"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, March 28, 2012

JACKPOT DREAMS

My office co-workers and I have pooled our dollars and are praying we win the gigantic Mega Millions lottery jackpot Friday night.

Maybe it's the unseasonably warm and wonderful Iowa spring weather that turns our minds to the mega million things we'd rather be doing other than working. Or, for some of us, maybe it's the thought of not having to work what seems to be a mega million hours between two, sometimes three, jobs just to make ends meet.

Whatever our individual jackpot dreams, we were all a twitter today as we put our dollars and quarters in the envelope that will soon make its way to the nearest lottery ticket machine.

Granted, I've already had my chance at winning big lottery bucks back in 1987.  OK, so it was actually my husband, John, who got to spin the Iowa lottery wheel on TV. I was merely the frantic, screaming woman in the studio audience, hoping against hope the little bouncing ball would stop at the $2.3 million slot...though we told ourselves we would be thrilled with the "lesser" amounts of $25,000, $10,000 or (yawn) $5,000.

At any rate, John had practiced spinning the tires on an upsidedown bicycle for a week prior to the spin just to get his arm in shape. I had been busy making lists of all the different things we would do with each amount of money.

We invited our closest friends and family members to join us in the Des Moines TV studio where we and the other contestants met that Thursday night in July, I think it was...and I forget how many other wheel spinners there were.

All I really remember is how frenzied we had become over the possibility of walking out of there with a couple of million dollars.

And how we all watched breathlessly as John gave the giant lottery wheel a hardy tug and the ball bounced round and round, in and out of first the $25,000 slot, then the $10,000 slot, grazed the $2.3 million slot and then BAM, settled at last into the $5,000 slot.

Ack.

Yes, as greedy and shallow as it sounds, our hearts actually sank for a minute because we won "only" $5,000.  I mean, seriously?  How could we feel even the least bit disappointed about leaving Des Moines $5,000 richer than when we arrived?  Well, make that like $3,800 richer after taxes or whatever. The point is, it was a nice little windfall.  As I recall, we treated our friends and family members to dinner and drinks, bought some furniture, paid a few bills and got our cat dipped for fleas.

Not quite the spectacular jackpot dreams we had envisioned, though a good time was had by all.

Well, by all except the cat, of course.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

FRIENDS AND FLOWERS

Friends are like flowers, each unique in their own way...

Reminded of that poem today as I uncovered my hostas and several other blooming plants and ground cover in my yard.

My wonderful friend Mary planted the hostas in my front yard when she lived here...my good neighbor, Linda, helped me plant the bleeding heart, gooseneck, and assorted other greenery that my dear pal and co-worker, Angie, so generously gave me several years ago...

It is a special treat each spring, as I rake away the dead leaves and other organic remnants of winter and uncover these living, green gifts from such dear acquaintances.

A little worried that I am uncovering them too early this year. An 80-degree day this early in March in Iowa is so weird...not that I am complaining.  Just wondering if we are still in for a nasty frost or one or two last snow falls.

But the budding plants need to breathe now.

Thinking how each of my friends, near and far, helps me breathe from one life season to another.

Thinking how it is because of our friends that we survive the cold and the dark and the dreary...how we help each other bloom where we are planted despite the hardships and heartbreaks that befall us.

It is a sacred ritual, this clearing the yard of all that is dead, brown and decaying and bringing forth all that is alive, green and growing.

Sacred, too, my thriving bouquet of friendships that has miraculously continued to bloom through life's sunny days and turbulent storms, all these many years of my life.

Friday, March 23, 2012

WHO LET THE WORMS OUT? UH UH OH

by John Kult


If you have read my wife’s blogs, you might assume that she is a little quirky, therefore, it would only make sense that her husband of 30-plus years would be level-headed and mature to help offset that “perkiness” that so endears Ann to others.
Indeed, I am the level-headed one. But for some reason over the last couple of years my leveling compass has become a little skewed. I would like to think that I am becoming colorful. Ann, on the other hand, is calling it senility. So what if I celebrated my 60th birthday by locking my coat sleeve in the post office box at our local post office. The postmaster wasn’t laughing that hard when she had to free me because I buried my own key under a pile of mail. But I digress, which I do a lot lately while telling the same story over and over to the same people, but I digress... oh, said that already...
Okay, so maybe my wife is right about me being a bubble off plum. But the truth is, I am trying to develop interests that will keep me from being bored out of my skull when I finally retire after working fairly steadily since I was 14 years old.

