark blue 3.2% above average, Silver 1.2% above average, White Average, Sunny yellow 3.7% below average, Orange 4.1% below average, Bright yellow 8.3% below average, Red 8.8 % below average, Black 14.6% below average.

I guess you could say I have improved my well-being and mental health over the years.
I graduated from a black car to a white one.
But as things stand now, I have no desire for
a 5.5% improvement on my part.
I just don't feel the love when it comes to emerald green vehicles.
But after reading this little index, by golly, I am considering a flashy black or dark blue model in order to boost my confidence.

Why spend time on the good doctor's couch, being hypnotized, drugged, therapy-induced, and evaluated, when all you need to do is change the color of your car?
So simple....

But there's more. The marketing firm also concluded the following:
These are the car colors and the moods their owners experience: Black, dark blue, or silver- Consistent moods. White, sunny yellow, or bright blue - Modest mood swings. Orange, red, bright yellow, or emerald green - The most pronounced mood swings.

Now there's something I bet your mama never told you when you were searching for a mate.
The guy may be a real nerd, but if he drives a dark blue Gremlin-
hey, snatch that guy up real quick before some other gal
gets a hold of this eye-opening confidence index.
And please, for your own good - steer clear of hunk in the red Mercedes!

You know, if I was sitting around my Marketing Research office trying to find a way to spend loads of government funding and private grants, I think I'd come up with a better project.

I think the world needs a Candy Bar chart.
Your mood could be matched to your ideal bar choice:
Nutty? Snickers.
Barely hungry? A thin little Hershey bar.
Ravenous? A six pound Milky Way.
Stressed ? All of the above.

You know, I'd even be willing to be the test model !

Time Traveling...

It is six a.m.

I step out onto the porch and the sunrise is barely
a pink-orange strip beyond the trees.
I consciously breathe deeper. Exhale. Inhale.
Try to saturate my body and mind with this perfect season.

Yet, I know these days are too soon gone.
I find myself wishing there really was a way to go back in time...

There are lots of places I would go.

I would go back to my childhood summers
on County Farm Road.
I would play army in the ditch once more with
my brothers and sisters-
throw dried corn cobs as make-believe grenades-
get itchy and dew-covered -
as across the neighborhood,
the porch lights began to glow yellow.

Then my sister and I would go in
and have a bath as deep as we dared to make it-
sharing a tub of bubbles
and an old twin size bed.

We would sing into the old gray window fan,
pretending we were movie stars-
sending our off-key voices
out into the starlit sky.

I would sit at the old Formica table-
with its red and chrome chairs-
and eat my mother's goulash.

And I would look at my mom
and try to memorize her-
try to embrace her sweet voice and weary eyes-
attempt to savor her smells and her touch-
and I would watch her cook
and help her sweep
instead of playing outside.

I would ask her what she would like
to see me do with my life
when I grew up.

Then I would ask her what she always wanted to do with hers.

I would go back to the last Christmas that
I believed in Santa Claus.
And I would fill my heart with the magic and innocence-
so that I would never forget
ever let go.

I would go back again
just to trick-or-treat one more time-
To have my paper sack so heavy with loot
that I would have to turn around and go home before
I finished the entire route.
(And this time I wouldn't even stop at Mr. Rainey's
because all he ever gave us
was an apple anyway.)

Going back, I would hug all my brothers and sisters
and tell them I love them.
And in our secret club house somewhere
we would make a blood-pact
to never, ever lose touch-
to never let "growing up"
get in the way of our
kindred spirits.

I would go back to a time
when my dad was smiling
and I would watch him all day long-
etch to memory
the things he said and did-
and the way he looked.

I would save all my pennies
from the time I was school-aged
till far into my married life,
so that when the time came
I could take my sister Barb to Hawaii
before she died.

I would eat more broccoli.
Participate in gym class.
Attempt to understand Algebra.
Take more pictures.
Keep a detailed diary.
Not care what other people thought.
Be more thankful.
Have more fun.
Ride the roller coaster.
Learn to swim.

But, I have no regrets
because the days that are gone
have led me to today-
a place of contentment and happiness.
I have great memories to look back on-
an an imagination
that will let me dream.

I have the sunrise.
My coffee.
The love of my family.
And the little porch
from which I ponder...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Confessions of A Salsa Slasher

It was bound to come to this.
I knew in my mind that I should be prepared- that I should pull up
my big girl panties and deal with it.
I guess I just kept hoping it would all go away.

By "it" I mean the bushel baskets of produce that have
taken over every extra inch of my kitchen counters,
every crisper drawer and refrigerator shelf,
all the large pans and bowls and turkey cookers that I own-
and it has all spilled into the garage like a garden virus.

So, I gave in and looked up some recipes using tomatoes, cucumbers and squash.
I drooled over the computer keyboard as the screen brought up lovely
pictures of chunky pineapple salsa, moist, nutty zucchini bread, and crisp kosher pickles.

Now, one thing I want to share with all of you is that any recipe that has more than five ingredients is immediately rejected.
First of all, I don't have the patience to deal with anything more than five.
Secondly, when the recipe calls for more than five things, it usually means it will end up costing more to make than it would be to buy it in the store.
Why spend $20 to buy spices for pickles when you can buy $20 worth of pickles that will last a year or two?
That's my take on the whole thing.

But facing all those vegetables-
laying there waiting-
was intimidating.
Where should I start first? Where will I put all the peelings, seeds, rinds and rejects? Should I freeze, can, or refrigerate my culinary delights?

I just strapped on an apron and started attacking the tomatoes.

If I had loved tomatoes before our uncomfortably intimate "chopping spree",
I loathed them now.
Their fat, round little faces looking up at me, pleading to be spared-
their red, rotund, bodies sweating profusely with fear-
all of them hoping to go back into the crisper drawer and schmooze with the bologna.

But, as I always say -a woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do.
Would Martha Stewart back down when the going got rough?
Would Julia Child let the sight of a little tomato seed bleeding on the just-mopped floor stop her from having a bon appetit?
Would Rachel Ray be discouraged by the daunting task ahead?
Probably not.

