"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, January 31, 2011

EXERCISE FOR THE SOUL

If schmoozing with my girlfriends was physical exercise, I'd be thin.

By schmoozing, of course, I don't mean glad handing or working a room.  I'm talking about the true meaning of schmoozing.

It's Yiddish for easy going, relaxed conversation.

And if there's is one thing I am good at, it's conversing. Especially with my gal pals. My cohorts. My cronies.

Yeah, I love to hang with my peeps and just schmooze away the hours.

And truly, what woman worth her weight in stacks of Oprah Magazine doesn't?

In fact, left to my own undisciplined devices, I could probably spend day after day doing nothing but schmoozing with friends near and far on Facebook, the telephone, at the grocery store, by the gas pump...

Some folks -- many men -- might consider all that gabbing a waste of time, but au contraire mon freres (that's French, by they way, for "you're wrong, my bros). In fact, guys, you might do well to follow suit.

It's no secret, really, that while guys are more apt to form relationships around activities such as work, sports, hunting, golf or fishing, women connect at a deeper level. We provide support systems for each other that helps us handle stress and other dismal life experiences (such as men who only talk about work, sports, hunting, golf or fishing. Ba-da-bump).

A scientific factoid that I have experienced firsthand:  Quality girlfriend time raises serotonin levels, thereby combatting depression and creating a general feeling of well being.

Apparently sharing from our souls is not only good for our mental health, it's equally as important for our general health as jogging or working out at a gym. Some experts even say that failure to create quality personal relationships with our fellow human beings is as bad for our health as smoking.

So let's hear it for schmoozing, ladies!

It's exercise for our souls.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

IF JUNE HAD BLOGGED

If June Cleaver could have blogged, she might not have been a closet drinker.

C'mon now, you just know she was.

Anyone who smiles as she feather dusters the tops of her doorways while donned in a dress, heels and pearls is most likely sneakin' a nip of somethin' at some point during her day.

'Cuz let's face a cold, hard truth, ladies and gents:  Housework is maddening because it never stays done. One's sense of accomplishment after an entire day spent cleaning is fleeting.

For example, I spent my entire Saturday chiseling away bathtub soap scum, picking errant pieces of popcorn out of the carpet, brushing giant dust bunnies off those damnable ceiling fan blades...even wore my sunflower-print apron and bright yellow rubber gloves.

When I awoke this a.m., I took a look around my spotless abode. I was proud.

Kitchen floor? Washed and non-wax waxed. Counters? Cleared.  Woodwork? Dusted. Carpet? Not a cat hair to be found.

Ta-Da!  Mission Accomplished! The house looked great! What a wonderful sense of accomplishment.

Until a moment later when the cat gobbled her breakfast and proceeded to toss her kibbles not only across my slippery-clean kitchen floor, but on my nicely vacuumed living room carpet AND atop the pile of just-laundered bath towels folded neatly in a nearby laundry basket.

Oh, the frustrating impermanence of it all...

And that is why, I'm tellin' ya, June Cleaver tipped a few.

Obviously, what she needed was a blog.

Hey, I used to writhe with angst over housework's fickle heart.  But on January 1 of this year, I chose writing over writhing. I started blogging again after a somewhat lengthy hiatus.

Blogging is creating. Creating gives me a much-needed sense of accomplishment. A sense of accomplishment makes me happy. And you know what they say: When Mama's happy, everybody's happy.

Creativity, of course, is time consuming. Hence, housework now takes a back seat to blogging.

I'm thinkin' a thorough blast through the bungalow once a month armed with a gallon of Tylex, a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (Extra Power, of course), and a super-suck vacuum should do the trick.

Passion over practicality?  Perhaps.

But one thing is certain.


A sparkling toilet in one's bathroom remains sparkling for but a moment. A blog post in cyber space lasts forever.

Poor June and her secret sipping.

Alas, there but for the grace of modern technology go I.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

LIVIN' ON A PRAYER

"We gotta hold on to what we've got..."

Ain't that the truth?

Just got home from a night out with the girlies -- Vick, Leesa and Jess.

A night out with the peeps really, truly, is good for the soul.

Been a while.

Work. Sleep. Blog. Work. Sleep. Blog.
Read the phonebook to me.

Tonight, tho...first, "Country Strong" at the Fridley in Carroll...

Two words: Garrett. Hedlund.

Beau, darling! That voice...

And then, back in Coon Town, just a "quick" stop at The Pub...

It feels so good to laugh.  To gab. To dance a bit. To sing along.

"It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not...

Bon Jovi was right, you know.

All that matters?

"We got each other, and that's a lot for love...we'll give it a shot."

All together now!

"Oh, we're half way there...Oh, Oh, livin' on a prayer."

So thankful for my peeps.

"Take my hand, and we'll make it, I swear..."

Thanks, Ladies!  You girls rock!

Friday, January 28, 2011

BY CHOICE OR BY CHANCE

Oh, sweet serendipity of the search engine, how you make me smile!

As "The Home Stretch" celebrates it's 300th post today, I can't help but marvel at the number of visitors who have graced this blog with a little lookie-loo since I first began this cyber penning journey back in '06.

Nearly 12,300 folks have stopped by here.  And I am thankful for each and every one of them, whether they have arrived by choice or by chance.

To those beloved friends and family members who make it a point to click their way here each day: Thank you from the bottom of my cyber penning heart. Knowing you are out there, somewhere, actually reading my stuff makes getting up to write at 4 a.m. oh-so-worth it each day.

To those who have discovered my blog purely by accident -- i.e., you were Googling "seventh inning stretch" and you ended up at The Home Stretch instead -- I am thankful for you guys, too.  Especially those of you who arrive here from, say, The Russian Federation, or somewhere else mega miles from Iowa.

Yes, it is always fun to check my daily/monthly/yearly blog stats to see how each anonymous visitor arrives at The Home Stretch, or where they are from...

To the visitor who arrived at my recent Thou Shall Not Covet post (an essay on my most desired toys from my childhood) after Googling "battery for aunt jane pickle mobile":  I hope you have since found the battery you were looking for.

