Screw the Frog Prince

I had a nice mini-discussion with a friend yesterday about the single life. About the joys and aggravations of life with a partner. And about how long we had each been without it.

I’m not sure if it is a good thing or a bad thing that i no longer miss it. Does it mean that i have finally gotten totally comfortable with myself? Or does it mean that i’ve given up? Is there really a difference between the two? And all that stuff about, “When you stop looking is when your Prince (Or Princess) Charming appears”…… Well, if that isn’t total bullshit, i’ll eat my new (felted wool witches’) hat.

I mean, just think about the (il)logic of it. If you really believed that when you stop looking is when you find it, you would always be waiting for it in the back of your head when you “stop looking”, which means you really are still looking, which means you’ll never find it. And if you truly did stop looking, how would you know when it appeared?

I know. I give myself a headache sometimes.

On the flip side, there is the old saying that you have to kiss a bunch of toads before you find your prince. That at least makes sense statistically. Unfortunately, the world is full of toads. Some of them in princes’ clothing. And true princes are a rare find. You could kiss every frog in your local pond and be lucky to find a baron, never mind a prince. And you would probably end up with warts afterwards.

I stopped actively looking. No websites. No trawling. No more wishing my friends would set me up. My work and my weedlings keep me too busy to go out much anyway. So i stay at home on Saturday nights and pine after the ones who interest me while i eat pistachio ice cream in my pajamas.

I do enjoy going out with my friends. It is far better than dating because there are no hopes or expectations. They already know you and like you. Well, they like you enough to be seen in public with you anyway. They know you aren’t going home with them. And you know they aren’t going to ghost you tomorrow. You can laugh and eat and drink and make merry without discovering their political views disgust you. Or worse, you start to think they are a prince, but discover they think you are a toad.

No one wants to feel like someone else’s toad.

I’ll stick with my buddies, thanks. I’m all good.

It’s a joy to go to one of those paint and drink things with my sistas. I don’t have to explain my obsession with Harry Potter or Firefly, and they don’t laugh when i quote Star Trek. If i don’t wear makeup, and my wrinkles are on full display for their viewing (dis)pleasure, they still like me. Hell, they even still like me if i forget to bring wine! (Now that’s REAL love right there!) What more can a woman ask for?

Also, when you’re out with friends, you can eat garlic. Very important perk. All the best dishes have garlic. You also don’t have to give up stinky cheeses or spices. Big benefit! You don’t want to feel obligated to forgo yummy food because you’re worried that your date might kiss you, and you don’t want your breath to make his nose hairs catch fire. (In my experience, dates don’t like it when you burn their nose hairs.) I mean, yes, he’s a potential partner, but is he really worth giving up garlic linguine with gorgonzola sauce?

I think not.

And lets not devalue the Friday after-work decompression at a local restaurant. You can blow off steam, let go of the week, and enjoy the company of people who know exactly what you’ve gone thru for the last 5 days. You don’t have to explain every little annoying detail of unending meetings, broken interfaces, and phone calls with the daft. They don’t look at you strangely when you joke about the roach that has been belly up in the stairwell all week. You can say “The schmuckatelli drives me nuts” without having to name names. You all get it. You’ve all been there. And, not for nothing, there are nachos, and sliders, and fried calamari. All without panicking because you didn’t shave that morning. It’s a godsend.

So as i sit here, no makeup, eating chili with garlic AND beans, about to watch my favorite movie for the zillionth time (And i will quote along with it), and with full knowledge that when i go to bed tonight, no one will steal my covers… I have to say, tho there are things i miss about being half of a couple, it isn’t the worst thing in the world to be alone. There is a bright side. Lots of bennies. And no more toads. I am ok with that. Truly, i’m good. Even when i’m pining….

A Dress Fit For A Warrior Princess

It has taken me a week to write this story. Since there was no way to change the names to protect the innocent (Ok, we weren’t really innocent), i had to wait for my embarrassment to subside before i could do it.

