Monday, September 27, 2010


While I have absolutely LOVED writing this blog, I have decided to move up in the cyberworld and get my very own domain name! From now on, I will be blogging at This is exciting for me, but those of you who subscribe to my posts will have to follow me to the new site and resubsribe. Since that involves a few extra steps for some of you, I hope you will take the time to follow me at my new site. I think you will like it better, find it easier to navigate, and simpler to view without reading glasses. SEE YOU OVER THERE!

Saturday, September 25, 2010


When I was in my teens, I could come home from school, eat five brownies, and three hours later, do justice to my Mother’s home cooking. Before bed, I often had a handful of potato chips. I ate three squares a day. I was underweight.

In college, I was very busy, and found time to eat only breakfast, which consisted of multiple slices of toast, eggs or cereal, two big tumblers of juice, and a glass of milk. I filled in the rest of the day with snacks on the run. I had the body of a super model.

Then I became a young Mom myself. I raced around after two little girls, drove to school events and soccer games. There were horse shows and school plays. I made time to play racquetball and bake cookies. I was a rail.

My children grew up. When they left home, I substituted writing for all those frenzied mothering activities. I still found time for going to the gym regularly, walking the dog, and stooping to pick up nylabones and stray books and magazines off the floor. I felt good, and seemed to look lumpless in my clothing. I was smug.

Somewhere during the aging process, in between perimenopause and AARP membership, my metabolism left. It started with small things: those little under eye bags, and a slight mushiness in the abdominal area. These were so slight that I took no real notice of them. I continued with my exercise program, enrolled in a punishing yoga class, and started blogging. Dinners still featured dessert.

The evidence of the absent metabolism became harder to ignore. There was the tight waistband in the wide legged pants that had previously been so comfortable. I observed that in those three way mirrors in fitting rooms, I looked more like Paula Deen than I would have liked. Foods that had never been threatening started giving me “gas.” I invested heavily in “Spanx.”

Now I am just plain worried. When sitting in a chair, I can look down at a highly defined protrusion that is impossible to “suck in.” My derriere seems to be “following’ me. I no longer claim the bike in the front row in spinning class. I have started looking very suspiciously at things like brownies, ascribing to them a sinister ulterior motive. I worry that people have started referring to me as “portly."

This has got to stop! I need my metabolism back! I have issued pleas to various fitness experts to give me the secrets to resurrect my calorie burner. I now go to the gym every day, instead of three times a week. I use Splenda in EVERYTHING. I drink Slim Fast shakes for breakfast. The dog is starting to eye me suspiciously whenever I walk anywhere near her leash. But that midsection chubbiness remains. I continue to look for a solution to this horrible metabolism defection.

I am jogging in place as I type this.

Friday, September 17, 2010


We all need to eat. It’s built in. Calories are essential. Judging by the look of many Americans, we take this necessity a bit too seriously. However, since eating and preparing to eat are lynchpins to our existence, I have spent some considerable time thinking about food. It seems to me that food falls into certain categories, as do all of us who eat it.

SNACKS. By definition, snacks are portable small meals. People have snacks between meals to boost their energy. Snacks ought to be healthy and low calorie. However, the American food conglomerates have turned snacks into “fun sized” versions of meals. We have smaller Blizzards, for example. I have often wondered how any person can finish a normal sized Blizzard, which probably amounts to around ten thousand calories. But as a “tide me over,” the smaller Blizzard is more manageable at around two thousand calories. Other “snacks” in America that have become popular are granola bars covered in chocolate (perhaps six hundred calories), pudding cups that have no sugar, no fat, and therefore no nutritive value, little one hundred calorie bags of everything from pretzels to cookies. My mother used to hand me an apple when I needed a snack.

COMFORT FOOD. Speaking of Mothers, they are the originators of “comfort food.” Again, we all like to remember tucking in to piles of mashed potatoes and gravy, pot roast, macaroni and cheese, and things like apple pie and brownies from scratch. Apparently, we still do this. But today, the comfort food is produced by Sarah Lee, Colonel Sanders and Marie Callender, and we are so comfortable that few of us wear pants that don’t have elastic waistbands.

GOURMET FOOD. If you watch the Food Network, you see this type of food prepared daily. Ina Garten, Emeril, and Mario Batali show everyone how it’s done. Frankly, I get weary of all the mincing, sautéing, macerating and gardening that is necessary to produce this food. Any recipe with more than three steps and four ingredients is exhausting. I love to eat gourmet food in restaurants, but having it at home requires at least a Christmas tree and one daughter.

ORGANIC FOOD. I am into the whole organic movement. I am embarrassed by the size of my carbon footprint. So whenever I can, I purchase organics. We all need to remember that organic food does not look flawless, like the things we are accustomed to seeing in the produce section. The apples may be misshapen and have little holes in them. The beans may not be all the same size. But organics are much more healthful. However, and this is a BIG however, organic produce, while healthful, still must be washed. I have had the diarrhea that proves this tenet.

RAW FOOD. This is a food movement that I can’t really understand. These foodies feel that anything cooked will make you sick or even kill you. Meat is obviously out for these people. I have actually been to a “raw food” restaurant, where their approximation of pizza was, I will have to say, interesting. Beet slices may look pepperoni-ish, but the resemblance ends there. The good news for raw food lovers is that pineapple tastes great uncooked.

I applaud all those people out there who are appalled at the beer bellies and large rear ends of many Americans. I think that we should all consider joining gyms and taking the stairs. Let us all remember our New Year’s Resolutions and get ourselves in order! I plan to to do this immediately.

I have packed some snacks into the pockets of my sweat pants, and I am going out for a walk.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


The news is terrible. There are fires, floods, heat waves and all such manner of horrible things and events. What we all need is a breath of fresh air. We need soothing voices and gentle hands. We need sopranos and tiny waists. What we need is a bunch of sweet young things to charm and delight us. Here they are, fresh from the pages of a book. Not really, but they could be:

SOPHIE: She copies poems into her diary at night and loves looking at the stars. She is just a tiny thing, and her voice is angelic. Her father is a country squire, and her mother often gets the vapors, but then Sophie rises to the occasion and charms her mother with little songs, then goes to make delightful snacks for her father. She is loved by all the villagers. I would hate her on sight.

DAHLIA: She lives in Paris, and has been subjected to all manner of indignities due to her low station. She works as a busker, playing her little flute in the streets for the meager coins thrown her way. Her eyes aren’t clear any more, and she has a subtle cough. She is always hungry, but still tries to share what little she has with her two tiny siblings in the hovel they inhabit. I get tired just thinking about her.

ADA: She is a big, hearty gal. Her boots would be too big for her father. She is better than any hired man, and she can bale hay, kill and roast a chicken, and repair the roof if she has to. Her Ma depends on Ada, because there are no sons in the family to take up the slack. When Pa gets drunk, which happens regularly, Ada hefts him into the loft and dumps him into bed. The next morning, Ada does all the chores before riding into town for provisions. I think women like Ada probably have body odor.

CHLOE: She has just TONS of energy! She started playing the guitar when she was seven, and by the time she hit her teens, she had formed an all girl garage band, “The Teeth,” which now plays to sold out houses in the Midwest. Chloe charms everyone with her red hair, freckles, and flashing smile. I think Chloe needs to be taken down a couple of notches.

SHANA: Her hair is black and her blue eyes shine. She waits tables at the diner, but dreams of a career in country music. She lives with her grandparents in a double wide, and she drives an old pickup. Shana hums tunes as she drives down country roads, and her bright red nails make clacking sounds on the steering wheel. Shana is dyslexic, but manages to write lyrics to the music in her head. I would prefer it if Shana just served me my eggs and moved on.

MOM: She makes everyone’s lunch. She is the only one who knows when all the dental appointments are. She keeps things clean. There is no better nurse, and only Mom can make spaghetti that delicious. She has eyes in the back of her head. She may not wear the latest styles, but she looks very nice in her pedal pushers. The world would be a better place if Moms ran everything. If she could read this, my Mom would tell me to stand up straight and have a little more respect.

As long as there are sweetie pies, the world will keep on turning..

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


One of my favorite writer friends and I challenged each other to a duel! We provided each other with a person's name and one adjective. The mission? To write a short story (very short) using just those tools. My friend, Simon Larter, is one you will want to get to know. His blog, "Constant Revisions" has been on my blog roll for a long time. Simon is very funny and a wonderful writer. I gave him the name ALDRICH JONES, and the adjective FECKLESS. If you would like to see the name he gave to me and the story I wrote, click on Simon's blog listed at the left on my blog roll ( Here is Simon's story about a feckless young man named Aldrich Jones:

Aldrich Jones, for a very long time, thought that feckless meant something similar to reckless, and took it as a great compliment when his wife or coworkers used the adjective to describe him. It made him feel edgy, perhaps a little dangerous, although the context in which the word was used confused him. Still, it put a certain spring in his step whenever someone muttered it within his hearing.

One Thursday afternoon, following a rather uncomfortable performance review in which the lone bright spot was a feckless, Aldrich decided to soothe the pain of the tongue-lashing by taking a coffee break at the local Starbucks. The late spring air was crisp with sunshine, with that lovely undercurrent of coolness that only happens on certain days in April, and Aldrich, breathing deeply, made a solid effort to ignore the uncomplimentary comments of his boss and embrace his inner bad boy.

He called the girl at the register “sweetheart” when he ordered. She offered a slight smile before turning to assist the next customer.

Buoyed by the results of his flirtation, he decided to repeat the performance with the barista. “Good afternoon, sweetheart,” he said, brightly. She glanced up from the sputtering espresso machine and blinked at him. “Afternoon?” she said.

Kids these days, Aldrich thought. Everything seemed to turn into a question.
The girl brushed a strand of blonde hair behind her ear and turned back to her work. Aldrich decided to try again. “Lovely day, isn’t it?”


Another question. Aldrich sighed and soldiered on. “I really shouldn’t have left the office, you know. We’re only supposed to take 15 minutes for coffee in the morning and a half hour at lunch.”

With an air of great concentration, the blonde poured milk into a stainless steel container and let steam bubble in the bottom of it. Aldrich had foregone his usual skim milk in favor of full-fat. He was, after all, feeling somewhat wild.

“Yes,” he continued, “I’m not supposed to leave until 5:30, but”—he leaned forward and winked—“I’m feeling feckless today.”

