"Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity." ~ Gilda Radner

Sunday, October 15, 2006


by Ann Kult

Well, it's official.

In fewer than 10 days, I will be eligible for membership in the American Association of Retired People (AARP).


I'll turn 50 on Oct. 24 . I'll turn 50 on Oct. 24. (I keep repeating it so it will sink in).

So this week I get in the mail a pre-AARP membership card tucked inside an envelope sporting a supposedly 50-year-old fantastic looking woman cozily napping alongside the ocean.

Obviously, this alleged half-a-century-old woman does not live in Iowa and work part-time at a grocery store.

Do you still get to join if you can't afford to retire until you're 110?

"How comfortable should 50 be?" the advertisement asks.

How comfortable, indeed.

In a perfect world, I imagine, a tad more comfortable than I am feeling right now. Although I must admit, my trusty 13-year-old down comforter does the trick on a frosty fall night. I also enjoy a quick nap on my porch swing on a sunny fall afternoon from time to time.

But I digress.

Inside the envelope, I am assured by my fellow half-centurians: "There's a lot ahead of you. AARP is dedicated to making it easier for you."

Oh, really? Do tell...

"50. Feels good doesn't it" the somewhat annoying PR piece continues.

Well, what do they mean by "feels good"? I will go so far as to say that 50 does feel good from the vantage point of, say, the alternative...that being death, of course. And 50 doesn't feel too bad overall until I have to kneel down to pick something up off the floor, and I no longer just spring back up.

But sure, all in all, 50 feels pretty good. After I have my coffee. And a really hot shower. And a therapeutic massage. And four Extra Strength Tylenol geltabs.


Then they ask me, "But what do you want for the future? 50 more healthy years?"


"Financial security?"

That's a no-brainer.

Anyway, my sister, who turns 58 Monday, says she has made a sideline of tossing her AARP membership flyers away as fast as they arrive. But I think I will join. Why not?

I once took a gander at a copy of AARP Magazine, and there, smack dab on the cover, was that handsome, still sexy as ever, actor Richard Gere...yum. If he's 50-plus, it can't be all bad, can it?

It can? OH.

Well, I've decided to meet 50 head on, anyway. AARP membership and all.

Frankly, I think being around for half a century has been, all things considered (and after a few margaritas) a pretty cool ride. My family, my friends have all made my life's journey thus far such a blessing.

The best thing about turning 50 (besides still being alive and all)? With age comes wisdom. And perspective. Not to mention the "Hey, I'm 50, take me as I am, or don't take me; love me, love my cat" 'tude that growing older affords.

Ah! The freedom!

Well, it's Sunday. Gotta go! Things to do, places to go, people to see!

So, on behalf of Katie Couric (who turns 50 this year), Richard Gere, Cybill Shepherd, Sally Field, Robin Williams, and all my other fellow talented, sexy, still-going-strong Baby Boomers aged 50 and over, I wish you all a fun-filled, spirit-nourishing Sunday.

And remember, in the words of Grandma Moses, "Life is what you make it. Always has been. Always will be."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


As of yesterday, I have joined the ranks of those suffering from the first cold of the early fall.

There are certainly worse maladies.

And I'm not complaining, really. But it occurred to me this a.m. while showering that the worst part of a cold for me -- aside from needing a 24/7 nose mitten -- is that my sense of smell and taste vanish.

Not being able to smell or taste renders two of my life-long obsessions pointless -- food and aromoatherapy.

Let me rephrase that -- food isn't so much pointless -- one does need one's energy and nutrition when one has a cold. But what's the point of, say, eating chocolate, if you can't taste it? And what's the point of getting up in the morning if you can't eat/taste chocolate?

My bigger concern this morning, however, is not chocolate, or the lack of ability to taste it.

Oh, no. It's far more seri0us than THAT!

Here's my number-one heartache while enduring my cold -- I can't smell my aromatherapeutic toiletries.

Sure, a hot, steamy shower does wonders for an achy body. And I am most thankful for good water pressure.

But why shower when I can't smell my apricot facial scrub, cotton milk body wash, and white nectarine and pink coral flower-scented shampoo?

And believe you me, there is only one thing worse than a scent-free shower...and that is, of course, a scent-free after-shower ritual. You know what I mean ladies...it's rather boring when you have to rub in, splash on, moisturize, etc., without being able to breathe in the delightful aromas of shower-clean scented deodorant, aloe and cucumber moisturizer, and cherry blossom body splash.

I dare not describe the absolute depths of depression I sank to when I went to layer my perfume.


Monday, September 11, 2006


Well, I've decided to go without comment moderation and see what happens...

Registration, I think, disuades folks from commenting because it is a time-consuming and confusing process.

I can always switch back if the nasty trolls and sock puppets show back up...

Thanks to all of you who are reading my posts, and thanks for the encouraging comments thus far.

Hope you've had time to reflect today on how precious life truly is.

Take care...


by Ann Kult

So I'm sitting here looking through my files this a.m., re-reading everything I've ever written about 9/11, and I 'm thinking about where I was five years ago today. And then I start thinking about how we, as a country, observed the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Remember how raw our emotional wounds still were then?

Well, a few moments ago, I happened upon some poems written by Menlo Elementary School third and fourth graders back in Sept. 2002. Their topic was "compassion" because compassion was the first character trait the students were learning about as part of character education induring classroom guidance.

How fitting.

If I remember correctly, some of the students were asked to read their compassion poems during a special 9/11 first anniversary remembrance ceremony at Menlo Park.

Let's see...those third and fourth graders are now eighth and ninth graders. My son was one of those third graders whose poem was chosen to be read.

He is all pumped today because he has his first eighth-grade football game.

Five years ago today, he was 8 1/2, and not feeling well enough to go to school. I remember thinking later that awful, tragic day how thankful I was that I had him with me.

I remember how I stood in front of a TV watching in total disbelief as the second second plane slammed into the Twin Towers. Then came the news about the attack on the Pentagon. That's when Daniel slipped into the room without me noticing.

"Mommy, why would anybody want to crash into the Pentagon?" Daniel asked, startling me, his beautfiul baby blues wide with fear. "Is it going to happen here?"

"No, no, honey," I assured him, praying I was convincing. "We're perfectly safe."

But like all of us that day, I didn't really know. Five years later, are we any safer? Certainly a question being pondered by many.

Five years later, Daniel is 13 1/2 and he and his friend, Casey, are making a video called, "9/11 Revenge: Tracking Osama".

Kids of my generation grew up playing cops and robbers. My son's generation battles evil suicidal terrorists in their modern-day version of good vs. evil.

How things change, indeed.

But on a hopeful note, I'd like to share a poem written back in Sept. 2002 by Katie Bruno of Stuart; a poem that I think captures so vividly the awsome feeling of patriotism, of pulling together and praying together -- the good that came from the evil; the compassion that flowed -- that deathly September morn five years ago.

I wonder if she remembers writing it...

by Katie Bruno

how everyone pulled together during tragedy
moments of caring and support
firefighters and volunteers helping
all the innocent people that died
people that lost their lives
firefighters that risked their lives
how the country pulled together


In memory of those who died on that beautiful, sunny, horrific day, let's each do what we can to make this crazy old world a better place...not just today but every day.

Give your loved ones an extra hug and a smooch; call that old friend you've lost touch with. Forgive. Lend a hand to those less fortunate. Give thanks. Pray for peace.

Life can change in the blink of an eye.

Sept. 11, 2001.

The day that shocked and forever changed us all.

