PEAKING TOO EARLY

I have a love/hate relationship with the Fall. It is glorious, the leaves gold, orange, and red–almost blindingly bright in the sunlight. Breathtaking.  There is so much to look forward to. Thanksgiving, brisk walks scuffing through piles of leaves, reading a book in front of the fire. Then comes Christmas, with all of its delights.

But I have issues. I haven’t even begun to assemble stuff for Thanksgiving dinner, and yet there are Christmas commercials on television. Christmas commercials have a tremendously buoying effect on me. I get all excited, sugarplums dance in my head, I feel all warm and cozy looking at those professional actors pretending to be happy families. I love their table settings. I think their Christmas trees are so perfect. They all wear pajamas that match, and the children are perky and they never seem to poke one another or the dog.

I watch these commercials, and I get so excited for Christmas, I can hardly stand it. No matter that there are what, seven weeks to go? It doesn’t seem like that long, really.

However, by the time it is actually Christmas season, I am sick to death of the damn Christmas carols, the damn chipper matching-pj families, the perfect trees, the sleigh bells, and the overpriced merchandise these commercials are touting.

Yes. The damn Christmas marketers have caused me, once again, TO PEAK TOO EARLY. My Christmas enthusiasm has long ago died down, I am ready to take the tree down on December 23, and I dread cleaning up all that gift wrap and ribbon detritus. Christmas dinner is a damn CHORE. I am sick of St. Nick.

I am willing myself to slow down this year. To try to put Christmas out of my mind until December first. I am going to fast-forward through all those commercials. I am going to simmer down.

Don’t get me STARTED on the catalogs…

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

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COPING

The next couple of days will be tense. Many of us are hoping against hope that the complexion of Congress will change. In the meantime, to reduce anxiety, we cope in various ways. Here is what I am doing:

I read books about little houses that are very cozy. The people who live in them drink tea, have fires, play games like Whist (which sounds cozy; I have no idea what it actually is), toast bread over the fire, and write letters by hand. The images I carry around with me of, for instance, the Bronte sisters, are colored by the PBS shows I have seen about them. Their parlors look warm, they look perfectly comfortable wandering the moors in their long dresses and mere capes or shawls around their shoulders. Bunk, I know that. Their clothes were probably tattered, they had chilblains, and they probably ate food that none of us in today’s America would consider palatable.

Sometimes I like to daydream about where I would move if I had the money to have another home somewhere. Paris? London? New York? Certainly, if it were in London or Paris, there would be a romantic balcony or back garden, full of gorgeous plants and flowers. The fact that 1) I really don’t like being outdoors, and 2) I hate gardening, is no matter.

New York would be my first choice. I am torn between having a roomy, Prewar apartment or a brownstone in Brooklyn. The apartment would have a large terrace (again with the outdoors!) on which there would be potted trees, a tall barrier that I could see through, but one that would keep my cats in. I would have a grassy area, comfortable yet Architectural Digest-worthy furniture. An awning for hot days. I would have a small kitchen with an ocular window over the copper sink. A library, of course. A fireplace that actually works. Hardwood floors and a bathroom with a very deep soaking tub.

In my brownstone, there would be floor to ceiling windows. A dining room with a fireplace. Large, square bedrooms, also with fireplaces. Maybe a hidden room behind a bookcase, where my grandchildren could play. A beautiful, private garden (I guess there would be a gardener), where miraculously, I would actually enjoy sitting with my coffee and a book.

At Christmas, in all of my imaginary second homes, family would assemble, and the Christmas tree would be twinkly and tall, something that passers-by would admire from the snowy street. There would be libations and cookies and a big party on Christmas Eve (Despite the fact that in my actual life, I am not a fan of parties. I hate small talk. Oh, let’s just be real: I am not big on large groups of people.). We would play board games.

Fantasies are helpful in times of stress. Starving people imagine feasts. Tortured people imagine pleasure. Immigrating people, exhausted and broken, imagine welcome. We all imagine Peace.

Let’s all hope that on Wednesday, none of us here in America will need to use our imaginations.

