Friday, February 27, 2009

Catalog Junkie

Last week while walking through
JC Penny, I noticed a giant mountain
of catalogs.
Memories flooded in my veins.
Good times returned briefly in
my daydreams.

Stacked like colorful bricks
at each checkout,
it was a sure sign of Spring.

You see,
I used to get one of those
little cards in the mail
that let me know that
"The JC Penny Spring and Summer
Catalog has arrived!
We have one ready for you!"

I used to get excited.
For a woman that rarely bought clothes,
I still enjoyed the "window shopping".
It was my hot line to fashion.
My secret door that opened up to a world
of clothing charisma.

It all went back to my childhood
when my sister and I would
"play catalog".
We would circle the outfit we wanted
on each page,
picked out the jewelry we'd wear,
the hairstyles we loved,
and even the well-dressed babies
that we would stroll down the street in
a JC Penny carriage.

The love of catalogs stayed with me
through adulthood.
They were my imagination station.
My escape
and my lifeline to luxury.

But, after years of paying interest
on my JC Penny credit card,
my enthusiasm extinguished itself.
I got rid of my card and
started paying cash for clothes.

Soon JC Penny forgot about me.
The "Come And Get Your Catalog!"
cards stopped coming.

My catalog collection dwindled
to a single thin Fingerhut publication
that featured pleather jackets,
satin zebra-print sheet sets
and cute potato bins.

I lost that door to style.

I was uncertain if Spring had begun yet.

I felt like all my mannequin friends,
foot models,
and underwear dummies
had abandoned me.

Each morning I painfully chose
clothing to wear-
not sure if it was the style-
the acceptable fashion-
if my old catalog friends
would ever be caught dead in it.

I was a wreck.
A basket case.
A lone woman who desperately
needed a catalog fix.

I hung around the Catalog Center
hoping they might feel sorry for me
and toss me a damaged issue-
that they might let me peek
at the bright spring sandals and purses-
for just a second or two.

I checked the dumpsters daily-
hoping a careless salesperson
might throw one away-
and I even bugged the mailman
for a month-
finally accusing him of keeping
the catalog announcement for himself.

I finally got a catalog.
On eBay.
It's a 1975 JC Penny Fall and Winter.
Outdated a little-
but it's all coming back.
The lime green and orange
and hippie stuff.

I've forgiven JC Penny for
their human cruelty-
and the mailman has started
delivering my mail again.

Life is good.

But I still "play catalog"
whenever I get the chance.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Home Sweet Toilet

There is something about one's home
that can never be imitated 0r substituted.
It fits like a warm, worn sweater-
like comfy flannel "jammers".
And like the front door key,
it fits so perfectly-
feels so safe...

I like vacations, visits, and road trips.
But nothing is ever quite as comfortable
as home.

Take for instance this morning.

I am visiting my son and using his laptop.
A Mac.
Mine at home is a desktop Windows Vista.
With a mouse.
This little finger pad he has
is causing me premature arthritis
and uncharacteristic cursing.
Plus, I'm at loss when posting a picture.

I like my desk chair, my fuzzy slippers-
the way the coffee pot beeps when its done brewing.
The click of the furnace, the hum of the fridge-
and the way the light shines through the blinds.

And call me psycho,
but I just cant get used to a
different toilet.
It's like a little porcelain stranger
that's not quite molded to my body.

It's like wearing a pair of new shoes-
stiff and uncomfortable
and you just cant wait to
finish what you're doing
so you can get out of there.

Of course, there's the sleeping arrangements.
Nothing beats your bed at home.
Strange beds are either too soft or too hard-
too cold or too warm-
has too many pillows
or not enough.

I know-
I have issues.

There are four controllers here
for the TV-
no visible clocks to tell time-
and nothing but health food
in the fridge and cabinets.

It's a beautiful house
with nice things.
it's not my house.

I'm used to the dust bunnies
under the wing chair,
the coffee stains on the counter-
the spot on the kitchen wall
where a chair has worn the paint.
I'm missing the smell of my banana candle,
Snuggle fabric softener,
and broccoli cooking for dinner.

Home is like fingerprints.
Unique and all your own.
Fitting well and staying part of you.

I'll be back there soon.
I am already
missing the familiarity of my house.

And, yeah-
about now-
I'm especially missing
my little porcelain friend...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Life Coach

There was a television program
on the other day
that promoted the idea of hiring
a life coach.
Especially in these difficult times
when the correct choices are crucial
to future success
and the wrong choices
will certainly spell failure.

They explained that a life coach
is hired to assist you with
your personal development.
They will help you set
and achieve goals,
share advice,
offer guidance,
and help you make plans.

For a few hundred dollars a month
you can talk to your life coach
30-60 minutes per week.

I was one of the lucky ones.
My life coach was free.

It was my mom.

She assisted me in my personal development.
Taught me to brush my teeth,
keep my hair and body clean,
(change underwear daily in case
there was a car accident),
and share with my brothers and sisters.

She took me to church,
helped me with homework,
and listened to stories that
must have bored her to death.

She praised me when I did
something right
and smacked me with the flyswatter
when I did something wrong.
But, through it all-
she loved me.

She hugged me-
kissed me goodnight-
smiled at me at supper
across a plate of pork chops,
and comforted me
when I was sick
or had bee stings
or was fighting with the boys.

She taught me to pray,
give thanks,
and to be humble.