To the 90-some visitors -- mostly from other countries --  who have, over the past year, visited my old post Now Is The Winter Of Our Discotheque describing my apparent need for an ear horn: I appreciate the "hits"as they say in website lingo. But I am curious...were you searching for "hearing assistance devices" or "places to dance"? Or what?

And finally, to yesterday's visitor whose search question, "does the vergeina streach" (exact spelling) brought him or her to my recent Waltzing Virginia post discussing my love of dancing:  Sorry.  You must have been sorely disappointed.

Happy Friday, Folks!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

NEVER HURTS TO ASK

Countdown to payday.

Picking old parka pockets.  Checking couch cushions for coins.

Bupkus.

Heavy sigh.


Grabbing my Mattel's Magic 8 Ball off the bookshelf (the 8 facing up), I close my eyes and ask a question of the watery blue powers that be.

Will I ever win the lottery?

Turning the bewitching black orb over slowly (never shake the Magic 8 Ball)...

"Outlook Good."

Hmm.

Feelin' lucky. Need to be more specific.

Will I win the Mega Millions?


"Most Likely."

Wow.  Need to be even more specific.  House payment due frightfully soon.

Will I win the Mega Millions Friday night?

"As I See It, Yes."

Are you serious?

"My Reply Is No."

Oh, make up your mysterious mind.

Back in the sixth grade, of course, I asked about important sixth-grade things.

"Does Don like me?"

"Outlook Not So Good" was the usual  -- and, as it turned out, brutally correct -- prediction when it came to Don and other matters of the early adolescent heart.

Romantic predictions during the high school years were equally dismal and spot on as well.

Is Bob ever going to ask me to Moeller's prom?

"Very Doubtful."

But he declared his undying love for me in a poem.  He does love me, doesn't he?

"My Sources Say No."

Are you saying Bob is a low-down weasel?

"It Is Decidedly So."

As fate would have it, Bob never did invite me to his prom, dropped me like a hot potato and immediately began dating someone else. Coincidence? I think not.

Just joking.

Obviously, the Magic 8 Ball is just a bunch of silly hocus pocus.

And yet, although many moons have passed since those adolescent/high school years, the Magic 8 Ball  continues to captivate my speculative inner child.

I am not alone, by the way. Several of my co-workers have been known to consult the soothsaying sphere regarding a variety of daily issues.

Sure, it's nothing but make-believe mumbo-jumbo...but just in case...I mean, what if...

Oh, Magic 8 Ball, are you sure I'm not gonna win the Mega Millions Friday night?

"YES! POSITIVE! NOW GET YOUR BUTT TO WORK BEFORE YOU END UP LOSING YOUR JOB AND LIVNG UNDER A TRAIN TESTLE."

Buzz kill.

"I Heard That."

Oy.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

WHAT WAS PUNKY'S PROB?

Yesterday, it was "pear shaped toad".

This morning, no lie, it's "Punky's Dilemma".

Yes, the title of that Simon and Garfunkel song (from their Bookends album) was the very first thought that sprang to my mind as my cell phone alarm blasted me out of a nice, deep sleep.

I know.  It's kinda freaky.

For one thing, while I loved S and G's Bookends album, and played that 33 RPM till it crackled and popped, I usually skipped Punky's Dilemma. I must've listened to it once or twice. But it was not one of my faves.

Hence, as I sit here slogging my way into full consciousness with the word's Punky's Dilemma wandering around my brain, I can't, for the life of me, remember one lyric.

Next stop:  Google (God love 'em).


Wish I was a Kellog's Corn Flake
Floatin' in my bowl 
Takin' movies
Relax in' a while livin' in style
Talkin' to a raisin who occasionally plays L.A.
Casually glancing at his toupee...

Ah. Yes. All coming back to me now.

I just plain didn't care for the song. Made no sense to me then. Makes no sense to me now.

C'mon Punky. Spill. Who are you?  What's your prob?  

And why is this song the first thing that comes to my mind this a.m.? What is my subconscious inferring?

Punky...Punky...

Punky Brewster, perhaps?  Wait!  I may be on to something here....Punky is one of John's pet names for me...is that the connection? Could I be Punky?  Lord knows I have more than one dilemma that dogs me...

Most I can glean from Google is that Punky's Dilemma was just one of S and G's lighthearted songs. One S and G enthusiast noted that he had read a review that said Punky's Dilemma was full of sexual innuendo...

Yikes!  Look at the time!

Gotta run.

So many questions left unanswered. 

Maybe Punky's Dilemma was that he didn't understand this song either.

I dunno. 

Oh, well.  Who am I to question the great S and G's artistic expression?  And how my mind works has always been a mystery. 

Sometimes, I guess, you just have to let art (and, in this case, Paul) flow over you.

Happy Wednesday everybody!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

PEAR SHAPED TOAD

Ever wake up in the morning with a song in your head that you can't shake?

Yeah, well, as I type, Cinderella's ugly stepsister squawking "the pear shaped toad" won't stop running through my mind.

I don't know why.

Oh, who am I trying to kid...

Have you noticed my rear end lately?

Wait, let me rephrase that.

Despite my avid attempts at avoiding sideway glances in full-length mirrors, it's obvious that the onset of menopause and working at a job where I sit on my arse eight hours a day is taking its toll.  Not only has my backside spread to unbelieveable dimensions, my stomach muscles have gone AWOL as well.

And blogging isn't helping.

Though blogging exercises my mind (what's left of it at this midlife point), my bottom half just rests and  enlarges.

I am so tired of sitting. But to some degree, it can't be helped.

I get up before the break of dawn, stagger briefly to the computer, plop my butt down into my chair, write for an hour, drive to work, sit for four hours, walk to lunch, sit some more, walk back to work, sit for another four hours, drive home, sit and eat supper, settle in and creep a bit on Facebook, go to bed, sleep...

One would think that after being in a state of repose, as it were, all day/every day, one would be rarin' to move in the evenings.  To walk. To run. To do jumping jacks, for Pete's sake.