 

 

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TROUBLED WATERS

If only our world looked like this. But it doesn’t; and all of us are stressed, worried, heartsick, anxious, and you can add as many negative adjectives to the list that you would like. It is a time of trouble here in our country, and all over the world.

This isn’t new. But in the age of social media, it is everywhere: news of deaths, murders, hate, politics, war, famine, and you name it. Some people become addicted to Twitter, logging on every ten minutes, because that is how fast the news hits. I have to stop this. Others wall off social media, vowing to insulate themselves from the onslaught. I don’t know the answer.

So I read beautiful literature. I take naps. I scroll through photos of my grandchildren.  I take more Tylenol than ever before.

Friends are absolutely essential. Going out to dinner. Laughing. We ban any discussion of politics, and tell old jokes. We have dessert.

I donate to my favorite causes. That gives me a feeling that I have a little bit of power over what may happen in the world. Good grief, I write my Congressmen at least once a week. The Republican one never answers. The Democrats always do. I pin a lot of hopes on the midterm elections. My fingers hurt from being crossed.

I am looking forward to being able to light a fire in the fireplace. That is soothing. Cozy. Although my husband hates it, I like to make chili and eat in front of the fire. He likes the chili, but prefers eating in the kitchen–but he goes along.

Tea. That is another thing I look forward to in the winter. Tea and television–watching people shop for homes in foreign countries. If they are looking for a flat in Paris, I will watch that one twice.

You know those blankets that are supposed to reduce anxiety? I am thinking I might get one of those. They are supposed to be heavy. Somehow, the weight of them makes you feel as if you are in your mother’s arms, or a nest of some sort. But they ask you how much you weigh when you order one; I guess so that the blanket won’t be so heavy that it will suffocate you. But I draw the line on telling random blanket makers my weight. The data scrapers already know too much about me (thank you, Facebook).

I draw pictures. Take pictures of my cats. Look at dog videos on Instagram. Watch all the blooper reels on YouTube. Clean closets. Buy bouquets at Trader Joes. Take longer showers. Hope.

One foot in front of the other. One day at a time.

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THE ONE ABOUT THE GUY AND THAT THING

I read so many books. When I finish one, I immediately start another. This creates all kinds of problems. One of them is that not only do I read something that is really good, but  I immediately forget the title because I am already reading something else. So when a friend asks for a book recommendation, I cast around in my head for a glimmer of something identifiable about that book, and come up with something lame, like “I forget the title, but it’s about a guy. I think it was a guy. He was solving a mystery about a set of bones. No, wait. He was an invalid. It could have been a woman, actually. The title had the word window in it, as I recall.”

The plots blend together, like a sort of mash. Murders, affairs–people who get or find letters from other, long-dead people. Characters named Bartholomew. Woods. A lot of woods. Cold that is compared to needles, electric shock, the eyes of wolves, or the hearts of angry women.

It is rare that I remember the title, plot line, and author of a book I read. I remember authors, because of the gorgeous lines they write, but whoa, I get all those brilliant books sort of mingled up in my head. It is very rare that I have total book recall. So I did some research on my Kindle and got clarification. Here is a list of things that I have read and liked. I have them totally straight in my mind. For this moment!

THE MADWOMAN UPSTAIRS by Catherine Lowell. So terrific–about a young woman who is the last remaining Bronte. You will love it.

THE TWO FAMILY HOUSE by Lynda Cohen Loigman. Great story about family. Comfort reading, in a way.

THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF SAM HELL by Robert Dugoni. An eye doctor with red eyes. Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? It is wonderful.

PACHINKO by Min Jin Lee. A family saga. You will learn a lot about Korea and Japan.

THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER by Karen Dionne. Her father is a serial killer escaped from jail, and he is a master of living in the wilderness. No one could possibly find him. Except for his daughter. And she needs to find him before he kills her and her children.

CLASS MOM by Laurie Gelman. She’s just like the rest of us who suck at being the perfect parent. This was hilarious, and I wish I had written it.