One of my interests is worms, not the parasitical type, but the kind that fish love (and the robins). I have aspired to become a worm farmer motivated by my love for fishing and my inability to capture the little invertebrates. In my youth, flashlight in hand, I would capture thousands of night crawlers popping out in the yard after a spring rain. Now they laugh at me and take my flashlight away.
If you scan the internet you will find thousands of articles and suppliers for the art of worm farming. Red wrigglers were a thriving industry a few years back with some entrepreneur promising thousands of dollars in return for the little boogers that  can pretty well munch their way through any vegetable organic matter and paper products. An acquaintance of mine gave me a small bucket of red wrigglers with egg casings, larva and adult worms. It was true they could munch through anything organic, and you could pretty well forget about them for weeks on end and then throw them some coffee grounds, paper filter and all. Only one problem: I would have to use an electron microscope to thread them on to a hook. I have seen bigger threads come off my shirts than what an adult red wriggler grows to.
Not to be daunted, I found a supplier of various genius and species of worms. After carefully reading the suppliers' online catalog, I settled on Eudrilus eugeniae, the African night crawler. This worm was perfect for my needs, just a little smaller than a Canadian night crawler which grows wild in my yard, but takes my flashlight away from me. But all Canadians like it cold, and I had to keep the few puny ones that I could catch in my refrigerator, right next to the milk and this upset my wife for some reason. The African crawler, on the other hand, liked to live in the warm outdoors.
My 400 African crawlers arrived alive and healthy and immediately started munching away on the table scraps and paper I provided for them. But they weren’t making babies. I then read that they really like it about 77 degrees before they start raising families, so I moved them outdoors into the warm Iowa sun. They really did like the heat. They also liked the fact I moved them outdoors, and they packed their little bags and moved into my lawn thanks to my oversight  and not firmly attaching the lid of the plastic tote they were living in.
Not to be thwarted by a beast with no brain, I went back to my supplier and acquired 400   European night crawlers. Since our country was settled by Europeans, I felt that they would feel more at home, and want to stay in the little tote villa that I provided for them. They arrived safely and happily last night.

I lovingly  introduced them to their new tote home, complete with coffee grounds from the finest gourmet coffee you can buy at a Super Valu and the shredded editions of the local and state newspapers. I couldn’t find the correct lid to snap down tightly atop the tote, so I placed an oversize lid on top and weighted it down with an old shoe. I wasn’t worried about escapees, figuring they were tired from their four-day journey from the supplier  --  and the lid was weighted down --  so I left them in the kitchen, which is much warmer than our basement.
I said a fond goodnight to my new tenants and slept blissfully through the night, awaking refreshed  this morning at 4 a.m., starting my day with my usual habit of grabbing the coffee carafe off the little coffee bar we have in our living room next to the kitchen door. As I walked across the darkened kitchen floor  in my bare feet, I heard this awful squishy noise and felt  something more than just the cold vinyl floor. Squishing my way back to the door and the light switch, I flicked on the light to witness what can only be described as the snake scene from the Indiana Jones movie, “The Search for the Lost Ark”. 

For there on our kitchen floor were 400 European night crawlers doing what worms do when the temperature is right --  mating. Oh, yes, there were mating pairs of worms everywhere... under the throw rugs, in our shoes that we left by the back door next to the kitchen...a few had even made the trek up the kitchen garbage can for an early a.m. snack.
"Ann is going to kill me!" is all I could think about as I fell to my knees and began plucking globs of mating worms off the floor.

In the meantime, Flower, our youngest house cat, decided to join the fray and was pouncing upon the escapees with a blood lust. I would pluck up another glob and throw it back into the tote and they would start inching their way back up the sides. It was throw in a glob, smack the tote on the floor to knock them to the bottom, and snatch another glob.

Flower was going haywire, she had no idea what this alien invasion was. I was diving after worms that were trying to escape under the stove, under the refrigerator, and into the carpeted living room. After 30 minutes of frantic night crawler wrangling, I had the majority of them corralled. I found another tote with a lid that fit (superb idea) and incarcerated the lot.
The easy part was done. Now I had to explain to Ann what had happened. Since I start work at 5 a.m.,  and my wife awakes at 6 a.m., I had an hour to figure out how to break the news. I decided to just go with the plain truth.

Six a.m. arrived and I called her on my cell phone as I usually do to make sure she’s awake.

“Hey, sleepy head! You awake?”

“Thank God it’s Friday!” she  replied. 

“I know, it’s been a long week hasn’t it?”

 “Yes, it has, it has just been weird,” she said.

“Speaking of weird, honey, the darndest thing happened...” 

"Oh, no, John, what did you do?" she asked.  (I imagined her shutting her baby blues tight, preparing for the worst. 

“Well, it’s nothing I did, it’s more what I didn’t do.” 

"Ack. What didn't you do, John?" she countered.

“Well, it’s rather humorous, really. You know I got my new worm order yesterday, and well, the lid didn’t fit quite right and I put a weight on it but a few escaped.”

“How many is a few, John?" she inquired, sounding just a teensy weensy bit annoyed.

“Ahh, well, all 400,  Pumpkin. But I have them all rounded up, uh, at least most of them, Sweetness.” 

“You let 400 worms escape in our kitchen? Seriously?" she inquired once more, understandably incredulous, as was I.

“Well, I didn’t really let them, they kind of busted loose. You might want to shake your shoes out before you put them on.” 

"OH. MY. GAWD."

"I'm sorry, hon, I know, what a mess...I cleaned them up the best I could..."


"Oh, no apology necessary! Are you kidding?" my wife suddenly sang out with delight.  "This is perfect fodder for my blog!  Welcome to Day 31 of the 40 Days of Writing challenge, darling!  I get the night off!"

Thursday, March 22, 2012

BOBCATS AND BUTTERFLY NETS

Sleep deprivation has been known to do more than just make me tired and cranky. Or so my husband insists on reminding me.

