Driving To Work

Like many of you, I have a fairly stressful job at work. I’ve adapted quite well through the years, but until the retirement gong sounds over my head, I’m in it for the long haul.

I have a wonderfully relaxing ride to and from work. I’ve talked about it before — a wonderfully windey road that passes churches and fields and cows. It’s my saving grace.

But I have to laugh — it’s like there’s two different people driving my car.

In the morning the ride is bright and sweet and (depending on how awake I am) cheery. I call my morning ride my “Church Ride.” I make peace with the world; I plan wardrobe changes and meals I want to cook and visits with the grandkids and writing on my novel when I get home. I don’t listen to the news or music on my way in — just the open window and the birds and the magic of the future.

Driving home, there’s a different person behind the wheel.  This drive is what I call the “Crypt Ride.” Usually I’m fairly grumpy and non-communicative, accompanied by a headache, I’m defusing from the day while try not to zone out at the now-blah scenery on both sides of the road. I keep thinking about all the things I didn’t get done that day and that since my hubby is working nights I won’t see him and the dogs will drive me crazy and gone are the aspirations of sewing beads on a blouse and writing — what’s that? All I can think about is going home and plopping on the sofa and turning the mindless TV on.

What happened?

Once I get home and settled I often walk out the door with my commuting hubby and continue on my evening walk. That helps clear what crummy debris is still left in the crevices of my brain. When I get back inside I manage to do one project before sitting down and kicking back.

But that doesn’t justify the complete meltdown an hour before.

I tend to blame my out-of-sync circadian rhythm for most of my highs and grumps. I have a terrible time falling asleep early — I can stay up until 1 or 2 am.  So I tend to love the night. I love the coolness and the quiet and my creative Muse eventually drops by. The problem is I have to get up at 5:45 am, and 4-1/2 hours sleep is no way to live your life.

But being crabby during your free time is not way to live your life, either.

I know the best remedy is to not let work get to you. But sometimes circumstances are beyond your control. At least from 7:30-4:00. But at 4:01 there needs to be a cosmic, miraculous yet natural transition back to “Me Time.” A totally wrapped around inside-out transformation.

Or at least a light mood swing.

I think part of me is unconsciously thinking about that big “R” in a couple of years, and all the things I can and will do once I don’t have to punch a time clock. But until then, I need to find a way to trade “Crypt Time” to “Church Time.”

After all, life’s too short to let the day’s drudgery creep into my favorite activity of the day….errr…evening.

Power watching Game of Thrones.

 

 

 

 

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Madness Feedback Time

thCACKVOVZI really love my Goddess followers.  I may not have readers that rack up into the hundreds or thousands, but those of you who take time to read these middle age ditties (or tell someone else about them) really help keep the magic alive.  Some of you I know personally; others I have the pleasure of reading your blogs. Some of you merely peek in now and then. I hope all of you “get” something from these posts and use them to make your own magic.

I don’t know if it’s the “getting older” thing, or the “being in a hurry” thing, but lately I feel the stress of not having enough time to do what I want. Oh, you say, join the crowd! The whole world is like that! And it’s so true. But there is something lurking deep in the deep recesses of my subconcious cerebral cortex telling me I’m running out of time. Not in the most direct sense, mind you — I plan on being around another 30 years. But that’s not the same as being around another 40 years. Or 50 years.

I try not to live by the “If I only knew then what I knew now” motto, for, obviously, I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t been there.  It just seems that my NOW is a lot more crowded than it used to be. During the birthing babies stage, my life was split between work and children. Outdoor activities? Soccer or baseball games. Moving up the corporate ladder? More like moving up the playground ladder.  Dinner parties? Hot dogs on the run. I didn’t know what I was “missing” because there was no time to “miss” anything. Back then I really wanted a career. I did spend a number of years working in downtown Chicago, but to me it was more of a job than a career. (Like there is a difference).

Now that I’m suffering from middle age madness, I feel a second wind coming. But that’s just it…it’s somewhere around the corner, behind the neighbor’s barn, stuck in the bushes with empty frito bags and dried fall leaves. I keep thinking that as soon as I catch up with the dishes or mowing the lawn or organize my dresser drawers or reading my favorite blogs that my time, my body, and my life will be “organized” enough to be expanded.  

But it’s just not happening.

So I’m looking to my Goddess followers to give me a few tips. I’m serious. In a funny way, of course. How do you choose? 5:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. is taken by the Big Boss. But what next? How do I find time to sit down and write (my favorite past time) and cook great meals (I love to cook) and clean up from said great meal and vacuum every other day (with dogs and cats it should be three times a day) and spend time with my family and wash and put away laundry and mow the lawn and catch my favorite TV show and take the dog for a walk and clean out the basement and write a blog and do research on the Internet and….

Okay. You get it. Do I let housework slide to do the things that I love (and who knows..maybe make me money in the future)? Do I get on the hygene horse and get super organized in my house so that everything is always done (so we don’t have to call the health department)? Do I record all my favorite television shows and leave them for  one snowy day when I’m 88 years old?

Give me your thoughts. Help me not feel guilty about being Superwoman. Give me an idea on how to get that second wind blowing straight into my living room window. I promise not to stand there naked to catch the breeze.

No one should have to go through something like that.

What Is True Success?

So many things make us happy; so many things make us sad. So many times we wished we  had turned left instead of right; so many times we are soooo glad we did turn right instead of left. Sometimes I get really sad that I’m soon going to turn 60 — where has my life gone? Other times I look back and am sorry my mother never made 54. I’m sad that I had breast cancer; other times I’m so glad they found it when they did.

Life is packed with highs and lows, yellow and blacks, snow and scorching heat. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what it’s always been about. For us, for our grandparents, for George Washington and Kublai Khan and St. Joseph. I’m sure they all had a hundred things they wanted to do at one time, too.  Just like us. We all want to be appreciated for what we’ve done. What we’ve become. We all would like to think that our time here on Earth has been for the Greater Good.

This is not a confessional blog; this isn’t a tell-all or a bad news bomb.  I’m sitting on my sofa this cold Sunday afternoon, looking at the bare treetops in my front yard. Of course, you know me — I’m also watching football, eating lunch, doing laundry, getting ready to write some in  my latest novel, wondering what I’m gonna wear to work tomorrow. I’m also thinking about the fun I had with my grandbaby this weekend, thinking of taking some drugs for my achy legs, and feeling guilty I haven’t played fetchie with my dog today.

That’s really what this blog is about. Sometimes I feel I should be pushing this blog harder, trying to share the Word with more readers. Other times I think I’ve run this horse to the finish line, and should start a new creative venture.  Yet more often I think  I’ve let my writing simmer on the back burner for so long it’s started to dry up and stick to the pan.

How do you know if you’ve succeeded at what you tried to do? What is the measure of success? Big paychecks often are an indicator;  good health, always. Waking up every morning is a success all on its own. Family? Kids? Making the perfect apple pie? All of the above are successes if never done it before. Success has always been measured from the heart first, from the masses second. And often it takes on a meaning more cosmic than one thinks. I think I make the best spaghetti sauce this side of the Mississippi. If you don’t agree, does that mean it’s not good? Of course not. All it means is that I can eat it all myself.

Writing is the same thing for me. What is being a successful writer? Have I ever been published? A short  story here or there in the past 10 years. Have I won awards for my creativity? No. Have I ever I gotten a call or email from a publisher? No. Do I think I’m a successful writer? Yes. Definitely.  I’ve had people say positive things about my stories; I’ve brought smiles and tears to readers.  I’ve written 4 novels, 1 novella, 32 short stories, 42 poems, 84 blogs, and 3 novels in-progress. I think that’s being successful. Why? Because Ive continued to do what I love, no matter what the  result. I’ve had fun making friends, creating worlds, and trying things that make me uncomfortable. I encouraged people to believe in themselves, given life to middle-age heroines, and never killed off  the main character.

There are still so many paths to follow, worlds to explore. And that’s only after I play with my grandbaby, fetch my dogs, pet my cats, cuddle my husband, go to work 40 hours a week, clean my house, grocery shop, get together with family and/or friends, and dozens of other responsibilities. Life has only so many hours, and I’m still struggling on squeezing a few more out of every week.

So what this all boils down to is that I’ve driven the Humoring the Goddess train long enough. Hopefully I’ve encouraged you to believe in yourself, have fun with your life, and laugh as much as you can. There are so many things you can’t change, so why not toss your hands up and laugh and move on? You’ll know the things you CAN change..that little voice in your heart/head/soul is always there to remind you. Your job is to listen.

I have enjoyed entertaining you all these years more than you know. I have learned so much from you. I might try another blog, or finish one of my novels, or sit and spew poetry until I feel nauseated. I’m sure I’ll be back and visit sometime. If I start something new I’ll post it. I will look foward to hearing from you and YOUR projects. You will always find me at my email world…  humoring_the_goddess@yahoo.com.

There is always a path ahead of you. Always. It’s up to you which one you take, or how often you turn left or right. In the end, none of that matters — the only thing that matters is that you keep walking.

Keep Humoring the Goddess…and Loving your Life…

Claudia Anderson

Losing My Mind and My Keys

Why is it that every time we forget where we put the keys or to call someone back we fear we are heading into that cobalt abyss that does not return to sender?

We live our lives as fully and carefully as we can. We work hard, marry, raise children, and find a little spirituality along the way. We don’t waste time worrying about things like memory loss. Not when our jobs and our families take over our every moment. Yet, as we approach middle age, we find ourselves scrambling a lot more. We call home and leave messages for ourselves; we make notes to remind ourselves to make notes. The squares on our calendars are larger, our checklists longer. Why is that? Why are we so afraid that what we might forget might be something important?

