Going Up Nort’

Well, the self-imposed lockdown has been lifted here in Wisconsin, giving 5.822 million of us here in the state a chance to run around free.

You will find two camps here — one who has to make money and wants their economic freedom back; the other still wearing masks and fearful of every passing shopping cart pushed by someone without one.

I am not getting into any discussion of either side. Both have valid points; both are sure they’re doing the right thing. After my brother-in-law’s brush with C19, plus knowing that 459 families are missing someone here in the state because of it, I tend to stay on the conservative side.

That doesn’t mean I’m not taking advantage along with precaution these days.

I don’t hang out at bars or restaurants, I still wear a mask when shopping, I take my temperature every day — all those precautions many of the “older generation” tend to take to squeeze every extra day out of life we can.

I also am going away on vacation for a week. Away from TV, most social media, broadcasters and newscasters and boring B movies I’ve been finding on my Internet service.

Is spending a week four hours north from here any different than spending a week here at home base?

I would like to think so.

The cabin we share with my kids was originally my father-in-law’s home. He has gone to the great hunting grounds in the sky, although you can’t tell me he doesn’t stop by the place now and then to check in on us.

Anyway, “the cabin” (as we and our grandkids call it) is a half block from the Chain of Lakes, gateway to boating and fishing wonders still waiting to be explored.

I myself always have a different reason to go up nort’.

It’s easy to avoid TV news and propoganda and politics and gossip when you have no TV. And we intend to keep it that way. We have video games out the gazoo, a radio that picks up a few local stations, and the internet connection is so bad we have to drive to McDonald’s if we want a real signal.

But it’s quiet. It’s cozy. It’s fresh air and a little portable fireplace in the middle of the front yard and swimming for the dogs (and people if it’s warm enough). It’s family sitting around and talking. Sharing tales of the old days. Of new things coming up. It’s catching up with what’s going on in school and at work and, if we’re lucky, someone’s love life.

It’s playing card games on the kitchen table at night or on a rainy day. It’s taking naps any time you want, as long as you wake up in time for dinner (especially if you are cooking).

It’s finally reading the books you never seem to get around to reading at home. It’s coloring mandalas in a coloring book with colored markers or typing a short story or knitting a sweater.

It’s peace and quiet.

No one to tell you what to do; no politicians on Twitter or mass shootings in everyday places or animals being tortured or people dying of the Coronavirus.

Not that it stops reality from continuing. We are all aware of what’s going on outside our sanctuary. But for a few days we can pretend that we’re just outside of heaven and the world and life is all about US.

Not a bad way to spend time, I’d say…..

Is This Retirement?

From the outside, being newly retired and being under lockdown for the Coronavirus are the same thing.

In both, you get to sleep in. I’ve kept up with my cleaning, I’m cooking more homemade and sometimes fancy meals, go for walks with my dog, stay up late, binge on TV shows and movie series, and continue to search for my circadian rhythm.

Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? It was all I wanted when I was putting in full days behind the computer.

But under the surface they feel different. They are different.

And it all comes down to one’s interpretation of personal freedom.

I have a lot of that under lockdown. My husband has to still go to work at night, so I’m alone 3-4 evenings a week, so that has turned into my personal time. Writing, wandering, reading, lower-energy things for evening time. I take naps, text and call friends, research books, and binge on the Ming Dynasty if I want.

But I don’t feel free.

Retirement meant going out and meet friends for coffee whenever I wanted. It meant getting a little more active in my community, joining groups like the local Art Alliance and going to a meeting or two. Being retired meant running to the store for bling supplies mid-task or stopping by my grandkids house Saturday mornings for a playtime or two. It meant taking off for a couple of days and visiting a new place or a week off at the cabin.

Now I’m not free to do any of those things. 

Believe me, my staying at home mode is more me than the governor’s decree. I’m a little older, a little slower, and have had my share of medical scares. I am not going to jeopardize my future with my kids and friends and my blogging friends by hanging where the virus may be lurking. 

I want this virus to go away. I want my friends and family and even people I don’t know to stay healthy and not be affected by it. I don’t want to accidentally spread it nor accidentally get it.

Bur I want chocolate shakes with friends and evenings with music to be on my schedule, not some virus’s. I want to be that retired person who has ten times more things to do than when I worked in the world. I want to pop into the store to buy something fresh for dinner and throw parties for my family and volunteer at the local art gallery and take off for Las Vegas for the weekend if I want.

I want to be retired the old-fashioned way.

Not this way.

My Melty Smelty Heart

Good Evening My Good Friends!

I have been silent these past four days. I know…me…silent?  I have about 50 blogs to read tonight because I have spent the last four days up nort’ in Michigan at our annual family Ski Trip. 

Now, I don’t ski. Telle Tubbies don’t ski.

My hubby and I, our kids, our grandkids, my kids friends, their kids, my daughter-on-law’s parents, their kid — it’s a grand ‘ol trip we have taken every year for at least 12 years. I  cook, sit around, talk, drink, sleep, walk around in the snow — all the things you’re supposed to do on vacation.

The great thing is that I did most of those activities this year with my grandkids.

Funny how life turns around and around.

I used to love doing that with my kids. Making snow angels,  pulling them on the sled, watching them snowball each other. My boys started skiing around high school. I remember picking up my youngest from the closest ski hill 25 miles one way every week for 8 weeks. My oldest became a skiing whiz when he met his wife-to-be.

Then there was that big gap in time. You know — that dramatic pause in life where one life fades out and another fades in. My oldest fell in love with his skier, whose parents skied, so here we went again. They taught my oldest grandson to ski at three; the two-year-old wasn’t interested this year, but next year, watch out.

So here I am again, walking around the snow-bound block (really a country block) with my little guy, striving to remember those walks of 26 years ago.

I’ll take my memories however I can get them. And if someday I mix up a grandkid with my kid, who cares — there was love bursting out all over with both of them. My life has been one big, melty heart.

Only one lesson learned on my ski weekend, though — don’t try matching shots with your oldest. You’ll do a fourth as much in half the time and still fall asleep at 6…

Camping 102

smoreI missed our Sunday Evening Art Gallery post yesterday as I was camping for the weekend with my crazy family. We try and rent side-by-side sites, all the better to have the grandkids run helter skelter between grandparent campers. What one grandparent doesn’t have the other does. Riding vehicles, pokey sticks for the fire, dog treats, juice boxes — grandparents are a cornicopia of things to make the world a better place.