She was my inspiration,
my comfort,
and the epitome of the kind of mother
I hoped to someday be.

She was strong without being rough,
sweet without being complaisant,
and beautiful without being embellished.

She was funny
and witty
and unselfish.
She was warm, compassionate
and devoted.

What happened to families?
To mothers?
To having the bond that supersedes
any life coach?
Of having the connection
that lingers in life
even after they are gone?

And even though my mom is
no longer here,
the values and morals and lessons
she taught me
continue to guide me and console me
as I make my way through life.

I may not be rich
or successful
or famous.
But I was led
by my life coach
to be a good person.

Thanks, Mom.
I hope I make you proud.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Batter Up!

I'm sure there are lots of people out there
hopping to their nearest IHOP today.
In celebration of over 50 years of service-
and to honor Pancake Day-
IHOP is offering free pancakes
in exchange for a donation to
the Children's Miracle Network.

I've never understood the attraction of IHOP.
Their pancakes are regular pancakes
that any person with a spoon and spatula-
(and years of practice)-
can stir up.

It's all those great looking toppings
that make them so desirable.
The fruit and whipped cream
and nuts and syrups...

I do admit it took me a while to
perfect my pancake cooking skills.
(They are still hit and miss).
I either have my skillet too cold
or too hot-
My batter is too thin
or too thick-
and the pancakes themselves
are as thin as butterfly wings
or as thick as the phone book.

As with all my early cooking attempts,
consistency was not my forte'.

And my question is-
Why is breakfast the hardest meal
to cook?

Think about it-
Breakfast people are picky
about their bacon-
their sausage-
their gravy and their biscuits.
They crave a certain type of coffee-
their eggs fried just right-
and demand a variety of jelly.

Breakfast people are like old dogs-
-set in their ways.

I can almost bet that every old man
in the breakfast cafe this morning
is reading the paper
and eating his eggs
the very same way
that he's enjoyed them for seventy years.

I can kinda understand that.
I don't want my eggs too runny
or my bacon to rubbery.
I request my sausage well done,
but my biscuits undercooked.
I want my coffee hot,
but not boiled
and my hash browns crispy,
not greasy.

And then there's the subject of pancakes.

Well, I've burned a lot in the quest
for the perfect circle
of Hungry Jack excellence.
I've taken tips from Aunt Jemima
and Betty Crocker
and Martha White.
And I will admit
that my pancakes still don't
stack up.
(Get it? Stack up. Ha. Ha.)

So, I just continue to visit
Cracker Barrel when I have
the pancake urge.
Their pecan pancakes are
to die for!

Plus, their bacon and sausage
ad biscuits and eggs
and jelly and coffee
and hash brown casserole
are always served correctly.

Ooops...I've suddenly realized
that I've become
one of those old dogs.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Changing Backgrounds

Sorry- I just couldn't stand to wake up to the yellow sky and fluffy clouds for one more day!

My Front Door Blues

While walking out to get the mail this weekend,
I glanced back at the house and realized
that my first priority of Spring will be
to paint my front door.

It's navy blue shine has dulled into
a dusty gray-sailboating color-
Lately looking more like
the entrance to a cave
than to an inviting home.

When we first bought the house,
the door was maroon-
that quaint berry cran-applely
wine-tinted country color
that was then the rage of every
rural home.

I wanted something different.
That's when I chose the ever-popular teal.

Or, at least I thought it would be fashionable
for a long time.
A month after I sanded and primed
and two-coated my door in
tantalizing teal,
it seemed everyone was going teal-
right down to the shutters
and the window boxes.

The color teal grew so popular
that it became boring-
syrupy-sweet like ruffles
and lace and those little geese
that wear raincoats and bonnets.

When I was a child,
our front door was always red.
I still don't know why.
My dad wasn't a flamboyant person-
or a decorator-
but whenever it was time to repaint-
Up went the red-
fire-engine red- and it always looked.. perfect.

Maybe he was saying STOP- Keep Out-
there are nine crazy children stomping
around here-
or perhaps he considered it a warm color-
inviting and uncommon.

But what I really think now-
looking back on it-
I would almost bet that red
just happened to be the
color of paint he found in the garage.

And because old habits die hard,
it stayed red for over forty years.

My current navy blue door
came about during the patriotic surge-
when every house in town posted an American flag-
and red,white and blue petunias
spelled out USA in flower beds.

But now, I'm back to decision time.
The color-cards
and swatches and cardboard samples
and mind-changing maybe's
that all come with choosing
a paint color.

I'm thinking sage, or rust
or a coffee colored brown-
robin-egg blue
or a nice eggplant perhaps.

Or maybe
I'll just paint it red.

Dad would like that.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hooray! It's Toothpick Day!

Today is Toothpick Day.

I'm sure you're all aware of it.

It ranks right up there with
National Obnoxious Day
and Don't Join The Circus Day.
Both of which are great excuses to celebrate.

But today we should be focusing
on the Mighty Toothpick Parade-
(which, unfortunately someone
forgot to inform my local
Chamber of Commerce about.)...

I haven't seen any Hallmark cards
on the subject-
and even my favorite grocery store
isn't running any special ads
on the little wooden wonders.

So, let me pick your brain...
(no pun intended)-
and open it up to some knowledge.