They say there are many things we can do to keep ahead of the age curve that suddenly shoots downwards at about the age of 50. Baby boomers are refusing to go quietly into that bleak future: we are the leading market for Botox and Viagra, Sudoku and GPS. We don’t want to get wrinkles, lose our sex drive, soften our mental edge or get lost. We take Vitamin B, eat tofu, start jogging and begin a new career. We stop smoking, drinking, and eating fatty foods. We have plastic surgery, laser surgery and liposuction. Yet there is an inevitable truth following our every footstep. We are getting older. We are getting slower. What was important to us when we were 20 and 30 doesn’t correspond to our cosmic truths at 40 or 50 or 60. More body parts are starting to hurt, more facts are beginning to slip through our minds. Our color schemes are softening and our tolerance for bright light and cold weather is running low.

I suppose, in some cases, that’s a bad thing. I used to be able to spew out names of presidents and lines from Shakespeare like I was making a grocery list. Now I’m lucky if I can remember what I had for dinner two days ago. My husband says I don’t listen and I swear he needs a hearing aid. My kids say I am drunk when I’m merely relaxed, and I can’t drive anywhere without writing down the directions. I need bifocals to read and take my glasses off to read the fine print.

Yet there are good things about not having to be a sieve for every fact and figure that passes by. I don’t have to memorize speeches or do calculus or speak three foreign languages. I don’t have to pass tests, write research papers or explain the gross national product. I learn something new every day, and don’t worry about the things I don’t understand. What I can’t spell or pronounce I can still understand, even if it’s on some sub-atomic level.

But I do worry at times at my overly cautious behavior. More than once I have turned around half way to work to make sure I turned off the stove. My husband will swear he has explained something to me ten times before, yet I swear I’ve never heard a one. I don’t remember if I’ve taken my meds in the morning or in the evening or not at all. I feel my heart pound and I wonder if I’m having a heart attack. My leg feels a little swollen and I wonder if I have a blood clot. A migraine is an aneurism and a toothache is oral surgery. Adversity seems to be hitting those around me more frequency these days, and I don’t want to be stupid and ignore warning signs of something major in the works.

 As the second half of my life begins, I can’t help but worry that my future will be over before I know it. Children and grandchildren. Watching a sunset in Cancun or snowfall in the Northwoods. Weddings and graduations. Retirement. Sleeping in late. Conquering Mount Everest. Buying a scooter. There are so many things we want to do before we pass on to the next world. So many places to see, things to do, people to love. We fear not being able to remember the sights and the people we’ve spent our lives experiencing.

It is a challenge to live in the moment, to live each moment fully and completely and not constantly look over our shoulder for the Grey Shadow. We have no control over what diseases may take over our bodies and our minds. But we do have control over how we live our lives today. How we love, whom we love. How we spend our spare time now.

So the next time you forget your boss’s wife’s name or the name of your favorite team’s quarterback, know that who they are is never as important as what they mean to you. You will remember the important things, the things that have always mattered to you.

 The rest — are probably in the same place as your keys.

Finding the Divine Feminine

As I sit and flip through my latest stack of chick magazines, I find myself wandering through the world of today’s woman and the concept of “divine feminine”.  I wonder what that means — not only the “divine” part, but the feminine as well.  I can see the divine in books and magazines, but where do I fit in?   Where does the world of flowing gossamer and satin and lace meet spandex and terrycloth?

            One of my favorite magazines caters to the “over 40” generation of women who want to believe they are still a viable, strong contribution to society.  I can identify with that feeling.  I want to believe I’ve not outlived my usefulness now that my children are out of college and beyond, that the job market is more considerate of middle-aged women — that there is more to life than a nine-to-five job and frozen pizzas for dinner.  There are many women tripping over the big 4-0 mark and the even higher 5-0 mark, trying to make a difference in the world.  I read about glamorous movie stars, corporate women, restaurant owners, writers, doctors, and others doing things they only once dreamed of.  Antiquing through Europe, opening their own restaurant or bakery, rehabbing rundown parts of cities — all of them doing things that are somehow bigger than life.  Closing the magazine, I wonder — where do I fit into all of this?  Where does my revolution, my evolution, fit in?

             In this age of airbrushed images and designer wardrobes, I often wonder where a Renaissance woman such as me belongs.  Where are the articles that coddle mid-life, mid-waisted women?    Where are the look-good, feel-good articles that cater to billing clerks or waitresses or shipping and receiving workers? Where are the dress-ups and weekend activities that address basketball and football moms and women who take kindergarteners on field trips and others who milk cows every day?  Is it possible to be feminine and divine in a world without dress sizes?  Is it possible to wear sweatshirts and uniforms and still sparkle in the divine feminine? 

            Sometimes it seems that the more liberated I feel, the more confused I become.  In some ways that’s good, for it helps strengthen the connections between the synapses in my brain.  Eternal confusion is eternal fodder for mental longevity.  I love being female. I love the world offered to our species alone.  Femininity comes from within; it is a state of being that comes from our very souls, our very thoughts.  It is a pride in our sex, in our ability to feel and react in our enhanced sort of way.

            But what about the next step?  What is “divine feminine”?  How are we supposed to find the “divine” in our green computer screens or packing boxes on an assembly line?  Is it possible to be divine and feminine and not be on the pages of the latest trendy magazine?  To find valued even if we are not on the board of directors of some giant corporation or running a four star restaurant? 

            Inspiration comes in many forms, but it begins with a wisp of an idea, a flutter of a heartbeat that beats to a slightly different rhythm.  There is a seasoning that comes with the over-40 crowd, the wonderful reaping of the harvest that has been fertilized and nurtured and growing inside of us for the last 30 to 40 years.  It is fueled by heartbreak and ecstasy, by hard work and curiosity.  Divine is not dictated by the color of your skin or how big your paycheck is.  Divine feminine is also enhanced by menopause:  pre-, actual, and post-.  There is something to be said about the shuffling of hormones as they start to decrease in a woman’s body.  So many physical and mental changes trickle through our being, some real, some imagined, that we can’t help but redefine our feminism.  We applaud the fact that we can no longer get pregnant, but mourn the fact that we can’t get pregnant.  Our emotions run the gamut from high and energetic to scraping along the bottom.  We have best friends, we have no friends.  We love being alone, we fear being alone.  Is this what the divine feminine is all about?

            It is this and so much more.  It is the beauty of being female, the freedom of experiencing our emotions up close and personal like no man could (sorry guys…but take it into consideration with your own divine feminine female).   It’s the adventure of finding the self, the creativity that lies just below the surface, playing with the child who’s always been there.  We cry, we laugh; we take estrogen if we need it and vitamins even if we don’t.  We wear the jewelry our mother’s used to wear or make our own. We become mentors and advisers just because we’re here, and we walk in marathons instead of run.  We realize that a job is merely a means to an end, an end that is just a beginning. 

            The divine feminine is who we’ve always been.  She is a goddess, she is a nymph.  She is a crabby middle-aged woman and a playful school girl.   She loves men and is tired of men.  She sparkles in gym shoes and brightly patterned shirts and well-worn flannels.  It doesn’t matter what she loves, as long as she loves.  As long as she feels feminine — as long as she embraces what she is.

            And the “divine” part?  Used as an adjective, divine means “of such surpassing excellence as to suggest divine (god/goddess/God) inspiration.”  Combined with the powerful feminine (a gender that refers chiefly, but not exclusively, to females or to objects classified as female), that makes for one kickin’, sparklin’, inspirational being, doesn’t it?

            If that’s what it’s all about, count me in.

©2012 Claudia Anderson

Sharpening the Tool

I hate it when people say that many middle-aged people “aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed.” It’s condescending, insulting, naive and just plain wrong. What I hate even more, though, is being one of those dull tools. Alas, there are times when I feel I’m struggling to stay in the shed, period. 

This morning was a fine example of the three strikes towards the dull tool rule. This morning (really last night), I failed to barricade our kitchen, and our very naughty lab got in and scattered what she couldn’t eat down the hallway. I erased the new grocery list on the marker board, thinking it was last week’s, and left paperwork that was supposed to be turned in today on the kitchen table. I’m not stupid – it’s just that I don’t pay attention the way I should. 

How many times have things happened around you that only later you find important? Except for local jaunts, I get lost driving without written directions, even though I’ve been to these places dozens of times. I am terrible at relaying verbal messages from doctors, bankers and insurance agents, and although many things make sense to me, I have a hard time explaining them to others. Like I have crossed wires in my head. 

Is this the same woman who was commended for the creative language in her novels? The same who proofreads and enters information into a computer every day?  What happens to our ability to pay attention? Do we all become a little A-D-D as we get older? Is it just a case of not paying attention? Or something more sinister? 

I am not talking about dementia here; this is not one of those not-enough-blood-to-the-brain things. There are many people from their 20’s through their 80’s who bounce from cloud to cloud, half connected to the responsibilities of this world, half to another. Some are considered geniuses, others rebels. Some are trendsetters, others ne’re-do-wells. I’m sure at least one of them comes to your mind even now. But that doesn’t mean they are slower or duller than others. Everybody forgets things ― everybody does things now and then in a skewered way. The important thing to do in times like these is to learn from your idiosyncrasies. If you can’t change them, join them! 

Start with slowing down. “I don’t go fast!” you reiterate. Perhaps not. But in some circles even full speed ahead isn’t fast enough. We see others around us moving faster, driving faster, coming to conclusions faster, and that makes us feel inferior. Our brain tells us we are not, yet try telling that to our ego. We are so busy trying to keep one step ahead of the game, thinking about the next play, the next set of consequences, that we fail to finish the game we are currently playing. When I take the grocery list with me and not the checkbook, it doesn’t mean I’m stupid. It just means I didn’t take time to complete the circle, i.e., grocery list = buying groceries = no cash on hand = pay with a check.

I think it’s the simple things that trip us up the most. I don’t do well remembering driving directions because, I admit, I don’t focus on taking this road to that highway to that street. As a passenger, I’m too busy chatting or looking out the windows at the cows and the clouds or reading a book or talking to my car mates. This highway and that street aren’t important to me at that moment. That doesn’t mean they are not important at all ― just not at that particular moment of remembering. 