I spent six hours peeling, chopping, paring, poking, slashing, mincing and
butchering the unlucky tomato family.
My kitchen looked like a set from the Saw movie.
I ended up with a dozen pint jars of salsa,
one cut finger, sore feet, and a ceiling splashed with runaway seeds.
And none of the salsa either looked or tasted like the beautiful pictures on the Internet.

Duty called,though,so I was ready to tackle the cucumbers.

I peeped out the kitchen blind into the garage.
There they were-
giant green solders stacked up waiting-
their prickly skin and oozing vine-holes
preparing for their doom.

Then I realized the truth.

And the truth set me free.

I am NOT Martha Stewart, Julia Child, or Rachel Ray.
I am NOT even a good cook, I have NO organized kitchen,
nor do I have the slightest desire to see
cute little canning jars fill up with my mess.

I ripped off my apron,
slid on my flip-flops,
drove quickly to WalMart-
and headed straight to the pickle aisle!

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Circle of Love

If you look inside my jewelry box, there isn't much there.
A few cheap earrings, a forgotten necklace, an old watch...
I'm just not crazy about jewelry like some women are.
(I'll take a piece of fudge
over a piece of jewelry anytime)!

I may not believe in having a lot of jewelry-
But I do believe in love.

And because of this, I treasure my wedding ring.

It was on a hot August night thirty-three years ago
that my husband proposed...

It wasn't like the movies- with the guy all stressed out
with sweaty palms and a black velvet box containing a giant rock.
It didn't happen like television programs where the girl
is completely surprised, bursts out in tears,and has a mini heart attack.

He picked me up in his '69 Datsun that evening
and we rode around town for awhile-
I remember the heat of the night-
the smells of summer-
I can still see us back then...
My long, blond hair blowing out the window-
(his long hair blowing out the other window)! :)

Sometime before the night was over, he parked the car
and leaned over toward me.
"I want to get married," he said. "Will you marry me?"
We kissed and I replied, "I guess."

"Okay, but don't tell anybody yet," he added.
He wanted to make sure he prepared his family for the news.
After all, we had only dated for four months.

Money was tight back then, so there wasn't an engagement ring,
but soon we began picking out a wedding ring.
We got our marriage license at the court house
one afternoon in September
and ran across the street
to a jewelry store.

There were bands and bangles and baguettes.
There were rocks and rubies and royal jewels.
There were diamonds and gems and shiny stones.

But, right there in the case next to them
was a thin gold band.
Looking very closely, it had three tiny diamond chips on it
with small engraved flowers between them.
And the price was right: $35.

To me, it was priceless.
To me, picking out a ring
wasn't the idea of having a giant diamond
to show off to the world -
It was choosing some sort of symbol
to remind us daily of our vows.

I never, (in almost 33 years), ever took that ring off.

Until a month ago.

And even then, I didn't remove it willingly.
Because of some minor surgery, it had to be cut from my finger.
Through the years, my knuckles and fingers had grown
to the point where not even the slipperiest soap
or the strongest steroid-laden nurse could budge it.

I didn't think it would bother me that much.
(After all- it did need to be resized anyway and it could be repaired.)
But I cried like a baby when the little cutting wheel made
that final "crack" and the circle was broken.
I think a piece of my heart was, too.

But, like in the movies and TV programs,
my story does have a happy ending.

I got my ring back from the jewelers yesterday.
It is as shiny and beautiful as the day I got it.

I can't help looking at it.
I like to think that the three diamond chips symbolize my children
and the flowers symbolize my husband and I -

All together again
in a circle of love.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bringing Home Bigfoot

I have a secret.

It's something that few people know except my immediate family.
I've not tried to hide it - it just hasn't really been addressed before.
But today I think its time to tell the world that
I believe in Bigfoot.

It's a glitch in my reality gene, I suppose.

Whenever there is a television show about Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Mo-Mo, the Abominable Snowman or the Loch Ness Monster - I am glued to the screen.
I love to watch Monster Quest, the History Channel, Ghost Hunters, and sometimes even SciFi.
I secretly hope that these creatures are finally found- and better yet- that I have a part in their discovery!

Disappointingly, I may be too late for my slice of fame.

Fox News reported this week that the first Bigfoot has been found and preserved.
DNA tests are being conducted and a team of scientists are studying the body, but skeptics doubt that the hairy creature, found in the wilds of Georgia, is the real deal.

Among the creatures physical characteristics - according to the hunters website - - were flat feet similar to human feet. Its footprint is 16 ¾ inches long and the length from palm to tip of the middle finger is 11 ½ inches long.

I know it's not really something I want to bump into while camping,
or to spot on a deserted road when my car is out of gas.
But, there is a slight thrill of thinking I might spot one far off in the tree line, or discover the remains of its ape-like carcass somewhere -so the whole world will finally know the truth.

There is supposed to be a special news conference scheduled Friday or Saturday to reveal the findings and to announce once and for all if this thing exists.
I don't know about you, but I know where I'll be!
Watching with anticipation- half hoping it's all a big hoax.

That way- there is still a chance that I'll be the one
to bring home Bigfoot.

Layers of Life

The days become shorter, softer.

For many, it's time to start fall cleaning.
To organize closets and garages and basements.
To purge, eliminate and sort through the "junk of life".

My walk-in closet is sadly a step-in closet.
My linen closet is a board game, luggage, old towels, forgotten purses, unused jackets, and stuffed animal storage.
My garage is "Where did this stuff come from?" storehouse- a medley of wood scraps, rusty tools, worn rakes, and discarded furniture.

But, to be able to set out on a fall cleaning mission-
I feel as though I have to be psyched up, in the right mood, or forced at gunpoint to begin the whole energy-draining project.

This morning I woke up with the realization
that there is more that needs cleaning than my house and garage.
I woke up, stared at the ceiling, drank my coffee,
sat in the silence of my empty house -
and began to think...

It's time for some soul cleaning.

To dig deep inside my heart, air my faults
and bring my bad habits into the light.
Today I feel the need to look into the mirror and really see
the kind of person I am.

