Friday, June 13, 2008

When you live and work on a farm




You eat. You have to eat to keep fuel in your body. You need the fuel because you burn it quickly on the farm.

1. You eat breakfast around 6:30 a.m. – but only after feeding the animals.
2. You eat at morning coffee around 9:30 or 10 a.m.
3. You eat dinner at noon which most people call lunch. This is your biggest meal of the day.
4. You eat at afternoon coffee around 3:30 p.m.
5. When you have neighbors over to help with the harvest, you have a beer at quitting time around 5 or 5:30 p.m. Then they go home to their own chores and you do yours. (After you retire, you have a highball around 5 or 5:30 p.m.)
6. You eat supper around 6 or 6:30 p.m. – but only after the animals are fed. This is usually a light meal.
7. You have a snack at bedtime around 9 p.m.

So, since parents who grew up on a farm raised me, we tended to keep to this schedule including the highball. Living in the city with all its conveniences takes most of the calorie burning away. I grew fat. I’m still fat. The schedule still haunts me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cravings

I’ve heard it said that when you have a strong craving for a particular food, there is some nutritional element that you are not getting in your diet. If you analyze the food you crave, you can then identify and make up for the deficiency. For instance, when you crave peanut butter, you more than likely need the B and E vitamins it is rich in. Does this extend to other parts of ourselves?

I crave solitude. I crave quiet. I crave lots of trees and greenery. But I already know that I want out of the city and why I want it. I also crave old houses. Old abandoned houses that look lonely and sad. I want to touch their walls and gaze out of their windows. I want to climb their stairs and walk down the silent halls. I want to know their history – their story.

There is story everywhere you look. If you watch animals, you can see that they tell stories, too. A bird sitting on the edge of a full feeder will sing of its findings leading others to the food. Bees dance the story of where to find the pollen and nectar they turn to honey.

Story is a vital, nutritional element that we as humans need to maintain our humanity. Perhaps that is what I need in my diet right now. Story.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Write about a silence…

Sunday mornings, very early before the sun is more than a line of fire on the horizon, are the best moments for silence in the city. Construction has halted, traffic has not started, the family still sleeps, and only the birds join my dogs and me in a sort of communion.

A gentle breeze stirs the leaves on my ash tree. The new growth shows a lighter, more intense green than the older established leaves. I placed a sprinkler under the drip line yesterday evening and have it trickling slowly so the water soaks down where the tree can get it. Small birds will perch on the sprinkler head and grab drops of water as they leak out the holes. A bigger black bird hops around my big dog’s breakfast scraps in the yard. I think Bill deliberately leaves some on the plate just for this reason. He is inordinately kind to birds. He watches patiently as they sit on the rim of his outside water dish for a quick drink.

This is the jewel of my week. This is what I wait for. This is the illusion of peace that I must make into the real thing if I am to survive. Last night’s dreams haunt my thoughts and I push them away. I don’t want anything to destroy this tiny bit of magic. Reality comes too swift and too hard and too soon.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Write about something to hold on to.

“Why do I only remember what your dad gave to me? I don’t remember what I ever gave him.” My mother and I sat in the living room two nights ago. We were discussing our marriages. I listed a few items that I could remember and that seemed to spark recall to further items. Later she pointed out that she seemed to remember the times Dad hurt her feelings and had to work hard at remembering the good times.

That is one thing I think evolution (or God) got wrong with mankind. We tend to the negative and hold on to it while the positive, good memories float away. The radio and TV news are dreadful. The newspapers and the tabloids have the depressing and shocking news first while the hopeful and the upbeat articles are buried inside or stuck in a small section that is mislaid or bypassed. Is it any wonder then that I’m experiencing my own mental tug-of-war? I start whining immediately about what my husband has done wrong, all the pain he causes. What about the good stuff?

Last night at the graduation party, he was a trooper. He helped me set up, ran quick errands, visited with all the guests, and even danced with me when I asked him to. He took my mother back to our house when she got tired and stayed late with me to clean up before heading back out to go to another party.

This is what I must hold on to.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The “Hub of Discord” – Part 2

“There is only one person who has conflicts with others. She has problems with four other people whose only real fault is that they make her work instead of letting her read her book or play computer games. That person, if removed, would solve 90% of the office tensions.” -- “Epilogue to the Staff Meeting,” posted April 20, 2008

Our “hub” is on vacation. It’s been so nice and peaceful. Then the phone rings today. It’s “hub” – she wants to talk to the boss. While she’s holding, she tells me that she was let go because of our huge budget crisis. I just about dropped the phone. Instead, I mumble something and transfer the call.

Later I get the details. She has her choice of working three more months or taking a three-month severance package. Apparently, she has decided to work it. We are in for whining, bitching, and anger in monumental doses. She will not let ANY opportunity slip by. Why did they give her a choice? And, by the way, I was told to keep it quiet. The minute she hits those doors on Monday, the world will know it.

Then there is another budgetary adjustment in process. Some specialty societies contract with my company for administrative support. I am one of the administrators. Their fees are being doubled and tripled. If we lose one or more of these customers, I will be next on the chopping block.

I don’t mind telling you that I am very nervous. I’m too old to start over again. The “hub” is 10 years older than I am. I feel like a donkey.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Waiting Around

It’s 8:11 p.m. and I’m still at work. I've been here since 6 a.m. I’m waiting. Waiting for people to show up for scheduled interviews. I won’t go into details, as I’m not sure they should be “public.” Anyway, the interviews are ahead of schedule, the interviewees are not. So, I wait. Sigh.

I’ve got so much to do to get ready for my daughter’s graduation party. Mostly I need to clean my house as my mother is coming to stay for a couple of days and the house is the pits. We are not good stewards of our home. Dog hair floats in huge airy wads throughout, trash needs taking out, the kitchen floor and cupboards need washing… Arge! I’m starting to panic.

I was able to start rearranging the conference room where the party is located. It needs more tables and chairs, but I can’t do any more without disturbing the committee in the next room. The “next room” is actually the 3rd section of a long room I plan to have completely open and the band goes there. I want to leave room for dancing.

Every time I make a move to the patio area to see if the lights are working, I am interrupted – like just now in the middle of this sentence.

I worry too much. I worry about things that I have no control over and this is because I cannot control them and therefore – well, you get the idea. Okay. I know this. In my head, I know this. Why do I keep doing it?

Two more interviews before we are done. I wasn’t involved in the planning this year. Another item out of my control, yet I was more than glad to get rid of it. I guess sitting here isn’t so bad. I get overtime.

Fig Tree Update

I’m in trouble. The original (burned to a hunk of carbon) tree is sending up strong shoots around the stump. They might make it into a tree. They might not. I’m going to encourage them and see.

The 3rd “stick” that I planted in March that I thought was dead and got a replacement for now has green buds.

And the replacement? Nothing yet but the way things are going, it will live with gusto.

What am I going to do with all these fig trees?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

“And it was at that age…” (after Pablo Neruda)

And it was at that age that I began to grow up. I realized that I deserved to be next in line and that it was NOT all right for someone to cut in front of me. It was okay to ask for help. It was okay to offer my opinion. It was okay to speak up.

50 years old and I still deferred to other people’s needs and wants before my own. It was time I stopped that. It was time to start looking to myself for what I needed and not at what was left over at the end of the day. Dreams are not scraps handed down from the dinner table. Dreams are the whole beef roast with mashed potatoes and blueberry pie with ice cream on the side.

So now, it looks like I’ve become suddenly selfish. There is quite a bit of adjustment to be made by others as well as myself. No one is going to help me get what I want unless I ask for it. I’ve kept quiet. I’ve been the “good girl” and the “good wife” and I am heartily sick of getting kicked in the teeth for it.

This all came to a head when I realized that with the exception of my daughter’s worn out bed and the broken folding chair I use for a desk chair, ALL of my furniture is second hand. Most of my dishes, bedding and linens are as well. 50% of my clothes are from thrift stores. I believe in recycling and not throwing useable items in the dump, however, when will I get my say as to what goes into my house, not to mention my life?

When will it be my turn? Now.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Road Maps

I love looking at maps. I look at the tiny dots indicating tinier towns on the thin numbered lines of the map of Arizona and I dream of driving down those roads just to see what lies at the end. There are so many of those dots and they are enticingly away from the larger dots and blocks of colored areas indicating the metropolitan cancers that infect the state.