LAURA AND EMMA by Kate Greathead. A mother, single. A daughter. A story of raising a child in an off-kilter and unique way. I loved it.

STANDARD DEVIATION by Katherine Heiny. Another one I wish I had written. A book about marriage, but that isn’t enough to say about it. It’s funny, irritating, and insightful, all at once.

THE SNOW CHILD by Eowyn Ivey. One of the most beautiful books I have ever read.

TELL THE WOLVES I’M HOME by Carol Rifka Brunt. It’s not about wolves. I resisted reading it for so long because I thought that it was. It is about the beauty of true friendship. You will never forget it. Even though I did.

A PIECE OF THE WORLD by Christina Baker Kline. The author is the one that George Herbert Walker Bush groped from his wheelchair, but you shouldn’t read it for that reason. It is about the story behind Andrew Wyeth’s painting Christina’s World, and it is lyrical, entrancing, and one book I have not forgotten or mixed up with any others. So you can see why I have included it here!

THE CHILDREN by Ann Leary. Family. Ugh. Secrets and lies. You will love and hate these people.

There you have it–another book list. I should mention that my own publisher is awaiting what I hope are the final rewrites for my next novel, THE WORLD CAME TO US. We have a book cover and everything! I am starting on this project tomorrow. It has been hanging over me like an overdue term paper. Wish me luck and fantastic similes. I hate metaphors.

 

 

 

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THE PASSION CONTINUES

First it was horse camp. She was six. She got a certificate that she carried around for days afterwards, slept with, and refused to let go of. She was so depressed afterwards, I signed her up for riding lessons.

She was not the typical little girl horse lover. She didn’t like grooming, tying ribbons on the mane, or petting the horse for hours. She wanted to RIDE. So much so, and with such determination that we got her a horse.

Every single damn day, I had to take her to ride the thing. Heat. Rain. Cold. No matter. Then she found out that people who ride horses take their horses to horse shows. So we had to do that, too. In the cold, the rain, the heat, the wind. No matter.

Then that horse wasn’t talented enough. So we had to sell that one and get a better, more talented one. Those people who said that girls lose interest in riding when they discover boys? Wrong. She kept on riding, learning, and going. She spent at least three hours a day at the barn. I kept on driving her there, napping in the car (because it was embarrassing when I did that inside the barn, “My God, Mom!), paying for lessons, tack, riding clothes, and helmets. Another horse. This time for keeps.

High school. College. No let up. She didn’t go away to school, because she didn’t want to leave her horse behind. She didn’t want to stop riding. Thankfully, by then, she drove herself to lessons and shows. Shows all over the country.

Marriage happened. The ceremony was–you guessed it–right in front of her horse’s stall. And graduate school, the start of her teaching career. She kept on riding. We kept on watching her. There were accidents. A broken wrist. Then, one awful day, her horse reared at something that frightened him, fell on her, and broke her pelvis. They both got up, took some days off, and kept on going.

This weekend was Regional Dressage Competition in Lexington, Kentucky. She was there on her newest horse, the one she found when the horse that she loved from childhood through college–the one who looked on as she got married–died after a long struggle. We still mourn.

It was a great weekend. The weather was crisp, the Kentucky Horse Park was as beautiful as always, and Annie did herself proud. She did us proud.

Her passion for riding, her love of horses, and her drive to improve as a rider continues. Her father and I will always be there, on the sidelines, cheering her on. It is a treasured part of all of our lives.

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SABBATICAL

I am taking a one week sanity sabbatical from the blog! See you soon.

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A WEEK OF ANGER AND EXHAUSTION

Women are tired. Tired of being ignored. Tired of having our stories called “lies.” The old white men who currently run this country are relying on methods that have worked for them for generations. They are shortsighted. The days of old white men calling the shots are over. The amount of anger boiling under the surface in this country is about to erupt, and the time of men keeping their thumbs on the fate of women in America is over.

The November elections will be telling, and the days of having a corrupt President and Congress who line up behind him are ending.

