"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

Thursday, December 02, 2010


So I am 30-some hits away from the 11,000 visitors mark -- and I have not blogged about a thing since June.

Just think if I had actually written something in the past six months! So why haven't I?

Well, it all started - or ended, I guess is the better word -- when Jeff, my wonderful, longtime neighbor, and biggest blog fan,  passed away unexpectedly not too long after my last post celebrating my 10,000th visitor to The Home Stretch.

Jeff's passing was such a horrible shock -- he was only 49 -- and his death leaves such a hole in all our lives.

Jeff had recently commented to me that he wanted so much to be my 10,000th visitor, that he had been visiting The Home Stretch more often than usual hoping he'd be that special guy to make that mark, and he had congratulated me on my "achievement".

That meant more to me than he could have ever known, because of all my friends who had read The Home Stretch and  endured my never-ending whining about midlife malaise, etc, he was the last person I ever expected to be a regular reader.  I mean,  he was a GUY.  A DAD. I have always written about GIRL stuff.  MOM stuff. And he was an avid sports fan, and I never wrote about sports.  And he was civic-minded, and hard-working and dedicated to his family...it amazed me that he took the time to peruse my cyber penning.

Yet, whenever I hadn't blogged for a few days, he would see me outside, in my yard and take the time to rib me about being a slacker.  He'd bemoan the fact that he had stopped by The Home Stretch to see what was happenin' and there was ZILCH.

I'd give him some  excuse for my blogger's block, and he'd say, "Well, get writing! Let's go!"

Or he'd engage me in a conversation about my last blog topic, and I would be inspired to keep writing.

Jeff  was particularly enjoying my blogging about my quest to meet Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues when they were to perform in Des Moines on June 29, the day after I was to return from my class reunion trip to Cincinnati.  I had purchased special "meet and greet tickets" for the concert as part of Iowa Public Television's on-air fundraiser.  And there were many other avid Moody Blues Fans out here in cyber space eager to read about my meet-and-greet experience.

But then, while I was in Cincinnati,  Jeff died.

I still can't believe it.

And into that all-too familiar pit of shock and overwhelming sadness our tiny community plummeted once more.  There was Jeff's family and friends to console, and post-funeral thank-you notes to help write, and that sinking, sick, exhausting inertia that comes over us all when we, in the blink of an eye, lose someone we love.

Needless to say, I didn't make it to the concert.

And until this morning, I could not bring myself to write about why. Or write about anything else for that matter.

Why this morning?  I don't know. But I do know what Jeff would say.

"Well, get writing!  Let's go!"

So, here I go.

Thanks, Jeff.

I miss you.

Thursday, June 17, 2010



Note the hit counter to your upper right?

Uh-huh. That one. The one that says 10,000 Visitors since July 15, 2006!


I made the 10,000 mark! At last!

Thanks to all my blogger buds, friends and family -- and random visitors -- who have made this day possible!

I blog, therefore I write!

(Yeah, I know, that's an ol' pic of The Blogger Chick...poetic photographic license?)



They all warned me. All my fellow Moody Blues fans/friends told me three months ago...

They said, beware the Moody Blues Meet and Greet. No handshakes. No autographs. No talking.



My IPBS Moody Blues Concert/Meet and Greet tickies arrived this week -- as promised. That is the good news!

And right there in the accompanying letter, the dreaded directive: No autographs. Pictures only. That's the not-so-good news.


I shelled out three Benjamins plus, and ol' Justin Hayward can't sign my ticket stub? Or my old MB Greatest Hits album? My hope -- which had been springing eternal -- dissipated instantly.

Oh, well.

A picture is better than nothing...I suppose.

Hey, shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth...

Wait a minute...I'M the one who gave the gift/donation...

Hope the seats are good...

June 29th. Me and my pal Vick will be heading to Des Moines...yikes-a-roni!

Really? No autographs? Seriously?

Heavy sigh.

Dear Diary...what a fool I've been...

Sniff, Sniff.


Sunday, May 09, 2010


Ask, and you shall receive, Pastor Utmo!

Yes, my old college pal and former fellow newshound, Joanne Utley, pointed out that while she enjoys reading The Home Stretch, the copy (small, white print on black background) was -- her 50-plus year-old eyesight being what it is -- a tad hard to read.

She was oh, so right.

So, voila! While nibbling on chocolate chip cookies, I changed the colors, the fonts...and, like the enlarged print edition of Reader's Digest, I increased the text size just a wee bit to make it easier to read.

Indeed, The Home Stretch -- like its author -- needed a spring makeover. I'll be mixing up the sidebar a bit as well as time permits...

Oh, and you might also notice that the visitor counter moved to the top of the sidebar. We're nearing the 10,000 visitor mark (yee-haw!), which may well be reached prior to my blog's fourth anniversary in July! Hey, it's the little things that get me through my estrogenless days any more...

Anyway, hope you like it, Utmo, and find it easier to read.

New look, but the same, searing menopausal meanderings, er, wisdom...

Personally, I find the new color scheme rather enchanting...

Let me know what you think...

And as always, thanks for reading The Home Stretch, brought to you (not quite daily but, depending on fluctuating hormone levels, at least once a week -- if not twice when I am inspired) by Leap And The Net Will Appear Enterprises!

I'm No June Cleaver...

Which is why, until now, I used to to feel a bit guilty every Mother's Day.

I mean, I don't cook anymore. John does. I apparently cooked up a storm when Daniel was little, because I remember John saying after many a supper something about the kitchen looking like a tornado had gone through it...

But these days if John's not cooking, and it's my turn to "cook", Daniel has his choice of pizza or pizza. Or deli chicken. Or frozen lasagna. Or cereal.

And, lately, I just haven't been in the mood to do laundry. John does it.

Granted, I do vacuum...on occasion. And I dust...now and then.

"And you mow the lawn! Give yourself a little credit!" a friend reently suggested.