Maybe it is because I’m under an unusual amount of stress, and the city’s noise, traffic, blowing trash, construction barricade mazes, graffiti on every wall and post, and random gunfire in the night makes me want to “get the hell out of Dodge.” (Could be that, yeah.) It’s a terrible time for gas prices to be almost $4/gallon. It is another lock on the cell door for me. So where do I start digging that tunnel?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

“It’s all you could expect.”

I put the paring knife down and turned to the sink to pick up the cooled hard-boiled eggs. “I still think I should have had some clue that it would happen.”

“Maybe you just missed the signs.”

“What signs would there be?” I cracked, peeled and rinsed the eggs one by one. Then I sliced them and popped the yolks out into a small bowl.

“I don’t know.” Betsy, my dear friend and neighbor handed me the jar of mayonnaise from the refrigerator. “They always say hind sight is 20/20.”

“Then how come I’m just as blind as I was before?” I mashed up the yolks with some mayonnaise and a bit of powdered garlic and powdered onion. Betsy handed me the pastry bag and I shoveled the yolk mixture inside while she gathered up the slippery whites and arranged them on a plate. I squeezed the yellow cream into the hollows and gave an artistic flourish to each final squish. Betsy sprinkled the tops with paprika.

“That’s how many?” I asked.

“24 down and 216 left to go.” Betsy shoved the plate into the refrigerator and pulled out two more cartons of eggs.

“I sure wish I had known I’d be assigned the deviled eggs for the church picnic! I wish I had known!”

“Well,” said Sherri as she opened the back door, “As the chair of the Ladies Circle who is in charge of the annual church picnic, I had to make a decision. When you didn’t show up at those committee meetings as you said you would, all the other duties were taken. So, you were assigned the last job.

“It’s all you could expect.”

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Write about circling the edge

Spinning, racing, whirling, spiraling out of control and feeling sick to my stomach. The world endlessly turns and gives me no rest, no stillness, no peace. Is it any wonder that I feel stressed and ill most of the time?

I need to stop. I need to stand still. I need to be quiet and listen. Listen to Cosmic Mother’s (God’s) message. She is trying to reach us all but we don’t stand in one spot long enough to receive it.

Could it be that we are afraid of that message? I am. I’m afraid that She wants me to do something that requires courage and faith and I’m a bit short of both these days. Yet, my spirit and my soul are tugging at my shirtsleeve telling me that I need to pay attention.

She wants to tell me to change. I’m being too selfish and headstrong.

“But Mother! I’ve given up so much for everyone else. I’ve given up my dignity, my sense of self, my security, and hell, even my future for others. When is it going to be MY turn?”

“Stop whining! It will be your turn soon enough. You think you know what you want. But it isn’t what you need. Be patient, child. Let Me do My work and soon you will have your rest.”

Rest. That is what my spirit and my soul are crying out for. Rest.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Write about abandoned houses…


They haunt my dreams. I see staircases leading up into possibilities and rooms with many doors. I feel snippets of life from previous owners. A faint scent of lilacs, and the squeak of a rocker on the porch followed by a cool breeze from a broken window overlooking the overgrown vegetable garden tell me stories.

I walk the hallways and climb the attic stairs. I know there is something I need to see, or hear, or someone I need to meet. There is mystery and sadness. Loss.

When I open the door to the master bedroom there is sunshine streaming in through the tattered lace curtains that dance to the summer breeze. A lone chair sits by the window waiting for me.

When I look around an old iron bed covered with an old quilt appears and I feel a great weariness descend upon me. I go to the bed to lie down but it is at this point I wake from the dream.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ten years ago…

I was still married, working full-time, deep in debt and yearning for something that I couldn’t put my finger on. I’d stare out the window now and then, eyes desperately searching for the horizon as if the magic were out there. Somewhere.

And I’d dream. I’d dream of a small apartment of my own not far from work so I could walk home for lunch. I’d dream of sitting under a shady tree with bits of sunshine tickling my bare toes as I read a delicious book. I’d dream of driving down unnamed roads with no destination in mind knowing that my answers would be at the end of that journey.

Then, I’d turn back to my computer screen and sigh.

That was then. This is now. Now I live by myself in a small house on the edge of the national forest. My nearest neighbors are a quarter mile away and I hear the silence of nature when I open my front door. I’m not rich, but I’m out of debt and I can easily pay my bills. I work from home. I write. I write my heart out and people actually buy those bits of my heart.

My daughter has a successful career and still has her feet firmly on the ground. She isn’t afraid to tell people “no.” Her sense of self is strong and I feel proud of that. No one is going to trample her under as I once was.

My ex-husband is the famous artist he wanted to be. He’s featured on a PBS documentary and his work is in several prominent galleries. But happiness didn’t come with that fame as he thought it would. He still searches for that perfect person to make him happy. I hope he finds her one day.

Ten years has brought quite a few changes in my life. I wonder where I’ll be in another ten?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

One day, ...

One day, I’ll go there and see for myself, Lori thought as she looked at the coffee table book on Maine. Closing the book with a sigh, she returned it to its place on the shelf of the second hand bookstore.

Turning to another shelf, she tilted her head sideways to scan the spines of the beat up paperbacks. Nothing sparked her interest there. Lori straightened up and turned only to thump up against an old woman. Reaching out to steady the lady, she apologized profusely while the old woman chuckled and reassured her that nothing was damaged.

Lori picked up the books that were scattered from the old lady and from her elbow knocking some off the shelf. She saw the last one peeking out from under a table display. When her fingers closed on the tome, a warm vibration traveled up her arm. Lori looked at the cover. You Can Go to Maine if You Want To was the title.

“Thank you dear,” said the old woman holding out her hand for the book. “I think that’s all of them.” Lori kept her eye on the book as the lady put it in her book bag.

“Excuse me, but before you leave, can I make a note of the author of that last book?” Lori knew she had to find another copy of that book.

“Author?” she chuckled, “I wrote that book. It’s about 30 years old and out of print now, so when I find a copy as I sometimes do, I buy it and put it up on my bookshelf with all my other old out of print volumes.”

“You aren’t going to believe this, but…”

“You’ve always wanted to go to Maine. I know,” the lady nodded. “I can see it on your face.” She sighed and looked over Lori’s head with softened eyes. “It’s beautiful no matter what time of year you go. My favorite is…”

“Bar Harbor,” Lori finished.

Surprised, the old woman focused back on Lori’s face. “Yes! Bar Harbor. You look familiar. May I ask your name?”

“Lori Mitchell. I’m from, well, from just about everywhere and from just about nowhere. Army brat. My family moved constantly and I lived everywhere.”

“Except Maine.”

“Except Maine,” Lori smiled. “So, in a nutshell, how do I get there when I haven’t got the resources to go?”

The old lady opened her capacious bag and rummaged around in its depths for a moment before uttering a triumphant grunt and producing a business card. “Come see me at this address next week. I’m planning to go back to Bar Harbor to open up the family summerhouse for the season and I could use some help.

“You really do look familiar… Well,” she straightened up and patted Lori on the shoulder. “We’ll have a great talk next week. Call me!” Turning on her heel, the old woman briskly marched out the door, turned left and disappeared. Lori looked at the card in her hand.

Emma Johnston, it read, along with an address not too far from the bookstore. The name was common but unknown to her, yet the “accidental” meeting felt like it was supposed to happen. Like fate, Lori thought with a smile as she walked out of the bookstore and turned right.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

You're in a Hotel Lobby...

Last August I took enormous liberty with our finances and I booked a long weekend at a local resort in order to have a writing weekend. A solo retreat if you will. I went to the Scottsdale Millennium Resort because it was by a lake. Water is particularly attractive in the desert and a lake, however small, is a bonus.

The first night was like every other first night I’ve ever spent in a hotel alone. I have all these exciting plans for candlelight baths, and sitting with a cocktail over a good book, etc. As usual, I got very sleepy and went to bed early.

I woke to sunshine streaming in through dusty windows. This time, since I didn’t have anywhere to be at a certain time, I felt at loose ends. I was shy about being in the room when the housekeeper needed to do her work, so after breakfast, I packed up a writing book, paper and pen, and headed down to the lobby to wait it out.

Most lobbies have a gorgeous sitting area that are rarely used and that’s what I was counting on. In the Millennium, it is sunken and filled with overstuffed chairs and sofas that face a floor to ceiling window overlooking the pool, the lake, and the eastern mountains. If you took out the pool, it would be perfect.

So there I settled myself. After absorbing the luxury of being away from family, work, and everyone I knew that could interrupt me, after noticing the tiny remnants of wire and tape that held up their Christmas decorations and small tufts of dust bunnies peeking out over the tops of the massive drapes in this five-star resort, I turned to my writing.