The girl did look at him, then. “Excuse me?”

“You know, a bit daring.” Aldrich gave her his best grin, the one that made his mustache hairs curl over his upper lip.

“You said feckless.”

“I did, didn’t I?” He allowed his grin to widen. His mustache hairs curled more aggressively over his upper lip.

“You don’t know what that means, do you?”

The grin faltered. “Of course I do!”

“Incompetent? Ineffectual? Inept?”

His grin disappeared altogether. He scratched at his lip where his mustache hairs had tickled him. “Pardon me?”

“That’s what it means. Feckless.”

She set his drink on the counter. She appeared to be biting her tongue.“Er . . . thank you.”

Aldrich retrieved his full-fat, double-shot latte from the counter and turned to go. A hastily-stifled giggle wafted over the counter toward him from the barista’s general direction.

The seats by the window were vacant. Aldrich sank into one like a deflated balloon. So . . . feckless was an insult after all?

Suddenly he was no longer confused by the context in which he’d been called that in the past. Hot resentment began to glow in his chest. Inept? Me? They’ve been calling me incompetent all these years?

He took a large gulp of his latte and promptly sputtered as the too-hot liquid scalded his throat. “Gosh…darnit!” For some reason, cursing made him feel better. “Crap!” he said. He hazarded a small “Damn?” That felt good too. Aldrich stood and strode for the door. Feckless. We’ll see about that, he thought. He would march right back into his boss’s office and give him a piece of his mind, that’s what he’d do.

The door careened open under his forceful hand. Another small giggle escaped from behind the counter. Aldrich stopped, turned to glare back at the barista, and promptly caught the return swing of the door on his elbow. Hot, full-fat, double shot latte spurted from the cup as his fist clenched around the cardboard.

A full-blown gale of laughter followed Aldrich out the door and down the street as he danced a small jig of pain. He glared at the offensive tan smear on his white dress shirt.

“Shucks!” he exclaimed vehemently. “Shoot!" How could he confront his boss now, burned tongue, coffee stain and all? No, better to take it up with him tomorrow, after a good night’s sleep on the couch. Because he certainly wasn’t going to share the bed with a woman who would call him feckless to his face. No, sir.

Sitting back at his desk, disgruntlement fizzing in his stomach, Aldrich thought that maybe he would do something reckless on the way home. He’d show them.

After all, there was that motorcycle dealership just a mile from his house.

Friday, September 3, 2010


My husband barely knows what Facebook is. Most of my friends think that only the birds tweet. I feel that it is my obligation to educate those people who are ignorant about social media. Yes, social media is what is going to take over what is left of the “old world.” Social media is going to wipe out the few remaining newspapers, the book publishing industry, and thus libraries, bookstores, and probably person to person interaction. Since, according to experts, this is going to happen very soon, it is essential to know what social media is.

Everybody has heard of Facebook. Invented by a Harvard kid to make “hooking up” easier, Facebook quickly outstripped “My Space” and all other interactive sites. I think people even run their businesses on it. It has allowed millions of people worldwide to locate their high school boyfriends/girlfriends only to discover that they are now old and boring. It also allows many of us with eventless lives to post pictures of our children to share with others.

Twitter is much better than Facebook. Twitter is like the old “instant messaging” that our kids all did instead of their homework. Twitter is just much more encompassing. After just a few weeks on Twitter, one can talk in real time with people from Ireland, Africa, Ecuador, and Hackensack. Twitter messages are very efficient, allowing a person only 140 characters to get a message across. Thus it is very fast. One’s Twitter friends are called “tweeps.” A “tweet” is a twitter message. A “twit” is apparently anybody who isn’t on Twitter.

There are many other social media outlets such as “Discus,” “LinkedIn,” “StumbleUpon,” and “Digg,” just to name a few others. They must not be any good, because I am not on any of them. I have found over three thousand soul mates on Twitter, and therefore spend huge amounts of time sharing things with these dear friends, such as what I had for dinner, why I hate white kitchen floors, and how frustrating it is to be married to an accordion player.

I began my stints on Facebook and Twitter as a writer looking for an audience. I remain on both sites as a writer, yes, but also as a person who craves constant input from hundreds of people I will most likely never set eyes upon. I feel that these folks are my real friends. This is a bit absurd, since I know only small bytes of information about any of them. But it is comforting to be able to “shout out” to these hordes of people and get immediate conversation! Apparently, there is a little bit of loneliness in all of us that Facebook and Twitter seem to fill very nicely.

There are dire prognostications and bestselling books being published (probably mostly on Kindles) that we are headed for a time when each of us will remain isolated in our own little cell, interacting with others only on our keyboards. Yes, this sounds a bit dire, I must admit. HOWEVER, there is a sunny side to all of this, in my view. To me, interacting with people in Africa, while I wear pajamas and scratch myself, is perfect! Really, who doesn’t want to pontificate on the state of healthcare, Hurricane Earl, or string theory while belching? It is the best scenario for those of us with unsightly skin conditions, unbearable shyness, or bowed legs. Believe me when I tell you that I have friends out there of all colors, all religions, all ages, and even a few assorted tweeting dogs and cats. The Twitterworld is a wonderful place. Facebook isn’t bad, either. Social Media may replace books, and face to face conversations, but I seriously doubt it.

What Social Media IS doing is letting old ladies like me become popular again. People all over the world care about 140 characters worth of what I am thinking. All of my friends from grade school appreciate my input!

Saturday, August 28, 2010


The leaves are turning. There is that nip in the air. Yes, fall would be a wonderful season if it weren’t for sports. Good grief, the amount of time my family spends on putting together fake football teams amounts to hundreds of man hours that could be devoted to much more worthwhile pursuits like reducing our carbon footprints.

A lot of time is spent deciding who will be in the Fantasy “League.” The league has to have a “commissioner.” I think this year, my husband received illegal campaign funds for his election, but despite it, he lost his bid. After that, there is much discussion about all the players--Carson, Peyton, Terrell, and all those other huge guys. I get to listen in on the arguments about who is in top form, who is most likely to get in trouble, and who is a thug. Then there is the “Draft.” Apparently, drafting a fantasy team requires a day long party with lots of beer and snacks. These parties get very loud, and I have no idea what anyone in the room is talking about.

Once everyone has his/her “team,” then there is a lot of worrying. Will Brett get hurt? Will the Manning brothers have funny commercials this year? Will there be some sort of social commitment that will cause anyone to miss a game on TV? Will we run out of guacamole?

As the season wears on, and Sunday nights (or is it Mondays? I am not really sure) fill up with endless games and constant texting back and forth, teeth gnashing, and shouting, I become a little more hostile to the whole thing. I try to watch the games, and I do know a first down from a field goal, but all this brouhaha about throwing around a pigskin just escapes me. And why anyone would want to sit in a cold stadium with face paint on, waving towels or cardboard signs is beyond my imagination.

At our house, the game comes on, and my husband grabs a beer, his cell phone, and the remote. He spends the first fifteen minutes of the game trying to get the “multiscreen” option on our TV to work, so that he can watch more than one game at once. When that ultimately fails, he sits intently, staring at the screen and changing channels. He moves from game to game and back again, grunting, texting his fellow “fantasizers,” and standing up once in awhile to shout something rude at the referee.

Thank God I have a Kindle. I think it will get me through football season and beyond. I have downloaded a large list of books, along with some word games and the New York Times. It even has a “search”option, in which I can Google things like “calling an audible,” “Hail Mary,” and “onside kick.”

This year, my husband bought us all tickets to go to see the Bengals. On December 26!

Look for me, my lawn chair, and my Kindle in the ladies room…

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I successfully raised two daughters. At least, in my view, they grew up just fine. They are both lovely looking, they have good table manners, they know how to run meetings, and they both have managed to snag equally adorable young men.

We had a discussion about this very thing the last time both girls were home. I have to admit that I was shocked at what they revealed: my girls think that had I had a son, he would have turned out “all wrong.”

By “all wrong,” they explained, I would have encouraged a myriad of behaviors that are frowned upon by the masculine gender. According to the girls, a son born into the Campbell family would begin by playing dolls, move on to acting out plays in the driveway, most likely write poems during adolescence, and abhor sports. “But that sounds like a GIRL,” I told them. “EXACTLY,” they replied.

Apparently, as a mother, I was quite a pansy. I thought ALL mothers read “The Secret Garden” out loud to their kids. And telling children that mud pies are unsanitary is the truth, isn’t it? Although I do remember one particular visit when MY mother, as a houseguest, remarked that “Your girls don’t seem to get very dirty, do they?”

Come on! I was a good old American Mom! I let the girls play outside every day! They could stay out as long as they wanted, as long as they had on number 30 sunscreen, bug spray with DEET, and protective gear such as bike helmets, elbow padding, and shin guards. And by the way, despite protection, both girls managed to break at least two bones each during their childhoods.

The girls went on to say that the Campbell son would have also been “all wrong,” in his leisure pursuits. This boy, let’s call him “Ian,” which is what I would have named him, would have been teased about his name by boys named Bob and Chip. He would have grown up going to theatre camp in the summer, entering poetry contests, being the editor of the school newspaper, and playing bridge. Of course, I have no idea how to play bridge, but the girls assure me that “Ian” would know how.

Poor “Ian.” He would not have many friends. He would be tall and knobby, like his father. And good grief, it wouldn’t be ALL my fault: he would most likely play THE ACCORDION in the basement with his Dad. Consensus further states that “Ian”would have a gap between his front teeth (both my children received the blessings of orthodontics, so I am mystified) and would not attract girls.

It is a great relief to me that I had the appropriate children. Evidently, I am just not cut out to nurture males. I do admit that I am baffled by the results of testosterone: huge shoes, mouth guards of all sizes and colors, Old Spice, and fisticuffs. And I do enjoy “inside voices.” “The Secret Garden” was a WONDERFUL story. Oh, my gosh, it’s true. If I had had sons, they would have all been contestants on “Project Runway.”


Saturday, August 14, 2010


According to the New York Times, Stan and Priti Cox, of Salina, Kansas, are very happy living without air conditioning. Apparently the Coxes haven’t turned on their air conditioners since 1977. The article in the Times refers to Mr. Cox as an agricultural scientist who is concerned with the effects that air conditioners have on global warming.