Yeah, except for days like yesterday when I bribed Daniel's buddy, Austin, with the promise of homemade chocolate chip cookies -- and some cold hard cash -- if he would please mow the lawn for me. With his rider. See, Daniel was working at The Fro, John was helping a friend varnish his wood floors, and frankly, I decided I am just too damn old and arthritic anymore to push even a self-propelled mower.

"But see! You baked cookies! That is definitely something June would do!" my friend continued.

Welllll, not really, I confessed. The cookie dough was ready-made and I merely scooped little balls of it outta the plastic tub, plopped them on a cookie sheet, and shoved said cookie sheet in the oven.

"But you did that in your kitchen, in your home, so the cookies were, for all intents and purposes, home made," my ever-encouraging friend suggested.

True, but there was that one batch that I burned to a crisp because I was too busy Facebooking and did not hear the timer go off at the 10 minute mark, I whined. June would NEVER have not heard the timer...nor would June allow herself to be consumed by Facebook and YouTube.

"True, but June was more than likely a closet drinker," my friend interjected. "Any woman who wore pearls, dress and heels every day while polishing the chrome on her stove HAD to be throwing back a highball or two on the sly."

Perhaps. And, I must say, I DO make a mean frozen lasagna...

It's just that I was always haunted by that 60s advertising jingle, "Nothin' says lovin' like somethin' from the oven, blah, blah, blah." And if all that is comin' outta my oven is burnt cookies and frozen lasagna...what kinda lovin' is THAT?

"Well, obviously, if they make and sell cookie dough-in-a tub and frozen lasagna, you ain't the ONLY non-June Cleaver type in the world, my dear," my friend offered. "Do Daniel and John complain?"

Um, no....to the contrary, they complain when I cook for real, I replied. Like that night I attempted spaghetti and the tomato sauce boiled over on the stove, and the garlic toast came out a tad charred...

"I rest my case," my friend said.

But June LOVED housework! I LOATHE it.

"Oh, forget June," my friend finally said, in exasperation. "I know what your writing mentor the late, great Erma Bombeck, would say this very minute if she heard you lamenting about your, shall I say, lack of zeal for cooking and housework: 'My theory on housework is, if the item doesn't multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you?' "

In fact, come to think of it, it was Erma, writing about cooking, who once said that she used to feel guilty "just adding water."

"Now I want to bang to tube against the counter top and have a five-course meal pop out," Erma continued... If it comes with plastic silverware and a plate that self destructs, all the better."

That Erma! She truly had it goin' on! My friend was right. That June Cleaver was an overachieving housework drone.

And with that, the annual June Cleaver Mother's Day Cloud of Guilt dissipated.

"Happy Mother's Day, Mom!" Daniel just shouted, from the couch (since he can't find his bed for all the clothes and what-have-you strewn about his room). "Can I fix you a bowl of cereal?"

Ah! A chip off the ol' anti-June Mom block!

Erma would be proud...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Creepin' on my boys...

I get a little teary looking at this picture.

Schwenky and Kulty after The Grand March. Prom 2010. Candyland.

These guys have known each other since they first learned how to play that kids' game...

And now look at them. All grown up and goin' to their junior prom...

Confession: I wasn't much help in the kitchen. I kept wanting to peek out into the dining area and watch my boys in their tuxes, take pictures of them with their dates...just drink it all in.

The best part was the dance, of course. I stood at the doorway of the giant King Kandy's Kastle for the longest time and just watched them all dancing the night away...having fun...just bein' kids...

I couldn't tear myself away...or wouldn't is more like it. At first I was one of several moms trying to catch a glimpse of their sons and daughters making the memories that high school yearbooks are made of. Slowly, one by one, the other moms left. But not me.

Sure, Daniel gave me the subtle, "shoo, mom" signal, but I didn't budge...LOL.

Instead, imitating Schwenky's dad, Larry, I climbed up on a chair and peered over the castle and had an even better view of the boys and their dates tearin' it up on the balloon-laden dance floor.

I just stood there, watching and smiling. I was mesmerized. Ah! Youth!

Of course, my sense of balance no longer being what it once was, I felt myself sway a tish on the chair... and it suddenly occurred to me that one wrong move and I could easily fall forward, down, and onto the dance floor, taking the not-all-that-sturdy King Kandy's Kastle with me and bringing Prom 2010 to an abrupt -- and embarrassing -- halt. And Daniel would never, ever, speak to me again...LOL

OK...maybe it was time to stop creepin' on the boys, and just let them have their night...

I love you, Danny Boy! You too, Schwenky!

Thanks for letting me be part of your teenage man world, if only from afar, and for only for what seemed but a moment.

Please know, however, that it is a moment I will treasure always...

Thursday, April 15, 2010



"If you made more than 10 bucks this year, draw the eye of a newt on line 39a. Next, subtract your great-grandmother's shoe size from the year you were born, add your weight from 1962....put the lesser of the two on line 40. Now bark like a dog. Write "MY F'ING LIFE'S SAVINGS" on line 41a. And that, you poor working class slobs, is what you owe Uncle Sam."

Sunday, April 04, 2010


Do what you love, the money will follow, they say. And if you are really lucky, I suppose, fame and glory might tag along, too.

I broach this subject because I had a very interesting conversation Saturday evening with someone who, indeed, has done what he loves for, as he says, forever. And yes, he gets paid. But as for fame and glory?

Not a concern for Andy Fleming, singer/songwriter for the band Brother Trucker.

I first heard Brother Trucker perform at Doug and Michael's Old School Pub here in town just about a year ago. Live music in Podunk? Practically unheard of at the time, and the place was packed.

Tonight, after spending the day up to my eyeballs in dust and black mold cleaning out my basement, at the urging of my friends Cindy and Diana, I decided to go hear Brother Trucker again at The Pub...

Not as packed as it was a year ago at this time...but according to Andy, it was still a great time and they were sincerely glad to be here. You can just tell by talking to Andy that he really loves what he does.