There is a payment for those hidden tokens, though. Marshmallows and flower hunting come at a price.

I  haven’t ridden a bicycle in a couple of years. Well, this past weekend changed all that. Bicycle to the bathroom. Bicycle to the beach. Bicycle around the “O”. All with my 6-year-old grandson. First ride in the morning, last ride in the evening. Not to be left behind as a lazy granny, I’m peddling off towards the sunset, blinded by the light, laughing as I’m crying. It wouldn’t be proper to say what part of my body hurts the most, but let’s just say it’s in the middle of the word SassY.

We also play Polish Horseshoes, a game made of string and blocks of wood and dowel rods. I’m sure there’s a professional name and version of this game, but not by us. And the more the participants drink, the harder it is to hit simple blocks of wood. We cook enough food for every meal to feed an army. Sometimes it’s a mishmash of Polish and Mexican and Belgium; other times it’s carefully planned exercises in free-for-all. I suppose that’s to ensure that there’s something on the table everyone likes. And leftovers to make their way to all ends of the state.

That’s why I need more bicycle rides.

Beach time is tella tubby time, but the grandkids don’t notice, so neither do I. It’s a time to build sand castles, endure freezing water temperatures, and wander over to the food stand for an ice cream cone. It doesn’t matter that the ice cream is fattening or the sand is corrosive — all it means is that for a short time GB and I were building castles in the air and drowning the poor sand soldiers made of plopped pillars of sand.

The best times are when family and friends sit around the campfire. Night has descended, the birds and squirrels are asleep, and the park’s raccoon pack hasn’t made it down to our campsite yet. We settle in our chairs, drink our drinks, make sticky, messy, yummy Smores, and talk about our lives. We all become human around the fire — not some speedy office hero, super mom, retired teacher, or trained security guard. We are just family people, sharing family thoughts, dreaming of the best way to retire or clean out our basements or keep in touch with other family members who don’t want to keep in touch. We tell each other what a good job we’ve done as parents and friends and children, how the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and how we would fix it if we could. Then we finally make it back home, derierres and leg muscles sore, hearts fixed.

Family Time, Friend Time, is so important to human survival. We don’t have to be best friends with the world to be best friends to one. Find one. Find a dozen. Share yourself. People will accept you, quirks and all.

And who better to share smores with than someone who is as full of sticky sweet sugar as you?

 

It Ain’t Me, Babe

Fotolia_17392440_Subscription_Monthly_XXLStrange thoughts have been passing through this middle-age mind lately.

My household is back to “normal” (whatever that is)…I have the evenings and my house back to myself; I am back into writing, walking in the early evening (well…just tonight…but hey…it’s a start); and am letting the sparkles tickle my toes now and then.

But beneath that, deep in the shadows of my heart and psyche, lurks the fiend known as mortality.

When I heard that Patty Duke died today, it stuck yet another eety beety needle into my heart. She was 69 — just 69. She was a part of my childhood. Patty and Cathy, England and America. Dumb, obvious, silly…that is the state of most people’s childhood.

But I can’t help but notice that that icky word is creeping closer and closer to me. And I don’t like it.

The Reaper is starting to pick off my generation. My music idols, my television idols, my friend idols. And they all are not much older than I am. Just in the last few months:

Gary Shandling 66

Patty Duke – 69

Vanity – 57

Glen Frey – 67

Davis Bowie – 69

Alan Rickman – 69

Natalie Cole – 65

Keith Emerson – 71

People that shaped my youth. My music. People whose styles and ideas I didn’t care for, along with styles and ideas I loved. People who were larger than life. People who were my age.

I know the routine — death comes for us all, it’s how you live your life, what you leave behind that counts, blah blah blah. I’m not making fun of it — on the contrary, I’m breathing it every morning, noon, and night.

And all of that positive thinking isn’t doing one thing to stop my train of thought.

I look at those who have gone before. I tell myself maybe it was due to their taking a lot of drugs in their youth or they were alcoholics or they laid in the sun one too many years. Of course, I know that’s making excuses for reality.

And I’m okay with that.

I believe that as long as your deep psyche knows the truth, whatever blabber you tell yourself is okay. It’s like looking for ghosts or unicorns. You can believe in them with gusto, but the little voice in your psyche says only when you see them in 3D will they really be real.

Maybe that’s a lesson for all of us. Make up stories so that you can cope with whatever is going on with you, but always hold onto the truth. For the truth never changes. It’s like I’ve always said. We are all intuitive. We all can sense the future, the path, what’s right and wrong. It’s the mind chatter and self abuse we do to ourselves that makes us lose the thread of truth and make up all kinds of excuses and stories for our mistakes and bad behavior.

Somehow in all of this I find myself making up reasons for people’s deaths so that I don’t have to look at my own eventual demise. People die every day. People of all ages, races, and gender cross that rainbow bridge. The reasons are more chatter. It doesn’t matter. They have gone and we can’t bring them back.

So the next best thing we can do is honor their memory. Talk about them. Tell stories that involve them. Make it as if they were just over in the next town. Love carries farther than any celestial glider.

Back to the Baby Boomer celebrities.

The number of those passing through the golden gates will continue to increase as our generation ages. There was a reason we were called the Boomers — we boomed in abundance into this world. So it’s kinda a fact that we will cease and desist in the same booming manner.

Maybe I should not worry so much about my own demise and start doing something to build my own legacy. Something that will be my truth.

Maybe I’ll start a singing career….

Ahhmmm…too sexy for my shirt…too sexy for my shirt …..

Ahhhhhhhhh….

baby-flash-games9How quickly we forget — how quickly we remember.

I live in a small town in Wisconsin; a town filled with college students, farmers, business people, teachers — and kids.

Lots of kids.

Last night was a fund raiser at Culvers (Yeah Culvers!) for one of the grade schools. So like a good granny, I trudged along with my kids and grandkids to have a Butter Burger and some cheese curds. Oh — and some overly-sweet custard. As you can imagine, the place was packed with kids. Lots and lots of giggly, loud-talking, visiting-friends-at-other-tables kids. Pity the older couples who picked last night to eat out.

