Entries categorized "Aging"

Guided Meditation for Visiting Your Folks in Florida

Welcome to a guided meditation for visiting your folks in Florida.

First, find a quiet space where you can have a few minutes of privacy: a guest room, your father's recliner (is he raking the gravel again?), your mom's crafting room (perhaps she's watching Matlock), or the davenport if they're at the bank doing bank stuff. 

If Fox News is on volume 47 in the adjacent room, light the Yankee Candle for ambiance or, if you require a little white noise to aid relaxation, plug in the Vicks vaporizer.

You may need to do some rearranging to create your safe space. Old people in FL

If necessary, carefully slide the extra boxed wine onto the floor.

Gently stack the used, neatly-folded wrapping paper from last Christmas onto the other twin bed.

Ignore the ginormous stack of paper (a printed copy of every email they've ever received) sitting next to the fax machine and toss an afghan over the red, MAGA hat on the extra dresser.

That's right. While your parents are out paying for things with exact change or picking up a video on their way home from bridge, take this brief moment to refuel, refresh and regroup before re-entry.

Once you've found a cozy spot to release your burdens and cares, I invite you to lay down and feel the weight of your body being completely supported (even the extra pounds your mother mentioned since your last visit).

You are in a safe space.   

Close your eyes.

Take a deep breath: in and then, out.

Repeat slowly. In, and then, out. 

Let's start with a simple visualization exercise to help you relax. Imagine a beautiful staircase. As your foot touches the first step, let a wave of serenity wash away any negative feelings causing you anxiety.

Erase from your mind the cankles/sandals comment. Your cankles ankles are beautiful. 

Forget the "Huh, I never imagined you with red in your hair" statement.

Let all negative energy leave your body. Release and let go.

Purge the memory from earlier today when you found the Christmas present you gave them in their fully-stocked "Regift" closet.

Breathe in, breathe out. Let the calmness envelope you. Celebrate the life you are living.

Do not be distracted by the neighbor who is leaving the three-minute message on the Southwestern Bell answering machine. Your mind is relaxed. Continue to enjoy this moment of serenity. Ignore the repeated beeps indicating the tape is now full. You are relaxing. This is good. You are at peace. 

You will arrive at the second step of the staircase feeling calm and relaxed. You are free of all tension. 

Right now you're so calm you could sit in the back of the Cadillac and not be bothered that your father's right turn signal has been on for two miles.

Continue to breathe deeply.

You are so relaxed you can imagine admiring your parents' matching swimsuits as you walk the beach together discussing which foods your mom needs to take Beano before eating. "Artichokes, beans, of course, brussel sprouts, corn, oatmeal..."

Breathe in the beauty of your goodness. Breathe out your stress.

As you take a third step down, you are completely free of all tension in your instrument. You are flexible. You can bend. You can flow. In this state, you could even hear about Mrs. Kipplekeider, who lived down such and such street thirty-seven years ago, who, you remember, bought six boxes of Girl Scout cookies but then didn't want them because she'd developed Diabetes (the sugar one) just before delivery time. Well she just took a fall and thank God for her daughter who flew in right away from Poughkeepsie and didn't bring that dreadful husband of hers along, but boy, what a good daughter to just drop everything. Kids these days.

You are free. You can breathe. One more time: breathe in, breathe out. Visualize your happiness. 

In your deep state of relaxation, imagine standing underneath a large waterfall. Envision its glorious, cascading water. Hear the rush. Imagine the water running over your body.

Let Pat Sajak and all the vowels pour over you.

Let the Cagney and Lacey reruns run.

Let Leslie Stahl and the ticking clock tick, tick, tick. 

Let the Mapquest, hashtag, AOL, group texting, and  Windows questions just fall off your shoulders like waves, as you submerge yourself deeply in serenity.

Imagine the gentle waves wiping out the kitchen of its saved bread bags, Campbell's Soup labels, rubberbands, and pile of newspapers.

Let the water's gentle waves comfort you as you mourn the twenty minutes of your life it took your mom to pay with a check at Chico's, or the repeated attempts to explain to your dad how to unfriend two (out of his 16) friends on The Facebook who he thinks post too much.

Feel the warmth of the water. Bask in that comfort. 

Now let the water flow down over your back. Close your eyes and visualize each waitress you've had all week reach out and tell you, "It's all good." They have parents, too, they say. Even the young one with the piercings and the one your dad kept referring to as "the "Oriental girl" are there and smile. It's okay.

Breathe deeply. In and then, out. Again, in and then, out. 

Now imagine walking out of the water and gently being wrapped in a warm, soft towel. Swaddled in serenity, all negativity and tension have been washed away.

You are now refreshed. You are renewed. You are ready to return up the staircase. 

Upon reaching the bottom step, feel the infusion of positive energy. You'll now have the patience to endure one of those conversations where you retrace each generation of a family (and their cousins) who maybe lived in that house on the corner of Huron Avenue and Third Street or was it Fourth? Wait, didn't the sisters marry brothers?

As you walk up the next step, continue breathing deeply.

Untap your refreshed reserves of joy from within as you look forward to 5:00 dinner at the strip mall's "House of Lamb" (located conveniently nearby to get home for Hannity).

As you land on the final step, slowly open your eyes. Reacquaint yourself with the wallpaper. Give yourself a moment. Gradually rotate your hands and feet and move to a sitting position.

Feel your energy renewed.

Enjoy the moment.

Allow it to unfold, knowing that in twenty years' time you'll still be asking, "Is this a chip reader or do I swipe?"

 

 

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My Mother's Grocery List As Created By Shouting Into Her New Smartphone

 

Grandmawithsmartphone

Every week my 70+ year-old mother learns how to do something new on her smartphone. She's figured out how to add several emojis in her texts to the grandkids. She can play Solitaire any time, any place. And, she can check her AOL email account whenever she wants. Most recently however, she has realized that she can text me her grocery list without ever having to type a single letter. It's really quite simple. Or is it?