Toothpicks have been around
since the cave men.
Even their pea sized brains
had the power to realize that
a slender piece of wood or bone
would help dislodge food from
their Neanderthal teeth.

The Romans even formed toothpicks
from bronze and silver
and 17th century artists carved and
set them with precious stones.

However, it was Silas Noble and
J.P. Cooley who patented the first
toothpick-manufacturing machine
in 1872.
Good work, guys.

Now even Swiss Army Knives are
equipped with a plastic version
of the historic dental device.
(Never know when you're
lost out in the woods for days
when that bit of cattail root
or pine nut might lodge
uncomfortably between your teeth.)

Toothpicks really don't
get the attention they deserve.
Sure, we see them all the time
at restaurant check-outs and
grocery stores
and even holding together
fancy Hor d'Oveuvres.
But, we rarely recognize
their extreme necessity and
and modest price.

Thus, we celebrate today.
Toothpick Day.

Have a great one!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

It's A Small World

My first real memory is of a linoleum floor,
cool and gray beneath my three year old body.
My mom was there- cooking- cleaning-
humming about the kitchen
while I played with a doll house.

It was nothing more than a tin box,
separated by thin tin walls-
all painted magically to look like
woven carpeting or fine wood
or tiny tiles.

Rust had taken over the edges
of my little house-
the furniture had broken long ago,
and the only doll I owned
would never fit into the front door.

Yet, there is something pleasant
about that memory.
Something innocent and pure.
Something that still causes me
total fascination at the sight
of miniature things.

One of my favorite collections
is my gathering of miniature chairs.
I picked them up at yard sales
and flea markets throughout the years-
never giving more than a few dollars each for them.
But, to me, they have become priceless.

Sounds silly, I know.
Even I thought so
and decided to give them away
a few years ago.

All but three or four.

But while trying to choose
which ones would stay or go,
I ended up keeping all of them.
They were a team.
A miniature chair family.

And each one had a memory.

...Of a cool morning scurrying across
a wet lawn and spying that tiny
wooden rocker tossed between
the boom box and the candlesticks
at someones garage sale...
...Of laughing with my sisters
as we sweat through our tee shirts-
not letting the summer heat
keep us from treasures-
like the butterfly chair with
itty-bitty beading...
...Of opening a little package and
finding that Linda had
sent me a gift of three small willow chairs
that are still my favorites...

What causes people to collect certain things?
-Cling to worn out baby blankets
and weathered books?
Why do some people seek out stamps
or bottles or comic books?

I think it's because of something
down inside their memories-
hidden so that they can't even recall.
A compulsion-
a need- a pull -
towards making a collective family.
A mission to fill their hearts and homes
with something once lost-
of objects innocent and pure...

I can still see that doll house so clearly.
And in my mind, each little room
has it's own little chair.

And I'm little, too.
Rocking in a chair
in my little rusty house-
where adulthood
is too big
to fit inside.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Of Days That Are No More

It's hard to believe
that there are some people
in Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas
that have been without power for
almost a month.

Aside from the fact that the situation
would be uncomfortably cold,
there's also the loss of perishable food,
the threat of busted pipes, and
the process of staying somewhere
that isn't "home".

I feel sorry for these people.
I know that I'd be hard to live with
if I had to toss my years supply
of frozen pizza.
And to add insult to injury-
wrap myself in a king-size
down comforter while
playing Scrabble by candle light.

But what has become of our world
when the absence of electricity
becomes a national disaster?
How do we think the pioneers survived?

Electricity wasn't even a common
household luxury until the 1880's.
Of course, they didn't have computers
and gadgets and appliances that
all feed on wires.

One spring my family got a brief chance to
live electricity-free for a few days.

They remember it as a tragedy.
I remember it as a blessing.

We bought a small one room cabin
in the woods of Missouri several years ago.
The former owners were supposed to transfer
the electric bill to us, but instead,
the power was mistakenly cut off.

We weren't aware of this fact
until we had already driven
three and a half hours to stay
the weekend there.

No electricity.

Of course, that didn't mean much
to my husband and I.
There was no running water to begin with.
There was no source of heat except a
Santa-Claus-looking fireplace.
No phone.
No TV.
This cabin was equipped with
only the essentials of living.

And that's why we loved it so much.

The deer would visit in the front yard,
the rain drummed on the tin roof like music,
and the screened porch with it's wooden swing
gave us a full view of the forest.

That particular weekend we tried to make
the best of it for the kids.
Luckily, a small fire helped keep us warm
and snacks and Vienna Sausages
kept our belly's full.

It was the entertainment that was a problem.
And the darkness.

It was just like they say-
"so dark you couldn't see your hand
in front of your face."
I tried it- and it was creepy.
We were a quarter mile from any house
and fifteen miles to the closest town.

(And Big Foot in those parts
is known as MoMo.)

Anyway, with a flickering fire
we managed to quell the darkness
and my husband began doing
shadow puppets on the wall.
The kids rolled their eyes at first-
not wanting to be part of this juvenile

But soon they joined in-
forming wavy alligators
and deformed birds
and stick men that danced
across the walls.
We laughed so hard we almost
had to walk to the outhouse
for relief.

Then we got brave and told ghost stories.
Then jokes and remember-when's.

The weekend became a huge bonding
experience that I wlll remember
the rest of my life.

The kids grew up.
We sold the cabin.