Years ago I would have been quite taken with all the rumpus. BG (before grandkids), the world was quiet. Quiet job. Quiet house. Quiet hobbies. But then life reanimated itself in guise of a grandkid. And it hasn’t been the same since.

Waiting for our food to be delivered by one of several guest gradeschool servers, I just sat and watched the dynamics around me. Mothers in ponytails and sweatshirts, dads in ball caps. Kids sharing food, laughing, talking to siblings and friends at other tables, junior servers walking around and around looking for number 50 or 37, some with trays bigger than they were. I was “introduced” to Hayden (who didn’t have a clue what to say…even to my grandson), and other kids who told me their life story of the day.

Some college kids took the corner table; they were as polite to the little servers as they took their cold burgers and chicken strips. Moms toddled behind those too small to serve alone; we all laughed and smiled and helped out when we could.

It was loud and chaotic and it didn’t bother me a bit.  I realized I’d rather be a part of the madness than stand outside looking in at it. That the point of life is to get involved in circles bigger than my own now and then. And not to care. To go with the flow.

As we get older we tend to spend too much time by ourselves. Now, sometimes that’s good. An evening, a weekend alone, brings peace and quiet and does wonders for the psyche. But isolation as a substitute for personal time, even with a full time job, is dangerous. The more time you spend alone, the more time you want to be alone. The more segregated you get. From society, from friends, from family. You have no one to bounce ideas of off, to complain to, to dream with. No one else to complain to.

And pretty soon you are left with only your own thoughts, your own opinions, which slowly whither into shadows, as you care less and less about what’s going on around you.

Going out to the madness of Culvers wasn’t necessary what my psyche needed after a long, tiring day at work. But going out to eat, watching families do family things and couples do couple things lightened up my spirit. The madness didn’t bother me because I didn’t have to take it home with me. Like a voyeur, I could participate for a little bit, then leave the kindergartners and their siblings behind.

I’m not encouraging you to spend hours in the middle of a group of kids or shoppers or football fans. Find a way to weasel your way into the party, get your chaos fix, then move on. Maybe it’s shopping the day after Thanksgiving. A live concert. A high school or college football game. Even a bowling tournament. Watch the people. Laugh at the people. Be one with the people. Just enough to get your adrenaline going and your reactions moving. Then go home to your quiet abode and feel good about being a part of something bigger than you.

Life is too short not to take part in the madness. For that too shall pass, along with the chance of getting one more song in, one more school play, one more tailgate party.

And nothing is better after spending a few hours with children than going home, sitting in your favorite comfy chair, taking your shoes off, and going, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Silence.”

I’m Not Going There

65933_com_201106021652521973.gif1029cFor all of you expecting my usual, cheesy, astral sense of middle-age blog, sorry to let you down this evening.

There was something going around the Internet earlier in the week that had me more than unsettled. As often as not, I just breeze past the headlines I don’t care for, but even in doing so this time the impression still lingers.

And it was only from a headline.

Some parents decided to show a video of their son’s final moments of a high speed crash they were in. I don’t know if the kids died; I refused to read the article. The kids were high, that much I know. But I didn’t, couldn’t, read the article.

My first reaction was: Who would share something like that? Why would they share one of the most painful, horrible, moments of your child’s life?

My politically correct side answered first. The parents shared this video so that others can learn from the tragedy. So that other kids will see what happens when you drink or get high and drive. That through their tragedy other lives may be saved.

Then my mother side chimed in. I am a grandmother. I have been blessed with two sons, a wonderful daughter-in-law, and two adorable grandkids. I weathered many storms with my kids as they were growing up, and we all survived. I love them all more than life, and would be crushed if anything like this happened to me. My life, my love, is my family.

My liberal side popped in. Who are you to say what goes on on the Internet? You are not a monitor. You don’t like what you read? Pass it by! Ignore it! Stop telling others what they can and cannot talk about. Life is not a bowl of cherries for everyone, you know.

Then my mortal side interrupted. This upsets you because you fear death. Death is the normal progressive end of life. The one thing you cannot control. You cannot let go of anyone you love. Your fear of no afterlife taints everything you think. Everything you do. Perhaps the boys are in heaven now, feeling no pain, no confusion, nothing but eternal peace.

Then my smart-ass radical side chimes in. Who in the hell are you to judge if they went to heaven? How do you know there even is a heaven? You are so quick to judge. You didn’t even read the damn story. You have no idea why the parents shared the video. Quit yappin’ about stuff you don’t know anything about.

My practical side offered a rebuttal. This was a tragic event in so many others’ lives. There are different ways of coping, different ways of healing. A moment’s misjudgement has changed thousands of lives in ways no one ever imagined. Instead of reacting, or over-reacting, acknowledge their pain, then go hug your own kids. Your own grandkids. Tell them how much you love them, warn them of the dangers of drinking or getting high and driving.

Things circle back and the mother reappears. Those boys were someone’s baby. Someone’s little guy. Children are not supposed to leave this world before their parents. They are supposed to grow old and have children of their own. They are not supposed to get high and race and crash and die and leave their parents with broken hearts. My own heart hurts. And I don’t even know them.

Which led towards the comment that started this whole conversation.

Who would share something like that?

Growing Corn

“Granny…one day this corn will be bigger than me.”
“Yes, Bay Bay…one day it will be bigger than you. Bigger than your dad. Bigger than Grandpa.”
“Then what, Granny?”
“We cut it down, feed people and cows and deer and start all over again.”
“Oh. That’s okay. We can come back here again.”

Yes, my little man, we can do this again.

CAM01635

 

8 (more) Granny Rules

CAM00835 (2)I want to start this off by saying how lucky — and I mean lucky — I am to have my oldest son, his pregnant wife, and my 4-year-old grandbaby living with us for a few months. I will never have this opportunity again, so I don’t want to blow it.

Having said that, I have found that when family stays with you (even if it’s for a week or two), the rules as a Granny change. I find I’m not as freebird-ish as I want to be. I have learned that, much to MY chagrin, you have to be respectful of the parents’ wishes, thoughts, and actions.

So for you other present or future grannies and grandpas, here are some rules you should think about.

1.  Bed Time is Bed Time.

Oh, you may be able to squeeze an extra hour out on the weekends, but during the week, there is no watching TV in bed with Granny while eating an ice cream bar or jumping on the bed with the dogs. They need to calm down before sleep time. (So do you!)