 

My Mother's Grocery List As Created By Shouting Into Her Smartphone Using the Voice-Activated Text Messaging App:

 

Apples

Bananas

Bananas

Dammit how do you

Cantaloupe please choose ripe one this time

Three pairs

One pound ham

I already got that

Honey

No not honey not honey

Oh this damn

Small amount of lettuce now wait a sec

Four cans stewed tomatoes

Tied

Raisin Brand the new kind we like

Eight blueberry yogurts don’t try to change us

Mint jelly

Creamer just plain for bridge club check expiration data

Check expiration date

Applesauce but a small jar there are only two of us you know

Oooooiiizzzr

Tuna in bag I I white called Apalone

One case watcher

Two bottles French dressing

Pack teal sauce

Brad

Schneiders cheddar pretzel bitches

Box of wine the good kind

Toilet paper for my bathroom Pat’s bathroom and the powder room and maybe downstairs don't know

Get comet

I already told you that’s not a weed

Bleach

Six eggs do not get a dozen we just throw them away

Frank’s sauerkraut be sure no caraway seeds bad for the diverticulitis

 

 

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The Five Words No One Wants to Hear. Ever.

As Big Ben and I walked along the river's boardwalk recently, I caught a glimpse of a little girl waving and pointing in our direction. She had just come out of the ice cream parlor and gripped her overflowing waffle cone tightly with both hands. Smart girl. 

"Hey!" she shouted between licks of her Blue Moon. Not the flavor I would have picked, but since she was about six years-old, I cut her some slack.

"Hey" I waved as I approached. I didn't recognize her, but little kids often get a kick out of Big Ben. Her blue lips were moving as if she was talking to me, so I stopped and pulled out my earbuds. 

BigBen on bed"Hey lady," she said, "you look like your dog."

I froze. 

She turned to her mom, giggled, and then a little louder said, "Mama, she looks like her dog, doesn't she? Doesn't she?"

The smattering of mid-day ice cream-eaters turned and stared.

I looked left and then right, but most unfortunately, I was the only person present with a dog. 

Dumbfounded, I managed to say "I look like my dog? Really?"

 

Dear reader, I must note that I was wearing earth tones.

The little girl continued, "Yeah, you've got that white streak in the part of your hair. You know, where it's a different color from the rest of your hair. And it's all dark and stuff around your eyes."

Seriously? No mention of the earth tones?

"And you both have those big white arms. And--"

I looked at Ben's arms. I looked at mine. He wasn't wearing nail polish. Hardly the same. 

I wanted to get out of there. I wanted to run, but Big Ben and I don't really do that running thing.

The girl's mother laughed nervously, "Honey, stop."

"See Mom? They both have big cheeks, too. See their big cheeks?"

The mom put her hand on her hip. She looked like she was about to mean business. But--

"And BOTH of their big cheeks droop. They droop, Mom! They drooooooop!"

Big Ben's tail wagged as the devil-child spit sticky, blue venom on his snout.

Olive upcloseEmbarrassed, the mother pulled her child along and said nervously, "Oh dear, out of the mouths of babes..." 

"Babe" is not the term I had in mind. 

In any event, it was a life-changing moment.

After that day I knew exactly what to do in light of the fact we end up looking like our dogs.

Dear reader, you may think I went on a diet or brought home Jenny Craig.

Screw that.

I got a new dog.  

Meet sleek-cheeked Olive, 30 pounds soaking wet. 

  

Ben and Olive in yard
 


Met My Old Lover in the Grocery Store

Remember that old Dan Fogelberg song? When he runs into his old girlfriend on Christmas Eve? 

Met my old lover in the grocery store. The snow was falling, Christmas Eve.

This just happened to me. Well, sort of.

Granted, it wasn't Christmas Eve. I wasn't in the frozen food section and we didn't share a six-pack in my car.

BUT, the rest was just like the song.

Not long ago, completely out of the blue, I received an email from an old boyfriend. It's true that right after my divorce I may or may not have tried to find him in the usual places: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I might have even Googled him. Oh come on. Don't judge. You've done it with your exes, too.

Anyway, back to the email. For once, his timing was impeccable.

Twenty-six years ago, in May of 1990, I had just graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in English. As I waited for the job offers to pour in (who doesn't want to employ a girl who can read a good book like a biatch?), I spent the summer waitressing at an old-fashioned summer resort and fell in love.

And I had the time of my life.

*cue Dirty Dancing music*

He was like Patrick Swayze (without those stretchy dancer pants they try to pass off as regular pants but you can totally tell they're dancy-pants) with a million dollar smile, great hair, and an Australian accent. He was a race car engineer. I didn't even know what that was, but his accent was so dreamy that when he talked about Midnight Oil, even though I knew nothing about cars, I could listen to him all night.  


FullSizeRender (25)By August, I had packed my belongings and moved with him to San Francisco. I was high on romance, and a trek across America was the ultimate trip. I was ready for adventure. What girl didn't want to move to California with an Australian instead of get a regular job? I had big hair, bigger shoulder pads, and a red Cabriolet filled with mix tapes.

And although motorsports was an exciting lifestyle, it turned out to be quite stressful and unpredictable as well. After a couple years, I began to crave routine and security. My friends were marrying accountants and buying starter homes. We were long on love, yet short on money, maturity and wisdom. Good mix tapes only get you so far.

If we had met three years later, we may have had a chance. A darn good chance. But as he traveled and I went back to school, our dreams conflicted. He needed to be on the road. I needed to be in class. Love wasn’t enough, and eventually, through a lot of tears and hugs, we parted ways. That was over twenty years ago.

In his email, he explained he'd be in town for one night on business and invited me to dinner. Before saying yes, feelings of insecurity plagued me.

Would he still like my smile? My laugh? And the way I talk with my hands?

Would he hear resilience in my voice?

Would he see the extra weight I carry as armor against my loneliness?

Would my laugh lines remind him of my humor and not my age?

Would he see that under my tough exterior and crutch of humor there is still a great deal of pain from a hurtful marriage? 

Seriously, I went on overthinking the whole thing for a good hour, asking myself these ridiculous questions, because before I do anything, I've got to complicate the shit out of it. In the end, I channelled my inner Stuart Smalley and said, "Yes." 