Same thing with worrying if I turned off the curling iron or picked up the stack of bills on the table to drop in the mailbox. Both situations are important; it’s just that I’m more worried about punching in on time than casing the table one more time or dipping one more time into the bathroom. I can handle the main control for the TV/DVD player/satellite box, but if someone comes along and changes things in order to play a video game, I’m done for the night. 

So when I say I/we need to slow down, all I mean is that we need to pay attention to each task as we perform it. There is nothing wrong with being interested or excited about our next move, but sometimes we need to exaggerate our involvement in the current one. To assure I complete each circle, I do things like talk out loud to myself (stove is OFF. Curling iron is BACK UNDER THE SINK).  I know it sounds ridiculous (the dogs think I’m talking to them), but I would feel a lot more ridiculous should my house catch on fire. 

 We are all given one deck of cards to play with, and it’s how we play with the cards we’re dealt that matters. I exceed in places where others fall short. It’s all a balancing act. It is in your life, too. So don’t let it be a big deal. Make your list, sing as you recite your steps, and stay on course. After all, the most important thing in life is continually sharpening that tool. 

You’ll never know when you’ll need it to dig yourself out of a hole.

 

Sex — What Is It and Where Did It Go?

14 Sex What Is It and Where Did It Go 2This is going to be a ditty about that “S” word — you know — the one between “salamander” and “stupid”. The word your parents never talked about.  Back in the days when names and animals were simply names and animals and not slang for body parts, sex was something separate from us.  Oh sure, everybody thought about it; some even did something about it. But there were many that merely dreamt about it. 

A lot of us were naïve back then. Some on purpose (I don’t want to know), some because of our friends (they don’t know either), and others because we were warned we would be sent to the convent if we explored that world before we were 21. Love was simple, clean and innocent.  I mean, the Beatles never fooled around!  How could they?  They were as pure as the driven snow!

Alas, it didn’t take long for most of us to catch on to the reality of the world of boy-meets-girl.  Somewhere within our blossoming we found we really enjoyed checking out that “S” word, and made it part of our daily activities.  We dreamt we were the ones fooling around with the Beatles.

Everyone’s idea of procreation is based on how they were raised, who they hung out with, and how much of the world they explored.  As women got older, we talked a little more openly about affairs and romances, leaving the stigma of virginity behind along with wedding night memories.  As we became fruitful and multiplied, we began to appreciate the difference between the sexes and how to use our own to get what we wanted.  

Back in the 80s, every woman wanted to be super woman.  We wanted to have wonderful, loving children, an immaculate house, a career in a field we enjoyed, a great body, and a highly electric sex life.  We wanted to be room moms and company executives and whip up elegant dinners for two or twenty.  I suppose there are many women who, even today, want to be all that — and more.  But the majority of us realized long ago that super woman was an illusion, and the first chip to fall from that illusion was sex.

If we thought our antics were restricted when our kids were toddlers, that was nothing to the puritans we became when our own kids came into sexual maturity.  Toddlers didn’t care about their parents having sex because they didn’t have a clue what sex was.  But believe me, teenagers did, and the thought of two adults that didn’t look like models or rock stars wrapping themselves naked around each other was enough to send shivers through the whole house.  So mom and dad had to wait until the kids were at choir practice or football practice or at grandma’s for the day to do their “S” thing. 

Of course, funneling hot, passionate love into a schedule that also included scrubbing the kitchen floor and changing the spark plugs in the car was a juggling act all in itself.  As much as the two lovers wanted to bathe in the light of ecstasy, there were always the second thoughts of what else they could be doing with that half hour all to themselves.  And besides, the possibility that their teen could walk in to this debacle at any time tended to deflate most sex drives before they could even take off.

Well, you know where this is going.  Kids grow up, responsibilities change, and being spontaneous isn’t what it used to be.  Those same said kids go off to college or get married and you think, “Whoa boy, now we’ve got the house to ourselves!”  Now you can finally walk around naked in your house or try out new pieces of furniture and nobody will watch you but the dogs. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

This is about the time that that ol’ clock starts winding down, and before you know it the stranger our mothers referred to as “change of life” comes dancing down your driveway.  Pre-, post- and actual starts to mess you up in ways you never imagined.  Your bones creaking from under use, and slowly but surely you are filling out, drying up, and burning up every time you turn around.  You start to have hot, free range passion, then realize the hot was not so much from the sex as it was from the flashes.  You wait for those exciting tingles and twitches and all you feel is the throbbing of your toes or the itch of your dry skin.  What once was an overactive libido is now a freight train carrying a heavy load of steel.

What happened to the sexy sprite that waited so long for liberation?  What happened to the romantic interludes and wild nights freedom promised?  I’m not saying that sex isn’t richer and fuller than it ever has been.  Hopefully the paranoia a houseful of people can bring has disappeared.  There are more open rooms, more chances to start and stop and say and be whatever you want to be.

But there is something to be said about the depletion of estrogen as women get older and the way it affects our reaction to the “S” word.  We don’t want to be that naked sprite quite as often; we’d rather put our jammies on and settle down with a good book or movie.  We’d rather spend money on a support bra rather than some skimpy lingerie thing that barely covers our hips.  We still love and adore, but sometimes find it more rewarding to sit and cuddle rather than wrestle with an out-of-shape body.

I am hoping that once men get their fill of their “V” pill, scientists put their minds to creating one for us girls. 

Let’s just hope that there’s plenty of room on the living room floor.            

Merlot at the Lake House

Quick.  Name a handful of your favorite movies. Not the “great” ones that are in your library ― the ones that define you. The ones you don’t admit entertain you time and time gain.  Are you what you watch? Are you big enough to admit that you are what you watch?

 It’s Saturday night: the boys are sleeping, the dogs have had their bonies, and I have settled down with a glass of merlot. Been a long day, a long week. Having just come off of my father-in-law’s passing and pressure-filled days at work, I find my emotional state still dancing on stalagmites. So I pull out a movie ― one I haven’t allowed myself to watch in some time. The Lake House.  Why is that?

There is nothing wrong with movies and books that reflect our inner selves. We are, of course, a reflection of many things around us — movies, books, the weather, the heart.  We develop our creativity based on what we’ve learned and what we’ve experienced. That is why self-help and raw human confession books are so popular. We are a world lost in the chaos of ego, everyone needing to be heard, no matter what the cost.

But back to movies and books. Both are tools of escapism; both reflect a little bit of what fascinates us deep inside. Not that we would live that life ― just that that life seems to resonate a bit with something Freud or Nietzsche would have had a field day with. Some connections are obvious; others are as nebulous as the morning fog.  My husband is nut when it comes to John Wayne ― any form, any era. Is he a big, larger-than-life hero type? Maybe not, but I can see flashes of the Duke in the way he struts sometimes.  Another good friend of mine loves books by Stephen King; I don’t think she is off on some modern-day blood and gore pilgrimage, but I can see her fascination ― the impossible becoming possible.

So what about The Lake House? Does this genre define who I am?  Am I lost in the fantasy of two time periods communicating through a mailbox? I am a preacher that we are  all multi-faceted diamonds in the rough. That we are so much more than the whole of our parts. And we are. But there are still signs in the universe (and in the media) that are plainly obvious.  Some resonate louder than others. Let’s ramble off a few of my favorite movies: The Lake House, Passion of Mind, Practical Magic, Chocolat. I’m sure that says a whole lot about my inner and outer spirit. That I am an escapist, a romantic, a time traveler. Funny that I also write about time travel, modern day women thrust into arenas not of their choosing:  alien worlds. Does my writing parallel my movie and book preferences? Does yours? Not just your writing, but your artwork; the books you read, the homemade cards you design, the jewelry you make, the dishes you cook when you are free to be yourself.

Sometimes we fall prey to pressure from the outside to be or think or watch what everyone else is being and thinking and watching.  As we get older, we fear we will be made fun of if we do not get the meaning of Barton Fink or Super Bad, or we don’t get rap or MTV, or we don’t laugh at movies filled with stoned characters or girls with their breasts hanging down to Brazil and back. I myself tremble at the thought of telling others I enjoy listening to Glen Miller and Frank Sinatra as much as Gaelic Storm or Steely Dan or Metallica. How can I be spread so thin over the planet? How can music and movies and books reflect who I am, who I’d love to be, when I’m in a hundred places at one time?

 As we get older our needs change. What thrilled us at 20 bores us at 50. Not that our youth is invalidated; on the contrary. We have evolved, just like everyone else. The things we thought risqué at 25 make us smile knowingly at 40. I suppose that’s because the world ever evolves, ever moves forward. And even though we move forward as well, we have the ability to focus on whatever era we wish. I have a friend who loves science fiction; the science part, the infinity part. This person works with computers, a field infinite and definitely scientific. Is sci-fi merely an extension of their reality? What about another friend who is very logical during the day yet hooked into murder mysteries all other times? Is her enjoyment of figuring out “who did it?” a reflection of working things out in her life?

 I suppose the point of this story is to encourage you to follow whatever direction your spirit guide sends you. When I was younger I questioned everything. “Does this mean something?” “If I turn right and go through the woods, instead of left and down to the field, does it mean something?” Now I know that every decision is just that. A choice. Turn left, turn right. It doesn’t matter. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s just a choice. Both turns take you back to who you are. Just like whatever movies you watch, whatever books you read. Enjoy adventure, enjoy historical sagas. Enjoy accounting manuals. It doesn’t matter.

 Having found that contentment regarding my decisions, I wonder what it means that my other favorite movies include Boondocks Saints and Con Air.

 Put… the bunny…back in the box…

Sprinkles

          The past few weeks have been the bottom of the roller coaster ride for me. After a bit of a medical drama, I am well, back into whatever groove middle aged women get into, trying to build my energy back up to see what trouble I can get into. How much trouble can a goddess like me get into? We won’t go into past details, but there have been times in the past that I have stepped over that preverbal line, most times with no consequences, other times being dutifully chastised and set back upon the straight and narrow.