2. Bed Time Snacks Are Different.

No more chips and soda before bed; no more cheese sticks and slices of salami, no more Hi-C or Hawaiian Punch cocktails. Pull that apple out from the back of the frig shelf, or pour a bowl of cereal. Act responsible. (Leave the ice cream bars for before YOU go to bed..)

3.  Ask your Mom/Dad

My grandson used to come over and get just about anything he wanted any time he wanted. Now that he’s under closer supervision, I can’t sneak him string cheese or pretzels and peanut butter  instead of dinner. I find myself saying, “Ask your Mother.” I feel like I’m shirking my Granny duties, but it’s better if the stomach aches come from them, not me.

4.  Kids and Pets

I tend to yell at my 3 stupid dogs a lot. I now have to clean up my language and not sound like a truck driver every time the dog pees or poops inside or wraps the leash around my ankle. My grandbaby adds to the furor by picking up my cats around the neck and parading around with them. When the cats have finally had enough, he takes it personally and starts to antagonize them. My language AND my reprimands are a little stronger now days. Not the Granny Way.

5.  Play Age-Approriate Games

Teaching a grandbaby how to use an axe to cut the string on firewood or mowing the lawn with a riding tractor (although grandpa rode on the tractor too) is not what a mother wants to hear. I am always honest with her — much to HER chagrin. While riding down the little hill on a Big Wheels looks as scary as a runaway train, a vigilant grandparent will be there every step of the way. Trust me — past times like coloring and playing with cars don’t hold a candle to a big squirt gun fight.

6.  Give your kids and grandkids space.

It’s fairly easy to trip over each other in one household. Fortunately my husband is gone in the evening and I’m gone during the day, so our 25 minutes of shared daylight doesn’t get in anyone’s way. But once grandpa is gone and I’m home alone with everybody, I tend to start feeling like a sticky note. I believe that evening times are Dad and Mom times, with a little Granny sprinkled in now and then for color. I usually wind up going into my room and writing/watch TV/fold laundry anyway, giving them plenty of time to cuddle as a threesome and talk about me if they want.

7.  No Hands.

And who better to teach a 4-year-old no hands on the roller coaster? Momma and I get sick just looking at them; then there’s Grandpa. And Dad. But Grandpa is the Instigator who looks fear in the eye and laughs at it. (He has a great laugh). If trying something off-center, try and pull one of the parents into it. It’s easier in the long run.

8.  Be honest.

Grannies are always honest…it just doesn’t always seem like it. Most times we are relegated to seeing our grandkids every other weekend, or, sadly, every month or every year. We have to make the most of our time together; after all, we don’t want our grandkids to forget about us once we’re gone. That’s why I tell my grandbaby (and my kids, but to a lesser degree), how much I love them, how much I miss them when they’re gone, how much I can’t wait to see them the next time. We plan things that might not come to fruition, but it’s the fun and love in planning that makes the difference.  I wear my love on my sleeve. And don’t regret the shredded mess at all.

 

We’re going to have another addition to our family in a few months. I have found as a mother myself that it’s easier to let go (to grandparents) by the time the second one comes along. Parents realize that their parents aren’t one step from the looney bin, they’re not Charles Manson followers, and the craziness that occurs is more in the mind than in reality.

Soon we will have TWO kids to spoil. My kids won’t be living with us by then.

Momma — watch out. Granny’s coming —

 

It’s A Small World After All

mickey_mouse_tired_wallpaper_-_1024x768In a couple of weeks my crew and I will be heading for the sunny confines of Disneyworld. Besides the fact that for the first time ever I’ve been able to pay for my vacation ahead of time, I am looking forward to visiting the world of Peter Pan and Lightning McQueen. The last time I paraded through those hallowed gates, the father of my grandson was barely older than my grandson is now.  Cosmic synchronicity aside, I am so looking forward to a week of not making my own bed and no extra charge for air conditioning.

Alas, the world of vacation in general and DW in particular is not the same as it was 22 years ago. This spritely body is not as spritely as days of yore. So I think I’d better update my To-Do List.

  • Be prepared for average day temperatures in the high 80’s and lows in the mid-60s. No sweats needed, as DW’s lows equal Wisconsin’s highs.
  • Bring a small, portable container of baby powder. No reason to stick together more than necessary.
  • Less is more. A week’s worth of underwear (Plus 1 method) is okay; 7 pairs of jeans, not.
  • Get a haircut now so that it has a couple of weeks to grow into something civilized.
  • Moving is relative. I can still cross distances as I did in the olden days. It just takes a little longer. Therefore, map out bathrooms and misting stations ahead of time. Note air conditioned venues as well.
  • Food rules from home count double here. No creamy, spicy, or burpy delights. Stock up on imodium and Pepto.
  • No need to try the lobster look the first day. Xtra duty sunscreen at 200+ suggested. ChapStik a bonus.
  • Reinvent your idea of what water play is. A 4-year-old does not hang around the shallow end of the pool for any length of time.
  • There are enough adults in the group that each one can schedule a time out. Use it. On yourself and others.
  • The Smartphone is the new camera. Keep it close. Preferably in your pocket. Also doubles as a patience-building tool, as in Jet Pack, Jewels Saga, and Swamp Attack.
  • Water is the lifeforce of DW. Pack many and refill often. Leave the imported beer until you get home.
  • You will undoubtedly leave one important thing behind. Put something to the side (that you can buy down there) and purposely forget it. Break the curse early.
  • Give up any idea of bringing a purse. No need to always take up two spaces. If it doesn’t fit in a fanny pack, you don’t need it.
  • Granola bars are your best friends at the park. Just make sure to get your system used to all that fiber about a week ahead of time.

I’m sure you have your own dots you can add to my list. Any thoughts, experiences, or reality checks are appreciated.

Let’s hear it for the Mouse.

Go Granny Go Granny Go Granny Go!

thOn my way to other things —

A happy post over at Retirement and Good Living about being a Granny. I love it. You will too!

 

I always thought I was a good mom. I attended every teacher/parent conference; endured freezing cold, blistering hot, and life-threatening thunderstorms just to watch soccer/baseball games; stayed up all hours of the night finishing last-minute (they said) homework projects; and did all other ups and downs a parent is supposed to do.  I adored my kids (still do), and there’s not much I wouldn’t do for them. But I find that is nothing compared to what I wouldn’t do for my grandson……

Read the rest….

http://retirementandgoodliving.com/go-granny-go/

 

You Bowl Me Over

bowlingLet’s start this out with the truth. I suck at bowling. Let’s finish this up with the truth. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is the crazy fun you can have with people you don’t fully know.