I don't think I've made a shadow puppet since.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I'm Februarish

February is the black sheep of the family calendar-
the quirky month-
the month that decided to be different-
almost an outcast.

Sometimes I feel that way.
Like I'm a square peg
living in a round world-
the only nut
in a bag of Brainiacs-
the only woman on the block
who doesn't give a hoot
if there's a gigantic shoe sale
going on today.

So- to pay tribute
to the 28 days of February,
I am going to share
28 things with you.
Random thoughts, facts,
and ponderings of life...

I think that this type of thing
exercises the mind-
massages memories-
uncovers hidden desires.

I told you I was a little different.
A bit Februarish.
(I made that up.)
Think Webster will catch on?

28 Things:

1. I have never tasted a marshmallow Peep.

2. I would like to see a Creedence Clearwater Revival concert.

3. I rarely pass up a good tablecloth at a yard sale.

4. Goodwill is my favorite Friday hangout.

5. I like my French Toast dipped in corn flake crumbs.

6. I would like to read the biographies of Vincent Van Gogh,
Lewis and Clark, and Erma Bombeck.

7. I love little birds.

8. I hate garden moles.

9. I like to eat bologna in vinegar once in awhile.

10. I still have the dress pants I got married in.
Size zero. They don't even fit one leg now.

11. I miss my sister weekends.

12. I miss my sister Barb.

13. I wish I knew more about the God.

14. I wish God knew a little more about me.

15. I'd like to build a tree house in the woods.

16. I wish I could play the piano.

17. My favorite flower is the lilac.

18. I want this quote on my tombstone:
"To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die."

19. I didn't learn to ride a bike till I was
about nine years old.

20. I like old quilts, rusty objects and
weathered wood.

21. But I also like disco balls, glittery
Christmas ornaments and shiny vases.

22. Inside I still feel nineteen.

23. Most of the time.

24. I'm not really afraid of mice, snakes, or bats-
but I don't want them around me.

25. I am afraid of spiders, bank overdrafts, and
icy roads.

26. I always dream in color.

27. I will watch scary movies with monsters and aliens-
but not ones with real people who are evil.

28. I start getting spring fever this time every year.

For those of you that think I bailed out of
writing a really good blog today,
then try to sit down and write your 28 things!

Go ahead-
Take a big leap.
After all, it's February.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Magazine Malfunctions

I subscribe to a lot of magazines
and each one I find a bit of inspiration
or a new discovery.

I seem to gravitate toward the country publications-
those that endorse flea market decorating
or suggest a picnic lunch to enjoy
on a fishing trip
to the back yard pond.

That's how I like my magazines.

That's how I like my life.

So, that is why I've made the decision
to do away with a few magazines
that I have habitually renewed every year
without a second thought.
Magazines that are stuffed with
beautiful glossy photos,
unique art, fabulous furniture
and exquisite food.

I'm seeing more and more
and overblown designs.
Expensive ideas
and ridiculous choices.

For instance, the latest issue of
one magazine asked top designers
a very simple question:
"What is your favorite place to spend the day and what activity do you enjoy there?"

Here's the type of response it triggered:

"I enjoy a jog on the beach, my Gucci bag in tow- where later, by sunset, I'll sip Chteau Marguax wine and have some Brie cheese with those little crackers from the south of France."

"Most certainly it has to be the magnificent villa in Santa Cristina, Spain with it's cornflower blue walls, full amenities and private dining. I vacation here bi-annually and scour the countryside for fine antiques and gilded goodies for future clients."


"The Promenade de Carfe where my husband and I discovered these perfect alabaster columns and had them incorporated into our new home. Shipping them to the states was absolutely outrageous, but we love them. I still can't believe they are really ours."

Okay. Enough.
Are these people serious?
Are they crazy or something?
What kind of fairy tale world
do they live in?

Maybe I'm getting old.
Maybe it's a bit senility or
that old-lady-grouchiness that
seems to come in bitter waves-
aimed at the younger and richer.
But- those kind of people just
make me want to vomit.

And then, maybe I've always been this way.
Only wanting simple things.
Comfortable places.
Warm experiences.

Ask me.

Well, my favorite place is the corner of the couch.
Here I can raise the blinds and watch the deer
stroll across the field. I can open the window
and feel the sun and smell the breeze. I can read
a book here, watch TV, or do nothing at all.
I can sit in my corner of the couch and sip hot coffee,
gorge myself on salty chips, or listen to my husband
play guitar.

There's nothing phony or plastic or presumptuous
about that.

Today I sit here in the corner of the couch
and sort through magazines
that I no longer want.
It's time to simplify.
Get down to basics.

Because that's how I like my life.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Looking for Luck

It's crazy that they actually set aside a special day
for all the superstitious people in the world.
(And really sad how someone like Jason Voorhees
is at the head of the pagan parade).

I'm not wary of black cats
and broken mirrors
or cracks in the sidewalk.
I don't carry a rabbit's foot,
avoid touching frogs,
or believe that if I wash my car
it will rain.

But I do sorta have a bit of
a superstition when it comes to
my coffee cups.

Sounds crazy, I know.
(But so does getting a wish
by blowing out your birthday candles).

My son has traveled a bit
and for a lack of any other sensible thing
to bring back as a souvenir,
he chose to start buying me coffee cups.
I love them all
and use them daily because
I am a caffeine dependent weakling.

