“Molly is funny and quirky—that’s just how I like it! Who else has a professional accordion player spouse? Quirky!”
Ellen Cagnassola, www.sweetsoaps.com 

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Life is messy, stressful, and complicated. The older we get, the more it hits us. I think retirement comes at a great time—just when you are getting really tired of getting up every morning and putting on suits, ties, or business casual; and after you have fought that millionth traffic jam only to walk into a business meeting where everyone is at one another’s throats, you get to chuck it all and go home.

Home. It’s the place you have been jamming full of throw pillows, soccer balls, dog toys, frozen entrees and citronella candles for years. It is finally your haven. You get to stay here all day long. You can sleep in or not. You can make a really detailed grocery list. It is great.

But suddenly, you look around. Or at least we did. And my husband had an explosive burst of clarity: if we don’t start getting rid of some of this stuff that we have been shoving into closets for thirty years, our kids will hate us when we die. Well, I don’t buy that: they know who changed their poopy diapers and drove them to all of their extracurriculars all those years. Plus paid for college. But I did think that those mittens and shin guards in the front hall closet were just a bit extraneous.

So we have started getting rid of things. My husband has felt a great sense of triumph getting rid of the seventeen bags of camping equipment, basketballs, and science projects (but that volcano really worked!) in the basement. He is now turning his sights to the attic, where there is one box full of junior high lecture notes that I am sure the girls still value. They would be furious if he threw those out. I am certain of it.

What am I doing about all this? Nothing. I am thinking about it. For me, this place is full of memories. I remember the days I watched riding lessons and fell asleep. Good times. So I hate to get rid of that old riding helmet. It’s vintage, and it makes me remember that little horse-crazy kid. There is one entire bookshelf full of plays. But the older girl was a theatre major! And she was so dramatic! I am not ready to throw those in the recycling. I like having them there.

So life goes on. I look out of the windows of this old place where we had pizza nights, forgotten birthdays, arguments and all that family stuff that we all relish. So I remove certain things from the Goodwill bags behind my husband’s back.

But the day will come. Maybe I will stumble over a memory and twist my ankle. It might be the catalyst to finally divest! We will finally have the freedom to look into our golden years unencumbered! I will go on a housecleaning rampage!  Apparently, this turning point happens to everyone. I may just come to it a little later than average. In the meantime, I just live in the moment. Here in this great, old, house full of stuff. Our stuff.


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People who have the courage to just stop what they are doing and start all over are heroic, in my opinion. Reinventing oneself is unbelievably courageous. Once most of us are on a path, living in a place, doing a job, and making a living, that is it—whether we are happy or not.

So it was with great admiration that I watched the latest episode of House Hunters International. Wow. I had to share it with my husband.

ME: This is amazing! A woman who was a corporate lawyer in Perth just quit her job and moved to an adorable, tiny apartment in Paris. And she began a new career.

HIM: (barely looking up from his laptop, where he loses himself in the depths of the internet daily) Huh?

ME: Yeah. And so now she is giving dinner parties for a living.

HIM: (with a bit more interest–actually making eye contact) Dinner parties? What do you mean, for a living? 

ME:  Well, apparently, she advertises that you can pay money to come over to her house with a bunch of your friends, and she will throw you a dinner party, with wine pairings and everything. So this is what she does for a career, now. This sounds fun.

HIM: Fun? For you? What are you talking about? You hate to cook!

ME:  But I can cook. And if people paid me to do it, instead of having to slave away in the kitchen for free for thirty years for a bunch of thankless slobs, it might be great.

HIM:  Name one recipe. Oh, yeah: chicken with curry powder and mushroom soup. Hmm. Tough wine pairing. Maybe cooking sherry. Dessert. Popsicles?

ME: Come ON! I make delicious (pause)

HIM:  Submarine sandwiches? Good with Chardonnay, perhaps?

ME: I can make really good macaroni and cheese.

HIM: And if the partygoers have to go to the bathroom? This new career would entail cleaning.

ME: Oooh. And good china. Which you can’t put in the dishwasher. Linen napkins. Wineglasses. Oh, man.  This attorney doesn’t know what she is getting into.

HIM: And what would you charge for one of these soirees? I guess if you served the macaroni and cheese, you would save—no meat. But you would still have to cover your ingredients, all that Comet for cleaning the bathroom, and of course, you would have to buy some cloth napkins. Everything would have to be high quality. So you would have to use Gruyere. Flowers for the table. And of course, the wine. Pricey! And rent on your Paris digs? Factor that in. Tough ROI.

ME:  But this woman looked so happy. They showed her at her first dinner, and she was giggling while pouring the wine. And I think I heard her say she would join them for dessert.