Sometimes I think we are so comfortable with ourselves
that we fail to see what others see.
And, in the process, I think we risk the possibility
of being callous and insensitive- or indifferent
toward those we love the most.

I have always thought of myself as a good person.
I have no known enemies.
I like everyone.
I am friendly.

But,this morning, I dug below the surface -
discovered the layers-
the thin- almost invisible layers that other people notice.

For example, my quirky sense of humor.
To me, that's just how I think-
a little sarcastically, a little sharp -
and with no real thought of how it might be received.
And, digging even deeper, I wonder if there is
a subliminal maliciousness to my behavior.

Then the layers begin falling away.
Sometimes I am greedy, insensitive, selfish, and slovenly.
I am unorganized, non-structured and fail to have solid plans.
I need to be more thankful, more alive and energetic...
I need to pray more.

How is it that my dreams have died?
I guess I quit dreaming a long time ago.
I am so set in my ways that I have had no real desire to
spread my wings or change my ways.

It's not a pity party.
I certainly am not feeling sorry for myself.
I am simply looking at myself
for the first time in a long time.
And I grow aware of changes that need to be made.

I need to lose weight, eat healthier, be more thrifty,
and think before I speak.
I need to rid myself of clutter and junk mail, (and those old tiny jeans
that I keep hoping I'll fit into again).
I need to search my heart for what others expect of me
and what characteristics truly make up my soul.
I have plenty of room to be a better wife, mother, Nana, and sister.

Yes, I'm fall cleaning today.

I drink my coffee, open the windows,
watch the sun as it rises over the August landscape.
And I bare my soul-
release the rubbish
and cleanse myself of layers no longer needed-
ugly veils of veneer that are no longer attractive or

They take flight and disappear into the morning sky.

And suddenly, I begin to dream...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I Remember Martha

Sometimes I miss my mother-in-law.

Martha was my bridge...

She was my tiny sliver of communication
between her son and I.
During our young marriage,
she knew him better
than anyone did.

She understood his moods,
his joys-
the things that made him bearable
to live with.

She taught me-
(just by observing her)-
when to let him sulk like a baby
and when to smother him with attention.

Through the years,
she was the one who sympathized with me
whenever my husband picked a fight.

She was the one who rejoiced with me
when her son and I shared
happy events and celebrations.

She was the one who was there
to help us build
the story of our lives.

And the invisible bridge she provided
helped to make my married life successful.

Martha was a treasure full of odd stories,
steadfast prayers,
and old-fashioned charm.

She taught me how to make red eye gravy
and mashed potatoes without lumps.
She taught me the proper way to dress a bed
and showed me a hundred magic recipes using hamburger.

Yet, I will admit-
there were times in my young-girl life
that I truly disliked her.

Times when I caught her looking disgusted
as her eyes ran an imaginary white glove
across my flea market furniture.

Times when she seemed afraid to
curl up in the back bedroom
just because a mouse trap
lay baited and waiting
beneath the dresser.

Or like the times that she frowned
as I reprimanded my children -
telling me later in full, detailed instructions
(with her soft, righteous voice),
the Right Way To Do It.

Of course, there was the time
she snubbed us for months
just because we named
our fattest round hen after her.

Our fault.
We should have known better.

Now, thinking back,
it hurt to see my mother-in-law
purse her lips
and ruffle her feathers
over our blatant insensitivity.

To this day, I'm not sure
if she was ever aware
that it wasn't my idea-
but it was the humor and wit
of her almost-perfect son.

Yet, changes unfolded over the years
and she gradually became my true friend
and confidant.

She taught me how to pray
whenever things looked impossible
and to rejoice
at the making of miracles.

She taught me about strength
and faith
and family.

I can almost see her now...

Her thin, red headscarf
like an opaque tent-
barely floating upon the surface
of her beehive hairdo-
each twist of bleached hair
carefully cemented
to last until next week's appointment.

In my dreams
she takes me to
a fancy department store-
buys me strawberry pie
with tons of fresh whipped cream.

We smile across the table at one another-
and we giggle occasionally-
as she plucks at a platter of hot, fried catfish-
weaving away the flesh
and leaving only
a plate of lacy skeletons.

And in my dreams
I tell her that I love her

and I tell her that sometimes
she is still
my invisible bridge...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My Beauty and My Beast

When you get to be my age, you start to look around for cheap methods of preservation.

When crow's feet become Ostrich tracks and laugh lines become guffaw groves,
you can pretty much bet you're screwed.
Old age has arrived and, baby, there is no going back!

But, even us aging women grasp at straws-
make at least one desperate effort to reverse our demise.
We fiercely seek out to explore our options because we believe
with all our artery-clogged hearts
that there is such a thing as miracles.

Yet, I have found out from my extensive research that beauty is not cheap.

There is a high price to pay to be micro-abrasioned, laser-peeled, lipo-sucked, and detoxed.
Gone are the days of cold cream and Camay,
of satin pillow cases for your complexion and support hose for your spider veins.
Enter the new age of beauty gadgets that not only make wrinkles disappear,
but also your savings account.

Take for example, Safetox.
It's a blue plastic headband that straps to your forehead with a cyclops looking eye patch in the center.
The company says that it uses electronic impulses to relax the muscles and reduce wrinkles.
It claims to be a safe and painless alternative to Botox.
At a price of $488, I think I'll just stick my finger in the light socket and see what those electrical impulses can do for me.

If you prefer a simpler method, try using Clarins Ep3,
a light mist that you spray on your problem areas
to protect your skin from the effects of air pollution and
artificial electromagnetic waves.
It claims to use a magnetic defense complex to make your skin smoother and healthier.
Who knew it could be so scientifically, complicatedly simple?
One bottle= $40.

Got cellulite?
Get the Wellbox.
It claims to be a "lipomassage" and "liftmassage" machine that reduces cellulite by optimizing connective tissue and increasing microcirculation.
In other words, its a glorified massager.
Got $1,595?
Me neither.

The most interesting new beauty regimen I have discovered is fish pedicures.
You stick your bare feet into warm water where the fish start nibbling.
The fish, called gara ruffa, eat away the dead skin and rough areas so that your feet emerge smoother and more refreshed.
At a cost of $35 for ten minutes, it sounded pretty fishy to me.