            The funny thing about my misadventures is that, in the eyes of the world (especially to those under 40), the things that I’ve gotten in trouble for are powdered sugar compared to what others have done. I have never hung with the “wild” crowd, never gotten arrested, reprimanded by principals, or been asked to leave.  I’ve led a pretty vanilla life and stayed fairly happy and clean cut. I try not to compare my life, my ups and downs, with others. For, as you know, you will always be overblessed in one way and underblessed in another.  My dirty laundry is someone else’s humorous fluff.

            Going in and out of the hospital changes your perspective on a lot of things. Suddenly losing those last few pounds doesn’t seem so important. Or finally losing weight to get healthy rises to the top of your list. Your family becomes a priority, along with your health, your pets, and your pastimes. You sit and wonder why you’ve wasted so much time setting unrealistic goals and then were so hard on yourself when you didn’t achieve them. Your desires and your timelines seemed to have gotten crisscrossed, a Celtic design that has no beginning or no end. You will do A as soon as you accomplish B. You will buy outfit C as soon as you lose D pounds. You’ll go visit someone as soon as you (fill in the blank).

            I know you’ve heard this story a thousand times a thousand different ways. Don’t wait until trauma and tragedy arrive at your doorstep before you learn to live your life.  Well, what do you do if that dynamic duo arrives at your door and you’ve already been living your life? Are you supposed to go further off the deep end? Are you supposed to  throw away the restraints of society and be a wild and free sprite?

            I was lucky, not only to have a good prognosis, but to have wild and fun things to come back to. Our Polish Sausage Making Party has been going on for 14 years, an annual madhouse that seems to be growing every year. I had a laptop, waiting for me to create another fantasy, another out-of-the-box story. I have kids to bug and a grandson to spoil and friends to compare drinking stories with.  I have a room full of second-hand books waiting to be read, sweaters that need sparkles sewn on them, and sushi that  needs to be shared with girlfriends.

            I decided long ago that I was tired of being on the outside looking in. I was tired of being vanilla in a rainbow world. I’ve always respected my bosses and the law, always been polite (sometimes to the point of nausea), and given money to charity or to my kids (sometimes the same thing). But I also found out that if you want something in  your life, you need to be the one to go for it. You can’t wait for those things to come to you. That goes for friends, restaurant reservations, and health issues. Sometimes “going for it” makes you a little more aggressive than you usually are. Succeeding at “going for it” makes you feel stronger and smarter.  It makes you raise your own bar a notch or two higher. And you have yourself to thank for it.

            Going through a health predicament only reinforced the importance of finding out who I am and what I want in life. That what I wanted in my life is nothing more or less than anyone else wants. I just make sure I made lemonade every time I can. I make a point of getting together with friends often, and family birthdays become family reunions a  dozen times a year. I don’t want life to pass me by and at the end be filled with thoughts of why I didn’t do this or that.

            You are never going to be rich enough, thin enough, smart enough, for A to really ever meet B. So take the victories you make along the way and celebrate them. Don’t spend days and months and years waiting for the “payoff.”  The payoff is here and now. If you pass up picnics on the beach with the family because you want to lose weight first, you’ve done nothing but miss a great picnic. If you wait until your kids are in college to go away for the weekend you’ll never get away, for most of the time they come back to haunt you. Turning down an invitation to walk through a festival with family members because you need to clean your house does nothing but toss another fun time into the twilight zone.

            There is always room in your life for adventure. To cross some lines. To speak up. To stand up.  There’s always time for you to change your direction, your health, your dreams.  To be proactive. Not inactive. If the jester hat fits you, wear it! If bling is your thing, bling!  Always wanted to try and cook Thai? Go for it ― even if you’re the only  one who will eat it. Don’t wait for someone else to initiate a pizza night or drinks after work ― call, plan, and do it. Don’t sit around waiting for someone else to “take their turn.”

            This is the only turn you’re going to get. Don’t let anyone else take your turn for you. There’s nothing wrong with vanilla, but just think of how much better it is with hocolate syrup and whipped cream.  

            And me?  I think I’ll try rainbow sherbet with multi-colored sprinkles. Can’t get enough of that color thing…

Dancing in a Too-Tight Tutu

I was sitting around the other day with my gal friends, sharing tales about the weekend. We all seemed to have gone through the same delightful experience, albeit in different ways. We all were relaxed, having a good time, and probably drank a little too much, for we all said, “I’m too old for this.”  One sat with friends and sipped with friends all day, one went to an outdoor concert, and I party hopped.  I’m sure the situations were on the same astral plane as many others “my age.”  Time flows, excitement and comfort wraps around us, the atmosphere make us feel good, and before you know it we are waking up the next morning with a headache, saying, “I’m too old for this.”

This psychic phenomenon is not limited to girls sharing drinking stories. This magical phrase echoes around us all the time.  My husband and I spent one glorious day working outside. The air was cool, the dogs well-behaved, and we planted flowers in pots and mowed the lawn and fixed broken things and worked in the yard a little. Maybe more than just a little, for the next morning we both woke up, joints stiff, hands scratched, and twinges in the small of our back, saying, “I’m too old for this.”

Just think of how many times you have said this. In fun and in fear.  A mother with a house full of 10-year-old girls staying overnight, giggling and talking till wee hours of the morning; college kids downstairs, friends over, drinking beer and playing cards, getting louder and rowdier with each hand; babysitting more than one of anything younger than five. You’re trying to be nice. You’re trying to be patient. But hours into the melee you think, “I’m too old for this.”

As I always like to point out, age is in your point of view.  When the ladies shared their drinking stories, I wanted to stand and cheer.  There were late 30s mingling with mid 40s mingling with late 50s. One has a 10-year-old, one has two in high school, I have one in college and one married.  Yet all three of us unconsciously slipped back into our early 20s, losing track of time and responsibilities and all the trimmings that go with it, at least for an hour or two. Were we trying to recapture our youth? Were we silly old goats   trying to dance the dance of the sprite in a tutu that was too tight? Or were we just human beings who never forgot how to have fun?

By now we all know that life is what you make of it. Jobs and kids and finances and health problems plague us all. Some can pick up and make a clean slate of everything; others have to muddle through the chaos and hope they squeeze out the other side sane. So when they say laughter is the best medicine, it really is. Sharing stories, playing games, dancing and prancing and acting silly all are ways to exorcise the demons we create for ourselves. I’m too fat. I’m too dumb. I’m tired of my job. I’m tired of my mother. I’m tired of being a mother. All tinny squeaks in our ear that cause us to over-analyze, over-react, and over emote. All of which get us nowhere in the end.

So what’s wrong with not acting our age? What is our age, anyway? If judged by our bodies, it might be ancient. If judged by our responsibilities it might be grown up. If judged by our dreams, it might be juvenile. Somehow there has to be a way to unite all sides of ourselves into one happy camper. So why not let go of those inhibitions once in a while? Why not drop the fear of embarrassing yourself (or others) and laugh with others? It’s not like you haven’t been embarrassed before, or never will be again. But you would be amazed the different feeling you get when you are a part of the joke, not a victim of it.

The great thing about taking chances like these, and saying “I’m too old for this” is that you find you are really not too old for anything. Alright – maybe bungee jumping or running in a marathon when you’re not a runner are contenders for never again. But even those occurrences show that you were not too old to at least try them.  The obvious choices are usually general ones: take a class about something you always wanted to know about; start walking around the block at night so you can walk in the annual Relay for Life; buy yourself a journal (or a laptop) and start recording those thoughts you thought you’d never get out of your system. Volunteer at a shelter or sanctuary and make friends with the animals.

Not up to all that work? How about wearing a color you’ve never worn before? Are you a meat and potatoes kinda dresser? Add a piece of bling to your wardrobe. Take a chance on bringing extra attention to yourself. You will be amazed at how many people notice ― and how many like the “new you.” Go to a concert and sing the lyrics at the top of your lungs. Dance like a crazy person in front of the speakers to your favorite music.

Oh sure, you say. You go dance in front of the speakers…you wear the bling. You wear the tutu that’s too tight.  I hate to admit it, but I already do. And I can’t tell you how scary and liberating it is.  And, even if I pull a muscle dancing the “hoochi coo”, it’s a great feeling to know that no one will ever forget the sight of me “hoochi cooing” in a too-tight tutu.

Especially with a glass of wine in my hand.

©2012 Claudia Anderson

I’m Not Paranoid — I LIKE Looking Over My Shoulder

          

Have you every done something, created something, that, even though it was fun at the time, gave you a feeling that one day it would come back and bite you in the…leg?  I don’t mean those illicit or illegal things you may or may not have drank/smoked/ingested when you were young and stupid.  These are more the things you have done in
the heat of the moment of your adult life that make you look over your shoulder and say…oh dear…what if someone finds out?

Let me explain.  One day I was having a bad day — you know those kinds of bad days — stress and miscommunications and a bout of acid reflex that turned out to be gallstones. Too many projects, too little time. It was a tough moment: deadlines, deadlines, deadlines.  I needed therapy, I needed relief.  Other than finding another job, I needed a way to release all of my pent up emotions so that I wouldn’t start playing a kazoo in the parking lot every morning.

So what does a writer do to release the pressures of every day stress?   We write, of course!  I sat down with my little laptop and wrote this wonderfully twisted short story about sales managers and voodoo symbols and poisoned candied violets.   I had a psycho antagonist and a young, up-and-coming, newly promoted female heroine. I had a clash of egos, a bit of upper class snobbery, and even a twist ending.  It was great writing, great therapy.  So much so that, after polishing it up a bit, I thought about trying to get it published.