We had not been married long when late one night, after a long, stress-filled, sleepless week as the society editor at a small town daily newspaper, I shot up in bed, wildly pointed at the ceiling and screamed, "There's a bobcat in the rafters!  There's a bobcat in the rafters!"

A startled, bewildered John flew out of bed and was staggering about, only to watch me collapse upon my pillow, snoring and slumbering away as if nothing had happened.

John slept with one eye open the rest of the night. I dare say it wasn't a bobcat he feared.

I remembered nothing of the incident.

Another late night a few weeks later -- again, after a long, stessful, sleepless week spent editing society news (oh, those card club ladies could be menacing) -- I jumped up from a deep sleep, took off on a dead run heading straight for our winding staircase. Fortunately, the railing stopped me, I spun around, ran back to the bed, climbed in and went to sleep.

John just watched in disbelief. What else could he do?

The next morning I was shocked to discover a huge bruise on my right hip. "Oh my gosh!  How did I get this bruise?" I asked aloud.  "You mean you don't remember your run in with the railing? John asked.

Nope. No recollection.

Oy.

A year or so later, different apartment, we were sort of camped out with our bed pillows on the living room floor one night in front of the TV. I had to get up early in the morning to finish writing a feature story, so I decided to go to bed. John asked if he could keep my pillow, promising me he would bring it to me in a few minutes after the show we were watching ended.

Sure, why not. So I let him keep my pillow and I sweetly toddled off to bed.

John, of course, figuring I would fall asleep and forget all about my pillow, hunkered back down in front of  the TV.

"Honey, where's my pillow?" he heard me yell from the bedroom about 10 minutes later.

Busted.

John begrudgingly brought my pillow to my bedside where he found me sound asleep and snoring ever so daintily. Figuring I was certainly down for the count this time,  he tiptoed out of the bedroom, my pillow still in hand, and went back to watching TV.

John had barley snuggled back into camp out mode when he heard me callout once again,  sounding a tad annoyed.

"Honey, I need my pillow."

Oh, for crying out loud.  John once more traipsed to the bedroom with my pillow. And once more he arrived at my bedside only to find me sound asleep. Arghghghghgh.  He'd had enough. He tossed the pillow on the bed and went back to watch TV.

About 15 minutes later, he felt someone staring at him from the hall but a few feet away.

He slowly turned his head to look.

Yikes!  There I stood, naked, arms folded across my chest, tapping my right foot, glaring at him.

"I bet you don't even know where the butterfly net is!" I sneered.

"Um, no, but oh, how I wish I did," John replied.

And at that I turned on my heel, careened into the wall, bounced off, and then staggered my way down the rest of the hall toward the bedroom, where John found me peacefully asleep in bed mere seconds later.

I had no recollection of my late-night antics the next morning.

Thankfully, I haven't had a rip-roaring bobcat-and-butterfly-net episode in 30 years. Even so, I couldn't blame John for seeming just a teeny bit anxious recently when it became obvious that trying to fit my 40 Days of Writing around my tiring work schedule was keeping me up late, thus depriving me of some much needed zzzzzz.

Might also explain the small rubber mallet he now keeps with him at all times.

Nite all...

CHOCOLATE THERAPY SOUP

I hit a wall.

Figuritively speaking, that is.

After only catching nine hours of sleep in three nights, in addition to writing late into the wee hours of the morning continuously for going on a month, I had to go to bed, go directly to bed, passing up my 40 Days of Writing entirely last night.

I was past exhausted.  My husband said I looked not unlike a very old houndog, my eyeballs drooping down to my nostrils. (Thank you, darling.)

But he was right. I looked and felt like hell.

Why must it be so difficult to fit in time for writing?  It's what I love. It's what I do best.  All day every day at my day job (hence, the term), I copy and paste numbers. While I appreciate the job and the benefits, and am thankful for them, it is hard to feel passion for what I am doing right now.

Writing is my passion. But I have to squeeze it in between copying and pasting numbers for eight hours a day, five days a week and schlepping groceries (my night job), for three hours a night, three nights a week and every Saturday morning. and damn it, no way around it...I need at least six hours of sleep a night.  Should have eight.

They say, "Do what you love, the money will follow."

I wish.

Was I ranting just now?  Oops. Sorry.

Anyway, about last night...I am disappointed in myself that I did not write. But like I said, I had no choice.

Had to sleep.

I was so overtired, of course, I could not sleep. So I took two Excedrin PM, ate half pint of Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Therapy, and conked out. (Yes. A half pint. I wanted Chunky Monkey, but my husband swore they were out.)

John had put the yummy frozen concoction in the fridge for a moment to soften it a bit. I swallowed two Excedrin PM, grabbed the carton of Chocolate Therapy out of the fridge, ripped off the protective plastic, grabbed a spoon and had at it. Ahhhh.

"I will have to buy you a new carton of Chocolate Therapy," my husband just informed me this morning.

"Oh, did you eat what was left?" I asked, upon waking refreshed and revitalized after almost nine glorious hours of sleep.

"Um, no," he said.

 Apparently, in my fatigue, I put Ben and Jerry right back where I found them, in the fridge, not the freezer. The boys were nothing but Chocolate Therapy soup by this morning.

