No Matter What

Thirty days ago, I made a promise to myself. I said that I’d post to my blog every single day for the month of November, no matter what. I wasn’t going to try to do it, I was going to do it. No skipped days, no excuses, no chance of changing my mind.

As of this post, I’ve fulfilled that promise.

It wasn’t always pretty, but I did what I set out to do. A few posts were thoughtful and entertaining. Some were utter crap. No matter, the point is that I didn’t get up one morning and decide to blow it off. On more than one occasion, I played a game of beat-the-clock and got my blog posted just minutes before midnight, but I refused to drag my tired ass up the stairs to bed until the task was done.

No skipped days, no excuses, no chance of changing my mind.

What if I applied that mantra to other areas of my life? To minding my budget or my famously hit-or-miss slackeriffic exercise routine? Both my bottom and my bottom line would surely look a little better after 30 days.

I’m steady and solid, yet not all of my habits are stellar. If I didn’t consciously stop myself, I’d fork over five bucks every day for a spectacularly delicious cup of coffee, though I have a machine in my kitchen that brews a really tasty cup. And while my life requires a certain amount of hustle and bustle, my default mode for purposeful exercise is nothing to brag about.

I can do better. This month is proof of that. I can do what I set out to do, even when I don’t feel like it. Even when there’s no paycheck or trophy or choir of cherub-faced eight-year-old sopranos singing my praises at completion.

Yay, me. And yay, NaBloPoMo.


Eighteen Tue-Wednesday Hodgepodginess

A few months back, I happily discovered Joyce’s Wednesday Hodgepodge. Eight weekly questions offered on Tuesdays to be posted on Wednesdays. Then about a month ago, I happenstanced upon Chelsea’s Ten on Tuesday, a similar weekly Q&A;, presented on Mondays and posted, um, on Tuesdays (like that logic?).

Sometimes, the questions are simple. “Favorite fest/carnival foods?” Have you seen my ass? If it’s fried, covered in cheese, chocolate, or powdered sugar, I’m all over it (the foods, not my ass).

Occasionally, more serious topics are broached. Politics, religion, capital punishment, abortion—you know, the stuff that will either win you friends or have people organizing protests outside your door. The hubs rarely shares his opinions on controversial topics with anyone besides me because he has no desire to incite rioting. I usually like those questions best.

Some weeks, I participate in Joyce’s blog hop, sometimes Chelsea’s. Occasionally, I piggyback them but I think it’s safe to assume that two straight days of me-me-me Q&A; might tax the patience of even the most steadfast readers, so I usually choose. This week, I’m combining the questions offered by both ladies into one fest-o-rama of all-about-what-I-think-ness.

Wait! A fest? Can someone direct me to the fried dough booth, please?

Ten on Tuesday:

1. Do you wear glasses, contacts, or are you one of those perfect eyed people?
I got my first pair of glasses in 5th grade. I was already going through a bit of an awkward phase, so the super-cool octagon-shaped frames were certainly a wise choice. I remember my mom trying to gently steer me toward some more normal pairs, but I saw those and was immediately smitten. It’s an age-old story, and even moms can’t stand in the way of true love.

2. What is the next item you are going to purchase?
The DVD player croaked earlier while playing Tangled, my two-year-old grandson’s current obsession, so I’m guessing that in a few hours, I’ll be in line at Target with a new one in my cart. I’m going to have to crack open the old machine to retrieve the movie because the player decided to die while the disc was sucked up in its innards.

“Grammy, we watch the horse movie?”

Seriously, who could refuse his uber-cuteness?

3. Have you ever watched Judge Judy or any other real court show?
Ages and ages ago, I occasionally watched The People’s Court. That was back when Judge Wapner was presiding, but now when I hear “Wapner,” I think of Rainman.

4. How do you feel about fake nails?
I only like them when people keep ‘em looking really natural. If it’s obvious that they’re fake, I think they’re a little nasty. Nothing says classy like three inch nails with the Chicago skyline airbrushed on them.

5. What is your favorite sport to watch?
Football, baby!

6. If you could create your own Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor, what would it be and what would it be named?
Cinnamon ice cream, oatmeal cookie chunks, and plenty of pieces of alphabet-shaped dark chocolate. I’d call it Cinnfully WordNerdalicious.

7. Do you have any scars?
I have a fingertip-sized chicken pox scar at the top of my forehead and a fairly decent-sized (but light) scar on my back from a car accident that happened when I was young and foolish enough to ride in cars with idiot boys. Oh, and if stretch marks count, my twins scarred me plenty.

8. Does your pet’s name fit them? Is there a more appropriate name?
We have a young Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Oliver. He obeys my husband unquestioningly, but when I tell him to do anything at all, he cocks his head and looks at me as if to say, “Yeah, I’m thinking no,” and then he sits there, utterly unwilling to comply.

In literature, Oliver was an orphan, right? Yeah, his name might turn out to be just perfect for him. I usually call him “Jackwagon” or “Dickweed,” unless the grands are visiting.

9. What is your favorite television show theme song?
I like that whistled tune from The Andy Griffith Show, and it may or not be amongst the really cool tunes in my iPod. Maybe I should see if they make octagon-shaped glasses in adult sizes.

10. What was your favorite activity on the playground?
I loved the swings. Still do.

Wednesday Hodge Podge:

1. Do you send Christmas cards? If so about how many will you send this year? How do you display the cards you receive? Or don't you? (gasp!)
We do send cards, though fewer than we did years ago. This year, I’ll probably mail out about 70-80. As far as the cards we receive, if they have photos (my favorites!), they get taped to the fridge. The rest go into a pretty holidayish container on the mantle.

2. When do kids become adults?
That varies. I was pretty much born an adult. I know a few fifty-somethings who are still not there.

3. Does your 'beauty regimen' change with the seasons?
I trade summer sunscreen for winter moisturizer, but other than that, not really. My ‘beauty regimen,’ for what it’s worth, consists mainly of clean skin morning and night, and fairly natural make-up in between.

4. What's something you like to eat that might cause another person to turn up their nose?
I love sausage and sauerkraut, but I’m the only person in my family who does. When the kids were growing up and it was slated for dinner, one of them would almost always call their dad at work to tip him off and then he’d stop on his way home for a sack of burgers. In retrospect, I probably should have told them that I was thinking of making the stuff any time I had a taste for cheeseburgers, which, if you know me, you know means pretty much every day.

5. Gloves or mittens?
Gloves. Warm ones.

6. What's the longest queue you've ever been in? Was it worth it? Queue=line but doesn't queue sound nicer?
Queue does sound nicer. I prefer ‘nappy’ to diaper, ‘fringe’ to bangs, ‘holiday’ to vacation, and ‘candy floss’ to cotton candy, too—and I’m sure that most of us on this side of the pond think that ‘bugger off’ sounds less vulgar than its American alternative.

Oh, and as far as that queue, I once waited for hours and hours to get tickets to a multi-band concert that was held at U.S. Cellular Field back when it was Comiskey Park. I no longer remember who was playing, but at the time, I thought the concert was well worth the wait.

7. Besides Christmas, what is one thing you are looking forward to in the month of December?
I’ll be turning 50, which according to several of my over-50 friends, means that on that day and for the remainder of my life, I’ll have the right to voice any thought that pops into my head. I’d like to stay married, befriended, and employed, though, so I’m not sure acting upon that particular suggestion would be all that wise.

8. Insert your own random thought here.
I’m thinking about whether or not to post my 5th grade picture. Until a few months ago when I came across a handful of copies, I thought I had destroyed all photographic evidence of that day in the red velvet jacket and octagon glasses, but no. It lives on.

Ah, what the heck. Snazzy, right?


Wish Lists

A few weeks ago, I asked each of the grands to start thinking about what they wanted for Christmas. They’re sweet, unassuming kids, but when given carte blanche by a willing grandmother, I figured they’d be up to the task.

They were.

On Thanksgiving, I checked to see if they’d prepared the lists that I’d requested, and was given several hand-written and mostly correctly-spelled requests. I was thoroughly impressed and more than a little excited about granting a few of those wishes.