We remember.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


My dear friend Trish shared her memories and thoughts of 9/11 with The Homestretch early this a.m. What a heart-wrenching memory, but what a heartwarming personal outcome from the horrific happenings of that awful day. An inspirational for all of us that, indeed, good can come from evil.

Thank you so much, Trish, for leading off this 9/11 memorial with your story (it also appears under Comments, but I just didn't want anyone to miss this)...

"It was my first year working at Moeller (High School). I had a student walk in to my office and say, "Mrs. Niehaus, another plane crashed into the second tower. Do you think this is an accident?" I decided he was asking his mom, and I was his mom in that moment, not an employee of Moeller High School. I wanted to hug him, I just looked at him and said, "I don't think so, honey". He then just asked "why?". "I don't know" was all I could say at that moment. He just put his head down and walked out of my office.

I came home and told all three of my children how very much I loved them.

Since that day, my boys have chosen careers that were maybe because of that day. They sure make a mom proud.

Brad is now 25 and a firefighter/paramedic. He loves what he does and knows he is making a difference.

Mark is now 20 and a United States Marine. He is stationed in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and he absolutely knows he is making a difference.

So, this family was changed by the events of that sad day. As it usually goes, we were changed for the better. "

(If you would like to share your 9/11 memories or thoughts, please feel free to do so either under "Comments" at the end of this post, or my earlier "Remembering 9/11" post, or email me at anniejen@longlines.com.)

Friday, September 08, 2006


Where were you that bright, beautiful morning of Sept. 11, 2001?

Sure, here it is, a couple of days before the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and wherever you are, there's probably a high school football game; the kids busy gearing up for Homecoming in a few weeks. Our gripes with our jobs, our figures, our bad hair days -- all those little petty details of our daily lives -- consume us.

Indeed, life has gone on. But it's never really been the same, has it?

Remember that overwhelming feeling of shock and disbelief as you watched the first plane, and then the second, crash into the Twin Towers that morning? Remember how horrific it felt to not know how many more planes might be heading for, well, where? When?

The Pentagon. Pennsylvania.

Shrouds of smoke. Frantic people running for their lives. Watching the Twin Tower footage over and over as our brains -- and our hearts -- tried to comprehend the incomprehensible.

2,998 lives lost.

Life in the United States as we knew it came to a grinding halt that morning. Remember? People glued to TVs everywhere. Disbelief. Grief. Fear.

But do you also remember the overwhelming feeling of flag-waving patriotism? Of pulling together, praying together, greeting our neighbors and loving our friends and families with a little extra oomph in those days, weeks and months following 9/11?

What are your memories of Sept. 11, 2001? What are your feelings five years later? I invite you to take a moment or two this weekend and share your 9/11 memories and feelings here at The Home Stretch. Either email me at anniejen@longlines.com or leave your memories, thoughts feelings about 9/11 and where we are five years later as comments following this post.

2,998 lives lost.

Sharing helps the healing continue.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


In all honesty, I probably only saw the adrenaline-charged Aussie on TV once, maybe twice.

One Christmas a few years back, as I vaguely recall, John and I did buy Daniel a Steve Irwin/Crocodile Hunter action figure and safari truck. Or at least I think it was supposed to be Steve Irwin. Possibly a close facsimile or cheap imitation. I'm not sure.

But no doubt about it, the real Steve Irwin was a larger-than-life hero, a one-in-a-million, animal-loving conservation icon. At least he was to his fans.

When news of Irwin's bizarre death from a stingray's lethal barb to his heart hit the media Monday, poignant eulogies and heartfelt condolences poured out to Irwin's family, via the blogosphere, from stunned, grieving fans around the world.

"A man with a huge heart, a genuine passion for what he did, an infectious enthusiam for life, a love for the natural world, and no fear of death. He died doing what he loved. If only we all could boast such a life and death..." commented "Mark" on the Sydney Morning Herald News Blog.

"We've lost a hero. An idol to our kids. A champion to the cause of conservation. And an inspiration to everyone to follow their hearts and do what you love..." shared a blogger named Stuart.

"...Nothing but admiration for the way Steve Irwin lived his life. He took something he truly, passionately loved and made a nice living doing it. He traveled the world, and shared what he learned with the world in his unique, energetic, enthusiastic style. I can't help but think of Rosalind Russell as Auntie Mame when I think of Steve Irwin, "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!" He knew his entire life what he wanted to do, he spent his life living. Few of us are so lucky to do so much good for so many and have such a blast doing it...", wrote Jason of Warwick, NY.

Jason went on..."In Grover's Corners, the setting for Thornton Wilder's Our Town, Emily asks the Stage Manager: Emily: Does anyone ever realize life while they live it? Stage Manager: No, no they don't. The poets.... and the saints, they do. Some...Steve Irwin LIVED his life the way he wanted, doing what he loved, with whom he loved, and did a world of good for environmental conservation along the way. I am saddened that he's no longer with us but proud and consoled to say that here was a man who spent every minute on this earth doing what he loved..."

"How rare is it that?" asked Jason. "How wonderful it must have been for him to live with such unbridled, joyful, passion."

How wonderful, indeed. Just think what inbridled, joyful passion awaits all of us who are brave enough to make a living doing what we truly love. Of course, chucking the 9-5 desk job in pursuit of our heart's true, more adventurous career desire usually involves a little thing called "risk" that most of us, unlike Irwin, are mighty afraid to take.

Question: What are the "crocodiles" in your life/career that you are afraid to face?

Irwin knew the risks of cavorting with crocodiles and the other dangerous creatures that he loved, but he refused to let those risks get in the way of what he wanted to do.

"I have no fear of losing my life," he is quoted as once saying. "If I have to save a koala or a crocodile or a kangaroo or a snake, mate, I will save it."

No apologies from Irwin for living his life and making his living being true to his authentic self. Would you expect anything less from a guy who was given a 12-foot scrub python for his sixth birthday? The crocodile gig, I believe, was in Irwin's khakis. And he was, it seems, born to be a showman. He combined the two so well. To leave his unique call of the wild unanswered would have been spiritual suicide for Irwin.

Question: How many of us commit spiritual suicide by not answering our own "calls of the wild"? Most of our calls aren't that wild at all. Not a crocodile in sight. Maybe we feel nudged to take a college course, or get that nursing degree, or write that novel. It's what we'd love to do, but..."

Like proverbial sands through the hourglass, our lives slip away, carrying our dreams away with them.

Ironically, of course, it was a stingray, not a crocodile, that brought Irwin's maverick career and life to a sudden, tragic end. Whodathunk?

Question: What surprise "stingrays" have stung you, or barbed your heart at some point along your personal or professional journeys?

We raise our kids, give them everything we've got, and sometimes, in spite of our efforts, they whip around and break our hearts in various and sundry ways. But would we trade having our kids and all the parental stress and sorrow that often accompanies raising them, for a boring, sterile life without them?

Hell, no.

I love to write. I love to write columns. I'm blogging every day and loving it -- doing what I love -- writing -- and I've been stung a few times with some ugly comments. Not everyone likes whatI have to say. And I'm not making a blessed dime. Am I going to stop writing?

Hell, no.

I once read a popular career self-help book titled, "Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow." Well, I'm here to tell you that money does not always follow when you do what you love.

I'm also here to tell you that sometimes, you're swimming along in your life, doing what you love, and you happen upon a stringray. Sometimes you get the stingray and sometimes the stingray gets you.

Unfortunately for The Crocodile Hunter, the stingray's strike was lethal. For most of us, though, we live to see another day, make another dollar. Might as well make that dollar doing what you love. Sure, the stingrays may still follow, but do what you love anyway. Risk! Take a chance! Grow! Live and work passionately! Find your sense of adventure and follow it! Trust!