Oy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

INCREDIBLE JOURNEY



Dear Daniel,

Your father and I have each watched your documentary, The Game, at least 20 times tonight.

We watch. We cry. We hug, We smile. We remember. And then we cry and hug some more.

Words do not come easy...

Suffice to say that your father and I stand in loving and grateful amazement at the incredible emotional journey you have not only made but mastered the past 2 1/2 years since the accident. And that is why we are so proud of the resilient, courageous young man and the talented budding film maker you have grown into.

Only you could put together such a fitting, heartfelt tribute to your best buddy and bro, the ever-loveable Casey Daniel Stork. He was, without a doubt, the ninth man on our 8-man football field the night you scored the winning touchdown against East Greene in those last, fleeting few seconds of the game played in his memory.

Only you could re-tell via video that fantastic Disney moment in CRB football history and make it seem like it was just last Friday night.  It was an unforgettable, gut-wrenching night for the entire Crusader community.

Perhaps Brianna Schwenk said it best in her Facebook status update tonight:

"In the darkest days of our sorrow we were incapable of feeling anything else. But now, we rejoice in the victory. We celebrate our united growth. And we give thanks for young, unapologetic talent and vision. This is the immortal miracle of Casey Daniel Stork.  Great job, Daniel Kult."

(Note: Anyone who watches your documentary and tries to tell you it doesn't give them goosebumps is fibbing.)

Well, I am going to watch The Game at least one more time before  I go to bed. If I can sleep.

We love you more than all the stars in the sky.

Hugs,
Mom and Dad

Monday, March 19, 2012

SMILING BETWEEN THE TEARS

Maybe THIS is why I have always loved dancing...

My dad, John Arthur Heise, was my first dance partner.

And he taught me how to bowl...he was an excellent bowler.

And without knowing it, he instilled in me that special-albeit-odd sense of Heise humor that comes in handy at the strangest times...and I thank God for that.

My dad, bless his heart, died 15 years ago today. He was 76 years old.

Oh, we had our issues. And there was a time span of more than a dozen years during which we rarely talked on the phone and never saw each other. But we were fortunate in that at the end of his journey here on earth, we had the chance to make amends and hug and tell each other how much we loved each other. Not everyone gets that chance.

Sadly, my dad never met Daniel or my sister's children. Blame it on time, distance, difficult family dynamics, health problems. And yet, in his own way, I know he loved them.

It's all about forgiveness...sometimes hard, but not impossible, to find.

Anyway, thinking of you, Dad. And smiling between the tears.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

OF ALL THE THINGS I'VE LOST

...I miss the hearing in my left ear, sleep, my memory, and my girlish figure, all equally.

In fairness to menopause, of course, I cannot blame tinnitus (ringing in the ear and accompanying hearing loss) on my lack of estrogen, although chances are there is a study out there somewhere that does.

There are hearing aids designed especially to help those suffering from tinnitus, but they are soooo expensive.  I've done price comparisons, and per my budget, it appears I may be able to afford an old fashioned ear horn.

My husband blames my tinnitus on all my years of listening to the car radio at blaring decimals that can break sound barriers let alone ear drums. However, he is wrong, as my ENT guy once told me that if that were the case, it would most likely be my right ear (closer to the car radio, duh) than my left ear.

Actually, I can trace the beginning of my tinnitus to a rather loud office Christmas party about four years ago after which the annoying buzzing began and has since increased. I have tried white noise machines,  but the sound of a babbling brook or a steady rain lulling me to sleep only served to make me have to go to the bathroom again (another menopausal delight). Ergo, bye-bye white noise machine.

A fan is great as a tinnitus antidote because it also serves as the occasional hot flash eliminator. However, the fan has to be positioned so close to my head in order to drown out the buzzing (think Bells of St. Mary some nights), that I end up freezing my face off. 

Bottom line, I have had to learn to live with the tinnitus just as I have had to learn to live with the lack of sleep that naturally accompanies THE CHANGE (sounds like one of those horror flicks from back in the day...THE FOG).

Meanwhile, I have taken to reading peoples' lips, and I tend to squint my eyes while doing so, focusing intently on said lips, even if I am but a few feet from them.  (OK, so add eyesight to the list of things I miss at my interesting age. Ack.).

Lip reading usually works like a charm, save for when getting a mani-pedi where the good folks who attach and dremel-tool my perfectly formed fake nails to my fingertips wear surgical masks to avoid breathing in the toxic acrylic fumes, thus hiding their lips and ruining any chance of  me understanding a damn thing they are saying.

For example, their instructive "Hold your fingernails up to the light bulb to dry" I can only translate as "humyrfgrsndrltblbtdri".  Fortunately, having had more than one mani, I basically know what I am supposed to do. 

The real problem these days lies in hearing and understanding what my family and my co-workers are saying to me. And they generally don't wear masks. They are all starting to sound to me like they are talking with marbles in their mouths. I end up doing a lot of nodding and smiling and praying I am not nodding and agreeing to something I shouldn't.