No one can know any one 100%. Fact of life. Who knows what’s in the minds of your significant other, your great kid, your best friend. Heck, you don’t even know YOU as much as you think. Having said that, think about how many “others” you come in contact with every day. If you work outside the house, if you have kids that go to school, you always find someone you can share small talk with. Sometimes the small talk grows into comfortable talk. Sometimes the comfortable talk tumbles into good friend talk.  But no matter where you allow the friendship to go, there is always something good to come from it.

Some people will tell you their life story in 10 minutes. Others will hold secrets as long as you know them. That’s a fact of life, too. As long as you don’t demand more (or less) from these “others” you might find real people that you enjoy being around.

I’ve been blessed in my life with a great husband, great kids, and great friends. It hasn’t always been this way. These days we laugh that wherever there’s an “A” (my last name initial), there is drama. Cancer. Passing On. Water damage from a broken faucet while your house is up for sale. It can be a big thing, it can be a small thing. But it’s always SOMEthing. That’s why you need to find friendship, a good time, whenever you can. A few fun hours can clear your thoughts, move you forward.

Back to sucking at bowling. I went to the company outing Saturday, doing my best to throw a ball down the alley, mostly winding up with gutter balls and single digit pins. To think I met my husband at a bowling alley 35 years ago was a flash down an alley I barely remember (no pun intended).

But what didn’t suck was that I had fun with people that I see in a totally different environment 40 hours a week. A single mother, a married mother of one, and a single would-make-a-great-mother, all made bowling and friendship such an easy thing. During the week we all sit tied to our desks, way over our heads in work, barely sharing tales of what we did yesterday, no less what we did years ago. Yet these are people that I see day in and day out. People who accept me for what they see. People who don’t judge me for past mistakes or slights or wrong turns. There’s no way we could know each other’s upside down lives, yet we are drawn by the common need for friendship and understanding that their “upside down” lives looks hauntingly familiar.

People don’t need to be a full-time member of your personal entourage to be your friend. While you don’t have to share intimate details, you can share the best part of yourself with others who need it. An ear to listen, advice from experience — it doesn’t matter. I learn from those who have walked my path as well as those who are walking across the field somewhere. Laughing over the little things, like bowling, makes the rest of life easier. It won’t cure the disease or a broken heart or unemployment, but it will let you know you’re not alone in the wilderness.

Now…if someone could just teach me how to bowl…

They Are The Same

leafhouseAfter spending a great weekend with women from both sides of the family, I am a firm believer that family can be friends, and friends can be family. After all is said and done, they are the same.

We all have had our share of pain and loss, of growth and stagnation. But we found a bond over a pedicure and lunch that will keep us connected as long as we breathe.

Get to it! Go out and bring your family and friends together.  Just make a date and do it. It doesn’t matter where — bring those hearts and souls together.

Don’t wait. You don’t have as many chances as you think.

Some Good Reading Back There!

Paths 7I have a few blog ideas floating around in my head, but I need to do a little research first. So it got me thinking….I bet you’ve missed some really great stuff from the Goddess through the years (two, but who’s counting). So how about a little explanation and a little link to send you back through time?  Not too many though — too much humor might distract you from the seriousness around you.

They Said WHAT??      http://wp.me/p1pIBL-n8   th

Famous people are always trying to stay in the spotlight…but being in the spotlight doesn’t make you smart.

Everyone’s Life is a Best Seller    http://wp.me/p1pIBL-gk

27 Everyone's Life is a Best Seller 1

Ever think you have a family worth writing about? We all do! Let’s compare crazies!

Harry Potter vs. Hannibal Lecter       http://wp.me/p1pIBL-5P

Comedy Tragedy masks - Symbolic represe

Okay…so I alternate between simple and savage. Does that make me unstable?

Have fun and read well.

A Little More Sprinkles

buddiesI am getting ready for a Celebration of Life this Friday for my younger brother whom I lost to the “big C” recently. The Grim Reaper has always been around us — me — it just seems the older I get the closer his scythe is getting to me. To have a younger brother cut down quickly by something no one knew he had is just one more wake-up call. Not that I’m not awake — I have treaded on thin ice a couple of times the last few years, and I realize that if I don’t pay more attention (well, even if I do), that that scythe can sneak up on me, too.

I wrote this blog a couple of years ago after the “Big C”. I think it’s an appropriate thing to repost this week. Pay attention, my friends. To your body, your mind, and your soul.

A Little More 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 chocolate 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…

Between a Rock and a Pretty Place

This has been one of those weeks that I would rather soon forget. I lost a loved family member, anheadd another lost their job. And so life goes twinkling and spinning on. I suppose things like this have always gone on at one time or another in my life; it’s just that it seems so much more common — and real — now that I’m older. As you get older you get less chances to make amends, to find new jobs, to see the world. It’s not that you’ve been bad or good, if you’ve tithed at church or stolen from the Salvation Army bucket. Life is going to tumble on however it will, and you just have to go along for the ride.

I had hoped not to make this blog the recipient of my shadows and blue thoughts. No one can be happy all the time; no one can be sad all the time, either. So to keep my perspective and keep looking towards the horizon, I do what I love. Write. Or, as in this case, share a couple of pictures I’ve kept from my wanderings on the Net. One of my favorite blogs is lead.learn.live.  http://davidkanigan.com/ The reason I smile at this blog is because often he just posts pictures. Pictures that are sweet or sentimental or mystifying or just plain neat. And that is what I need this eve.  So for your pleasure — and mine — have a peek at the unusual.

Love you guys.

water girl

weird cloth

eggs

drops

The Fun of Snowflakes

paper snowflakes 023The “holiday” season is upon us. I put quotation marks around the word holiday, for, in this politically correct world, one is encouraged to sterilize most personal affiliations. Which, to my crone nature, is ridiculous. Being part of the 50s baby boom, I haven’t known anything BUT Christmas. While I have come to respect and enjoy Hanukah and St. Nick’s Day, I believe the best way to celebrate life in all it’s rainbow colors is to erase the squeaky clean “holiday” and celebrate each and every tradition that comes our way.

