"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

Monday, December 31, 2007



Etc., Etc.

Yes, it's another exciting New Year's Eve at our house...in a few minutes we are going downstairs to that hellhole we call a basement and start going through the gazillion totes that contain the remnants of our lives.

In other words, we are spending New Year's Eve cleaning the basement.

Can you think of anything more fun than that to ring out the old year?

Now, I am not the first to consider cleaning out the old to welcome in the new...I have a friend who every New Year's Eve cleans out his closets. That's his tradition. And that may very well explain why said friend's wife left him a few years back...

But I digress.

To be fair, there is something to be said for starting the New Year off clean and organized...why, just last night we cleaned the oven, the refrigerator and the kitchen floor -- and I even made sure to change the kitty litter...we all got new undies and socks for Christmas, and the dog is sporting her new "diamond" studded collar and matching leash...and there are crisp, white flour sack dish towels in the kitchen drawer...

Dear God, could my life be any more boring?


I suppose we could have gone to the fire department's dinner and dance at the community building tonight...but since I've eaten my way to outer Slabovia and back since starting my new, somewhat stressful job, my jeans are a tad tight and I really don't feel like dancing.

Which leads me to the next New Year's tradition -- resolutions.

Yes, of course I will be dieting in 2008 -- has there ever been a year I haven't had to lose weight?


And I always vow to be more organized.

I'll never forget the Christmas John gave the book Becoming Organized Based on the Proverbs 31 Woman or something equally as ridiculous.

Hand me another glass of wine, would you dear?


Anyway, where was I?

Ah, yes, New Year's Eve. The night I imagine everyone in the world but me having a splendiferous time, dressed to the nines, kicking up their heels...and I'm at home, too tired to even stay up along enough to watch the ball drop.

Of course, even staying up to watch the ball drop is a bit of a yawner because when the ball drops on Times Square, it's only 11 o'clock in Iowa.

That always reminds me of the New Year's Eve back in the day when my Sis and I were single and dateless and living in Davenport and had nothing to do but don party hats and clang pots and pans together at midnight -- Iowa time -- from her apartment balcony.

Another glass of wine, dear. Please. Hurry.


Let's see, where was I?

That's ranks right up there with the New Year's Eve my senior year in high school when I dropped my zit concealer in the toilet while freshening up in the host's bathroom just moments before midnight. I was so busy trying to fish the little metal cosmetic container out of the toilet, I missed midnight completely.

Good times, good times.

Well, those totes are a callin'....


Sunday, December 30, 2007


And never brought to mind?

Well, should they?

I suppose it depends on just who the old acquaintance happens to be, and other circumstances surrounding the acquaintanceship.

I mean, it goes without saying that one should never forget their old pals, their old cronies, their old partners in crime...but if ye old acquaintance you're toying with bringing to mind this New Year's Eve happens to be ye old love interest, that may well be a horse's auld lang arse of a different color.

In that case, err on the side of caution...it's probably best if you don't bring him or her to mind. And for God's sake, don't Google said old love interest. Or, maybe, bring him or her to mind, Google away, even...hell, track down his or her phone number if you must (just for shucks and grins)... but puh-leeeese don't make the call.

However, if you bring the old love interest to mind, Google away, track down his or her phone number, and feel absolutely compelled to call said old love interest, for God's sake, make the call when you are sober as a judge.

In other words, NO DRUNK DIALING!

Especially on New Year's Eve.

You heard me. Step away from the cell phone, particularly if you've had a a few too many...

I know, I know....it seems so harmless, just calling that old love interest at the stroke of midnight...that ball is falling on Times Square and you're awash in nostalgia and thinking " I jusht wanna shay Happy New Year...ish that sho bad?"

Yup. It really ish sho bad.

Let's face it, there's a reason you never hear about people "sober dialing". No one dares to ring in the New Year by ringing up an old love interest unless they're dialing from somewhere deep in the heart of Margaritaville.

And there is nothing worse than waking up New Year's Day with a hang over AND a bad case of Drunk Dialer's Remorse.

Or so I've heard.

Bottom line is, friends don't let friends drunk dial. Especially on New Year's Eve.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking.

Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child's cry, a blazing star hung over a stable, and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven't forgotten that night down the centuries.
We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, with the sound of bells, and with gifts.

But especially with gifts. You give me a book, I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry can do with a new pipe. For we forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled, all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. Its his birthday we're celebrating. Don't let us ever forget that.

Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share, loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shinning gifts that make
peace on earth.

~ The Ending Sermon From One of My All-Time Favorite Christmas Movies, "The Bishop's Wife"

Monday, December 24, 2007


With love and fondest memories this holiday season to my faithful friends who remain dear to me now and forever...thanks for reading The Homestretch!

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Dark Day For Die-Hard Romantics

Still reeling from the news...

Singer Dan Fogelberg dead at 56. Prostate cancer. He'd been battling it for three years.

"He didn't rely on the volume of his voice to convey his emotions; instead, they came through in the soft, tender delivery and his poignant lyrics," reported Yahoo news. "Songs like "Same Old Lang Syne" — in which a man reminisces after meeting an old girlfriend by chance during the holidays — became classics not only because of his performance, but for the engaging story line, as well."

Engaging story line, indeed. "Same Old Lang Syne" is the quintessential anthem, really, for die-hard romantics...

Met my old lover in the grocery store
The snow was falling Christmas Eve
I stole behind her in the frozen foods
And I touched her on the sleeve.

I know. I know. Just a few posts ago I complained that the local soft rock radio station had played just about enough Same Old Lang Syne. That I'd had my fill of that Christmas song, thank you very much.

I was lying.

She didn't recognize the face at first
But then her eyes flew open wide
She went to hug me and she spilled her purse
And we laughed until we cried.

Truth is, of all Dan Fogelberg's greatest hits, Same Old Syne is my absolute favorite. I crank it up when it comes on the radio and I am tooling along in the car...the best part of the local rock station playing 24/7 Christmas music is that Same Old Lang Syne gets played a lot...even tho' the song is guaranteed to make me weep -- and occasionally wince.

We took her groceries to the checkout stand
The food was totaled up and bagged
We stood there lost in our embarrassment
As the conversation dragged.

I would even go so far as to say that Same Old Lang Syne is right up there with The Way We Were in my book of all-time favorite songs from back in the day...

We went to have ourselves a drink or two
But couldn't find an open bar
We bought a six-pack at the liquor store
And we drank it in her car.

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how.

I don't know how often, in real life, former lovers just happen to run into each other at the grocery store. I do know of some instances, however, where people have gone to great lengths to find and reunite with their lost loves. There are books written about the subject...web sites dedicated to reuniting lost loves that chronicle the good, the bad and the ugly that can and does ensue when former lovers revisit the past.

It is a storyline that is not only engaging, but is as old as romance itself. Same Old Lang Syne is just one of those songs that tears at one's heart strings.

She said she'd married her an architect
Who kept her warm and safe and dry
She would have liked to say she loved the man
But she didn't like to lie.

Have you ever wondered what ever happened to that special someone you knew once upon a time, long, long ago? Or, have you ever wondered if that special someone from back in the day ever wonders what happened to you?

I said the years had been a friend to her
And that her eyes were still as blue
But in those eyes I wasn't sure if I
doubt or gratitude.

She said she saw me in the record stores
And that I must be doing well
I said the audience was heavenly
But the traveling was hell.

I recently read in AARP Magazine (yes, AARP Magazine) that the new mid-life crisis for us Baby Boomers is coming to terms with the road not taken, as it were...wrestling with that "R" word. You know...regret.

According to the AARP article, the "Hit Parade" or five most common life regrets involve education (one's misgivings about not attending college or grad school); career (misgivings regarding one's chosen field), romance (long-lost loves, unrequited affections, ill-advised affairs and marriages gone sour); family (not spending enough time with one's children or making poor child care choices); and the self (disappointment in one's own abilities, attitudes and behaviors.)

Have you ever wondered, regarding any particular life passage, what if...?"

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how.

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to time
Reliving in our eloquence
Another auld lang syne...

"Make the most of your regrets," Henry David Thoreau once advised. "To regret deeply is to live afresh."

The beer was empty and our tongues were tired
And running out of things to say
She gave a kiss to me as I got out
And I watched her drive away

The AARP article also notes that a life without regrets is not a realistic answer for most of us, that, after all, the hard-earned lessons of our sins and slip-ups make us who we are. " 'Maybe all one can do,' as playwright Arthur Miller once wrote, 'is hope to end up with the right regrets.' "

Some interesting food for thought for those of us entering the Regretting Years, as we now and again feel what the article describes as "the sharp sting of regret" that teaches us where we went wrong.

Just for a moment I was back at school
And felt that old familiar pain
And as I turned to make my way back home
The snow turned into rain...

