"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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Oh, say it isn't so.

Here I sit tonight, stunned, as we all are, by the death of Davy Jones. He was my favorite Monkee.

I mean, sure, I liked Mickey Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork. We all did. (Why else would we sit glued to the TV watching their silly antics every week?) But Davy stole my heart.

Davy was cute. He was nice. He was funny. He spoke with that adorable British accent. He had great hair. And although back then I was just on the cusp of recognizing them as such, he had the most bedazzling, deep brown, bedroom eyes.

Davy was the The Monkees' lead singer.  He was a groovy dancer. He had an infectious smile that made all us young girls swoon.

Be honest now:  Who among us would not have given our eyeteeth to be Marcia Brady when Davy made his guest appearance on The Brady Bunch?

Confession:  I was more than a wee bit jealous of my childhood best friend, Valli, when the Monkees came out with their song, "Valleri" and Davy was belting out her name.

Remember their song, "Look Out, Here Comes Tomorrow"? In that song, Davy lamented about having to choose between two girls named Mary and Sandra. I hated those girls, fictitious  though they were. And of course, there was "Daydream Believer". Cheer up sleepy Jean? Really? Oh, that he might one day sing a song about Ann...

I remember one slumber party at Valli's house --  her 10th birthday, I think --  where we all were trying to grab her new Monkees album cover and kiss our favorite Monkee smack dab on the lips.  It was Monkee-mania at its most innocent and untethered, and Valli's mom caught it all on their old movie camera. I'd have to watch that movie again to be sure, but I am thinking Davy got the most smooches that night...

Wow. Davy Jones. Dead at 66. A heart attack. Still can't believe it.

So here I am, glued to the computer, as many of my friends across the country are tonight, watching and listening to Youtube videos of the Monkees, of Davy, reliving the memories, singing along.

At 55,  I may barely remember what I had for breakfast this morning, but I remember to the letter all the lyrics to all the Monkee songs from 40-plus years ago. Admittedly, Daydream Believer is bringing tears to my eyes.

Yes, Davy Jones died today. And with him passed away irreplaceable pieces of our long-ago-youthful, Monkee album-kissing hearts.

Oh, Davy, without a doubt, you were one daydream we were all delighted to believe in.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012



A little bit ago, a CNN poll showed Rick Santorum slightly ahead of Mitt Romney in the Michigan primary.

As such, two thoughts came to mind:

A. Down that chilled bottle of chardonnay sitting in the fridge.
B. Re-read "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood, a novel set in the near future in the Republic of Gilead, a country formed within the borders of what was formerly the United States of America. It was founded by a racist, male chauvinist, nativist, theocratic-organized military coup as an ideologically driven response to the pervasive ecological, physical and social degradation of the country.

Turns out CNN is now projecting Romney the winner...

Thus, I have decided to have just one glass of wine and blow the dust off "The Good Wife's Guide" circa 1955, sure to  be required reading for all women of marrying age should the White House fall into the GOP's  Mad Men-esque hands, period:
  • Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they get home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.                                                                                               

  • Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you'll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.
  • Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Run a dustcloth over the tables.
  • During the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering to his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.
  • Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Encourage the children to be quiet.
  • Be happy to see him.
  • Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.
  • Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first - remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.
  • Don't greet him with complaints and problems.
  • Don't complain if he's late for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through at work.
  • Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or lie him down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.
  • Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.
  • Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.
  • A good wife always knows her place.

Monday, February 27, 2012



Need I write more?

Well, yes, I probably do need to.  As the sixth day of the 40 Days of Writing challenge dawns, once again I am presented with an empty canvas upon which to weave my words.

But today is one of those "write now or forever hold your peace" kind of writing days, because my schedule is crammed with other things to do. Like work. Work. And work. And then, fall asleep.

Hence, I must write right now. And I only have five minutes in which to do so, because if I don't hop in the shower precisely by 6 a.m., I will be precisely 1 minute late clocking in at work at 7:01 and that is not allowed without penalty.

And, no matter how hard I try to get ready for work at a quicker pace, at 55, it inevitably takes me an hour, a full hour.

There's the shower, the lotion, the moussing, the root lifter, the lifting and firming daily moisturizer, the anti-fatigue eye treatment, the lifting and firming eye cream, the eye concealer, the anti-aging makeup base, the "Simply Ageless" sculpting blush...and just for good measure, a couple of quick brush strokes of "Grow Luscious" mascara.

Ack!  It's 6:08! I'm doomed!

Wait!  I know! Maybe I'll skip the eye concealer, which will ultimately kill to beauty steps with one stone and shave off a minute or two. Obviously, if I conceal my eyes, I won't be needin' luscious  eye lashes.