The minute I walked through the door, I saw the same 20-year old with whom I fell in love. He wasn’t looking at my thighs or examining my wrinkles. He flashed that same toothy grin and I immediately felt decades younger. My heart warmed with relief as we hugged. 

I told him about my boys, my writing, and my xxxxx, xxxxxxxx marriage (phrase redacted per wise divorce attorney). He was visibly surprised and concerned. Pouring out my heart to him was different than sharing with a long, lost girlfriend. Here was a man who had loved me very differently than my husband. Being in his presence again reminded me that I am worthy of goodness and that I can be a good judge of character. Not everyone is xxxxx, xxxxxx, xxxxxx (yep, she made me remove that part, too).

I listened as he told me about his mum, who I remembered fondly. He showed me pictures of his beautiful daughter and wife. It turns out he did find success as an engineer for a racing team and also became a world champion jet ski racer. (Seriously! Right!?!) He told me about the life he had built for himself. It all came together for him and I could not have been more happy for him. He was clearly content and fulfilled.

We reminisced for hours. We laughed about how I couldn’t figure out how to turn on our first vacuum cleaner and that time some pervert stole my underwear from the laundry room of our apartment complex. We lamented that the pay phone from which he used to call me had been taken down. 

I hadn’t expected to reconnect so easily. The longer we talked, the fewer years seemed to have passed. For a moment, I could have walked right back into that life.

But that’s what love does. In my head I knew that chapter in my life was closed. He has a wife and I have… Well, I have my sons and they need me.

I fell into a funk in the days that passed. My loneliness seemed magnified and harder to manage. It had felt so good to sit across the table from someone who had loved me so much. Someone who could finish my sentences. Someone who didn’t take so much work. Someone who made me a better person. I had forgotten what that felt like.

I was teary, and before we parted he said, “You look exactly the same, except without the big shoulder pads.” And from that moment on, I knew I'd love him forever. 

Just for a moment I was back at school,

And felt that old familiar pain 

 And as I turned my way back home, The snow turned into rain.

 

 

Not familiar with some of the references? Click on the highlighted text. 

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Even Goo-Be-Gone Can't Destroy This Bond: Happy Mother's Day!

Mom and Mrs. BeasleyMy mother and I were born opposites. She's a Felix and I'm an Oscar. She's OCD. I'm ADD. Her passport is filed under "P" and mine...well, mine is around here somewhere.

Growing up, I'd purposely do the opposite of what Mom suggested. If she said, "Boy Liesl, your natural hair color is so pretty," I'd dye it darker and darker. If Mom said, "You know, Liesl, you so look nice with long hair,"  I'd cut it short. And then even shorter. I went way too far with the asymmetrical cut in the 80's.  

When Mom would mention, "Skirts are so flattering," I'd wear the Guess jeans with pockets up and down each leg. I could fit 9 beers in those jeans. And when Mom said, "Liesl, if you'd wear a bit of a heel, it'll give you a nice, long, slimming leg,"  I'd put on my coveted hiking boots with the bright red laces. 

As the female Felix Unger, she speaks a language that is foreign to me. Recently smiling, she said the words, "Just for fun, why don't you and I wash all the crystal in the dining room." I have no idea what that sentence means.  

Hiking bootsAlthough I give her a hard time, Mom has been quite a role model for being organized and keeping a clean house. Every piece of paper brought into her home is filed within a minimum of 90 seconds. She regularly bleaches the cleaning rags. She's on her 17th label maker. The last one died while labeling the light bulb cabinet shelves. It made a fizzing sound and broke into seven pieces just as she was starting on the 30-70-100 watt three-ways. 

I didn't inherit that clean gene.  

When Mother visited me in San Francisco, she asked where I kept the scissors in my apartment.

Without blinking I said in a tone, like duh, "Under the sofa." 

"How can you possibly be my daughter?" she said. "Most people keep a scissors in the kitchen or maybe in an office or laundry room."

"Yup, but I keep mine right under the couch. That way you don't even have to get up."

On the same visit, I accidentally dropped a bag of flour on the carpet. 

"No problem," said Mom. "Just get the vacuum. It'll take two minutes to clean up."

"Right...the vacuum cleaner," I said casually.

Mom, Liesl and boysPanicked, I scoured four closets until I found the damn thing. Out of breath, I plugged the machine into the walI. Like a hawk, Mom watched my every move as if she doubted my vacuuming prowess. I nonchalantly kicked my foot around the sides and corners of the thing with no luck. Then I patted my hands along the handle but nothing happened. I unzipped and then rezipped the bag part. I unplugged and replugged the machine.


About to pull out her hair and transform into Mr. Clean right before my very eyes, Mother Unger exclaimed,
"Oh my God! You don't know how to turn on your vacuum cleaner, do you, Liesl Margaret?"

"Yeah, um...well, no. I usually just get out a lint roller."

But at 27 when my boyfriend dumped me while the rest of my friends were tying the knot like a row of dominoes, I called my mom.

When I woke up July 21, 2004 and needed help with my drinking problem, I called my mom.

When I knew my spirit was dying and it was time to file for divorce, I called Mom. 

Gaga Augie meSo although I give my mom a tough time for being the clean freak she is, I'm also very grateful. I've come to her with plenty of messes and she's always helped me put the pieces of my life back together. She doesn't shy away from the debris of a storm. She's like a human SOS pad. Trust me, she will view that as a compliment.

It took me almost 40 years, but these days I listen to my mom. My hair is long. I wear heels and a skirt every chance I get. My scissors are stored safely in a kitchen drawer. It's a messy drawer, but it's progress, not perfection, right?

My mom and I look like an odd couple on the surface. She never has a hair out of place. I'm usually covered in dog hair. She plans ahead. I know I am typing this sentence at this very moment. She's 5'2", barely 100 pounds and always has my back. I'm 5'6" and weigh dis-girl-don't-shop-petite-section and lean on her heavily. Yep, an odd couple connected by the most amazing bond there is: unconditional love. Even Goo-Be-Gone can't destroy that shit.**

Not so long ago, when I became a single mother, who'd been out of the workforce for 15 years, I called my mom.  