After secret pow-wows with their parents to determine which gifts met with their approval (they’re easy and thus far have never denied us any opportunity for grandparenting delight, but I check, nonetheless) and which, if any, might have already have found their way on either Santa’s or the other sets of grandparents’ lists, the hubs and I called dibs on a few of the coveted goodies and got to shopping.

It’s good to be Grammy.

This afternoon, I called my daughter-in-law to see how she’s feeling and how my newest granddaughter, who is due to arrive sometime around Valentine’s Day, is brewing. I’m happy to report that both ladies are doing well. I let her know that I’d found a few of the items on her little guy’s list and we both marveled at how wonderful it must be to be five. You make a list of all the stuff you want and in about a month, you get it. All of it. Delivered to your door. For free. It's even wrapped in shiny paper and topped with bows. And the people who got you the stuff are every bit as happy to give it as you are to get it. You feel overwhelmed with happiness, completely indulged, thoroughly loved, and are pretty sure that you must have been born under a lucky star.

Nice gig, if you can get it.


Written for the BFF Monday prompt: “All I Want for Christmas.”
Photo courtesy of Morgue File, which offers lots of wonderful, free images for public usage.


GBE 2: Blog On -- Week #28: “BUCKET LIST”

GBE 2: Blog On -- Week #28: “BUCKET LIST”

As always, the guidelines are simple. Blog on this week’s prompt in any way you see fit. Once you’ve posted to wherever you normally blog, drop the URL to your post into the comment section below.

REMINDER: use the URL to your entry for this week’s specific topic post, NOT to your blog’s home page!

If you haven’t already done so, you are welcome to join GBE 2 at its main headquarters over on Facebook (We’re nearing 200 active members and we’re still growing!). Just visit GBE 2’s Facebook page and request to join the group. Everyone is welcome, so tell your friends! :O)

For those of you who use Twitter, the hashtag for the group's posts is #GBE2, and we can increase readership if we all tweet early and tweet often. ;O)

That’s it! Easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy!

You have until Saturday (12-3-11) to post your blog and leave your link…

Again, this week, our prompt is: BUCKET LIST

Ready. Set. Blog!

Happy blogging!


Hooves and Horns

I’m a little discombobulated by this shortened work week and it’s been made even stranger by the hubs having been gone last weekend and again this. Nothing is as it usually is, and that weirds me out a little. Add to that the daily NaBloPoMo blog-o-rama and November’s end has me posting a lot of utter crapola just to check it off the list.

You know, like this.

Which reminds me. Thank you for sticking this out and not bailing. I definitely owe you one.

Back in April, I blogged my way from A to Z without posting too many blogs that were the equivalent of fast-food: cheap, quick, and not very satisfying. Some of my April posts were actually quite tasty.

Then in May, a bunch of the crazier bloggers blogged back from Z to A and of course, being borderline certifiable, I blogged along. I just went back to peek and sure enough, I found some really good stuff in May, too.

Two straight bloggity months and not much was filler. This month, if my blog were a dog food, it certainly wouldn’t be one of those premium, meaty brands. Nope, this week I’m churning out Ol’ Roy, Walmart’s own pooch food that’s made from mostly corn and ‘meat and bone meal,’ which in real-people terms, means a mixture of stomach contents, bones, skin, manure, hair, hooves and horns. Yummy, right?

Yeah, well, that’s pretty much been my blog this month.

Rather than trying really hard to make up for a somewhat shoddy month by producing a few days of blogs so glorious they’d make the angels sing, I think my plan is to wrap up the last days of November in a manner befitting the bulk of it: a little bit of good stuff swimming in a pool of stench.

Hey, at least I’m consistent.


Info about the um, nutritional value of Ol’ Roy provided by Dog Food Chat.

Photo courtesy of Morgue File, which offers lots of wonderful, free images for public usage.


It’s Delightful, It’s Delicious, It’s De-Lovely

This is one lovely blog. Yeah, that’s right, I said it. My blog is lovely. Don’t take my word for it though, just ask Kelly, for she has kindly declared it so. And Kelly, in case you didn't know, is a very wise woman, therefore it must be true. Thanks, Kelly!

Now it’s my turn, for the recipients of the One Lovely Blog Award are asked to pass it along to the writers of other delightful, delicious, delectable, de-lovely blogs. My picks are:

Darlene ~ Bloggity Blogger
Today’s Working Woman
Fried Oreos
Angela Parson Myers
My Wandering Mind
Linda Says

So please be sweet, my chickadee, and when I kiss ‘ya, just say to me, “It's delightful, it's delicious, it's delectable, it's delirious, it's dilemma, it's de limit, it's deluxe, it's de-lovely.” ~ Kudos to Cole Porter.


Meet the Bloggers: To Create, To Live, To Appreciate

Some people are born wise. They get it, that magical ‘it’ that some folks spend their entire lives chasing. This sense of knowing is innate and they are often beacons for others, providing examples of how to live and love with grace.

MB is one of those people, and though her chronological age says she’s young, she’s definitely and old soul. Or a smarty-pants. Or both.

In any case, I love her warmth, wisdom, and outlook on life. I’ll go on the record right now as saying that while MB is a very impressive young woman, I think she’s barely scratched the surface of all that she will become, and I look forward to seeing the wonderful things she’ll accomplish. I predict that she'll blaze a trail of happiness, and those she encounters will feel truly blessed.


Each week, I spotlight a favorite blog/blogger. I hope you’ll visit MB at her blog, To Create, To Live, To Appreciate. If you do, please tell her I said hello.

Oh, and I swiped the above pic from one of her blogs, 100% without her permission. But really, isn’t she beautiful?


Giving Thanks


Written for this week's BFF topic, "What I am Thankful For."


Tasty Tuesday?

Today was looooong. Dinner was:

Pitiful, right?

Know what's even worse? This post is gonna have to count for my NaBloPoMo Post 'o the Day.

Sad, but true. Checkity-check-check.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

What's so Funny?

Have you ever laughed at a terribly inappropriate time? In this age of political correctness (oh, how I abhor that term), inappropriate laughter might mean chuckling at a joke that plays on stereotypes or one that makes a proper Southern lady blush, but those aren’t the situations I’m referring to.

I’m talking about those weird cases of the giggles that crop up from deep in your gut and won’t be silenced, no matter how desperately you try and no matter how badly your laughter might be received. You just remembered a time when that happened, didn’t you?


I recall a few incidents of such laughter in high school. My best friend and I, both goody-two-shoes types, sat side by side in a math class taught by a rather solemn and stern lecturer. Math, apparently, was very serious business. I’m not sure what it was about this man, but he cracked me up. My friend, too. Had it just been one of us, the situation would have likely remained manageable, but since we both had the same reaction to his furrowed brow and sober style, it was trouble.

I’d look to my right and see her barely holding it together and then we’d both just lose it. He was not even a teeny bit amused. The worst part, of course, was that when he got all pissy about two cackling fourteen-year-olds screwing up his carefully orchestrated presentation on the fabulousness of Cavalieri’s Principle, it just made us laugh harder. We weren’t trying to be disrespectful—our nerdy natures didn’t really allow for that—but it was out of our control.

I’ve experienced just one memorable case of inappropriate laughter as an adult. Some years back, my daughter and I signed up for a yoga class and on the day of the first session, we rushed out after work. Because we were running late, we grabbed a couple of cheeseburgers and some fries from the drive-through on our way. We arrived at class and placed our mats on the floor between two cotton-wearing, granola-eating types. The room was dimly lit and the instructor spoke slowly and quietly, tranquil to just this side of comatose. I truly believe that if the place had been engulfed in flames, she would have remained serene, at one with the beauty of nature’s inferno.