It was then that I felt the nibble on my leg.  What if I did get it published?  What if it became a best-selling short story?  What if I actually made money on it?  What if the world — or worse, someone I knew — found out that the story was inspired by them?  It’s kinda like having your best friend buying you a present from her favorite store, something that fits her personality to a T but is a major faux paux in your fashion circle.  She loves it, you hate it.  You think about taking it back to the store to exchange it for something more…you.  So you laugh about it with a friend at a barbecue, and who should appear on the other side of the grill but that same-said friend wearing the same-said T.  What if she heard you?  What if she asks you why you weren’t wearing your “gift”?  What if someone says, “Isn’t that the awful shirt you were just talking about?”  Odds are your friend never heard a word, but…

 This sort of paranoia crosses all generations, all friendships, all common sense. It’s not just a writing thing ― we all get weird when we say something about someone that we later regret, fearing the repercussions that might follow.  We do many things in the throes of passion that make us feel self conscious when we come floating back to reality sometime later. What would happen if the kids walked into the bedroom one night to legs and arms were all over the place when they thought you were out to a movie? What  would happen if we called in sick to work only to run into our boss at the mall? What if, in a fit of rage, we threw a rotten squash out the back door, only to inadvertently smack the neighbor’s dog in the chops?

We have been taught that we have to please everyone, make everyone feel good, even at our own expense.  While that may ring true most of the time, there are times you just need to take a chance on being naughty.  Take a chance on getting caught.  I didn’t mean any harm when I started writing my ditty.  I had always wanted to see if I could write something spooky and revengeful and strange and it was just an accident that the bad guy looked a lot like the co-worker hulking over my shoulder all the time.  I never really meant for the antagonist to resemble my co-worker. Nor would I ever think that he would go out and poison the world because sales were down.  But it made for such darn good fiction!

Maybe I’m just overreacting. The resemblance to any real person, place or publication is purely circumstantial.  Isn’t that what disclaimers are all about? No one I know would read “Horror Daily” or other scary publications and recognize my antagonist  — they are too busy reading gossip magazines.  And anyway, there could always be a dozen other “Claudia’s” in the writing world.  No one would know it was me.  Would they?

So the dilemma is this:  What do I do with this great story now that it’s written?  Do I keep it in a journal, hidden away, only to go back and read it whenever I am under pressure?  Or do I get brave, send it out to contests and publishers and take my chances?  Do I give in to my paranoia, or throw care to the wind and just go for it? 

I think for now I’m just going to let it sit in my computer.  I’ll wait until the pressure is released and the people in my office return to being human again.  Then I will send it out to such obscure publications that there would be no way in Hades he would read it.

I also will remember not to eat any candied violets.

Fashionable Hobos from Hoboville

Are you one who enjoys presenting your best side to the viewing public?  What I mean is, do you spend time fixing your hair, pants, shirt, purse, shoes, the whole bit?  Not that you strive to strut your stuff down the Chanel or Yves St Laurent runways ― it’s just that you want to be presentable. Most women who take care of their heart and/or soul take care of their appearance, too.  What I’d like to know, then, is why is it when we are away from the public eye, we look like hobos from Hoboville?

I have gone full swing with fashion through my life. There was a time that clothing meant something more than tennies with mud and jeans with holes in the knees.  Power suits and tailored dresses (with shoulder pads, of course) were the trademark of the 80’s, especially in downtown Chicago.  Working on Michigan Avenue, there was a plethora of boutiques, department stores, and cutting-edge shops to keep even the weary well-dressed. I might not have kept up with the big-time dressers, but I did my best to look clean, chic, and, well, presentable.

Eventually I left the sparkle of the big city, choosing instead to become a mother and part-time sales clerk, and my wardrobe change again.  An elastic waistline took the place of leather belts, and casual pants and sweaters replaced the soldier-woman look.  Of course, once I became a mother, anything comfortable became the name of the game.  After all, who would want baby spit on a Liz Claiborne blouse?

Now my kids are either in college or married and on their own, and I’m at the point where the words “casual Friday” get me excited.  Back in the office after years of the “momma” mode, I am leaning towards a more crafted, uncrafted look. Flowing, easy going, with a bit of bling. These days women have their own version of dress up,  running the gamut from jeans to capris to dresses. Business suits (do they even exist anymore?) are kept for meeting clients, and people wear sweatshirts and jeans to office Christmas parties.

But here is the crux of my story.  I live in the country, and not long ago was co-owner of one old, crusty, buffy rooster named Rocky.  Left over from my husband’s desire to be a “country farmer”, Rocky was the last of a few generations of hens and roosters.  He had a little coop  all to himself, and, when the evening was pleasant, I would let him out to roam the grass and field around his abode. Well, one evening I went back outside to close his coop door for the night, and when I looked down, took notice of what I was wearing: pink slippers with Christmas socks, a long, flowery nightgown, and a faded purple housecoat. What a fop I had become!

What happened to fashion sense?  Why is it so easy to resort to horror story glamour when no one is looking?  I thought about other rendezvous I’ve had inside my four walls when no one was looking:  stained t-shirts, orange socks and green pants, nightgowns and chuggy boots.  Did I lose all sense and sensibility when no one was round? Most will say that when we are home we are free to be who we are, and if that includes wearing plaid boxer shorts and paisley t-shirts, that’s just fine.  This is true. I don’t mind skipping a shower on Saturday if no one is coming to visit, or wearing yesterday’s St. Patty’s day shirt because it’s got a little beer on it. I like to be comfortable, and I like to be practical.  And, after all, if the shirt is already stained from yesterday’s dinner, why not wear it while you’re making spaghetti sauce tonight?

That doesn’t mean that I don’t care about the feminine side of fashion.  I love shoes that fit, earrings that dangle and bracelets that sparkle.  I love a comfortable pair of khakis as much as a flowery summer frock.  I shop at Good Will as often as The Boston Store, and bargain is my middle name.  I wear whatever I want whenever I want.  Having suffered through girdles, garter belts and shoulder pads, I have earned my place on the fashion ladder.  I like to think my fashion sense falls somewhere between fashion runway-itis and poverty chic.  I am not embarrassed by who I am; I revel in the fact that I can go with the flow and feel comfortable in any setting. That is the beauty of being a woman.

But I also admit that I’d be totally embarrassed if anyone outside of my dogs saw me tread out to the chicken coop in unicorn slippers and a ski jacket with a furry hood.
I’ve got to get a little common sense here; I need to find the balance between beautiful and bum.  I can never let anyone see me walk around the house in some of the getups I let myself get away with.

No one should be put through that kind of pain.

Middle Magic

Surfing the television the other night, I came across a quite entertaining program — one of those behind-the-scenes pieces on the making of a current hit movie. I snuggled in my oversized chair and listened as cast and crew glowed about the setting, the camaraderie, and the overwhelming feeling of family that pervaded the movie set for those two years. Envy tinted with wanderlust began to fill my mind. After it was over, I found myself thinking, “Wouldn’t that be great? Escape the drudgery of my everyday, boring  office job and go off with wildly artistic people to exotic locations and be a part of something big and exciting and creative — like making a movie.” Flashes of famous people danced in my head: cast parties, flights to locations I’ve never seen, working in thunderstorms and desert heat side by side with fellow creative spirits…

I was eventually knocked back into reality through a number of obnoxious commercials, and came to the realization that my exotic movie set was right there before me. Middle Magic. Middle Age.

Middle Age. A word that is still hard to identify with. A word that gives most of us the willies. What does it mean?  It used to mean one’s half-life — half way between the cradle and the grave. Near the turn of the century middle age was 30; decades earlier it was as young as 20. My parents’ generation viewed middle age somewhere in their 40s; my own personal interpretation pushes it to at least somewhere in the mid-60s. But magic? At this point in my life, how could my life cycle resonate with the energy of  Merlin or Dumbledore?

As I dreamt about life as an actress or a jet-setting hotel heiress, it became obvious to me that we are all a result of our choices. I could have chosen a different path. If I had truly wanted to be a part of the acting community I could have gone the way of high school plays, summer theater, or politics. But my choices took me along a different path: family, children, a place to call home. I came to understand that we all hear the call of destiny, but it’s up to us what we do with that calling. Middle Magic goes beyond those initial choices. This sort of magic is a whirlwind of the past and the present, the switching of life’s gears, so to speak. It is a tugging of our soul, asking to finally be set free to wander and explore the world in its own way. You know ― living the “stepping out of the box” cliché way of life. This sort of magic is an empowerment that breaks us from the monotony of routine and propels us into the world of extraordinary. Middle Magic is experience tinted with awe, reality mingled with fantasy. It is part who knows, part who cares. After all, isn’t that what we’ve spent all this time wanting?

Middle age is merely a threshold ― let’s not be afraid to cross it. We’ve got nothing to lose except our inhibitions.  Who needs those, anyway?  The wonderful thing is that we have this power in every thought we have, every moment we live. It starts with an acknowledgement of where we are, and opens doors to a future we only now can  reach.  It is through this energy that we finally connect with our self. Only at this point do the gates of the palace open before us.

Perhaps Middle Magic is nothing more than coming to grips with our own mortality. The Reaper has no discretion with its scythe; it strikes down the young and old, dashing dreams and breaking hearts without discretion. But it is precisely because of the Reaper’s indiscretion that we understand how important it is to live life to its fullest day to day. How important it is to open doors to new worlds, encouraging others to do so as well.  To continue to learn, to continue to share what we’ve learned, to know that our ability to learn is as vast as the stars above.

As I turned off the television, there was still a part of me that wished I had been a part of making that movie: the friendship, the excitement, the stress and the secrets. But I realized I have all the above with me every day — friendship, stress, and secrets   With a flick of the pen I can live in 1880 or 2050, on a space station near Jupiter or in an apartment in Manhattan. Pick up a book and I can walk with hobbits or Sioux Indians or Japanese Shoguns. I have music and movies and my own imagination to take me wherever I want to go. And when I run low on imagination, I have my friends’ imaginations to fuel me.

True magic is the magic of the moment; the feeling that you are making a difference, a riff, in the routine of reality. Magic is realizing that you can be a creator and a dreamer along with doing dishes or being a catalog coordinator or taking care of kids or grandkids. Everywhere there is a story to be told, and every story has a bit of a smile in it. All you have to do is stop and share it. That is what Middle Magic is about. Chuckling at the absurdity of the world around us, taking what we have learned through the years with a grain of salt and a cup of schmaltz and sharing it with everyone.

