"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

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.