The teacher smiled gently and informed her new students that yoga is best performed on an empty stomach, but if that was impractical, a very light snack could be consumed during the pre-class hours. I heard my daughter giggle just a little at the instructor’s dietary recommendation and when I looked over at her, she pointed to her belly which was, like mine, full of beef and fried potatoes. I smiled, but a few of the cotton-wearers did not, and they shot her nasty looks. Their disdain fed her giggles and after a minute or two, she couldn’t take it anymore. She quickly gathered up her mat, block, and towel, and scurried out of the room and into the hall. I watched through the windowed partition as she doubled over and cackled, and felt a bit of the same welling up in me. A few classmates seemed genuinely distressed and looked back and forth between us trying to decide who to hate more. I picked up my stuff and joined my daughter. I don’t think we stopped laughing until we were well down the road.

Both adults. Just pitiful.

The very worst act of wrongful giggling that I’ve ever committed happened when I was not quite seventeen. It was, I’m almost afraid to tell you, at my mother’s wake. I adored my mom, truly, and was heartbroken by her death. I miss her to this day and would gladly give up a semi-necessary body part to have just one dinner with her, so I assure you that I did not find anything funny about becoming a motherless child. Yet there I was, standing before her open casket, unable to stop the rush of nervous laughter that bubbled up from deep within.

I’d approached the casket with my niece, who at just a year younger than me has always felt like more of a sister than my sisters, and we bowed our heads to pray. We stood there for several minutes, devastated and somewhat disbelieving. My niece held my hand and placed her other hand atop my mom’s. I reached out and stroked my mom’s cheek, and then gently touched her hair.

My mom had always favored a natural, easy look, and only visited the salon on those rare occasions when it seemed unavoidable, yet the undertaker had seen fit to fashion her hair into an old-ladyish curly style that she would never have worn. When my fingers touched the curl by her ear, the lock of hair fell away. Another small curl followed, and then one more. Apparently, they’d snipped some of her hair and then placed it to achieve the desired shape, but failed to seal the arrangement with hairspray. Those were Aqua Net years, so there really was no excuse.

I felt the laughter rumble and I tried to suppress it. My niece squeezed my hand and as she leaned into me, I could feel her body shaking. I glanced over and noticed that she too was doing her best to contain a wild, untamed laugh, and we stood there, pressed tightly together, trembling and laughing, and though we managed to minimize the volume of our laughter, enough sound escaped to draw the attention of my father, who came up behind and embraced us. Later, he said he’d felt terrible when he saw the two of us, so clearly distraught, crying and shaking and unable to stop. I smiled and I was sure that somewhere, my mom smiled, too.


Written for this week’s GBE topic: “Laughter.”

Photo courtesy of Morgue File, which offers lots of wonderful, free images for public usage.


GBE 2: Blog On -- Week #27: “LAUGHTER”

GBE 2: Blog On -- Week #27: “LAUGHTER”

As always, the guidelines are simple. Blog on this week’s prompt in any way you see fit. Once you’ve posted to wherever you normally blog, drop the URL to your post into the comment section below.

REMINDER: use the URL to your entry for this week’s specific topic post, NOT to your blog’s home page!

If you haven’t already done so, you are welcome to join GBE 2 at its main headquarters over on Facebook (We’re nearing 200 active members and we’re still growing!). Just visit GBE 2’s Facebook page and request to join the group. Everyone is welcome, so tell your friends! :O)

For those of you who use Twitter, the hashtag for the group's posts is #GBE2, and we can increase readership if we all tweet early and tweet often. ;O)

That’s it! Easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy!

You have until Saturday (11-26-11) to post your blog and leave your link…

Again, this week, our prompt is: LAUGHTER

Ready. Set. Blog!

Happy blogging!


Congratulations to Me?

When we got back from our honeymoon, one of the first things I did was to go through my hubby’s closet and pitch out a bunch of his clothes. Some of that stuff his mother bought—when he was in high school.

Left to his own devices, the man would never throw anything away.

I take the opposite stance on stuffage. If I haven’t used it in recent memory and don’t have a specific plan to use it soon, it’d better have sentimental value or it’s so gone. Charity resale shops love me.

The hubs and I differ in our opinions of which items in the fridge have worn out their welcome, too. Again, he goes with keep it and I’m inclined to fill a Hefty bag with half-full (See! I am an optimist!) bottles of salad dressing and hot sauce. I obey ‘use by’ dates and he thinks they’re for sissies. “It’s fine; it’s been refrigerated,” is a sentence heard with some frequency at my house, though I’ve never once said it.

Here’s the thing, though. I can’t gather bags of stuff to kick to the curb without my hubby looking over my shoulder and scowling. Unless, of course, I wait until he’s out of town for a few days. Like now.

It always goes pretty much like this: While he and his friends tromp through the woods in search of Bambi’s descendants, I hit the closets and dressers. Hard. His first. Ugly NASCAR tee-shirts? Adios. Even uglier hats? Bye-bye. Socks that have lost their elasticity since the last woods-tromping weekend? Gone. He would keep all of that, especially the hats. What is it with men and hats?

Then, my stuff. Nylons? Hasta la vista. I so rarely wear them that when I do, I’m never sure if the ones in the drawer are snagged or not, so I go buy a new pair. Then after they’re washed, they go into the drawer of doom, where they wait until their number is up. Today, six pairs got the chair.

Ugly shirts? Godspeed to them. How do I get so many ugly shirts? I’m not a big shopper and there are only a few gift-giving holidays in a year, yet ugly shirts seem to take up residence in my closet. Anyway, today was eviction day and my wardrobe is now free of ugly shirts. Temporarily, I’m sure. Next, the jeans. Jeans that haven’t fit my fanny in five years? Well, I might hang onto those for just a while longer. Hey, I could be a size 6 again.

I could.


After the closets, I start on the cupboards and fridge. If I’m not sure, out it goes. After work today, I shit-canned half of a package of salami, some cream cheese, the aforementioned salad dressing and hot sauce, some weird unopened jar of apricot preserves that came from God knows where, cheese singles that aren’t real cheese and that no one in the house eats but somehow manage to find their way into our fridge every now and then, and a few bottles of creepy pickled stuff that can’t possibly be fit for human consumption, whether or not they’ve reached the manufacturer’s approved usage date. Artichokes and asparagus are lovely foods, but it’s just wrong to soak them in brine and then release them on the unsuspecting public.

By the end of the evening, I’d hauled a few 13-gallon bags to the trash and lined up a few more to donate. I looked around, pleased at my progress, and treated myself to a dish of Edy’s chocolate yummiliciousness while I congratulated myself on being dazzlingly smart.

We have a system. He keeps, and then I toss. Even though I do it when he’s not looking, we both know it’s happening. And to be honest, I’m not 100% sure that he doesn’t secretly support my household purging sessions. I have a sneaking suspicion that while I’m up on a stepstool pulling crap from the high shelves and feeling all stealthy because he’s out with the boys drinking beer and eating red meat, he’s patting himself on the back for knowing that he’ll come home to closet, dresser, cabinet, and refrigerator perfection without having lifted a finger.

Maybe I should have sent him with the congratulatory ice cream.


Oh, and though this has nothing at all to do with being a saver, a cleaner-outer, or a smarty-pants, I have to include this video because the song has been rockin’ around in my head ever since I commented about men and hats.


Photo courtesy of
MorgueFile. Thank you!


The Dinosaur Dragon

The toy you see pictured above is in my daycare. Earlier today, I called it a dinosaur and was quickly corrected by a child who doesn't yet tie his own shoes. "It's a dragon."

Okay, it's a dragon. I'm fine with that.

Later in the day, we were cleaning up and I asked the same child to put the balls that go with that toy by it. "Can you put these by the green dragon for me?" I asked.

He looked at me like I was nuts. "It's a dinosaur."

Smarter than a 5th grader? I'm having trouble keeping up with the preschool crowd. ;O)


Meet the Bloggers: Life with a Parasite

For the second installment of my series spotlighting some of my favorite blogs/bloggers, I’d like to introduce you to Julia, who paints a fun and realistic picture of marriage, parenting, and the ongoing quest to expand the family, on her blog, Life with a Parasite. If you’re looking for sugary-sweet stories of powdery scented babies and never-ending bliss, keep walking. But if you understand that loving your kid with all your heart doesn’t mean that every mommy-moment is covered with candy sprinkles, click on over and visit The Host.