And the best part -- one of several best parts, actually -- is that I didn't have to plunk down $325 to meet and greet Brother Trucker and hear their awesome music -- mainly all their own, great, original stuff. I just waltzed right in -- no cover charge -- sat right down, and during their breaks, gabbed with them.

You gotta love life in a small town...

Well, you don't GOTTA...but you do meet some of the most interesting, passionate-about-their-craft people in small town Iowa when you are least expecting it.

As a writer, I so get the compelling need to do what you love...that is why I blog. Sure, I gotta keep my day job 'cuz blogging -- at this point, anyway -- doesn't pay the bills or supply health insurance. And newspaper reporting - which I dedicated 20-some years of my life to -- well, I've been there, done that, even had my own weekly newspaper. But that wonderful little newspaper, after an almost three-year run, was pretty much my swan song from the daily paid grind of the newspaper biz...

I love blogging because for me, it's like having my own newspaper column (what I always wanted to do, and did do for awhile) -- be it daily or weekly or monthly. My blog is what I want to make it. On my timelines, my own deadlines. I always give each blog post my best shot. I just don't make any money at it.

I have my regular followers, though. And thanks to the internet, people from all over the world have visited my blog (mostly unintentionally via a Google search, perhaps, but visitors nonetheless). Several have taken the time to comment, to share how a particular blog post has made them laugh, or cry, or think. And maybe, just maybe, that IS enough...

Granted, I may not be famous like my fellow Ohio University classmate, The Today's Show's Matt Lauer, or even well known in these parts like another OU grad, Des Moines' KCCI TV anchor Cynthia Fodor. But truly, in the big scheme of things, what does that matter?

I am doing what I love! I am writing! It's my passion!

And thanks to Andy and Brother Trucker, I'm even more inspired now to keep on bloggin'.

You see, I read on Brother Trucker's FB page that, indeed, the band's goals do not focus on fame and glory. "The biggest goal is always to do our music as well as it can be presented," Andy is quoted as saying.

I'm with Andy: fame-schmame.

I blog, therefore, I am.

Thanks, Andy! It was great to see --and hear -- you again.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


And that Moody Blues song, my friends, ought to be the official Facebook "friending" anthem.

Or at least it could have been mine when I first discovered Facebook a year ago...my goal was to reconnect with all my long-lost peeps and I knew they were out there! Somewhere! Somewhere!

Wait. That's a slight un-truth.

My original goal, when I first joined Facebook was to be able to keep tabs on my son's Facebook connections and comments. I didn't understand Facebook, had never been on Facebook...all I knew was that my 16-year-old son was practically living on Facebook...

Hence, I joined. And with the first confirmed friend -- my old high school classmate Anita Guy -- I was immediately addicted. Didn't have time to creep on my son's page 'cuz once I got the hang of it, I was too busy searching for, finding, and friending old acquaintances, and updating my status once, twice, thrice a day some days, or perpetually posting Pieces of Flair!

Suddenly, with but a click, the world's most popular internet social networking community was my oyster!

"Mom, can I PLEASE have the computer now?" became my son's mantra...a moan/whine combo, really.

"Your mom's on Facebook?" his friends would inquire, incredulously, as if I should be tapping out Morse code to my friends instead.

In no time at all, I was scanning old pictures at an alarming rate of speed, posting them willy-nilly, devil-may-care...I stayed up late, night after night, taking every Facebook quiz available...I found out which TV mom I was (Marge Simpson), which country song best described my life (This One's For The Girls), what my Barbie Doll name was (Trailer Park Barbie), and I regularly let people know, whether they cared or not, what my top five favorite actors, actresses, books, records and movies were. I was relentless in my searching for YouTube videos of favorite old songs, retro advertisements, 60s TV show theme songs...

My family and co-workers thought I'd really gone off my noodle last summer when I traveled with friends to Rockford, IL to "reconnect" with an old friend from high school with whom I had never really spent any time with in said high school -- Sherri Frank Zimmerman. She was a year behind me, and a good pal with some of my good pals -- we were even in the same high school sorority (or so we vaguely recall) but we never really knew each other....until we started chatting on Facebook. Suddenly we were long lost new old friends...

Ah! The magic of Facebook!

Yes, on Facebook I can be the young/silly me, the older/wiser me, or the current middle-aged/ mentally meandering me...I am in touch regularly with friends who knew me when I was 3, 13, 23, 33, 43 and now 53, and all the years, tears, smiles, miles, stages and ages in between...

Thanks to Facebook, our friends, no matter where they live, are virtually at our fingertips. A simple click away. There is something so reassuring about that. Especially during a long, snowy, cooped-up-in-your-house, depressing Iowa winter like the one from which I just recently emerged.

You go out on a limb, of course, each time you "friend" someone you have not seen or heard from or talked to in umpteen years. They may choose to ignore your request. Or, once you are friended, they may decide one day, for no apparent reason, to "unfriend" you. Just like that. You merely wake up one day, sense something is amiss, and you later realize there is one less friend on your contact list. And you never even heard the door slam...


Yet I must say it sure beats the hell out of the "old school" way of looking up long-lost friends, i.e., pouring over page after page of a giant city phonebook at the library, or calling "information please". There was no "creeping" to check things out beforehand...And beware the dreaded "click" involved in this risky re-friending biz back in the day:


"Hi! It's Ann! Ann Heise Kult!"



However, if you are fortunate, be it by phonebook or Facebook, email or snail mail, your true friends remain your friends forever, come what may, and you will find each other again. Somewhere. Somehow. Indeed, forever friendship, like love eternal, will not be denied...

Next up: Dear Diary, What A Day It's Been! Dear Diary! That Boy Is Staring At Me Again!

Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Do you remember this video? One of my faves...it's the video that reunited me with The Moody Blues in the 80s...