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman (twang, twang). At least, a simply ageless one.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Maybe it was because she was blue-eyed, bold, and adventuresome, while I, though blue-eyed, was shy and a 'fraidy cat.

Or maybe it was because she had strawberry-blonde hair and my hair, though blonde, was more the color of dishwater.

And she was just so darn smart!

Whatever the reason, the moment I discovered my big sister's old Nancy Drew books when I was a gradeschooler, I was hooked.

I wanted to BE Nancy Drew.

And so I became her.

I spied on my neighbors. I looked for mysterious clues EVERYWHERE. I forced my friends to play Nancy Drew and make up mysteries (I, of course, always got to be Nancy). If I could have morphed my father, an average-looking, financially challenged office manager, into a devilishly handsome, successful lawyer like Nancy's dad, Carson Drew, believe me, I would have.

Sadly, both Nancy Drew and I lost our mothers at an early age: Nancy was but 3; I was almost but not quite 13.

(Nancy, of course, had that motherly housekeeper Hannah Gruen, to bake her cookies and make sure she didn't go too dangerously far in her sleuthing since Daddy Drew was so busy with his successful law practice. I, thankfully, had my big sister, Mary Susan, who never baked me cookies (that I recall) but she did keep me in line since my dad spent most of his extracurricular time down at the local tap after my mom died...but I digress.)

Anyway...my Nancy Drew fantasy kept my tender heart above water during some pretty troubled times back in my early youth. Plus she was just so much fun! I'd spend hours, I'd spend DAYS, lost in the pages of riveting tales like "The Ghost of Blackwood Hall" and "The Clue Of The Velvet Mask."

So imagine my delight this past Christmas when my darling big Sis gave me a Nancy Drew Secret Of The Old Clock writing journal!  The Secret Of The Old Clock was the very first Nancy Drew mystery published, and the journal includes a handful of pages from the book interspersed between the blank pages offering ample space for writing.

I started carrying the journal in my purse about a month ago, just in case, I suppose, I was suddenly struck with a great idea on which to pontificate during the day. 

The last Nancy Drew book I carried with me was called "Nancy Drew's Guide to Life", by Jennifer Worick, one of those tiny gift books one finds at my preferred home away from home, Barnes and Noble.  The guide is a loving -- and hilarious -- tribute to the young sleuth. 

One peek at the inside cover sold me on it:

"Role model? Definitely. Genius? Oh, yeah. Goddess? Probably.
You couldn't have known it then, but all those hours spent reading about Nancy's adventures served you well...For every woman who remembers wishing she could tail a suspicious truck in Nancy smart blue roadster with the rest of the gang, this book is for you."


All in all, I'd have to say that it was Nancy Drew who nudged me to follow my nose for news and become a journalist. And my many years' experience as a newspaper reporter mirrors the career of a sleuth in many ways. Suffice to say that both Ms. Drew and I encountered our fair share of cranky crooks along our career paths.

So, for all you lifelong Nancy Drew fans out there, I leave you this Sunday night with a fun sampling of the teenage sleuth's stylish pearls of gumpump (as opposed to gumshoe) wisdom.

Survival Strategies:
Moxie and a good sense of balance are essential when crawling on a roof ~ from The Hidden Staircase

When bound and gagged, you can still tap out HELP in Morse code to attract attention ~ from The Clue of the Tapping Heels

If you hear the telltale sounds of a helicopter, step away from a blaze in the fireplace. The copter might send a downdraft into the chimney and shower sparks all over your sleek coif. ~ from The Mystery of the 99 Steps

Dating: A Primer
Make your date work for you-- send him on B-level errands you can't seem to fit into your busy schedule. The Clue in the Diary

A forceful and skilled dance partner will make you forget everything on your mind. ~ The Clue of the Velvet Mask

Ned Nickerson and Nancy Drew
If a guy's hunch results in a dead-end, don't flaunt your better judgement and intuition in front of him. Smirk secretly to yourself. ~ The Phantom of Pine Hill

After receiving an electrical shock to the system, find as many men as possible to vigorously massage you. ~ Mystery of the Glowing Eye

Hmmm...I wonder how Nancy's beau, Ned Nickerson, feels about that last pearl?

Saturday, February 25, 2012


A million stories in the naked city, and I could not think of one thing to write about today, which happens to be Day 4 of the 40 Days of Writing challenge.

My problem, you see, is that I've been blogging on a fairly regular basis since The Home Stretch first appeared in cyber space on July 15, 2006.  I've bared just about every facet of my tortured midlife soul that there is to bare, waxing philosophical on every topic known to womankind from how to start a neighborhood Kegels and Bagels support group to the most painless way to pluck those menacing menopausal mutant ninja chin hairs that rival the coarsest broom bristles.