Rather than telling you about this smart, funny mom, I think I’ll browse her blog for a minute and steal her words quote her directly. I’d never do her justice anyway.

  • “…I finally found an exercise class that starts after The Parasite goes to bed. See, she only gets me from 5:00 - 8:00 during the week, and I think she's entitled to every one of those hours unless it's completely unavoidable. I know taking care of myself is important, but she's only going to be really little for a very short time. There will be more me time when she's older and won't have a fucking thing to do with me.”

  • “Before we left my mom taught The Parasite how to say "Happy Anniversary" (or something close to it) and it was cute as hell. But do you know how she REALLY said Happy Anniversary? By getting up at 5:30 instead of her usual 7:00 on Saturday morning. Happy Nadabursary indeed!”

  • “It's the hardest job you'll ever have. The hours are long and the pay is shit. And speaking of shit, you'll spend a lot of time up to your elbows in it. Some days you'll ask yourself "What the hell have I done?"
    And the answer is: You have done something amazing.”

Want more? Of course you do. Go. Read. Enjoy.


Unexpected Blessings

My best friend and I have a long-standing, yet unspoken pact. If we know something that the other needs to know, we spill it. When my sisters planned a surprise baby shower for me, I knew about it ahead of time, thanks to the little birdie who had my back. After all, who would want to walk into a room full of camera-toting women looking like a giant beach ball of a chick with wild hair and no make-up? I appreciated the heads-up.

Some years later, when my husband planned (and by ‘planned,’ I mean called my friend to ask for her help in orchestrating the shindig and then contributing no further assistance beyond writing a check) a surprise party to welcome me to the geezerdom that I believed 30 to be, you guessed it—I was tipped off to the when and where. The idea of leaving my twenties behind had been gnawing at me already, so I was grateful to be able to at least crest that hill in a carefully chosen outfit. Now you might assume that if my hubby was going to whisk me and the kids off for the evening, knowing that we were not going to just hang out at my friend’s condo with her and her hubby to devour a giant pizza, he’d make sure that I didn’t head out the door in sweats and ratty tennies, but you’d be dead wrong. The hubs is a wonderful man, but he’s oblivious to stuff like that. Luckily, I’ve got someone who isn’t.

Some surprises are far better when they aren’t a surprise.

Of course, I’ve had some wonderful genuine surprises, too. All of my children were, um, unexpected blessings. Once? Not too bright, but not exactly uncommon. Twice? Well, let’s just say that about a dozen or so hours after we found out that I was again knocked up carrying the wondrous gift of life, my hubby woke to find himself alone in our bed while I was sitting on the rocking chair in the living room, sobbing. A little of that might have been due to hormones, but most of it was because, as I said when he asked what was wrong, I was clearly the stupidest woman who had ever lived. He wrapped his arms around me and assured me that everything would be fine. Plus, he said, I wasn’t the stupidest woman ever. We were the stupidest couple ever. He may or may not have been right about the second part, but he was definitely right about everything turning out alright. The following summer, I gave birth to the perfect, gorgeous twin babies that I’d wanted all my life. And if you’ve read this post, you know the other surprise surrounding their arrival.

Really great surprises. So, I’m definitely not anti-surprise.

Even though I’d been weirded out at the idea of turning 30, I had a much better attitude about aging a decade later. I was comfortable in my own skin, working at a job that I adored, and feelin’ pretty good about life in general. I requested a small family dinner at a favorite restaurant and made my hubby promise that the guest list wouldn’t grow to include a bunch of people who’d jump up and yell when we walked into the place. He complied.

He never promised that there’d be no surprises, though, just no surprise party. When I woke on the morning of my 40th birthday, the house was strangely dark. Our oldest was home from college for Christmas break and I came downstairs to find her and the hubs gobbling huge bowls of cereal and watching TV. The living room drapes were drawn tight, making the place cave-dark, but even with just the light from the television illuminating their faces, I could see that something was up.

I pulled the cord to let in some light, only not much light came in. There was something out there, blocking what little bit of sunlight was available that late-December Chicago morning. My daughter handed me a pair of jeans and I slid them on. We grabbed jackets and headed outside. There, on the itty-bitty front lawn was a giant inflatable birthday cake. The house we lived in at that time was small, but it was two stories tall and the top of the cake’s candle was almost to the roofline. Very cool surprise.

Next month, I’ll turn 50. I’m absolutely good with that age and am not feeling even a little down about being a half-century old. I’m healthy, well-loved, and feelin’ pretty good about life in general. I’m not yet sure how I want to celebrate, but I’ve still got a little bit of time to figure it out. I really don’t want a party and have said so, and since no little birdie has informed me otherwise, I’m guessing that I won’t find myself ambushed by a gaggle of well-wishers bearing black balloons. Although none of my nearest and dearest have given even the slightest hint of anything to come, I’ll bet the day will hold some sort of surprise beyond the appearance of a new wrinkle. And to be honest, I kind of hope it does.


Written for this week’s GBE topic: Surprises.


I'll Never Tell You Where I Hide the Chocolate

It's the day after Monday, and that means it's time for Ten on Tuesday.

1. What are your pantry staples?
K-cups, baking supplies so that I’m always ready for an impromptu cookie-making session with a visiting grand, oatmeal, black beans, black-eyed peas, salsa, and a ridiculous assortment of goodies for the pooch, who really needs to either get a job or stop the doggie snack-fest. Oh, and a wee bit of chocolate stashed behind…hey, wait! You’re just trying to find out where I hide the good stuff, aren’t you?

2. What are your refrigerator staples?
Eggs, cheese, skim milk, Smucker’s Simply Fruit blackberry jam, salad dressing, Miracle Whip Light (yes, I get the ridiculousness of that), apples, oranges, grapes, and whatever other fruit looked too good to pass up.

3. You already look like Heidi Klum (or your favorite supermodel). Now, what are the top three non-physical things you would change about yourself?
I’d never be anxious, I’d be a better saver, and I’d make a practice of getting my butt to bed at a reasonable hour.

4. What’s holding you back from your dream job? (If you already have your dream job, how did you get there?)
Is ‘heiress’ a job? No? How about retiree? Still no? Well, damn.

5. You have $500 to spend but it has to be on one item only. Go.
This should be an easy question, shouldn’t it? I can’t believe nothing’s coming to mind. Oh, wait! I know. I have my mom’s engagement ring, but the back of the band was worn to such thinness that I can’t really wear it, though I’d love to. I’d take the moolah and the ring to the jeweler and have them fatten up that band.

6. What is something that you are embarrassed to admit you buy on a regular basis?
Maybe just that chocolate behind the… Hey! Stop trying to find my chocolate stash.

7. What’s in/on your bed every night?
Sheets, quilt, a couple of pillows, and a couple of almost-geezers.

8. What is a non-necessity item that, no matter how expensive it gets or how tight your budget if, you will always find room for it?
I was going to say K-cups or you know, that chocolate, but in reality, there isn’t a single non-necessity that I can’t live without. We’ve been dirt-dog-broke and while it wasn’t a bunch of fun, a couple of really good things came from it. We found out just how little we really need and also found that we had some truly wonderful friends.

9. What is the weirdest sandwich you’ve ever made?
When I was a kid, I loved yellow mustard and pickle relish on white bread. Just looking at my preferred sandwich made everyone else in my house queasy, but I loved the creepy things. We used to call relish ‘picklelilly.’ I wonder if anyone does that anymore.

10. Would you rather: Be banned from Pinterest forever, but gain a million captive Twitter followers; or, never get on Facebook again but gain five thousand blog readers?
I really like Pinterest and don’t care about Twitter one way or another, so if that were the only part of the question, it’d be easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy. I like Facebook, too, but would trade it for a crowd of blog readers in a New York minute. I could still keep in touch with my fb besties and have a big ol’ blog following. Perfection. I’ll take Option B, please.


Ten on Tuesday Clickety-click if you’d like to join in!


Old Broads, Hippie Hair, and maybe Chocolate Cake

Busy day following a busy weekend equals last-minute blogging. As those of you who read me regularly know, when the clock is ticking, I’m inclined to fall back on my old standby blog: the random list of assorted crapola. So put on your high boots, ‘cause here we go!