I applaud the Coxes. I worry about global warming. But as a menopausal and slightly grumpy person, it is obvious to me that the Coxes are either saints, secretly living with friends with AC, or lying. I read the article about them twice. They offer some tips for living in the heat, such as using fans, wearing little, and sitting very, very still.

My husband and I had a long discussion about the Coxes. My husband, who professes a lifelong love for things tropical, has always advocated “sitting still” when things heat up. For me, “sitting still” is boring, ridiculously ineffective in stopping perspiration, and counterproductive. But my husband argues that if you stay very quiet, the heat becomes bearable.

So what do people like the Coxes do while being “still?” Do they have interesting discussions? Do they plan their menus for the coming week? Do they watch TV? Do their shirts stick to their backs? Or are they wearing their underwear? I asked my husband what he would recommend as activities for people who want to turn off their central air in order to save the planet.

“Well, they could read books.”

“Not everybody enjoys reading. And after awhile, reading can get boring.”

“Well, then, they could do Sudokus or something.”

“Ok. You are telling me that Sudoku and reading are what people all over the United States should do when it’s hot? So President Obama, policemen, doctors, and everybody else that gets things accomplished in the world should just read and solve Sodoku puzzles?”

“Well, people doing Sudoku don’t start wars and things.”

“Oh, so now you are telling me that if we all turned off our AC units, that we would have world peace?”

“It’s possible. And I might try my hand at creating some Sudoku puzzles, myself.”

That gave me pause. The Coxes just might be the harbingers of a new world order. If global warming continues, it might lead to a time in which we all wear very little, do even less, and enjoy a life of reading and puzzle solving, in a gentle and pacific environment.


Sunday, August 8, 2010


The response has been startling. I have talked to many of my friends about what their houses mean to them. My women friends have fierce ideas about house and home. It seems to me that women view houses from three perspectives: the DREAM, the HEADQUARTERS, and the HAVEN. In order to incorporate the wonderful thoughts of my friends, I have chosen one fictional representative of each perspective:

Women who don’t have houses of their own dream of them. Some women never achieve their fondest hope for a home for their families. Some are too poor, some too young, and some too unlucky. Among those women I know who dream of owning a home of their own is one I call Deb. Deb comes from a poor family. She grew up in an Appalachian region where work was scarce, men who earned good money were scarcer, and the most one could hope for in life was a double wide trailer and a paycheck. Deb dreams of someday having a real house made of brick. She thinks about it while mopping counters at the coffee shop where she hustles tips. In her mind, the ultimate, shining possession would be that brick house with a front porch.

Marty is a go-getter. She had her own business for years. She made quite a bit of money, and then got married to a good guy who wanted kids. With three active boys under the age of 12 and a baby on the way, Marty organizes her life within an INCH. Her house is “activity central,” and she has everything under control. Each child has a locker in the mudroom. There are baskets in each bedroom labeled “Schoolbooks,” “Soft Toys,” “Toys With Little Pieces,” and “Pieces of Little Toys.” There is a calendar of events posted on the refrigerator. Marty and the kids are ever loading themselves, other people’s children, and mounds of sporting equipment into the car and driving away. If you asked Marty what color her powder room is painted, she would most likely hazard a vague guess.

Beth is retired from working. Her children are raised, and she is satisfied with the result. She now has all sorts of time on her hands that was never there before. One day, Beth looked around and sized up her home. Like a whirlwind, Beth began to make changes. She cleaned out the attic, and gave the children their toys and books back. She got rid of all the camping equipment in the basement. She threw away the items that she thought she might put into a garage sale someday. She painted rooms. She rearranged, and even bought a brand new and comfortable sofa for the family room. She went antiquing. And she washed the windows. Then she twirled around, looked at everything with great satisfaction, and settled down to enjoy the lovely surroundings she had created. With no time pressures and the rest of her life before her, she was filled with delight and the realization that now she didn’t need to go someplace else for a “vacation.” Her house was her haven. Beth and I have a lot of girlfriends just like us.

I have had the dream, presided very efficiently at headquarters, but now I hurry back to the haven of the home I have always wanted. Thank you, all my friends, for helping me write this one!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


It seems to me that some women wear their houses the way some men drive their cars. Success means a Ferrari or a McMansion. For other women, houses are havens. Some women just live in theirs. Artists drape and shape their homes. Women. Houses. I am obsessed with the idea of how we look at the places where we live.

I asked a bunch of my friends to characterize their “dream house.” What resulted ranged from cottage to villa. There were reveries about French doors, Agas, book lined rooms, and swimming pools. The more I talked with my friends, the more I wanted to write about women and their relationships with their houses.

When I was growing up, my mother subscribed to quite a few “decorating” magazines. I have no idea why, because we lived in a modest house, with green walls, matching green wall to wall carpeting, and a furniture arrangement that remained static for the entire time my parents lived in the house. Mom had good taste, but I never perceived her as a student of interior design. I, on the other hand, read all the decorating magazines from cover to cover each month, and developed a sense of “my own style” from reading them.

Part of my obsession with homes and their interiors comes from a deep sense of insecurity that I felt as a child. The currents of my life always seemed treacherous, and I clung to the idea of home as haven. I chose as my favorites books about safety within the walls. I loved the idea of Beatrix Potter, cozily creating her characters in the nursery, staying at home long after adulthood. Louisa May Alcott invented Jo and her sisters living such a delightful and soul satisfying life of “genteel poverty” in their lovely but shabby shuttered New England saltbox. “Anne of Green Gables” was my favorite and most re-read book. Anne Shirley and her beloved home and family soothed my fractious young soul.

At nights when sleep eluded me, I chose a location, and then chose a house to live in there. In my mind’s eye, I first created the outside, and then furnished it inside. I then inhabited the home with whatever family suited it, and finally moved on to appropriate pets. I can recommend this activity highly. It is totally absorbing and completely satisfying.

I am going to share with you one of my house fantasies, and then for the next few weeks, some of the fantasies of some of my favorite women. These fictional women are also my creations, but laced liberally with the ideas and imaginings of my actual women friends.

MOLLY. She’s me! In actuality, I have two cherished house dreams. These two homes have been with me for at least forty years. They were created by the eight year old me, after lights out, when sleep eluded me. To avoid reader boredom, I will share my first house here, and save house two for later:

My urban fantasy revolves around a beautiful apartment in a big city, preferably New York, because I don’t speak French. This dwelling would be very high up. The exterior of the building would be old stone, and the architecture would most certainly include a gargoyle or two. This apartment would be for me and one little dog and two cats. No husband visible in this fantasy, for I am living by myself, it seems. The apartment would be on the corner of the building, so that I could have a large front terrace as well as a smaller terrace off the kitchen. The front terrace would have lovely leaded glass French doors opening onto it from the living room. This “”big” terrace would have high walls so that my cats and dog could scamper about safely.

Usually at this point in the fantasy, I would have to pause to name the cats and choose the dog. Two Siamese, “Parsnip,” and “Coyote.” The dog. Hummm. Yes, a Scottie, “Magnus.” In order to design the terraces, the pets would have to be present and accounted for.

Terraces. Brick herringbone. Large trees in pots. Areas of grass for Magnus to do his business. Beautiful table and chairs. Pillows. I think orange and dark red. Perennials in pots. Room for a Christmas tree in the front terrace. Kitchen terrace would be narrow, and full of different sized pots for herbs, tomatoes, zinnias, and a tiny shed for my gardening equipment. A tiny table for drinking coffee and reading the paper would be essential.

Inside, the only important rooms are the living room and the kitchen. Of course there would be a library, but those tend to take care of themselves with the books and the ladder thingy that rolls. In the living room would be a large wood burning fireplace. I picture some sort of antique mantel, deep enough for the paintings I would lean against it and the daubs and orbs I would put up there as well.

I don’t worry too much about furniture. It would be plentiful, tasteful, and comfortable. I see more in colors: there would be greens and blues, with tiny bits of pink. Persian rugs, of course. Antiques, probably not valuable ones.

Going this far in the dream house usually gets me to sleep. I look forward to finishing the project the next night, populating the house with friends, family, and my fictional reason to be living there in the first place.

Yes, it did the trick once again! I am sleepy. So next time? I’ll flesh things out a bit more. In the meantime, if my blog host is gracious enough to let you, leave me a comment with your ideas of the perfect abode!

Friday, July 30, 2010


The view from our living room windows is pleasant, with trees, houses, and sidewalks. Apparently that is all I ever notice. It seems that I take everything out there for granted, and my eyes are truly unseeing. Agatha Christie would have never written about someone with my observational skills! THERE HAS BEEN A RED CAR PARKED OUTSIDE OUR HOUSE FOR THREE WEEKS.

My husband brought this to my attention yesterday. “That car has not moved in three weeks.”

ME: “What car?”

HIM: “That red one. Hasn’t moved.”

ME: “Well, call the police.”

HIM: “I did. It is from Michigan, and it belongs to someone named Hackman.”

At this point, I have to admit that I was a little intrigued. My husband, the detective. This started a lively conversation about said Mr. Hackman.

ME: “Are they going to tow this Hackman guy’s car away?”

HIM: “Well, I am concerned that maybe this Hackman guy is sick or something, and can’t come back for his car.”

ME: “SICK? What made you think of that? Why not DEAD?”

HIM: “The police would know if he were dead.”

ME: “So if you have his car towed, and he gets better, you are afraid he will be wandering the street in front of the house in his robe, looking for the car?”

HIM: “He wouldn’t be wearing a robe if he was better; that is just silly.”

ME: “Well, then, maybe you should go around the neighborhood, knocking on doors, asking if anyone is harboring the ailing Mr. Hackman from Michigan.”

HIM: “I thought of that. The sick thing is probably ridiculous, right? So maybe he is a victim of foul play.”

So there we stood, looking out the window, speculating about Mr. Hackman. Is he a criminal, who put his car there for a getaway vehicle after a robbery that is in the offing? Is he just somebody’s houseguest? Is he IN THE TRUNK of that car? Did the car just break down three weeks ago, and Hackman abandoned it? What if Mr. Hackman is an Alzheimer’s victim, aimlessly wandering the area, searching for his auto? IS he actually sick somewhere? It was fun for awhile, but soon we got bored with Mr. Hackman, and went back to our laptops.

It is still sitting there. If anyone out there knows this Hackman guy, will you tell him to move his car?