HIM:  Of course. She probably served profiteroles. Those are kind of like popsicles. You would have to make your own popsicles with exotic fruit, like pomegranates.

ME: Stop it with the popsicles! I would serve a nice dessert! Oh. Well.  I guess it would have to be something a little more gourmet than brownies. You may be right about this. But PARIS.

HIM: Look.  I would try it here, first. See if you can make a go before you pull up stakes for Paris.  Put an ad up on the bulletin board at the grocery: NOW HOSTING MACARONI AND CHEESE NIGHTS. ONLY FIFTEEN DOLLARS A HEAD. WINE AND POPSICLES INCLUDED. 

Now if I can come up with a good appetizer (something kind of experimental with Tostitos), I will be in business.

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Have you ever stopped to consider how filthy rich the family of the person who invented the paper clip must be? That one twist of metal, and hundreds of lives were changed. I bet the paper clip family all have Rolls Royces and polo ponies.

I have been thinking about inventors since I watched a show about entrepreneurs, called Shark something. I didn’t catch the beginning. But inventors pitch stuff, and the winner gets a patent or something. Well, honestly, I didn’t actually watch the show—just the commercial for it. But it made me look around my house and start to envy those people who have seen empty niches and filled them with incredible inventions that are household staples. Oh, yeah, that guy, too!  Anyway, safety pins. Can you imagine how awful the Amish people feel when the straight pins fastening their clothes together stick them? Oh. I guess Amish people wouldn’t care about safety pins. But the twist tie? I bet all religions use those. Actually, my husband’s family was good friends with the twist tie magnate, and yes, that family had a fortune. If only my dad had tried to close a plastic bag and thought “There must be a better way.” No. My dad played the violin, for God’s sake.

Velcro. Good grief. Kids didn’t even need to learn how to tie their shoes for a while. But still, even though Velcro shoe fastenings aren’t cool any more, we all know how valuable Velcro is. The fact that I can’t at the moment think of one example of Velcro use doesn’t in any way diminish its value in modern life.

Tampons. No discussion necessary. But EEW life without them. (see empty niches, above, for one inventor who took this literally)

The Breathe Right Nasal strip. It gives the wives of snorers and people with deviated septums a reason to go on living.I can almost imagine the desperation that drove that inventor onwards.

I personally have enough Spanx to put the inventor of these garment’s grandchildren through college. I feel that Spanx belong (s?) in wardrobes of every woman over forty. And I thank that inventor for making Spanx leggings. Oh, and while I am on this topic, I wonder if the Spanx inventor had some sort of partnership with the inventor of the tunic top, because all of us women over forty cannot wear leggings without the tunic to cover up our hip areas–you know what I am talking about. Well, there may be a few who can, but I don’t like those women.

Kitty Litter. Here’s a little known factoid: until the invention of Kitty Litter (probably by some crazy cat lady), there was no such thing as an indoor cat. Think about it: everybody had cats who hung around the yard, but they didn’t let them in, because the cats might pee or poop inside! But with cat litter, it became possible to have five cats, like I do! All of them living happily inside, sleeping on my head, and using the litter boxes in the basement! But I have a beef with the cat litter inventor. She should have warned me that if you have too many cats, one or two might decide to ignore the litter box. And now it is too late, because have you seen how cute all of my cats are?

I could go on and on. How my life is enriched by my dishwasher, hair dryer, vacuum, garbage disposal, and dental floss. How my marriage probably wouldn’t have survived without a king sized mattress. Oh my gosh. Birth control pills. All these magnificent inventions. All it took was a need. And some brilliant person put on his thinking cap and came up with a product that changed the world. And made him or her a zillionaire. My God—Microsoft and Facebook! It just boggles the mind.  Google. And microwave popcorn. Baggies. Preparation H. Q-tips. Neti Pots. iThings.

It takes a certain kind of person to invent things, however. I know, because I have been wandering around my house for the past hour, trying to uncover an unmet need. You know, something just waiting to be invented. But I am coming up dry. I wonder how the Popeils do it.           Google them.          

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I hate my laptop. It is a relic, really. I got it a year ago. It is so slow! My God, when I want to watch a video, it takes what seems like YEARS to download! I mean, really—if  I have to wait sixty seconds for something to watch, it is absolutely not worth watching, you know what I mean?

I used to read newspapers. I remember back in the day. I would have to make a cup of coffee, sit down for an entire Sunday morning and leaf through the New York Times. Now I have it on a compilation website. I love it. The site is customized to my interests. I stuffed it full of my faves:  The NY Times, Salon, Slate, Mashable, CuteOverload, The Atlantic, Time, CNN, The New Yorker, Thought Catalog, BlogHer, and Huffington Post. I think I have some recipe sites in there somewhere, as well.