I've analyzed my childhood, my adolescence, my makeup drawer, and my obsession with the 70s rock group, The Moody Blues. I've ranted, raved, laughed, cried, bitched, bemoaned, celebrated, mourned and reminisced.

So there I sat, dog tired after staying up all night birthing Day 3's 40 Days of Writing entry,  a blank brain AND a blank computer screen.

What was I to do?  Clearly, no matter how exhausted I felt, not writing was not an option.

Confession: I spent two hours meandering about the house, searching for something, ANYTHING, to spark my writer's muse.  Desperate for inspiration, I even went so far as to give my refrigerator magnet collection a fast and furious lookie-loo. Nothing. Though I must admit, my "Martha Stewart Doesn't Live Here" magnet did bring a smile to my face.

Anyway, I was walking back to my computer, feeling dejected, when, in my sleep deprived state, I tripped over my rather large, black handbag.

"Damn purse!" I muttered.

Almost instantaneously, for reasons I cannot explain,  hearing myself say "purse" triggered memories of the old TV game show, Let's Make A Deal, which I watched without fail when I was a kid.

I recalled how fascinated I always was by how much random crap those whacky-costumed female contestants had crammed inside their purses so that when show host Monty Hall said, "I'll give you $50 for a broken clothespin", by golly, they could produce a broken clothespin.

And that's when it hit me. I've got scads of random crap stashed in my purse!  I'll just pull something out of my purse, and whatever it is, I will write about it!

So I excitedly unzipped my purse, reached in, and guess what I pulled out?

Be sure to tune in tomorrow, Day 5 of the 40 Days of Writing challenge, to find out!


I have not a clue what or how my former high school beau, Bobby, is doing these days, or what he looks like now, but I can tell you this:

Thirty-eight years ago tonight -- Feb. 24, 1974 -- Bobby and I were watching The Wizard of Oz on TV, he had a terrible headache, and  he looked "so cute".

And Bobby loved me, this I know, for my dear old high school diary -- one of a dozen -- tells me so.

Granted, there's not much value in ancient teenage heartthrob history such as that, except it does come in extremely handy when one has committed to writing something every day for 40 days, it's only Day 3, and one has an acute case of writer's blockade.

As luck would have it, each dusty, bound collection of misty water color memories unearthed from the bottom of a cedar chest full of mothball-scented drill team uniforms and dried prom corsages transformed into a treasure trove of wistful writing prompts before my very eyes.

Feb. 24, 1974
Stayed home today and worked on my term paper. I was just sitting up here in my room and I thought to myself, I wonder if Bob will stop by after work? And darn if he didn't pull in five minutes later. Then he came over after dinner.

And then, of course, we watched The Wizard of Oz...

And then, two weeks later, after three months of goin' steady and declaring his undying love for me in a poem he allegedly wrote, Bobby dropped me like a hot potato.

Suddenly, Bobby didn't look "so cute".

If only I'd known 13,880 days ago what I know now about that two-timing cad and how he was seeing that other girl behind my back! No wonder he said he had a headache. It never even occurred to me then, but 19,985,760 minutes later, it's clear as day. All the signs of an impending breakup were right there in my diary...

Feb. 25, 1974
"Bob was supposed to call me tonight but he didn't." (Distancing)

Feb. 26, 1974
"When I heard the innocent tweet of Bob's Volkswagen horn, hardly did I expect to see walking into my home, a greasy, tight-jeaned slob." (Rebelling)

Feb. 27, 1974
"Bob has to work Friday night, our 3-month anniversary. Fine. He didn't call tonight. I was busy slaving away at my term paper so I hardly noticed." (Seriously?)

Feb. 28, 1974
"Bob didn't call tonight either." (Helloooo? Geeze, girl, get a clue!)

And, of course, when Bobby finally 'fessed up and admitted he'd been dating HER behind my back for a week (or more), I handled the news with grace, maturity and aplomb.

March 9, 1974

Oh! Such moaning and gnashing of teeth!

Later that night, I did the only thing I could do to avenge such a heinous break of the heart. My best girlfriends and I went streaking past Bobby's house, hootin' and hollerin'.

I never was one to go away quietly.

And, admittedly, I did have a penchant for drama. To wit:

March 11, 1974
Oh, the life of a SPINSTER!!!

If you look real close, under a good, bright light, I think one can still see the tracks of my tears across those diary pages.

And all because wanted to be Bobby's girl.


Hit it, Marcie!

Friday, February 24, 2012


Piled in plastic totes and moldy cardboard boxes stashed about my basement (and at the bottom of my attic closet) are reams of evidence that I spent the better part of the past 30-or-so years writing... and was actually paid for it. Even won several awards.