But there is something about sitting all day that depletes me so.

Certainly, not parking my derriere in my chair to peruse Facebook every night would help reduce the pear problem. And no one is forcing me to sit and write every morning. I could exercise instead.

But to be quite frank, writing is pretty much the only passion I have left since the estrogen skedaddled...I can't give THAT up, too...

I suppose I could attach my computer atop a treadmill...if I owned a treadmill. I have owned a couple in my time...ended up using them as a convenient, albeit rather expensive, clothes hangers.

Arghghghghgh.


There just isn't enough time in a day...

But enough whining and rationalizing.  I know what I need.  I need to follow my doctor's orders and, as he advised, pull a Nike. You know..."just do it".

Uh-oh.

Look at the time.

Gonna go hop in the shower.

Hey, it's a start.

Monday, January 24, 2011

YOU SCREAM, I SCREAM

We all scream for Eskimo Pies.

Or at least we should be doing so today.

For today, in case you haven't marked it on your calendar, is Eskimo Pie Patent Day.

Yes, on this very day in 1922, one Christian Kent Nelson of Onawa, IA, obtained the patent for  the Eskimo Pie ice cream bar.

Another brilliant Iowan, I might note.

According to Eskimo Pie Corporation history, Nelson was just a teenager when he convinced his father, a dairyman, into diversifying into ice cream. Long story short, Nelson -- who became a teacher --  later operated an ice cream shop during the summers after he served in the Army. Per company legend, the Eskimo Pie was born all because of a young customer's inability to choose between purchasing an ice cream sandwich or a candy bar. Apparently the kid only had enough moola for one or the other, but not both.

(What woman in mental pause can't relate to THAT dilemma?)

Anyway, apparently Nelson found himself  pondering the lad's predicament and came up with the idea of combining the two treats. He developed a concoction of cocoa butter and chocolate that clung to a chunk of vanilla ice cream  and the rest, as they say, is delicious frozen treat history.

A tip of the ice cream scoop and a wave of a candy bar wrapper to you, Mr. Nelson.

In your honor, I shall march over to the local SuperValu on break and purchase a chocolate coated ice cream bar. Or better yet, maybe I will observe this special day by treating myself  to an ice cream bar and a candy bar.

After all, it is Monday.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DID

I should have seen this coming.

"Mom, can I borrow your goggles?"

My goggles?

"Yeah, ya know...you used to have like five pairs of tanning goggles."

Waddya need them for? (In immediate retrospect, a stupid question.)

"Gonna start tanning for prom."

But...

"Don't tell me tanning's not good for me cuz you used to tan for your class reunions."

Yeah, but...

My mind racing for some small snippet of rationale...Do as I say, not as I did? Nah. That old-school parental adage just doesn't hold water with kids these days.

"So can I borrow your goggles? My appointment's in like five minutes."

(Stalling, stalling...)

Sorry, honey, no idea where my goggles are.

"Then I'll borrow a pair from Austin.  Love you. Bye."

Drat.

The boy had me in a corner, and he knew it. What could I say? Wear sunblock?

Hell's bells, my generation INVENTED tanning for prom (though I dare say guys didn't tan for it back then).

Of course, we didn't have tanning beds back in the dark ages, either. We had to tan for prom the natural way. Outside, under the real sun, in shorts and t-shirts, starting on the weekends in the merry -- and chilly -- month of March (though a Cincinnati March was a tad warmer than an Ioway March).

Yup. Had to build that base tan s-l-o-w-l-y.


Unless, of course, like me, you happened to have inherited your older sister's GE Sunlamp.  Hold your face in front of that blazing bulb for 15 minutes (timer, schmimer), sans sunglasses,  and voila!  A mug the color -- and smell --  of burnt magenta, swollen eyes and a small blister or two.  But if you were lucky, once the red faded, the swelling went down and the blisters healed? A slightly tanned face, which was really all we really cared about anyway.

It is amazing, actually, that I have a face left, considering I started laying out in the sun at age 14, during the worst possible, burning hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., my face glistening with Johnson's Baby Oil and sweat.  Or John's Baby Oil mixed with, of all things, Mecuricome (that dark, red topical antiseptic containing mercury, no longer manufactured due to FDA regs).


Or hows-a-bout that Crisco Vegetable Oil...

Yes, one day my pal Kim and I decided to grease up with Crisco. Figured if it turned pale, raw chicken brown, it might be good at attracting the sun and giving us golden tans.

It attracted the sun all right.  And a thousand gnats.

Kids, do NOT try that at home. Or the beach. Or anywhere. Totally bad idea.

Naughty girls
Oh, the sins of the mother, how they come back to haunt...

First toilet papering. (Never did tell him about the time my friends and I went TPing and we accidentally locked the keys in the trunk of Linda's car and promptly removed the back seat in order to retrieve the keys from said trunk...)

Now tanning for prom.

What's next?  My college years?

Oy.

My lips are sealed.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

WHEN LIFE WAS A BEACH

Those were the days, my friends

It's Saturday!  Yay!

A day to call my own.  A time to moodle, putz, nap, dawdle, doodle...whatever I so choose to do.

Remember when we were young, and every day was Saturday?

Oh, we had chores and church and there were rules to follow throughout the week.

But truly, we had life by the tail.

Play with our friends all day.  Play with our favorite water toys in the tub before bed.  Get tucked into bed for the night. Then awake the next morning refreshed and renewed. A good yawn and a healthy stretch, and out the door we bounced for another day of play.

Life really was a beach year-round.

Eventually, of course, as we grew, playing with bathtub toys lost its lure. We yearned for bigger toys.  More things to do. More people to see. More places to go.

Our sixth grade summer, my pals Kim, Tricia, Helen and I spent one whole day plotting our escape, as it were.  The minute we turned 18, we would get great jobs, buy cool cars and share an apartment. An apartment with a pool, of course. We fantasized about furniture.

We couldn't wait to be adults, to go out on Friday nights.

We hadn't a clue or a care about Monday mornings.

And today, neither do I.

It's Saturday! Yay!

A day to be a kid again!