And guess what? I can pound all of that down in the time that it takes me to yawn. Well, slight exaggeration. I use my iPhone for this activity (reading while yawning). Yes, the print is tiny, but the darn phone is so fast. It downloads videos almost instantly. Google something? You find it before you finish typing in what you want. YouTube? I could spend minutes on this site!

But here is the thing: my actual life is so draggy. I timed it this morning: it took four freaking minutes for my toast to pop up! And good Lord—what is with microwaves? They are as slow as molasses! It takes a full two minutes and forty seconds for me to heat up my cold brewed coffee. I use cold brew, because you do it the night before. So you don’t have to wait for perking or dripping, which is like eternity first thing in the morning.

Politics? Easy Peasy. You watch a thirty second public service (ahem?) announcement, and immediately know what Senator So-And-So has done blatantly wrong, and why you should vote for Joe Shenanigans to replace him. Who needs to watch Bill Moyers or those other pundits? They did cut Moyers down from an hour to a half hour, though. I guess to make him more user-friendly. But really—who has an entire half hour for this stuff? 

And cooking? Are you kidding? My oven hasn’t seen the light of day in years. This is due to the deli counter at my store selling gourmet dinners. They even have them with an entrée and two sides and everything! All you do is take them home and eat them. Well, I do put them on real plates before I blast them in the micro—because, you know. A home cooked meal.

What is the down side of all this? My God. I am incredibly bored all the time. I have done everything I want to do by noon. And I am a late sleeper! Honestly, I can follow the news, tweet incredibly interesting little tidbits to the world, post ten pictures of my  grandson on Facebook, stop by the store and the bank, Swiff around my living room, and pop all the deli cartons of food into the fridge, and then I look around, kind of lost.

My world now consists of hundreds of tiny bytes of activity. Each one accomplished faster than the one before. We have labor and time saving technology that is incredible. And it turns us all into impatiently vile, bored and shiftless people.

I think I need to calm down. I need a snack. But good grief, the instructions on the microwave popcorn bag say it takes two and a half minutes. Ridiculous. I could make an entire sandwich by then! And who does that?

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I have been blogging forever, it seems. Somehow, I manage to grind out one post a week, week after week. Some of them are gems. Some are trash, and some are just ok. But as I said, week after week. Imagine me patting myself on the back right now.

So, someone asked: how do you go about writing a blog post, anyway? What makes a good one? How do you come up with ideas? What about writer’s block?

Well, I answer, there are some guidelines. I established them early on, and I use them to guide me each time I sit down to write. Well, duh. They are guidelines. I am happy to share them with you.

Don’t write about anybody else, unless it is a celebrity or your spouse. The neighbors won’t like having their foibles exposed. But for some reason, people really enjoy reading about how often you get gas, the times that your husband embarrasses you, or the fact that you can’t resist buying Worcestershire sauce with fancy labels, even if you already have the regular kind in the pantry. And, of course, celebrities are fair game. Because nobody really likes Gywneth Paltrow,  anyway.

When picking a blog topic, always choose one that you have a lot to say about. No matter how funny a topic is, if all you have in your head to write about it is one measly but hilarious paragraph, it won’t be much of a post. I always tote up in my head the number of paragraphs one topic might suggest. There must be at least three paragraphs worth. You see, so far so good on this one, but if I can’t come up with at least two more guidelines, I am sunk here.

Is it something topical? Good. But if it is too topical, skip it. For instance, Justin Bieber.

Can people identify with it? I once wrote a blog post about my fear of becoming boring. But most people think that they are fascinating. Nobody would relate. Additionally, the post itself was boring. So I scrapped it.

Does it pass the “find yourself hilarious” test? My best posts have been the ones that made me snort while writing. This is a true litmus test. If you can barely stand how funny it is, the post is probably going to be at least amusing to one or two of your readers. So far, however, I have not chortled at this post. But give me time.

Are you making a point? People look for meaningful posts. They like to be reminded to smell the roses or live life to the fullest. However, if you are a humorist, making fun of rose smelling and inspirational ideas is a better bet. Sarcasm is good. Satire is good. Rhetorical questions are good. But if you are fond of being rhetorical, take the comments off your blog, because they will just infuriate you. Aren’t answers to rhetorical questions just idiotic? See, that one was rhetorical.

Finally, keep it short. Whenever I click on someone’s post, with great hope and anticipation, if I have to scroll down more than once, I become exhausted. Lots of paragraphs look kind of like eternity to me. So if you want folks to read your entire post, stop at five hundred words or less. Brevity is the soul of wit. (that guy was a genius)

There you have it. Advice from the front lines. Pun intended, but maybe not such a good idea. Do you want to start a blog? Don’t bother. Just read mine. Ugh–This one was 600 words. Oops.

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