One final question: If you die tonight, what would you regret not having done?

Whatever you want to do, or think you can do, begin it now.

Remember Steve Irwin.

Realize your life while you're living it.

Live an authentic life.

Monday, September 04, 2006


Mondays off are meant for moodling.

And that is pretty much what I have done all day. Maybe you have moodled the day away as well. I hope you have. Everyone needs to moodle now and then...it's the best way to find emotional clarity amid the frenzy of this thing we call "life".

Maybe you have moodled, and you don't even know it.

Let me ask you: Have you, at some point during this long Labor Day weekend, dawdled? Or puttered? Or putzed? If your answer is yes, then by golly, you have moodled. If your answer is no, for shame. During every harried life some moodling should occur. For moodling, explains writer Brenda Ueland (who coined the word), induces revealing and rewarding reveries -- those a-ha moments that nourish our souls.

Kids need moodling time, too.

However, it seems to me that kids these days aren't allowed much moodling. Oh, they get plenty of extracurricular enrichment -- which is a good thing, certainly. But too much of it can lead to stress, according to an article I read in Sunday's USA Weekend. Did you read it?

It was titled, "The Benefits of Boredom" by Ann Pleshette Murphy, and it pointed out that according to a recent poll by KidsHealth, 41% of children feel stressed most or all of the time because they have too much to do. But Ms. Pleshette Murphy went on to say that research also shows that enforcing boredom (a first cousin to moodling, you might say), or opportunities to daydream, produces brainwaves associated with creativity.

That shouldn't be news to anyone who grew up in the 60s...Most time I whined to my mom, "I'm bored," she gave me a list of things I could do -- clean my room, wash dishes, etc. -- and it was amazing how suddenly creative and not-bored I could be .

Anyway...according to this article, "when kids have a chance to sit with their thoughts -- not while playing a video game, watching TV or doing homework-- their brains benefit in ways that enhance other kinds of learning. And being able to calm yourself and de-stress can have lifelong health benefits."

In other words, before we schedule another dance/guitar/piano/tumbling lesson on our kids' off days from volleyball/football/cross country practice, or that weekend "select" sport tournament, maybe we just ought to pencil in a new routine called NOTHING.

Yup. You heard me. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

I can hear the parental gasps, moans, and general gnashing of teeth as I type...but I think the idea might hold some value.

Call it moodling. Call it boredom. Call it just plain old-fashioned downtime.

Everybody needs it.

So, take it or leave it, Ms. Pleshette Murphy advises the following:
  • Make downtime a scheduled family activity.
  • Enhance, don't engineer. In other words, don't rush to fill the void when children say, "There's nothing to do". You could repeat my mother's other favorite "I'm bored" retort, "Spit in your shoe and send a letter to Kalamazoo." But like that other 60s humorous parental directive (my father's favorite) "Go play in traffic", I really don't recommend it.
  • Limit TV and computer use. Ouch. That's a tough one. But hey, if we made it through our childhoods having to generate our own fun without staring at a screen , our kids really can do the same. Unless, of course, a child's mother is addicted to blogging, which then requires yet another 60s' parental command, "Do as I say, not as I do."
Well, as another Labor Day weekend winds down and I sink slowly into a relaxing, hot bubble bath , surrounded by aromatherapy candles and calmed by Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits playing ever so softly in the background, I want to wish you and your kids many long, boring hours of inefficient idling.

Let the creative juices flow!

(NOTE: I posted this same article on my other blog...I was too busy moodling to be creative twice on one Labor Day...forgive me?)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Cricket Season & Other Anniversaries Of The Heart

Today has been one of those days...it's supposed to be a day of rest (see my earlier post) but the lawn called to me, "Annie, rev up that lawnmower... NOW!"

So I did.

Then I noticed how the morning glories, though beautiful, have taken over my entire garden, and the creeping jenny, albeit great, green groundcover, is really a weed and it has highjacked most of the yard.

Do I really care? No. But I started yanking weeds anyway and that's when I saw the first one. The first cricket of "cricket season". All sorts of little crickets hopping to and fro...they do that this time of year; that summer's-almost-over-but-fall-ain't-quite-here time of year that brings out not only the crickets but the big, beautiful (and scary looking) garden spiders...

It's the time of year I always think about my friend Kim...if you are reading this, Kim, you know where I am headed.

It was, I think, 1968...Kim and her family had just moved back to our neighborhood, and sixth grade was just getting underway. We were playing outside in the field behind the elementary school where it was crickets galore. And so Kim and I got a box, caught some of the little buggers, and one of them we named Flower...

Ah. The innocence of life back in the sixth grade in Madeira, Ohio.

That following summer -- our sixth-grade summer, as we still to this day reminisce -- was THE best summer of our lives. Kim, Tricia, Helen and I were best buds, and we rode bikes, and slept outside in sleeping bags, and talked about boys (as we were just discovering them), and how the four of us were going to get an apartment together some day...

We'd spend our days just hanging out, sometimes lying on the ground, staring up into the cloudless sky for what seemed like hours..."The sky is so blue," I remember one of us remarking once. It was, indeed, a scene right of Wonder Years.

As it turned out, the four of us never did share an apartment. We all went our separate ways after high school. But for the most part, we have always kept in touch.

We tried re-enacting that blue-sky moment years later -- around 1990 -- after I moved back to Cinci from Iowa. We were in our mid-30s, married...way past the age of catching crickets and naming them. But it felt so good to be back together again. So, putting our harried lives on hold for a moment, we all made our way down to the ground in Tricia's backyard one mid-summer afternoon and gazed up into the sky.

"The sky is so blue!" one us said, and we laughed and laughed.

For a brief moment, we were back in sixth grade again...lighthearted, carefree, awash in the sense that like the big, blue endless sky above, our lives stretched out before us, chock full of possibility and opportunity...

But then it was getting late, and there was supper to fix and diapers to change, and...

I don't think we will ever forget our sixth grade summer. Those rare and precious times we are blessed to be together -- usually class reunions (we LOVE class reunions), we almost always bring up the "blue sky" day, and Kim and I to this day fondly remember Flower, the cricket.

From the vantage point of my "omigod I'm almost 50" summer, life at 12 seemed so simple then. (Somebody stop me before I break into a teary rendition of "The Way We Were! Kleenex! I need a Kleenex!)

Ah. It's all good, really. Even the not-so-simple stuff.

Funny... to this day, I cannot kill a cricket.

So Kim, Tricia, Helen...if you are reading this...Here's to crickets, blue skies, sixth-grade summers, old friends, and life's innocence lost.

And to the rest of you...what are your favorite memories? What brings back, with a rush and a sigh, a heart-enveloping memory? What are your special anniversaries of the heart?

Celebrate them whenever you can.


Friday, September 01, 2006


Just a quick post to say, hey, Ned Nick, I think the babushka thing is comin' back as evidenced by these three gorgeous babes wearing, what else but...babushkas! (See comments from NN under Edwina Scissorteeth post.)

It is the easiest way to ensure a good hair day, although you are right, NN...wearing one's babushka too tight can cause one to falter when taking a college history test.


That is me, of course, in the middle; Kristin to my left; Jess to my right. Ironically, Jess IS my hair stylist! My friend, Mary, just sent this pic to me today....good times, good times. I believe we were on our way to the Jason Aldeen "Hick Town" concert?

Perfecting the babushka look is time consuming...is there such a thing, really, as THE perfect babushka look? Well worth pondering THAT, NN.