If  only I could still fit into that little red two piece...

Friday, January 21, 2011

FLYING FATHER FIGURES

My first hero
As a small child, I prayed for him every night.

"God bless Mommy and Daddy and Sissy and Danna and Bumpa, Aunt Ginny and Uncle Howard, Cousin Steve, and don't forget Mighty Mouse. Amen."

Mighty Mouse?

Granted, I did spend an awful lot of time glued to the tube watching his cartoons.

"HERE I COME TO SAVE THE DAY!" the little fella would bellow as he swooped down just in the nick of time to save some poor mouse damsel in distress.  I was enthralled.

I think I dated this guy once
I later added Peter Pan to my nightly prayer mix.

"...And God bless Peter Pan, too. Amen"


Peter Pan?  Seriously?

Oh, yeah.  I absolutely adored  him.

"I DON'T WANNA GROW UP!" was that cool kid's mantra.  I was mesmerized.

Ah, yes!

Mighty Mouse and Peter Pan. A caped rodent and a dysfunctional boy donned in a pointed green hat.

My heroes?  Yikes! (Would explain a lot about my early love life, though.)

Fictional flying father figures? Perhaps. Who knows?

One thing is for sure, however.

God love 'em, they both looked swell in tights.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

LOVE ME, LOVE MY CATS

What's not to love?
First came Timba.

He was a farm kitty that my husband, John, bribed me with when we were first married.  John was in the doghouse, as it were, for something or other, and he figured a little furry feline friend would be his ticket back into my good graces.

Well, paybacks, as they say are hell.

Timba turned out to be one hormonally challenged tiger tom, from his acute feline acne to his overstimulated rage center. Not unlike moi during PMS. But I loved him -- Timba was a good listener -- and John loved me. So we kept Timba, much to John's chagrin.

Next came Barney, our little all-black street cat.  He needed a home, and though John was a hair claw-shy after Timba's reign of terror, he agreed to let me keep Barney on a a trial basis that lasted 17 feline urinary syndrome-filled years.

During Barney's waning years, we adopted Midget and Motina from our local vet -- at our young son Daniel's urging, of course. They were two tabby sisters who did us no harm. Nevertheless, John had become a bit of a tough customer.

"No more cats!" John decreed after Barney died and we had to give Midget and Mo away because where we were living temporarily --  my mother-in-law's farm -- did not allow indoor pets.

That did not stop me, however, from building a little outdoor  plastic tote/insulated sleeping bag shelter next to the garage for Smokers, the tiny tortoise shell stray who happened to wander up the farmstead driveway one late fall day.

OK, so she wasn't really tiny.  But Smokers (so named because young Daniel thought her coloring was that of smoke) was a sweet perpetual purrball who obviously -- and desperately -- needed sanctuary from not only the bitter Iowa cold but all the skunks, possums and other wild four-footers loitering about the family farm.

So I merely obliged.  The makeshift kitty lean-to worked wonders. For the most part.

Long story short,  Smokers survived the winter but wound up pregnant after a brief driveway romp with a roaming orange tomcat. (Iowa winters can make one do crazy things.)

Confession: When I realized she was with kitties, I wrapped her in blankets and, without letting John in on my plan, let her sleep in my car at night.

Then one early spring day  -- call it women's intuition -- I just knew Smokers was going to have those babies. So, without telling John, I drove Smokers into town to our house (no longer being rented by friends) and made a comfy nest of towels for her in the bathroom.  I gave her a kiss, placed her gently in the middle of said nest, closed the door and left.

A few hours later...voila!  Six, count 'em, SIX adorable, healthy kitties -- four orange (like their wayward father) and two torties, just like their saintly (save for her one indiscretion) mama.

I immediately called John.

"GUESS WHAT, HONEY!  YOU'RE A GRANDPA!"

Yeah, I had a little 'splainin' to do.

I eventually found homes for five of the darlings, and I decided -- admittedly without John's blessing --  that we would keep one of the two torties.  (I could only deal with so much separation anxiety.)

And before we knew it, we were all one big, happy cat-owning family once again, living in town once more.

Granted, Flower -- named after the skunk in Bambi due to the white stripe down her nose -- has lived up to her name and has turned out to be a little stinker. Truth told, she's an annoying whiner who likes to nibble on our mini blinds when she wants our attention.

But Smokers is, by far, the best cat ever. Playful. Cuddly. Thankful to be off the streets, hence, humble.

OK, so her regular projectile spewing of undigested kibbles can fray one's nerves on occasion. But hey, we all have our little idiosyncrasies that drive our loved ones crazy, yet they love us -- and keep us -- still.

At least that is what I keep telling John.

"Your cats are senile," he complains.

"Yes, well, you're heading there, but I'm keeping you,"  I counter.

Love me, love my cats.  Or at least tolerate them.  That's my rule and I'm stickin' to it.

Besides, John's a soft-hearted guy.  Deep down I know he likes cats. At least I hope for his sake he does.

For it's a well-known fact -- in cat circles, anyway -- that he who doesn't like cats comes back one day as a mouse.

Just sayin'...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

DRAGGING SEXY BACK

Who has time for sexy?
Dear Suzanne Somers:

Congratulations on your new book, "Sexy Forever: How To Fight Fat After 40".

I must say that after all these many years, you still look like Chrissy from  your "Three's Company" days, so you apparently know what you are writing about.

And, I will admit, being well over the age of 40, I was sorely tempted to check out your on-line Sexy Forever diet plan that those clever ever-scanning adbots posted in my Facebook sidebar.

I mean, who doesn't want to stay sexy forever? That assumes, of course, that one is already/still sexy and is striving to maintain one's sexiness.

But does your plan work for someone like moi?

At best, I'm looking at bringin' sexy back...more like hauling, really. Dragging. Screaming and kicking.  If, indeed, I was ever sexy at all.

And if I was, is there even enough time to recapture my former sexy self?

I'm 54, for cryin' out loud.  Like sands through my hour-glass shaped three-minute egg timer, so are the remaining days of my life...