I don’t remember any details of the actual writing during that session. What I do remember is the feeling of being conspicuous and odd. I remember that suddenly my ears tuned in to the sounds of the lobby. I heard one employee whistling softly as he passed by and a negotiation to exchange scheduled work hours by another employee on the phone. Guests were guided to the breakfast and I smirked to myself that they would enjoy the same overly strong, bitter cup of coffee that caused me to uncharacteristically dose it with cream and sweetener in order to drink it.

Forcing my head back down, I resumed my writing and lost myself in words. Numbness in my thumb and a strong tingling up my arm told me that I needed to take a break. I checked my watch and was surprised to see that two hours had gone by. I sat back, took a deep, peaceful breath, gathered up my belongings and returned to my room.

The housekeeper had not yet arrived.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Like Being a Kid Again: Senior Prank

Friday 3 p.m.:
At a local Jack in the Box a bunch of giggling high school seniors and two parents have a meeting.
My daughter (code name: Movie Buff) and about 10 of her classmates are going to pull off "Operation Cobra" on Sunday night. The plan: we meet at Applebees at 9:15 that night, hop in a couple vans and drive the 4 blocks south to the school. Breaking into 3 groups, they are going to jump the fences of the school grounds and draw chalk outlines of bodies and put up police tape around them. (Actually, it will be construction "caution" tape, but the point is there.) Outlines of bodies doing "YMCA" are to appear by the snack bar and other body positions will be elsewhere/everywhere. They are also planning to put banners up on the tops of some of the buildings. Apparently they have already scouted out where to access the roof AND they know the locations of the cameras. My husband (code name: Pumpkin) and I (code name: Honey Bunny) are assigned as lookouts. We will be patrolling the street out front and signaling when the security patrol drives up. I admit that I'm nervous for the kids but no matter how this turns out, they will have a fond memory of their senior year. I'm bringing bail money with me.

Sunday 9:15 p.m.:
We all meet at Applebees as planned. The kids are so cute - all dressed in black with dark baseball caps. Some even have camouflage paint on their faces. (I keep thinking that it's a good thing they are good drivers because if a cop pulls them over....) One kid pulls up still wearing his work clothes and says, “Don’t look!” as his strips off his pants and pulls on dark jeans right in the parking lot. Supplies are handed out. Maps of campus are handed around and discussed. 3 teams are coached on where they will "breach the perimeter" and what their assignments will be. One nervous boy asks a “what if” only to be told by a girl to “commando it.” (I hope they put this much effort into their homework!) Then, after getting team leader's cell phone numbers I give instructions that they be set on vibrate only and not to answer them as it would be the signal that the security patrol was coming. “If you get caught,” I tell them loudly, “tell them this was MY idea and this was my Mother’s Day present I asked for." A short pause. "But don’t get caught.” They laugh and Pumpkin & I take off on foot to patrol the front of the school.

We make it to the school just in time for a van to swoop to a stop by the curb and 4 kids hop out of another parent's car and dash to the north parking lot fence and climb over it. We walk by quickly so no attention is drawn to the giggling group. We walk down to the front of the school. The main gate is standing wide open! All is dark and silent. We continue down the sidewalk to the far end of the school. The construction fence is skewed and a wide gap between the panels is ripe for entry. Pumpkin turns to me and with a smile says, "I think the school knows that this bunch is the good kids."

Nevertheless, we patrol. Sunday night. 10 p.m. Quiet. Not much traffic. The kids are silently pursuing their goal. Half-hour in my phone buzzes. "R2" whispers nervously, "Where are you? Is it okay?" I assure her it is as her boyfriend "D2" cruises by soon followed by the other parent in the van.

At one point a white car that my hubby recognizes from several drive-bys earlier, pulls into the front driveway of the school with its lights off. Two young men trot by us to meet the car. Pumpkin dashes up to see what they are doing. They see him and pull out fast and drive away. “I think I foiled the competition,” he grins.

Another nervous call from R2 and it settles down again. After about 15 minutes, she buzzes me again. “Call ‘Polish Sausage’ and tell him to get his group to meet us at the auditorium!” She says they are almost done. Of course, Polish Sausage follows his orders and doesn’t answer his phone. I leave a message.

Next 10 minutes has me buzzing just as hard as the phone. Where are they? One more call from R2, “Is it clear? We’re coming out the front!” D2 swoops his SUV into the driveway and 6 or 8 kids pile in. I recognize “Movie Buff” as one of them. They take off back to Applebees. Where are the rest?

After a whole bunch of phone calls and confusion, we find out that 5 of the kids are staying to hang banners off the top of the auditorium. Security never showed so Pumpkin and I head back up to meet the first group. We all wait for them at Applebees. The other parent keeps driving around waiting for the last commandos. Half-hour later, they breeze in to a round of applause.

Mission accomplished! Hugs, huddles, cheers of COBRA!, stories, and pictures!

Monday 6:15 a.m:
The text message chime greets my sleepy daughter. A fellow commando arrived early on campus to discover the school has already cleaned up everything they did last night with the exception of a couple of signs.

Well at least they had the fun of planning, preparing, and executing a wonderfully safe and easily cleanable prank. 2007’s seniors spray-painted the campus – criminal damage. These kids were considerate in their mischief. I wish the school let them enjoy it for a brief time before they hosed it all away.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Replacement Is On The Way!

Stark Brothers Nursery is sending a replacement for the one fig tree that died. It is due on the 14th. Since it is too hot to plant it out in the yard, they advised putting it in a temporary pot. But where do I put the pot? My guess is where morning sun touches but is shaded from noon to sunset. Maybe I could put it by the front carport or by the mailbox since that faces north. Remembering to water it will be key.

If only other things were that easy. If only we had “do-overs” in real life, perhaps we wouldn’t mess up so much. However, in looking back over my life and dissecting the decisions I made, I didn’t do too badly. I have the world’s most wonderful daughter that wouldn’t have existed if I had said no to that marriage proposal, and my future ex-hubby is a great friend sometimes.

It doesn’t matter anyway. What matters is the present. The past is gone, the future is still to come, be present in the NOW. That’s great advice. It is incredibly hard to do but I’m working on it.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Walking through import stores

Waiting for the washer repairman to fix the old machine, I suddenly have the impulse to go to an import store. World Baazar, Cost Plus, or something like them.

Why? What draws me?

It’s the feeling that I get. The sense of exotic colors and textures. The suggestion of spice. The faint taste of something that is at once new yet thousands of years old. I walk up and down those aisles absorbing the hints of veiled seduction.

It’s the innuendos whispered in your ear by an attractive man. His scent fills your nostrils and your body tingles in apprehension while his heat radiates on your neck. His hand rests firm and warm on the skin at the small of your back and slowly slides a caress around your bare midriff and slips softly down the front of your jeans. You know you should say no and slap it away but the desire blocks your tongue and paralyzes your hands. Your brain disconnects, you arch towards his hands and all you want is more! More!

It’s a small taste of liquor that is sticky sweet and warms your tongue before it flows golden down your throat and sparkles behind your closed eyes. It is wanting more but knowing that you cannot have it.

It is the lure of forbidden pleasures and the promise of paradise. It is release for the frustrations in your soul.

I think the hormones are kicking in.

Wearing that ring…

I’ve taken off the ring I wore on my left hand. It was in place of my wedding ring that I grew too fat to wear. I’ve tried replacing it with rings that won’t be mistaken for wedding rings but it doesn’t feel right – nor does wearing nothing. But I’m determined to not put that ring back on unless WE mean it.

He has expressed his sadness that our home is disintegrating and I responded the same. Neither one of us is going to change enough to entice the other to change their heart. I regret what has happened but I cannot lie to myself or to him any longer.

It will be difficult. We are stretching it out because of his lack of self-sustainability and our daughter starting college in the fall. A clean swift break would have been easier but more hostile and pain ridden. This drawn out stress has brought me yet another head cold but I find that I’m not drinking as much as I have been. Truth is slowly setting me free.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

How to Survive Working at a Conference

I survived the two-day summit. My legs are incredibly sore because we were in the Convention Center that is HUGE and has industrial carpet directly on concrete. I basically did a “screw this” and wore my black jeans with a pair of hastily polished old black running shoes on day two and that helped a bit.

The preparation was hell – juggling printer time with other non-summit personnel who had their own work deadlines to meet, taking up all the conference rooms for our pre-summit meetings and bag stuffing assembly lines. I will research outsourcing options for printing next year.