We have, for sometime now, instituted at our house the hard and fast rule of no talking to each other from another room.  I mean, if you are going to talk to me from another room, you might as well be standing in front of me wearing a mask. Humorous aside: even when my husband forgets and tries to talk to me from another room, I automatically squint while he's talking as if that will fine tune my hearing from afar. Crazy.

Yeah, I'm thinking an ear horn may be the way to go.

Hold on.  I'm in the living room, and my husband is talking rather excitedly to me from the kitchen. Pardon me for a moment while I squint.

"Get off the dang laptop, there's still laundry to do before we drive Daniel back to school (see yesterday's blog post for reference) and I'm busy cooking breakfast."

Yikes.

Heard that. Loud and clear. No ear horn required.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

TOP O' THE LAUNDRY PILE TO YA

Oh, Danny Boy! Your dirty clothes, your clothes are calling...

Yes, we drive Daniel back to college tomorrow after a lovely week of  spring break, and there are still two piles of his laundry awaiting someone's, anyone's, attention. I think we may have to draw straws.

My husband, after preparing an exquisite St. Patrick's Day supper -- potato soup, corned beef, cabbage, Irish soda bread (in portions fit for a Teamsters meeting) --  is watching TV; Daniel is off to a movie with friends. I just woke up from an Irish soda bread-induced stupor, having nothing else to do but write, so I suppose I should step up to the plate, as it were, and finish up the laundry.

Or, in the name of submitting a blog post for Day 25 of the 40 Days of Writing Challenge, I could write about needing to finish up Danny Boy's laundry.

Bingo!

Truth is, I'm not much of a laundress. I have probably washed my husband's wallet a gazillion times. And there was that oh-so-memorable time I  somehow washed a box of crayons with a load of his whites...and dried them -- before noticing...

Eeeek.

And who can forget the great ink stain mystery several years back when Daniel was at the wonderful stage of life they call "early teenager". His three favorite NEW t-shirts somehow wound up with strange black ink marks everywhere...

Why, how in heaven's name did that happen?

"Way to go, Mom."

It took awhile, but I got them out.

Extra! Extra!  Read All About It!

Nothing, however, beats the time I started the dryer with what I thought was just a  load of towels inside.

Thump, Thump. Thump, Thump.

Funny, I didn't remember washing a pair of gym shoes or tossing them in the dryer...

Opened the dryer door and MEOW! Out flew our cat, Midget, a skosh frazzled and way fluffier than usual, but otherwise no worse for the spin.

And I fear Daniel may have inherited my less-than-stellar laundry abilities. I recall one of his Facebook statuses a few weeks ago where he confessed he had three loads of laundry going (yay) but he had forgotten to add the detergent (boo).

Hey, like mother, like son.

Good news is, they don't allow cats in the dorms.

Friday, March 16, 2012

I GO BACK

There is nothing quite so magical as the beginning of spring.

It somehow breathes new life into my soul while returning me to old, familiar, and very comforting places in my heart.

Oh, how I go back...

Today my journey down memory's road began when the fresh, warm scent of early morning wafted through my open window and gently nudged me out of a deep sleep. My eyes barely open, I noticed my crisp, white curtain ruffling in the slight breeze, I heard birds singing softly...muffled voices...must  have been kids walking to school...

At once I was, in my mind's eye, transported back to a warm, spring morning at my childhood home -- a yellow/gold brick three-bedroom ranch on Buckeye Crescent in my hometown of Madeira, Ohio. All the windows were open, the drapes slightly flapping in the breeze. I was six years old and I could see my mom in her usual morning routine -- perched on the edge of our old orange chair in our living room, smoking a Salem cigarette and taking swigs from an eight-ounce glass bottle of Coca Cola (OK, so she was no June Cleaver, but she loved me) -- watching The Today Show on our black and white TV.

I wanted to linger there, feel once more the comfort of having my dear and now long-ago departed mother near. But I forced my brain back to real time and pushed myself out of bed. Though a day off from work, I told myself I needed to get going, get things done...

Instead, I decided to treat myself to a walk on a nearby wooded trail.  As I hiked along, my face bathed in sunlight, I was overcome by what I call "that summer feeling." Suddenly I was eight years old and back at the local swim club with my best friend, Valli. School was out, summer stretched far and wide ahead of us, and life was teeming with endless possibilities.

A chatty squirrel snapped me out of my nostalgic trance, and I eventually found my way back to my  porch swing where I sat for some time, rocking, contemplating where I had been and where I might be headed. And I was smiling. It was as if I had just returned from a far-away and enthralling vacation.

Granted, I had been gone only a short while and had not strayed very far.  But for the first time in a long while, my heart was light,  my soul comforted, and life felt full of endless possibilities.

Indeed, there is nothing quite so magical as the beginning of spring.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

MOSTLY MOODLIN'

OK, so I lied. Inadvertently, of course.

A few days ago, I blogged that come the first warm day of spring-like weather I would be out in my yard, throwing my back into spasms as I raked and cleaned and picked up sticks...yada, yada, yada.

So here it is, a day off -- with pay, no less -- the sun is shining,  birds are singing, and guess what?

Not goin' out in the yard.

Nope.

Well, that's sort of a lie, too, because when my friend, Karla,  comes to pick me up to go get our nails done I will have to saunter across the yard to get to the driveway to get into her car.