I have one from Jamaica
printed with their hundred dollar bill.
One from Disney World
with "Mom" written on it,
and a great one from
Universal Studios.
I have also acquired a real cute one
from a famous craft company.

I started drinking from the
Disney World cup when I yearned
for my day to be full of fun.
I chose the Universal Studios
when I hoped for a day
of adventure.
And I drank every morning
from the craft cup
when I was seeking my creative outlet.

This silliness all started one morning
when I drank out of the money cup
and happened to win a few dollars
on a lottery scratch-off.
Just a coincidence, I know.
But very, very cool.

I realize that this coffee cup affliction
is probably immature and somewhat psychotic,
but it helps to look in
the cupboard every morning and decide
what kind of influence I want on my day.
Whenever I drink from my craft cup,
I make an effort to do something
with my art and writing.
And I laugh and play with the grand kids more
when I've had a jolt of java
from the Florida cups.
However, my money cup seems to
be used twice as often as the others.

My mind set is really what
this superstitious thing is all about.
Like they say-
you are only as happy
as you make up your mind to be.

Same goes for bad luck.
Being fearful can only hold you back
from creativity, adventure, and fun.

But I will admit this:

If my money cup ever gets broken,
stolen, or misplaced-
I'll make Jason Voorhees
look like an angel!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Summer of '75

The older you get,
the harder it is to remember things.
Oh, sure, it's easy to say,
"I remember the time..."

Like your first new car-
you probably remember the color
and the price and places you drove it.
But do you remember the new-car smell?
The reflection of a summer sky in the chrome?
The feel of the ribbed steering wheel
in your hands?
Do you pass along those things
when you tell the story to your children?

And, are you actually remembering it
or simply filling in the blanks
where you've forgotten?
...With something that sounds good.

Each day is composed of separate moments,
but as we get older, our minds separate the
memories into only a few dozen clear stories.

I want to go back.
I want to remember the story of my life.
Of how I met this man who has shared my days-
Of these children I bore and
how they have amazed and delighted me.
Of the places and people and time
that shaped my present.

Will I fill in the blanks where I've forgotten?
Only if it sounds good.
Only if that is the way I wish the story told...

The summer I met my husband
was especially hot and humid-
the days uneventful -
and the only proof that I actually lived them
was my tattered journal that I wrote in every day-
A notebook that had swollen
into a summer of words.

My sister Linda had a VW Beetle
and we would hop in on Friday night,
grab some beer at the drive-through-
and zoom into the lights of town.

Her best friends had a house that
soon became the "party house".
There we'd play our favorite record albums
like: Slade, Three Dog Night,
Roberta Flack, BTO, and others...

It was about the time that
the "hippie movement" began to decline,
but there remained an easy going attitude.
I drank a beer or two back then,
and some party-goers would get high-
but I never did.
(That is a fact, not a fill-in-the-blank.)

Most times a hot breeze would
blow through the open windows
and we sweat our way through
beer and pot and loud music that summer
like a slow motion dream.

At least that how it
seems to me now.

What is so mysterious about Fate
is that it's unpredictable.
A person can be going through life-
content and carefree-
when Fate suddenly intervenes
and changes the entire course of events.

Fate was waiting for me that summer...
It walked right in the door of the party house.

He was tan and lean.
Wearing button tab jeans, Earth shoes,
and a fuzzy pony tail.
Your average kind of guy back then.

But suddenly he smiled-
and every written course and map of my life
and fear of the future, dissolved.
Fate had other plans.

I can't begin to say how much
that I still love this man.
We've been across mountains of struggles,
fields of heaven,
(and even stuck our heads in
the door of Hell a time or two),
but our hearts have never faltered.

We are kindred spirits.
I want his head to always be
on the pillow next to mine-
whether it be a fuzzy pony tail
or a thin glaze of gray.

I want his smile to continue
lighting up my life-
his touch to forever cause electricity-
his sweet, enduring love
to follow me till times end.

Love is never how you dream it.
Love is never how you plan it.
Love just is.

Happy Valentines Day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Road to Hell is Paved With Good Intentions.

For all you self-absorbed people out there-
I thought I'd let you know that we are in the midst of
Random Acts of Kindness Week.
(Hereto referred to as : RAOK).
It means to perform some selfless act this week
that will make someone happy or
assist them in some way to make their life easier.
It can be spontaneous or you can plan it all out-
but it just has to be sincere.

Sometimes it can backfire, though.

I put my compassionate heart
to the test yesterday
while out running errands.

First of all, I guess I caused
a bit of a traffic jam downtown.
My random act of kindness was to
let the rush hour traffic
merge into my lane.
But my heart was so full of kindness
that I just stopped and
let every single car through.

Who knew the state police would be
called in to remedy the three mile train of
disgruntled, honking, cursing commuters?

The officer apparently didn't know what week it is.
That pompous donut-eating swine
gave me a ticket any way.

But I didn't lose heart.
I continued on my RAOK journey
and decided to let my sincerity
flow into the maze of aisles at the grocery store.

I held the door open for an elderly woman,
put a rolling orange back on the produce shelf,
complimented the baker on the sample cookies
and let the deli guy screw up my sliced ham
for the umpteenth time without giving him
a good tongue lashing like I usually do.

I was feeling pretty holy about the whole thing.

That was until some
decided she would get in on the act.
(Obviously she must have read about
RAOK week in the Wall Street Journal).

(While sipping latte.)