We can only go one way on this road of life; we should make a point to share a smile or two or a thousand with as many souls as we can. Don’t you know? We are all magicians. We are all whimsical, swirling motes of dust in the sunshine of life. Powerful, crazy, magical motes.

Gandalf would be proud.

 

Dinner With the Queen

In the mundane throng of your very predictable life, don’t you now and then want to just break out of the box and do something different? Now that you have the experience of all those years behind you, don’t you want to make that experience mean something? Don’t you ever want to be bigger than life? Just for a day?

Oh, you say, I am happy being just who I am. Of course you are. We all try and walk that fence between selfish and selfless; between modesty and bravado. But admit it. There are many times in our very predictable life that we’d like to do something unpredictable. Of course, unpredictable varies from person to person. Bungee jumping is one way, as is impulse buying a Hummer. More low key, there are times when we want to guffaw aloud instead of snickering quietly. We want to dance naked in the living room and wear chuggy boots with a sundress. But most times we settle for eating Thai as a means of excitement. While that sounds fairly adventurous, I assure you, the dreams of the experienced are filled with possibilities never imagined by the inexperienced. In other words, the older we get, the looser the parameters of our dreams become.

There was a time in my life that I worried about what others thought of me and my opinions. A time when I tried to fit in, vaporously reflecting their ideas on religion, child rearing, and employment. It was important that I pulled my own weight, never rocked the boat, nor raise the hackles on someone’s neck. I was (and still am) respectful of others.

But eventually I got to a point in life where I wanted the river to flow where I wanted it to flow. I wanted my own boat, my own crew, and my own destination. I found that the further I wander down the road, the less I’m concerned about what I have done and more about what I can do. The thought of being no more than a passing blush in the cosmos makes my selfishness bubble to the surface. So I find myself wanting to be bigger than life: a heroine to all, someone who makes a mark and leaves it for others to decipher. That doesn’t mean I want to be an assassin or a movie star or a nuclear physicist. But a motivational speaker, a middle-aged trend setter, a famous author — what’s wrong with that?

Maybe that’s not really “out of the box,” but for me, it’s peeking out from under the lid. I’ve been a loving mother, a great wife, a dedicated friend, and all-around good person. I have dotted all of my i’s, crossed my t’s, and given to the United Way. But now and then I feel this little quiver in my reality that makes me wonder what it would be like to leave the cookie baking and office typing to someone else and find something different to do with my time. How cool it would be to become a fashion maven or a world traveler. To stand before a crowd and sing like an angel. To be the next Food Network Star. To be asked to be on the next “Tour of Homes” because my house and garden are so incredibly fantastic that the world ― or at least the citizens of Whitewater ― have to experience them. To nosh with Stephen King at lunch and have dinner with Queen Elizabeth. To design a line of clothes that would knock the socks off Calvin Klein or raise enough donations to build a new wing on the local hospital.

All right — maybe not the “Queen Elizabeth” part or the “wing on the hospital” part ― but to create something new, something eye-catching, something memorable, would be a trip I would never forget.

We love and appreciate the little things in our life. Our friends, our family, all are a part of who we are. We work hard and, if we are lucky, play hard. Being famous would take us away from all that we worked so hard to create. And, after all, celebrity does have its price, privacy and anonymity being the first two privileges to go.

But while those platitudes make perfect sense, every now and then my daydreams take a cosmic swing to worlds just past my fingertips. Writing a best seller that becomes a movie lover’s dream, people paying $200 a ticket just to have lunch with me, opening a boutique that splashed between the covers of famous magazines ― what a thrill that would be! Who wouldn’t like to be a travel reporter visiting small European towns or American homesteads and talk about their cuisines and cultures? Who wouldn’t want to have their art on display at at the Art Institute or the Milwaukee Art Museum? Who wouldn’t want to be the one person the President could come to for advice?

Aspirations breed inspiration. Not being afraid to follow the muse within your heart brings freedom to your soul. Feeling positive about who you are enables the world to mold itself around you. Most ― if not all of us ― will never get a chance to live out those kinds of dreams. Not on that grand of a scale. But that doesn’t mean our inspirations can’t be grand. That our forward movement can’t be grand. Understand that grand is all in one’s point of view. Don’t worry what any other point of view is but yours. Dress up for any or all occasions. Paint a mural on a wall. Start blogging your most outrageous ― and delicious ― recipes. Grow an exotic garden, take pictures of it and enter them into photography contests. Design jewelry. Show horses or dogs. Enter your prized whatevers at the State Fair.

Don’t be afraid to break out now and then and have a good time. What others think of you is not nearly as important as what you think about yourself.

Besides ― I’m sure the queen made other dinner plans anyway.

The Importance of Unicorns and Bratwurst

   The Importance of Unicorns and Bratwurst. This is one of those ethereal, out-of-body titles that try to connect the cosmic to the ordinary, the magical to the mundane.  I was hit by this title some time ago, not having a clue as to what it meant or what I would eventually write about.  Even now, as my fingers hit the keys, I have no idea where this storyline is going.  But isn’t that so much like our everyday lives?

            We start out the week with the most noble of intentions.  Perhaps we have a satisfying experience meditating Sunday morning, or are able to sleep in a couple of extra hours.  Maybe our football team finally won a game.  Nonetheless, our day is delightful, and we end the night feeling satisfied.  All is right with the world, with our dreams and our desires. 

            This is the power of the unicorn.  It is the magical sensation that connects earth and sky, dreams and reality, kids and parents.  In this hazy-yet-authentic state, the world is a soft, mystical place, offering rewards and blessings at every turn.  Our children clean their room without being asked; the washing machine doesn’t screech when spinning; even the movie we choose to watch had one of those feel-good endings.  In the unicorn state the world holds unlimited possibilities. You could actually lose those ten pounds or finally clean off your desk, or even finally start reading that novel you bought five months ago.  You are still based in reality, but the remnant good feelings are enough to move you towards the light and find satisfaction in the simplest things.

            Monday comes along, a tough day for many.  A majority of us will drudge our way to work, blinking at the shortness of the weekend, and find our nine-to-five groove again.  Tuesday seems to be a lot harder than Monday.  Our failure to go to bed early over the weekend now is catching up with us, along with laundry that has mysteriously piled up and the bills we swear we mailed yesterday.  Our favorite TV show is coming on too late for us to watch with any coherency, and the last tape we saved to record said-TV-show was used to record a football game that everyone knows we lost.

            Wednesday is hump day and we wonder just who is doing the humping.  Our resolve not to eat ten chocolate chip cookies in a row is weakening; our commitment to walk a mile or two after work is being thwarted by thunderstorms or ice storms or plagues of locusts.  We can never get our hair to do what our hairdresser did; our plans to cook Coq a Vin has gone by the wayside, seeing as the chicken is still frozen and we don’t have any red wine in the house to cook with anyway.

            Thursday creeps into our lives with a thread of hesitancy.  After all, school has scheduled your son’s basketball game at the same time as your daughter’s piano recital, both of which are at the same time as your bowling league, which is at the same time your other favorite TV show is on, which you would have recorded had the football game not taken up the whole tape.

            By Friday your resolutions are out the window along with that novel you can’t choke down anymore, and your thoughts try to center, not on what has been, but what will be.  The weekend is coming; that means a thousand activities shoved into a mere 48 hours.  It means going to visit your mom on the way to dropping off your kid at the mall, fighting the Saturday morning free-sample crowds at the grocery store, and coming home to an overanxious dog who just dumped the garbage all over the kitchen floor.  It is hoping the video store still has a copy of that brand new movie that everyone is talking about but you, and trying to decide whether to cook a gourmet meal or just throw sausages on the grill.

            This is the bratwurst part, the raw-meat-of-reality part. Bratwurst is a wonderful German sausage, filled with flavor and spices and grilled to perfection.  How metaphoric that little pocket of meat and fat is!  It is the answer to all the cosmic questions in life! It fulfills the need for sustenance (it is a food group), it nurtures your creative side (sauerkraut?  Mustard?  Hot or German?)  It is available in abundance (you can buy them in three pound boxes), and it affords you the freedom of choice  (10 minutes on the grill; burble them in beer and onions for 15 and grill for five; slice them up and fry with potatoes for 20).

            How clear it all becomes!  This little sausage is the answer to all metaphysical speculation, the answer to who we are and why we are on this planet.  It is tasty and filling, satisfying those inner child needs and outer kid bravados.  It ties the madness of the week up into a link that goes down easy and can be burped out in a satisfying form later through the night.  It is the spice of life.

            I never thought of unicorns and bratwursts as the symbols for Life; I always thought that symbol was that little stick person with the big egg head.  Now that I have been enlightened, I can see that symbol does look like someone celebrating the bratwurst of life, arms out, joyous and all encompassing.

            And the unicorn part?

            I’m not quite sure, but I will ask the one standing behind me after I find out if he wants sauerkraut on his bratwurst.

Real Lists vs Fantasy Lists

            Everybody makes to-do lists now and then.  As we get older, our nows seem further back in history, and our thens become obsolete.  So to keep track of the void between the two we need a list to keep things straight. But what kind of list do you make?

            My husband is very fond of making lists.  When he gets ready to go fishing or hunting, his list fills up two pages of college-lined paper.  There are things to bring, things to pack, things to sort, things to find.  I must admit that part of the length of his list includes things to bring/pack/sort/find for everyone else, too. But that is another story.  His real “to-do” list reads more like an instruction manual, all bullet points being checked off before he takes off to the wild blue yonder.