So do I really care about achieving an alluring hour-glass shaped figure at this point?

Hell, no.  I just want to lose the two pant sizes I've gained since the summer.  Maybe three. Four would be nice. But I would gladly settle for two.

So, thanks, but no thanks, Suz.  I'm gonna pass on your latest book/diet plan. As it is, your earlier book, "Eat Great, Lose Weight" remains unread and under my bed collecting dust. (Actually, the book belongs to my friend Janet who moved away a few years back. Janet, if you are reading this, it's in the mail.)

Now, Suzanne, darling, if you ever write a book called "Motivation-Less Forever: How To Fight Fat At 54 When You Sit  At A Computer All Day Every Day Ordering TVS For A Living And You Went To The Gym To Workout Last Night And The Older Gal Jogging On The Treadmill Next To You Breaking Nary A Bead Of Sweat Made You Feel Like Giving Up At The Get-Go Cuz You Could Barely Breathe Walking One Mile Per Hour", call me. I might be interested.

Besides, I must confess, I'm still trying to figure out how to follow Dr. Oz's 11-week Move It and Lose It Challenge that I signed up for two weeks ago. Yes, I finally got my login/account info, but when I tried to access my account, it said I did not exist.

Pfft.

Rejection always makes me hungry.  Going for the chocolate now.

Yours Truly,

Annie

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

THE BEE'S KNEES

Gotta love the gloves
Hey, all you hot flasshing menopausal mamas out there!

Tired od dry hands?

Poops. Hold on a sex.

There. That's better.

Please excuse the above typos.  Forgot to take off my adorable new Burt's Bees Healthy Hands Cotton Gloves before I started blogging this morning.

Yeah, I slept with them on.  They are just so comfy -- cute to boot -- and my hands are just so lusciously soft in the morning...

Desperate to find some relief for my dry, cracked, haggard-looking hands, I decided to try Burt's Bee's Almond Milk Beeswax Hand Creme, Lemon Butter Cuticle Creme and Shea Butter Hand Repair Creme...bought them as a set, the sensible-yet-stylish bee-adorned intense nighttime treatment gloves included. What a honey of a purchase!

Couldn't wait to get home, slather it all on, and sport my new gloves.

Seems I do a lot of slathering of late. At 54, it's become a routine. All at night, under the cover of darkness. Better that way, I suppose.

Ladies, remember back in our teenage years how we used to don our bikinis, cover ourselves in Baby Oil, and then bake in the sun from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. every day in  the summer?

Yes, well, payin' the price now, aren't we?

Whatever it takes
A gallon of Johnson's Baby Oil a day barely keeps the scaly winter skin away.

Last night I decided to go whole hog.  Drenched my bod in baby oil,  slid into my winter woolies and a pair of John's old socks. Slapped on my old shower cap, pasted on an adult acne/wrinkle facial masque.  Bathed my hands in beeswax, donned the bee gloves. I woulda popped a couple of cold cucumber slices on my tired, puffy peepers, if I had any. Settled for a cold wash cloth instead.

An hour later? Slimy. Smaller pimples. Soggy eyes. And really soft hands.

Left those sweet little gloves on all night just for good measure.

Menopause.

It's the bee's knees.

Monday, January 17, 2011

NOW AND FOREVER

Oct. 24, 1956
Don't tell me I'm not obstinate!

And I've got plenty o' references -- a couple of former boyfriends come immediately to mind -- who will gladly attest to my traditional Scorpionesque tendency toward being jealous, obsessive and just a wee bit vindictive under certain circumstances.

Hence, the "breaking news" last week that the Earth's movement has shifted the stars' alignment suddenly morphing this mysterious, passionate and powerful Scorpio into a conventional, practical and pedantic Virgo, is utter nonsense, darling. (No offense to any Virgos out there, of course.)

I was born a Scorpio, and a Scorpio I shall remain. Now and forever.

For I am nothing if not, like most Scorpios, akin to the volcano lurking just under the surface of a calm sea, possibly bursting into eruption at any moment.

Just ask my husband.

Besides, Virgos are organized.

Need I say more?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

THOU SHALL NOT COVET

What price make believe beauty?
I am hoping that commandment doesn't include desiring my best friend's toys when I was a kid.

If so, I am sunk.

I mean, let's face it. Valli always got the cool stuff for her birthdays and Christmas. Sure, she shared. And I played at her house practically every day for roughly 10 years.  So I had plenty of opportunity to pretend those most wonderful toys were mine.

But pretending is not quite the same as owning something ourselves, is it? Nah.

Which meant that at the end of the day, when it was time for me to go home, I had to take off that gorgeous brunette plastic wig and begrudgingly -- with a weak smile, though a smile nonetheless --  hand it back to her.

Hey, those plastic wigs were da bomb back in the 60s.  In my little mind, anyway. Sure, they made my real hair all sweaty, and the plastic edges, though soft, carved a rather nasty impression into my temples if we played dress ups too long. But what price make believe beauty?

Those plastic wigs, however, were the least of my longing.

Why didn't my mom buy me one?
Hellooo Easy Bake Oven.

Drooling, with my eyes as big as one of my mom's Fiestaware dinner plates,  I was absolutely speechless as Valli unveiled that Christmas gift.  No matter that those little cakes baked by the heat of a lightbulb tasted funky.  How neat was having your own oven? And why didn't my Mom buy me one?  To this day I do not cook unless forced to. I blame it entirely on the Easy Bake Oven, or lack thereof.

The year Valli got Thumbelina, the writhing, thumb-sucking baby doll that was all the rage, I got Cathy Ann, my sister's hand-me-down do-nothing doll.

Susie Smart 
Granted, we both got a Chatty Cathy one Christmas.  She had the blonde, I had the brunette.  That may have been the same year we got matching sailor dresses. Hence, the green-eyed monster was at bay for a while.

Gee, thanks
Until Valli got a Susie Smart -- a tall, blonde doll with jointed knees, dressed in a jaunty plaid jumper with a matching plaid beret and black shoes, who could recite math problems and spell "cat" -- and all I got was a tin arithmetic quiz machine.