After sleeping 9 hours, big dog decided that I needed to get up and I did – just long enough to give him his pill, feed both of the dogs their breakfast and biscuits. Then I went back to bed for three more hours. Paradise!

So now, you find me at the closest Whataburger having breakfast with an exceptionally grumpy future ex-husband who is working on his laptop, too. I am content with my tummy filled and good coffee at hand. There is no Wi-Fi here but that is fine. We can “make do” with offline work. Ha!

Tomorrow it is back to work. I have the back of my little truck filled with all the left over tote bags I have to schlep back to the basement storage area. The hubby has generously volunteered to help me but I haven’t decided if I’ll accept or just soldier on.

Lessons learned from this past week?
· Start with comfy shoes. I will go shopping for some new black running shoes to have on hand. Paired with black jeans and a dressy top and jewelry, no one noticed the dress code “violation.”
· Keep hydrated. I came home late at night and was so tired and thirsty (as well as in pain from the hips down) that I almost fell asleep drinking a glass of water and woke up constipated. Oops – too much info.
· Use the cell phone for communicating instead of running to locate the co-worker. The distances were so great and I was a fool to take off on foot when the vibrate feature on our phones works like a charm.
· Keep the registration area straightened up and as condensed as possible. Everything needs to be stored out of sight overnight and set up again easily in the morning. Plus, when the conference is over this makes the “getting out of Dodge” much faster and sorting things out at work the next week is easier as well.
· Keep your temporary staff happy. We had an overzealous convention staffer yank a beverage right out of the hand of our security guard. They felt it wasn’t proper for a guard to eat or drink on duty. I set the convention staff straight. Our guard was a person who needs to stay alert. This means keeping him hydrated and not hungry. Our guard was an incredibly courteous and chivalrous man who was not needed for security (the Convention Center required we employ one) but helped us relay messages and assisted our attendees with small matters.

All in all, it wasn’t so bad. It is back to routine tomorrow and for once that sounds enticing.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bit of a letdown.

I made sure I ate a good breakfast this morning so that I could take all my pills this morning, including the first HRT. I guess I was expecting instant results but it isn’t what I got. Right in the middle of grocery shopping this morning, I was hit with the heavy chest, hard thumping heart, and numb lips that accompany the anxiety/panic attack I’ve been getting so much lately.

I started to breathe deeper and kept myself calm as I finished the errand. When I got home and put everything away (or it would be sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor until I did regardless of refrigeration requirements) I sat down and took my blood pressure. Still feeling a bit anxious, my rate was 116/76 with a pulse of 79. No, it was a solid anxiety/panic attack.

So I’ve been spending the last 3 hours or so online looking for a way to enjoy a tiny bit of a vacation away. Looks like it is not going to happen. Many great ideas for possible future vacations, but not in the next decade, I fear.

Time to start buying lottery tickets, I guess!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Write the Truth

What is it for me? I haven’t had any horrible gut wrenching things happen to me. Unless you count the time my first serious boyfriend went on vacation.

We’d been seeing each other hot and heavy for about three months. He was about 12 or so years older than I was. A Vietnam vet who flew helicopters for the medical rescues. He was sure of himself, good mechanically, and he took care of me. He’d even designed a solar water heater for his pool. I was always chilly in his house so he bought me a quilted pink robe with a satin belt to wear. We’d make love the every other weekend I’d stay over at his house.

Then early one Saturday evening just before we were leaving for dinner, he got a phone call. He took it outside in the carport where I couldn’t overhear and the conversation lasted close to an hour. I was so naive that I didn’t think twice about it and we didn’t talk about it over dinner, either.

That’s when we stopped making love and he stopped having me spend the night but we continued seeing each other. Then about two weeks later, he told me of his vacation plans to Alaska. I noticed he was buying gifts, but thinking that they were surprises for me, I didn’t let on that I saw them. I had no clue in my young brain.

His vacation was two long weeks. My girl friends (who were co-workers and much later proved they had been no friends of mine) kept asking me if he’d called. I didn’t even realize that perhaps that was the proper thing for a young man to do with his girl. No calls.

No calls until two nights after I knew he’d returned. He called to tell me that he’d gotten married to his high school sweetheart and that we ought to go out to celebrate. I hung up on him. My chest felt like a building was sitting on it and I couldn’t breathe. My tight throat was choking me and the tears came so fast I thought I was going to die.

When I gained a bit of composure, I started dialing those friends. No one was home, not even my mother. I was all alone with the worst agony I could have ever imagined.

It took weeks of over-the-counter sleeping pills and telling my tale to whatever poor person made the mistake of stopping long enough to listen. I even blew a date with another nice young man by telling my story.

I wish I had turned to the page instead.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Whew!

What a week it’s been. I dealt with overtime, a migraine, extreme fatigue, and family demands. Interspersed I’ve continued to deal with peri-menopausal symptoms that make it difficult to work. The night sweats and hot flashes I can deal with but the sudden racing heart, anxiety attacks, and the lightheaded/dizziness episodes tend to run me on the edge and I lose what little focus I have left.

Sunday begins the HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and I cannot wait. This next week starts an even busier time at work and I won’t have relief until next Sunday (May 4). I probably won’t be writing much until then.

Two of the three fig trees are leafing out. The third is probably dead. I don’t think that I’ll follow up on getting a replacement as it is getting in the 90’s here and will be too hot to plant. So, new name: The Sisters.

I’m listening to German heavy metal rock music. Rammstein and Eisbrecher mainly. It sounds pretty much the same – funny. They don’t sing very much but instead they deliver deep guttural poetry (very repetitive words) in a heavy grim mood. (Try www.pandora.com and customize your own free radio station.)

I’ve also been reading more books on writing in order to try get myself back to the page. My “office” in the corner of the laundry room got a massive cleaning and re-organization to make it feel free and open instead of claustrophobic. When I went through old stories I found a gem entitled “Chapter 1” that I’m going to try work on and see where it goes. Sunday may be a good day to do that. Sunday morning when the house still sleeps.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Epilogue to the Staff Meeting

Nothing happened. Apparently the “Big Check” arrived in the nick of time and the only budget saving item announced was that we will no longer purchase the bigger bottles of water for the staff. Only smaller bottles will be purchased for meetings. Since we have a terrific reverse osmosis filtration device on both “kitchen” faucets (one upstairs and one downstairs) this is no big deal.

But. The “hub of discord” remains. I figured it out this morning when I was watching the dogs eat their breakfast. I thought of the Snopes family in Faulkner’s short stories. It’s been many years since I’ve read him, yet the premise remains with me. One family inadvertently acts as a catalyst of calamities with everyone they come in contact with but they remain unscathed.

There is only one person who has conflicts with others. She has problems with four other people whose only real fault is that they make her work instead of letting her read her book or play computer games. That person, if removed, would solve 90% of the office tensions.

Do you have such a person in your office?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It’s 10:40 a.m. Do you know where your job is?

An ALL STAFF meeting has been called by the Executive VP at the non-profit company where I work. I usually don’t think that much about it but I’ve passed by a few desks where whispers of worries drift to the floor. Faces strained behind the smiles as we share dismal stories of gas prices and broken items waiting to be replaced or repaired.

Worse than this is the critical, nit-picking attitude that is creeping in to some of my co-worker’s blood. They turn against each other instead of supporting. It won’t mean a thing in the whole picture except the other co-workers who aren’t participating hope the ones who are will be felled by “the axe” just for relief alone. I have to say that I’m in that group. I get tired of politics no matter what arena it is in.

So head down, mouth shut, nose to the grindstone, and all those clichés that follow, I will persevere and do my job as best I can.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Write about flowers

I miss the huge geraniums of my childhood. The circular scallop-edged leaves ranged from solid green to green with bands of crimson. The peppery scent would never be included in a perfume, yet the smell sends me back to Minnesota.

Eye-popping red geraniums are my grandmother going to visit her mother’s grave in the rural cemetery on the Fourth of July. They are the lone mausoleum that carries whispers from my sister, “The gypsy queen is buried there.”

Warm pink geraniums are summer on the farm with chickens staring at the blossoms waiting to peck at any bugs that dare to show themselves. They are farm cats plopped into baby doll buggies yowling as they bump across the farmyard followed by a barking farm dog.