More later, kiddos.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Church Families & Other Misnomers

I didn't want to do it, but I did.

For my fans out there -- all three of you -- my apologies for you having to now use the Comment Moderation option on my blog. But it seems one of my dear detractors from my other blog, The Independent Eye, found it necessary to spew a little anonymous small-minded venom on The Homestretch, and frankly...it's my flippin' blog, and I don't have to put up with it here. This is a friendly blog. My sanctuary, you might say.

Speaking of sanctuaries, "WCV"(West Central Valley, the school district/area that The Eye, my controversial news blog, covers) stated that I should be ashamed of having my car repo'd (we chose to surrender it actually), and further more, what does my son think? And what does my husband's church family think?

I find those questions entertaining...

My son thinks, "Hey, mom and dad are a little short on cash flow right now. But it was great having mom home for most of the summer -- we hung out a lot together. Things will get better. Every family faces tough times of one kind or another. It could be worse."

What a great, mature kid.

And, as for my husband's church family? We are no longer in the ministry, WCV. But if we were still in the ministry, I would hope our church family would pray for us, asking God to give us the emotional strength and the necessary direction to help us get back on track financially. Knowing that tough times fall on everyone at one time or another, I imagine they wouldn't judge us.

Of course, hind sight and five years in the ministry tells me that while the majority of members of our church family -- our true church family (and we still consider them family) -- would, indeed, pray for us nd not judge us, the other few church "family" members -- and I use the term "family" with my tongue rammed into my cheek -- would probably be thinking along the same petty tracks of WCV's train of thought.

So, frankly, WCV, if you must know, I don't give a damn what people think.

Life happens.


Sunday, August 27, 2006


I can't believe I've had 181 hits on The Homestretch...but just a smattering of comments. My other blog -- the one that has taken over my life (The Independent Eye) has scored more than 1,200-plus visitors since Aug. 13. And hundreds of comments -- some not fit for family viewing, of course, but hey! It's all in the name of conversational media.

I'm wondering why folks rarely leave comments here...could my personal life be THAT boring? You bet it could be. And it is. But that's OK. Now that I've discovered blogging, well...k sara, k sara. (That's the im version of that old Doris Day song...badabump.)

Truth is, I don't dare leave my house now since my eyes look like I haven't slept in months. I am hooked on blogging...my eyes are glued to my computer screen for hours on end -- and thank God for microwavable Hamburger Helper and canned fruit or my son would be totally starved.

My husband IS starved...for affection...I shut myself in my attic writing room and don't come down for weekends at a time. However, I have had a few things go on in real time...

I met the repo man, and he was very nice. I handed over my keys to the Focus and haven't missed it since. Not a tear, not a heavy sigh.

I started back at my grocery schlepping job part-time...it's great to be back, actually. It feels so strange to be earning a paycheck! What a concept! The customers all seemed so glad to see me; I just smiled. Then we talked about some old times and we drank ourselves some beers...still crazy after all these years...

Oh, drat! There I go...breaking into old Paul Simon songs...I need a nap. Can I blog in bed?

Stop! I must stop blogging!

If you visit this site, please leave some kind of comment before you leave...Don't be shy.

Less than two months till I turn 50. So please...humor me.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Cat & A Haircut, Two Kibbles

Being on a squeaky tight budget, of course, means cutting corners, cutting up credit cards, and cutting out coupons. So what to do about hair cuts? Like so many fashion divas, when I feel a bad hair day coming on, I want a haircut and I want it NOW! But some weeks, just being able to glean a little milk money from under the sofa cushions is all I can hope for. So what's a hip blogger chick like me supposed to do when money's scarce and that threadlike growth from the top of my head is absolutely screaming for a trim?

Not to worry! I just leave it to my cat, Schmokers. Come to find out, she's one of the best barbers around. She works nights and early mornings. And she's cheap, too. All she wants in return are a few tuna-flavored kibbles in her dish and a clean litter box. I can afford that.

I happened upon Schmoker's unusual pasttime (she appears to consider it a career, and who am I to judge?) this last week. It all started with a dream, actually. I was dreaming that I had a large, black spider clinging to the top of my head, much like a large hat with tendrils , and I just couldn't shake it. As I slowly awoke from this ghoulish nightscape of the mind, I realized that it was not a woolly mammoth of an arachnid I was sporting, but it was Schmokers, nibbling and yanking little strands of my hair with her teeth. With a rough lick or two on my face (a feline facial?) thrown in for good measure. Costs less than Almay mascara remover, I might add.

At first, I thought it was a nervous habit Schmokers had acquired; it was storming, and I figured she was just wigging out over the thunder. I shared that delightful musing with my hubby.

"Darling," I said. "It was so funny...Schmokers was chewing on my hair this morning. I think she chews my hair when she's nervous."

"Thank God she doesn't prefer eyeballs," he offered.


But it occurred to me this bright, sunny a.m., as I brushed Schmokers, alias Edwina Scissorteeth, from my head once more, that hair nibbling from her feline perspective is truly an act of love and caretaking. It is no different than when Schmokers and her kitten, Flower, bathe each other. Schmokers loves Flower. And Schmokers loves me. And she wants to take care of me like she takes care of Flower and like Flower takes care of her in return. Classic mother-daughter bonding, at both the feline and human level. Either that, or Schmokers merely hates my hair and thinks I'm odiferous and in dire need of a bath. Hey, either way, it's all good. And free.

Yup. Me and the Schmokes are good pals. Have been since she came tiptoing up our driveway out at my mother-in-law's farm early last fall. She's a Tortoise Shell cat, and she is by far the sweetest cat I have ever known. I felt sorry for the little stray, made her a shelter out of a basket, some blankets, a plastic tote, an old camping cot and a sleeping bag, and she claimed it as her digs right away. Then the little dear wound up pregnant (obviously she was doing more than chasing mice in her spare time), and when the day came for her to bring those six adorable little kittens into the cold and cruel world of stray farm cats (we're so connected, I just sensed it was time), well, I took pity on her.

I've given birth, and the thought of pushing out six kids in the hollow of a tree stump or behind an old barn just didn't sit well with me.

So I drove her in to my house in town, made a nest of towels for her in the bathroom, and just in the nick of time, I might add. Within the hour, she gave birth to Flower, Elliot, Oliver/Olivia and three others (whose names I cannot recall at this point because blogging has fried my brain). Two Torties like Schmokers (girls; Torties are always girls), and four little yellow balls of fluff that look like their no-good, deadbeat dad who hasn't seen Schmokers since the day he had his way with her.


Anyway, I kept Schmokers and Flower (named after that cute little skunk of Bambi fame; she looked like a baby skunk when she was born). Much to my hubby's chagrin. But Daniel loves them (he watched the kitties being born), and I think the tenderness the cats bring out in him is a powerful anecdote to the violence thrown at him at every turn in the music he listens to, the video games he plays, and the movies he manages to see -- and the news -- despite my vigilance.

Besides, when all else in my world seems to be crumbling around me, there's just something about having Schmokers and Flower curled up in my lap, snuggling, or Schmokers nibbling on my noggin cuz I'm her "mommy/baby", that soothes and comforts me. Adds warmth to that Big Chill we call Life. Oh, if only Schmokers could talk. I'd ask her what she is thinking when she is "cutting" my hair in the still of the morning. I know what I'm thinkin'.....how is she at manicures?

Hey, I'm just tryin' to save a buck.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Blogmania Strikes Podunk

Hi. My name is Annie. I can't stop blogging.

(All together now) "Hi, Annie!"

