"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

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.