When Valli got a Barbie, I got a Babette, Barbie's cheap drugstore knock off.

When Valli got the Barbie Queen Of The Prom game,  I got Parcheesi.

And, to add insult to injury, when we played BQOTP I forever ended up with that freaky Poindexter with the beady eyes while Valli always wound up with dreamy Ken. An omen, perhaps?
Poindexter had beady eyes
 Valli got the Mystery Date game, too.  And, as I recall, it seemed that each time Valli turned the knob on that white plastic door in the middle of the board, the handle grabbed the card with the handsome prom date in a tux.  Her worst date was either the skier or the tennis player -- both charming lads.  Me?  No mystery there. Always the bespectacled bowler donned in polyester or the filthy, unshaven bum.

(Secretly, I felt sorry for the bum, and saw great potential for the guy -- a quick shower, a dab of High Karate, a resume makeover, and he'd be right as rain. But I digress.)

The Christmas Valli got the latest Beatles album and my parents gave me Don Ho's Greatest Hits is the year I finally gave up craving the things that that Valli got for Christmas. I realized that my folks, bless their old school hearts, were doing their best to be cool.  So I just gave thanks for Tiny Bubbles and the bright orange stretch pants my parents also gave me that Christmas, and went about my merry way.

But I must confess there was one item that Valli didn't own that, once upon a time, I yearned for more than all the plastic wigs and mystery dates in the world.

She was one classy coupe
I would have given my eyeteeth for the Aunt Jane's Pickle Mobile they were raffling off at the local  grocery store. I'd outgrown the bright red tricycle my folks had bought me with their long-saved Green Stamps, and Aunt Jane's classic convertible coupe looked like one, sweet ride. Oh, how I ogled that bitchin' buggy every time I went Krogering with my parents. Alas, I did not win.

Chances are I could find one on eBay.

Wonder how it does in snow?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

CAN WE TALK?

It all started so innocently... 
He comes by it naturally, I suppose.

I look at my son with his ever-present cell phone in hand, thumbs flying as he texts and -- though I worry that texting is the death knell for real conversation as we know it -- I can't help but chuckle.

Alas, I, too, am hooked on constant communication.  Always have been. And the more intriguing the means of communicating, the better.

In fact, from the age of four when I discovered that I could talk to my best friend, Valli, using nothing more than two Dixie cups and a length of string, I yearned for a 24/7 outlet for my growing gift for gab.

Even at that young age, however, I was not  blind to the obvious shortcomings of the cup-and-string phone, and I eventually developed a hankerin' for hand-held, battery-operated walkie talkies.  My parents finally gave in to my pre-pubescent pleas and bought me a pair for my ninth birthday.

At last!
On a clear day, if Valli and I stood on our front porches (we lived but a house away from each other) we would talk on our walkie talkies and could actually hear each other.

Yeah, it was all fun and games until the one day Valli wasn't home for our scheduled porch-to-porch convo.  There I sat for hours, alone, patiently waiting for Valli's  return...a walkie talkie in each hand, chatting back and forth to myself.

Oy.

Object of my adolescent desire
I also once pined for a pink Princess dial phone. I dreamed of placing it right next to my bed, and imagined how wonderful it would be if someday I had my own, private, teen line. The mere thought of being able to call my friends from my room, chatting the night away? Too groovy for words.

Meanwhile, I had to settle for calling my pals from our rotary wall phone in the kitchen, holing up in our boom closet for privacy. Thank goodness the phone cord reached that far.

As a young adult, I ran up long distance phone bills the size of Chicago, especially during PMS.  Nothing like reaching out to friends across the country to ease the emotional cramps that Midol just couldn't touch.

Then came Christmas 1987.  John was working retail, and I was a lonely Wal-Mart widow.  I was banned from making long distance calls unless I wanted to sell off the family heirlooms to pay MCI each month. What was a depressed chat-a-holic to do?

10-4 good buddy
Why, ask Santa for a portable citizen band radio radio, of course! The jolly ol' elf kindly obliged, and soon I was puttin' the verbal pedal to the medal.  Forty channels. And, as modern technology would have it, I could plug my CB into the cigarette lighter in the car. I was mobile, baby! 10-4. Got your ears on, good buddy? Didn't matter that I was talking to people I didn't know. Somewhere out there was someone I could talk to, and it was affordable to boot!

In 1990, I packed up the CB, and we moved to Cincinnati. One night, while John was glued to the TV, I  unpacked my frequency-fueled friend and started yackin' again. Gave myself a handle this time. Guardian Angel.  My old high school chum, Holly, came over one summer night and joined in the fun.

There we sat in my car in the driveway, Guardian Angel and Star Gazer (both in our early 30s, mind you),  a couple cans of pop and a bowl of chips between us, chatting it up on the CB for hours, again with folks we did not know and would never see.

Although my husband did not find this particular past time of mine all that amusing, my psychologist, Shirley (a stand-up comedienne in her spare time), deemed it nothing short of healthy, creative genius for someone like me whose need to talk went way beyond what most husbands could or would tolerate.


Love at first byte
Back in Iowa in the mid 90s however, I tossed the CB radio aside and learned my way around a PC. I checked out chat rooms.  The decent ones, mind you, for writers and dieters and stay-at-home moms. I was captivated!  I fell in love with instant messaging.

It was during that time that a hands-free portable phone, complete with headset, became an indispensable daily tool. It allowed me to talk to my friends, fold laundry and keep a watchful eye on my young son in the next room, all at the same team. What a marvel!

I began blogging in 2006, starting a rather controversial but well-read news blog (The Independent Eye, now defunct) and The Home Stretch, both at the same time. Was one blog enough?  Were two too many?  My family did not see me for days until one night I emerged from my attic writing room suffering from a bad case of bleary blogger baby blues.


Late in 2008, I got sucked into Facebook, the highly intoxicating blog/instant messaging cocktail that it is.  No regrets, however. I have happily reconnected with just about everyone I know from high school,  college or newspapers where I once worked. I absolutely adore the ability to flip on my computer at any time of day, and voila!  Friends at my fingertips! A childhood dream come true!