Glowing white geraniums are sweet watermelon juice running down my chin as my sister and I start a spitting contest with the seeds. They are the black and red box elder bugs that decorate the trees in the dappled sunshine. They are the easy laughter from my grandfather as the transistor radio hisses another run scored by the Twins.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Three Tarts

Hearty thanks to a dear friend for giving me the name for my fig trees. While the original intent for the name is different, I think it is great for my trees as the fruit will make excellent tart filling. Note to self: search for a recipe.

On a more sober note: day after day is one big abstract painting for me at the moment. Blurred edges, different colors/moods, and interpretations change constantly. I hope it settles down soon. I need something solid to grab onto now that my rug has been yanked. I've been distracting my thoughts by reading Terry Pratchett novels. ("Guards! Guards!" made me laugh so hard I had tears running down my cheeks.) Eventually I will have to sit down and really think about my life and where I want it to go from here. I hesitate even writing that sentence because I've learned the hard way that even the best laid plans are written in goop.

I read some advice in a daily inspirational e-newsletter that I receive that said to go with the flow. While that is easy to say, it is really difficult to actually do. It is human instinct to want at least a bit of control over one's own life, isn't it? Nevertheless, I will keep that as a low-level mantra and give it a try. Go with the flow. Go with the flow.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Larry, Moe, and Curly: an Update

The “boys” have been planted! But since they bear fruit, perhaps I should give them feminine names. What is a good trio of ladies that would lend their names to a set of fig trees? I’m thinking of some of the girls I hung around with in high school. But there were more than three of us. We were the Silly Seven. That’s out.

I lean to the feminine in matters of creating and strength. We give birth at great pain and then we raise the child with little sleep and a whole lot of creativity. I remember tape recording the clothes dryer’s rumbling sounds that put my daughter to sleep and playing it by her crib so I could take a quick shower. I remember using duct tape and cardboard for childproofing electrical cords because we couldn’t afford expensive gadgets. Remnants of duct tape adhesive still scar my old end tables that I still can’t afford to replace.

Anyway, I think I’ll do some more research to re-name my fig trees. They should be the “girls” instead of the “boys” especially when they become laden with their gentle sweet treats. There are few things in life that are so satisfying to the spirit than picking fruit off your own tree and savoring it immediately.

Only one mystery remains: why am I always left with so much extra dirt after digging and re-filling a hole? The trees were bare root and there wasn’t THAT much to them. Hmmmm….

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Daydreaming Again

I don’t know why, but daydreaming always makes me feel better. When under great stress or turmoil, I am unable to sit and access my dreams, but when everything settles down, I dream as much as I can.

My future ex-husband (who has been very attentive lately – hmmm...) said I should stay in the house after we divorce. Of course then he made the remark that he’d like to be able to continue to use the workshop. (No.) The house is falling apart due to lack of money to get someone to do the repairs. Yes we have a new roof on the main part of the house, but our patio roof is bowed and leaking and won’t last too many more monsoons. It needs painting inside and out and new floors. I can do curtains slowly via Walmart. And that's just the start.

Anyway, the thing is, I was sitting on the back patio catching my breath after mowing and weed-wacking the back yard and thought about all I’d do to the place if I had the money and a free independent hand in it. I’d put on new doors, put up a block wall all the way around the property (try burn that, arsonist), and I’d re-do the back patio into an indoor/outdoor room, etc. By the time the husband came out to check on things, I was feeling pretty darn good with a resolution to start buying lottery tickets because that was the only way any of this would ever be done.

The after glow continues this morning and I sit at my writing desk that sits in a corner of the laundry room and I dream on. Maybe I’d turn his dirty, dusty, unfinished workshop into a writing studio...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Write About Your Mother’s Cooking

Mom made simple food. In the later years all she did was fry things. It was faster, easier, and less clean up. But I best remember the nights that Dad was working. She would make breakfast for dinner. We would have pancakes, scrambled eggs, French toast, or oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins. Comfort food for me now, but it was to stretch the food budget back then.

We always had a garden and since my dad’s folks had a farm, we would have access to eggs and chicken. The cows were originally milk cows but later became feeder cattle. I don’t remember getting meat from them. The pigs were the same. Our pork came from the grocery store.

Summer's long days meant canning and freezing the produce from the garden and sitting on the front steps of the farm house in the long evening's twilight shelling peas and tossing the pods to our dog to chew like gum. Mom would chastise us when we would eat more peas than were put in the bowls. Sweet corn was the same. We would cut it off the cob after it had been blanched. Raw sweet corn is a treat that will never have its equal.

The funniest was when Mom over-planted cabbage. She decided to use the bumper crop for a new recipe of freezer slaw. It was the job of my sister and me to grind up the chunks of cabbage in the food grinder. We literally had buckets of cabbage juice sitting around the kitchen. The slaw was a delicious treat that appeared on the table frequently the next winter.

Another year found us buried in tomatoes. My sister took the opportunity to lobby for homemade ketchup. I still harbor ill-will over that. The process of putting cooked tomatoes through a manually pressed sieve not once but twice was agonizing. I made sure that I did not do more than my share of that job. The finished product was not memorable but that could be colored by my resentment of the sieve.

I miss those carefree days of summer that smelled like vinegar, sugar, and spices.
You can never go home again but I sure do think about those magical days - especially now that I'm getting older.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

“I Would Like to Make an Exchange.”

I beg your pardon, Ma’am. What did you say?

I said I would like to make an exchange.

An exchange. Of what, exactly?

My life. I would like to exchange my life.

Ma’am, we can’t just exchange your life. It isn’t that easy.

Why not? You give people new lives all the time. I want one.

Yes, we do give new lives here at the Karma Kash and Karry, but that is to people who have, well, passed on, so to speak. You don’t seem to be...

Dead? No, not yet. Listen, can I speak to your supervisor? This is somewhat important, you see.

Yes, I’m sure it is. Unfortunately, Mr. Dharma is away at a conference.

Oh. I’ll wait.

Ma’am, you can’t wait. He’ll be away for some time.

That’s all right. I need a new life. I will wait.

Why do you need a new life, if I may ask?

Sure, you can ask. My life isn’t what I wanted. It isn’t what it was supposed to be.

For example?

Well, my marriage, for instance. I was supposed to be happy ever after. I’m not. We’re not. He wants a divorce and I’m not sure I don’t agree.

I see. Just the marriage?

Oh, no. There’s the lack of education. There’s the huge financial debt. There’s no retirement in my future and I just can’t face working until I die at my desk. That just doesn’t seem right to me. What do you think?

No, dying at your desk isn’t very desirable, I agree. But, think now, Ma’am, surely all this didn’t happen without you taking some part in the decisions. I’m sure you had to say yes to the marriage proposal.

Yes, I guess I did. But I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into, you see. There wasn’t full disclosure.

There never is, Ma’am. There never is.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fool's!

Google, as usual, had a couple of funny ones today. On the iGoogle site it had a new feature you could use to back-time your emails. You can send emails with a time – say 6 hours ago – and even mark them as read or unread in the recipient’s inbox.

On the main Google site is “Virgle” pioneers. You can fill out a questionnaire to find out if you are eligible to join Virgin Airlines founder Richard Branson and the founders of Google on a 2014 trip to colonize Mars.

Too funny! And worse, no place to send feedback that you “got it!”

Ah, yes. It is good to laugh. I need laughter in my day or it becomes bleak and pointless. I’m lucky that ½ of my working day gives me that pleasure. Although lately it is evident that vacation time is coming and I can point out the people who had better take one! Sheesh!

Oh! My fig trees arrived at sunset. They are sitting in a bucket of water as I’ll be digging a hole tomorrow evening. Yay! And BONUS – they are far from perfect. Just what I was looking for.

By the way, I read on a professional blogger's site that Google's Blogspot - this vehicle that I use for my blog - is a ghetto blog site. Yeah, but the "rent" is right - free!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

My Personal Report on Earth Hour

What a pleasant hour this turned out to be. Candles were strategically placed (in the bathroom especially) and lit about 5 minutes before 8 p.m. local time. The gunfire and sirens that were battling just moments before paused in an uneasy peace and all you could hear outside was traffic from the freeway.

The husband was trying to read by candlelight and the daughter was out with a girlfriend. I used a flash light for the brief period of time that I felt like reading. The dogs lay in the grass, ears perked and noses twitching. I breathed in the darkness. It felt good.

The City of Phoenix was a participant as well but for safety’s sake they had to leave the street lights on so I wasn’t able to see a difference in the night sky. I was hoping to be able to see a few more stars as our light pollution blocks most of them.