So, I got to thinking- why not any kind of fish?
Why not save a few bucks and just go dangle my feet in the pond?
Surely catfish, bass, and bluegill would enjoy a few good callouses, corns and plantars warts.

I propped my lawn chair near the edge of the water, rolled up my jeans and began
waiting for the fish to start sucking my toes.
While I was in my yoga-like state of concentration and prayer, here comes my husband behind me.

"Whatcha doin'?" he inquired, looking at me as though I had gone bananas at last.

"Well, for your information, I am saving you money," I answered proudly.
"I found out the fish will come up and eat all my old dead skin and leave everything smooth and beautiful."

He said it was a silly thing for me to try, and I suppose he was right. The fish didn't even pay attention to my feet.

But, that's not the end of my fish tale...

The other day, my husband backs the truck up to the pond bank and begins emptying out barrels of fish.

"What's up?" I ask, seeing he is very serious about this project.

"I want to help you with this beauty thing," he says looking deep into my eyes and squeezing my shoulders.
"I figured we just need some bigger guns, so to speak. That way, your feet and hands can be youthfully renewed."

"Fantastic!" I cried in delight. "What kind of fish are those? Are they gara ruffas?"

He answered me with no fear in his voice at all.
Nothing you'd expect from a man that
was crossing the line and treading dangerous territory.

"Piranha," he said calmly,
"And hey, while you're at it,
why don't you try sticking your face in there, too."

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Frazier Camping Project

Lately, the cool,quiet mornings and chilly evenings remind me of camping weather.
Of staking out a little corner by the river bank and becoming one with nature;
Of being an independent soul and breathing in fresh air -
even if it's just for a weekend.

There is something magical about dancing firelight and twinkling stars;
about hot dogs on a stick and gooey smores; Of fluffy, plaid sleeping bags and the smell of burning wood.

Just thinking about it makes me almost want to go camping...

Then, I am suddenly jolted back to reality!
What kind of self torture am I considering?
Why would I even think about exposing myself to that type of punishment?

But for you to understand my reaction, let me go back in time for a few minutes.
Let me take you to a beautiful summer day when a group of us decided to go camping....


"Make a list," my husband bellowed, climbing in the attic to retrieve the tents, "We don't want to be twenty miles from civilization and not have the essentials."

See, there was Problem No.1, (which should have been my first clue).
What is essential to my husband may not necessarily be essential to me.
And vise versa.

Of course we agreed on the obvious basics of a camping trip:
Toilet paper, ice, beer, food, sleeping bags, pillows, and coffee.

But on this particular day, the list became longer and longer -
spreading across two full pages of a legal pad,
cramping my hand, and dulling the pencil -
till in frustration, I just chewed it sharp.

"Why do we need the chainsaw, the weed eater, the three extra coolers, a dozen lawn chairs, the gas grill, a giant tarp, the 4-wheeler, a blow-up raft, a shotgun, and fifteen tiki torches?" I inquired.

"Well," my husband shot back,"why do we need ten Woman's Day magazines,
eight satin pillows, four changes of shoes, your daily planner, a gallon of Oil of Olay, instant Expresso, Grey Poupon and a king sized Memory Foam pad?

And, Problem No. 2 was the fact that we were setting up camp twenty miles from the nearest modern conveniences.
(I really don't recall getting to vote on that).

"Should I rent a U-Haul?" I asked sarcastically,shoving the last shovel, pick, rake, and ten pound bag of charcoal into the truck bed.

"Oh, where's your sense of adventure, honey?" he asked, throwing my stack of magazines from the front seat and back into garage.

Problem No. 3: My husband's definitions of words are from a screwed up dictionary.

My definition of adventure?
Taking a flower strewn path through the woods, not knowing where it will lead.
Taking an alternate route home from the grocery store.
Buying generic Hamburger Helper.
Trying on a cute outfit I can't afford to buy.

His definition?
Peeing on a tree and squatting in the woods.
Going without deodorant, a shave, or a shower for three days.
Seeing how hot a person can get before melting.
Camping somewhere in Deliverance territory.

The road to the river was mostly gravel, but the last two or three miles would take us through shallow creek beds, low-lying tree limbs, falling rocks, and the Blair Witch project.
The going was rough, with winding curves and muddy slopes and the deepest pot holes in the universe.

"Back up!" I shouted to my husband as we sped along through the dark woods.
"What for?" he asked,staring in my direction, but not slowing down.
"Well, you missed a hole back there. Thought you might want to go back and hit it, too," I sneered.

I can't begin to explain the weekend that followed.

All I know is, we were rained on, blistered by the heat of the day, frozen at night and kept awake by scary jungle animal sounds.
We were attacked by ticks, gnawed on by gnats
and mauled by mosquitoes.
We boiled the coffee, lost the marshmallows- and all the hot dog buns got soaked
in the tornado.
We ran out of ice in fifteen hours, had to resort to a road map for extra toilet paper, and our tent from the 1970's decided to collapse and die.

Returning home, it took us six hours to unload the truck and put everything back in its place. (Its final resting place, I must hope.)

"Wasn't that fun?" my husband asked me later that evening- a goofy cartoon smile on his sunburned face.

Problem No. 4: Thou shalt not kill.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Drive-In-Me-Crazy

Sometime during the 80's era, Drive-In Theaters began to die.

Weeds began to hug the concession stands, birds built nests in the speaker boxes, and the big screens grew ragged like huge sails on the wind.
Even the little ticket booths became weakened with loneliness.
In Illinois alone, 112 drive-ins dwindled down to only twelve.

People began to want state-of-the-art facilities.
Cushy seats, cup holders, air conditioning, and that heavenly smell of popcorn.
Customers began wanting surround sound, wrap-around screens
and a clean bathroom that is just a quick skip up the aisle.

It was almost certain that drive-ins were gone forever.

But today they are fighting for a comeback.