  • I have zero gray in my hair. Not a chunk, a streak, or even a strand. Thanks to the miracle workers at Salon D’Amore, I’ve got a nice sampling of well-blended colors sprouting from my noggin, but none of them are gray.
  • I’ve spent the last six months trying to learn to love my gray, but as it grew, I found that I just couldn’t. Love is a funny thing—either it’s there or it’s not. ;O)
  • As I hemmed and hawed over what to do about my hair—cut it or grow it, color it or leave it be—I realized how ridiculous it was that I was giving so much thought and energy to such an frivolous matter. It’s only hair, for the love of Pete. Yet as I grew increasingly tired of seeing an old broad in my bathroom mirror every morning, the only part didn’t seem to compute.
  • Okay, enough about my hair.
  • Well, maybe just one more thing. Not long ago, I envisioned myself growing into one of those cool old ladies who celebrate their naturalness. You know the type: minimal make-up, gorgeous flowy gray hair that hasn’t been tamed into some old lady style, casual, feminine, hippie-style clothing. The anti-elderly-librarian look. I still see all of that in my future, sans the word ‘gray.’
  • Okay, now that really is enough about my hair.
  • The bears kicked some serious Detroit ass yesterday. That rocked, right?
  • Last night, the hubs and I went to the gazillionth grand-re-opening of the place he works. It was really nice—huge turnout, live band in one part of the building, a DJ in another, great food, and free-flowing booze. Not bad. I guess by the time you’ve opened and reopened a gazillion times, you perfect the art of the party.
  • I just clickety-clicked the Firefox icon on my desktop because I’m starting to push my luck on getting this posted before midnight and my plan is to actually complete NaBloPoMo without missing a day this month. Firefox or Comcast, I’m not sure which, seems to be moody and I’m getting that, “server not found” message. If I were a bettin’ woman, I’d say that the smart money is on Comcast being the one screwing up the works, but in any case, they’ve got about half an hour to straighten up and fly right or I’m gonna get cranky.
  • I restarted my computer. Still no internet. Unplugged the whole deal, waited a few minutes, plugged it back in and reset the modem. Voila!
  • Tick-tock, tick-tock. T-minus twenty minutes. Piece of cake.
  • Cake? Wait. Did someone say cake?


Photo courtesy of Salon D’Amore, where they wave magic wands and turn old broads into, well, old broads with much prettier hair. ;O)


GBE 2: Blog On -- Week #26: “SURPRISES”

GBE 2: Blog On -- Week #26: “SURPRISES”

As always, the guidelines are simple. Blog on this week’s prompt in any way you see fit. Once you’ve posted to wherever you normally blog, drop the URL to your post into the comment section below.

REMINDER: use the URL to your entry for this week’s specific topic post, NOT to your blog’s home page!

If you haven’t already done so, you are welcome to join GBE 2 at its main headquarters over on Facebook (We’re nearing 200 active members and we’re still growing!). Just visit GBE 2’s Facebook page and request to join the group. Everyone is welcome, so tell your friends! :O)

For those of you who use Twitter, the hashtag for the group's posts is #GBE2, and we can increase readership if we all tweet early and tweet often. ;O)

That’s it! Easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy!

You have until Saturday (11-19-11) to post your blog and leave your link…

Again, this week, our prompt is: SURPRISES

Ready. Set. Blog!

Happy blogging!


Sun, Sand, and a Bottle in My Hand

Lots of folks dream of traveling to exotic, faraway places. I’m not one of them. I adore weekend getaways and I would really love to take a road trip to destination unknown. The idea of heading out the door with no real plan and cruising secondary roads for a few weeks, stopping whenever and wherever the urge strikes sounds like a pretty nice vacation.

Maybe the reason I crave unscheduled time is that my everyday life is pretty locked into routine. Eleven hours work days Monday through Friday, dinners with the hubs, watching my granddaughter’s ballet classes and walking with my daughter and grandson to the candy store for a mini chocolate treat on Saturdays, and squeezing in a little writing whenever I can steal a few minutes. A little shopping, a little house-cleaning, and too little sleep—it adds up to a very blessed life, but all of it pretty much the same from week to week.

I’d like to roll down the windows, put my bare feet up on the dashboard, blast the music, and go. To where? Who knows. Who cares!

A beach, maybe. Yep, that’s the ticket. What I need is some sun, some sand, and a bottle in my hand.


Written for this week's topic over at The Writers’ Post: "Vacation."


11:11 and 5:55

The year I was 16, I something strange happened repeatedly. When I’d glance at a clock, it was eerily often at one of two specific times: 11:11 or 5:55. Morning or night, for some odd reason, I tended to check the time at those exact times, not a minute before or after. It kind of weirded me out, and when I mentioned it to my older brother, he gave me a peculiar look. “Eleven-eleven?” he asked. “That’s been happening to me, too.”

I assumed he was screwing with me. After all, this was the same guy who, when I was younger and begging to go with him when he was heading out with his buddies would say, “Sure. Run in and ask Mom if it’s okay,” and then by the time I’d dash back outside, he and his pack of idiot friends were always long gone, laughing their not-quite-old-enough-to-drive asses off, I’m sure. He also convinced me to chew on tinfoil once, assuring me that it would alleviate my toothache, so I’m sure you can understand my skepticism when he said the time phenomenon had been happening to him, too.

He said that hadn’t noticed a disproportionate occurrence of 5:55 clock sightings, but that he’d been looking at the time at exactly 11:11 with great frequency, too. For months, he said. I nodded. Me, too.

Neither of us mentioned it again until a few months after that when our mom died…at exactly 11:11 one bright autumn morning. I don’t know if it’d kept happening to my brother in the months prior to our mom’s death, but I’d continued to see both times with unnatural frequency. During my first few motherless years, seeing 11:11 on a clock made me uneasy, but after a while, my perception of it changed and when I happened to notice that particular time, which no longer happened with odd regularity, I’d think of my mom and smile. It sparked little memory-visits, and the time, though it still stands out for me, lost its negative feel and became a reminder of my mom, but not of her death.

The 5:55 sightings slowed down, but to this day, I think I see that time more often than pure randomness would explain. It probably doesn’t help that I notice when it’s 5:55 more than I do other specific minutes. Who knows? What I do know is that noticing that it happens to be 5:55 doesn’t bug me like it did when I was a kid. Besides, the way I see it is that while both of those times dogged me a bit when I was 16, 11:11 ultimately marked a negatively life-changing event in my life, so if 5:55 is destined to carry some significance, I think it owes me one. Maybe I should look for lotteries that draw at 5:55.


Meet the Bloggers: From the Mom Cave

Over the past few years, I’ve met some truly amazing writers. No wait, I’ve met some truly amazing people who happen to write. Yeah, that’s better.

I’ve decided to spotlight some of my favorite blogs and bloggers, one each week. First up is Amy, who steals a few minutes here and there to slip into her Mom Cave and share her world. In her profile, Amy says this about herself: “I'm your typical, 41-year-old mom, thrown into the atypical life of parenting two children with special needs.”

I’m here to tell you that Amy is anything but typical—she’s nothing less than extraordinary. Her life is busy and unpredictable; it’s sometimes chaotic, often noisy, and sleep-deprivation is the norm. She and her husband are raising two beautiful boys who keep them hopping…and hoping.

Amy shares her experiences with a frankness that’s endearing and an openness that welcomes readers as friends. Read her (and I hope that you will), and you’ll smile a lot, tear up occasionally, and walk away feeling really good knowing that her extraordinary kids have been blessed with one absolutely spectacular mom…who sometimes hides in a cave…and likes wine…and cool shoes.

Her hands are full. Her heart is even fuller.


Is it Wednesday Already?

The following questions are Joyce’s Wednesday Hodgepodge offering this week. Clickity-click if you’d like to join in!

1. Of all the tools and gadgets you own which do you most enjoy using?
Does my Keurig coffee maker count? It’s a little bit of happy, right there on my counter.