She said, "You have a gift. Keep writing. Follow your dream. Oh, and here are some extra vacuum cleaner bags."  

Thank you, Mom. I love you! Happy Mother's Day! 

 

**Mom, sorry I swore in the Mother's Day post. I don't know where I learned such language!

 

 

 




10 Reasons the Gym Denied My New Year's Resolution Application

Woman with alarm clockI had good intentions for my New Year's resolution. Really good intentions. As a single mom, four years post-divorce, it's time to get back on the proverbial horse. Call it a horse, a rooster or whatever you choose, but it's time for me to get on something.

I decided to get back in shape to avoid being alone for the next decade, so I filled out the membership paperwork at a fancy, schmancy fitness club and awaited their response. In the meantime, I was so serious about this resolution, I shopped online and almost bought a 17-hook-and-eye sports bra made of steel. Turns out I'm not only off the hook; there likely won't be any eyes on me, either. The following arrived in the mail today:

Fitness app 2


Let's Share the Love on Mother's Day

As Mother's Day approaches, I can't help but think back to all the interesting gifts I've received from my three sons throughout the years. I fondly recall getting a bean plant in a Dixie cup. One fragile, hopeful stalk, reinforced (suffocated) by Scotch tape. A Hugo and mom drawingcouple years later, I was treated to a Dixie cup just full of dirt. But man, I loved that dirt.

Another year one son surprised me with a beautiful type-written poem. It began, When I saw you across the room and our eyes first met, I knew it was love at first sight... Turns out the poem wasn't actually a poem. It wasn't beautiful, either. The second line began, Or maybe it was pure lust? And that's when I knew I wanted you to.... We had a brief talk about internet safety and then went to brunch.

Mothers worldwide dream of receiving painted rocks, handmade cards, extension cords (boys, I especially loved the green 8-footer, so thoughtful), and pots of marigolds along with breakfast-in-bed. Those years fly by. So bring on the macaroni, glitter and glue projects. We cherish them.

Eventually our children get older and we receive books, tickets to the symphony, or a lovely scarf. All nice gifts, but nothing quite compares to an overflowing cup of dirt that's been watered too much, carried with both hands over the white carpet, down the hallway to our bedroom at 5:30 am. We honestly don't care if that marigold ever sprouts. We just like watching our kids enjoy a moment of giving. 

And nothing beats a handwritten card mom can save to read at a college graduation or rehearsal dinner years later. This is one of my treasures:

Mother's day card

Yet for some, Mother's Day is tough, even painful. We look around, but don't always know who is suffering. Some faces are well-practiced at hiding the pain. But there are too many wonderful women in the world who won't get marigolds on Sunday.

Some wanted to be moms but were unable.

Some are estranged from their children and live with regret.

Military moms pray daily for their kids serving our country.

Some moms are in hospitals, comforting their sick children, content to get a smile, a nod, or just another day together.

Some mothers may feel sharper pains of grief on Sunday for the children they've to mourn prematurely. 

As a mom, I'm only as happy as my most unhappy child. No matter the age of my kids, when they hurt, I hurt right along with them. So although Mother's Day is a joyous occasion for so many, let's remember and comfort the women who ache for babies who were never born, have children who are sick, hurt, lost, addicted, missing, in pain, struggling, or have passed on. Their pain is our pain. 

For those of us blessed to celebrate this Mother's Day, let's be generous with our smiles, hugs, phone calls, and even our marigolds. It's the little things that make the big difference.

 


Back Where I Belong

Today I returned to the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop in Dayton, OH. I came to the three-day conference in 2012 before I started writing Hairpin Turns Ahead. Two years ago, sitting in that first session, I remember thinking, This is where I belong. 

Today I arrived in Dayton, two years later, tired and stressed. It takes so much work to prepare for a trip without kids, I don't even call it a vacation anymore. Halfway through the drive, I realized I forgot the one thing I didn't want to forget -- my business cards.  And while dressing for dinner, I realized I forgot one other thing-- my right shoe -- and unfortunately I had the gaul to take it out on my left shoe.  Feeling fat in my Eileen Fisher, and uncomfortable in my back-up shoes, I finally left the safe haven behind my laptop and headed to dinner to meet my online writer friends in real life.

During the seven-hour drive to Ohio, I reflected on my writing and Hairpin Turns Ahead. In nineteen months, I've written thousands of words, was cast in a Listen To Your Mother show, finished fourth in Blogger Idol and built a loyal following through social media. In addition, I've made a lot of mistakes. And to be perfectly honest, since the new year, I've had trouble finding the funny. I've worried so much about readers liking my posts, that it's paralyzed my writing.   

Quotation-Erma-Bombeck-laughter-courage-humor-tragedy-Meetville-Quotes-34090Lately the most common question I'm asked is, "All this writing you do....so, what's it all for?" Is the writing for me? Is the writing for my readers? Is it for mere entertainment? Is it for some greater good? I'm not sure.

However, there are two things I do know for sure. I need to write. There are words and stories and ideas and just plain kooky thoughts that I need to get out of my head and onto paper. And most importantly, humor is my coping mechanism. When things are uncomfortable, painful, scary, unknown, or upsetting, I rely on humor -- not as a diversion, but as a path to accepting certain truths

Tonight at dinner, our keynote speaker Phil Donohue spoke about his good friend and former Ohio neighbor, Erma Bombeck. He reminded us that Erma wrote the truth about topics that were often full of pretense. She opened the door for American women to be honest about their roles by using humor. And tonight I think Phil Donohue reignited the writing spark in me when he said, "The opportunities to skewer balloons of pretense are everywhere." Thanks, Phil. That was just what I needed to hear. And once again, I found myself thinking, This is where I belong.

 

 


You CAN Handle the Truth -- Now Go Give a Hug

I've always been drawn to war movies. Platoon, Black Hawk Down, Apocalypse NowThe Thin Red Line. The raw intensity moves me. The grittier, the better. When I re-watch those first 27 minutes of Saving Private Ryan, I still have a visceral reaction. The courage and fear in those boys is palpable as they approach the beaches. I wince knowing their fate. 