            I make my share of “to-do” lists as well.  Mine usually consist of mundane things to remember:  take ground beef out of the freezer for dinner, call Teresa tonight, write a check for my son’s lunch fund.  Practical, important things that I need to remember to do so that my day — and life — runs smoother.  My real list also extends to calling work or home and leaving voice reminders to myself in case I misplace my physical list.  I can’t help it if my list barely fits on the back of a sticky note; my real list is limited by energy and time and the phases of the moon and how many sticky notes I have.

            But what exactly is a fantasy list?  How is it different from a reality list?

            A real to-do list has tangible edges.  They have beginning bullets and ending periods.  Real lists can be scratched off one line at a time.  Progress can be made and seen through ledgers and spreadsheets and check marks on college-ruled paper.  Real “to-do” lists create deadlines and goals, culminating in that “feel good” sensation when you cross off a task that has been completed.

            A fantasy list, on the other hand, is as wild as clover in the field.  Each task reproduces itself every time you turn your back, manifesting into a half dozen more fuzzy bullet points on your list.  Fantasy lists are things you dream about, things that may or may not come to fruition.  Fantasy lists may have a foot in reality, but often it’s a child’s size 2 shoe, something that, for all practical purposes, couldn’t hold you in a mud hole if you tried. If you are able to check off one line on your dream list you are doing good.

            Fantasy lists can include a wide diversity of ideas and ideals.  Lose weight often tops a lot of lists.  Variations of this task are:  lose five pounds in three weeks so that you fit into your jeans, or lose 25 pounds by next summer so that you can fit into a bathing suit.  Pull weeds is often another chart topper.  It doesn’t matter if you have mums in a pot or a vegetable garden on the hill; weed pulling is often an arduous task that takes forever and seems to produce no long-lasting results.  Fix the squeak in the (fill in the blank) is a good one, too.  How long has that lid or chair or washing machine door made that high-pitched, irritating noise?  How much longer can you endure it before you finally take care of it?

            There are other bullet points on a fantasy list that are full of good intentions but most times get lost on the sidelines:  sew the falling hem on your pair of brown pants; give the dog a bath; call your sister.  Sometimes the list is full of ideas triggered by others:  find a recipe for a spaghetti squash, something like Emeril’s but with not as much garlic; look up how many Academy Awards Tom Hanks has won; call Jill to see if she wants to go to the café for coffee or to the pub for a burger, and if she wants to do it next Thursday instead of tonight because your son has baseball practice at five and the café doesn’t serve alcohol and a beer would really go great with that cheeseburger.  These are innocuous-looking thoughts that have the intention of being done, but somehow never get checked off the list.  This is most likely because a few points from the “real” list sneak onto the list, taking precedence over the more drawn-out ones, and we never seem to get back to the ones that were triggered by our wandering mind.

            Once we step up to the next level of a fantasy list, the bullet points look more like a doodle than a black dot.  The list gets more complicated in an ethereal sort of way: find out how much a flight to Cancun would be in February versus July; check out the price of cottages in the North Woods, say Eagle River or Sturgeon Bay; research the difference between inter-galactic space flight by nuclear fusion and nebula-to-nebula propelled travel for that science fiction story you are writing.

            The edges of the “to-do” list may get a little fuzzy, but that doesn’t mean that these ideas aren’t earnest.  These tasks are just as important as calling for a dentist appointment or making sure we pack aspirin for the trip.  They are just a little harder to maneuver; they are not weighed as heavily as the ones on the “real” list, and are scoffed at by those whose bullet points are five words or less.

            I just don’t get it.  Fantasy lists are just as important as real lists.  And I’m sure that if my husband sat down and made a fantasy list with me, he would be able to move that hunting trip to Alaska right up there to the top of the list.

Paint Who’s Wagon?

What does it mean to be middle-aged? Is there a line drawn across the cosmic playfield that says on this side, you are old, on this side, young? If you love Big Band and Glen Miller, are you old? If you like Rhianna or Jay-Z are you young? If you like InSync or Boy George, are you just … weird?

The older I get, the fuzzier the line gets. I have friends on the 40/70-year-old line that lead fairly “normal” lives:  Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, Oprah. Then there are those who are a little more wild: The Shield, Sons of Anarchy, AC/DC. Where do most of us fit? How do we know where the line is between antique and hip hop? Between dancing and throwing our back out?

The trigger mechanism tonight was Paint Your Wagon, a musical made 40 years ago. Imagine:  Clint Eastwood singing. Lee Marvin dancing and singing about beans. This movie is 40 years old; twice as old as my youngest son. Yet there are some of us who sit around, laughing and singing the songs as if they were still on the top of the charts. When I watch musicals like Brigadoon and Sound of Music and Camelot, my kid looks at me like I’ve grown a second nose. Musicals give most teenagers the willies. If it’s not High School Musical or Glee, it’s not a musical. He shakes his head and goes to watch movies where people get their limbs cut off or that showcase breasts that hang out like watermelons in the summer sun or guys sitting around smoking weed and talking about getting laid. It’s at these times that I feel so disconnected. So…old.

I know that every generation has to evolve. What was fascinating, entertaining or daring to one group is not necessarily to the next. I find myself cringing at songs like Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini and The Bird is the Word. And those were from the generation right before me. I’m sure that same generation shivered at songs like Transylvania 6500 and Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree. Even my parent’s generation had dissenters: I have a song in my collection called If Swing Goes I Go Too by Fred Astaire, singing about “some old fogey wants to ration swing.” Imagine! Our parents being rebels!

Of course, there are many other reflections of generation gaps, many other blank looks from both sides of the fence when music and movies and clothes come to the forefront. I am not the first to discover that there are a number of meanings for the same word, and not everyone is on the same page of the dictionary. My son is fond of chillin’ and hangin’; I can imagine what that would mean to my grandfather’s generation. While I try not to use phrases that date me like groovy and far-out, I can’t help but fall back on standbys like cool and hunky dory, words that dance on the edge of fogey-ism.

I think alot about the generation gap. Not so much how I am on one side or another, but how I can bridge that gap. Sooner or later everything revolves back onto itself. Not back to exactly the same spot; not to the same beat (eight-to-the-bar, jive, waltz), nor to the same words (commie, greaser, beatnik), but to explanations for the same situations that haunt all human beings. As much as underwear sticking out from atop blue jeans and skull caps shake our interpretation of fashion, I imagine mini-skirts and go-go boots did the same for those who wore spats and garters.

All generations wander through the fog; some with purpose, others just along for the ride. All generations start out with a dream, a hope that they will somehow make a difference in their world. One way or another everyone wants to be noticed; everyone wants to be remembered. Some make slasher movies; others cures for diseases. Some climb Mt. Everest, others walk the track for Breast Cancer. For some of us the best we can do is pass along our lasagna or apple pie receipe. We all contribute in our own way.

But back to the over-the-top musical from 1969. Listen to the words to the title song:

Where am I goin?  I don’t know

Where am I headin’? I ain’t certain

All I know is I am on my way…

When will I be there? I don’t know

When will I get there?  I ain’t certain

All I know is I am on my way

We are all wanderin’, we are all goin’ somewhere. And few of us know when we’ll get there. And yes, we are all chillin’ and hangin’. We are all part of the same cycle, mixing and blending and blurring the lines of old AND new. Amazing what happens when all generations fall into the same pot — we become one amazingly flavorful stew.

Groovy.

Feng Shui in the Cubicle

           One day I was sitting at my desk at work, green computer screen glowing, honky-tonk music spurting out from a speaker not far above my head, trying to concentrate on a long list of numbers that needed to be entered into the computer, glancing at pages waiting to be proofread and images to be downloaded, when a word drifted across my consciousness – Feng Shui.

            For those who need a bit of a refresher course, feng shui is the ancient Chinese practice of arranging one’s personal space in order to achieve harmony with the environment.  This harmony is known as chi, the “life force” or energy that exists in human beings, nature, and all animate and inanimate objects. It is everywhere.  There are books and classes and consultants and everything in between to help us stressed-out people calm the flowing water of our psyche.  Of course, people like me who jam ten pounds of sugar (daily duties) into a five pound bag (24 hours), rarely have time to read the back of the brownie mix box, let alone sit down and read a book about harmony and the environment.

            But I wanted to learn about feng shui so I could bring a little bit of peace to my corner of the office.  With indigestion and carpel tunnel threatening every turn, there had to be a way I could tap into my calm center somewhere between 7:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.  So I called a friend of mine who is into energy and higher levels of vibrations to see if she could give me a crash course on harmony and flowing water.  She told me feng shui was not something you can learn overnight; it is a gradual meeting of mind and space, of openness and channeling.  Wanting to know more, we scheduled coffee and chi for the next night.

            She talked, I talked, we drank coffee and ate chocolate cream pie and I brought out a pen to take notes.  But we never really got around to talking about feng shui, because we talked about kids and sushi and Nicholas Cage instead. Still wanting to open my pathways just in case chi came by, later that night I went online and Googled the term, and came across a few guidelines to bring harmony to my cubicle.

            When sitting at a desk, the entrance door should be in a clear line of sight, and you should have a view of as much of the room as possible.  Well, I struck out before I even got up to the plate.  My desk faces the wall — worse, it is a corner unit, so it faces two walls.  The only line of sight I have is where the two walls meet.  That, and an oversized computer screen. Hopefully everyone else’s clear view of my back is enough of an opening to get the energy flowing.

            When lying in bed … well, I stopped reading that suggestion.  If I was found lying down at my desk, my chi would not only flow but be flushed down the toilet.

            Straight lines and sharp corners are to be avoided, and especially should not point where people tend to sit, stand, or sleep.  See interpretation and explanation for point number one.

            Avoid clutter.  How can anyone who works in an office not have clutter?  How can a spiffy multi-tasker like myself give up piles of paper or a dozen catalogs within arm’s reach or stacks of manila flats or thirty CDs with images or weekly bulletins from Human Resources?  Oh, and don’t forget the pictures of my kids and my stapler and tape dispenser and staple remover and yellow highlighter and white-out and my pink pen for corrections and stickies for emergency notes.  Strike two.