Would be just my luck to be late to the meet and greet as Justin is rushed out the door...That woman in the video? I feel her angst, her disappointment, I really do...LOL

Seriously, though...

Anticipation and dreaming is half the fun...it is so wonderful to have not one, but TWO things to look forward to this summer...my 35th class reunion in Cincy with my long-time historical peeps...AND a Moody Blues concert!

I would've, if I could've, scheduled my trip so that I could catch Justin and the gang in Cincy a few nights before my reunion as well...but that might be a hair on the over-do side...though not totally out of character, I suppose (wink, wink)...

You see, normally, all I have is the reunion -- or mini-reunions (which we have in the in-between years), to look forward to in any given summer, which is, of course, plenty to enjoy and for which I am always wildly appreciative!

My peeps -- the ones who have known me since way back when and love me still/anyway -- are an awesome, crazy-fun crowd! And it is always hard to bid them adieu after a night or two of non-stop side-aching laughs, and leave on that jet plane, not knowing if/when I will be back again...(oops...I think I just inadvertently injected some John Denver lyrics...)

But knowing I have the Moody Blues waiting for me (figuratively speaking, of course) one day after my return trip this summer will certainly soften the sadness (somewhat) of having to leave my homeland once again...

I was just in Cincy a year ago this June...but it seems like forever ago...it's been such a long, heartbreaking year...

Even more reason for me to shuffle off to Cincy, touch base with my peeps, wax reminiscent for a few days...eat a little Skyline Chili, maybe a Frisch's Big Boy with extra tartar sauce, possibly a White Castle slider or five, tour the old high school, a night of toilet papering perhaps?

Indeed, it is sure to be spiritually rejuvenating...

And then! The Moody Blues! Holy Cow!

THE MOODY BLUES! I never thought I'd see THEM again, let alone MAYBE meet them!

Once upon a time,
once when you were mine
I remember skies
Reflected in your eyes...

Happy sigh...

Geeze, Louise! I cannot wait!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


No, not even me, a peon Iowa blogger chick.

Nor my dream band man, Justin Hayward.

Though, unlike me, I doubt very much that Mr. Hayward spends an hour each morning "putting on his face", i.e., washing his face with Clean and Clear Pore Perfecting Cleanser, followed by a generous slathering of ROC Complete Lift Serum upon said face, followed by a couple of healthy dabs of ROC Multi Correction Eye Treatment under and around the eyes, followed by another slathering of Clean and Clear Pore Perfecting Moisturizer (SPF 15), and then several more dottings of various and sundry concealers and eye brightners...and FINALLY...a shmear of Revlon Photo Ready liquid makeup, a little eye shadow, voluminous lash-building mascara, eyeliner, some blush, and....

My God, no wonder I am late for work almost every day!

I mean, you throw in the whole daily shower/hair regimen -- the anti-cellulite body scrub, the shampoo for color treated hair, the extra volume mousse, the super hold hair spray...yowsa!

It's amazing I make it to work at all!

Did I mention the teeth brightener gel that I add to my regular anti-cavity/tartar/plaque toothpaste after slamming back a healthy breakfast shake made of Spiru-Tein high protein energy powder, skim milk and Greek yogurt, a chaser of GNC Be Wholesome Health and Beauty Vitapak Dietary Supplement For Women on the side?

Note the words "For Women."

What it should say, of course, is "For Aging Baby Boomer Women Over The Age Of 40 Holding On To What's Left Of Their Fleeting (or, in my case, done-flet) Youth By Their Crows' Feet And/Or The Flabby Skin Of Their Yellowing Teeth."

But if all the anti-aging products marketed for us older women actually said THAT, we would never buy all those perfecting moisturizers, lifting serums, and other "correcting" eye creams that promise to visibly diminish dark circles and wrinkles for more "luminous" eyes.

Why, while John and I watched a couple of hours of the NCIS marathon on the USA channel recently, every freaking commercial was hawking a magic potion of some kind guaranteed to make us old gals look 18 again.

Eighteen? Ha! I'd be happy with 48.

"So which face are you putting on this morning?" John jokes as I slowly climb the stairs into my attic dressing room each morning...a cuppa very strong, very caffeinated joe in one arthritic hand, my "Menopause Sucks" book in the other.

Once alone in front of my vanity mirror, I take both my hands and pull my saggy little face back as tight as I can and I see once again-- if for only a brief second -- the taut, wrinkle-free young thing I used to be.

Then I let go of my face, and voila! I'm Grandmama Addams! Yikes-a-roni!

When did all my facial elasticity snap? When did my eyelids begin to droop? Where did my eyelashes go? Funny, I don't remember anyone yelling, "Last call! Estrogen!" That's probably because I had my Moody Blues 33 RPM vinyl album blaring from my stereo most of my teenage years, which might explain the tinnitus in my left ear today...

Yes, some of us grow old gracefully, and some of us do not. But eventually, if we are fortunate, we all age. And with age comes wisdom...and we realize, at last, that true beauty comes from within...

Nevertheless, a gal's gotta do what a gal's gotta do when she has a chance to meet one of the more gracefully aging rock icons of her long-ago youth...especially when the concert is a mere three days after her (gulp) 35th high school class reunion...

So many years to erase, so little time!

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

He May Be Just A Singer In A Rock 'n' Roll Band...

Justin Hayward

But he's MY favorite rock 'n' roll band singer.

And my hopes of actually making eye contact with Mr. Justin Hayward and The Moody Blues -- and exchanging a couple of social pleasantries at some point during their June 29th concert in Des Moines -- are still afloat, thanks to the good folks at Iowa Public Television.

An autograph and a snapshot may very well be included, too.


Admittedly, I was a tish worried after other MB fans across the globe told me about some of their experiences at a meet-and-greet...perhaps more aptly dubbed, a "see and flee", as one Moody Blues fan cautioned.