Did some Christmas shopping the other eve. Between empty shelves and too many shoppers, I stopped and asked myself what I was doing. Gift giving is alive and well this time of year, but I wondered why there is only one day of the year (besides birthdays) to spend your money on gifts that, for the most part, wind up in toy boxes or in drawers, only to be brought out now and then as a reminder of the person who bought it for you out of love (or desperation).

I know I sound like Scrooge’s sister, and I’m not. I might not have a lot of money, but I love buying things for those I love. (Is that redundant?) I embrace the sacredness of the season, the meaning behind the glitter. I enjoy the stories of Hanukah along with the mysticism of the Winter Solstice. This season, this day, is a wonderful stew made of all cultures, all sorts of traditions. It is a season of giving, of love, of modest means and decadent frivolity.

So what does this have to do with the word holiday?

Mostly that life is too short not to make every day a holiday. Christmas, Hanukah, Easter, all have sacred meanings behind the fluff. Halloween and Thanksgiving also have messages older than candy and turkey. I believe we should never forget where the fluff came from.

How much of a connection to the religious significance behind the “holiday” is up to you.  A choral concert in a church is a marvelous experience, whether you are Catholic, Lutheran, or Pagan. Giving gifts on St. Nick’s Day can make someone happy just as much as Christmas presents would. Celebrating the Winter Solstice brings the hope of birth and renewal to the soul just as much as any other. Everything from the lighting of the Menorah to a baby in a manger to twinkling lights on a tree make the season, the holiday, meaningful.

I love giving presents.  I tend to give them all year long. I don’t need a special day to celebrate my life or the lives of those I’ve loved. You shouldn’t either. But remember what real presents are. Give a lesson in cooking or color a picture together. Show someone how to make paper snowflakes or sit down and write a story with them. Those things will last longer in their hearts than the latest zapparoonie or blinkalot.

Now — where did I put my crayons?

Thanks is a Clean Word

ThanksI am writing my Thanksgiving Day Thanks Post a bit early this year. Between family gatherings and Black Friday shopping and all-weekend football games, I never know when a moment of mental clarity will hit, nor when I might be able to share said clarity with you. I have a lot to be thankful for this year. You do, too. I don’t need to state the obvious — my past blogs reveal the miracles of survival I’ve been privy to the last year (couple of years, really). And I’m thankful for the usual — health, family, sanity (although there are those who wonder about that last one). But there is one thing in particular that I’m extra thankful for. Especially this time around.

I’m thankful that with company coming Thanksgiving Day, I have to power clean my house.

Now, before you chuckle and say people come for the food and friendship and not the eye candy, you are right. But I’ve always said you need to throw one big party a year so that you can really clean house. How many of you pull out the sofa and pick up dust bunnies and lost pencils and ancient Cherrios? How many  of you move the super-fragile things you have precariously perched on shelves and speakers to dust?  When was the last time you vacuumed the crumbs out of your sliverware drawer? Or organized your mail pile?

This is not Hoarders over here. I do have an over-accumulation of furniture and boxes downstairs, some remnants of departed family members, others in a holding pattern until my son sells his house. We won’t talk about the Mud Room: that is my husband’s jungle, and I get lost just looking in there. Somewhere down there is a nice, cozy TV area, kinda a sports-theme corner with a small TV, sofas, chairs — you know. But I wouldn’t know what it’s like sitting down there because it’s temporarily storing a gym’s worth of exercise machines just waiting for bodies to arrive.

My plans for this pre-Thanksgiving weekend are not so ambitious as to break up the chi that has so carefully been arranged down there. The bedrooms are fresh and clean, and a path will be made in case family members are too full and sleepy to make their way home Thanksgiving night.  No, my thanks on this pre-T day are a lot more humble.

I am going to give thanks by cleaning out my Tupperware cabinet. I then hope to move along to my bedroom closet. Not too much at one time — progress is often made one step (or cabinet) at a time. But my heartfelt thanks for getting one more thing off of my to-do list will be with me long after the turkey is turned into soup.

Remember — giving thanks on Thanksgiving — on ANY day — is not only about thanking the powers-that-be for your family or your health or your connection with Spirit. The powers-that-be hear your thanks for that every day. And the Universe thanks you in return.

What they don’t hear is your thanks for finding the shoe you’ve been looking for for two months. Or the flash drive that fell down into the sofa a long time ago.

Thank you.

And A Good Time Was Had By All

107-A Good Time Was Had By AllThis past Saturday was our “End of the Summer” Barbeque and Madness Day. This year we scheduled it on the last day of Summer, although with the clouds overhead and crispy wind from the west it was closer to a Chill Fest. It’s a great time, as cousins, brothers, kids, kid’s friends, neighbors, parents of kid’s friends, and others gather for an afternoon of too much food, too much beer, and too many rides on the go-cart.

My family and friends have a thing about getting together. We have Polish sausage making parties, birthday parties, game nights, pool parties, camping weekends, and all other sorts of “occasions” that bring us together.  Sometimes we have real reasons to get together; the kids birthdays, Thanksgiving dinner, weddings. Other times it’s important occasions like “we’re opening the pool” party or “we’re canning pickles” party. Sometimes we dress up (Halloween); other times we puff out in ski jackets and ski boots. One group of us try to have “Adults Only” dinners where no kids are invited so that we can talk about them, sex, and the good-old-days. Other times it’s a double-generation free-for-all as adults and their grown kids and their kids kids get together to play games and feast on potluck goodies.  Sometimes we go camping with our kid’s spouses parents (in-laws-once-removed?), and sometimes we have a “build a deck” party or “pour a new patio” party. Work and play and food and drink seem to swirl into a waterfall of laughs, tears, and sweat.

Throughout the years I have come to embrace getting together with those we love. Most times it doesn’t cost a dime (except for gas money), and the commradere is a reward that cannot be found on Facebook. We celebrated my father-in-law’s passing with the same people who pile into the Polish Sausage Making Party, and those who bring homemade salsa to barbeques are the same ones who were there for me after my cancer surgery.  We reach out to others, and they return in kind tenfold.

I’ve always loved my friends and family, but as I get older I not only love them, but cherish them as well. Perhaps that’s because I know the road in front of me is shorter than the one behind me. Maybe its because I realize that what you get out of life is equal to what you put into it. I don’t wait for others to invite me, call me, text me. I invite, I encourage others to invite. I expand our circle all the time, and find others are doing the same. What’s a couple of more people sitting around the fire? What’s one more person grinding pork or skiing down the slopes?