Yes, I once made a living steeped in words.

I love words. I love writing. I love blogging.  Blogging is writing. I blog, therefore I am still a writer. I just don't get paid  to write.

How ironic, then, that I -- a writer/successful former newspaper reporter/columnist with a BS in magazine journalism -- now spend the lion's share of my days up to my eyeballs not in words, but in numbers.

I  do not love numbers.

Never met a math problem I liked. Ever. Take me beyond addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, and  I am totally lost. The only reason I passed freshman algebra in high school was because I wormed my way into my teacher's life as a dependable babysitter for his infant son.

Fractions? Who needs them. Scores? I can never remember them.  Weights and measurements? I avoid them. Is it two pints to a quart, four quarts to a gallon, or four pints to a quart, two quarts to a gallon? I can NEVER keep that straight. No wonder I barely passed Home Ec.

Ack! Numbers! My nemesis!

Oh, yes, while I may still fancy myself a wordsmith, the truth is I am number encumbered six days a week.

What exactly, then,  do you do for a living?

Customer service. But with a numerical bent.

Long story short, for  7 1/2 hours a day, Monday through Friday, I toggle like mad between various computer programs, web sites and spread sheets, recording data by copying and pasting a gazillion prices, model numbers, serial numbers, addresses, zip codes, phone numbers, shipping costs, taxes, tracking numbers, dates, times, etc., etc., etc.

I log into my phone with special numbers, and have to log out of my phone with special numbers every time I have to leave my desk to go to the bathroom, check the printer, go to lunch or go to a meeting.

Three nights a week, and each Saturday morning, I'm a grocery store cashier. I must remember the PLU numbers for seemingly a bazillion fruits and vegetables, recall dozens of customers' charge account numbers, add up lottery scratch ticket payouts, and smile unceasingly at the customer armed with fists full of coupons of varying amounts (are they doubled or not?) while trying not to sneer at the mother at the next register yelling and threatening her toddler with abandonment if he does not put the candy down and come to her side THIS MINUTE.


Bobby, of course, immediately starts sobbing. Loudly. Wailing, really.

Having my own abandonment issues, and being just a bit of an empath, I immediately feel Bobby's emotional pain, and neglect to notice that my customer with the coupons wanted 10 dollars back from her debit card. Furthermore,  what I thought was a coupon for Enfamil was actually a manufacturer's check, so I have to void the coupon, re-enter it as a check...and oh, would I mind giving her two fives for that $10 bill?  (I hand her the Lincolns). No, wait,  how 'bout a five and five singles?

Arghgh. Grrrrrr. Pfffft.

Numbers! Numbers! Numbers!

Nevertheless, unlike writing (at the moment), working with numbers equals paying the bills. And that is one mathematical "equation" I understand.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


So I just spied this 40 Days of Writing page on Facebook...

The thought being that one is to write something every day for 40 days...and I stared at the page for a long time, reading everyone's comments...realizing that there are many writers out there who have put their craft on a shelf, always meaning to get back to it.

And now, here is our chance.


How long can you go without writing before you are no longer allowed to call yourself a writer?

My friend, Suz, and I agreed the other day that we both were never so alive, so engaged, so prolific with our writing, as when we owned our weekly newspaper, The West Central Valley Voice, several years ago. Her friend, Ed, agreed, saying how our eyes light  up as we reminisce, laugh, and yes, even wipe away a few tears  while rehashing our reporting antics. There is an energy that emanates...

Yeah. I think I was at my best personally and professionally when I was with that crazy newspaper gang-o-mine...

Writing was, is and forever will be my passion (though you wouldn't know it from my lack of writing).

I wrote for more than 40 days straight in 2011, blogging first thing every morning from Jan. 1 through March 4. Now I wake up early and instead of writing, I hop on Facebook to catch the first political news headlines off CNN, NY Times, or the status updates of my favorite left-of-center sites...

Or I stare long and hard at my yoga video that I bought 18 weeks ago and tried but only once. I envision myself mastering yoga, just as I have envisioned writing a novel or selling a short story or a funny column for a magazine.

I also stare out the living room window a lot on nice days  -- it's been a wonderful, mild, Iowa winter -- and envision myself going for daily, long walks and then coming back, sitting down, and writing.

The 40 Days of Writing folks did not plan their challenge to coincide with the 40 days of Lent, but since it does...maybe, instead of giving up something, I will add something to my life. Writing. Again.

Yup.  I'm gonna give it a shot.

Writers Write.  End, er, beginning of story.

And maybe, just for good measure, I will throw in some yoga and walking.

Hey, it could happen...