The big screens are once again claiming the starlit sky.
Soft yellow lights are circling the marquees.
The sound of gravel crunching beneath tires has returned, and with it -
the perfume of exhaust, the conversations of friends,
the blossoming of lawn chairs and the clatter of ice in big red coolers.

Even the little ticket booths are filling up all over the country
with folks ready to hand you a numbered stub
for a five-dollar double feature.

When a new drive-in opened near us a few years ago, the excitement was almost unbearable.

Wouldn't it be romantic? I told my husband.
I began a trip down memory lane, trying to convince him to take me- reminding him about all the dates we shared at the drive-in, going on about the comfort of one's own car, snuggling beneath a blanket, making out during intermission..
Once I assured him we could take our own popcorn and beer, he was in!

First of all, who would have thought that it would take an hour to prepare and pack the drive-in theater essentials?
I boiled hot dogs, popped popcorn, tucked a few frozen Milky Ways in my purse- along with Raisinettes, Sprees and Goobers.
I washed out and loaded the cooler with ice, soft drinks and Miller Lite.
And I packed blankets, pillows, paper towels, and Windex.

It was like going back in time-
there we were- all loaded up with icy drinks and a greasy paper sack full of Orville Redenbocker-
stopping to get our tickets - winding our way to the very back row -
popping a beer tab and sitting close to one another - kissing...
the gear knob dangerously close to impaling my thigh...

"Can you see?" my husband asked as the big screen came to life with advertisements.
"No, can't hear, either," I said.

He put the car in drive and we made our way up to the very front row, wedging ourselves into a crowded spot.
To our left was the Beverly Hillbillies- and on the other side - Make-Out Mike and his date for the evening: Go-All-The-Way Wanda.

The hillbillies kept hee-hawing, chugging their Boone's Farm, and letting their six ape-like children throw rocks at the screen and lock their lips around two liter bottles of Mt. Dew.
They were gnawing on a jumbo bag of pork rinds and each had their very own personal can of Vienna Sausages, giant Nascar mugs, and camo folding chairs.

We tried not to look over at the couple to our right, but couldn't help but catch a quick glimpse of a bare foot in the rear window.
Enough said.

"Where's the bathroom?" I asked my husband, draining my third soda.
"Behind us - oh, about two-and-a-half miles- through the concession stand and to your left," he answered sarcastically.
"I'll wait." I said, wondering if my bladder could last another 186 minutes. I was in pain.
(Besides, we both had our pajama pants on...)

Mosquito's began biting us-
Next to us, Jethro Bodine was throwing up-
The popcorn left pools of butter on the console-
And someone behind us kept turning on their brights.

But in the end, it was a nostalgic experience.
The sights and smells and the romance of it all helped us relive a bit of our youth.

The moon and stars hanging over the big, white screen
gave witness that the Drive-In hasn't died.
It is still very much alive.

In fact, we're already planning our next movie night...

But it will be in the air conditioned comfort of a state-of the art facility-
where ushers keep the peace -
there's fresh popcorn and a nacho machine-
and where the bathroom is just a hop, skip and jump up the aisle...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Open Wide!

Are you sick and tired of "Tiny Tech"?
Smaller cars, miniature phones, key-sized credit cards, and the little condensed jugs of laundry soap?

Do you feel like you've landed in Oz with everything shrinking around you?

Well, my friend -there is a way to leave the world of munchkin-sized products for a brief time.

Just go out and shop for a toothbrush...


My experience all started about a year ago when my son began dental college.

We stopped laughing with large, open mouths.

Instead, we have begun to suppress a tiny groan with our lips rolled tightly together.
We became self-conscious.

We keep dental floss tucked inside our cell phone cases and buy mouth wash by the gallon.
We whiten, brighten , de-tarter and strengthen what is left of our choppers!

“Do you floss, Mom?” my son asked, peering strangely at me one evening while we stood outside a local restaurant.
Without warning, my husband and I were unexpectedly being examined for cavities and gum disease by the street light.
Our son snooped into the caverns of our mouths like we were a couple of puppies.
And all we could do was protest in pirate language with a throaty “Aaarghh...” while a curious crowd gathered.

I knew then that it was time for updating our oral hygiene.
Our little plastic toothbrushes were twisted and worn, our toothpaste tube squeezed carelessly into ball of oozing blue goop.
How could we possibly let our son see such disgraceful neglect?

I immediately set out to do some shopping...

Once upon a time it was a simple choice when selecting a new toothbrush.
Pink or blue? Red or yellow? Soft, hard, or medium bristles?
Back then, two minutes and two dollars set you up for another year or so.

Now days the toothbrush aisle gives you as much selection as the cereal aisle.
All shapes, sizes, colors, and mechanical wonders.
They spin and twirl and shoot and pulse.
They vibrate, oscillate and rotate.
I stood aghast, overwhelmed with my choices, not knowing where to begin...

You would think that toothbrushes would follow in line and become smaller like everything else in today's world.
With evolution in mind, I can see where our Cromagnum ancestors might have needed a giant toothbrush for their monkey-mouths-
but surely we can invent some tiny pod of a device that we just insert in our mouths like a bug that will clean our teeth, rid us of plaque and leave us sparkling fresh.
All without feeling as though our mouth has just been raped!


... Returning home that evening after my shopping, my husband and I crowded in front of the bathroom sink to inspect our new toothbrushes. He got purple, I got pink.
“Wow !” he exclaimed,eyes wide, pulling the brush from the wrapper.

“Only takes fifteen double A batteries,” I beamed proudly, “and the drug store financed it all at zero percent for twelve months!
For a few bucks more I got the optional i-pod insert so we can listen to music while we brush and added the cool lighting effects.
The party has just begun!”

With a click of the button, the curls of toothpaste we had applied went flying over the shower door and the jolt of vibrating power sent us against the wall. Our lips flapped like a neighing stallion and our teeth rattled like dentures in a blender.

But once we wrestled and tamed them, using our new toothbrushes felt like a cyclone had just cleaned our teeth.
We smiled in the mirror all night, we smiled in our sleep, we smiled so much that the dog got scared and hid under the porch.

