IT’S ALL OVER

By this time of the year, I am totally finished with flowers. The watering. The deadheading, The sweeping all those leaves off the deck. I am ready to throw it all in the trash, go inside, light a fire, and wait for it to snow.

I am a fair weather gardener. Truth be told, I am not a gardener at all. I like to set up the deck with all the plants and cushions, the frog statuettes, the little bowl of acorns, the citronella candles, and then I like to look out at the scene from inside the house, where there are no flies, the AC is on, and I never get sweaty.

Have you ever watched the House Hunter TV shows? The ones where the finicky buyers insist on “an outdoor space?” These people obviously carry a gene that I don’t have. The gene for liking dirt, UV rays, wasps, picnics, and stepping on pebbles in bare feet. Only children should go out there, where they can ride their scooters and chase one another until they are exhausted and will take long naps.

My husband is an outdoor person. He likes to sit on our deck, in his lawn chair, drinking a beer, thinking. He also likes to roam the neighborhood searching for friendly people to exchange conversations with. He loves to be in the sun. I have to drag him inside at dinner time. Sometimes he is so far away that I have to ring the dinner bell to round him up!

He is a golfer, and he was out on the links a couple of days ago, in 88 degree heat, hitting bogies, getting all sweaty, staying hydrated, and enjoying the hell out of it. He loves places that are “tropical.” He hates air conditioning. He wears a sweatshirt inside all summer, because the thermostat is set at 75 degrees, and he thinks it’s “chilly.” Perhaps some of this is due to the fact that he has not one ounce of body fat to keep him warm, and I have enough of that for two people.

I don’t know why I married him.

 

 

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AT YOUR SERVICE

 

Retail establishments are just not what they used to be. But apparently, I am living in the past.

I need some new flats. The sort of flats that are a combination of athletic wear and svelteness. In keeping with today’s casual lifestyle–you know–you can wear them comfortably to walk the dog over cobblestones, and yet they look just fine with black pants in the bistro.

I went to my local shoe store. This store has been around for years. I took my toddlers there for their first shoes. It is the kind of place where there are “foot measurers” and those low stools for the salespeople to sit on when they put your shoes on for you. And I am telling you right now that this is a travesty.

I wore my old flats to the store. I felt that by doing this, the helpful salesperson would know exactly what I was looking for.

SALESWOMAN: “May I help you?” Gee, she’s a little scowly…

ME: Motioning to my feet, “Yes. I am looking for another pair of flats like these.”

HER: Still not smiling, “We don’t sell that style any more.”

ME: “I realize that. But I am looking for this type of flat. You know, with the cushioning, athletic-type sole.”

HER: “Look around. All of our shoes are displayed on the shelves along the walls.”

I immediately had a question that I was unable to ask her, as she had already walked away. Why on earth did she ask me if she could help me if she had no intention of doing it? Is this the new normal? Is there no training for salespeople these days? And if that is all they do, why have them at all? Just one person at the stockroom door and another at the cash register would be sufficient.

I began to wander around, looking at all the shoes. There were quite a few that looked promising, so I picked them up. Pretty soon, it was a struggle to browse with all those shoes in my arms, and luckily, another saleswoman, one who had probably been trained in 1968, approached.

NEW SALESPERSON:  “Would you like me to look for these in your size? I would be happy to take them for you. What size do you need? And I see you are looking for stylish walking shoes. When I am in the stockroom, may I bring out a few other styles you might like? Just have a seat, and I will be back in a moment.”

I sat down and looked for my original salesperson. She was leaning on the flip-flop endcap, checking her phone–probably for texts from her bae (whatever that is). I vowed to make an example of her. When new salesperson came back with six shoeboxes, I shook my head and said to her, “See that young woman over there? The one with the phone? She offered to help me when I walked in…”

New saleswoman smiled broadly. “Oh, yes! That is my daughter! She has been working here for six months! She just loves shoes. It’s a match made in heaven, don’t you think?” She chuckled.

I swallowed my gum.

 

 

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PACKING

What a horrible week! Fires, hurricanes, floods. It seems like the apocalypse, but my husband says it isn’t, and since I believe everything he says, I am not scared out of my wits yet.

But watching all of those poor souls who lost everything but what they could carry with them got me thinking. What would I take if somebody told us a hurricane was coming and I had to leave in a couple of hours?

The cats. This might be all we could manage, because they absolutely hate being loaded up into the carriers. It would take every bit of time they gave us to round them up. Once we stuffed one in, another might escape. But assuming we could drag them by their tails and load them into the car, what else?

Medications. Sweep them into a dopp kit along with soap, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste. Hurry, hurry! The pills, the pills! Okay then. My jewels? That’s easy; I am wearing them! Wait, they said to take food and water! Okay–three bags of chips, Triscuits, get that jar of salsa, and fill up some water bottles. Check! Grab that six-pack of Corona!

Kibble. Oh my God, cat litter! And at least one cat box. We are not making good time!

They said clothes-go upstairs and get your jeans and my new leggings–I can’t look drab at the shelter! Only the good golf shirts–take four. Check! UNDERPANTS!!!