So, figuring there is no time to waste, I took my concerns straight to the top. I emailed Susan Moritz, president of the Iowa Public Television Foundation (and, come to find out, a regular reader these days of the Home Stretch) and cut right to the chase.

I told her of my meet-and-greet "no talking, no handshakes, no autograph" fears based on all I had heard from others in the Moody Blues fan community.

"Susan!" I pleaded. "Say it isn't so!"

And dear Susan allayed my fears the best she could.

In a nutshell? Her experience with meet and greets varies according to the artists involved, she explained.

It is, however, IPTV's intention that meet-and-greet participants will have a few minutes with the band members, as well as time to get an autograph and a snap shot...hence, the limited number of meet-and-greet passes made available during IPTV's pledge drive, she added, "so it really is a special event for you."

Occasionally there may be an artist concerned about the flu or worried about the strength of their voice for the performance, Susan noted. But for the most part, the celebrities are incredibly welcoming and appreciative of their fans.

"Flu-schmu" I thought. I'll don latex gloves and a surgical mask if I have to in order to meet Justin Hayward. Heck, he can whisper, "Hello, Ann! So nice to meet you!" lest he strain that gorgeous angel voice of his.

Whatever it takes.

Three months and six days...

Monday, March 22, 2010

On The Threshold Of An Impossible Dream?

Meet and Greet...

According to Merriam Webster Online, "meet and greet" is a noun, meaning, and I quote, "a reception at which a public figure (as a politician or rock star) socializes (my emphasis) with press members and other guests.

According to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English,"meet and greet" means, "an event that is organized for famous musicians, writers, artists etc to meet and talk (my emphasis) to their fans."

A simple equasion, really: "Meet", i.e. to be introduced to, plus "Greet", i.e., to welcome in a friendly and respectful way, equals "to be introduced to and welcome in a friendly and respectful way."

Example: Ann, a financially struggling writer and diehard Moody Blues fan from rural Iowa, was given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to introduce herself to lead singer Justin Hayward and welcome him and the band to Des Moines during an after-concert meet-and greet June 29 in return for her rather generous (for her meager income bracket) $325 pledge to Friends of Iowa Public Television.

From what folks at MOODYBLUESTODAY.COM (the official Moody Blues fan community) are telling me, however, "meet and greet" may be just a teeny-weeny bit of a misnomer. "Look and leave" might be a more apt description:

"A few went to a 'meet and greet' at the Borgata in 2007. We dubbed it a 'line and sign'. At that point, it felt like we were lined up before a firing squad but the band was cordial, accepted hand shakes, kisses (by a lucky person), etc. Since then, it has been "no talking, no touching, no autographs" just a photo with the band. Don't know how a new one will go..."

"A 'meet and greet' would have to be PBS as Backstage/Onstage and Storyteller packages don't include photos with the band, etc. The same conundrum (not touching, handshakes etc.) still holds true with 'private' meetings after the show...at least in Nashville. No, I wasn't there but heard about it."

"Perhaps a PBS meet and greet? Last year there was no touching and no autographs allowed at them."

Oh, reaaallllly?

No talking? Seriously? Not even a "Howdy hi, boys! Welcome to the tall corn state!"? No touching, i.e., no handshakes? No autographs? What's left to look forward to? A stolen glance from 1,000 paces?

"How long till the concert?" my hub asked the other night as I was indignantly pondering this new "no talking, no touching, no autographs" info from fellow MB fans.

"Three," I replied.

"Time enough to learn how to sign 'I love you, Justin!' before they whisk you off the stage," he dryly offered.

"Funny honey," I shot back, all the while Googling "does Justin Hayward know sign language"...

But seriously, folks...I am 53 years old. Meeting Justin Hayward has been at the top of my bucket list for a long time. And I was told that for my pledge of $325 I would, indeed, get to meet and greet the band.

I've always read how much The Moody Blues' fans mean to them...well, the IPTV meet-and-greet at the Des Moines Civic Center would be the perfect place for the band to put my hard-earned money where their collective mouth is.

Or am I just standing on the threshold of an impossible dream?

Won't know till I ask, I guess. I feel a letter to IPTV coming on...

Stay tuned...

Friday, March 19, 2010


All kidding about wearing a taffeta ball gown to meet The Moody Blues aside...

I am quite serious when I say that their music takes me back -- and not always to the happiest times of my life but times that have shaken me to my emotional core. Times that I will never forget...times that have, however, taught me important lessons about life, love and family.

I can be sitting at work, doing dishes in the kitchen, driving in my car...no matter what day it is, no matter where I am, if The Moody Blues' song Tuesday Afternoon comes on the radio, it is suddenly Tuesday, October 21, 1969. That is the day my mom passed away. I was just a few days away from turning 13. One day Mom was there, the next day she was gone. Seemingly, in the blink of an eye...

At the same time, it is suddenly Tuesday, March 17, 1997. That is the day my sister and I moved our father into a nursing home in Battle Creek, Michigan after hewas diagnosed with lung cancer and given three to six months to live. My sis and I stopped at a Burger King for a bite to eat after an emotionally grueling day, and what song is playing? Yup. Tuesday Afternoon.

I couldn't help but think that Mom was with us there, in loving spirit, that difficult day.

Dad passed away two days later -- Thursday, March 19th -- just hours after my sis and I had said, in forced cheerful voices, "Bye, Dad! Love you! See you in a few weeks!" as we reluctantly headed out that Michigan nursing home door down the long, solemn road back to our respective homes in Iowa.

"Love you, too! Everything is going to be fine!" my dad had said from his nursing home bed, sounding uncharacteristically optimistic, I later reflected...

Of course, life seemed anything but fine after Dad died. We'd been somewhat estranged for many years for various and sundry reasons. He barely made it to my high school graduation. He was not there to see me graduate with honors from Ohio University. He was not at my sister's wedding, nor was he at mine. He never met my sister's two children, or Daniel. No birthdays or Christmases celebrated together, so many thanksgivings spent apart...for decades. I mourned the many missed family opportunities...