As far as my neighborhood, we were the only house that observed the event. My neighbors to the west had all their lights blazing including their back yard flood lights. I guess it was their personal protest and general denial of the whole global warming issue. (Do the math, people.) However, about 8:30 p.m. they turned off the backyard floods and I was really able to enjoy the rest of Earth Hour.

As a side note: I have about 90% of our lights changed to CFS bulbs and my power bill dropped $20 a month after I switched over. That’s $240/year! I plan on getting the remaining 10% taken care of in the near future.

Thank you to all who participated in Earth Hour! Remember Earth Day is April 22nd.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Friday Night

I sit alone again. Well, not exactly alone as my little dog slumbers on her perch beside me. The future ex-husband has gone off to the fitness center and my daughter naps in her room. My eyes are fuzzy from reading and I’m fighting off the urge to eat something out of sheer boredom.

It scares me to think that this is how it will be when I’m on my own. I must have things to do. I guess I could work on the project I’ve been carrying in my work tote for the last 2 weeks, but I want to enjoy the time away from my job.

My previous optimism is fading in the face of dullness. I have always had these times but they weren’t as ominous as they are now. Usually, I sit with a glass of wine until 8 p.m. or so and then go to bed. By morning I usually have my spirit restored. Sometimes, however, I have whole weekends where the highlight is doing laundry.

I could pay bills. We got our checks early thanks to a mistake in the payroll department. That wouldn’t cheer me any to see that I have to dip into the line of credit to buy groceries, again.

I need a walk. Maybe I’ll put on my sneakers and pop a tape into my ancient cassette tape player (remember them?) and go for a walk. It is still early enough to be safe. Yes, I think I will.

No, I think not. I just heard a gunshot in the distance. Payday weekend. What the hell was I thinking?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hiding

People hide. It’s funny but they tend to hide in crowds. I’m sitting in a coffee shop where only a couple people converse while the rest hide behind their computer screens and newspapers. We congregate to hide. We are a herd mentality that espouses individuality and solitude. We rush about in large groups often at cross purposes to get that bit of the currently popular unique experience for ourselves.

We don’t make eye contact, either. We talk to each other while we look over the other's shoulder or out the window. Yet, somehow this seems to work. The art of conversation is now more of a visual transmission in emails and text messaging. The most obvious example of this is my personal working environment.

Part one of my day is upstairs with men and women in my age group. We came of age with print newspapers and hand written letters. We talk to each other – usually with a punch line and a shared laugh. It is light and easy even when one of us is being catty or downright grumpy. We understand each other.

Part two of my day is downstairs with younger people who do nothing more than emails, Blackberries, webinars, and meetings over a conference phone. Even while they are in face-to-face meetings, they are all surreptitiously looking at their Blackberries while their laptops are open in front of them. They seem uncomfortable with my laughter and jokes.

Where this is leading, I haven’t a clue. I’ve noticed how I start at one end of a topic and by the end of the post I’ve taken a side road and end up in a parking lot without anything more to say. That’s me. I wander in mind and spirit.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sitting in the Back Yard with Wine

The evenings are becoming so beautiful in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Construction on the light rail is taking a break, rush hour traffic has ended, most of my neighbors are inside making their kids work on homework, and my dogs listen to the “evening news.” I have the sprinkler going. I’m starting to get the ground ready to dig the huge hole I’ll need to put my 3 fig trees in.

I’m also getting my personal ground ready for the rest of my life. For some reason, today I feel optimistic. I was on the internet looking at rental townhomes and condos. Rent isn’t nearly as bad as I thought. Most accept small dogs and cats. And looking at the floor plans and photos made me feel spring-like inside at the thought of starting fresh and new.

I’ve been yo-yoing emotionally for several weeks now. Plus, I’m slowly trying to prepare my mother for the divorce. She tells of what she went through with Dad in his later years and tells me to hang in there. She doesn’t know but a fraction of what is going on and she wouldn’t want to. She’s the type that if it isn’t in the Bible or on Fox News, then it doesn’t exist. Fine.

Anyway, the sky to the west is a faded peach and the sky to the east is a medium indigo. Barking from a little dog down the block blends with the whooshing of the water pipes feeding the sprinkler. A jet rumbles on its departure from Sky Harbor. Peace settles in my chest and I know it is fleeting, but I savor the sensation.

Good evening, Arizona.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Larry, Moe, and Curly

There are buds and tiny leaves waiting to pop open here and there on the otherwise bare branches of my lone backyard tree. The ash is the only tree that survived the arson fire we had at my home last summer but it was heavily scorched. I lost my beloved fig and my delicate apricot trees. I looked pretty silly standing in the back yard stroking my soot blackened trees with tears running down my face.

I ordered 3 new fig trees last weekend. They are supposed to ship tomorrow. I’m going to plant them tightly together – I love multi-trunk trees but no one sells them like that. Imperfection has beauty in my eyes.

Except when it is applied to me. Imperfection glares angrily back at me when I look in the mirror. Dangling breasts, sagging stomach, and big liver spots on my face remind me that spring is for the young.

I see beautiful, vibrant older women in television commercials and I’m saddened. I will never be able to look like them without a whole lot of plastic surgery and since I am one of those working poor who will never be able to afford retirement, I will remain as I am.

My husband and I have decided that when we “celebrate” our 25th wedding anniversary (in 5½ years) and our only child is on her own (hopefully), we will then divorce and go our own way. His eye is toward romance and idealized love that I hope he finds because my experience tells me that it is only found in fiction. An end to my marriage has been decided in the spring sunshine and I turn towards planting my fig trees.

I think I’ll name them Larry, Moe, and Curly. The Three Stooges and me.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Write about a longing (dream).

I dream of leaving this grimy and dangerous city behind me.

I dream of a farm house surrounded by tall trees and lilac bushes with fields of ripening grain stretching to the horizon.

I dream of a cabin on the edge of a mountain meadow, its back to a forest and bordered by a small stream.

I dream of a house in a small town where I’m labeled as the town eccentric and pretty much left alone.

I dream of an adobe house in the upper level of a small canyon with wildflowers blooming on the sides of the mountain.

I dream of a cabin by a lake in Minnesota in October when no one else is there.

I dream of a houseboat moored on the Mississippi or the upper Colorado.

But these are dreams and will most likely not be a reality. I’ve lived with ever deepening debt for the last 20 years and there isn’t a day that goes by when I’m most grateful that debtor’s prisons no longer exist. No, I’ll just have to visit these places in my dreams.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Write about taking the long way around

Today I was on my way from Phoenix to Payson, Arizona on Highway 87 when about 10 miles north of the casino the road was closed. (I found out later it was an emergency closure due to the road buckling and being dangerous to drive on.) I had two choices. I could turn around and go back the way I came or turn onto the Bush (no relation to the idiot in the Oval Office) Highway and it would take me back to Phoenix as well.

There was no way to get to Payson today. Yes, I could have driven three or four hours longer and gone back through town to get I-17 north to the Camp Verde turn off and then up the mountains and down through Strawberry and Pine to Payson. If I had been planning on staying overnight or a couple of days, I would have, but as I was only going up for a few hours, I totally wimped out.

Which is what I’ve been doing most of my life. I’ve wimped out on the hard roads and taken the easy path. Because of this, my marriage is in trouble.

It was because I was honest. Honesty is a trait highly prized by my husband and so I tend to honor it and tell the truth. But in some cases, and I know most women would agree with me, I needed to lie and to pretend to be someone I wasn’t. Fake it. “When Harry Met Sally” fake it.

I needed to take the long way around; the hard way. But I took the honest, direct approach. So now I pay the price.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Write about the booth in the corner.