Oh, life is just too short to spend a day off from work, working.

So I'm not.

In fact, I plan not to wash a dish, dust a shelf, or sweep a floor...

Mostly been moodlin' all morning, just givin' the old noggin a break. Writing every day for three weeks straight requires creativity and imagination. And according to one of my favorite authors, Brenda Ueland, freeing the writer within requires a healthy dose of inefficient, mindless dawdling now and then.

Threw in some chillaxin' for good measure... a little Facebook, a little Pinterest, a little Blogger...shootin' the breeze with my son...

Yes, last fall's leftover leaves and other assorted debris will just have to wait.

Did I say I was going to paint a room?  HA!

The biggest decision I plan to make today is what color to paint my nails.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE

...the more things stay the same.

All evidenced by a decades-old rough draft of an editorial I once wrote and just happened to discover as I was sifting through some old newspaper clips.

I couldn't help but chuckle as I recalled pounding out the think piece on an electric typewriter, then editing it with pencil in hand, applying all those proofreading symbols I had dutifully memorized in journalism school. But that was all that was humorous about what I wrote.

The editorial -- simply titled "Reproductive Rights" -- was written on Jan. 23, 1983, the 10th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. But  it could have just as easily been written on Jan. 23, 2012, the 39th anniversary of the controversial Supreme Court decision.

With all the Republican politicians fanatically ranting against birth control and threatening to shut down Planned Parenthood and curtail access to women's reproductive health services if  they are elected come November, I've decided to reprint my editorial.

Welcome to my submission for Day 22 of  the 40 Days of Writing challenge.

Granted, it's a bit of a switch from my usual lighthearted menopausal meanderings. Just felt compelled to share a little political food for thought from back in the day as women across the country this moment are uniting to battle still those politicians who are not, and will never be, content to let women make their own decisions about their own bodies.


REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS


Just 10 years ago today, the Supreme Court overturned all criminal abortion laws in the United States in the landmark decision Roe v. Wade.


Exactly one week after that ruling, the first Human Life Amendment (HLA) was introduced in Congress. The purpose of the amendment? To overturn the Supreme Court ruling, thereby making abortion and some forms of birth control illegal, and to declare fertilized eggs as persons entitled to full constitutional rights.


The opposing factions -- reproductive rights and anti-abortion groups -- have locked horns ever since.


In 1979, the National Organization For Women (NOW) arranged a summit  meeting of the two groups, hoping to explore areas of consensus. After two meetings, once of which was reported  to have been interrupted by an anti-abortion group, no real consensus was reached.


Today, with the 10th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision at hand, one group continues to celebrate  the ruling, while the other mourns and protests.


There's no telling how this controversy will be settled, or if it will be settled. Nevertheless, reproductive rights advocates take the threat of an HLA seriously.


Never mind that more than 90 percent  have used some type of reproductive healthcare or technology. Never mind that one-third of those seeking legal abortions are 19 or younger, indicating a need for more accessible contraception. And never mind that since the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, public opinion polls have continuously shown widespread support for women's reproductive rights.


Face it, there are still men and women out there who want to turn back the clock to the "good old days" when abortions were unsafe and illegal, and birth control was even less accessible.


It should come as no surprise, really. Women have struggled  throughout history to gain control over their reproductive lives, fighting for centuries against governmental, religious and societal controls.



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

KEEP CALM AND WRITE ON

Delving  into the second half of the 40 Days of Writing challenge.

Exhausted. But not giving up.

I am a bit behind as I spent tonight, after getting off work from my second job, helping my husband write a letter of recommendation for a mutual young friend of ours about to embark upon the next chapter of what she hopes will become a full-fledged teaching career.

I've also been busy the last few weeks writing other letters of recommendations, editing scholarship applications, and polishing family and business sagas for a commemorative community history book.

It is as if, since committing to writing every day for 40 days, a dozen other writing/editing opportunities have come my way out of the blue. And it feels great rising to each occasion.

So awesome finding my writing mojo again...and it apparently takes a village to keep that magic energy flowing...

My blog posts automatically appear on my Facebook page, via Networked Blogs, where I get lots of wonderful and much-appreciated feedback and encouragement. I also post my writing on the 40 Days of Writing Facebook page, where I have met and read the works of so many talented, interesting, fun writers from across the country. It's been awesome exchanging comments and encouragement with them, too.

Of course, we are all squeezing in our writing between jobs, families and other daily obligations and responsibilities. So many nights, so tired and knowing I have to get up at the crack of dawn to get ready for my requisite day job, I have come so close to just saying, in an exhausted panic, "The hell with it!  I must skip a day!  I can't do this! I have nothing to say!"

But somehow, in the 11th -- or 12th or 13th --  hour, I dig deep, my muse reappears, and though I may be a little late posting each day, I post SOMETHING. Better late than never, as they say.

The real secret to overcoming writer's angst and preventing 40 Days of Writer's Block? Why, my new mantra, of course.

Just five simple words adorning a necklace I recently received from Amy, my longtime friend and former newspaper cohort from back in the day:

SO BRING IT, DAY 22!