One hour left? My God! We pass each other racing around the living room. Get the computers and the phones! What are you doing? Put that ACCORDION down! 

Tick, tick. Okay–a bunch of bananas, some cheese sticks (only the Sargento–the Kraft ones are awful), and maybe a bag of frozen berries so we don’t get scurvy, hurry UP! What are we forgetting? OMG my leg pillow! And while you are upstairs, grab the Tums and some aspirin!

Oh,  grab our Wedding Album! No, no! That’s the scrapbook of our trip to Niagara Falls! Never mind, drop it! We can just remember our wedding! And don’t even think of taking your golf clubs! Come, ON! Wait–grab your nasal trimmer!

I read an article that named the ten safest cities in the United States, disaster-wise. Dayton was number six. This is a blessing, because my husband and I would be among the first to die, as soon as the Triscuits and Corona were gone.

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THE WARRIOR

I began my writing career as a reader. I had no intentions of ever becoming an author; if you had asked me at age 50 who I was, I would have said, “I am a teacher, a parent, and a reluctant housewife.” I have never kept journals, jotted down story ideas, or dreamed of spinning tales that would be read by thousands.

Nope. But what I did do was read. As a child, I would become so immersed in my books that my mother would have to touch me to get my attention, because calling my name was futile.

I identified completely with the heroines of the books that I read, especially those precocious girls who had deep souls, the need to be heard, and the courage to step up to the adults around them and demand attention. Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables) and I were “kindred spirits.” She was just like me: an adult being, one who saw and felt with tremendous maturity-but who was “trapped,” albeit temporarily, in a child’s body.

Nancy Drew. Jo March. Eloise. Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. These were courageous girls. They stood up to adults, and they never gave up being themselves-no adult could keep them down! These girls became a part of me, and as I grew (late in life!) into a writer of fiction, I knew that the idea of the girl warrior would play a big part in the stories I wrote.

In Keep the Ends Loose, my first novel, Mandy Heath, a 15 year old, is drawn into a family drama of epic proportions when her mother decides to track down a long-lost relative. When things get dicey, it isn’t the adults who hold things together, it is quirky Mandy and her “sophisticated” best friend Barley who brave the storm and ultimately save the day. Mandy discovers that the adults in her world are no less wobbly on their feet than she feels at 15. What a discovery-we are all feeling our way through the world, no matter how “mature” we may be!

My second novel, Crossing the Street, has as its protagonist a very valiant 7 year old, Bob (Roberta) Bowers. Bob at her tender age has already gone through the sorts of traumatic events that many of us in adulthood have not experienced: a drug-addicted mother, a father serving in the Middle East, an ailing grandmother whom she fears might die, and the insecurity of being shunted from home to home. Yet, she never wavers in her enthusiasm for life. Bob is a little warrior, and she marches into the lives of all she meets and makes things better.

As a baby boomer, I grew up and experienced first-hand the ground swell of feminism, the burgeoning anti-Vietnam War protest movement, the racial unrest of the 60’s, and I clung to my childhood heroines’ steadfast optimism and courage. I tried to look at the world through the lens of these girls who never let “stuff” destroy them. It didn’t always work, but the warrior girls never let me down completely. I could always conjure up Jo March’s idealism or Eloise’s refusal to be bossed around. And of course, when the time came for me to have a daughter, I named her Anne.

The warrior. She will never let you forget just how important you are-at age 6 or 60. She is always marching out in front. She is in every one of us.

 

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THE ANCHOR

There are current events. There is aging. The slow disintegration of things like my joints, the thinning of my skin, and the knowledge that my life is no longer an unfolding adventure stretching out in front of me, but instead is a diminishing little mound of sand in an hourglass.

I think about what is behind me, and then the ever smaller measure of what is in front of me, and what do I do? I walk around my house and look at everything. The house is a museum-a repository of all the things that I have lovingly saved during my life. Photos of my kids, doing kid-like things, looking enthusiastic and tiny. Now they are facing their own middle age. I have cleared the fridge of their artwork, but now there is a picture my grandson drew. The “circle of life.” It’s comforting.

I love it in here. It is my retreat, my safe place. It anchors everything that I do. I write here. Read here. Nothing is more wonderful that going to bed early with my husband and lying under the ceiling fan,  enjoying the orange walls and the huge windows–listening to podcasts. I hear dogs barking outside, cars swishing by, cicadas thrumming, and I feel secure in here. Untouchable.

We spend our whole lives collecting tokens to remember places, events, and people. Then we curate them in our homes, placing them in pleasing arrangements. We look at them as we pass, perhaps smiling with a private memory. Or we bless them as we dust.

By the time we are past retirement, no longer hurrying out of the house to spend hours in offices, studios, or cubbyholes, we stay home. We do our “work” in the kitchen, chopping and dicing.  We turn spare bedrooms into “home offices,” where we Google things. We vacuum more frequently, and we don’t mind  folding laundry in the basement. Beds are changed more often. Windowsills are places for resting our hands as we gaze out at the lawn.

This building isn’t just my home any more. It has taken on a significance that I can’t clearly explain. This is a monument to the life I have lived. It is my own personal museum.

There is peace inside these walls.

 

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