“I am proud to know Molly and share writing experiences with her.”
Marcia Fine, www.marciafine.com, author of “Stressed in Scottsdale,” “Boomerang, When Life Comes Back to Bite You,” and “The Blind Eye.” 

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GENDER EQUALITY

It always hits me around this time of year. I have done the lion’s share of the shopping. I have hunched over the card table wrapping everything. I have stocked up on everybody’s favorite snacks, made sure there are clean sheets on the extra beds, hung up the wreaths, stuck Santa figurines in every nook and cranny, and tried to get enough hostess gifts to get me through the season: If it weren’t for women, there would be no holidays.

Think about it: Christmas morning. All the gifts you wrapped have been opened. The brunch casserole you made the night before is now a bunch of crumbs. The coffee you made is gone. Everybody just wants to nap or watch TV. But you can’t, because now you have to jump up and stuff a turkey, peel potatoes, and set the table with the good dishes. Then you baste the rest of the day, serve up the feast, and then clean up. Everyone says it was a very nice holiday. And you have the backache to prove it.

I tried to change this once. I told my husband that he ought to be in charge of gifts. Here is how that went:

ME: It’s your turn this year. I am totally exhausted from all the shopping. So you can do it.

HIM: Fine. I don’t know why you are acting so dramatic. You can get everything you need at one store, anyway.

ME: Oh, yeah? Well since when do you even know your way around Nordstrom?

HIM: Not Nordstrom.

ME: Where, then? Macy’s? JC Penney? You hate those places!

HIM: Right. There isn’t anything good in department stores. You give such white bread gifts. Predictable. A sweater and a robe. Give me a break.

So I did. He did the shopping. And it was a memorable holiday, I give you that. He did the majority of his shopping at the hardware store and at the auto parts store. Here is what we ended up with:

A socket set for one daughter. A battery operated screwdriver for the other. “Girls need tools,” he said. I got some coffee filters and a lumbar pillow for my car. There were also boxes of windshield cleaning cloths all around, a nice new license plate frame for everybody, and some Windex to go with them. We got Santa night lights, and apparently there was a special at the hardware on coffee pots.

I was disturbed. Who wants a Mr. Coffee for Christmas? And I was offended, frankly, at the license plate frame. I got myself all worked up into a huff, and I was about to launch into a lecture, when the girls said, “Dad! This was the best Christmas, ever!”

Now I just buy everyone a sweater and hand him the checkbook. This year, I am teaching him how to make stuffing. 

 

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WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU CAN’T SLEEP

Do you have insomnia? It stinks, doesn’t it? I am wide awake so often in the middle of the night, I have developed some coping mechanisms. Of course, I am going to share them with you, because they might come in handy some time in a wee hour when you are manically alert.

  1. Imagine you are rich. What would you buy? I can while away many a wide awake hour deciding what kind of little apartment I would get in New York. I decorate it, make sure it has a nice big terrace where my cats can wander around, and I think about how pretty it would be to spend Christmas there. Of course, it would snow, and I would have three fireplaces. A brownstone or a fifth floor walkup? Decisions, decisions.
  2. I count how many times my husband snorts, and contemplate punching him in the shoulder. This often happens, but after the punch, he stops, and I am once again left to my own devices.
  3. I think about what my next novel will be about. Or I plan a blog post. This often involves actually getting up and going downstairs to the computer, so I try not to do this very often. Of course, my new novel is about ready to come out. Once that happens, I will probably go downstairs more often. I wonder if Hemingway did this. Then I laugh heartily at myself for even putting myself in the same thought sequence with Hemingway, for God’s sake.
  4. I worry. This is counterproductive, but it happens. What if Ebola comes to Dayton? What if I forget to baby-proof something, and when my grandson comes for Christmas, he swallows a Q-tip? What if I get shingles, even though I had the vaccination? What if I forget to cancel my insurance when I start getting Medicare? What if all the Polar Bears go extinct because the ice caps are melting? Fraught.
  5. I imagine what it would be like to be an adventurer. I see documentaries about women who travel to exotic places and learn exciting things. They go on photo safaris and drift down the Amazon. Then I remember that I can’t swim, and that jungles are rife with bugs. Ugh. Oh, yes, and I am unable to go number two in a public bathroom, so doing it in a trench in the jungle would be impossible. I then think of my perfect vacation: staying in a lovely room in London or Paris, and eating foreign carbohydrates.
  6. I try to decide what kind of dog breed I would get if I ever got another dog. This can burn up a lot of midnight oil. Poodles? Doodles? Cute and smart, but too big. Dachshund? They can be bossy? A shelter dog? Probably. Then I ruminate about dog names. This is really fun. Finbar? Dudley? Al? Sardine?