The only downfall about our new toothbrushes is they wouldn't fit into our old toothbrush holder.
The tiny holes wouldn't accommodate the baseball-bat-sized handles on our new Turbo Teeth 5000 model.

But we fixed that problem.
My husband has designed and built the world's first toothbrush closet!.

Won't our son be proud ...

Thursday, August 7, 2008


When it comes to food, I would have to say that my favorite of all time is pizza.

I was probably nine or ten the first time I had it - and from there it existed in my life forever more.
I remember looking in the freezer and asking Mom what pizza pie was.
It looked horrible and I ALMOST refused to taste it.

See, that word “ALMOST” really got me in trouble.

If I hadn't tried pizza back in my childhood, chances are I wouldn't like it today.
I could be going through my life right at this very moment in skinny jeans and a skimpy camisole -easily strutting a tiny “six pack” that glistens with a summer tan.

But because “ALMOST” turned into “Go for it!”, I must sadly live out my days in sweat pants, sloppy shirts and begrudgingly lug around full size,lily-white “keg” of a belly.

Over the years, I've grown tired of other fast food.
Hamburgers are dry, chicken is unappealing,
tacos give me heartburn
and Chinese gives me the creeps.

But, a pizza well made is a delight to the senses.
I never seem to tire of the vast array of toppings and crusts and styles.
Pizza is never boring, delicious even when cold, and can be eaten 24/7.

Due to a slight inflation of my physical proportions, I opted to try variations of pizza made for those on a diet.
How in the world do you “diet-up” a pizza?
Leave out the crunchy, greasy crust? No.
Forsake the pepperoni, Italian sausage, and hamburger? No.
Nix the thick, melted cheese and Parmesan? No, no, no!

A diet pizza tastes like a slice of cardboard smothered in ketchup topped with something resembling cheese dust.
It's not even “ALMOST” good.

If you enjoy pizza as well as I do, the most crucial item you must own is a good pizza cutter.
Now, I don't know about you, but I think that the only thing that will slice into a deep crust supreme pizza is a nice sharp pizza cutter.
Nothing else works.
Forget those butcher knives and miracle blades.
A good pizza cutter can rip through those layers of cheese faster than you can salivate over the pepperoni.

I suppose that is why I throw my pizza cutter away every time I start a new diet.
Yes- I throw it away!
I don't simply hide it away in the back of the utensil drawer or stuff it in a box to be stored in the basement.
To hide the pizza cutter is like trying to hide a candy bar!
You will always know where it's at.
It will haunt you.

Then sooner or later you're going to weaken and give in.
You're going to empty that utensil drawer on the bed and cut every finger on your hands trying to retrieve the pizza cutter.
You're going to rush to the basement two stairs at a time and dig beneath twenty years of accumulated mess to hold that pizza cutter once again.

Believe me, I have done it!
You must always, always, throw the darn thing away!

When you throw away your pizza cutter,it would also be a good time to go through that utensil drawer or junk box to inventory other items that might hamper your ability to lose the first eighth of a pound you have been shooting for a month ago.

Personally, in an attempt to jump start my diet, I have rid myself of pastry knives, ice cream scoops, spring-form cheesecake pans and cookie cutters.

No skinny woman on the face of the Earth owns those things!
Skinny woman own melon ballers, tea strainers, chop sticks and lettuce bags.

But, it never fails.
Right after I've sent the pizza cutter to the big dumpster in the sky, my diet comes to a streaking halt.

“Pizza anyone?” the family will say.
“No, you Sillies,” I laugh nervously, “I don't even have a pizza cutter.
How about a nice Cobb salad and a glass of tomato juice?”

“Well, Mom, ” they say dryly, “we are going for TAKE OUT.
The pizza is already cut for you, remember?”

Then, of course, I have no other valid excuse.

Only a hard, callous woman would deny her children the bonding experience that comes with eating pizza at the kitchen table - the family laughing and talking and stuffing themselves till their waist bands snap.

The saddest thing is, I "ALMOST" said no!

“Make mine with extra cheese,” I whispered to my son as he stepped out the back door.
“And pick up a new pizza cutter, will ya'?”

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Selective Memories..OR.. Grandma's Ugly Chair

Grandmas are made of memories.
But the problem is - you never know what kind of memories about a grandma that a child is going to keep and which ones will be forgotten.

I always felt like grandmas were special.
Like they were fairy godmothers that would swoop you up and save you just about the time you were in line for a whooping.

Grandmas were like angels that always had an extra cookie in their aprons or a spare fifty cents in their pocket books.

Grandmas were like big mother hens that would hug you so tight your eyes would pop with glee, sing you songs till you fell into a wonderland of slumber, and encourage you to grow up and be whatever you wanted to be.

But for me -that was only in fairy tales and dreams...

I don't remember much about my grandmothers, other than their appearance.
I always felt I was cheated in that department- that life took them from me too soon to appreciate their personalities or to reap the benefits from their affection.

My Mother's mom was a big Croatian woman who always wore a dress, knee high support hose and an apron tied around her thick waist. I remember her mostly in the kitchen of her home- a bright, open sunny room that always smelled wonderfully of fresh baked bread and coffee. She served us milk or juice from gem-colored melamine tea cups, always positioned on a matching saucer- or from a purple aluminum cup that forever stayed cold.

She spoke to us in her native language- a Yugoslavian dialect that seemed to roll off the tongues of every adult that gathered in her house. We would just listen and hope we could figure out what was being said or being asked of us.

Of course, when Grandma pushed a plate of cinnamon donuts in front of you, you pretty much knew what she wanted. Usually Mom was there to translate, though, but I regret to this day that we weren't taught at least the basics of her foreign language.

My Dad's mom was also a big woman, but short and stocky, with thick ankles that always seemed to be stuffed in little pumps or corduroy house slippers. She was harder around the edges from being a farmer's wife and never seemed to warm up to us kids like grandmas should.
I was grown and married before she died, but those extra years that we had her with us were no more endearing than those of my childhood.

I am a grandmother.
And, in reflection, I suppose I haven't really been ideal.