And tell him we hope he feels better soon...

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I live in a regular neighborhood. It’s full of regular people doing regular things. As a writer, I have often wondered what it would be like to have other writers living around me. Famous ones. I think block parties would be incredibly interesting, and borrowing cups of sugar could turn into epic conversations. What would carpools be like? Trick or treating?

If Nora Ephron lived next door, I would probably spend a lot of time hanging around at her house. I’ll never forget the article she wrote about being mystified as to how those of us in suburbia get anything accomplished, due to all the walking and driving required out here in the heartland. So having Nora next door and taking her to the mall would be hilarious. She would DIE at the size of the parking lot! We’d get makeovers and talk about our neck wrinkles. We would compare notes about menopause. I am sure she would love being my pal.

I would think that a romance novelist would make a great neighbor. My choices would be writers who write with a bit of edge and insight. Not that Danielle Steele would be unwelcome, but I would prefer Elizabeth Buchan. She can write about the spurned wife like no other. I bet her house would be very comfortable and that her bookshelves would cause me pangs of envy. And if we also had Joanna Trollope in the area, would the three of us get together and talk about our angst ridden children or the just how difficult our relatives are?

For some excitement, I would love having Elizabeth George in the vicinity. What kinds of mysteries might she concoct using the locals as inspiration? Would she craft a character around me? Would an accordion player get murdered and his wife be the main suspect? How fun! And if Sue Grafton was around, would she include ME in one of her alphabet mysteries?

I would be thrilled if Meghan Daum lived nearby. That would mean that our neighborhood is of a very high standard, indeed. Our property values would go up due directly to her decision to buy a house here. She and I would compare DIY projects and I would be very honest in advising her about paint colors.

If Craig Wilson were a neighbor, everyone would want to go over to his house during the holidays. His columns in USA Today evoke such charm. I am sure that his Christmas decorations would be inspired, and that we’d gather around the piano and sing Carols. There would be delicious food, punch, and mistletoe. He would regale us with stories of his fascinating life and travels.

I have a great neighborhood. There are doctors, lawyers, delightful children, lovable dogs, and women that I admire. We are a congenial group. But I can’t help thinking about what having Steig Larsson around the block might have been like. Dark. Would he have brooded at the block parties? Would he have given out "Swedish Fish" on Halloween?

But then again, if he lived around here, his book might have been called “The Girl with the Ladybug Tattoo.”

Sunday, July 18, 2010


It is a common assumption that people come to resemble their dogs. I have not necessarily followed this line of reasoning, but then again, it might hold some truth. I am a firm believer, however, in the idea that one chooses one’s home for deep psychological reasons. Taking this just a bit further, if women are one with their homes, and resemble their dogs, somebody should write about it. I feel uniquely qualified, and I have categorized some “common” archetypes of female homeowners and their dogs.

HERMIONE. She lives in an upscale neighborhood in a large American city. Her flat, in an old brownstone, has wide planked hardwood floors and a non working fireplace. An Anglophile, Hermione drinks tea in the afternoons and has antique chintz draperies. Her overweight Pug, Dashiell, has access to the back garden, and prefers coddled eggs to processed dog food. Hermione has noticed a tendency to gain weight as she ages, and her facial wrinkles cause much worry. Hermione spends too much money on facial creams and exfoliators. Dashiell watches it all with amusement, and takes frequent naps.

MADELINE. A graduate of a prestigious Ivy League College, Maddie, as she is known to her friends, is an attorney. Recently married to a dermatologist, Maddie and her husband own a lovely Tudor cottage in an old suburb of Chicago. Maddie is allergic to cats, and her husband likes big dogs. Fred is a Borzoi, whose grace and charm have won Maddie’s heart. Fred and Maddie spend inordinate amounts of time in the garden outside the cottage, where Maddie is growing climbing roses and lavender, and where Fred’s flowing white tresses contrast nicely with the herbaceous borders and Maddie’s black braids.

SMUT. Of dubious parentage, Smut spent the formative weeks of his life in a cage at a kill shelter. Black and white, and slightly bowlegged, Smut was often passed over for more attractive pups. The day Sheila walked in, it seemed like Kismet. Sheila, who had angry chicken pox at age six, has always felt inferior to her coworkers at the fashion magazine where she is a copywriter. With coarse hair and uneven facial terrain, Sheila is single and lonely. Sheila and Smut live in a small loft in Soho, where they often gaze out the floor-to-ceiling windows and dream. Their loft is sparsely furnished, and what is there is primarily from the thrift store. Their prized possession is a roomy, overstuffed plaid sofa, where they spend Sunday mornings dozing and reading The New York Times. Smut often persuades Sheila to buy croissants, which they share.

BETHANY. She’s busy. She has four children under the age of ten. Her husband is a successful corporate type, and they live in a gated community in a house with all master bedrooms, an unused back yard, and a media room. Bethany is WAY too busy for a pet, and so she rarely pays much attention to their two ill mannered Labrador Retrievers, Chloe and Pepper. As a result, the new suede sectional has major tears. The children complain that the dogs knock them down. Somebody peed in the mud room yesterday. The electric collars are somewhere in the back of the junk drawer, and Chloe was last seen running down the street after the mail carrier. Bethany was unavailable at the time, as it was her day for her golf lesson and Bikram yoga class.

CARLETON. He is a very distinguished eight year old Dachshund, of the smooth coat variety. He has impeccable manners and a very soft spot in his heart for his mistress, Mrs. Duncan, who returns his adoration. They live in an old, Victorian house, full of antiques and Persian rugs. Mr. Duncan, who was a lovely man, died soon after Carleton was adopted. So Carleton and Mrs. Duncan rattle around together in the old house, sharing memories and tidbits while sitting by the fire. Carleton loves his walks, and he and his mistress can be seen strolling through the leafy streets in all weathers. When it is cold, Carleton wears a plaid jacket. When it rains, Mrs. Duncan carries an old Burberry umbrella. Mrs. Duncan is very soft spoken, and Carleton rarely barks.

There are, of course, as many types of dogs out there as there are women and their houses. But I would venture to say that our choice of canine is reflective of our true selves. Take me, for example: I am bossy. I live in an old house with lots of breakables. I have a dog who knows her place, has impeccable manners around my good china, and who knows that I am the pack leader. I love cats, and she pretends to. It’s a match made in heaven. But wait. Our dog doesn’t resemble me at all! Oh my gosh.

She’s the spitting image of my husband…

Saturday, July 10, 2010


I thought I was done. The children are both paying their own bills now, and I just assumed that once that happened, the parenting part was over. I thought that after offspring finish college, parents get to look forward to dandling grandchildren on their knees, and that’s it. I was not prepared for the next stage of parenting.

The needs of adult children, as it turns out, take a big bite out of the empty nester’s schedule. I didn’t realize that our children would need advice on their retirement plans, whether or not they should buy houses now before the economic downturn ends, or if it is a good idea to get dental coverage. And I forgot all about weddings!

Within the next twelve months, there will be two weddings in our family. As parents of brides, we suddenly realized the enormity of what looms before us. Did you know that there are companies out there who specialize in LIGHTING for weddings? Apparently, these days, weddings include special effects. One of our daughters wants to get married in a barn in front of a horse, and the other will be tying the knot in a winery. It’s complicated.

The disappearance of dowries, which generated sighs of relief for parents all over the world, has not benefited my generation of parents. Back then, all it took to marry a girl off was a respectably put together hope chest. I would love to send both girls out with a few sheep and some chickens. I would even throw in a few pots and pans. Instead, we have to grapple with wedding planners, musicians, decorative hay bales for the barn wedding, and large wheels of cheese at the winery. Decisions about guest lists and bridal parties must be made, and save the date postcards sent out.

At weddings I have attended recently, there have been singing brides, indoor fireworks, multi media presentations, stand up comedians, gluten free wedding cakes, signature cocktails, and multi lingual ceremonies. Not to mention wedding singers, disc jockeys, vegan entrees, and cake balls.

As I recall, my wedding was very simple and inexpensive. We had a few people in a little chapel, I had a very attractive off the rack dress, and my mother planned a very nice luncheon afterwards. The whole thing probably set my parents back a couple of grand. These days, weddings have become extravaganzas. During this next year, I will be talking with florists, caterers, and seating planners. I will be sampling sushi and cake balls. There will be meetings, long distance phone calls, and dancing lessons. It sounds exhausting, expensive, and a little exhilarating.

It takes a village. To plan a wedding.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


I was appalled. Yes, there were three children in a shopping cart. And yes, they were very active. But letting them hurl cereal in the aisle, take their shirts off, and use the F word caused at least a dozen elderly shoppers to have near-coronaries. I was among them. It seems that it is again time for me to put on my “Emily Post hat” and give all you young whippersnappers out there some of the finer points of daily etiquette.

CHILDREN ARE REALLY BETTER SEEN AND NOT HEARD. Is Dr. Spock no longer in vogue? Who is giving out advice to young parents these days? Believe me, it won’t hurt their forming psyches one bit to learn how to keep their little mouths shut in adult company. I have yet to meet a toddler who has anything REALLY interesting to say!

ALL PANTS SHOULD BE KEPT ON IN PUBLIC. I must admit that there are pictures in our family archive of naked children pushing shopping carts, but it was in the privacy of our own home. And once they hit the age of two, nude toddlers are no longer charming to the general public. Those little tushes should be encased in something during outings.

TEENAGERS MUST SPIT OUT THAT GUM. I know that teens lack self confidence, and that the teen years can be brutal. But I am lost as to how chewing gum 24/7 helps ease the transition into adulthood. And summer jobs are scarce. Gum chewing during job interviews does not endear you to any employer that I am aware of.

I UNDERSTAND THE LURE OF TATTOOS. BUT BE SO VERY CAREFUL WHERE YOU PUT THEM. The Baby Boomer generation still associates tattoos with drunken sailors. I realize that every single one of my grown children’s friends has at least five tattoos. But please don’t get one across the bridge of your nose! I really think you will regret that one. And for those of you out there who have uncivil words anywhere on your body, think of how you are going to explain them to YOUR children!

PUT YOUR NAPKIN IN YOUR LAP. Perhaps eating while sitting at a table is a lost habit, what with all those soccer games and dancing recitals, but honestly, all children must learn table manners. Forks, not fingers. Straws for drinking, and not shooting coke at your sister. No slurping. Elbows are still unwelcome on the table, no matter how comfortable that is. And for heaven’s sake, sit up straight in your chair and stop kicking your fellow diners under the table!