I dare say I could not have survived one more soul-killing Iowa winter without it.

Heck, I'm so cyber-connected these days, The Home Stretch now has its own Facebook page.   Gabbing gone wild.

And just the other day I joined Twitter.

But truth be told, between blogging, Facebook and texting,  I'm just too tired to Tweet.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Son Of A Preacher Man

A still, small voice
It was one of those Sunday mornings when I just didn't feel like going to church.

Lo, and behold, Daniel -- who was probably five years old at the time -- woke up with a fever and a cough, and I immediately took that as a sign from God that I was to stay home and look after my young son.

And if I managed to get caught up on the laundry, dishes, and vacuuming at the same time?  All the better. I was certain God, in his infinite wisdom, would understand if I took one Sunday off to straighten my own house instead of worshipping in his.

So John -- who was preparing to enter the Methodist ministry at the time -- scooted out the door on his way to church,  and I dutifully administered Tylenol to Daniel.  I made sure he was comfy while he played with his cars and dinosaurs in his room, and then I went about my housework.

I was just starting to vacuum the living room when  I thought I heard a still, small voice calling to me.

"Mommy, would you play church with me?" I thought I heard the voice say.

I decided I must be hearing things, so I continued vacuuming.  And then I heard the voice once more, only this time it was louder. And it was tugging at my sleeve.

"C'mon, Mom," one very red-cheeked Daniel insisted, leading me to a nearby rocking chair. "We're gonna play church.  I'll be the pastor."

He handed me his old, torn Toddler Bible. He chose to use one of John's.

"God is our dad," Pastor Daniel began. "God is the Holy Spirit.  The reason Jesus came here was so people don't make sins.  God wants us to preach his word. He wants everybody to be a pastor."

And then, pounding the arm of the rocking chair -- his makeshift pulpit -- he yelled, "GOD IS OUR DAD, THE HOLY SPIRIT OF LOVE! HE WANTS US TO BE NICE AND LOVE EACH OTHER!  IF YOUR MOM'S NOT HOME, OR YOUR DAD'S NOT HOME, AND YOU THINK YOU'RE ALONE, YOU'RE NOT!  GOD IS THERE!"

Preach it, brother!

"God has blessed us," Daniel concluded quietly, closing his Bible. "People should love God since he is king of the world. Amen."

And with that,  church was over. Daniel promptly returned to his dinosaurs, and I just sat there, riveted to my rocking chair. Stunned.

Out of the mouths of babes!

Was this the same antsy kid who had spent the majority of his church mornings since he was toddler chucking Cheerios across the front pew and twisting his little plastic pony so tight in my hair it gave me a migraine?

Yes, he was one in the same. Miraculously, however, despite his antics, Daniel had apparently absorbed some of the Good News. And despite my avoiding church that day, God, through my young son's tiny voice, got his message across to me in a big way.

So, I say unto all you young moms out there hiding in church cry rooms and nurseries with your toddlers every Sunday because they won't sit still in the pews: Sit in the front pew anyway, your toddler in tow.  The cereal will still scatter and you may have to break Black Beauty out of your bob with a bowie knife, but  hey...it's all good.

For the Lord apparently doth sometimes work in mysterious (albeit migraine-inducing) ways.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

BORN TO BLOG?

A blogger in the making
January 4, 1967
Dear Diary,
Today I found 4 pennies in Miss Kiessling's pocket.
She let me keep them.

February 4, 1968
Dear Diary,
Played Money Box. Twisted leg.  Washed hair.



July 15, 1969
Dear Diary,
Holly and I slept out in my backyard. At 2:00 in the morning we walked to the corner.

November 13, 1970
Dear Diary,
Sally's 14!  Get this: Sally, Helen, Valli & Kim stayed overnight. We TP'd Art's house and SNUCK INTO SADIE HAWKINS!  We're in for it Monday!

Other than the apparent life of crime I was headed for at a young age (pickpocketing, property damage, sneaking into high school dances), what strikes me the most about these authentic snippets from the very first diary of my life is the simplicity surrounding an adolescent girl growing up back in the day in the burbs of a big city.

Dig the pic of  yours truly, diary and pencil in hand, circa 1970.  A blogger in the making. Who knew?

I blog, therefore I am.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

THE SCENT REMEMBERS WHEN

Yeah, like this ever happened.
Memories of  Mr. Shipman's chemistry class?

Maybe if I sniff formaldehyde while dissecting a frog.

Nor do I recollect any of my male lab mates (like that cool guy in the ad at left) ever cozying up close to me over my microscope and commenting on my great-smelling tresses.

Nevertheless, just thinking about "Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific" shampoo and conditioner triggers a pleasing aroma in my brain that in many other ways brings back the best memories of my high school days.  It's as if my hip-hugger bell bottoms still fit.

For those too young to remember, Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific (referred to from this point on as GYHST) was THE shampoo smell of the mid-70s. And it truly delivered on its promises.  I'd wash my at-the-time-trendy long, parted-in-the-middle hair every morning  in GYHST and its unforgettable spicy-floral fragrance remained for a long time.

Makes me pine for my old mood ring just recalling it.

Girls went crazy over the shampoo.  And, if you believed the ads, the guys loved the smell.

Not that GYHST snagged me any extra dates back in the day, mind you. I still had to ask six guys to the Girls Athletic Association (GAA) formal before one would agree to go with me. (Thanks, Artie!) But I digress.

My old high school chum, Linda, and I were actually reminiscing about GYHST the other night. Just imagine the blissful state we could reach if we could actually open a bottle and allow that unforgettable  bouquet from our collective misspent youth waft once more under our aging noses...

Well, we need not imagine any longer!

Apparently -- and not surprisingly --  GYHST Shampoo and Conditioner are available via the net from The Village Country Store.  I might check Amazon  as well, and I'll bet you can find them on eBay, too.

Gee, Your Smells Terrific.

Ahhhhh....

The scent remembers when.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

JOHNNY ANGEL

The sky's the limit
My husband, John, turns 59 today.