Thank you, Dan Fogelberg, for Same Old Lang Syne.

Of course, from this day forward, Same Old Syne will never be the same for us die-hard romantics. Knowing Dan is gone, the song will seem even more poignant.

Inevitably, hearing that song, that soft, tender voice, will invoke even more weeping, more wincing, more tearing at the heart strings, than usual.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Yet Another Man From My Misspent Youth...

So what did you and yours do to celebrate Ice Cream & Violins Day this year?

What's that? What am I blathering on about NOW, you ask? You mean you MISSED Ice Cream & Violins Day? ( Which, as most savvy bizarre holiday-observing bloggers realize, is every Dec. 13).

OK. I'll be honest with you. I had no idea this past Thursday was Ice Cream & Violins Day either, though that may explain my mysterious hankerin' for a dollop of Cookies & Cream while chillin' to a stack of Stravinsky platters on the ol' hi-fi. (translated, that means I felt like relaxing with a bowl of ice cream while listening to some old Stravinsky records on my stereo.)

Anyway, as I contemplate how one might actually go about celebrating Ice Cream and Violins Day (an odd pairing, in my opinion...are revelers expected to eat ice cream and play a violin at the same time?), I can't help but think about a very special man from back in the day -- a man who embodied the best there ever was about soft-serve ice cream.

That's right.

Mister Softee.

I can still hear the Mister Softee jingle blaring from his truck as he rounded the bend at the end of our block throughout the hazy, lazy, mid-to-late summer afternoonof my misspent youth...how, like kiddies lured away by the sweet music of the Pied Pieper, we'd drop whatever we were doing, beg our moms for a nickel (or was it a dime? Or was it 75 cents but my memory is dimming?), and run like bloody hell to the curb to buy a Mister Softee ice cream cone (vanilla with chocolate jimmies, AKA "sprinkles", was my fave). Our greatest fear was that Mister Softee would speed off in his trusty truck before we made it to the curb.

Did you know there's actually sheet music with all the words to the Mister Softee jingle? Oh, yeah, baby. To take a gander at the sheet music, find out more about the cone man with the ice cream coif and how he came to be, or if you're looking for a new summer career, click here.

I still remember the hot, summer day my best friend, Valli, and I were sitting behind some pine trees in her backyard when we heard Mister Softee comin' down our street...and we plotted how we would put tacks under the unsuspecting Mister Softee's tires, and then, when he was out of the truck changing the flats, we'd jump in and steal all the ice cream. But that would be a horrible story to tell at this time of year when we're all trying to stay off Santa's Naughty List.

Sadly, in recent years, some folks who found Mister Softee's jingle to be repetitively and screechingly annoying, were trying to get someone -- anyone -- to come up with a new Mister Softee jingle. I find that idea abhorrent at best. I mean, it ain't violin music, that's true...But if, like me, you can still hum the jingle, and hearing it immediately takes you back to a simpler, more innocent and carefree time of your life, well...There could never be another, or better, Mister Softee jingle. Never.

Yes, remembrance, like a candle, burns brightest at Christmastime.

So now, for your nostalgic viewing pleasure...a real live Mister Softee singing the Mister Softee jingle...

(Disclaimer! I have not viewed the other Mister Softee videos that accompany this one...watch the others at your own risk...)

Merry Christmas and Happy Memories to all...and to all, a goodnight.


If you MUST go grocery shopping on a busy Saturday morning, what better way to careen down the bread aisle then with a couple of Dixie cups of wine under your belt...

Our local grocery store -- Frohlich's (tho' those in-the-know refer to it lovingly as "The Fro") -- cranked their annual Christmas open house up a notch this a.m. by offering a little wine with their cheese cubes, cookies, crackers and delectable spinach dip...

It was a wine tasting party, actually, sponsored by the Santa Maria Winery located in beautiful Willey, IA, just up the road from here.

I just happened to drop by The Fro to pick up a few things when someone nudged me and said "Wine and cheese in the back room!"

And it was just after 11 a.m.

"Hey, Helen, it's 5 o'clock somewhere!" I joked, winking at one of the elegant elderly church ladies peeking into the back room as I tossed back my second little cup of a delightful sweet red wine called Autumn Hush.

Normally, I prefer Sweet Willey (a delectably sweet white wine...hence, the name), but it's been a long week, an even longer life, and I felt like being daring...goin' for broke...so I tried the red stuff...not bad....not bad at all...

Note to self: Drink more wine in the new year...