Yes. It has come to that. In just one short month, I've become a blogging addict. As if keeping up with one blog is not enough, I've gone and started yet another blog with Susan, my writing friend. We're just a couple of semi-retired news hounds who used to put out our own weekly newspaper, The West Central Valley Voice (moment of silence in its memory, please) with the help of four other crazy folks. Anyway, we decided to start a news blog, The Independent Eye (see my links), and it is taking off so fast, our bleary eyeballs are spinning.

Blogging is so much fun! So what if my son has been on a steady diet of sugar-laden cereal and water while I am ensconced in my attic writing room adding site meters and animation, whatever, to my new blog. When Mom's happy, EVERYBODY is happy.

I've got "Nothin's Gonna Stop Us Now" by Jefferson Starship blaring, and I am pounding out pontification upon pontification here, and news to beat the band there, and, omigosh! The comments! I love the comments! The news blog comments have been a bit tawdry thanks to our mystery commenters Coco, the ardent speller, and Deborah, with the real classy username, but it's all good! It's what the blogosphere is all about.

And to think a month ago, I was wondering what I was going to do with my life! I've re-discovered my purpose! Save for my son looking a bit gaunt and pleading for protein, and the repo man coming to take my auto any minute (where IS he...I cleaned out the Focus two days ago...) and my fingers cramping from typing...I'm the happiest I've been since the hogs ate little brother (that's just one of my late father's favorite sayings. I don't really have a little brother. My one and only sister was hoping that I'd be her little brother when I was born, but no such luck. Then she tried to push me into my grandparents' fireplace one Christmas Eve -- I've got slides proving it -- blah, blah, blah. But we're best friends now.)

Am I blabbing? Yes, I am. The adrenaline rush from publishing our premier issue of The Independent Eye has not totally worn off.

Forgive me?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Fiddler On The Blog

Nero wasn't fiddling while Rome burned.

He was blogging.

Blogging is so addictive. And fulfilling. So fulfilling, that I left my son to forage for food for himself and two friends pretty much for two days while I locked myself in my attic writing room and designed yet another blog. When I finally emerged from my blogging stupor, stumbling down the attic steps bleary-eyed from adding site counters and the like to this site and my new one, I discovered, lo and behold, that a small earthquake had erupted in my kitchen.

Open egg cartons, empty juice containers/half-full Gatorade bottles, dirty plates, baking dish with burnt chocolate chip bread remants, smelly socks, crumpled napkins...thank God school is starting in less than a week.

What's that old saying? If it weren't for schools, insane asylums would be filled with a lot more mothers.

Oh yeah.

Anyway, my new blog is news related, and has a lot to do with a rebirth of sorts, of finding my true passion (no, not Johnny Depp) once again. I'll be running it up the flag pole, along with another reporter friend of mine, later this week. And I will probably link to it from here, tho it will be of interest only to a specific population, really.

In the meantime... we're surrendering one of our cars to Ford Credit -- the piece of crap Focus -- and that will greatly reduce financial strain. Our reduction in income due to being underemployed (love that buzzword). Thank God for Lexapro, or I'd probably be curled up in the trunk in the fetal position clutching my Focus handbook. As it is, I'm eyeing the tequila and singing, "And she had fun, fun, fun till the repo man took her Focus away..."

If one must surrender her car, one must keep a sense of humor. Or one will run far away. But one can't really run far when one doesn't have wheels, so it's best one just sucks it up and goes on with one's life.

Oh, hell. It's just a car. John's still got that other piece of crap Ford, the Escape (oh, God, if only I could) -- at least for now. We made it with one car for YEARS. We can make it with one car again. Besides, I need to lose 25 pounds before I turn 50, and walking hither and yon ought to assist me in doing just that. And it's been well worth being home, spending time with my teenage son. Precious fleeting moments.

See? Always a silver lining. Always.

Actually, I think it's this blogging thing that has me feeling almost giddy this morning and not giving a hoot about losing the Focus. Maybe it's because blogging has given me a new personal focus (aha! Epiphany!), one that doesn't cost me $3 a gallon every couple of days. But it does give a sense of accomplishment (I've taught myself quite a bit about html, I'll have you know) AND I am writing just about every day.

True, I can't snag a freelance gig to save my soul, but what the bleep.

I'm a Blogger Chick, baby.

Right on.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Waddya Mean 'No Gels'?

Hold the flippin' iPod and pour out the British Gatorade.

You mean to tell me that because of the (thankfully) foiled terrorist plot, I can no longer pack my hair gel in my carry-on bag? WHAT? Do Tony Blair, George W, Homeland Security, et al, truly expect me to stash not only my hair gel, but my beloved shampoo, mousse, root lifter, a plethora of perfume bottles, anti-aging lotions and skin-softening potions -- not to mention my trusty packed-to-the-gills makeup bag -- in my checked luggage? And risk having the airlines LOSE my entire morning beauty regimen between Des Moines and Cincinnati?

Are they nuts?

Obviously, it was a man -- or men -- who made that new security measure decision. Why, just imagine the thousands of dollars in health and beauty products that got pitched, and the millions of women who bitched as they were forced by airport security to hand over their economy size Oil of Olay Regenerating Hydrating Dear God-Make-Me-Look-20-Again-Cuz-I'm Worth-It-Damn-It Fluid.

Talk about terrifying! Sakes alive! I mean, sure, take away our iPods, take away our laptops, take our shoes, our fingernail clippers, and certainly our fingernail files and box cutters. But don't mess with our hair gels, etc. A woman without her beauty regimen safely beside her, above her in the plane's overhead compartment, or below her seat tucked safely between her feet, is a woman who is, in effect, a ticking time bomb. Especially if the airlines lose her checked luggage -- which is, I am afraid, apt to happen now and again.

I am not making light about the horrific lengths terrorists will go in planning and scheming ways to sneak explosives on board an airliner. I realize that under last night's emergency circumstances, what else could airline security personnel do BUT make everybody toss their toothpaste, shaving cream, water, etc. as they passed through security in order to ensure that travelers were safe in the aftermath of discovering the terrorists' ruthless plot.

But show me a woman without her gel in her carry-on-- or worrying about her gel not meeting her at the luggage carousel -- and I will show you an agitated, aggravated, absolutely unpredictable passenger capable of, well, I shudder to think.

Oh, heck-schmeck. Maybe it will become easier to pack for a flight this way. I never can decide which perfume (I layer scents), hairspray (maximum or medium hold?), flavored toothpaste (vanilla or cinnamon?), deodorant (solid or invisible or invisible solid?), or body lotion (Sweet Pea, Cherry Blossom or Moonlight Path?) to take with me when I travel. Besides, I get bored with my old makeup anyway. I'll just leave all that toiletry crap at home and buy new after my plane lands. Then I'll wrap it all up and leave the stuff for my friends to divvy up between them as early birthday or Christmas presents.

A costly plan, yes. Do airport security personnel realize how much even the cheapest do-it-yourself micro dermabrasion scrub costs? But then again, what price homeland security?

Yes, ladies, we CAN do this. There's more than one way to travel with our hair gel. Either leave the gel and its cosmetic cohorts at home and prepare to sign your children's college savings away in order to buy new upon landing (and do remember to re-gift) or stash your anti-aging cache in your checked luggage, cross your fingers it won't get lost, and double up on the Lexapro.

One way or the other, it's bound to be a bumpy ride.

Bon Voyage!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Another Saturday Night

My, my.


The exciting life I lead.

What? Who is that exciting, strange couple to your right? Why that is me and my dear hubby a few years back at our son's 6th grade Medieval Feast. I thought I should practice uploading images to my blog, and that's the first one I came across -- don't hate us because we are beautiful. It truly exemplifies the mind-boggling good times we have here in Podunk.