It occurred to me weeks later, however, that in the end, when it truly mattered, when Dad needed us and we needed to be with him, we were, indeed, together. And we made our amends. And we had some laughs. And we shared some tears. We were, if only for a few fleeting, final moments, a family again.

Memories of those last precious days with Dad have been a great source of comfort to me over the past 13 years. They have also served as yet another constant reminder that every moment of every day spent with loved ones is a gift not to be squandered.

Is there someone in your life you love but have been at odds with of late? Someone you've been meaning to visit but just haven't found the time? Remember, folks...NOTHING is as important as THIS day!

So seize the moment! Cherish this day! Leave work a tish early if you can and enjoy the afternoon! Live! Love! Laugh!

Miss you Mom. Miss you Dad. Love and Hugs.

Tuesday, afternoon,

I'm just beginning to see, now I'm on my way.

It doesn't matter to me, chasing the clouds away.

Something, calls to me,

The trees are drawing me near, I've got to find out why...

Those gentle voices I hear, explain it all with a sigh...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rocker Clothes? Whew! Taffeta Makes Me Itch...

I asked for it! I got it!

A huge "thank you" to Susan Moritz, president of the Iowa Public Television Foundation, and Arline In Florida, aka JustinFan1, for not only stopping by The Home Stretch, but for taking the time to comment and share Moody Blues meet-and-greet fashion tips and other valuable MB insight on my earlier blog posts (see below)!

Imagine my surprise!

(Whoa! Susan Moritz read my blog? And commented? I better get that pledge check in the mail pronto!)

Anyway, here is what Ms. Moritz had to say:

I hesitate to call myself a fashionista but have been to a few meet and greets! I've been enjoying your blog about the Moody Blues. For a meet and greet, one wears what you would wear to a concert. The band wears their rocker clothes and most of the crowd does as well."
~ Susan Moritz, President, Iowa Public Television Foundation

Rocker clothes? Whew! Taffeta makes me itch. Thanks, again, Susan! I hope I get to meet you, too!

I was equally surprised and pleased to see that Arline In Florida added her two cents' worth:

Annie, you are in for such a treat!! And the best part is that you realize The Moody Blues, and Justin, have aged just like the rest of us. I just finished attending six of their concerts in Florida and they are WONDERFUL!!! Yes, Justin has a new wrinkle or two and he does wear glasses (mostly in private) but he still sings like an angel and almost looks as good as he did in his youth. I've been in love with him on and off for 36 years now so I know how you feel. Just one thing, though--in most of the Meet and Greets I've heard about, all you got to do was have a photo taken with the group--there was no actual meeting or greeting. So don't get your hopes up too high and if something better happens for you (which I hope it does) then you will have a pleasant surprise!!! Enjoy your concert, Annie!! They are THE best rock band that ever graced a stage!!
~ JustinFan1--aka Arline in Florida

Oh, Arline! You and I are SO on the same Justin/Moody Blues page! I promise you, sister, I will enjoy the concert! And a group photo is fine by me, though in my heart of hearts, for $325 hard-earned dollars -- and if it's promoted as a "meet and greet" -- I would hope, nay, pray, that the event might include just that...a simple, friendly "hello" between icon rocker and faithful fan...maybe a quick smile or a hardy handshake...a scribbled autograph on the back of a torn ticket stub perhaps?

Such are the wildest dreams of the everyday rural Iowa housewife/diehard Moody Blues fan...

Only time will tell...

Stay tuned...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Only Meet and Greet Fashionistas Need Reply

I am, I admit, the quintessential Glamour Don't.

I was born, I swear, with a black bar across my face, lest I am recognized as I suffer the shame sure to be heaped upon me each time I dress for the day and walk out into any public venue.


Fashion sense and I have never been fast friends. I still shudder as I recall shopping for a dress for my 5th high school class reunion...

I was in a little dress shop in Carroll, Iowa. I found what I thought was this adorable blue dress and slipped it on over my head, looked in the mirror, and thought. "Oh, yeah. This is the one!"

Imagine my shock and dismay when I stepped out of the dressing room to get my husband's opinion on the dress and the store owner let go with a loud guffaw that still rings in my ears to this very day...

"Honey! You've got that dress on backwards!"


Hence, my early bird start on figuring out what in the world to wear when I meet and greet Justin Hayward and The Moody Blues in June. (See earlier blog posts below if you are not hip to what all this fuss of mine is about.)

Now, I know enough not to choose a taffeta ball gown and sparkling tiara, though there was a time that might have been my first choice. For you see, I do not take meeting famous people lightly. Yes, I know they put their pants on one leg at a time just like us peons. But, blame it on my recurring delusions of grandeur, I want to make a memorable impression on them.

And that explains the hours I, an award-winning news reporter at the time, took my precious time picking out the perfect little gift for Jessica Lange when they filmed "Country" back in the day near Waterloo. I got to spend some time on the set, and really wanted to meet her. She grabbed the gift outta my hand, laughed and said, "I accept gifts but I don't talk to people," and sashayed off into the cold, grey Iowa morn. But that's another story.

Anyway...I wasn't all that worried about what to wear when I knew I was going to get to meet Bono in Stuart, Iowa, on his way to Iowa City for a concert because I was never a U2 fan. Of course I only had less than a day to prepare. Nonetheless, I made sure I had my picture taken with him before we bid adieu.

Way back in the day, I made sure I got my picture taken twice with Michael McDonald of then Doobie Brothers fame...and he did say, with a chuckle, on our second meeting after a concert, "Oh, yeah. You are that woman with the camera." I have no clue what I was wearing that night. Jeans and some groovy shirt, I imagine.

I look absolutely horrible in the picture I had taken with Robert Kennedy, Jr. at the hog summit in Clear Lake, Iowa in April 2002. I look portly and windblown. But then, how does one dress for a hog summit? I dunno. Anyway...Mr. Kennedy made a point to tell me he had read my story pertaining to factory hog farms and their effect on our health and environment, and it was a fine piece of investigative journalism, and he mentioned it during his speech.