Now there's a resolution I think I might be able to keep.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

My Grown Up Christmas List...

...is my favorite Christmas song this year:

Do you remember me?
I sat upon your knee
I wrote to you
With childhood fantasies

Well, I'm all grown up now
And still need help somehow
I'm not a child
But my heart still can dream

So here's my lifelong wish
My grown up christmas list
Not for myself
But for a world in need

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal the heart
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown up Christmas list

As children we believed
The grandest sight to see
Was something lovely
Wrapped beneath the tree

But heaven only knows
That packages and bows
Can never heal
A hurting human soul

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
Oh, This is my grown up christmas list

What is this illusion called the innocence of youth
Maybe only in our blind belief can we ever find the truth

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end, oh
This is my grown up christmas list
This is my only life long wish
This is my grown up christmas list

Just Not Feelin' It This Year

Toyed with the idea of going Christmas shopping today but then I remembered:

A) No Money
B) No Kevlar Vest

What IS this sick world coming to when folks are getting gunned down while Christmas shopping? And in Omaha no less.

Geezle Peets...

Yeah, the ol' Bah! Humbug! really has me in its grip this year...

Usually, no matter how disappointing or frustrating or emotionally draining a year I may have had, decorating the Christmas tree brings a smile to my face, and I feel contented and hopeful and one with the universe...

I mean, since I can remember, we have always gone out and chopped down our own tree and dragged it home, munched on Christmas cookies and sipped hot apple cider while my dear hubby struggles to get the tree to stand straight, and then we recite a litany of warm and fuzzy memories per each dated Hallmark ornament...then Daniel and I camp out under the beautifully bedecked tannenbaum -- ok, near the beautifully bedecked tannenbaum -- and for the next few weeks I am filled with heartwarming Christmas spirit...life is good!

This year, however, due to inclement weather and withered income, we opted to skip the tree hunt and borrow my mother-in-law's artificial tree...these days, hot apple cider gives me the trots, and the Christmas cookies we made earlier this week are long gone...so we munched on cold pizza and potato chips instead...

Sadly, we no longer can recall the stories behind each dated Hallmark ornament...1987...let's see...was that the year I had back surgery...or was that 1988? No, 1988 was the last year I won the Cedar Falls Police Media Award... or was that the year I learned silk flower arranging during the annual Wal-Mart Management Convention Spouse Activities?

And even if we did remember, who really cares at this point?
Daniel obviously doesn't because once he got the lights on the tree tonight, he was off texting and IMing and doing whatever else teenage boys do...I think he hung one ornament on the tree. Hubby was busy making hamburger patties to put in the freezer. And frankly, the artificial tree, while it looks nice, just doesn't do it for me...I gaze at the tree and I am filled with...nothing. Zilch. Nada.

Nor do I have any desire to sleep near the damn thing. And I dare say that camping near the Christmas tree with Mom is the last thing on Daniel's mind.

Heavy, weary sigh.

Oh, I did feel a slight tug at my heart strings when I pulled out the ol' pic of Daniel dressed as a candycane for his very first Christmas concert when he was in kindergarten...but it only hammered home the fact that Christmas just isn't the same when they're 14 1/2 as when they were 4.

And I swear I am going to take a hammer to the TV the next time I see that nauseating ad where the wife walks out the door to find her husband standing next to the shiny new Lexus he just bought her for Christmas.

Puh-leese. How realistic is that? Now, if she walked out the door and he handed her an Ove Glove (only $14.95 As Seen On TV!)...THAT I could relate to...or a Chia Pet, perhaps...

I know. I know.

It's a wonderful life...

But I'm just not feelin' it this year.

Not yet, anyway...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


As I watch the "invinvicble summer" slide show (at right) over and over again, and as I marvel at how tan and vivacious and gosh-darn happy I look hangin' with my peeps just 4 1/2 short months ago, I can't help but wonder...

Who IS that girl?

Certainly, she can't be the same pale, tired, emotionally-drained bag-lady-like hag who just this a.m. was donned in an oversized winter coat, a bright orange winter hat and snowman jammies with a green clay facial mask smeared over her line-etched face who was swearing (and holding on to her dog's leash for dear life) as that damnable rat terrier dragged the ol' life-worn gal slip slidin' away around the frozen Iowa tundra, also known as "the front yard."

Alas, sadly, she is one in the same.

Slip slidin' away,
Slip slidin' away
You know the nearer your destination
You're only slip slidin' away...