I couldn't find anyone to see Lone Survivor with me, so I finally went by myself. 

That's too hard to watch.

Too much violence. 

It's just too real.

Such a downer.

I go to the movies to escape. Teleport me to an alien planet for a couple hours.

To each his own. Yet, for some reason, I embrace that raw reality-- the insanity of war, the pain, the frustration, the anger. I respect it. As a citizen of the world, I actually feel it's my duty to watch these movies. It seems un-American to avoid


them as "too messy." No doubt they're difficult to watch, but our unease seems a small price to pay considering the immense human sacrifice.

I can't change circumstances. I can't erase pain and suffering. And I've certainly learned I can't change history. However, I can bear witness and say, Yeah, that happened. That was real. And it was God-awful. Take note, damn it.

Shelter from the stormThe truth is, every day I'm surrounded by people fighting battles. I don't need a big screen to remind me of the tough realities of life people face daily. No, they are not on a grand scale, like a war, but they are still epic in the true sense of the word --heroic and impressive in quality. I have a friend who has a child addicted to heroin, a parent with a progressive disease, a friend undergoing chemo, a friend who just lost her husband, a neighbor dealing with heart-breaking betrayal, a colleague with a severe special needs child.

 

I know firsthand these battles aren't won or lost in a day, a month, or a year. Often these storms rage for years - alternating between chaos, a new normal, more chaos, another new normal, more chaos, the next new normal and on and on. For many, living day to day in chaos and fear is completely normal. 

 

When bad news is delivered, a tragedy occurs, or an accident happens, resounding support is often close at hand in the form of meals, cards, notes, hugs, flowers, donations -- whatever is needed. I don't have to look far to find little armies of support giving rides, making meals, picking up the phone, sending a note or just sitting and listening. Those are the actions that fortify my soul.

However, over time, support systems can fade. It's not that people don't care. It's just that very few people have the emotional energy or stamina to hang around for the long haul. 

You're STILL dealing with that?

Isn't it time to move on?

I've been meaning to call.

C'mon. It's time you get over it.

Can't you let it rest?

Isn't it over YET?

You still need those meetings?

You still have no ________ (justice, answers, relief, diagnosis, etc.)?!?!?

Supportive friendsWhen there's no quick fix, no light at the end of the tunnel or no sure thing, the momentum of support can die. Let's face it, after a while, some folks just don't want to hear about it anymore. I'm guilty of this. I get wrapped up in my own problems and frustrations and sometimes think I just can't send a card, make a meal, or watch her children. But I need to remember, it's not the size of my offering - it's the offering itself that matters. Sometimes just a few kind words -- the mere acknowledgement of a friend's pain, can send the message: Hey, I know you're going through something tough, but the world hasn't forgotten you. You're situation is not too messy. I'm not avoiding you. I care. I can't fix it, but I got your back, no matter how many years it takes.

No doubt there is too much human suffering in the word today. Let's not be those people who insulate ourselves from it. Let's have the courage and compassion to join the battle, no matter how big or small our contributions. Pick up that phone. Send that note. Make that pot of soup. And give that hug. You can handle the truth. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Every Dog Has His Day

(This post was written for Week #1 of Blogger Idol in 2013. The challenge:  Introduce yourself to the Blogger Idol audience by writing your own eulogy. )

 

Hey folks-

Big Ben with remote control
I'm so depressed after Liesl's death, I don't even want my own reality TV series anymore.

I never imagined I’d stand before you at Liesl’s funeral. Since I’m a 150-pound St. Bernard, you likely never expected it either. By the way, sorry for sniffing your crotches as you arrived. My OCD (odoriferous crotch disorder) acts up in a crowd.

Liesl’s three sons asked me, Big Ben, her long-time companion, to remember her on their behalf. It's true I'm just a dog, but I knew her better than most and loved her dearly.

I found Liesl, a.k.a. Sleazel (the 80s), That Mess In a Dress (pre-sobriety), or Hurricane Liesl, with her hand still clutching a Diet Coke, dead on her office floor. She drowned beneath a raging sea of divorce lawyer bills. Although I attempted CPR, my excessive drool made matters worse, so I licked her face, and laid beside her.

Liesl may have been Wisconsin’s only lactose intolerant, recovering alcoholic resident. Rumor has it she attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison in a complete blackout for seven years and still graduated with an English degree, but that was way before my time. On a recent trip to Madison, the boys told me Liesl said, "I'm not really sure where the library is..." as they walked past the library.

After college, Liesl followed the Australian boyfriend she had known all of three weeks to San Francisco. Always up for adventure, she applied to the San Francisco Fashion Design School. No doubt her Bob Mackie-sized shoulder pads made a good first impression in her interview. However, the two forgotten Clairol rollers, still tightly secured to the back of her head, may have her hurt her chances. I can hear her now: "Oh Christ! Details! I hate 'em!"

Despite her disdain for other people’s children, Liesl became a high school English teacher and worked in Milwaukee area schools. She married and blah, blah, blah, history, schmistory, let's just fast forward... divorced in 2011. For most folks, I hear divorce is devastating. In Liesl's case, it led to freedom, rebirth, and self-discovery. Was that too over-the-top? I'm a St. Bernard. We tend to like drama.

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The last family photo. Liesl sure knew how to put the fun in dysfunction.

Liesl and I both struggled with our weight and despised exercise. We were really good at sitting on the couch. Liesl concocted crazy diets. The I'll-Eat-As-Much-Cherry-Pie-As-I-Want-Since-I'm-Getting-Divorced-You-Skinny-Bitch diet was a favorite. We rarely went for walks. I preferred sleep and Liesl believed that wearing her 1979 Dr. Scholl’s - the Original Exercise Sandals- counted as a work out.