(And texting her Carnival Cruise agent.)

"You take the last package," I smiled lukewarmly at her,
placing the fresh chicken breasts into her
diamond encrusted fingers.

"Oh, positively not," she whined, her nose still sniffing
out my hillbilly lineage.

"No, you take it," I said adamantly,
tossing the bloody bird into her mink-y arms.

"I insist!" she snapped, sideswiping my stupefied face
with the ten pound family pack.

The rest of the story isn't pretty.
All I can tell you is -
it was the biggest cat fight since Dynasty.

Once my husband left work and posted my bail,
we went home and settled in for the night.
I really began wondering if my sincerity was genuine.
I began to question my whole life-
the meaning of the universe-
the Tibetan practice of loving-kindness
and tranquil meditation-
and if there really was
less than two calories in a Tic Tac.

"Are you going to fix some supper, Oh Sainted One?"
my laughing husband asked,
bowing sadistically before me.

"Get it yourself," I answered tiredly,
"All my goody is gone."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mrs. Rackaway

Now days it's rare to find good teachers.
Oh, sure, there are plenty that show up
for work everyday,
mingle with the kids,
attend all the school events
and allow extra credit projects.

But once in a great while
there will be a teacher that changes your life-
that opens heavy doors
and breathes fresh air into stale learning.
A teacher that can mold your heart
without being forceful or contrived.
A teacher who earns your respect
and gains your gratitude.

I was lucky to have such a teacher.
Mrs. Rackaway first taught my third grade class.
She was pretty-
silver haired and with a golden voice-
and a laugh that grew contagious.
She was neither selfish or condescending-
but always an exciting bubble
of new thoughts and things to share.

I had her again when she moved
to fifth grade home room.
Here she taught us the magic of books-
of creative writing-
On cold, dreary afternoons
she read stories to us
that still waver
like colorful music inside my brain.
We wanted to be there-
in the belly of those books-
to experience it fully-
to feel the raindrops and rainbows
and dust and devils and
sweaty skin and
loss and love and
and oceans of lavender....

I knew her outside of school, too.
But she was still Mrs. Rackaway.
No first names--
Still can't bring myself to call her Maxine.

Her daughter Gwen was
one of my best childhood friends
and my sister and I
spent lots of time at her house.
There was always Dr.Pepper,
Frito's, and Grey Poupon.
And a big walk in closet full of books.
She had rose flowered china,
bamboo lounge furniture
and a shiny grand piano.
She wore garden gloves
to tend her flowers
and carried a little spade.
She drove an old black Mercury
and golfed at the country club.
She wore Bermuda shorts
and nice white tennis shoes
around the house.
And she was always smiling.

But time eventually took her away from us.
She died last week at the age of 90.

But to me-
she will always be young-
standing at her old oak desk-
full of vigor and truth and treasures.
She will always be the teacher
that a stuck a chord in my heart
and caused my world to sing.

Like cherished gems,
I still carry with me all that she taught-
and that is something
even time
can never take away.

Monday, February 9, 2009

What Matters Most?

For those of you that haven't read
the book entitled "The Road" by
Cormac McCarthy,
I suggest that you put that on
your list of books to read this year.

Once again, my copy was a Goodwill find-
smashed between old college text books
and paperback romances,
"The Road" cost me a dollar fifty-
but yet provided me with
immeasurable emotions.

It is written strangely.
There's not a quotation mark
in the entire book.
But after the first few pages,
it starts to grow on you-
and by the time you're halfway through,
the words have taken root in your heart
and you don't want it to end.

It's the story of a man and his son
and their journey across a devastated country-
(war? meteor? bomb?- we're never told.)
But it is a tale
of their enduring faith
and strength and love for one another.

The book made me stop and realize
what is really important in life.
When it came down to a worldly catastrophe-
would that new car- flat screen TV-
closet full of clothes- or new home
really matter?
The agony they suffer just to find food
and shelter is a scary prospect.

The two make shoes out of old coats and pieces of tarp-
eat dirty snow and scavenge through
the remains of obliterated houses and stores
just to find an old tin of beans
or a few grains of rice to eat.

They have no need for money or gold-
credit cards or expensive items.
I could almost picture this haunting description:
"By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp"...

..."The soft black talc blew through the streets like squid ink uncoiling along a sea floor and the cold crept down and the dark came early
and the scavengers passing down
the steep canyons
with their torches trod
silky holes in the drifted ash
that closed behind
them silently as eyes"....

Maybe this book isn't for everyone.
But it will be one that I'll keep.

Once in a great while you discover a book
that you put up on the shelf-
not because you plan to read it again someday-
but because it made your eyes see clearer
and it stole just a little
part of your soul.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Big Green Thumbs Down

There was a time back in the late 70's
when I actually had a green thumb.
(For a while, anyway).
Nurturing live plants became
a popular Mother Earth News-type
thing to do-
and I eventually surrounded myself
with houseplants I couldn't even pronounce.

My living room was filled
with such things as jade plants,
rubber trees, spider vines,
and elephant roots.
I had ficus and geraniums
and assorted cacti.
And seeing that I loved plants,
my husband began making
a weekly gift of another
green-filled pot.

I gave them all names.
Maybe it was the mothering instinct
because this was before I gave birth
to my children.
There was Victoria (the ivy vine),
Spidey (the spider plant),
Lilly (the lily, of course),
and Bob the barrel cactus.
(And various other plant children
that I've forgotten through the years...)