Actually, it's been a great weekend. My Sis came up from Des Moines ( I think it's up -- I'm map-challenged) and painted Daniel's room. It looks like a guy's room now, tan walls, complete with goofy sports posters, and empty Gatorade bottles stashed under the bed.

We had a great time just yacking and eating ice cream and laughing about the old days when we were both single and living in that other excitement capitol, Davenport, IA. In the best of times/worst of times category? The New Year's Eve we put a party hat on the cat and clanged pots and pans together in ridiculous revelry out on her second floor apartment balcony. Nevermind that, being Iowans and 60 minutes behind Dick Clark as well as all my friends back in Cinci, Baby New Year had done come and gone to bed. I still laugh when I look at the pictures from that night -- the cat in the hat and all. It don't get any better than that on New Year's Eve!

For my diehard fans -- and I know at least two of you are out there -- I apologize for not having written anything for a few days. I helped my friend Mary move to Ankeny, IA, and stayed for four days as my summer vacation! Some folks go on Alaskan cruises. Others go to Niagra Falls. Me? I prefer Ankeny, IA. If you're ever in Ankeny, check out the HyVee grocery store! Wow! Am I the last one to know that they now make MICROWAVABLE Hamburger Helper? Gotta love the Big City.

But we really did have a blast. Or at least Mary's 21-year-old daughter, Kristin, and I did (Mary had to hightail it back to work). We lounged in our PJs till noon, dined on turkey sandwiches and chocolate Snickers cake, and watched "The Family Stone" and cried our eyes out.

Have you seen that movie? Omigosh! It's labeled a comedy but I beg to diff! All the angst and gnashing of teeth a family goes and grows through. It is almost right up there with some of my other eternal favorite flicks -- if you've perused my profile, you know that The Way We Were, Bridges of Madison County, Something's Gotta Give, are the best in my book. Oops...I might have fogotten to list Thelma and Louise. Saw that movie once a week for 12 consecutive weeks in a row...OK, so I had a little anger issue with men. Even took my counselor and my women's therapy group to see it. Now THERE is a chick flick if ever there was one. In fact, I think Thelma and Louise was THE defining moment in chick flicks.


Got home from vacation, and started digging through old totes in my basement. Found my old junior high diary, my long-lost copy (how appropriate) of Lost and Found Lovers by Dr. Nancy Kalish, and started ruminating how connecting with old boyfriends is all the rage now. I once had the notion that it would be great to gather all -- and I mean ALL -- my old boyfriends around a table -- a big, round table -- and just ask each of them to tell me what they liked or disliked about me back in the day, and why they think it didn't work out. I, of course, have my own theories, but I'd love to hear their sides of the stories. Why, you may ask? Just curious. I want to put my life -- and more to the point, my former love life -- in some sort of perspective. I mean, it can't hurt at this point, can it? Ha! Famous last words. Anyone who has ever dreamed of what it might be like to connect once again with their first true love should read Dr. Kalish's book. And read my short story -- fiction of course, dahling -- that I am bound and determined to write and have published before I die. More on that later.

Well, that's it for tonight. Daniel is at the figure 8 races (wee dogs!) and John is cleaning his mother's basement (always a good time) , and I am blogging my brains out in my little attic writing room. Oh, and yes, I changed the look of my blog. It's easier to read, which at my interesting age of almost 50 is such a blessing! Besides, I had nothing else to do tonight.

Just another Saturday night in Podunk.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Just Another Manic Friday

Sixteen years ago today I was sitting in my friend Linda's basement, donned in a pink hat and feather boa, having a pretend tea party with her soon-to-be-5-year-old daughter. Where was Linda, you ask? Having a baby, Natalie Ann (my namesake). I was keeping Big Sis Michelle occupied while Mommy gnashed her teeth and pushed (but only a couple of times, I think) her adorable little bundle of joy from the cozy, warm womb out into the big, cold world.

My husband and I had no kids of our own, and didn't have a flippin' clue what parenthood was all about. So, obviously, it was a treat to play tea party, or build sheet forts in the living room (which I loved to do with my niece and nephew, Liz and Aaron). Yeah, it was great being child-free, employed, financially stable, let's-have-a-tea-party-or-build-a-fort Auntie Ann.

Man, life was a breeze 16 year ago. Nary a clue what challenges and stress awaited us all, in varying, some life-threatening, degrees.

Wow. Look at us now. Natalie Ann is old enough to drive. Michelle is in college (although she may still don that pink hat and feather boa now and then). My son, Daniel, 13, wants to be a film director. Somedays I still feel like I don't have a flippin' clue what parenthood is all about. And we're all in the crapper financially. But the great news, of course, is that Linda's son, Chris, remains cancer free and is enjoying life to the fullest. Liz and Aaron are successfully pursuing their career dreams. The circle of life, and all that jazz.

So what does The Homestretch hold for us, the "suddenly old" folks? The next 25 or so years...what's in store? We haven't a flippin' clue. And do we really want to know? I don't think so. "One Day At A Time" the old adage goes. Not just pretty words, my friends.


Let's see. My dear, hardworking friend Mary is moving to The Big City. We hate to see her go, but she's finally getting the break she deserves. I'm cryin' but I truly am happy for her. Her daughter, Kristin, will be starting college. Daughter Brittany, we predict, will blossom in a new school.

Back in my home town, Linda is frantically wrapping presents and baking a birthday cake for Nat. I wish I could be there to celebrate. My friend Trish eagerly awaits an email from her son, Mark, bravely serving his country in a land far, far away. My heart goes out to her by the hour. What she wouldn't give, I'll bet, to be building an imaginary fort with her son in the living room.

Here in Podunk, the repo man is knockin' at the door, and there's no milk in the house, but Daniel, sweet Daniel, is, for now, safe and sleeping in his bed, visions of getting his driver's permit next year dancing in his head. Gawd. The 24/7 valium drip will be a bit cumbersome, and I'll tire from dragging it around. But whatever it takes to survive the teenage years. Oh, Danny Boy. What would I do without you?

Oops. There I go, worrying about the future.

As it was ironically, and eerily, printed next to my late friend Janice's senior year book picture just months before she died, "For all its terror and tragedy, the life of man is a thing of beauty. To live is good."

Hey, who gives a rip about the repo man. I know what Janice would say. "Where's that pink hat and feather boa?" Yup. I feel a tea party comin' on...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Where Have All The Albums Gone?

Sweet Baby James.

My very first record album purchase. Shillitos basement. The record department. All those 45s on the wall...

Ah...James Taylor. You've Got A Friend -- that, I believe was on his Mud Slide Slim album.

"Slippin' away what can I say? Won't you stay inside me month of May..."

Which album was that on? And for the life of me, I cannot name that tune.


Tom Petty is right.

“iTunes is a great idea," Petty was recently quoted as saying on MSN. "It reminds me of the old days when you bought a single for 99 cents, and if you liked that, you bought the album.”

Geeze, we all did that, remember?

In practice, however, the MSN article notes, Petty thinks iTunes and other computerized music services like it are killing albums. More importantly, is computerized "a la carte" music extinguishing the artistry behind long-players?

I think yes. And we've all played a part in the album's demise. The minute I bought the 45 rendition of "Last Train To Clarksville" instead of the Monkees' entire first album, I laid the first brick that paved the road to the end of the road for the album.