I remember when one of Liesl’s friends bugged her to come to an aerobics class she taught. Finally Liesl acquiesced, and arrived in her signature pink bathrobe, with two-dozen doughnuts and a lawn chair. No slacker, Liesl stayed and smoked her Marlboros and drank Diet Coke until the very end of class.

 

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Photo credit: Boutique Photographer

Liesl’s motto was "go big or go home," and no doubt I'm a testament to that. In fact, when I spoke to some of you to prepare for today, many mentioned Liesl’s big smile, big hair, big parties, and big heart. One thing is certain, she had an infectious spirit and sense of humor. In my darkest days, when the snow had melted and there were no more rolling pins to eat, Liesl could still make me laugh. I bet she had the same affect on you.

Although she liked to do things BIG, the private Liesl liked the little things in life. She insisted hugs with her boys be a minimum of 6 seconds. She said it had to do with releasing oxycontin or something like that. She loved to tuck the boys in at night and say their prayers. She often added an extra Hail Mary for yelling “Holy F*#k!” after stepping on Legos in bare feet.

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Liesl drove the boys to South Dakota to see "Rount Mushmore."

After her divorce, she fought loneliness and hoped to find love again, but she put her needs on the back burner to focus on her boys. She figured she'd have time for herself when they went to college. She was their rock, even though she sucked at story problems.

Liesl loved to be a bit naughty. We'd drive the boys to school and, not being a morning person, she'd wear nothing but a trench coat. If a student's father gave her a compliment on her coat, she'd reply, “You should see my sheared beaver," and peel out of the parking lot laughing.  It sounds kind of pervy now, but it wasn't. She was right. Her sheared beaver coat is gorgeous.

Just like her parents taught her, she instilled a sense of individuality in her boys. Liesl wanted them to do their own thing, not follow the crowd. If there was a road less traveled, Liesl took it. She planned quirky road trips, started strange traditions, and made the boys try new foods at teeny-tiny diners. They'd say, "Where are we again?" And she'd answer, "We're in Appalachia. Be grateful for what you have." Or, "We're in Kentucky. Try those grits." Or, "We're in South Dakota. It's called an antelope, not a cantaloupe." Then she'd finish with:  "Let's just take in this awesome moment of togetherness. This is what it's all about. I love you guys."

She loved us deeply and reminded us often. No better legacy exists.


My Dad Led Me Out On A Limb


Dad and me little
My dad and me in 1968.

My dad likes to live on the edge, and he raised me to feel comfortable out on a limb, too.

 My dad always says, "Rules are meant to be broken."  It drove my mom a little crazy, but I know what he meant. If someone tells you no, find another way.  Think out of the box. Don't let others tell you something can't be done. 

My dad always says, "C students rule the world." That didn't go over well with my mom either, but I know what he meant. Be a well-rounded person who can carry herself in the real world. Meet people. Know people. Don't spend your life in a carrel at the library studying theories. Get out there, experience life and do stuff.

My dad always says, "Do your own thing. Don't follow the crowd." That was a hard one for me. I wish I woud have followed this advice earlier in my life. But I wanted to fit in, while my dad urged me to stand out. Thankfully as an adult, I have come around and found it's a lot more exhilarating and fulfilling to forge a fresh path.

My dad always says, "The early bird gets the worm."  I still tune that one out. I don't want a worm - not even laced with tequila. 

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I'm So Mad, I Must Run

Long ago I decided running would not be my sport. I tried it. I didn't like it. Bad outfits. Too much sweat. Too much jiggle. So running joined my long list of Never-Agains, with the likes of tequila, Jägermeister, Marlboro reds, eating Taco Bell while driving, and Alberto VO5.

Running shoes

As my friends hit the big 4-0, one by one, they started to run 5Ks, do tough mudders, and train for mini-triathlons. "Join us" they'd say. Yeah, right, sure wish I could, but I must get started on the hazelnut gelato in my fridge. Promised myself I'd finish it by tomorrow. I always follow through.

Actually I had loads of excuses:  

"My boobs are too big for running. You wouldn't understand. You barely have boobs. Is that from running? I don't want these girls to droop to my muffin top prematurely."

 "I don't want my nipples to scab up and fall off like frozen warts."

"Listen, you gals can run all you like, but I've got grave concerns about leaving my uterus (splat!) in the cul-de-sac. Wouldn't be neighborly. I've gotta take care of these lady parts.  At some point they may see action again."

"When I'm 65, I want my butt in a hammock, not my bladder."

"Hey, I'm divorced. If I ran, I don't even know what would fall out of my vagina. It hasn't been used in so long, it'd be like a mini antiques roadshow."

Trial run in my shoes- edited
At the store giving my boobs and the shoes a trial run.

Eventually my friends stopped bugging me, and I gained 20 pounds from divorce comfort food in peace. If they asked me today, I couldn't run if I wanted. I wouldn't need a funny excuse. I could be honest. "Hey girls, would love to run, but I'm just too fat."  

But over the last two years, I've watched a good friend lose over 100 pounds through diet and exercise. She ran a lot and still does. So as I looked over my spring wardrobe and remembered none of it even fit last year, I decided it was time for shopping change. Inspired by my friend, I invited her to lunch (she: salad, me: not). She insisted that running hadn't caused anything embarrassing to fall out of her vagina in public. And since I like to eat, she convinced me to give running another try.

A week later, I was "outfitted."  I had the shoes, the tights, the bra, the headband. I was set.  And then Thursday passed... and I didn't run.  And then Friday... And of course, the weekend is never a good time to start anything new. 

Sports brasMonday was THE day. I put on my gear and I ran. I felt empowered from having the courage to take those steps. Try something new. Risk looking stupid. Risk feeling old. But in all aspects, the run energized me.

My industrial steel bra, with its nine hook and eye closures, was so damn tight, my boobs didn't bob.  My tights, like sausage casings, secured my lady parts. All bodily fluids and organs stayed put. I left no trail of urine. My nipples didn't chafe.

 

I ran. I survived. I was safe. I felt alive. 

And then I turned on the news.  