But maybe it’s because I know that life is too short to waste time on people who don’t really care — about others, about themselves. The world is full of mean people, selfish people. There are people around you that put you down, judge you for your size or marital status, people who have no patience for anyone but themselves.  Perhaps they have life-issues; perhaps they have self-issues. But they are part of the human race too, and no man is an island. We all have our problems. We all deal with death and diabetes and unemployment. That is no reason to be mean to everyone else.

My family and friends come from all walks of life. Some of us live three hours from each other. Some of us work two jobs or have a job and go to school. Some deal with arthritis, failing kidneys, and bankrupcy. Some lost a parent when they were young; some have children from previous relationships. But when we get together none of that matters. We share stories, compare aches and pains, reminisce about those who have gone before us, those who are yet to come, and talk about kids and dogs and recipes.

Don’t let life pass you by without sharing it with those who matter. Have a game night. A barbeque. A potluck. Invite friends over to watch a football game. Have birthday parties with no presents. Make an effort to get up and get out. Memories don’t cost a thing. Neither does true friendship.

On the other hand, the price you pay for being alone is more than anyone can afford.

Tiers

TiersI believe our lives are divided into tiers. Think of a wedding cake. The more layers, the larger the base has to be.  Not too complicated, eh?  Well, what I’m finding is that the older I get the more tiers there are on my cake and the chubbier ~I~ get.

Let’s go through this extra-spacey theory.

First is the top layer. Small, spectacular. Room for only one statue. You. It has to be you and you alone – after all, you are the only one in your head and heart, your thoughts and….well, you get it.

The next tier is only a quarter of an inch lower than the head tier. That’s the one you stand on. That is the one for the people closest to your heart. I know – you love everybody. But just run with this one. This second tier contains your life partner, children, parents, and brothers and sisters (if you’re still talking to them). These are the peeps that are there for you 24/7, through life and death and throwing up spells.

The tier beneath that are the people that you love and grown fond of through the years. Sometimes they are closer than family. And sometimes they switch places with the available spaces on the tier above. These are best buddies, in-laws, cousins. These are peeps that are there for you 24/7, but usually after there’s no one available from the upper tier.

The next tier consists of just good friends. Co-workers, classmates, neighbors, church friends. People you really like. People who are fun to be around; who ask what you did over the weekend and are you all right and do you need help with anything. This tier is great for doing  things with like bowling or complaining about your employer, or meeting for beer and pizza.

This is where the layers get kind of thin. The next tier is composed of people who you don’t really hang out with, but like them anyway. They are other people that work with you, friends of friends, kids of friends. People you exchange gratuitous comments and complements with. People you wave at when passing them in the store or at work or at the park.

The tiers could go on and on, but let’s let the bottom layers speak for themselves. There could be a number of tiers, depending upon the depth of your don’t cares and dislikes and out-and-out hates. These people only bring us down, so we tend to say good luck and leave them as “character builders” on the bottom.

So what is the point of these tiers, anyway? Is it to bring to the surface how many people you love or should love or can’t love?  Is it to show you how big your life’s cake really is? Is it some wonderful philosophy that combines life and love and frosting and chocolate and strawberry filling?

I suppose I could say that I use this metaphor to remind myself about my lower tiers, and how important they are to my desert called life. After all, they are there to support me, too. That’s why they’re in my life.

But I’m not that noble.

I  analyze my tiers when I daydream about winning the lottery and how I would share my winnings.Who I’d bring along for the ride. And who I’d leave standing in line.

I know – you love everybody. That is a noble thought. I try and adhere to that most of the time. But there are times when you just have to kick out the weak posts holding up the upper tier and replace them with something — or someone — who really will support you.

Choose those on your tiers carefully. Know it’s not a universal palate. And not everyone is here to help you eat your cake.

Besides,  you never know who will make a good tax deduction.

 

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

Everyone’s Life is a Best Seller

Did you ever think your personal life had enough twists and turns to put Scarlet and Rhett to shame? Did you ever think that your cousin Teddy or your Great Aunt Miriam would be fodder for a story that would be passed down generation to generation? What about that celery-and-water trick your dog does? Or the straws-in-the-nose trick performed by your own kid?

 Everyone’s life is a best seller. If only we could get our story into print, onto the big screen, everyone would see how unique our out-of-whack our family and friends really are. The funny thing is,  if you take a look around you, you’ll see your story is not so very different from the person next to you.

 Take the world of the working stiff. Ninety nine percent of the people you talk to have someone they work with that drives them crazy. There’s always a co-worker who talks with gum or food in their mouth, has a vocabulary made up of five or six words, or leaves a trail of potato chip crumbs from their desk to the bathroom, or squeaks their chair back and forth and back and forth back and forth.  There’s someone who knows someone who knows someone who can get you a great deal, is sick twice as often and you or whose symptoms are enough to scare the hair off a rabbit,  or are the first to complain that they are overworked, underpaid, and misunderstood. (Wait! That’s me!) There’s a dozen stories right there.

 Then there is the world of family. A labyrinth of people, traditions and bloodlines that, for better or worse, are with us all of our lives. We have kids that cross the line between naughty and nasty, mothers who are martyrs, fathers who are dictators, spouses who are inconsiderate. I imagine we all have a brother-in-law or sister-in-law who is linked to the planet Mars. We have the sister that collects bobble heads, and the uncle who makes his own vodka from potatoes in his garden. We have cousins who like to ski in their underwear and others who pull out calculators for the tip on a three-dollar sandwich.

 There is always fodder for stories in everyday gossip. This one is cheating on that one, this one did this at work and that one had the nerve to do that after the party Saturday night. All the whining, cajoling, and caterwauling we do to ourselves and others is enough to make a bartender quit serving alcohol. I’m fat. I’m stupid. My brother-in-law is fat and stupid. I should have said grilled, not fried. I could have been prom queen. I should have been prom queen. My husband’s friend from bowling is the prom queen. We have enough dirt on ourselves that we could give Jackie Collins a run for her money.