Monday, March 12, 2012

SUNSHINE ON MY (ACHING) SHOULDERS

With 70-degree temps predicted later this week, I'll be grabbing my gardening gloves and a sturdy rake as I begin my annual Overzealous Kult Spring Yard Spruce-Up Extravaganza.

Yes, after being somewhat sloth-like this winter (and it wasn't even a typical frozen-tundra-ish Iowa winter) I will insist on overdoing it as the first fresh breath of spring breezes through our little rural town.

It's inevitable.

I will throw myself into cleaning up the yard, and in doing so, throw out my back.

I will continue to hobble about, grimacing with pain, while washing windows, sweeping the porch, dusting off the porch swing and painting at least one room of the house with what little bodily movement I can still muster. Eventually I will collapse in a crumpled heap by the front door. That is where I have the best chance of someone finding me and dragging me to the couch where I will spend the next few days attached to my heating pad and eating Aleve.

That's just how I roll the first warm days of spring.

And so, in a break from my usual prose, I offer you a little poetry in celebration and wild anticipation of feeling those first rays of sunshine on my soon-to-be-aching shoulders:


A Sloth's Lament

Spring! It's Spring!
So I cleaned up the yard!
Spent an hour rakin' leaves!
Man, I worked real hard.

I swept off the porch
And I picked up some sticks...
Haven't had that much energy
Since the age of six!

Thought I'd wash the car!
Paint the kitchen after dinner!
With all that movin'
Bound to be a size thinner...

Then I took a quick break,
Sat my rear on the swing.
Tried to stand moments later,
Couldn't move a darn thing!

M'legs and arms were stiff,
My back was even stiffer;
Had to pull myself up
By leanin' on my Swiffer...

To make matters worse,
In my butt I got a splinter;
Gol dang, I'm outta shape!
'Twas a long, lazy winter!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

PASSION OVER PRACTICALITY

Housework.

Blech.

It's maddening because it never stays done.

One's sense of accomplishment after an entire day spent cleaning is fleeting. A couple dirty dishes left on a cleared kitchen counter or a rogue piece of popcorn left to litter a pristine kitchen floor, and BOOM!

All one's hard work is negated. In mere seconds.

Oy!  The cruel impermanence of it all! No wonder June Cleaver was 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, knowing full well she'll have to be back at it again and again and again, is most likely sneakin' a nip of somethin' at some point during her day. 

I'm thinking what June needed in her life -- especially after The Beave and Wally were both older -- was something more creative, more challenging than housework. Something like, say, 40 Days of Writing. Or maybe she needed a blog.

I only suggest this because 40 Days of Writing -- and hence, 40 days of blogging --  is certainly giving 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.

Writing/blogging, of course, is somewhat time consuming, so for the past 19 days, housework has taken a major backseat seat to my blog.

Oh, who am I kidding? Anyone who knows me knows I've never put my total heart and soul into keeping a spotless house.  In fact, I've always adhered to what some might call a juicy rationalization (I  call it a soul-satisfying philosophy) that a clean house is a sign of a boring life.

Ergo, I maintain that 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 usually does the trick.

Leaves more time for blogging these days, anyway.

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 -- and 40 Days of Writing --  go I.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

SPRING AHEAD? SERIOUSLY?

No matter how many fun, colorful clocks I see reminding me to "spring ahead" before I go to bed tonight, rest assured I will never be the least bit joyful about my initial return to Daylight Savings Time (DST).

What menopausal woman worth her weight in missing estrogen enjoys losing an hour of precious sleep? As if we aren't groggy enough already.

So, although I will comply and set my clocks ahead the requisite 60 minutes before retiring, I dare say I won't spring into it. I may meander, I may slog, I may even trudge ahead. But you won't catch me springing. Not at this point in my life.

Springing implies pleasure or giddiness.  I am feeling neither at the prospect of knowing that as I write at 10:04 p.m., it is really, for all intents and purposes, 11:04 p.m.

( I do love falling back an hour in the fall, however, celebrating and savoring every second of that additional hour even though that time change makes me groggy, too.)

It will take my mind and body a good two weeks to adjust to this chronological castigation, and at least that long to reset and synchronize my various time keeping devices. Except for my car clock, which I leave as is all year round because I cannot for the life of me figure out how to change it. And it's two minutes fast, to boot.  Some mornings, the mental arithmetic it takes to remember which DST cycle we are in, and what the actual time is, is exhausting.

Which leads me to my biggest complaint about DST:  Its main purpose may be to save energy, but Lord knows it always zaps mine.

Friday, March 09, 2012

EMPTY NEST SCHMEST

So my son comes home from college for spring break tomorrow. And then, less than two months from now, he'll be home for the summer, having completed his freshman year at the University of Iowa.

Wow.  His first year of college has gone by so fast.

And they said I'd never survive the dreaded Empty Nest.

HA!  Showed them.

Pardon me just a moment as I pour my tears out of his baby shoes (sob, sob)... now, where was I?

Oh, yes...surviving The Empty Nest...

Nah!  I'm just kiddin' about the sobbing.  Well, let me clarify that. I don't sob anymore, and I haven't for some time...but I did shed many a tear daily for the first two weeks after we moved Daniel into his dorm.