I heard news of the explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  I was stunned and then the irony hit me. I begrudgingly began my running journey the exact day others were prematurely forced to end theirs. Deaths. Amputations. Brain injuries. Burns. Who could imagine getting blown up or losing a leg while out for a run? Such evil acts can't even be anticipated. As good people, we don't have the capacity to imagine such horror.

I'll never be a marathon runner. In truth, I'll never even be a runner. Yet each day I'm grateful for still having the ability to chafe my nipples and leave a trail of urine through my neighborhood. 

 

 


My Acceptance Letter for Project Divorcée, Season One!

Dear Ms. Testwuide,

Congratulations!  You have been selected as a contestant to appear on the inaugural season of Project Divorcée.  Modeled after the successful Project Runway series, Executive Producer, Heidi Klum, has decided to try her recently ringless hand, at a new reality show. Project Divorcée will pit women at their lowest point against one another, in order to win a prize package by further losing their dignity.  

We have reviewed your audition tape and processed your application. We feel you embody the perfect mixture of bitterness, apathy, and vengeance. When combined with your delicate emotional state and raging sugar addiction, you make a perfect reality TV character.  

Too tight jeans

We feel your too-tight-sized-14-mom-jeans, high likelihood of developing Type II Diabetes during production, and constant collection agency calls for unpaid therapists' bills will make you an instant fan favorite.

Your file was missing some paperwork. We require all divorce lawyer’s bills be sent to our offices to authenticate your eligibility. We recognize shipping is costly. We understand the pure poundage of your particular legal bills has reduced your transportation options to ground service only. We thank you for chartering a train to transport these documents.

The winner of Project Divorcée will receive $25,000 for Vaginal Rejuvenation, a Lifestyle Lift , a set of Glamor Shots, and a one year supply of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream created exclusively for our show, Manic Xanax. 

Please sign the enclosed documents agreeing to the following:

  1. Continue your diet of saturated fats, high fructose corn syrup, refined sugars and any recipes by Paula Deen.
  2. Purchase a clean bathrobe as it appears from your audition tape to be your signature wardrobe piece. A silk robe with shoulder pads, high slit, and no middle zipper may make you more palatable to male viewers rather than your current Cheeto-stained fleece.

Unlike Project Runway, contestants for Project Divorcée are informed of their weekly challenges in advance in order to schedule therapy sessions as needed. The first challenge requires contestants to don pre-divorce evening dresses that still fit. "Fits" is defined as "zippers to top while contestant breathes continuously." Contestants will then attend a couples’ cocktail party solo. You will be judged on your ability to smile, engage in friendly banter, and remark "I'm so happy for you," at least ten times during the evening. The winner of challenge one will receive two Ambien and be allowed to spend the next 24 hours in bed.

We look forward to your arrival in Allentown, PA for the first season of Project Divorcée.

Sincerely,

Myles Seabrunner and Barton Winkler

Associate Producers

Project Divorcée

 

 


What Do Your Jeans Say About You?

 

Lucky you verticalI may be watching too many late night infomercials, but I'm tired of the message that women over 40 are old.  I hear about bladder swings, vaginal rejuvination, Lifestyle Lifts, Muffin Molds and more.  When I saw an ad for Not Your Daughter's Jeans, it just put me over the edge.   40 isn't old!  I cranked out this letter, sent it and feel much better. Just wanted to share it with you. 

 

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I've Got Something in My Pocket

As a young girl,  I dreamed I’d someday be the mother of two demure daughters.  I'd dress them in pink Polly Flinders dresses, white tights and black patent leather shoes. Quietly they'd play for hours, my two little angels, with Dressy Bessy and Mrs. Beasley. In my fantasy, we'd shop for the Barbie Townhouse, sell Girl Scout cookies, discuss Nancy Drew mysteries and debate which Hardy boy, Frank or Joe, was the cutest. 

 But then I gave birth to three boys. 

I'll be honest, my romantic childhood fantasies of motherhood never included:

buying Shout, Gatorade, and Goober by the case. 

falling into the toilet bowl...repeatedly.

washing urine off the walls, seriously guys, still?

stepping on piles of seemingly innocuous, yet unimaginably painful teeny, tiny Lego pieces.

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Have You Had “The Talk” With Your Kids?

Recently I had "the talk" with my kids. I had put it off too long, which was truly irresponsible. Although my children are still relatively young, it's best to have certain discussions before they know everything and I'm just another embarrassing mom.  

I knew the subject matter of our discussion would be uncomfortable. Some could argue that not drinking, not smoking or not having sex are far more pressing topics.  But with three boys, I've got to pick my battles.  My gravestone and final resting place are far more important than teenage pregnancy or drug addiction.  

Instructions at graveAs single mom, I ponder what my final resting place will be like.  Walking through the cemetery, I panicked to realize I might land in the bumpy last row of our family plot, next to old Augusta Bach. A distant cousin, Augusta was a pathetic case who had no husband. My great-grandma begrudgingly agreed to toss her in the back for eternity. 

When I filed for divorce, I felt relief in being alone.  In fact, my epitaph might have read:  Beware of Dog.  However, now that time has passed, I can't deny I fear being alone forever.  I secretly yearn to have the words, "Beloved and super hot wife of...." engraved on my stone for all my posterity to see. 

The fear of being alone causes me to have unusual reactions around happily
married folks. When I witness couples holding hands at the grocery store, I want to smack that happiness right off their faces. Permanently dressed in a black turtleneck and yoga pants, like a middle-aged ninja, although lacking any sort of stealth, I fantasize about nailing three perfect flips at warp speed down the baking ingredient aisle and karate-chopping their hands apart.  Swish, swish, swish, hi-yahhhh!!  In my fantasy, at the last minute a bag of flour drops off the shelf providing a smokey veil into which my cart and I would vanish.
 

As a result of hating the happily mairrieds, I don't want to be stuck next to those annoying, well-adjusted couples for the next 200 years. Therefore I took the boys to the cemetery for a simple "do and don't" session.  Don't get me wrong, they don't need to go overboard.  I don't need a "statement" grave.  

I don't have issues about the size of a penis.

Boys at penis grave

Nor do I have a Napoleon complex. 