PLEASE AND THANK YOU ARE STILL IN THE LEXICON. There seems to be a bit of a sense of entitlement going on out there. Just a reminder, here, that gracious people get a lot further in life than their counterparts.

WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY? Are there any words that are considered taboo these days? Scatological terminology and sexual descriptives are everywhere. Does it really help to loudly use the “F” word when frustrated, say, at the mall? Is it ok to call women and girls “bitches?” I blame rap music for this. I blame rap music for a lot of things. As a matter of fact, just this morning, when I stubbed my toe, the word that came flying out of my mouth was directly due to the worldwide influence of rap music.

FINALLY, ALL CHILDREN OVER THE AGE OF TWENTY FIVE SHOULD GET MARRIED AND HAVE CHILDREN. It is only good manners to award your parents with grandchildren before those parents are in nursing homes. This practice of having careers, living together for extended periods, and THEN tuning in to the biological clock is creating an entire generation of diaper wearing GRANDPARENTS.

I want to thank you for reading this. Please come again.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


I used to jump out of bed at the sound of the alarm, rush through a shower, and then get dressed and start the day. This has pretty much been the pattern of my life for as long as I can remember. Up and at it. Rise and shine.

But then I became a “writer.” I am sure I am not the only person with literary leanings that has trouble getting dressed in the morning. Perhaps it comes with the territory, but I am still a little ashamed of the fact that there are days when I look at the clock, and realize that it is long past noon, and I am still wearing bedclothes.

I like to think that I have joined a sorority of literary women who also write in their pajamas. I imagine Nora Ephron typing hilarious things while wearing a flannel nightshirt. I cherish the fantasy that Erma Bombeck sometimes dashed off one of her columns while wearing a nightie. There is no doubt in my mind that Julie Powell wrote her famous blog without getting completely dressed.

However, I am sure that not all writers would agree about the pajamas. Ayn Rand probably wrote her revolutionary prose wearing a business suit, or at least man- tailored slacks. I know that Emily Dickinson was always in a proper peplum. Jane Austen would have been scandalized to see me at my desk wearing coffee stained boxer shorts and an old Metallica T-shirt.

I know my Mom would be horrified at my creative writing uniform. This is a woman who never let the sun rise on her nightgowns. She wore tube tops and pedal pushers, but she was always DRESSED. She always, as I recall, wore shoes as well. Her opinion of people in pajamas after waking was that they must be either unwell or oversexed. I feel a little guilty when I think about this, but then I console myself that my mother came from a different age, and that the fact that I am writing this while wearing the Metallica T-shirt is really ok.

So I sit here, shoeless and attired in what would shock my Mom, “writing.” It is quarter to three. Soon, I will have to think about what to make for dinner. In just a little while, I will go upstairs, comb my hair and get some regular clothes on. Although I “write,” I still have some standards. I have never served dinner to my family while wearing pajamas.

But there is a first time for everything…

Sunday, June 20, 2010


My father was far from ordinary. Other children’s dads were doctors, lawyers and teachers. Their dads went to work in the morning and came home for dinner. Their dads played golf on the weekends. My father was a maestro.

I grew up hearing him play the violin, beautifully. He had a lovely one, with real gold on the pegs, and also on the bow. It had a beautiful velvet lined case, with little pockets for rosin and extra strings. There was a silk lined velvet blanket to cover the violin. When he played, I used the case as a doll bed.

I grew up in concert halls, sitting very quietly during rehearsals, where my father stood on a big podium in front of the orchestra, waving his arms. Everyone in the orchestra seemed in awe of my Dad. I thought it was because he was so handsome. But I knew he was the boss of all of those musicians, and I was very proud.

When my father went to work, it was at night. After an early dinner, he would get dressed. I loved this ritual. First the beautiful white shirt with all the little pleats. Pearl buttons. Black pants with a satin stripe down the sides. Cummerbund. Dad had a few different pairs of cufflinks, and I got to choose which ones he wore. I felt so important. Then the shiny patent leather shoes. And finally, the tails and bow tie, which he tied himself. He was a glorious man.

I hated actually going to see him conduct, because those evenings were long and boring. I got tired of watching him in front of the orchestra after about five minutes. My mother had made it clear that there was to be no twitching, no neck craning, and no noise. I perfected this, but for years afterwards, I hated going to concerts, remembering the constraints of childhood!

My father was magnificently handsome. He was tall, dark, and charming. He was the object of many women’s fantasies, and I think indulged many of them. It made me cherish him all the more, because I think in my childish subconscious, I was afraid one of his admirers might carry him away from us.

The maestro was my biggest fan. He thought I was beautiful when I had pimples. He was the first person to tell me that I should be a writer. He was never too busy to hug, or to listen. We watched “The Tonight Show” together every weeknight. He concocted very interesting late night snacks.

The Maestro died when I was a young mother. I wish I could go to just one more concert. I wouldn’t move a muscle.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


By now, we have all either seen or heard of that horrible reality show that exposes the folks who can’t seem to throw anything away. Most of us feel calmly superior while watching, patting ourselves on the back that here is at least ONE personality disorder that we don’t have to worry about.

But this morning, I went down into the basement to put in a load of laundry, and I took a look around. In the midst of a huge collection of stuff sat the accordion man, happily working on a project. I pointed out to him that we were both surrounded by THINGS. He nodded. “I have been trying to get rid of this stuff and the stuff in the attic for years now, but you don’t want me to.”

So I took an inventory of the things that I have been hesitating to eliminate:

LIBRARY CHAIRS. We don’t use them any more, but they are very comfortable, all wood, and I see ones just like them in catalogs. That makes them worth something, doesn’t it? Despite the chewing gum on the bottoms, the puffy paint on the seats, and the fact that they wobble when sat upon?

PINE CONES. It galls me to have to PAY for something that is plentiful in nature. Pine cones are used by some of the most famous decorators on HGTV, and they can enhance any table setting. They also look smart filling baskets by the hearth. A stash of pine cones is a necessity for modern trend setters.

FOLDING CHAIRS. I once had a party for over fifty people, and those chairs came in handy. Extra seating is another thing that folks like Carolyn Roehm and Vern Yip recommend. I believe that Sister Parrish had folding chairs aplenty in her home also. I rest my case.

LUGGAGE. Although we take few trips, it never hurts to be ready for an excursion. Writers need inspiration, and often find it in faraway places. The fact that the last trip we took was to West Virginia to see my mother is no way a factor. It is necessary to be ready to take off for parts unknown at a moment’s notice. Rick Steves says so.

WEDDING GIFTS. There are some really nice silver items in the basement that have never come out of their original boxes. Why, just the other day, I discovered a BEAUTIFUL pair of candlesticks that I don’t even remember receiving! It was like Christmas! They are now on the dining room table. I do admit that the three fondue sets are expendable, but there are three bun warmers and two hot trays that I will need to use along with the folding chairs, at my next party for fifty people. They stay.

If you live in an apartment or condo, you must be streamlined in your approach to life. But if you live in a house with a large basement and an attic, you can afford to hold on to valuable items that might some day have usefulness or great worth as antiquities. “Antiques Roadshow” was created for people with full basements and attics.

“Hoarders” is for sick people.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


It’s no secret that my husband and I are different. Opposites attract, as we all know. But nowhere is this more apparent than in our approaches to what we do in our spare time. My husband has prepared a Powerpoint presentation on “The Origins of Life,” which he totes around with him on his laptop and extols to unsuspecting people he invites out for coffee. Charlie ponders what motivates people to do the things they do. I like to read a lot of books, but I don’t particularly want to be in a book club. I don’t like to overthink things.

Charlie likes people who have vast compendiums of knowledge. When asked a “yes or no” question, he always answers by saying “Well, there are a number of issues involved.” Charlie likes to go to plays and then discuss their ramifications afterwards. I like to leave at intermission and get a good night’s sleep.

We once met a couple who both had their doctorates in some sort of ancient, historical or mythical subject matter. To add to their cachet, they hardly spoke English. We spent an evening with them eating wonderful food, but discussing something that sounded to me like sacrificing goats and then roasting the meat. Charlie just loved these people. He has wanted to have them over for dinner for the longest time. I just saw a “SOLD” sign in front of their house. I am ecstatic.

In restaurants, we can never place our order the first time the waitress asks, because Charlie STUDIES the menu. He orders exactly as listed. For instance, I order “The fried fish.” He orders “The fresh Tilapia, dusted with cornmeal and lightly fried, with sautéed apples and freshly baked biscuits.” For crying out loud, there is only one fish choice on the menu! Then he asks what kind of COFFEE BEANS they use. Sounds like a real epicure, right? But this is at THE CRACKER BARREL.

Charlie is intrigued by “BEAUTY.” It’s not what you think. He wonders what it is that triggers someone to call a thing beautiful, when that same thing might be uninspiring to somebody else. He tries to engage me in this subject:

HIM: Do you think that rosebush is beautiful?

ME: Sure.

HIM: No, really. Look at the composition of the rosebush juxtaposed with the fence.

ME: It’s fine.

HIM: But what IS beauty? Do you think there is a kind of beauty in ugly things, like that tractor over there?

ME: What tractor? And by the way, you can speed up; the speed limit along here is 65.

HIM: But what is beautiful to YOU?

ME: Getting home quickly. I have to pee.

Slow married fast. Deep married shallow. The long of it and the short of it got hitched. Chalk and cheese have managed somehow to stay together for forty years. Charlie is preparing a Powerpoint presentation on the subject--care to have coffee?

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Women of a certain age need help. Luckily, there is help available. With the huge Boomer Generation now approaching their dotage, the free market has seen the opportunity for huge profits, and thus the underwear and cosmetic giants have introduced many miracle products.

I have five different pairs of Spanx. These wonder undergarments slim you, make you look firm, and remain somehow comfortable for long periods. I remember the old days of long line girdles, and I DO NOT want to go back there! I have black Spanx for evening wear, skin toned Spanx for every day, and for extra special occasions, I have a Spanx bra/panty combination that makes me look fine even in a TIGHT TOP.