There wasn’t much light reaching the corner where her table sat. Her colorful brochures and flashy sign were not enough to grab the eye of the doctor attendees. It had been difficult to get the company to pay for the exhibit fee. Marsha, the Regional Manager, had huffed through her nose when Traci put in the request.
“Waste of time and energy with that bunch. Company won’t like it.”
“But you’ll put in a good word, right Marsha? I really have a good feeling about this one. The organization of this event seems to be sharper than years past.”
“Doesn’t take too much to improve on the usual disasters they put on. Really, Traci, the show in Vegas would be better than Tucson. More fun after hours, too.”
“I can do Vegas, too. That is two weeks after Tucson and San Diego is between. No problems that way. Come on, Marsha.”
Marsha squinted under her frown at Traci. “Something else behind this isn’t there. What is so important that you need to be in Tucson?”
“Just a gut feeling, Marsha. Truth. This will be a good show for me.”
Marsha shook her head, never taking her eyes off of Traci. Then, with another huff through her nose, Marsha snatched the papers from Traci’s hand and signed them.
The check was sent two weeks later and the first weekend in November found Traci sitting beside her booth in the low light of the corner. Attendees would walk up to the table next to her and when they had finished there, they would slide their gaze passed her and settle on the table across the room. Frustration was setting in.
“Dang! This is too dark.” A gray-haired lady with an air of authority stood in front of the table. “I gotta get some light over you.” She walked over to a house phone and talked. After a moment or two she returned. “Sorry about that. I’ve been tied up with meetings. Someone is supposed to come and take care of this dark corner.” Right then, a wizened little man pushed his way through the glass door and scanned the crowd. The gray-haired lady waved him over. “It’s too dark here. No one can see her display. She paid good money to be here and she needs some light.”
“The light is up as far as it can go.”
“Then I need spots or a tall lamp.” She squinted up at the ceiling. “How about changing that bulb out for a spot light? We must do something.”
“Can’t. This is as far up as it goes.”
The gray-haired lady frowned. “No. Unacceptable. We need light. I’ll phone Tricia and see what she can do.” The little man shrugged and walked away as the gray-haired lady fished out a piece of paper from her pocket and dialed her cell phone. While waiting for it to connect she said, “Tricia is head of sales. She will have more clout. I apologize for this.”
Traci smiled and murmured some cliché or two that went unnoticed by the lady. Soon the gray-haired lady turned with a smile. “Tricia said to hang on. She’ll take care of it.” She saw the doctor at the table next to Traci start to turn away. “Doctor Gingham. Let me introduce you to Traci. She’s from Icky Labs. We’ve put the poor girl in a dark corner and no one can see her. Traci, this is Dr. Gingham from Phoenix.”
Traci shook Dr. Gingham’s hand and felt a smile build on her face without having to plaster it there. She got one, at any rate. Just as they were concluding their brief visit, a tall young man with a long stepladder almost knocked her flat as he swung it around to place it under the ceiling light. “Sorry,” he said as he climbed.
Dr. Gingham called his partner over to the table and introduced her to Traci. They had just shaken hands when suddenly, the light from the new bulb thundered to life. It was like her booth had magically appeared.
Whether it was the sudden brightening of her booth or the simple fact that there was more light, Traci couldn’t be sure nor did she care. Visits picked up throughout the afternoon and by day’s end she had cards from over a double dozen doctors with promises to visit their offices the next few days. Her gut feeling was right.
The young blonde woman who met her the day before for setup locations came by just before the day’s event was over. “Well, you did pretty well there. Wasn’t I right about the corner?”
“After the gray-haired lady got the bulb changed, it went great. I didn’t get her name, but give her my thanks.”
The young blonde frowned. “Gray-haired lady?”
“Yes. She had a black and red-flowered pantsuit on. Sort of chubby. Shoulder-length hair. Big, chunky glasses.”
The young blonde paled. “That sounds like Edna. But it can’t be.”
“Why not?”
“Edna died three months ago in a car accident. I’m her replacement.”

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hair

Today’s prompt was “write about hair.” I immediately recalled a meeting I attended not too long ago. It's the same one that we’ve all sat in on. It’s the one that goes over the same old thing and the minutes I had to write were going to be more cut and paste from previous meetings than anything fresh and new.

My mind drifted. I slowly became aware that I was watching one of the men at the meeting. His back was to me and it was obvious that he was just as bored as I was because he was fidgeting. Being from middle-eastern descent, his head is crowned by a thick, shining, shag carpet of blue black hair. And he was twirling it around his finger like a bored little girl.

He must have felt my eyes on him because after a moment, he froze, jerked his hand down, and then continued to stare at the presentation we were supposed to be watching. I smiled and looked down at my notes. The meeting droned on.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

At Five in the Afternoon...

At five in the afternoon, Lenore sat at a sticky table in a tiny greasy aired diner in a corner of town that was not frequented by the fashionable crowd. That was why she chose this place. It was safe.

She pulled out her notebook and clicked her pen into readiness. Scanning the crowd to make sure no one was looking her way, she bent over the paper and began to write. Out came her day, her month, her likes, dislikes, thoughts, prayers, and her soul. It all leaked out and spread across the page in dashes, dots, curls, and scrawls. It danced to a music that few would ever hear.

A shadow passed over her page, then backed up and stayed. She looked up to see an old woman smiling down at her.

“Keep writing, honey. Keep writing. It is the answer for us all if we but took the time.” The old woman patted Lenore on the shoulder and then walked out the door.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Moon Story

She sat on top of the mesa, feeling the wind finger her short black hair. The night was quiet. An occasional coyote call, the buzz-click of an insect, the shuffle of a vole, and the singing of the stars were all that she could hear. The smell of creosote bushes after the day’s rain drifted up to her nostrils. The sky was still indigo in the west as it clutched the last remaining thoughts of daylight. The moon was due to rise soon.

She turned to the east and with her eyes fixed on the horizon. There, a glow, then a sliver, then a slice, bit by bit the big ivory disc levitated into the black velvet. It was full tonight. Tonight, by the light of the full moon, she would do it. She stood up, slid her clothes off and naked, she turned to face the moon.

Whispering the words her grandmother had taught, she took her knife and slit the skin on her left forearm. Shiny black liquid bubbled up from the slit. Then, the skin on her right forearm. The knife hit the gravelly clay with a metallic thud. Blood dripped down her wrists and over the palms of her hands. She lifted them high towards the moon and chanting the prayers of the forgotten ones, followed its path across the sky.

When the moon set many hours later, she pulled her aching arms down by her side, brushed off some of the dried blood and reached down for her clothes. Now only time would tell if the ceremony worked or not.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Secret Revealed – An Alpha-Poem

Shhh! It’s a secret!
Everyone will want to know.
Can’t you just keep your mouth shut?
Remember the last time we told?
Everyone laughed at us.
To tell this would be worse.

Relax, how bad can it be?
Everyone will understand.
Valued friends gather, no
Enemies among them.
All right everyone!
Listen, I have something to say.
Everyone turns to listen.
Distant expressions and a yawn.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Night

I don’t remember when it changed. Recently I discovered that I welcome the night and the peace it brings to my fenced-in and locked-tight corner of the world. Outside the sirens, horns, and gunshots have control. Not here.

My daylight hours are filled with clocks, traffic, computers, meetings, deadlines, photocopiers, telephones, and loud whining voices. The noise makes it difficult to focus sometimes. There is no privacy, no respite even in the restroom. Everyone knows what everyone else thinks and does. It is hard to breathe.

Night settles down like a hen in her nest. I sit quietly with my glass of wine or cordial of brandy and a computer keyboard or a good book in front of me. When the weather permits, I sit outside and breathe in the twilight and smell the quiet air. My dogs lay in the grass; ears perked, noses twitching, listening to the latest news in the neighborhood. It is only then that the tightly squeezing fist of stress lets go of my chest.

I can breathe at night.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Ach, I'm getting old...

Being the younger side of the Boomer generation, I’m dealing with old age problems for me and the old age of my mother. In the “old days” the family would be together, if not in the same house, at least in the same town. Today we have scattered. My brother is in Oklahoma, my sister in Texas, and here I am in Phoenix. My mother lives two hours away from me in a smaller Arizona town. I fear that phone call I’ll get one day.

And I am not alone. My friends have all the logistics and guilt of dealing with it all, too. I just got off the phone with a friend who is on temporary assignment in Washington DC. Her parents are both experiencing health issues and my friend feels frustrated, helpless, and guilty at not being here to assist them. Fortunately, my husband has a career that allows a very flexible schedule and is able to be the chauffer and local contact for them. What are friends for, anyway?

But it got my friend and me to musing what we will do when it is our turn. Since we are all on the other side of 50, it isn’t such an abstract idea as it was when we were all in our 30’s sipping beer together on hot summer nights. We started thinking of assisted living situations and before you knew it, we were “designing” a care center for our gang.

It wouldn’t work out, and we know it, but in that fleeting moment we held a bit of hope that the future may not be so scary when you face it with your friends.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Close Your Eyes

“This minute. This tiny bit of time. I want to remember this forever.” Wendy closed her eyes, let the magic of the moment flow into her body, and snuggle down into her cells. This is the way she did it. This was the spell she invoked to help her remember.