When all of this fails, I just try to doze off. This usually works after a while. Then I have vivid dreams about living in New York with my Corgipoo Dudley, walking down the street to meet my grandson and his mother in a smart bistro. When I get there, he has a Q-tip up his nose, and we have to rush him to the doctor, who is a Polar bear with a big bug on his nose. And I have to go number two, but in a restroom? Nightmare!

Sleep tight.

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EYE ROLLING101

I looked at President Obama’s turkey pardoning moment. It was all over social media (I get all my news from Facebook), and there stood his two daughters, looking totally mortified by their dad. Typical.

I have some advice for parents that I have learned as the mother of two now adult daughters. Try not to be hurt by all the eye rolling. You are naturally the target of most of it during your kids’ teenage years. You deserve it then, because you are embarrassing, nerdy, preachy, stupid, pompous, and totally unaware of what is important when your children are teens.

I know this, because my mother was acutely horrifying when I was in high school. She insisted on wearing pedal pushers. My God! And she wore tube tops. I didn’t know then that she was really a visionary, who foresaw that capri pants and tubes would blossom into fashion twenty some years later. I just felt like dying to be seen with this woman who went out wearing stupid pants and a top with no bra underneath.

I also know this because my father insisted on ordering wine with dinner at restaurants, and I found the whole tasting ritual to be ridiculous. It was presumptuous and kind of show-offy, I thought. And the sniffing and swirling the stuff around in the glass first? OMG. Of course, now everybody does this.

But we need to give the teens a break. They are going through that stage of life in which their own confidence is nonexistent, and so they feel they walk on thin ice every single minute, just waiting for somebody to notice that they aren’t cool, and boom—they fall right through the ice. I still remember searching every store for just the right pair of loafers, because the ones my mom wanted to get me were not at all the right brand. And if I wore them to school I would be immediately thrust into the nerd herd.

So if my father were the leader of the free world, but still insisted on pardoning a turkey? O M G. It would be the worst. And being forced to stand right beside him while he did it? Agony.

Things do even out. The kids get older. As a matter of fact, they become just like you. And they give you credit. For most things. Not the turkey pardoning, though. Because for one thing, turkeys aren’t criminals. Right? Sheesh.

I wonder if Michelle Obama wears tube tops.

 

 

 

 

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GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

Catalog season. I love it. I guess I should feel guilty about all the trees that are being sacrificed so that L.L. Bean and everybody can inundate us with their holiday selections. But I have to admit that I love to sit down with a cup of coffee and leaf through the offerings and pretend that I have enough money to order a bunch of stuff for myself.

However, now that I am over sixty, I am also sad about sweaters. I love sweaters. But ever since menopause, the thought of actually wearing one makes me nervous. I may not be alone in this: I am always and forevermore HOT. I get hot vacuuming. Going up and down stairs makes me sweat. It isn’t lack of fitness, because I do my share of cardio. No—it is my inner thermostat. Somehow it got turned up, and nothing I do seems to lower it. Heck, I get hot just sitting in the living room reading a book!