These days, sweating is no longer a worry. The pharmaceutical folks have figured out a way to make their deodorants PRESCRIPTION STRENGTH. This means that hot flashes can’t ruin my silk blouse. I haven’t bought a silk blouse in years, but I could if I wanted to, thanks to those scientists.

Wrinkles and crows feet? I LAUGH AT THEM. Those powder foundations seem to banish just about all my flaws! I buy creams that burn the hell out of my face when I put them on, but boy, they peel off all my spots and leave baby clear skin in their wake. Some very rich dermatologists apparently have discovered the fountain of youth, and now you don’t have to visit their competitors, the plastic surgeons! OH NO. Now you just purchase extremely expensive lotions and creams after your yearly mole check!

Those hair dye people have been making money for years. But they too have refined their products, so that you don’t have to drip dye all over your good towels or worry about dark roots. Now you can COMB on your dripless hair dye, and use a mascara-like thingy to banish roots when they show up suddenly.

I love to use facials that peel off. I study the peel after I remove it, and marvel at all that debris that must have been in my pores. I also use those scrubby, sandy exfoliators. They are guaranteed to “smooth your face and make you glow.”

I am menopausal, but I look marvelous. I have my beauty routine down to a science. I look almost as good as I did when I was in my twenties. I swagger around the Mall in my Spankified glory, glowing, radiating youth and confidence.

But it takes me two hours to get ready to leave the house.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


They say that opposites attract. That certainly seems to be the case with my marriage. He is skinny, and let’s not say that I am FAT, but that Weight Watchers is my sorority. He plays a pretty good game of golf, and I think that nothing could be more boring than hitting a little ball, then having to walk a mile, talking with three other people about Tiger Woods, and then hitting it again.

However, the source of a great deal of my angst these days is the brand new, high def, slender screened, sleek looking television in the den. Really, you can see Matt Lauer’s PORES. I am thrilled with it. I want to watch all my shows and see them in a way I have never seen them before.

My husband, the accordion man, has his own ideas about entertainment. Apparently he studies the TV guide and marks the shows he wants to TiVo with a highlighter. He then TiVos every single one of them. Nothing wrong with that. However, there is a huge imbalance that exists, and this is going to be my undoing.

Here are the shows I adore: Grey’s Anatomy. Anything involving hunting for a house, designing a house, staging battles on blocks, and losing massive amounts of weight. I also favor dog training, infomercials for gadgets that make omelets and bake cakes at the same time, and yoga shows. I love nothing more than sitting down to the TiVo with a nice steaming cup of coffee with sugarfree Vanilla dairy less creamer, a cat on my lap, to watch some rich person look at New York lofts with the Kliers.

But this is not happening! The TiVo has been taken over by my husband’s interests. The “browse recordings” screen has NOTHING TO OFFER ME. For instance, just yesterday afternoon, here was the bill of fare: “The First Christians,” “Black Holes,” “Stephen Hawking Explains the Universe,” “Lions and Other Massive Predators Killing and Eating Things Right Before Your Eyes,” “String Theory Demystified,” and last but certainly not least, “The Three Stooges.”

On that same screen, here were my options: “House Hunters” (a rerun), and “Cats 101” also a rerun. The Siamese and I were out of luck. I considered trying Stephen Hawking, but he is impossible for a lowbrow like me to fathom. “The Early Christians” was, truthfully, BORING. Oh yes, and there was one episode of “Red Green” available, but I had seen that one.

What is a person to do? We have had some discussions about the fact that Charlie RECORDS all of these shows, but rarely WATCHES them, thus leaving them on the TiVo roster, and hogging all the space. I swear, “Vandals and Goths” has been sitting there waiting for someone to watch them rape and pillage for SIX MONTHS.

I have figured out a revenge strategy, though. Once a week, in the afternoon when he is in the basement communing with his accordion, I go in and ERASE a show. Yesterday I killed “Early Attempts at Creating Atomic Fission in a Basement in Milwaukee.” So far, he hasn’t noticed.

Have any of you seen the latest “Househunters International?” Will you tell me about it?

Saturday, May 15, 2010


My husband and I are not nearly as cute as the Tripplehorns. If you don’t know who the Tripplehorns are, you aren’t getting out enough. While we are not as young or cute as the couple in the movie, we have had our share of date night calamities.

My first horrible restaurant recollection: the night of my 50th birthday, when my nerdy husband decided it would be funny to have our friends call me on my cell phone at intervals throughout the evening to wish me well. The first call was hilarious! After the tenth call, I was furious, the other patrons were seething at the constant beeping, and I developed acid reflux.

Restaurants these days rarely have dress codes. Americans are notorious for wearing golf shirts and sneakers everywhere. So when we were on vacation in New York, Charlie confidently made reservations at a fine eatery, reassuring me that our attire was entirely appropriate. Upon arrival, the maitre d’ offered us a pair of pantyhose and a necktie.

Dinner and a movie sound fun. But dinner IN THE MOVIE isn’t. At our local theatre, you can get pizza, hot dogs, Starbucks and funnel cakes right in the lobby. We were bored and hungry one Friday night, and so we decided to try it. While juggling his pizza, Charlie knocked my arm off the armrest, causing me to spill my Belgian Caramel half-caff Mocha Latte all over the lap of the woman next to me. We missed all the good sex scenes while mopping up.

Having friends over for dinner is a no brainer. Smart hostesses serve tried and true recipes with sure-fire desserts purchased from the bakery. I, on the other hand, in a social climbing frenzy, hired a chef and invited around a dozen guests for dinner. That evening began with lovely cascades of snow which quickly developed into a blizzard. The guests all arrived bedecked in their finery, but the chef got lost in the whiteout. At nine o’clock, with no chef in sight, we broke out the Cheerios. We have not seen those twelve people since.

This year, we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. We are now very old, and very wise. We had the foolproof date night: Pizza carry-out, two bottles of wine, HBO, and Klondike Bars.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Every precocious little girl should have an old lady for a friend. Adults are much more interesting than children. Adults know about the world. Adults know great big words, and use them without affectation. For a child who is easily bored with childish things, an older woman can be the friend that changes life forever.

My lady friend was named Mrs. Mason. She lived next door with her irascible husband Kermit, their two adultish children, and lots and lots of books. Mrs. Mason (I was absolutely NOT allowed to call her Rebecca) had a college education, a charming lack of commitment to keeping house, and a real LIBRARY. In our house, that room was called a “rec” room, and it had our TV in it. At the Masons, the television was in the living room, and the big room on the first floor was full of books.

I went over to the Masons' house just about every day after school. I was always welcome. I followed Mrs. Mason around, watching her make supper, plant seeds, or we just sat and talked. We talked about adult things, like politics and the neighbors. I gave my opinion, and she listened. Mrs. Mason was a terrible cook, and so when she wanted to make something good, she always asked for my help. We would make a treat, and go downstairs to the library while we waited for it to bake. Mrs. Mason would bring the laundry into the library and do some ironing, while I browsed through the books, looking for a good one. I could borrow any book I wanted to. Some of the books I read from Mrs. Mason’s library included “The Thirteen Clocks,” which scared the daylights out of me; “The Complete Works of Rabelais,” which luckily had some illustrations that gave a rough idea of the goings on; and “Wuthering Heights,” which Mrs. Mason and I both LOVED, and which we discussed at length.

I was an eccentric child, and reveled in my friendship with the Mason family. None of them minded my constant presence, and all gave me the respect that most adults reserve for each other and rarely grant to kids. Apparently, the Masons were also eccentrics, but I didn’t realize that. I thought all next door neighbors dried their own herbs, dabbled in oil painting, let all the dishes sit in the sink to wash “tomorrow,” and listened to classical music on the stereo full blast.

My Mother worried that I was an annoyance next door, and she tried her best to interest me in more age appropriate pursuits, like the Girl Scouts, roller skating, and dancing lessons, but I remained steadfastly devoted to Mrs. Mason. Finally, my mother gave up, and Mrs. Mason and I continued being best chums. We experimented in making our own ink out of flowers, which didn’t work. We grew cactuses. We painted faces on rocks, and placed them artfully in the garden. But more than anything, we talked about books.

When I went to high school, I saw less and less of Mrs. Mason, who seemed very understanding. We were still very friendly, but I just ran out of spare time. However, until I got married and moved away, I made the trip next door once in awhile.

I am now at about the same age that Mrs. Mason was when we met. I don’t have a “library” in my house, but I wish I did. I am a bit eccentric. I actually HAVE dried some herbs successfully. I sometimes let the dishes sit in the sink for awhile.

But I don’t have a seven year old best friend.

Monday, May 3, 2010


“Why would anyone care if you are having a bagel?”

My husband doesn’t use Twitter. Furthermore, he is mystified why I spend so much time there. So I felt obligated to explain to him the workings of this particular social media giant. It didn’t begin well.

“Twitter is a very fast link-up for people, and when you communicate, you use only 140 characters.”


“So it will be very fast.”

“Very fast to tell the world you are having a bagel?”

“Well, I use it for more lofty reasons. I use it to promote my blog.”

“Do your blog readers want to know if you are having a bagel?”

“IT’S NOT ABOUT BAGELS! People on Twitter tweet about Haiti, politics, animal rescue, the oil spill, and women’s issues!”

“But you don’t blog about any of that. You blog about cleaning the house, infomercials, shaving your legs, and getting old. How do you Tweet about shaving your legs?”

“I don’t Tweet about shaving my legs! I tweet with others about their writing, their state of mind, books, and cooking.”

“How in heaven’s name do you tweet about someone’s state of mind in 140 characters? Howru?”

“My God, you are so dense! Twitter is responsible for spreading the news faster than CNN or CNBC! The earthquake on Haiti was reported on Twitter first!”

“But you don’t tweet about the news. You tweet about doing laundry. I still don’t understand why your hundreds of followers want to know whether you use Chlorox or all fabric bleach…”

“I have never tweeted about the laundry.”

“So give me an example of one of your tweets!”

“Ok. I say things like: visit my latest blog post about my children.”

“And you say you have HOW MANY followers?”

To all my twitter friends: I am having a bagel.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


My generation of women demonstrated against the Vietnam War, burned our bras, and founded the Women’s Lib movement. Along the way, some of us discovered drugs and free love. My friends and I wore bell bottoms, competed for corporate jobs, and had nannies.