2. When (if ever) is impatience a virtue?
Impatience is not really an admirable quality, although if it were, I’d be dazzlingly virtuous. On the flip side, being so laid back as to let life go on without taking the reins is not ideal, either. I guess like with most things, finding a sweet balance is key.

3. What temperature do you keep your thermostat set to in winter? Do you have another way to heat your house besides a furnace of some type?
Funny question. I don’t remember what we used to set the thermostat to before I bought a ticket on the hormonal roller coaster, but for the past fistful of years, I’ve set it to 68° during our waking hours (a compromise, because if it were entirely up to me, I’d bump that down a degree or three) and 64°at night, which freezes my husband half to death and just barely keeps me from spontaneously combusting.

We’ve got a fireplace, too, but while it’s beautiful and really heats up the living room, its reach doesn’t go much further than that.

4. Do/did you have a close relationship with any of your grandparents?
I remember both of my grandmothers, but was only close to my mom’s mom. She was amazing—warm and kind, positive, funny, and had this gift of making everyone feel as though they were blessings. When we’d part, she always gave me a kiss and a hug, then she’d kiss the palm of my hand and close my fingers around it so that if I ever needed her, she’d always be right there. I loved that.

My paternal grandmother was strange and grouchy, and she kind of scared the daylights out of me.

5. When did you last have a family portrait taken?
Ages and ages ago, though we take candid shots on a regular basis.

6. What does the word patriotism mean to you?
It means just the opposite of what I think the popular definition has become. I see lots of people who seem to believe that to question and/or vehemently disagree is to be unpatriotic, but I believe that true patriotism requires a willingness to stand up, speak up, and act up when we see things that we believe are detrimental to the country.

7. Do you like to play cards and if so, what's your favorite card game?
My family has played a game called Liverpool for generations, and I just love it. It’s a Rummy kind of game with six different hands and we were all taught to play as soon as we were able to reason and hold 12 cards. Only one of my kids really loves the game, but she’s already teaching her six-year-old to play.

8. Insert your own random thought here.
The timing of the impatience comment is kind of amusing because I’ve been trying to stay away from the colorist and grow out the gray in my hair, and I’m not being very patient about the process. What I’d like is to be able to magically go from brown to gray without the rather unattractive transition, but it doesn’t work that way. Patient is not my default mode.


Ten(t) on Tuesday

I ♥ Tuesdays, partly because Chelsea over at Roots and Rings makes my life bloggerifically easy by providing her Ten on Tuesday questions. Here are today’s:

1. What’s your favorite television show for each day of the week?
I don’t watch enough TV to cover the whole week, but I’ll try.
  • Monday: Dancing with the Stars, but only during seasons when they have somebody I want to root for. This year, I’d like to see Ricki Lake take the trophy, but I’d be okay with J.R., too. I don’t actually watch the whole thing, though. Usually, I turn it on while I’m writing and un-mute the sound when I notice a part I’d like to see.
  • Tuesday: Hmmm, I’ve got nothing, so I’ll have to go with the DWTS results show.
  • Wednesday: Now Wednesday is my only serious TV-watching night. Survivor, Modern Family (lovity-love-love that one), and Revenge are all on Wednesdays. Do I really have to choose just one? Can’t I keep all three since after Thursday, I’m gonna have nothing?
  • Thursday: Grey’s Anatomy
  • Friday: Nope, nothing.
  • Saturday: Again, zip.
  • Sunday: Sorry, nada.

2. How many times do you wear your jeans before you wash them?
Once, even if they’ve been worn for just for a few hours. Clothes that have been worn go into the hamper, period. My hubby would wear a pair until they stood up by themselves, but I snag them and toss ‘em into the wash.

3. What is your favorite pasta shape?
I've never met a noodle I didn’t like.

4. Do you read newspapers?
I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t pick up an actual newspaper nearly as often as I used to, which is ridiculous because I bellyache about the demise of the inky read. News is so instantaneous online, though, that despite my newspaper writing roots, I think that papers can now pretty much list themselves in their obituary sections.

5. Do you sleep in socks?
I often start out with big, cushy socks, but they’re gone in about a minute. Our bathroom floor is chilly, so I tend to get into bed with socks on, just to kick them off right away. My hubby thinks I’m nuts, but since I’m not the insomniac in the family, I don’t think he should be dissing my nighttime routine.

6. Favorite genre of movies?
I like feel-good stuff, mostly, or movies that make you think. I don’t like sci-fi or the ones where a whole bunch of innocent people get killed, but since the half-dressed waif is saved, the mission is considered a success. Blech.

7. How do you feel about wrestling?

8. Should men pluck their eyebrows?
If they want to, I suppose. If I was a guy, I’d try to cultivate those giant caterpillar eyebrows that a lot of old men seem to have. I dig those.

9. Do you have dimples?
I don’t, but I think they’re adorable. Freckles, too. I always wanted gobs of freckles, but I don’t have any of those, either.

10. Do you like to camp?
Camp? That crazy-ass activity where people sleep outside under the open sky or in a temporary canvas house or God-forbid, in a tin house that they park somewhere in a row with a bunch of other tin houses and then go to a giant communal festival-of-athletes-foot shower to clean the great outdoors off of themselves? Um, no.


Nessie, Bigfoot, and Sparkly-Horned Unicorns

My generation is a unique transitional group, straddling old and new ideals of both family and career. And if I can be blunt, I think that the members of my generation—especially the women—were fed a line of boloney that put us in the rather ridiculous position of expecting to be able to do it all, and do it well.

I hope you’re not offended by the word bullshit, because honestly, I can’t think of another that is nearly as appropriate. Like our parents and our children, we are mere humans, and as such, have real limits on what we can accomplish in our lifetimes, let alone on a given day. Yet as teens, we were encouraged, both subtly and directly, to kick ass and take names on the job while nurturing and encouraging the next generation of ass-kickers.


All over the country in the late 70’s, high school guidance counselors called in their young charges one by one to ask about their life plans. College? Terrific. Marriage? Family? Absolutely. Glass ceiling? Bust through that damn thing and make us proud!

Many have tried. Some even managed to do it all without ever dropping the ball, I’m sure. I don’t personally know any of those people, but I’ve heard that they exist. Nessie, Bigfoot, and people who’ve simultaneously carved out fabulous power-careers while providing constant hands-on care to their progeny without sometimes feeling that while they’re doing a lot, they’re often forced to give less than they’d like to one or both areas of their lives. I’ve heard tell of all of those creatures. Oh, and sparkly-horned unicorns. Let’s not forget them.

I believed (and still believe) that we absolutely can achieve anything we really want and that we might even be able to dedicate ourselves fully to both family and career—just not at the exact same time. Fabulous career first and then family? Totally doable. Family first and then kick ass in the work-world? Sure. Being a superstar everywhere, for everyone, all at the same time? That’s a lot to ask of anyone. Is it any wonder that Prozac is the mothers’ little helper of our generation?

Take a look at the following commercial that came out in 1980, the year I graduated from high school. The same company put out a similar one a few years earlier—same music, same message, but this is the one that I remember best:

If it were just a cute 30 seconds to sell cologne, I’d say dandy. But I’m telling you, that bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan nonsense was the message of the day. And as much as I love my sisters from other misters, far too few of us stood up to call it the bullshit that it was.

I look at the women of my mom’s generation with more than a little bit of envy. Granted, she was considered an ‘older’ mom when I was born, having blown out 40 birthday candles nearly two years prior to my birth, so my sisters, two decades older than me, are really the ones who belong to the generation that pushed hard for the changes that came to fruition about the time that I was coming of age. They meant well, bless their idiotic hearts, but I wonder if they might have backed off a little, had they been given a crystal ball and a chance to peek into the future.

My words may piss of feminists, but they aren’t meant to. I am a feminist, though it’s not a word I particularly like because it sometimes conjures images of angry, man-stomping women, and I am neither angry nor anti-man. But if feminism means believing that people of both genders should be treated with equal respect, given the same legal rights and responsibilities, and afforded opportunities to fulfill their dreams, then I am indeed a feminist.