 I listen to myself enough to know that one of me is enough in this world. I enjoy laughing at my own jokes, getting my own innuendos, but I think a book full of me would be too much for even patient readers. That is why everyone should show off everyone around us who march to the beat of a different drummer. There’s Grandpa with his howling hound dog Bubba, and your best friend who can quote all of the dialogue from Spaceballs. We all know someone who is on their third spouse or their fourth child; we have girlfriends with childbirth stories that make us shiver and in-laws with enough fishing stories to fill a library. I have an irritable acquaintance? You have five irritable acquaintances. You have a cat that sings? I have a chicken that sings.

 The world is not as big as you think. We all have people in our lives that we adore, all have people we could do without. The loves in our lives may be special and personal, but the irritations we experience are universal. Perhaps that is what connects us all. Our idiosyncrasies are their idiosyncrasies. My pain is your pain.

We all walk through life on thin ice, isolated, thankful for the little things. So to counter our fear of isolation, we fill our history book with memories of amusing personalities and odd family members whose unique experiences bring us larger-than-life characters. How else could you explain the uncle that wears boat shoes to a wedding? How do explain a child who wears the same pair of underwear for soccer games every week for four months? What can you say about one who has a room full of unicorns or a garden full of gnomes?

 Sometimes there are no scientific explanations for the phenomenon of friends and family. Write about them. Talk about them. People are strange. Be proud of those who color your life.  It is the spirally, pretzelly people in the world that make it interesting. Just know that your strange is no stranger than my strange.   We’re just all different cracks in the same wall of life.

 It’s just that some cracks are wider than others.

Nothing to Write About — My Life is a Bore

            Fifteen hundred words.  One thousand, five hundred words.  That’s what the contest rules stated.  Surely I could come up with something to write about in fifteen hundred words or less. I sat at the kitchen table, spiral notebook open, pen poised.  But my pen stopped after the word “Someday”, the “Y” becoming an ornate doodle of Elizabethan proportions.  What could I write about?  My life was so ordinary, so mundane compared to the experiences of those around me.  I had no juicy stories of divorce to share; no exotic locations to describe, no secrets to expose. 

            I sighed, looking at the fancy “Y” on the paper.  What about humor?  I thought about some of the funny stories I’d heard through the years.  There was the one about my husband’s childhood friend Meathead who built a go-cart out of a lawn mower engine and a ladder and some old wheels.  It was direct drive, no brakes, no steering wheel to speak of — all it did was go forward.  Meat took off, drove down the alley and right into a telephone pole, splitting the ladder by its rungs, the scene unfolding like something out of a cartoon.  Or the time another friend tried to be George Washington on the point of their fishing boat, standing strong and proud as it came to shore.  The boat slid onto the sand bank, hitting a sand hill just a little too fast, and he went flying into the air, making a perfect mud angel.

            Naw, I wasn’t good at humor.  What else?  What about drama?  I thought about tidbits I could turn into an entertaining yet meaningful short story.  I thought about my father, a proud man who fought in World War II.  He remembered the war as if it were yesterday, yet when he died at 85 he could barely remember what he had for breakfast.  I remembered the story he told about being in a foxhole with a couple of his buddies.  He turned to grab his thermos and pour a cup of coffee; a shell landed in the foxhole, exploded, and when he turned around his bunkmate was gone. Or the story of my friend’s daughter and her struggle with cystic fibrosis.  The beautiful girl who died at twenty-eight because her lungs just couldn’t support her body anymore. It was the first funeral service I had been to where I’d had seen a “life” board; a bulletin board filed with pictures that spanned the girl’s entire life.  I couldn’t believe her board could be so full at 28 years old. Or something sappy about family illnesses or faithful pets.

            No, those weren’t the kind of stories judges wanted to read.  Not in a mere fifteen hundred words.   Surely there was something extraordinary I could write about.  Oh, there’s my friend Ari — she’s wild and creative and just a bit eccentric.  She talks to spirits and ghosts, and is delightfully in tune not only with her psychic powers but also her business sense.  What about the friends I made at the Renaissance Faire?  There was the gypsy wench from Germany and her artistic husband who created medieval magic from fabric. And there was the short, hairy artist with a beard that ran half way down his neck that worked marvels with pewter.  Wild people, great people.

            Or my family members.  Loud and burly Uncle Bill, balding and boisterous, a loving man that enjoyed a beer or ten as much as burgers and brats; or Uncle Scott on the other side of the family, the one with the heart of gold and a passion for aqua shoes.  Then there was Grandpa, the fishing guru and legend, someone who knew everybody and everything that happened in his little town.  And what about my kids when they were little?  Rooms so messy we’d need a bulldozer to clean them, or paintball wars, or wrapping Christmas presents while eating shrimp at midnight?

            I kept doodling on the empty page.  What about all the friends I’ve made through the years? I’ve known farmers and writers, mechanics and truck drivers.  I’ve come to know special education teachers and helicopter pilots, football quarterbacks and massage therapists.  Surely there were stories scattered throughout their lives.  Well, I had friends, but no one extraordinary to write about.  No one who spent time in prison or traveled through Africa on safari or had lunch with the President of the United States. No one that broke any records or invented something that changed the face of America.  All I knew were people who worked for a living: ordinary people that fished or painted or watched movies on the side of a barn or made jewelry or delivered pizza or coached soccer teams.

             I tore off the top sheet of paper, crumbling it into a tight ball, and started on a fresh, clean sheet.  The black ballpoint rested on the thin blue line of the paper, ready.  Yet nothing would flow.  Not an “E” or an “S” or anything in between.  I looked outside the window at the emerald green fields and weatherworn barns in the distance.  The sky was electric blue, and the pine trees appeared as arrows pointed skyward.  The chatter from the birds was almost deafening as cardinals, blue jays, and a handful of other serenaded from the edge of the woods.   For all I knew there could be elves and fairies just on the other side of the sumacs, unicorns mingling with the horses at the farm next door, and aliens making crop circles in the field on the o]=her side of my house. There could have been CIA agents or ex-Nazi criminals posing as salesmen at the store in town.  There could be a meteor heading towards my little town right at that very moment, or treasure buried under the lopsided oak tree at the edge of my property.

            But I would never know, because I was convinced I lived in a vanilla-coated world.  There wasn’t one single person to interview, nor one inspirational vista, nor one slice of comedy to fill my empty sheet of paper.  There was never anything interesting going on in my life.

            At least not fifteen hundred words worth.

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…