Our daughters watched. They watched their Mommies pack lunches, wear pearls and pantyhose, write business plans, and worship Steven Covey. They also watched us cook meals, schlep them around to soccer games, and bake cookies. Our daughters were much more observant than we thought they were. They learned from us.

Our daughters learned how to multi task. Some of them became techno geniuses and helped invent the gadgets that have made multi tasking so manageable. Others used their burgeoning awareness of opportunities for women to become highly paid professionals in careers that were not yet open to their mothers’ generation.

This group of talented girls, now into their twenties and thirties, makes achievement look like a walk in the park. They have careers. They run marathons. They cook like Ina Garten. They look like Cameron Diaz, and they entertain like Martha Stewart.

I have observed my two daughters become women that I could never imaging being. One speaks Spanish fluently, teaches high school, and mentors inner city children, while keeping horses and showing them regularly all over the country. My other daughter is a talent agent, a wine consultant, and a professional hostess who schedules wine tastings and dinner parties several times a week

I have been in awe of both of my girls since they were teens. They do things right now that I still have on my bucket list. They are confident, bold, and a little sassy! They lead their lives instead of following life, a job, or a man around.

Now they are approaching parenthood. I know my girls won’t be the Mom I was. They will be efficient, involved, inspiring, and yet nurturing. They will tire themselves out and sell themselves short, just as we did raising them. But just as our generation learned from our Mothers, this group of enterprising young women has done the same. Unlike us, they won’t put off adventure in favor of parenthood. They won’t worry about starting families in their thirties or beyond. They won’t work for others—they will create their own enterprises. Our daughters will be their own bosses. Call the shots.

My girls don’t think I am watching them. But I do. And what I see them doing each day enthralls and amazes me. This generation of young women is ASTOUNDING.

Their Mothers and Grandmothers take all the credit.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


My two dearest friends are very strong women. One is small in stature but has a huge and menacing presence. The other is of normal size, but has a mean right hook and a standup routine that would make Seinfeld laugh. I am nothing like these women and sometimes wonder if they speculate which planet I come from. We are like night and day. You see, they raised five sons between them, and I mothered two girls.

Mothers who raise sons have to have testosterone shields. They face horrors in their homes that I can only TRY to imagine. My small friend has had to deal with male frustration that resulted in holes punched through walls. The comedian noted once that “boys are unable to be in the same room without making repeated physical contact.”

Mothers of girls can go about their parenting without worrying whether the house will be burned down while they are at the grocery. Girls can eat lunch without getting it on the walls. Girls usually don’t swear like troopers, at least at the dinner table. My daughters grew up with manners and inside voices.

As I understand it, boys are simple beings. They usually don’t suffer mood swings or harbor grudges. When mad, they punch the object of their fury and then go on to eat three sandwiches washed down with a gallon of milk. Girls, on the other hand, have angst up to their eyeballs. They have poetry in their souls and send endless notes to one another in class about it. Girls are either dreamy or depressed, with nothing in between.

Keeping boys clean is a full time job, I hear. In our house, the showers were rarely unoccupied. While we did't have to spend wads of money on sporting equipment, I can attest to the fact that depilatories and feminine products aren’t cheap. Our budget had columns for things like “Food,” “Insurance,” “Mortgage,” and then one special category for “Mascara.”

Boys are eating machines. They burn millions of calories even while sleeping. Girls, on the other hand, are obsessed with their appearance. While my girlfriends were making pans of lasagna, freezing dozens of cupcakes for future reference, and stoking the fires with pizza and pancakes, at our house, I was trying to figure out how to make low fat entrees using yogurt. We ate a lot of salad, and everything was sugar free.

Socially, boys are, to put it bluntly, retarded. But girls take relationships with others to a level of sophistication that requires the patience of saints and the counseling skills of Freud. My friends told me that the biggest emotional scenes with their boys involved whose turn it was to take out the trash. In our house, there were nightly dramas involving love, envy, power, isolation, and pimples.

Despite it all, I have taken pride in the orderly, serene and feminine household I maintained during my girls’ childhoods. They acquired culture, great manners, the ability to shop for bargains, and a real appreciation for music and books. My girls grew up in a home that was peaceful, tidy, and quiet. Both of my girlfriends think this is hilarious, because more than likely,


Saturday, April 17, 2010


I hate perfectionists. They take way too long to do things. They waste precious time refining things. They do WAY too much research. They are finicky, fussy, and fastidious. Striving for perfection takes a lot of energy, and we all know that in this day and age, energy conservation is of the essence! Do you admire perfection? Well, STOP IT! Calm down, and set your sights just a bit lower. You will heave a sigh of relief, most likely extend your life span, and significantly reduce headaches and lower back pain. Here are some things you might want to consider:

Quit all that cooking from scratch! The microwave and freezer were invented a long time ago! Research has shown that nine out of ten family members PREFER Stouffer’s frozen macaroni and cheese to the stuff made from a recipe! Do you feel guilty about using cake mix and instant pudding? Get over it! Those products were developed by researchers who used focus groups to determine that these foods taste GOOD ENOUGH.

And really, “a house so clean that you could eat off the floor” is JUST AN EXPRESSION. No one in their right minds would ever want to eat off a floor! So why clean it so much? A light film of dust is not even really noticeable. Dusty furniture and floors have never been proven to be a health hazard. As long as you can walk in your house without having to wash your feet afterwards, your house is CLEAN ENOUGH.

All the women in fashion magazines don’t really look that good in real life. The airbrush was invented to erase any pore, pimple, or pooch on those women. And we all know that they aren’t allowed to eat anything. So aspiring to THAT level of perfection is pointless. With a little lip gloss, some mascara, and good foundation garments, you look PRETTY ENOUGH.

Workouts and low cholesterol diets won’t prevent everything. We all have to go sometime. It is a good idea to walk on the treadmill instead of using it as a towel bar, and cardio vascular fitness is nothing to sniff at. But in actuality, if you can get around without a cane, walk your dog in the park, lift a bag of groceries, go up the stairs, and sleep at night, then you are HEALTHY ENOUGH.

Love stories on television and in the movies are purely for entertainment. Real couples have fights, get bored, find each other annoying, and have second thoughts. And this is just during the honeymoon! If you manage to stay married to one person for longer that a few years without murdering him/her, and if you still manage to have a few laughs, hold hands, and share private jokes, you are HAPPY ENOUGH.

Wake up and smell the coffee! And for Pete’s sake, you DON’T HAVE TO GRIND IT YOURSELF!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I am most certainly not a famous writer. But a writer I am, and as a result of a year of blogging, I have begun to get a few questions about writers and writing that I do feel qualified to answer. Just this week, someone asked me how on earth I came to write a blog in the first place.

So here goes: advice to writers from a writer who is not famous, not published, not represented by a literary agent, and probably not destined for greatness. But in the “you can learn something from just about anybody” school of life, here are my writing tips for aspiring authors:

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW. I know my husband better than anybody else. I can finish his sentences for him, and often do. I have spent forty years plumbing the depths of his wondrous mind, and I have discovered a writer’s gold mine there. I could no more write a treatise on the economy than win a Nobel prize, but I have found enough fodder in my husband to fuel blogs aplenty.

KEEP IT SHORT. The best writers get an idea, and then say it. Period. A few great ones can throw in adjectives and adverbs that make their writing sing, but the rest of us hang ourselves by adding too many modifiers. It truly is the thought that counts, not how uniquely you can say it.

MAKE IT COHESIVE. Get one good idea. Build a piece around IT. Too many ideas expressed in one place are confusing, confounding, and just plain muddy. Outlines are the greatest things since sliced bread! Figuring out what you want to say before you write makes writing flow. Or, as my small daughter said once, “I didn’t like that story. It didn’t have a skeleton.”

GET GRAMMAR. Man, oh man, if I had a dollar for every punctuation error, misplaced modifier, or misused apostrophe I see, I would have my own butler. Good writers are understandable. Grammar is what makes the written word understandable. James Joyce and a few others could ignore it, but I think that grammar is a writer’s best friend!

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX. If it is a beautiful day out there, you can be sure that there are hundreds of would-be writers writing about the breeze, the rays hitting the daffodils, or the beauty of their children as they tumble in the park. On beautiful days, I see all the dog poop in the yard, my husband coming at me with a power washer, and an opportunity to acquire four new pairs of Capri pants. Don’t write about the obvious.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. All good writers write a lot. I pride myself on a grocery list well done. It doesn’t matter whether it is a note to the teacher, a letter to the editor, or an email to a friend. If you are going to write something, do it as well as you can. Then do it over. Writers write. It doesn’t matter, really, what you write, as long as you are practicing.

EXPERIENCE MAKES THE WRITER. The layers of one’s life are what make a person interesting. Are you an adventurer? You are fortunate; you will have a lot to draw on as a writer. Are you housebound? No excuse; it didn’t stop Emily Dickinson. Are you just a kid? Well that is a whole world you can explore. I do feel that I have found my voice just recently as an older woman, but for me, life got in the way of my writing. Don’t let that happen to you.

LEARN AS MUCH AS YOU CAN FROM OTHER PEOPLE. My husband is a man of a million questions. If you have a story, he will drag it out of you. Over the years, he has become friends with waitresses, plumbers, every neighbor in a five mile radius, and much to my chagrin, the people in the rows in front of and behind us at every movie we have attended. But what he uncovers are human truths. And those truths are worth writing about.

My fifteen minutes of fame may never come, or I might just get five minutes. But I am a writer. I love words. I make myself laugh. I just keep on typing. And my advice to all of you out there who want to be writers? Write something. Wait. Revise it. Wait. Revise it once again. Think about your life.

Then repeat the process.

Monday, April 5, 2010


My daughters will attest to the fact that a fashionista I am NOT. However, I feel qualified to comment on fashion trends, anyway. I read Vogue in the doctor’s waiting room, and I look at all of those People magazines when I am at the hair salon. I occasionally see an episode of “American Idol.” Here is what I, and probably many other women with good sense, wonder:

WHAT ON EARTH IS JIMMY CHOO THINKING? Those Chinese people who bound the feet of their women must have been Jimmy’s ancestors! Hobbling around in foot bindings can’t have been too much more agonizing than tottering along in five inch platform heels! I know, with short skirts, heels make legs look longer. But are long legs worth risking one’s neck for? For that matter, even DANSKOS are dangerous!