My sisters and their friends envisioned a world far different from the one we are living in today. From what they tell me, their goal in fighting to open up workplace opportunities for themselves and their daughters was to benefit both genders, as well as the family unit. Here’s what they imagined: Both adults in households would have careers that provided them with personal satisfaction, as well as a sense of autonomy in the world. Rather than fathers working 40 hours outside of the home while mothers tended to everything domestic, both adults would log about 20 career hours weekly and then share the responsibilities of home and hearth, creating solid family units where children spent quality time with both of their parents and everyone was able to find a comfortable balance that met their personal needs as well as those of the household.

Well crap, who wouldn’t want that? Sign me up right now.

Unfortunately, that prediction of an idyllic life isn’t exactly how things panned out. In most modern households, if both parents chose to work 20 hours, they’d pretty much be guaranteeing a life well below the poverty line. Most of the people I know consider a 40-hour work week to be a lightweight’s dream, practically semi-retirement, so to share a 40-hour work week seems borderline delusional.

Today’s NaBloPoMo writing prompt, provided by Ricki Lake (who I’d love to see win Dancing with the Stars), is: “Making family time is important to me. How do you balance your children, relationship, and work life?” My answer to that is that while I try, I don’t always get it right.

Every parent of more than one child understands that while we love them all, there are times when one of our children needs more of our time and attention than the others, so they get it. My method of finding balance is similar to that. Unlike my children (and now the grands), who are all equally dear to my heart, my marriage, kids, and career have never been evenly weighted on my priority list, but all need and deserve the best that I can give them. And at the end of the day, though I don’t always get it right, I think I get it right enough.


Sea monster image courtesy of stock.xchng. Thank you!

Also written for this week’s The Writers’ Post topic, "Desire," because though it might be elusive, I think we all want balance.



I’m the youngest of five, and if you were to line us up for a photograph, you’d definitely see our similarities. Like my second sister and oldest brother, I look mostly like our mom, with a significant enough sprinkling of my paternal genes. For the other two, reverse the equation—more Dad than Mom.

Even though we wear similar faces and share enough genetic markers to confirm our common heritage, my siblings and I are five very different people. Some facts about us:

  • Four are Christians, one other.
  • Three Republicans, one Tea Partier, one other.
  • All five are heterosexual.
  • Two are very talented artists, one has a reasonable amount of artistic ability, and two you’d never want to partner with for Pictionary.
  • Two are word nerds, two got by alright in school, and one struggled academically.
  • One is a spectacular athlete, three are somewhat below par athletes, and one has always had difficulty with any activity that requires even a small amount of coordination, say, walking.
  • Two have noteworthy tempers, two are pretty even, and one is sometimes too kind and easygoing.
  • Three chose marriage and children, two remained single and childless.
  • Career choices are in five very different arenas.
  • Three are short, one is average in height, and one is tall.
  • Four have a space between their two front teeth, one has a gorgeous set of chompers.
  • Three have had to wear glasses since childhood, two never needed corrective lenses until they reached the age of reading glasses.
  • One is almost always optimistic, three waver in their half full/half empty outlooks, and one is known to say, “Life is a sh*t sandwich, and every now and then you have to take a bite.”
  • Three have curls, two have straight, silky hair.
  • All five, at one time or another, have done some crazy-ass thing to their hair in an attempt to get what they don’t have naturally. :O)
  • All five love music, but none create it.
  • All five, when weight is gained, gain it first and foremost around the middle, leaving them to look like balloons with stick arms and legs poking out from that gut.
  • All five have a little bit of loner in them.
  • If all five were to walk by a hungry, homeless person, two would buy them lunch and talk with them, two would buy them lunch and move on, and one might possibly pop for lunch, but if so, it would come with a hearty side of sermon and a judgmental pep-talk.

If you look over that list, most of the items could easily describe any five random people. Yet we are not only genetically linked, but were all five raised by the same two parents. Our childhoods, though, were definitely not the same. When I was born, my siblings were 20, 19, 16, and 8 years old. One of my sisters was newly married and just a year later, she gave birth to my oldest niece.

The oldest three were raised during the ‘lean years,’ but since I came along once our parents were more established and mortgage-free, I was a bit indulged. The first ones were also daily witnesses to our father’s famous temper, most of which had waned by the time that I made my entrance into the world. I’ve been told that I got the mellower guy and believe me, if the man I knew was the watered down version, I’m grateful not to have arrived earlier than I did.

The first three had young, healthy parents, the next one had some years with two healthy parents, and part of what defined my childhood was my mom’s ongoing and progressively worsening illness. Yet the flip side of that is that I got the mom who truly understood the value of life, and her illness stripped away any need she might have ever felt to hold back anything (not that she was ever much of a ‘hold back’ kind of girl).

If my siblings and I were the test project for nature versus nurture, I don’t think we’d be able to draw any substantial conclusions, but the age difference between us and the naturally occurring changes that take place over twenty years would have certainly gummed up the study, so my non-typical-for-its-time family wouldn’t be the best control group.

My kids, though, are very close in age, with only 18 months separating them, so they truly did experience as close to an identical upbringing as is possible. There were unavoidable differences in experience, of course, based on the unique strengths, challenges, and personalities of the individuals, but all in all, they got essentially the same start in life, as far as nurture. When I look at mine, both as children and as the adults they’ve become, I could easily make a line list like the one above, and their differences would be just as notable.

I think the bottom line for all of us is that while genetics deals us some cards, how we play them varies depending on what we’ve experienced, and really, also on how that nature stuff impacts the way we absorb and perceive the experiences, so both factors are inseparably entwined. And that, I believe, explains a lot of the baffled head shaking that goes on at family reunions.


Written for this week’s GBE topic: Nature vs. Nurture


GBE 2: Blog On -- Week #25: “NATURE vs. NURTURE”

GBE 2: Blog On -- Week #25: “NATURE vs. NURTURE”

As always, the guidelines are simple. Blog on this week’s prompt in any way you see fit. Once you’ve posted to wherever you normally blog, drop the URL to your post into the comment section below.

REMINDER: use the URL to your entry for this week’s specific topic post, NOT to your blog’s home page!

If you haven’t already done so, you are welcome to join GBE 2 at its main headquarters over on Facebook (We’re nearing 200 active members and we’re still growing!). Just visit GBE 2’s Facebook page and request to join the group. Everyone is welcome, so tell your friends! :O)

For those of you who use Twitter, the hashtag for the group's posts is #GBE2, and we can increase readership if we all tweet early and tweet often. ;O)

That’s it! Easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy!

You have until Saturday (11-12-11) to post your blog and leave your link…

Again, this week, our prompt is: NATURE vs. NURTURE

Ready. Set. Blog!

Happy blogging!


Moody Slacker Saturday

Usually, I’m pretty much like this:

Today, though, this is a better fit:

That's it.


This or That

My granddaughter likes to play a game she calls This or That. It’s really very simple: you are offered two choices and you have to state which you’d prefer. There’s no opting out and no choosing both, and believe me, there’s no use trying to reason your way into either of those. It’s this. Or that. Choose.

Today’s suggested NaBloPoMo topic, “When you are writing, do you prefer to use a pen or a computer?” reminded me of the game, but as I often do when I play it, I want to choose both. You won’t tell her if I start out my answer with, “Well, it depends,” will you? Because I’m telling you right now, she’ll have none of that.

Let’s say that my granddaughter isn’t in the room (She really isn’t. She’s sound asleep in her own bed at her own house.) and so there’s a little flexibility in the This or That rules. I’m going with “It depends.”

I’m a notebook person. I have them everywhere and if you were to sneak a peek into any of them, you’d see quotes, odd little phrases, quickie sketches, potential first lines, titles, story ideas, cool character names, scratched out stuff that I’ve either used or discarded, and maybe a list of numbers that for some reason, I was sure were going to be drawn in the lottery. This stuff is obviously written in pen and other than the lottery numbers, all of it has proven its worth many times over.