The fact that I barely had time to say goodbye to Daniel because my husband threw me on a speeding campus bus, whisking me out of my son's new collegiate life and back to our home three hours away, did not help me in my transitional journey. Though, truth be told, I am sure it helped Daniel with his.

I mean, let's face it. No college freshman wants his weeping, overprotective mother hanging around too long after he's unpacked and ready to embark upon the best, most fun years of his life (sniff, sniff).

Come to think of it, dropping Daniel off at college was not all that different than dropping him off at his first high school Homecoming dance back in '07.

I remember he looked so handsome, all dressed up, a boutonniere adorning his lapel...

It wasn't until we pulled into his date's driveway, however, and Daniel escorted her to the car and opened the door for her that I felt my eyes begin to well with tears. 

I kept my composure until Daniel and his lovely date -- both looking so grown up -- started walking toward the school door, fairly well beyond earshot...at least half a foot...and then the dam broke.

"Oh, my God, my baby!" I sobbed.

My husband put the pedal to the metal, whisking me away from my son's first dance back to our home a couple blocks away.

And I wondered why Daniel never wanted me to take prom pictures...

Thursday, March 08, 2012

POLYORBITOL PUFFINESS, ANYONE?

Sleep dep.  Johnny Depp.  A little dab'll do ya.

Yep.

I'm frazzled. I cannot write another sentence. Not one that makes any sense, anyway.

Sixteen days of non-stop work/eat/work/write/nap/work/eat/work/write/nap has apparently taken its toll.

It is Day 16 of  the 40 Days of Writing challenge, right?

Yawn.

Whatever day it is, I am officially declaring myself an exhausted, blathering idiot, awhirl in the throes of acute memory malaise and polyorbitol puffiness (bags under the eyes). 

Other tell-tale signs that I have deprived myself of sufficient shut-eye in my quest to write every day for roughly six weeks straight?

Can't think. Can't type. A hair dizzy. A tish cranky. And I'm starting to see Care Bears.

Not to worry, though. 

I'm, good! I'm good!

However, if suddenly I begin belting out random show tunes, say, songs from The Sound of Music or The Music Man?  Call the damn doctor. Fast.  For that, my friends, is a bright, red flag signaling that, indeed, I have gone over the top. Or bottomed out. 

Bottom line?  

I need sleep.

But I need writing more.  It makes me happy.

Time and time again I have ignored my passion for the written word, neglected my muse in the name of earning a blessed buck or keeping a clean house (or watching NCIS marathons on the USA channel), and time and time again my soul has suffered.

When will I ever learn?  Writing is one of my life-long favorite things. And sure as shootin', the minute I start writing again, there is a noticeable new spring in my step and a gleam in my eye, and I see my entire life in a better, more positive light...

Ergo, when the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad, I simply remember my fa-vor-ite things, and then I don't feeeeeel so bad...

Uh-oh. 

Trouble. Trouble. Trouble. Trouble.

Trouble with a capital "T" and that rhymes with "P" and that stands for pooped.

Nite.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

STILL SEXY AND SHE KNOWS IT

Blech.

HER birthday is in two days.

Yes, Friday, March 9, is the official birthday of everyone's favorite fashion doll. Well, almost everyone's favorite...

Let's give it up for my nemesis, Barbie!  She'll be 53.

Two years younger than me. 

Ack.

I have never liked Barbie.

My late mother, God rest her soul, must not have liked Barbie either cuz she never bought me one. Not one.

Oh, I had a Little Miss Revlon doll -- a hand-me-down from my older sis. And a Babette doll -- the cheap dime store store version of Barbie. 

Oy.

And I had a Tressy and a Francie -- all Barbie wannabes.

But no Barbie. Until I was 30, when my good friend Linda surprised me with my first Barbie.

Too late.

I stuck her in the attic, where my son discovered her when he was four.

There sat Barbie, donned in a tight-fitting sparkling red party dress and matching red plastic high heels. She was a bit dusty, perhaps, but really no worse for the wear. Still sexy and she knew it.

"Mommy, her eyes are blue like water!"

Yeah, yeah. Whatev.
da boys

Did you know that Barbie's full name is Barbra Millicent Roberts?  Millicent?  Really? Probably votes Republican.  Maybe someone will introduce her to the newest action figures on the block: Republican presidential candidates Rick, Mitt and Newt. 


Ricky is really rockin' that sweater vest.  Mittens looks his usual rich/plastic self. And Newt, dear Newt...love the disheveled womanizer/crooked tie ensemb.


Personally, I'd go for the Barack Obama Seal Team 6 action figure. Talk about swagger. 

A little known Barbie fact: Throughout her perfect Dream House life, Barbie has had more than 40 pets, including cats, dogs, horses, a panda, a lion cub, a zebra. And Ken.

Ba-da-bump.

The always-perky fashion queen has also driven a wide range of vehicles, including pink Corvette convertibles, trailers and jeeps. She holds a pilot's license and operates commercial airliners in addition to serving as a flight attendant. I'm thinkin' she's also been an astronaut and a doctor.

How DOES she do it? Especially at her, ahem, advancing age?

Time for 5-Hour Energy Barbie, perhaps?