I was on Cloud 9 for weeks.

So here I am, planning way ahead for the big -- and rather costly, I might add -- meet and greet with The Moody Blues (my first pre-arranged meet and greet), and I want the evening to be perfect. I want to look great and feel young. I want to savor every minute, every musical note, every nuance there is to savor. For I dare say the chances of ever being even slightly up close and personal with Justin Hayward again are highly remote.

Timing, of course, is everything, so considering I will be attending the meet and greet roughly 24 hours after landing back in Iowa after five days in Cinci for my 35th high school class reunion, it is safe to presume that I will already have lost 40 pounds, had a facial, a mani and pedi, my hair cut and colored, and I am sure to be sporting a fake tan. Can't afford botox injections, though, cuz I just blew my life's savings on the dang meet and greet tickets.

So all that is left to decide, really, is what to wear? What is an aging, fashion senseless, menopausal albeit diehard Moody Blues fan to wear?

Only meet and greet fashionistas need reply.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I called. I pledged. And now, pen must meet paper.

I must write the check that seals the deal...

"At this challenging time, thank you for partnering in our mission," ends the letter from the Iowa Public Television Foundation that came in the mail today.

Confession: I really wasn't thinking about their mission when I grabbed my cell phone, pushing buttons like a mad woman, hoping against hope that they hadn't already promised all their "Moody Blues Meet and Greet" tickets to other callers before one of their pledge drive phone bank volunteers answered.

What I was thinking is this: "OMG! I could MEET Justin Hayward? Holy shitake mushrooms! Seriously? OMG! OMG!"

I felt like a giggly school girl again...like the time I got to meet Johnny Bench at the Kenwood Shopping Center in 1970. I'm sure ol' Johnny doesn't recall that day, but I will never forget it! I had admired him from afar -- at Cincinnati Reds' games at Riverfront Stadium. And now, there he was, two feet in front of me!

I was 13.

Forty years later, I'm all wiggity over the opportunity to meet one of the rock group icons of my youth -- THE MOODY BLUES, for cryin' out loud -- on June 29th at the Civic Center in Des Moines. Specifically, I cannot wait to meet Justin Hayward.

Funny thing is, I didn't even know what Justin or any of the other Moody Blues looked like before the 80s. I'd been listening to their songs on the radio since junior high and high school -- Nights In White Satin was like our high school prom theme. But I was in my late 20s when I first became smitten with Justin Hayward. I blame it on watching the videos to "In Your Wildest Dreams" and "I Know You're Out There Somewhere"over and over again on VH-1. His voice, those songs, spoke to my inner diehard romantic schoolgirl once more.

"THAT'S the guy who sang Nights in White Satin?" I thought to myself. Whoa! The blond hair! The blue eyes! That romantically haunting voice! Yikes! I unearthed my old Moody Blues Greatest Hits album, circa the 70s, from the bottom of a box buried in my closet and sort of fell in reminiscent-yearning-for-my-misspent youth love with them all over again for the first time.

Fast forward then to June 1992. I was 35. John and I were living in Cinci. My stepsister happened to have a couple of extra tickets to a Riverbend concert featuring The Moody Blues and Chicago. Why not? So we went.

And there he was. Justin Hayward crooning, "I know you're out there somewhere." My gosh, I thought, he still looks darn good for an old rocker...he still looks so young! He was, I figured out later, a mere 43. Young, indeed.

I sort of lost track of Justin and the boys after that summer. Daniel came along that following March, and life was crazy. John and I, baby Daniel in tow, moved back to Iowa.

Long story short, I saw The Moody Blues in like August 2000 at the Iowa State Fair with my friend, Wava, and her daughter, Sara, and again in like 2007 at the Civic Center with my friend Mary. Ahhhhhhh. Sing to me, Justin!

And I have to say, last time I saw Justin, he was still looking and sounding darn good for a guy in his late 50s...The Moody Blues, circa now, can still put on a great concert.

Or so I hope.

There is a reason, I think, that the Friends of Iowa Public Television show 10-year-old rather than recent concert footage of The Moody Blues during their pledge drive. As The Moodies have aged, so have we. But their songs take us back. Wayyyyy back.

And if we see Justin still looking relatively youthful, and still sounding fantastic, as the pledge barkers ask for our hard-earned money, we also might feel young and youthful and spontaneous enough to gladly plunk down $325 smackarinos to not only see The Moody Blues and hear them but MEET AND GREET them (and keep IPTV programming going, of course).

Seeing footage of Justin in his bifocals squinting at his guitar, on the other hand, might not entice us to do so. I'm just sayin'...

Frankly, I've given it some thought, and I've decided that if Justin Hayward were balding, bifocaled and sporting a drool bib, I would more than likely still want to meet him...and I will, just this once, for a once-in-my-lifetime opportunity, cough up the Benjamins.

Now, if I could just remember where I put my checkbook.

Next: What DOES One Wear To A Meet and Greet?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

And So Begins My Journey To Meet Justin...

...as in Hayward.

As in The Moody Blues.

Yes, against my better financial judgment, but at my husband's urging, I dipped into our meager rainy day emergency fund and pledged a hunk of it to Iowa Public Television earlier this week just so I can have two tickets to the upcoming Moody Blues concert in Des Moines -- and a chance to "meet and greet" the band.

And it is all Facebook's fault.

Oh, yes, my friends! There I was, just sitting innocently at my computer, creeping along, seeing who posted what the past couple of days...and something over in the ad sidebar caught my eye. Egads!

"Moody Blues are on Iowa Public Television Wednesday night! They will be in concert in Des Moines in June! Learn how you can meet them backstage! "

Seriously? Wow!