When I was a kid, I had very nice penmanship, for which I can give a shout out to Mrs. Latchett, who valued the skill enormously and took points off of otherwise perfect papers if she felt the writing was sloppy. Let’s just say that if Mrs. Latchett were to look at my notebooks, or worse, the occasional handwritten first draft of a short story that came to me with such speed that my pen could barely keep up with my head, she’d be sorely disappointed.

So when I really write, I prefer the computer. It has perfect penmanship. And spell check. And publishers seem to prefer when you submit a nicely typed manuscript or a tidy document file, rather than something that looks, at first glance, like the Unibomber's manifesto.


Ten Years Out

Do you go to your class reunions? I’ve gone to only one of mine—the ten year one. When the invitation arrived, I set it aside without much thought; I’d kept in touch with a good number of my classmates, so I felt no burning desire to attend. But then the phone started ringing. One by one, a network of old friends reached out to see who was planning to go, most taking the attitude of “Well, if you go, I’ll go.” The calls went on until there was a big circle of maybes, and then finally we decided to just do it. We filled out the little questionnaires that came with the get-together info, wrote our checks, mailed it all in, and set aside an evening a few months later to meet up at a banquet hall in the old neighborhood.

High school is almost always a memorable time in our lives. While few of us had an all-perfect or a perfectly hellish high school experience, it seems that when you ask people, they’re likely to describe it in one of those two ways. I had a good time in the four years before college, but I do remember wanting to be both older and cooler. I was brainy and artistic, so if you were determined to apply the most fitting labels, my peeps were the National Honor Society kids, thespians, mathletes, art club members, and of course, my buddies on the school paper. You know, dorkalicious, non-athletic, and college-bound: the nerdy trifecta.

The thing is, that paints a really incomplete picture. I was that weird kid (shocking, right?) who got along with pretty much everyone. I had cheerleader friends (though no quarterback boyfriend), science nerd friends (the ones who, unlike me, didn’t attribute everything scientific to magic), artsy pals, brainiac buddies, and stoner besties. Some of my friends got fancy new sports cars for their 16th birthdays, while others prayed for the day when they’d be able to give up their bus passes for rusty clunkers. Some got full-rides to impressive universities, some looked to a future in the trades, and a handful had all that they could handle just to get through the days until they’d be free from what they saw as the restraints of the institution.

Then, as now, I suppose, I had the tendency to see what I had in common with people, rather than the areas where our goals and interests didn’t line up, so my friends were hard to categorize. My criterion for friendship was mostly based on an intangible connection—it was either there or it wasn’t. Honesty mattered, as did inner decency, but if those were in place, the rest didn’t make much of a difference to me.

As the day of the reunion neared, I got more excited about going than I’d been at first. Of all the friends I hoped most to see, only one wasn’t planning to attend. It promised to be a fun night, and it was. It was also an interesting one, with quite a few surprises. The ‘groups’ that seemed to define high school for many were nonexistent, and a good percentage of the tables were occupied by people who probably never sat together at the lunch tables even once during the four years that they sang the same fight song at assemblies.

It was really nice. Popular and unpopular didn’t seem to come into play, which both pleased and surprised me. Because while the lines didn’t really exist for me back in high school, they were very real and I know they helped to define the adolescent years for many. Probably most, no matter which side of that equation they were on.

Ten years after graduation, a big group of my peers got sitters, put on their fancy duds, and gathered together in a rented hall just a few miles from where we’d all gone to high school. Some lived right down the street and others had flown in from across the country. The booze was flowing freely, glory stories were relived and hugely exaggerated, and the dance floor was packed with all sorts of terrible dancers, possibly the most terrible of whom was my husband, who was ‘Dances with Vodka’ back when Trish (who holds the title now) was in, oh, fourth grade. When the music stopped between songs, he just kept dancing and when I pointed out that the music had, in fact, stopped, he grinned, kept dancing, and said, “I gotta dance, babe!”

He was plenty popular that night. ;O)

None of us looked the same as we had ten years before, of course, although “You haven’t changed a bit!” was heard everywhere as people laughed and hugged. Doug, who’d been the hands-down hottest man-boy in the class had a potbelly and a receding hairline, and Nancy, the sweetest girl on the cheerleading squad had popped out a baby every year since college graduation and brought photos of six (SIX!) truly adorable little kids. Even after her baby-making marathon, she was still no bigger than a size four, max.

Cathy, who’d been painfully shy back in the day had become a neonatal intensive care nurse and had provided care for the preemie twin granddaughters of one of her favorite teachers. Linda, who was close to six feet tall by sophomore year and had walked the halls hunched over for several years in an effort to minimize her height, had become a stunning beauty and when she walked in, every eye in the place was on her and there was a palpable heat that enveloped the room. Several of the nerdy guys who’d begged me for dates in high school while I was pining for the hot guys had become enormously successful and surprisingly hot men. Like “Holy crap, that’s Wally?!” hot.

The boy I’d had a crush on in 3rd grade had been killed in a motorcycle accident a few years out of high school, we’d lost another of ours to suicide, and one to cancer. We all bowed our heads for a moment of remembrance and then shared our memories of them, which brought more smiles than tears, and I think that would have pleased them.

Sometimes, we let the people we were in high school dictate who we are for the rest of our lives. Sometimes, we choose to hang on to old hurts—real or imagined—in order to give ourselves an easy out for anything that happens after. But sometimes, groups of people who share a common bond recognize their past, celebrate their present, and look with hope to their future and they all become cheerleaders, knowing that one member’s happiness and success honors all of them.


Written for this week’s GBE topic: “Popularity.”


Our Last Supper

At some point, we’re all going to croak, drop dead, bite the dust, bite the big one, push up daisies, cash in our chips, wear a pine overcoat, kick the bucket, meet our maker, take a dirt nap, ride the pale horse, take our last bow, and hopefully, go to a better place. Now, y’all know how much I want to buy a farm, but I’m in no rush to buy the farm.

If I could choose, my ideal ending would arrive with no advance notice and be the finish to a perfectly normal, yet wonderful day. I’d be old, of course, really, really old. And the hubs, who has four years on me, would be old plus four. We’d have spent the day with our gray, wrinkly kids, our graying grandkids, our adult great-grandkids, and our brilliant and beautiful great-great grandkids, who would charm everyone with their youthful exuberance.

We’d have gathered on a random Saturday, something we’d been doing for decades, and everyone would have had a fabulous time. There’d have been lots of laughter, music, and stories of times gone by. We’d feast on family favorites, the recipes having been handed down from generation to generation, and made each month in assorted combinations by the cooks in the family. The kids would eye the platters of cream puffs and as they always did at these get-togethers, their parents would allow them to eat dessert long before dinner plates were filled.

The fun would have started early and lasted until well after dark, the great-great-grands giggling and chasing fireflies until they ran themselves sleepy and then drifted off on the laps of their older relatives, who wrapped their arms around the little ones and rocked them as the whole group marveled at just how fast they’d grown. After a while, even the grown-ups would get tired, so hugs would be given and good-byes said, and the date for the next month’s gathering confirmed. Dads would scoop up their sleeping little ones and put them in their car seats and as everyone drove off, they’d beep twice, as they’d all been doing at one another’s houses for as long as they could remember.

After the last car was out of sight, the hubs would turn off the porch light and take my hand. He’d lean down a little to kiss my forehead and we’d smile. I’d circle the number on the calendar for the agreed upon date for the following month and draw a big red heart in its square. We’d walk through the house turning off the lights and checking the doors, and comment about how wonderful it was to see everyone and how happy we are that they’re all doing so well. I’d follow my hubby up the stairs and when we got to the landing, I’d pinch his behind and say, “nice tush.” He’d chuckle.

We’d snuggle up under the quilt that our children gave us for our 75th anniversary, made from squares of baby clothes from our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I’d rest my head on my husband’s chest and listen to his heartbeat, slow and steady, and just before we drifted off to sleep—for our last time, as it turns out—I’d tell him that I love him, that I’d always loved him, and that I always would. He’d say the same. And then, together, as we’d done for almost eight decades, we’d fall asleep.


Written for today’s NaBloPoMo suggested topic: “If you knew that whatever you ate next would be your last meal, what would you want it to be?”