I know that as a writer, I may lose readers for expressing my rage at the direction that this country is moving; at the attempts to excuse crimes against us by saying that we “should have told someone the minute it happened,” despite the fact that time after time, women who do report are called “sluts,” shamed for what they were wearing at the time, or simply told that they must not “remember” what really happened.

I am a woman first, a mother and grandmother second, a citizen third, and finally a writer. It is my responsibility to join my voice with those voices that protest the way that the hearings for the next Justice to the Supreme Court have been held. I protest the way the Republicans fall into line behind a corrupt and predatory POTUS in order to further their agenda to take the rights of women away. I am truly frightened at the power that this POTUS is wielding over our country, at his corruption, his predatory behavior, his association with Russia, and the long list of crimes, emolument violations, and other seedy dealings he engages in. We are at risk of losing the comfort, the freedom, and the security that we have come to take for granted as Americans.

Please vote in the November elections. Please put up your hand and demand that the downward spiral that churns in our nation come to a halt. Remember your mothers, your daughters, your sisters. Don’t forget that the majority of women who have been sexually assaulted never report their assaults. An assault that is not reported HAPPENED. Blaming victims for not reporting immediately is refusing to understand the reality that despite reporting their assaults, women like Dr. Christine Ford are attacked, called “confused,” deemed to be liars, blamed for what they drank, and what they wore. They are told to shrug it off: boys will be boys. Just horseplay.

In the coming days and weeks, women will be coming together as never before to tell their stories, to stand up for their rights, and to put an end to the shrill and ugly voices of men such as Chuck Grassley, Lindsay Graham, Donald Trump, and Brett Kavanaugh.

I will stand with them. For me, for my daughters, and for my granddaughter.

 

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FALL…TODAY

Friday, the high was 88 degrees. It was humid, and my AC was going full on, but I still needed to use a catalog (full of sweaters and flannel shirts) to fan myself.

Today, it is 62 degrees. I would like to issue a formal protest. My metabolism is simply not equipped to shift around this fast. Nor is my closet. All my long-sleeved things are way at the back, and if I go to the trouble to root around in my closet and reverse everything so that the summer stuff is in the back, I know that tomorrow the high will be in the high eighties.

Fall in Ohio is this way. It stinks. Not literally, but it is no wonder that people around here get crabby. They make chili, only to find out that it won’t be “chilly” enough the next day to really enjoy it. So they put it in the freezer, make a salad with some nice cottage cheese and cold cuts, and the temperature drops an hour later.

I nearly turned on the furnace this morning, but my husband forbid it, instead turning up the thermostat on the central air system to 79. He does not trust that we won’t be needing the cooling aspect just quite yet. The fact that right now it is 68 degrees in here–and my teeth are chattering–is not enough to change his mind.

So for dinner, I decided to make something we can eat hot OR cold. Genius, right? As long as you consider Campbell’s Tomato Soup unheated to be gazpacho. And a cheese sandwich can be heated up real fast in the microwave.

Just call me The Barefoot Contessa–with socks and shoes on.

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A LIST

My God. There is so much to worry about. To whine about. To lose sleep about. I do all those things. I wager that nearly 75% or more of us are on some sort of medication for all of this. There is no such thing as a slow news day any more. What to do?

I made a list of things to think about when I get down.

  • I have a house.
  • It is a nice house.
  • We have heat and AC.
  • Often, I have to decide between “dish A” and “dish B” for dinner.
  • There is a blouse in my closet that I bought last year and have never worn.
  • Every night, I listen to a cat purr as I go to sleep.
  • I have enough money to donate to hurricane relief.
  • I don’t live in the path of any hurricanes.
  • Coffee.
  • My husband.
  • My two daughters.
  • Two grandchildren, and this is not Fake News, that are more wonderful than any other children on earth.
  • Running water.
  • Books.
  • Masterpiece Theatre.
  • Chapstick.
  • Ice cubes any time I want them.
  • For that matter, electricity.

I could go on and on, but the list would get boring and sanctimonious, if it isn’t already. I should add one more thing: the fact that I can stand up and walk around without assistance.

Make your list.

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