Wendy opened her eyes. She was five. Ice cream ran down the fingers of both hands and onto the pavement in white sparkles as she walked home in the summer sunshine. Her older sister, also encumbered with two ice cream cones, licked quickly at the creamy sweetness while trying to avoid brain freeze. Grandma had given them each a dime. The Dairy Queen charged a nickel for a small cone.

Becky laughed at her little sister’s desperate attempts to keep up with the melting soft serve ice cream. “It’s on your toes, too. You can’t lick it off of them.”

“I love ice cream.” Wendy leveled off one cone and turned her attention to the other. “I love ice cream almost as much as watermelon.”

“I think I love watermelon more. You can spit the seeds and no one gets mad at you.” Becky flattened her second cone and held them both up in triumph.

“That one is leaking out the bottom,” Wendy pointed.

“Nuts.” Becky began to suck on the bottom of the cone as they rounded the corner and home came into view. Then she took a big bite out of the bottom of the leaking cone and the ice cream popped out of the top and landed in a splat on the sidewalk. Wendy laughed.

She closed her eyes.

She was eight. She opened her eyes to see Mom shaking baking soda under the running water to stop the itching from the clouds of mosquitoes that emerged each summer sunset. That day the neighborhood kids sat in a circle over at the neighbor’s house and chipped mortar off old red bricks. They laughed and told stories while they worked. She discovered that the neighbor boy didn’t wear underwear under his wide-legged shorts.

“I don’t know why you don’t stay inside after supper. You wouldn’t get so bit up if you did,” Mom chided Wendy.

“It’s cooler outside after supper. Danny let me ride his bike. I can ride a two-wheel bike, Mom. Can I have one for my birthday?”

“We’ll see. Take off those filthy clothes and get in the tub. I don’t know how you manage to get so dirty in a yard full of grass.”

Wendy shucked off her shorts and underpants at the same time and climbed into the bathtub. As she settled down into the hot water, her skin slowly gave up the sticky itching feeling and her eyelids felt heavy.

She closed her eyes.

Just after turning twenty-four, Wendy next opened her eyes. She saw the rosy glow of the sunset on the wallpaper hung by her mother in her little rented house. Her half-Siamese cat, Muppet leapt on the sofa arm, walked down the length of her body and settled onto her chest with a purr.

Wendy’s face was hot, puffy and red from crying. Feeling the pain of loneliness drift into the room, Wendy shuddered a bit. Weekends spent alone were getting harder to tolerate, and because she hated her job there was no comfort found during the week.

“One bullet. Just one tiny bullet, Muppet.” She fingered the small handgun and let the tears fall once more. Muppet pulled herself up into a crouch and leaned in close to stare into Wendy’s eyes.

She closed her eyes.

It was that time before dawn when the world is barely visible that she opened her eyes again. She was twenty-nine and nursing her newborn daughter. The dark grey form that draped over the clothesbasket slowly became the red t-shirt her husband wore two days ago when he came home early to tell her he had lost his job.

Never mind. He’ll find another one. Wendy put her sleeping daughter down on a blanket spread on the living room floor and laid down beside her. Little Belle’s eyelashes were thick on her chubby cheeks and her tiny mouth was still puckered from suckling. Wendy gently opened Belle’s fist and wondered again at the tiny fingernails. How could something this miraculous have come from me?

She closed her eyes.

Thirty-four years old and enough grey hair convinced her daughter’s kindergarten classmates that she was Grandma. She opened her eyes to read the instructions that came with the hair color. She thought the color looked too dark, but the opened box was not returnable. With a sigh, Wendy mixed the two liquids and shook up the bottle.

Staring at herself in the mirror, she noticed the lines at the corners of her eyes were deeper. Massaging the frown lines over her nose, she started worrying once more about their finances. The bill collectors were calling and they had a nasty edge to their voices.

“I can’t work any more hours. They won’t let me,” she tried to explain to her husband who was once more between jobs.

“You can get a better job,” he said, “one that pays more. You are wasting yourself at that store.”

“I haven’t had any other job since I left the law office six years ago. I’m out of date. Besides, they hire kids for those jobs.”

The mirror came back into focus and Wendy squirted the hair color on in loops and swirls making little ribbons of brown. Her head looked like a cake from a freak bakery accident.

She closed her eyes.

The funeral went well. At sixty-nine, Wendy opened her eyes to see people’s mouths moving but she could not hear what they were saying. Her husband had died. Belle’s hand clasped tight in her own brought all the comfort she needed. Her brother sent a card with only his signature. As they hadn’t spoken in twenty years, she couldn’t expect any more. Becky was in Texas now, and couldn’t make it back for the services. Wendy knew Becky couldn’t pay for the plane ticket and neither could she.

The organist began to play “Nearer My God to Thee.”

She closed her eyes.

Twilight. Her little dog slept in her lap. Big dog snored in the recliner. Her hip started to send shooting pains down her leg, so she shoved the little dog over onto the sofa, stood up, shuffled over to the living room drapes and pulled them closed, plunging the room into darkness. She scuffled to the bathroom, turned on the light, and once again felt a jolt as an old woman with snowy hair and a face that resembled a roadmap looked back at her in the mirror. “When did I turn eighty?” she asked the little dog that followed her.

She closed her eyes.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Places I have Lived

1956 Cellar apartment in Tracy, MN – beginning
1958 Modest house in Tracy, MN – awareness
1960 Old house in New Ulm, MN – cowgirl
1964 New house in New Ulm, MN – skater
1967 Farm house by Sleepy Eye, MN – solitude
1971 Rental house in Sleepy Eye, MN – adolescence
1975 Basement apartment in Canby, MN – loneliness
1976 Upper apartment in Slayton, MN – disconcerted
1976 Rental house in Sleepy Eye, MN – sanctuary
1979 Portioned house in LaPorte, IN – transition
1980 Upstairs apartment in LaPorte, IN – turmoil
1981 Shared house in LaPorte, IN – waiting
1981 Occupied apartment in Phoenix, AZ – provisional
1981 Tiny apartment in Phoenix, AZ – dispossessed
1982 Nameless apartment in Phoenix, AZ – terrified
1983 Little house in Phoenix, AZ – blessing
1988 Top floor apartment in Phoenix, AZ – adventure
1989 House in Phoenix, AZ – home

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Circuit City

A young man sings into the microphone at the coffee shop.

A red haired man in a muscle shirt watches him outside the window as he stamps out his cigarette.

An old woman walking a bike with a flat tire sees the man in a muscle shirt peering into a window.

A driver slows down to turn into the driveway and hopes she doesn’t hit a woman pushing her bike.

A man walks across the parking lot jingling his key and stops as a car slowly turns into the driveway.

A blonde woman waits for her husband at the door as he stands jingling his keys in the parking lot.

A tall man holds the door open for a blonde woman as she pauses to look out at the parking lot.

A waiter swings a tray over his left shoulder as he looks over the other shoulder to see a tall man holding the door open.

A young man sings into the microphone at the coffee shop and watches a waiter swing a tray up to his left shoulder and glance back at the door.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Debut of Daydreamers Welcome

Whoa. I never in a million years would have guessed that I would start a blog. But here I am. I’d like to think this was on a whim, and to some extent it is, but I needed a place where I could semi-publicly write. There is an air of danger for me. Yes, I am a wimp. A scardy-cat. And way too shy for my own writerly good.

Let me tell you a bit about myself. I’m a 51 year-old woman who was raised in rural Minnesota by Lutherans. (My mother is still alive, but as she doesn’t own a computer, I’m okay to write how that affects me and I will do so in future blogs.) Anyway, I was a goodie-two-shoes growing up. My father was a Highway Patrolman based in a very small town and everyone knew us. If I so much as parked too far away from the curb, someone would crack a joke about it to my father and then I would hear it. On top of that, I hung out with the Baptist preacher’s daughter and the school superintendent’s daughter. So, I grew up always looking over my shoulder to see who was watching.

This is when my daydreaming kicked into full gear. No one could see what was in my head but me. I was the person I always wanted to be when I was in my daydreams. This is where I really felt free.

Many years later, I fought off a deep depression. Most of the fight was a combination of anti-depressants and journaling. When I felt the need to wean myself off the anti-depressants, journaling became my lifeline to sanity. I journal everyday.

Here is the crux of my whole writing problem: I’m a goodie-two-shoes who is afraid to go back to that dark side of herself for fear of bringing the depression back. Therefore my writing is surface only. There is nothing there to grab on to. Nothing to dive into. It sucks. And I’ve stopped writing because of it.

But something, SOMETHING draws me back to the page. Something is here. What is it?

I think it is the next step in my daydreams. What do you think?