So I tuned in and by golly, there they were! It was a concert from 10 years ago...but what the heck! There was Justin! My menopausal heart skipped a beat! And then it flashed on the screen -- for only a rather hefty chunk of change I could not only score a couple of concert tickets AND invest in Iowa Public Television, but I could snag a backstage pass to meet and greet the band, too!

And I better hurry cuz they only had a few of THOSE tickets, and they were surely going to go fast!

Holy Nights In White Satin, Batman!

Meeting Justin Hayward has been at the top of my bucket list for sometime...and here was my chance! So what if I'd have to sell pencils on the street corner for the next umpteen years to pay for the pledge...if it meant meeting JUSTIN HAYWARD!

"Go ahead and call," said my husband. "It may be your last chance to see them before they enter the nursing home..."

Seriously? It's OK with my husband if I do this? WOW!

Alrighty then.

And so I dialed. And a nice IPTV volunteer lady answered the phone -- I could see her on TV as we chatted.

"First of all, not to be a doubting Thomasina, but do I really get to meet the band?" I asked.

"Yes," she replied. "You really do!"

Seriously? WOW!

Of course she also asked me if I would be interested in including IPTV in my will.

"Uh, no, ma'am, " I said, with a chuckle. "After what I just pledged so I can meet and greet the Moody Blues, there isn't any money left for anybody in my will...."

Now, as I write, I have yet to actually see any confirmation from IPTV that I will be meeting and greeting the Moody Blues' back-up singers let alone Justin Hayward. I am expecting an email any day now...

Meanwhile, I have spent the better part of this evening perusing -- some might call it swooning over -- every video of Justin and the boys that I can find online...listening to every song...and posting my faves on my FB profile page. I'm actually flushed and and a tish warm...

Is that from thinking about meeting Justin or just another hot flash? Hard to say...

All I know is that 13 weeks from now, all things being equal, I will get to meet THE MOODY BLUES!


"I think you may need a support group," my friend, Sara, commented underneath one of the posted videos.

She would know. As would her mom, Wava, and my friend Mary...and yes, my husband, John, as well. They have all attended a Moody Blues concert with me at some time in the past.

Three and a half months and counting...

Perhaps I should pace myself!

Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

8,500 Visitors! WooHoo!


I see that my counter hit the 8,500th visitor mark just a moment ago!

A milestone!

As I was pointing out to my buddy Cari the other day, 2007 was my most prolific year for blog posts. I have a few ideas as to why that was, but not going to share them quite yet. Gonna re-read 2007 myself and see just what the heck I was yackin' about...

2010, I have decided -- with Cari's persuasion -- is going to be the year of Blog Revisited. By Home Stretch Annie herself. I miss writing. I need to write every day. I compose best at a keyboard. There is nothing like sitting down to a blank page and losing myself in a blog post...

I never dreamed back in July 2006 when I started this thing that I would still be blogging 3 1/2 years later...I never really know where I am going when I start a blog post...or where I will end up.

Much like my daily life.

Well, just wanted to say thanks to my 8,500 visitors over the past few years...they are from here, there and everywhere -- some by hit and miss, some by a pointed click...I love the mystery of it all. The serendipitous nature.

I blog, therefore I am.

Stay tuned.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Menopause Sucks...

Or at least I think it does.

I can't say for sure that I have officially hit the menopause mark since that would mean I have gone 12 months without having a period. And while I think it's been a year, I can't swear to it because I cannot for the life of me remember exactly when my last period was.

Hence, another sign that I am more than likely menopausal -- or at least very perimenopausal -- I have cotton balls and tapioca for brains these days. I can't remember squat.

But therein lies the good news!

If everything I have read thus far in the hilarious Menopause Sucks...What To Do When Hot Flashes Make You and Everyone Else Miserable is true, then if I AM menopausal and have so lost a rather large chunk of my memory, I am -- for once in my life -- PERFECTLY NORMAL.

Written by Joanne Kimes and Elaine Ambrose, Menopause Sucks appears to be the perfect "how to" book for navigating one's way through the sea of change that accompanies this "interesting" -- and hormonally inevitable -- stage in a woman's life.

Just a few pages into it, and I am hooked...

Like Kimes says, we may not know exactly when our journey into The Change of Life begins...

"It could hit you as you happily drive to the coffee shop to get a tall caramel macchiato," she writes. "At the takeout window you hear Andy Williams crooning Moon River. Suddenly you're sobbing hysterically until the cutie pie at the window hands you the coffee and mumbles that it's on the house ma'am and do you want an almond biscotti with that? You take six, and drive away."

OMG! Is that not the truest description of a first hint that estrogen is packing its bags and leaving your body?

Now, I am also starting to read, "The High School Reunion Diet...Lose 20 Years in 30 Days". I was hoping there was a "Lose 35 Years In 5 Months And 18 Days" edition, but there is not. And after skimming about Menopause Sucks, I am sensing that the two books may cross each other out, so to speak.

Sadly, it appears that my reality (menopause and weight gain seemingly at the speed of light) and my dream (looking like Jennifer Aniston by my class reunion June 26, 2010) are destined to never mesh.

Enter my third new book that I am perusing...The Nancy Drew Cookbook...Clues To Good Cooking.

I really just ordered it because I needed a few more bucks on my order for free shipping...

But it spoke to me because A). I can't cook and B). I always wanted to be Nancy Drew, sassy sleuth.

What Nancy Drew fan can resist such tempting recipes as those for "Togo Dogs", "Ned's Potato Pancakes" or "Invisible Intruder's Coconut Custard"?

Obviously, I can't decide what to do...lose weight (if it is even possible at this point) or eat suspiciously delicious treats?

Ack! Indecision! Yet another sign that the hormones, they are a changin'...

Oh, well...guess I'll just sleep on it...if only I could sleep! Dratted insomnia! Another menopausal annoyance...

Well, must get back to my fantastic new book, Menopause Sucks!

If only I could remember where I left it...