            Roads to and from ancient towns were often curved and winding, an attempt to disorient and keep away evil spirits, who were believed to travel in straight lines.  Now, I admit I have to maneuver through hallways and around cubicles just to get to my desk, so I wondered — if I circled the halls long enough, would I be able to ditch the bad spirits and run into feng shui?  This wasn’t quite a strike, but more like a ball. 

            Some objects are believed to have the power of redirecting, reflecting, or shifting energy in a space. These include mirrors, crystals, wind chimes, and pools of flowing or standing water. This suggestion is a cousin of the “lying in bed” dilemma. I didn’t think my boss would let me bring in a water fountain, and, although there is enough hot air coming and going around here to tinkle a dozen wind chimes … mmmm, no.

            So I sat and pouted in front of my computer, realizing that there was no way I could rearrange my daily grind and surroundings to let the energy flow freely.  Feng Shui would have to wait until I got home.  I knew that at least there I would be able to rearrange chairs and hang mirrors and listen to the wind chimes that hang on my balcony.

            But wait!  There was one more point — not really a point, but a closing statement.  Every environment is unique with its own energy, challenges, and possibilities. By becoming aware of your surroundings, connecting to its energy, and using the inherent wisdom and inspiration of nature, you can create surroundings that reflect your highest potential and support your personal and professional goals.   Let’s dissect that for a moment.  I am aware of my surroundings.  I can feel the energy that flows through my body, through the pen and onto the paper.  I can gaze at the fields of Ireland through my screen saver, I can listen to Mozart while I type, and I can read about astronomy during my breaks.  Becoming aware of one’s surroundings is nothing more than living in the here and now, taking what you can and making the most of it.

            For all the hoopla, I think I have finally found the secret of feng shui.  I finally know how to arrange my space in order to achieve cosmic harmony: keep my kids’ picture in sight, eat lunch outside when the weather is nice, and make sure my M&M dish is always full.

                        

Chocolat Under the Tuscan Sun

Life is a kaleidoscope of feelings: it is pain and death, birth and life. Because the cosmic implications of these things are way above my head, I would rather contemplate my own daydreams.

When I was young I always daydreamed of living in a big house. Living at home with three brothers, then in a little apartment of my own, I fantasized about living in a house rich in history, complete with sculptured gardens, fountains and shaded verandas. The where of the house never quite crystallized; it always existed in that nebulous place half way down some winding, deserted road, picket fences guiding the way, stone lions at the gate — all that.

Time slipped along, and, seeing as I didn’t become an actress or a rock star, there was no easy way to obtain said  mansion with sculpted gardens, fountains and shaded verandas. It didn’t seem to matter, though, once I got married. Children came into my life; changing diapers and trips to the park were more important than parlors with fireplaces and crystal chandeliers. Practicality seeped into my daydreams. Suddenly having a house with a washer and dryer on the same floor or a fenced-in back yard made much more sense than twenty bedrooms to clean.

Eventually my little children turned into teenagers, and my daydreams evolved into finding ways to keep one step ahead of them. I couldn’t let my personal plans take me too far away — after all, how could I play the slots in Vegas when my kid would be throwing some video game/poker game/who-knows-what-we-can-get-away-with game I’m sure he’d throw given half a chance?

Now that one son is married and the other in college, I have finally let my daydreams take on a more surrealistic tint. Escapism is now more enjoyable than ever before. None of this taking off to the Dells or locally-based casinos — now my fantasies are more like Under the Tuscan Sun or Chocolat.

            Take my first daydream: Tuscany. I want to take a bus trip down Italy’s back roads and just hop off at some wonderfully enchanting town and find a charming place to live and settle down. I want to work from home (writing or editing or something that makes a lot of money from my own living room). I would like to be thin as a rail and meet some exotic Italian and ride off in a Ferrari to his vineyard in the country.

            Or how about a different daydream? I could always be whisked off to some quaint little town in France. I would blow into a town on the spring breeze and make a living doing something creative — say, making chocolate. Or, since that idea has already been used, perhaps I could open a shop that sells oatmeal raisin cookies. I’d wander through this quiet gem off the beaten path, taste the local cuisine and throw simple gourmet parties with skill and grace. I would be thin as a rail and meet some exotic Irish pirate and ride off to his pirate cove off the ocean.

            Both of these video women slipped into their new world carrying only one suitcase. They looked absolutely divine in whatever they wore, laughed and bonded with the locals, and made a difference in their little town. They had no husbands or pets, no costumes to sew or dog poop to scoop. If children were part of their scenario, they were precocious and well mannered and never experimented with drugs or peanut butter on the roof of the dog’s mouth. They had an invisible source of income (enough to either buy a dilapidated house or a run-down building) and turn it into something beautiful and homey, and most likely never had a second mortgage piled atop the first one. These beauties didn’t have to punch a time clock or find clean underwear for everyone or make room in their basement for more hunting and fishing gear.

I know, I know — they also had to make it alone through their world. They didn’t have that magical bond that ripens through the years, nor the love of family, nor friends who knew and cared about them for years.  Their new roots would never have enough time to dig in very far, and they’d never get a chance to go back to ‘the old neighborhood’. Their choices were made from circumstances I will never know, and their futures would be fruit born on the branches of a totally different tree.

The great thing now, though, is that I don’t really have to leave home to escape. Dreams, like movies, can be created at a moment’s notice. I can include family and friends in my escapades, or keep them separate through my writing. There’s no reason why I can’t create Tuscan or Athens or even the Great North Woods right here on my little patch of land. Food, music, good times, all can be a part of any reality I choose. All I have to do is play. I can play Italian music and put a bottle of Lambrusco on the table, or hang Japanese lanterns and put a movie like Ran or Shogun on in the background and use chopsticks for my homemade stir-fry.  I can have everyone dress in togas or play polkas to go with my polish sausage and sauerkraut. I don’t need an occasion — I don’t need an invitation.   

Happily ever after doesn’t only exist in the movies. The possibility exists every time we wake up, every time we turn around.

Don’t let your hang-ups of what others have or do or where they go stop you from planning your own escape, even if it’s for an hour or an evening. My glass from Goodwill can be fine Italian crystal and my basket from last year’s Easter can hold the most fragrant of delights. No one will know, and, if you are creative enough, no one will care. They will play right along side of you.

I’ll tell you, though … I wouldn’t mind going for a ride in that Ferrari now and then …

 

My Muse is an Irish Wench

            Everyone has a Muse in their life — a spirit guide, an angel, who nudges them forward; an invisible energy who inspires us to be something more than a slug on the couch watching TV or a potato chip-eating machine.  I have one friend who insists his guardian angel travels with him wherever he goes; I have another who contacts one spirit guide for meditation and a different one for balancing her checkbook.  I know one woman who never leaves home without St. Christopher, and a fellow writer who swears he consults Shakespeare’s ghost every time he gets stuck writing his novel.

            St. Christopher and Shakespeare are fine and dandy, but what do you do if your creative muse is an Irish Wench?  The stories of leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day are bad enough, with their drunken rowdiness and stealing of gold for their pot at the end of the rainbow and all that.  But what if your Muse turned out to be a woman with a heart as green as the Emerald Isle who hangs around with those drunken leprechauns?

            A Muse is supposed to be your inspiration, your guide, through whatever creative endeavor you undertake.  Venus inspired Michelangelo; Cleopatra inspired Marc Anthony, Athena inspired Odysseus. The original Muses were daughters of Zeus, who presided over the arts and sciences. It just so happens that my inspiration is a fiery Irish barmaid who comes complete with cleavage and clover.  She pops up at the most inopportune times, standing and dancing on my shoulder or steering wheel or computer, rattling off in thick Gaelic who knows what, hoping to jumpstart my creativity.  Dressed in her flowing gauze dress with the girdle that pushes up her breasts in the most obnoxious manner, my little sprite demands attention right then and there.  And I’d better stop and acknowledge her, or she will turn everything upside down.

            For instance, one of my favorite short stories popped into my head while I was at work.  The push to get this written came across loud and clear – write me now.  Couldn’t my Muse have at least waited until lunchtime to rattle off her idea?  I tried to stall my creativity until noon, but it only got worse.  I’m sure some of my creative metaphors got mixed up in whatever I was typing.  Or how about the time that one of my book’s most romantic interludes hit me right in the middle of my son’s soccer game? It was pretty hard to make mental notes when I was screaming encouragements to his high school team.   And what about the poem that hit me driving down the highway at 65 miles per hour?  Or the full-blown idea of a murder mystery that hit me while  I was mowing the lawn?

            I am all for inspiration.  Sunsets are wonderful inducements to creative arts, as are walks through the woods or lying on a sunny beach.  Classical music or mellow jazz or even mind-numbing hair band rock can fine-tune one’s creative edge as they sew, paint, crochet or design.  How can you sit still and concentrate when her Celtic jigs blast through every thread of your body, forcing you to bob your head along with the tempo or sing along with the oh-so-familiar lyrics at the top of your lungs?

            Don’t get me wrong – my little wench has brought me much pleasure through the years.  She has encouraged me to write some really intense interactions and deeply emotional poetry. Her Wild Irish Rose attitude inspires me to write out of the box, to reach deep inside for feelings and fears that normally don’t see the light of day, and to let those feelings influence my writing.

            But I have to admit her timing needs a little work.  Driving a car or typing numbers in a computer is not the most opportune time to become inspired.  I can’t be pulling over to the side of the road every other block or flipping the light on in the middle of the night just because she throws an idea towards me that I cannot resist. 

          I do appreciate her help ― I really do.  But I have to teach her to work on her impulsiveness.  There is a time and place for everything ― even inspiration.  Great ideas often have to ferment in one’s psyche before they become full blown masterpieces.  And there’s no doubt that you have your own muse dying to catch your attention.  All you need to do is listen.

            Now, if she could serve me one of those Irish brews as often as she jumped on my bandwagon…on second thought, maybe that’s not such a good idea.  If she served me beer as often as she demands attention, I’d be drunk before I started.