When the grand kids beg to play Connect Four or Go Fish, I usually come up with an excuse like, "I'm too busy", or "Later".
I limit their ice cream treats and refuse them messy candy.
I get angry when their wear their shoes on the carpet or blow bubbles in their chocolate milk.
I never take them to movies, I never bake fresh bread, and I can't remember the last time I wore a dress.

But I love them and I tell them I love them.
I hug them, kiss them often, and tell them they can do -and be -anything they set their hearts and minds to.
And I watch with pride and wonderment each time they come running up the porch steps, smiling and ready to raid my fridge, fingerprint my TV screen, or go wild with the dog.

My grandson Jackson came over last night,( a four year old with exuberant energy and non-stop
inquisitiveness), and left his trail across my house that is unmistakably his trademark.

I have an old wing chair that I got for free a few years ago, and I used it as an art experiment. One day I decided to paint a guitar on the cushions using bright acrylics, and even fabric-glued on thin gold thread for the strings.

It was the ugliest chair in the entire world!
So, I did what I always do- I attempted to cover it up-( and did so rather successfully).

That is-until Jackson discovered it about a year ago. Ripping off the covering, he was in awe at the guitar and declared he "Loved it!!"
I would sigh and grit my teeth every time he left, knowing that the first thing I would have to do is go cover up the chair.
He was here last night and this morning I proceeded to cover the ugly chair.

But, suddenly, I looked at it differently.

I wondered if this is how Jackson will remember me.
Grandma the artist.
Grandma the creative pioneer.
Grandma who let me sit in her guitar chair,
who fashioned little strings from gold thread,
who wasn't afraid to go ahead and try something even at the risk of failure...

if he'll remember me as Grandma the Weirdo
who had the ugliest chair in the world!

You just never know!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


For some odd reason, I woke up this morning thinking about my best old playmate, Barbie.

For years my sister Linda and I made an almost daily ritual of pulling her out of her shoe box to play with her.
We spent the entire afternoon pretending we were shopping or decorating or going out on a date.

We constructed miniature houses out of cardboard boxes and encyclopedias.
We used wash cloths for beds and Mom's cold cream jar for an end table.
We made couches out of knee socks and used building blocks for TV's, stereos and cool appliances.

We were always thrilled when Mom would buy us Barbie clothes at yard sales.
Usually they were hand crafted messes of crooked stitches and loopy crocheted knots and tiny underwear no bigger than a stamp.
But I do remember a nice red coat, a purple formal, and a fake fur collar.
And of course, there was always that faded, striped, one-piece bathing suit that Barbie was born in.

And although we had a few pairs of shoes for her, Barbie went barefoot most of the day, traveling in little hops as we walked her across bed pillows - danced her upon floors made of record albums -and swirled her in ice skating rinks built of mirrors.

I think we eventually got a Ken doll, which we shared.
But luckily our little brothers had GI Joes we could date- and model cars we could ride in -and race tracks we could jog on.

Barbie was our best friend, but we really didn't know her very well.
While surfing the web, Wikipedia offered me some interesting facts:

Barbie's full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts.
She was the daughter of George and Margaret Roberts.
She grew up in Willows, Wisconsin and attended Willows High School and Manhattan International High School in New York City.
She began dating Ken Carson in 1961, broke up with him in February 2004, but reconciled in February 2006.

Barbie has had over forty pets which include cats, dogs, horses, a panda, a lion cub, and a zebra.

She has had a career as an art teacher, Spanish teacher, sign language teacher and student teacher. As well as being a doctor, astronaut, nurse,vet,and surgeon.

She has served in the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines.
She was the United States President in 2000, an ambassador for world peace, and even spent some time as a firefighter, policewoman, and a life guard.

But, to Linda and I, she was just plain, old Barbie.
Our best friend that lived under our bed,
grew inside of our hearts,
and watched us finally grow up.

Monday, August 4, 2008


Some say there is a place called Limbo.
A vague, almost mystic spot in time that exists between Heaven and Hell. It's a state of transition, of temporary confinement- of quiet oblivion.

I have always thought that August was a sort of earthly limbo.
A calm, almost floating space of days that exists between summer and fall.

Some use the term, "August at its peak".
I can see that invisible peak now.

August is like a roller coaster that you board in the summer - ride its curves and bends- rise with its peak-
and emerge at the other end, deeply aware of autumn's coming.
Your soul is suddenly seeped in the unseen ghosts of a new season that has not yet arrived.

August has always been a month of reflection for me.
A time of looking back, but yet, looking forward.
Of remembering special summer moments, but at the same time, anticipating events that will shape themselves in the days to come.

From my front porch, I watch August as it unfolds...

Soon the school bus will roar down the dusty summer roads.
Each year I watch as its yellow face appears around the curve, dancing with bouncing children.

If I blur my eyes just right, I can almost see my children there, smiling and waving back at me from the windows.
Remembering how I sent them off to school, my heart full of love and concern- but with an emptiness only a mother can know.

The world is quiet today.
August pulls the life from the grass and trees, leaving curled clover beneath my bare feet as I walk to the garden.

The surface of the pond pops occasionally with a hungry fish- its murky surface showing a cloudless sky with ripples of mid-day heat.

There were fun days here.
Days when the kids squealed as night crawlers were baited on their hooks-
their little, sweaty heads glistening in the sunlight as they patiently waited for the big fish to arrive.

They used to walk with me here, all three of them in tow, scouting for blackberries and wildflowers and yellow-spotted garden spiders.
We always had a ritual of leaving a trail of milkweed silk floating on the air behind us - making secret wishes as we freed the seeds from their spiky, dried cocoons.

I stop for a moment.
If I tune my ears just right, I can almost hear them laughing and splashing again-
their sweet voices like an infectious happiness that can never be replaced.

I miss those times and I miss my children.
But I accept the fact
that their lives were long ago pulled away by duties of the world- by their young wings fluttering away to an obscure freedom-
like the milkweed silk.

And today, I know for certain that I am in a rare type of limbo.
That I am in the intricate space between being a mother
and being an aging parent.