On the onset of winter the first year,
they started looking peaked.
There was evidence of dropping leaves,
exposed roots,
broken branches
and brown tips.
There were significant blotches
and bug holes
and mold
and wilting.

My plant family was dying.

Soon I began closing the blinds-
hoping the nosy neighbors
wouldn't know about the abuse.
But living in the dark
only made it worse.

I wouldn't let my friends come over to visit-
fearful that they might be shocked
by the plant carnage in my living room.

I didn't know where to go for help.
I wasn't sure which plants needed water
or fertilizer
or ph adjusted soil.
I had no clue if they required
pinching or pruning
or playful conversation.

I grew sullen, depressed-
each day having to toss another
plant skeleton into the trash
or bury it secretly in the back yard
before the neighbors could
report me to the Botanical Society.

I finally came to terms with the fact
that I did not have a green thumb-
that I was not born to be a plant mama-
that no way on God's green earth
did I deserve to own
another fragile seedling.

I've learned to live with the loss.
Accepting my limitations
was the first step in therapy.
I've moved on with my life.

And, happily, I do have some
new plant children now-
Artificial Andy, Fake Fiona,
and Silk E. Silvia.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Eenie, Meenie, Mynie, Mo

I don't know about you,
but I'm the one
that always gets the blame
when there's nothing good to watch
on TV or DVD.

I don't know how I ever happened
to become the all-knowing guru
of TV Guideness.

And how in the heck was I elected
the Block Buster Queen
who spends days in there
trying to find satisfactory
entertainment choices
for my discriminating family?

I'd like to see them try.

It's not easy, you know-
Trying to make sense of a thousand
movies and hundreds of games-
all the while tripping over little kids,
snatching new releases before
anyone else does,
and avoiding the popcorn
and candy bar deals at the checkout.

Plus, the fact that each DVD box
contains only minimal information.
I usually go by the picture first-
a well designed cover
can sway me every time.
If I'm not wearing glasses,
it's usually hard to tell
if its a zombie movie or
a modern romance.
One time I just got lucky and
picked one that was both.
It was named My Shuffling Sweetheart
or something wild like that.

Which goes to show you
that you can't go by titles either.
I thought Cutting Class was
a teen age high school movie.
Who knew it was about
student butchers going bad?

I try not to be present in the TV room
whenever my selections are popped
into the DVD player.
I hide in the kitchen and
wait to hear screams or moans
or "Oh, Mom, what were you thinking?"
If I'm extremely lucky,
I'll hear a giggle, a laugh,
and a vocal approval.
Then I say "hallelujah"
and relax for the night.

Last week I picked out movie that
not only sounded great, but also
had a very attractive cover photo.
Titled What Are Best Friends For?-
it was a science fiction story
based in the future
where a group of college kids on a space flight
crash land on an uninhabited planet.
It was the epic story of their intense journey
to survive all odds
which ultimately leads to cannibalism.

Once the movie had started-
(and I hadn't heard any cries of disapproval)-
I sat down and watched a good portion of it.
I decided to make popcorn
during the last thirty minutes or so
and resumed the action
as the plane crash survivors
gathered around a fire.

"Where did they get the Spam?" I asked,
suddenly happy for the strangely-dressed
galactic victims.

"It's not Spam," my husband said dryly,
staring at me with that
Why-Do-You-Bring-Home-These-Stupid-Movies? look.

"Then, what

Oh." I whispered quietly,
actually trying to suppress a laugh.

So- the special effects weren't the greatest!
How was I supposed to know?

Next time they can all do the video shopping.
I'm giving back my Block Buster crown!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Old Shoes Day

According to one website,
today is Old Shoes Day.

Sounds kinda cool,
but it doesn't really explain
exactly how we're supposed to celebrate
or what type of old shoe festivities the
five o'clock news might be covering.

I decided to observe this obscure date
by looking through my closet
and sorting out my shoes -
just so I could make the old ones
feel good about having their own party.

I found the black boots I've never worn,
the new sneakers that gave me blisters,
and the still polished high heels
that I use only in emergencies -
like when I can't find a hammer.

I crawled around in the closet,
tossing aside flip flops
in a dozen Popsicle colors,
setting aside woolen booties
and hospital-only slippers
and some really ugly leopard loafers
that I bought for a costume party.

I was beginning to wonder where
all my old shoes had gone.
Had they died and turned to dust?
Had I thrown them out
during my biyearly house cleaning?

Suddenly a mangled canvas form caught my eye.
There - in the dark musty corner of my
crawl-in-and-hope-nothing-falls closet...
slept my favorite old shoes.

Green with grass stains and speckled
with remnants of garden mud,
my old tennis shoes almost seemed to whimper
as I pulled them into the sunlit bedroom.
The laces were frayed, the soles were worn,
and the original white color was
now a faded watercolor gray.

But all I could feel was love.

These were the shoes that I had worn
when I mowed beautiful spring grass,
planted tiny fragrant tomato plants,
fished for bass near the pond,
and abused on crazy four-wheeling trips.
They were my go-out-to-get-the-mail shoes,
my take-out-the-garbage favorites -
my keep-by-the-door quickie footwear.

I found it sad to think that my life
had gotten so busy, so hectic, and so unorganized
that I had unknowingly forsaken my favorite old shoes
and banned them to the dungeon of my cluttered closet.