And I, queen of Cheesecake In A Jar and loathe to even enter the kitchen let alone cook, am going to go that extra marital mile and bake him his favorite treat.

German Chocolate Cake.

Yup.  I really am.

And in further honor of this 21,535 days on this earth, I am even going to go a bit wild and make him a meatloaf  for his birthday dinner.  Possibly some rockin' Rice-A-Roni on the side.  I figure the sky is the limit!  I'm leaving no culinary stone unturned on this special occasion.

Now, John, being the thoughtful love that he is, seemed a tish concerned when I mentioned the the other night that I would be  cooking and baking on his birthday.

He kindly suggested I just pick up some deli chicken or a pizza instead. Isn't that sweet? He must hate the idea of  his little woman wearing herself out in the kitchen on his account.

And he insisted I just pick up a Mrs. Smith's frozen pumpkin pie lest, I imagine, I overexert myself reading the directions on the back of the Pillsbury cake mix box. So concerned for my well being is he, that I actually caught him hiding the cake pan yesterday. What a guy!

Happy Birthday, Darling!  Prepare your palate!  I love you!

MUAH!

Monday, January 10, 2011

YES, BEAUTY COMES FROM WITHIN

My first lip gloss
From within bottles, jars and tubes, that is.

Or does it?

Like many women my age, my obsession with makeup began in junior high with Bonne Bell, progressed to CoverGirl and Yardley/London in high school, and  intensified over the years with Revlon, L'Oreal and that haughty biach, Maybelline.

"Maybe She's Born With It".

Or maybe it was Pot O'Gloss.

Remember Pot O'Gloss by Yardley?  It was, for my high school friends and I back in the 70s, the first lip gloss that touched our young, naturally-plump lips.  In fact, I think my old  school chum, Nancy, put  Pot O'Gloss on the Madeira, OH makeup map.  I can still see her -- every day before the bell rang in Algebra 1 -- dipping her little pinky into that adorable little container of shiny, sticky goo and slathering it on her bottom lip. She wore it so well...

I was totally mesmerized, as were all the other girls who hung out with Nancy. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that Pot O'Gloss sales at the local mall tripled that year.

From that  tiny pot of gloss, however, grew my unquenchable yearning for all things promising to make me look like Cybil Shephard or whoever graced the latest fashion magazine cover.

Don't believe me?

Well, peruse my vanity drawer (I dare you) and here is what, at this very hour, you will find (in no particular order):

Aveeno Positively Ageless Lifting and Firming Night Cream
Aveeno Positively Ageless Lifting and Firming Eye Cream
Clean and Clear Finishes (pore perfecting moisturizer)
ROC Complete Lift Serum
Mary Kay Timewise Age-Fighting Moisturizer
Mary Kay Tinted Moisturizer With Sunscreen
Mary Kay Oil-Free Hydrating Gel
Mary Kay Eye Primer
Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser Treatment Makeup
Neutrogena 3-in-1 Eye Concealer
Almay Intense I-Color
N.Y.C. Sun 2 Sun All-Over Bronzing Powder
Palladio Baked Blush (Wish)
Palladio Herbal Lengthening Mascara
CoverGirl ExactEyelights Waterproof Mascara

And my all-time favorite:  L'Oreal Studio Secrets Professional Magic Perfecting Base

Yikes-a-Roni!

But I've given it lots of thought of late,  and for me and  most other women at the interesting age of 50-plus, perhaps the bottom-line best kept beauty secret is this:

No matter how much lifting, firming, rewinding, erasing, concealing, lengthening or secretly/magically perfecting we do in the morning, at the end of the day we still look like Positively Aging Less-Than-Perfect Us.

And that's OK. It really is.

Because the truth is, for most of us, outer beauty just naturally fades over time. There is no escaping that reality. It may have taken me 40 years to realize it, but seriously, without a doubt, it's what's inside our hearts that counts.

Nevertheless,  I'm checking Amazon for Pot 'O Gloss.

Just in case I'm wrong.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

LOVE AT FIRST BLAST

A dream come true.
Batter Blaster, where have you been all my life?

You are everything you promise on the outside of your can and more!

After meeting you at the grocery store for the first time Friday night, I confess I was skeptical. Organic pancake batter in a can?  Really? "No Mess! No Cleanup!" you boasted. And though you seemed sincere, I was hesitant to trust you.

Silly me.

This morning, hungry for pancakes and throwing caution to the wind, I ran to the refrigerator, grabbed you, and followed your directions word for word.

I prepped my griddle, I shook you with your nozzle pointing down, and with my nervous and somewhat arthritic index finger, pushed said nozzle and gave it a blast of batter like no other.

And the rest is canned pancake batter history!

Perfectly shaped pancakes, I tell you!  Light and fluffy, just like you promised!  So tasty, too!  No messy, gooey mixing bowl to deal with afterwards.  And that, Batter Blaster, is when I fell hopelessly in love. I have since made a vow to never make pancakes from a box mix again.

As Aunt Jemima as my witness,  I have stirred my last batch of batter.

I mean, you are just so much fun!  I'll never forget dotting the skillet with teeny tiny bits of batter  just to see how miniscule a pancake I could actually create!  I felt like a giggly school girl again as I scrawled my son's name, DANIEL, in big, bubbly batter blasts across the griddle.

"Ta-da!"  I announced, as I  proudly presented him a plate of pancake letters smothered in butter and syrup.

Granted, if he were 5 and not 17, I am sure he, too, would have found my latest culinary feat as amazing I did.

Truth be told, Batter Blaster, now that I have found you I think I could dine on pancakes seven days a week. But, sadly, that shall never be. For you see, I've been flirting with the idea of losing weight, and one Dr. Oz is expecting my 11-week commitment to him and his Move It and Lose It Challenge. I haven't read the fine print yet, but I am pretty sure a steady diet of pancakes -- no matter how perfect -- are not on my diet plan.

If only I'd met you before Dr. Oz...truly, I am torn...

Why, oh, why must I be a dieting non-domestic diva in love?