But wait! I did buy the album, too. Like with everything else in my life, I was a bit obsessive, and I figured if one Monkees' song made me swoon, a whole ALBUM of Monkees' songs had to be orgasmic! Nah. I had no concept of "orgasmic" back in the day of the Monkees...I was just seeing if anyone reading this entry was still awake...

But I digress..

My point -- and I do have one -- is that the end of the album actually began eons ago, from its very beginning. I just recently learned, that the term "album" -- as we, in our Home Stretch years still think of it (33 RPM) from back in our misspent youth -- got its name from the way 78s were packaged in a photo album-like book. My mom had a gazillion of them. Remember those?

It's called evolution, folks. From 78s to 33s and 45s, from 8-tracks to cassettes to CDs. And now, iTunes.

It happens in the record industry, and it happens in our personal lives. If we don't evolve -- i.e., change and grow and re-invent, we die.

Heavy sigh.

I remember when John Denver died several years back...I dragged out all my old John Denver albums -- and I have several --spread them out across my living room floor, and listened to every single one while staring at the album covers. Memories lit the corners of my mind, and my high school days -- and a few college nights -- flashed before me. Sure, the album covers are worn, and the records crackle and skip. A couple of them are a bit warped. But it was like sitting and listening to an old friend reminisce -- I mourned John Denver's demise as well as the passing of my youth, but I celebrated the good times, too.

"Those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end. We'd sing and dance forever and a day...."

Excuse me for a moment while I cling to my Gordon Lightfoot "Gord's Gold" and Dan Fogelberg "Innocent Age" DOUBLE albums. Better yet, I think I'll listen to "Same Old Lang Syne" on my stereo while I watch the video of Riverfront Stadium being imploded (to make room for All American Ball Park, or whatever the heck that newfangled ballpark in Cinci is named). Does anyone do the Kool-Aid Kool anymore? Ah, how I long for the days of The Twist.

Hide the knives.

Gawd, I really am going to be 50 in three months...Kleenex. I need a Kleenex...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Must Love Yard Work

If I ever go completely daft and circumstances are such that I would even remotely consider marrying again, I know -- from the ripe old vantage point of almost 50 -- at least one overlooked attribute I would now require of my new hubby.

He would have to love, and I mean LOVE, yard work. Or he would have to be of such financial ilk that he could afford a lawn boy. And I don't mean the kind with wheels and a motor.

I did, as luck would have it and my pocketbook could afford, purchase a retooled Lawnboy for $85 from a neighbor at the beginning of the summer. It started great -- I was able to pull it and start it without throwing out my lower lumbar region -- and it cut great, and I thoroughly enjoyed my first mowing romp of the season. Until I went to shut the thing off, that is. I let go of that grip/bar thing, which is supposed to automatically shut the mean, green machine down. But it did not shut off. So I just kept mowing until the gas ran out.

Not economical, what with the cost of gas and oil these days. Plus my lawn was nothing but nubs when the ol' girl (and I don't mean me) died.

My neighbor came over the next day, gave it a tug here and a tweak there, and varoom! She started up, and when he let go of that grip/bar thing, off she went.

So the next week, when it was time to mow, I tried to start her up -- and voila! She started! Off I went, mowing to my heart's content. Until, once more, I needed to take a potty break (yes, my son is almost 14 and I still say "potty break" -- so sue me) and the dang thing would not turn off. Have you ever tried to push a mower with your legs crossed? Not a pretty sight, my friends! I jiggled and wiggled the grip/bar thing and finally -- saints be praised -- it shut off.

The next time I mowed, I got some Christmas light cords (yes, I still had a few errant strands of lights tucked away in and dangling from the bottom of an evergreen) caught around a wheel. Do you think I could get the mower to shut off so I could extract the cords from the wheel? Heck, schmeck, no. I yelled for my son, who ran for another neighbor, who ran over and yanked out the spark plug, and that promptly shut her down.

Great. I, the woman who couldn't bring herself to light a match till the age of 33, was going to have to swiftly pull off a spark plug from the front of the hot mower just to turn it off every time I mowed?

Don't think so.

Once, out of total desperation fueld by 20 minutes of huffing and puffing and not getting the blankety-blank mower started, I cajoled the mail lady to try her hand at it. She tossed me her mail bag, gave the primer a couple pushs and yanked the pull, but to no avail.

"I think it's your primer," she said, taking back her mail bag and handing me a pile of envelopes. "Oh, and here's your phone bill, a couple of credit card bills, and a letter from your insurance agent. Have a nice day!"

Heavy sigh.

So I call the neighbor who sold me the piece of crap, he gives the mower a little lookie-loo, and says, "Ah! It's your primer!"

My golly! The mail lady was right on the nosey!

Quick as a bunny, my neighbor repairs the primer hose, replaces the spark plug ( just for good measure), starts it, stops it; all is right as rain. And that's exactly what it did about 15 minutes later. Foiled again.

Fast forward to today. By cracky, the grip/bar thing was done busted. I called my mechanically-minded bro-in-law who wiggled and jiggled it, shot a little something-or-other oil down the cable but alas, the mower was, apparently, just plum wore out. Much like my hubby who spends his work week driving a tour bus, maintaining a nursing home and helping a friend haul trash. (My that marketing degree sure is coming in handy.)

"Well," I whined to my brother-in-law. "I could, I suppose, hitch a goat to the front of my son's bike..."

Suffice to say, we borrowed my bro-in-law's mower, and my dutiful sonny boy mowed the lawn -- he got stung by a bee, but hey, life is like that. Which is worse, a bee sting or mommy keeling over from heat stroke?

Besides, he really seems to enjoy mowing.

"Hey, mom! I love mowing the lawn!" my sweet 13-year-old sonny boy called out to me, as he rounded the side of the house, the borrowed mower purring like a kitten. Then my helpful little offspring gave a wink and nodded toward my neighbors' backyard where their 20-something granddaughter was sunning herself in an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, nothin'-to-it black bikini.


They grow up so fast.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Saturday At The Fair

I love a parade! And who doesn't?

This morning was our annual county fair parade, and my friends Nancy, Mary and I each pulled up a chair under the breezy shade of an old maple tree outside Nancy's front door, and merrily watched the parade go by.

The beauty of living in Podunk, IA on fair parade day is that you know everyone in the parade, including those throwing the candy. In addition to candy, however, I snagged two Frisbees, a packet of sun block, a pencil, a book of matches, peanuts, a couple of hair combs, and a small plastic cow. Not bad for a morning's rest by the road. Oh, yeah, and we each got a miniature ice cream cone, as well.

Then it was over to Nancy's for hamburgers, baked beans, and ice cream with strawberries. I'd love to take in the actual fair, but Figure 8 races and Battle of the Bands just don't interest me right now. Besides that, I need a nap.

The really exciting news for the day is that our cat, Schmokers, with the sore paws from having her fingernails and reproductive organs extracted last week, licked the bandage off her right paw, which means I don't have to cut it off (the bandage, not the paw). I was really dreading that. She still limps and pouts, but the vet tells me she will get over this. I feel so guilty about having her declawed. She survived a wicked Iowa winter, coyotes, possums, raccoons, etc., only to be "saved" by me and morphed into a house cat, only to have her female parts and fingernails yanked out, followed by bleeding all over the floor, followed by a shot in the rump and a bandage. "Gee, thanks, Mom." I can hear her thinking. "I'm so glad you brought me into the house."

Everything has its trade-offs, of course. For instance, I live in a safe, small community, but most days I am bored out of my mind. There isn't much to do. Or, for example, movies only cost $6, but a movie rarely makes its first run showing here. So would I rather pay $10 and see a move fresh out of the can? Maybe. Depends. Living here is like living at Cheers -- everybody knows your name, and every thing else there is to know about you. They'll give you the shirt off their back when you're down on your luck, but they'll talk about you till they're blue in the face -- even if they have to make up stuff -- on your good days.