I still don't know what Old Shoes Day is all about.
I don't know how we're supposed to celebrate-
what sort of special food and games we're supposed
to have- if balloons and confetti are appropriate...

But I am celebrating today in my own special way.

I pulled on the shriveled sneakers,
brushed off the dust,
gently tied the weak laces,
walked across the sunlit room-
to dance.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Goodwill? Good God!

The only thing you hear in the news lately
is this financial crunch that the nation is in.
Everything is money, money, money-
or the lack thereof.

Which I suppose is the reason that
the grocery stores have stooped to
selling twenty thin slices of bread
for three dollars
and spiked that fancy canned
horse meat I feed my dog
to almost a dollar a serving!
I could graze off the dollar menu
at McDonald's four times a day
for what I spend to keep my
bratty dog alive.

So, money is the main reason
I have regained an interest
in shopping for the best bargains
and the coolest clearance items.
Anything without a red or pink tag
rarely finds its way into my cart.

I have always been a rummage sale fanatic,
but the bonus of the newly built
Goodwill store in town has added supplemental joy.
Not only is it clean and organized,
but the employees know me by name.
They don't even ask for I.D.
when I write a check anymore.
They've got my drivers license number
practically memorized.

Anyway, I feel particularly drawn to
the new store because it's bright and
friendly -and finally socially acceptable.
Gone are the days of
wearing a hat and dark glasses because
you might bump into someone you went to
high school with while you're reaching
for the gaudy leopard leggings.

But like my girls tell me-
"Mom, they are there, too! Why should you
be embarrassed to be shopping there?"

The only reply I have to that is-
"Those fifty-two year old cheerleaders
and prom queens aren't buying-
they are dropping off!"

But it is fun to take time to examine
each and every rack.
I've learned to look on the top shelves,
the board game corner,
and even sift through the underwear.
Now, I'm not desperate enough yet
to buy someones used panties,
but I have discovered great scarves
among the B cups.
I like to use them for napkins or
table toppers and I keep a bin at home
to toss in potential Halloween costumes.

Last week I stopped in for my
weekly Goodwill fix and decided
to leisurely inspect every item I could.
I rummaged through the linen basket,
I twirled the purse rack a few times,
and I even tried on some funky disco
shoes with purple glitter.

Fun times.

Well, stuffed amid the stretched out sweaters
and ripped tank tops, I found a really cute
blouse with an amazing price tag of $4.
And it fit perfectly! Almost as if it were
made just for me.
I already knew I would wear it
to a family dinner the following day.

I looked especially refreshed the next evening.
I had a certain glow about me
that only a seasoned bargain hunter knows.
There was something in my mannerism
that said I was comfortable in my
pre-loved clothing-
that I undoubtedly had an eye
for second-hand fashion.

As I was about to bite into my chicken finger,
my oldest daughter looked at me curiously.
Then my youngest began staring critically
my direction.
It was as if time stood still
and every person in Cracker Barrel
was looking at me.

"What?" I asked, dipping into a blob
of honey mustard.

"Well", Erin said, "it's just that I thought you
got rid of that ugly blouse a long time ago."

"Yeah", added Becca, snarling as though
she had just stepped in poop.
"It has to be the most horrific excuse
for a top I've ever seen."

I swallowed hard.
The chicken finger lodging in my stomach
like a sandbag.
Then I inspected myself thoroughly.

I had bought my very own
Goodwill donation.

But, you know what?
I saved money
and I had fun.

And the Halloween bin
just got
a little fuller!

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Little Things

I've never been into the so-called feminist movement.

As long as I'm able to open a door myself, I'll do it.
I'm proud of my title as "Mrs."
and I believe in taking
turns rolling the trash to the curb every Tuesday.

I have the privilege of being a housewife.
Every day I'm thankful I don't have to
get dressed, get out, rub elbows and kiss butt.

I take two hour coffee breaks,
long afternoon bubble baths,
and leave my pajama pants on all day.

So, it's only fair that I treat my husband
with respect and spoil him
with little things that may make his life easier.
It's because I truly love him.
And not because I expect any favors in return.

Love is:
Giving him the biggest, most tender steak on the platter...
Throwing his towel in the dryer to warm it up
before he steps out of the shower...
Buying the "pricey beer" once in awhile and serving it
to him in a frosted mug...
Lighting candles in our bedroom
instead of turning on the TV...
Clipping his nails for him...
Back rubs...
Tweezing his ear hairs...
Putting love notes in his lunch box...
Straightening his collar as he sets out for work
(and check his nose for stray boogers)...
Pulling off his boots...
Trimming his beard...
Preparing his toothbrush when he's in a hurry...
Buying "man" soap, deodorant and shampoo
in addition to my woman stuff...
Putting his slippers on him after a hard work day...
Giving him the best pillow...
Telling him he looks good when he does...
Smiling at him...
Giving him little kisses on the forehead in passing...
Holding the flashlight as he checks the oil...
Mowing the yard before he gets the chance to...
Freeing up a weekend for doing nothing...
Adjusting the car seat and mirrors back like he uses them...
Listening to his stories, dreams, and jokes...

This is the month of love,
but Valentines Day isn't the only day
to show him that you truly care.

Try doing at least one of the things listed above.
Do it today.

You might be pleasantly surprised...