While I am on the subject, I feel that purse designers must also have a nasty streak. Handbags are no longer a small accessory for conveniently stashing a lipstick, a few dollars and a tampon. Do young women now really need enough room in their purses for a change of clothes, lunch, a dictionary, and a small dog?

WHY ARE TATOOS SO POPULAR? I just can’t understand this trend. Personally, I get tired of looking at the same pictures on my walls, and I like to switch things around once in awhile. I can’t imagine having to look at the same old butterfly on my hip year in and year out. And let’s face it—that lyric from your favorite song? In twenty years, you will look at your arm and wonder what those words MEAN.

Gladiators are apparently much admired by fashion designers. Straps that wind from ankle to knee are featured in every fashion spread I see. The girls in the photos look fine, but how does the average female keep those straps from sagging down around the ankles? And the dominatrix look is in again with all the spikes, studs, leather and flagellant appendages. It makes young girls look like Pit Bulls, in my humble opinion.

Who decides what becomes stylish, anyway? Is it Anna Wintour? How do these people make the decisions that will so affect our lives? I imagine all the fashionistas and style mavens at a meeting:

“What do you think about making shoes out of metal?”

“Better idea! Let’s start lining everything with sheepswool!”

“Ok, and here’s a great idea: let’s invent a teeny, tiny jacket that is completely useless and call it a SHRUG!”

“And let’s start putting the bras and underpants ON TOP OF THE CLOTHING!”

I am a wise woman. I have lived through mini skirts, bell bottoms, the ORIGINAL platform heels, Go-Go boots, ironing my hair, and the braless look. But here’s a note to today’s fashion designers:

If it could cause torn ligaments, hypothermia, indecent exposure, or puncture wounds, it isn’t fashion now, is it? Let’s be honest, IT’S SADISM!

Monday, March 29, 2010


It’s in all the papers this week. Everywhere I turn, there is another fitness pundit setting out guidelines for people my age. It all sounds good on paper, but let me be the little voice of sanity in the wilderness of all the metabolism and cardio Nazis out there. Fitness is imperative for seniors, but I bet that those who are slinging advice to the over fifty five set are all IN THEIR TWENTIES.

I have been a real devotee of exercise all my life. I played racquetball, I hiked around with my dog. I have been a gym rat, a spinner, and I have personally worn out two treadmills. I am that old lady in the back of the yoga class, the one who can barely stifle my groans during the “downward dog.” I feel that I have earned my stripes, and thus am very qualified to respond to all the scientists, personal trainers, and Richard Simmons wannabes out there who are now recommending that women over 55 should exercise strenuously for at least ONE HOUR per day:

MY DOCTOR SAYS THAT I GET TOO MUCH EXERCISE. It all started with that little spare tire around my middle. T-shirts didn’t look that flattering any more. “Sucking it in,” which was always no big deal, became an exercise in futility. So, one fine day, I decided that I needed to beef up my exercise regimen. I joined a gym, and found the dizzying array of exercise classes to be so tempting! I joined an “ABSOLUTE ABS” class. That one required two sizes of exercise ball. I did fine with the small one, but fell off the big one so many times that I sustained serious rug burns on my knees and elbows.

Spinning was an appealing class. On the flyer, it promised a total calorie burn of 800+ in an hour. To me, that spelled hot fudge sundae, and so I enrolled. I did fine for the first ten minutes, but then the instructor forced us to crank up the resistance on our bikes, and the fun turned into agony. I persevered, however! No way was I going to give up—damn those torpedos, I spun at full speed ahead!

As a result, I have become addicted to exercise. I am not bragging, oh, no! Because, you see, my devotion to the gym has necessitated my building a close relationship with a chiropractor, a physical therapist, a massage therapist, and a heating pad. I have a stiff neck that just won’t quit. After spinning, my back seizes up. Yoga, which is great for balance and inner peace, caused me to pull a groin muscle. I fall off my MBT’s frequently.

And now, the pundits are telling me that I AM NOT DOING ENOUGH. I have to increase my biking! When walking, if I can still talk, I am not going fast enough! And I have to go for the burn seven days a week! This is just, according to those experts, enough to keep me looking as thin and fit as I did ten years ago. If I want to look REALLY good, like the real housewives in those towns, I have to do even more!

So I had this discussion with my doctor, article from the newspaper in hand. He looked at me, sighed, and as he wrote out yet another prescription for physical therapy for my knee, neck and that niggling pain in my wrists, he said this: “If your personal trainer jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?”

This got me thinking. I don’t eat animals, much. The only things with faces that grace our table are birds. We stoke enough fiber in our engines to do justice to a decent sized septic field. We have been organic since before it was in style. We take supplements and drink fucoidan. We floss, we exfoliate, and we meditate. What on earth are we thinking?

How many centenarians do YOU know who are having fun? Do any of them have friends their own age?

Monday, March 22, 2010


I watched the young mother load up her car. First the kids, one in a baby seat, followed by two whingeing toddlers into their respective straitjackets. Then the gear: a stroller for two, a diaper bag, and finally, some packages. She looked over at me long enough to give me a piteous sigh, and then got in herself, off to her next errand, a playdate, or the pediatrician’s office. I sighed in return. I remember those days of exhaustion, frustration, and challenge.

When I was young, I thought that life would stay the way it was forever. My children seemed as if they would never mature. My housework never seemed to get done. Scrambling around from one activity to another took inordinate amounts of time that I couldn’t devote to more important things like thinking, noticing what season it was, fantasizing about sex, or combing my hair.

There was a frantic quality to life as a young parent. Experts advised all kinds of activities to enhance the mental acuity and physical prowess of children. It wasn’t enough to just squire them around to pre-school, give them nutritious food and daily baths. It was also recommended that parents PLAY with their children, encourage them to help with meal preparation (kids? With flour and moistening ingredients? Are you KIDDING?), engage them in artistic projects, and tussle with them in the grass. My husband and I dutifully followed the experts, and as a result, we were very tired, very often.

As our kids grew, the sophistication of their activities grew with them. Now there were debates, horse shows, dances that required chaperones, and lots and lots of homework that necessitated proofreading. I became very good at sizing up boys by the hang of their trousers and the subject matter of their tattoos. Driving lessons replaced nature walks, and curfews had to be enforced. Still tired, my husband and I gamely attended soccer matches, listened to rock music, and became familiar with instant messaging, Ipods, and the beginnings of the world of computer games.

We thought that life as parents would always require the same amount of caloric output as it did when our kids were developing. We assumed that the frenetic pace would continue, and that somehow we would need infinite strength and resolve.

But as suddenly as it all began, it ended. The kids left for college, and the world changed. There were books again. Meals could be enjoyed slowly, and no one had to jump from the table, race to the car and go somewhere. There were no shoes, schoolbooks, or sporting equipment left on the floor of the kitchen. My God, the phone didn’t ring any more! My husband looked at me, and I looked at him, and we SMILED.

Life in an empty nest is so enjoyable! We watch public television, and there is classical music in the air. I can take a nap if I want to! There are days when I actually GET BORED. I have all the time in the world to contemplate my navel. The people at the library know me by my first name! I wear pajamas all day on days when I am not even slightly sick. I can think about politics and ponder the impact of the newly passed healthcare bill. Freedom isn't just another word!

To all the young parents out there, coaching T-ball, baking cookies, housebreaking puppies, cleaning up fingerpaints, and wiping noses, I have soothing words for you:


Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Zooming along in my car, I hummed along with Mick Jagger. Then I paid a little attention to what he was singing, and the words hit home. He’s right: you can’t always get what you want. I have almost NEVER gotten what I want.

In grade school, what I wanted was a bike. My Dad, in wisdom that he acquired from a spurious source, informed me that I could only get a bike if I learned how to ride one. How, in heaven’s name, I wondered, would I be able to achieve learning how to ride one WITHOUT A BIKE? But I was determined, and I learned on my friend’s bike, which was missing a pedal, and every time I tried to mount the thing and balance, that pedal spike gouged me in the calf. Bruised and battered, I triumphed, and Dad did get me a very nice, used Schwinn, with blue streamers coming out of the handle bar holders. I learned very little from this “lesson,” and you can be sure that MY KIDS had bikes even before they learned how to ride!

In high school, it was a BOYFRIEND that I wanted. There were many candidates, but they all shared one thing in common: none of them wanted ME as a girlfriend. There was the dark and handsome popular guy, the tall and skinny but brilliant one, the President of the Senior Class, etc. I never got to go steady. I never got to have a “song” with anybody. Nobody put romantic entries in my yearbook. I had a few escapades, but nothing worth writing HERE about, that is for sure! And I had to go to my senior prom WITH MY BEST FRIEND’S BIG BROTHER.

As a young mother, all I wanted was peace and quiet. I had delightful children, as children go. But clearly, all children come loaded with energy, verve, loud little screechy voices, and dirty faces. Child maintenance requires more energy and enthusiasm than I could keep up at a steady pace, and there were days when I just wanted to be able to take a NAP, for Pete’s sake!

As a career woman, I wanted SUCCESS. I wore a business suit with pearls every day. I wore high heeled shoes that sounded very efficient as they clacked along. I wore off-white PANTY HOSE and big earrings. It was years before I stopped answering the phone at home by saying, “Molly Campbell here.” I yearned to be the very best at what I did. I joined business clubs and associations that had meetings where people brought laptops. There was a measure of success, but nobody out there in the world of commerce remembers me, I am sure!

As a chef, I wanted delicious meals with three ingredients or less, and minimal prep time. Why is it that things that are truly delicious require that ingredients be FINELY diced, when a rough chop is so much easier? Who wants to RICE potatoes? And Foley Food Mills don’t fit in the kitchen drawer! Boiling something is so much easier than sautéing or roasting it. And for goodness sakes, why is it that a soufflé is SO delectable and impossible to make in MY oven?

As a human being, I wanted love. It first came to me in the personage of a slightly nerdy, balding skinny guy with a big smile and lots of silly charm. He was introduced to me on a Friday night, and by Monday, I was hooked. We got married way too fast for our parents’ taste, but forty years later, he still makes me die laughing. The result of this pairing was two hilarious children who keep me from committing fashion faux pas, using slang words that went out in the 60’s, and ordering sissified cocktails in restaurants.

So Mick Jagger is truly a philosopher! Who knew? I have NOT always gotten what I want!


Share this Post

Share your links easily.