Yeah, there's something about the Iowa way to greet you if they greet you which they may not do at all. La La La.

To eat a funnel cake or not eat a funnel cake? That is the question.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Back By Popular Demand

Just when I thought no one was reading my blog -- up pops Irma! God bless you, Irma. Your comments have inspired me to sit my butt down in my chair and type something -- anything. It has taken me an hour just to log on to the net -- thank you, local state-of-the-art utility company, for providing such wonderful service.


Just another day in Paradise... lost my month-long part-time, on-call-basis, political-calls-only telemarketing job, but being no stranger to the financial crapper, I was able to console dozens of other folks at the office that losing a job is not the end of the word. You CAN see it from there, however.

So what is wrong with this picture? I have a BS in magazine journalism , and 20 years of professional experience-- graduated cum laude to boot -- and I can't land a decent job.


So I went to fill out a job application at an employment agency and was asked to circle the types of training and experience that I have had. No, I am not a machine operator, although I did note I had about three years training as an amusement park ride operator. OK, so that was 30-plus years ago. Once a Sexy Slide Girl, always a Sexy Slide Girl. Or so I've been told. Like so many other aspects of my soon-to-be-elderly life, of course, giant slides as amusement park favorites are rather passe.

I've also worked as a church secretary, church custodian, switchboard operator, baker, day care provider, retail hardware sales clerk, baker, grocery bagger, and dental assistant (but that was only for one day -- there was just something about making impressions for dentures that left a bad taste in my mouth, so to speak). Oh, and I have 13 years' experience as a mom.

In between, I have written for four newspapers, written scads of human interest and investigative reporting pieces, humor columns, obituaries, interviewed motorcycle gang murder suspects, satanic worshipper freaks, and bulimic/anorexic teenagers, a dozen or so movie stars and political candidates -- and have written every other type of news story in between, I might add. I even owned my own renegade alternative newspaper for a brief time. I know how to write and write well. I am a slave to AP style. A good speller.

But stuck out in Podunk, Iowa, trying to land a freelance gig -- even with the beauty of cyberspace and telecommuting at my fingertips -- is nigh to impossible. Thus far, anyway.

Funny thing is, I was sorta kinda gettin' used to the telemarketing gig -- yes, it was mind-numbing and I was slammed with rejection at every turn..."I hope you burn in hell"..."Infidel!"..."Leave me the #$#$#$#$ alone!" and all because I simply -- and politely -- inquired which candidate they mght be voting for in the Republican congressional primary, or had they had a chance to vote yet that day? Geesh! A simple hang up in my ear would have sufficed, I think.

No stranger to rejection, however, the daily rude grind of the life of a telemarketer began to feel comfortable, actually. Familiar. I learned rather quickly what to expect, so the once-in-a-blue-moon nice person who willingly answered my political view inquiries or thanked me for calling was a welcomed surprise and a relief -- like seeing an old flame at a class reunion...you know...it's nice to see them but such a relief that you didn't marry them.

Alas, class reunions aren't designed to last forever (a little reminiscing, a little auld lang syne and then, BOOM, back to the present, back to reality)-- and neither, apparently, are telemarketing jobs. There's a bit of a revolving door atmosphere at those places. Like Dorothy exclaimed to the Munchkins after she offed the Wicked Witch of The East with her house and Glenda Goodwitch popped in on her bubble, "People come and go so quickly here!"

You know, it always bugged me that perky ol' Glenda didn't spill the beans to Dorothy just a wee bit earlier in the little girl's horrific tornadic aftermath that all she had to do was click the heels of those gosh darn ruby slippers, mumble "There's No Place Like Home" a couple of times, and voila! Back to Kansas she'd go. Furthermore, to add insult to injury, Dorothy never even asked to have those slippers in the first place. Glenda just zapped 'em, onto Dorothy's tired dogs, forcing her to incur the wrath of the dead witch's evil sister. At some point, before Dorothy clicked her heels back to Auntie Em, Dorothy should have pulled Glenda aside and said, "Hey, Sistah, thanks for terrifying me and the pooch with those oafish talking trees, those ugly, grunting flying monkeys, and setting fire to my pal, the Scarecrow. I get it, already. There's no place like home. So sue me for wanting to save my dog from that horrible Gulch woman."

I know, I know. It's called personal growth. Refining one's character. Live it and learn. Blah, blah, blah.

So here I am, a laid-off telemarketer with a BS in magazine journalism and two decades' worth of writing and editing experience, the tornado of life having once again hurled me hither and yon. Haven't see a flying monkey yet, but the wolf is definitely at the door. With any luck, the snarly pup will keep the Repo Man at bay a few more weeks...

Meanwhile, facing my old pal Rejection at every turn once again, I shoot by resume and writing samples out into cyberspace, rubbing my flip flops together and saying, "There's no job like a freelance writing job."

Hurry, Glenda! You can pop in any time now! Baby needs a new pair of football cleats!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Sunday, Sunday

The kitchen sink is full of dirty dishes...And that's a good thing! Yes, we actually had a small dinner party last night -- just a couple of my friends -- one a neighbor, the other a writing friend.

My husband grilled steaks and shrimp, and made some yummy hash browns soaked in butter -- there goes my non-existent diet. But it was fun, something we've seen very little of around here of late. We sat outside on our porch, and in spite of the awful humidity, we talked and laughed till, gosh, almost 11:30 p.m. -- a seemingly small thing, but not for us.

Talk and laughter have been such a rare commodity for so long -- I am not sure where they went -- perhaps vacationing in Cancun or Cazumel. Lucky stiffs. I'd give my eyeteeth...

But I digress.

Let's see, in the past two weeks, my hubby and I have actually attended together and danced at a street dance (wowsa), gone to a movie (not just watched the same DVD over and over), went to a BBQ to help his co-workers (from one of his three jobs) build a parade float for the county fair (does this mean we will actually BE in the parade?). And now an informal porch party.

Lord knows we're trying.

If only we lived near a Starbucks...

"I left my heart in Cincinnati..."


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Mama Said...

Well, Mama said there'd be days like this...days where I'd wake up and wonder how I got here -- almost 50, 14 cents in the bank, a 13-year-old son with a staph infection he got from the swimming pool, and a husband working three jobs who likes to pan for gold -- in Iowa -- in his spare time.


Not that my younger friends have it any easier.

None of us signed on for the roles we are currently playing. We all dreamed of knights in shining armor, living at 123 Easy Street, writing that blockbuster novel and retiring to Cancun at age 55.

Nah. That's not true. Most of us all grew up in dysfunctional homes -- mothers who loved their booze more than they had the skills to cope with parenthood responsibilities. Our fathers -- even if they were there -- weren't there. We thought of nothing but daily survival. How to get from A to B. So here we are -- mid-alphabet and still trying to figure out how to survive.

Whodathunk? Who knew? Arghghghgh.

Actually, truth be known, Mama never told me about days like this. I must have gleaned it from Oprah or Dr. Phil 'cuz Mama died three days before my 13th birthday, from an overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills. Accidental...of course. Right. Whatever.

Not that I'm cynical. I'm just three months from 50 and looking down the home stretch, and I'm thinkin'..."What the hell?"

Oh, well, no time to ponder. Must pick the cat up from the vet and welcome her home, sans female reproducitve organs and fingernails.


"Sometimes, it's hard to be a woman..."

Twang, twang.