I go to the edge of the pond and look into the water.
If I blur my eyes just right, I can almost see the reflection of a young woman.
But then she quietly begins to weep-
knowing that August leads her up the hill
and then further down the road.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Move Over, Rocky- Here We Come!!!

"I'm going for a run", I told my husband yesterday, pulling on my tennis shoes at the breakfast table.

He almost choked on his Bran Flakes.

"What? he slobbered, milk running down the sides of his mouth.
"For a minute there, I thought you said you were going for a run."
Then he laughed that really evil laugh of his.

I ignored his bad sense of humor and adjusted my sweat band.
"Well, Mr. Smarty Pants", I said, attempting an impossible toe touch," I am officially in training."

He laughed again.
"Well, from here it looks like Elephant Circus Training," he teased.

"Stop it!" I warned him, pulling myself up from the floor by crawling to the nearest piece of solid furniture.
"For your information, my sisters and I are in training for the Labor Day weekend events," I puffed, already breathless.

He just kept laughing and shaking his head.
And he was still laughing as my sisters arrived.
He was even laughing as we huddled over our clipboard, adjusted our headsets and checked our water bottles.

"Got your cell phone?' he said, suddenly seeming concerned.

"Yes," my sisters and I all said in unison.

"Well, hope you got 9-1-1 on speed dial!" he shouted after us, still laughing, as we jogged down the driveway.

My sisters and I are in training for the 61 Mile Yard Sale taking place in late August. It's crucial that we be in shape for the event.

We must be able to carry large loads, such as: cookbooks, stereo speakers, end tables and blenders.

We must be primed to dig, riffle and, (if it comes down to it- fight), for a bargain.

Our eyesight must be keen - our senses alert - for hidden treasures, buried knick-knacks (and an occasional Porta-Potty).

We must be quick, sly, and thrifty in our quest. Therefore, we must train to tweak our endurance, speed, and agility.

We must also equip ourselves for the expedition.
Lip gloss, bottled water, hand sanitizer, tape measure, maps, snacks, calculator and sun screen.

Our yard sale uniforms must be cool and comfortable.
Our shoes must be flexible, durable, and easy on the feet.
Our money must be in all denominations from hundreds to ones, with available change from quarters to pennies.
We need hats, pockets, purses, and bags...

This morning I woke up at four a.m. to loud music playing in family room.
I recognized it as the Theme from Rocky.

My husband smiled as he appeared at the foot of the bed, wearing a coaches whistle and a damp towel around his neck.
"Rise and Shine, my little Butter Bean- rise and shine!" he laughed uncontrollably.

He was still laughing when I came home with a severe sunburn, a twisted ankle, and three blisters.

But, I will not be discouraged or disheartened.
I will persevere.
I will be ready for 61 miles-
and beyond!

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!!

It's no secret that I finally got a new cell phone! Yippee!

Why is it that such a trivial thing can be so exciting sometimes?

I suppose it's like getting new shoes.
You feel great when you first wear them and you go around hoping everyone else will notice.
You prop them nonchalantly on the copy machine at work, you display them neatly on a soft, fluffy rug in the foyer,
or you purposely stick them in the aisle at church when the congregation files in.

I've haven't put my new cell phone into its little case yet.

It's way too beautiful to hide away in the confines of my slovenly purse.
I hold it in my hand like a delicate handkerchief, checking it every minute or so for new messages, hoping it will ring so that everyone in Kroger will turn around and look at me and I can say, " Yep... got me a new cell phone..."

Of course,setting the phone up for the first time was a thousand times worse than learning how to set the clock on the VCR.
There are more buttons than a button factory and more options than a college curriculum! The instruction booklet is as thick as an Atlas and as complicated as chemistry.

But somehow, after two grueling hours in my recliner, eating pretzels, pushing buttons and watching Oprah, I managed to make my first call.

"Erin?", I said into the phone, "It's Mom."
"Yeah- what's going on?" she replied.

"What do you mean, What's going on?" I stammered. "Don't you remember today is the day I get my new cell phone?
I'm talking to you on it this very moment!", I announced proudly.

"Sorry, but I'm working right now, Mom. I'll call you back later.I'm glad you got your phone," she said hurriedly,deflating my happiness.
"Call my cell phone, not the house phone," I reminded her, hoping to finally hear the new ring tone I had selected.

Then I called my daughter Becca.
"Hey, it's me!" I giggled unashamed.
"Got your new cell phone, didn't you?" she guessed in a dry, monotone voice.

"Can I bring it over to show you?' I asked excitedly.

"Mom", she whispered sweetly, "It's not a new puppy."
Then her tone suddenly changed- "It's a freakin' cell phone, for heaven's sake!"

I made dozens of calls- to my sisters and brothers and in-laws and friends and aunts and cousins and old acquaintances.

"Hi there, it's me!" I told an old friend.

"Who?" she asked, failing to guess after a dozen angry tries.

"You know, it's Rae. You taught me in first grade." I declared.


After a few hours and several of my shared minutes later, I called my son Jake who was just getting out of school.
"Guess what I'm doing?" I asked him.

"Probably talking on your new cell phone, right?" he speculated.

"How on Earth did you know?" I questioned, almost surprised at his telepathy.

"Mom, you've been talking about it for months. You've circled the date on every calendar you own, put up giant Post-it notes on the fridge, car and bathroom mirror, and e-mailed me the Free Phones website ten times!" he reminded me.

So, the kids weren't thrilled.

I think it's just that they don't want to see their Mom finally reaching technical sophistication.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Hillbilly Cumpooter Turms


The Application mountains are full of moonshine.

My crappy land lady give me the boot when I quit payin' trailer rent.

Sara June baked a file into a gooseberry pie so's I could bust out of county last year.

What Gertrude Louise had after her boob job.

What Gertrude Louise had before her boob job.

What my neat-nic friend Bubba Joe puts in the floorboard of his monster truck.

That goofy linin' they put in men's swim trunks.

What we're hopin' our little Sally Lou will learn to play so's she can get a job at the karaoke bar.

What most people do when their yards get too weedy.

What my old lady says I always do.

What we got them six traps set fer under the guest bed.

Oh, my fave-o-rite satellite channel!