I have fans in every room. And if I am someplace where there isn’t a fan handy, I panic. I have used my hand, my wallet, playbills, and grocery lists as fans. If you see me pulling my shirt in and out like a bellows, you aren’t the first to witness this. At parties, I am the only person holding her iced drink against her forehead. So far, I have resisted actually pouring my drink down my blouse, but the thought has occurred to me.

So when I see one  of those young models wearing a cashmere dress in a catalog, I start to sweat. I love all the mufflers that women now wear indoors, but if I were to try this, I would expire from heat exhaustion within minutes. Velour and velvet? You must be kidding. Irish wool sweaters? Hah!

When I go shopping, I look for tags that say things like “wicking,” “breathes with you,” or “one hundred per cent cotton.” I never look at blazers. Layering is a joke to me. Socks? I have about three pairs in my purse right now—from when I had to take them off when I was out and about and started boiling. I ride with the windows cracked all winter.

But I get a little nostalgic for the days when I wore those gorgeous sweaters. And tights. When I could go out to dinner draped in a beautiful pashmina and leave it on all during the meal. I remember feeling chilly and putting on a coat, for God’s sake! Those were the days, all right.

I am optimistic, though. I still have one drawer full of sweaters.  I keep hoping that maybe someday I will get cold.

 

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HOW TO WRITE A BOOK

Now that I am a “real” author, I can give advice to all of you out there who want to publish your novel. I have perfected a system that works for me. I thought I would share it for your benefit:

Sit down at the computer. Think of what your main character is wearing. Try to describe it without using the words “nice” or “very.” Picture your character getting dressed in the morning. Then wonder if he likes fried eggs over easy or scrambled.

This reminds you that you are out of eggs. Get up and add eggs to the grocery list, and then remember to add coffee and cottage cheese. Wander into the living room, where you notice that there are two dead Stinkbugs on the windowsill by the bird feeder. Yell “You Goddamn fuckers!” really loudly. Get a Kleenex and flush the disgusting insects. Return to the living room to make sure the rest of the room is free of bugs. Notice that the bird feeder is empty, and experience a pang of sympathy for that darling, starving cardinal who is sitting dejectedly on one of the feeder’s perches. Rush onto the back porch to get more seed. Go outside and fill feeder.

Once out there, notice how chilly it is getting. Look around and remember that you never planted that bag of daffodil bulbs that is sitting in the garage. Go into the house for a coat and work gloves. Take the bulbs from the garage along with a trowel. Attempt to plant one. The ground is way too hard, and what’s more, you feel that even though you might have gloves on, your manicure is in danger.

Put gloves and bulbs back in the garage. Go back into the house and make an appointment to get your nails done. Have a glass of ice water. Go upstairs and change into a more presentable shirt—you don’t want the people at the nail salon to think you are a slacker.

Look at your watch. Oh, gosh! Your appointment is in a half hour! Rush downstairs, get your purse and keys. Rush into the garage. Turn around, go back and lock the door.

Drive to the salon. When you get there, decide that you have earned a pedicure as well as a manicure, because you work so hard as a writer and wife. Tell them you want the hot stone massage, too.

Enjoy your lovely mani/pedi. As you sit there, try to decide what to have for dinner. Chicken is good. Maybe some salad.

After your nails are done, go to the store for dinner ingredients. Make the chicken recipe, and put it in the oven. Look around the kitchen and realize how dirty the floor is. Get down on hands and knees and wash floor, feeling guilty that you are such a horrible housekeeper.

Take a break. Maybe a chair nap.

Have dinner and clean up. Watch that great PBS show about British detectives. Yawn. Go to bed. As you drift off to sleep, remember that your character was wearing dark brown corduroys, but no shirt—you didn’t get that far. Vow to be more disciplined tomorrow.

If anybody asks you how long it takes to write a book, say this, “It takes years of hard work. Writing and polishing. Rewriting. Editing.”

Now you know the story behind the story…

 

 

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