Napoleon complex FS

I don't need to pay homage to a lost testicle.

Indirect kick

But after walking the cemetery, surrounded by so many unique symbols of love,  I've decided not to give up on finding true love, the sequel.  And in the event I do get that second shot, all of eternity will know. The boys have strict instructions to order a hot pink, grossly bedazzled gravestone which reads:  "She's Goin' Down."

 




Amish Paradise

School has been in session for about a month and I have already driven kids back and forth to 22 soccer practices, 15 play rehearsals, 9 swim lessons, 4 guitar lessons, 5 piano lessons, made 60 brown bag lunches, folded 47 loads of laundry, tied 88 soccer cleats and spent $847 at Costco.

I’m running away to Amish Country.

Eight years ago, driving back from Cleveland, OH, after spending Thanksgiving with relatives, the DVD player in the car was broken and the kids were hyped to the max on candy corn.  By the time we reached Indiana, I was clawing at the door.  I had to get out.  I had recently quit drinking and the nail polish remover in my cosmetic bag was seriously tempting. It was dire. 

We pulled off the freeway, found a hotel, and splurged for the biggest suite in the place.  Upon arrival in our oddly homey accommodations was a sign that read:  

No alcohol or tobacco products permitted on site.  However, we have 29 kinds of pie. Welcome to Amish Country.

 

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Fitness Club, Schmitness Flub

Dr scholls finalSince I pray that some day, some one will want to be naked with me again, I was encouraged to stop in a local fitness center and fill out an application form. I've posted it below. Sorry it's tough to read. I shouldn't open the mail when my blood sugar is low (which is pretty much never since 9,072Thin Mints were just delivered to my house.)  

Health form final 1
Health form fianl 2


72 Hours to Get Ready For a Date? Yep, at Age 45.

Since I am recently divorced, my friends have nudged me to get back out there and date. Out where? I ask.  I mean, there is not a strong market for the 45-year-old-non-drinking-stay-at-home-mother-of-three-sons demographic – or as I like to call it, “the three penis package deal,” but I have been willing to give it a try.

Friends suggested I try Match.com, eHarmony or HookUpsForMoms. I’ve given a couple of these sites a shot, but to be honest, I just don’t have the energy. In fact, I almost fell asleep on my last date.  Don’t get me wrong, the date was hardly boring; he was an engineer, funny, handsome, grown children – the total package.

The problem is that at 45, it takes me 72 hours to get ready for a date.  By the time he picks me up, I’m ready for a good night kiss.  The days of preparing for a date by adding a second pair of shoulder pads, a half can of Shaper hairspray and my ID are long gone.

72 hours. Can you fathom how long 72 hours is?  It’s twice as long as my kids are in school for a whole week and longer than one of Britney Spears’s marriages. In other words, one little date is a serious time investment all designed to look like it took no time at all! 

 

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I Pledge a Redux to my Sags

Over the last few weeks, just like you, I have spent hundreds of dollars buying school supplies I never needed as a kid.  Strange things like hand sanitizer, entire reams (500 sheets!) of paper and $100 calculators.  I've ordered the Lands' End school uniforms and in a moment of weakness purchased trendy, expensive shoes that will likely not fit any of my sons in six weeks.  

The fridge has been organized.  The take-out containers have been tossed.  Single- Best back to school pic everserving, processed foods I can launch into lunch bags in a fury are stacked high. Each son has received his "back to school" haircut and we have had another lesson on the importance of deodorant.

In addiiton, I've washed my pink, fuzzy bathrobe so I will look presentable driving the kids to school.  It would be beyond embarrassing to have a car accident in a robe covered in chocolate ice cream stains and Cheeto-finger swipes. All in all, I'm feeling pretty prepared for the new school year.

The annual ritual of getting kids ready for school always sparks a desire within me to become more organized, more productive and just get my act  together all around.  The sight of glossy folders, the quick huff off a Sharpie, and the perfectly tipped crayons make me want to label stuff.  But just for a fleeting second.  I ponder properly filing things. I could fish my passport out of the filmy make up drawer and glide it smoothly into a crisp file folder marked "travel" or maybe just "P."  But that feeling passes too, content knowing my passport is safely tucked next to a jar of wax. And since I probably won't need either for a while, why mess up a system that works?

In the past years of experiencing the turmoil of divorce, even armed with the best of intentions, already by the Thursday after Labor Day, my urge to organize, lose weight, and get a bit of exercise, seems to die as easily as slow flies in August.  

But this school year is going to be different.   Not only are my kids going to learn all kinds of math stuff I won't even be able to fake understand, I, too, am going to make forward progress. Newly divorced, I'm no longer in a holding pattern, wondering if I should stay or go.  The tough stuff is behind me and the living is ahead. 

Therefore, on this first day of school, as all students across America will recite the Pledge of Allegiance, I, too shall make a pledge to get my divorce-comfort-food-cherry-pie-very-large-ass off the sofa to declare my goal for the school year.  If you've been "on hold" and let yourself go, come on, get up and say it with me:

"I pledge a redux to my sags and the bloated state of Abdomenia.  And to my stomach... that bitch which expands:  deflation, smaller bod, irresistible with dignity.... til the jugs start to fall."

 

 


Up in Smoke

I'm tossing my life's plans out the window.  For dramatic effect, I'm going to light them on fire, blast "Chariots of Fire" and watch the ashes drift slowly to the ground. I'll only need the ringtone version since I live in a ranch, but the fiery ball of frustration will be something to behold nonetheless.

You see my friends, I need freedom from expectations. I've come to realize that the fewer plans I make, the better, because very few things actually turn out as I expect. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining.  No sir-eeee.  I mean, I've attached a lot of high expectations to a lot of crummy plans.  

In college I set out to be an International Relations major simply because I rocked a trench coat.  Truth be told, I didn't actually take into account it was a white, patent leather trenchcoat, had massive shoulder pads and squeaked when I walked. But a spy has to look good, right comrade?   But alas, I failed Russian, Mr. Gorbachev tore down that wall, and my asymmetric hairstyle grew out.

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