Both of my daughters are getting married in the coming year. Tho my oldest is eloping out of the country, it seems she was worried that she was depriving me of some momma-daughter time spent wedding planning by doing so. I am totally ok with her decision, as i feel their plans are perfectly suited to them as a couple. But i love spending time with her, so we decided to spend a day doing the frou-frou wedding dress thing. She makes an appointment at one of the local bridal shoppes, and we head there after enjoying a nice late lunch together.

While my daughter is filling out the requisite profile – You know, so they can keep reminding her of how important it is to spend lots of money – I start perusing the gowns. Racks upon racks of gowns. I am not terribly hopeful, tho, because my daughter is more Princess Fiona than she is Snow White – fabulously bold and lovingly Dreamworks real- and all the gowns were definitely Disney.

I get chastised for going off on my own. Apparently there is a system to bridal gown shopping, and i am subverting it. So i am pulled back into ranks, and we are given instructions on what we are supposed to be doing… Finding something that suits her style. Which, of course, was exactly what i had  been doing, but i didn’t wait for Simon Says.

Shame on me.

Most of the gowns were frothy, spun-sugar confections with tulle and satin and beads. Lacy sweetheart necklines, sumptuous satin trains, and full-on crinolines. The stuff that so many little girls’ dreams are made of. My oldest weedling, however, had never been one of those. She is a glorious mix of Frida Kahlo, Tank Girl, and Jessica Rabbit. She needs, deserves, something a bit more unique. Something with sexy flair. Something with an edge. None of these gowns really has that, but just to get a feel for it all, she picks some out, and we start with the trying-on. I go into the dressing room with her to help with the buttons and bows.

The first gown is a sleeveless fit-and-flare in a beautiful shade of champagne. Not exactly her style, but a good generic place to start. On the rack, it looked graceful and somewhat understated. On my daughter’s  killer figure, the skirt spread like she was about to go square dancing. Like maybe she should be poised in a bathroom with a roll of toilet tissue holding the skirt out. Not at all the look we were going for. All that was missing was the scent of lysol-and-geranium.


She tries on a slinkier gown. Kind of a 40’s starlet kind of thing. It mostly fits, the bias cut accentuating her badass curves. But it isn’t old-fashioned enough to really look retro, nor is it modern enough to look edgy. And it is white. Blindingly white. It-will-be-stained-before-he-ever-sees-it white. With her beautiful Italian coloring, the white is just too much. And of course, it didn’t come in any other color.

Probably not.

The third gown was the exact opposite of everything she had set out in her guidelines. Miles of white tulle. Strapless bodice with a lace overlay and off the shoulder sleeves. Dotted with tasteful beading and sequins. And a train. A luxuriant, swooshing train. It was the stuff of fairytale and fantasy. And she loved it.

She was stunning.

Oh my, yes.

I didn’t cry, tho i came close. As did she. And then we looked at the price tag. Holy hell. If it wasn’t the most expensive gown in the place, it had to be close. But what the hell, this was our first round of looking, so she tries on the matching veil and headband. And then a jeweled waist sash. At that point, the only thing missing was ostrich feather, but i’m sure we could have found that on a clutch purse. It was the total princess package, and the saleswoman could tell we had bitten the baited hook. So she tells us that she can put in an order, just in case, because it would be terrible if we decided she needed this dress and then it was discontinued before next year.

At this point, we notice the shoppe is starting to close up. All that remains are us and a younger bridal group on the other side of the wedding runway. So we go in to remove the dress. And that is when it all descended into crazytown.

My daughter and her fiance are planning on eloping in Ireland in the off-season, at a place with lavish outdoor gardens near Galway Bay. They aren’t bringing a bridal party, so the dress, which is as much as the rest of their destination wedding budget combined,   is just for them.  And tho i am no wedding expert, i’m thinking that irish moss stains will be a bitch to get out of that beautiful train. So i decide i might need to tell her that she should keep this dress on her radar, but maybe not close the deal today, in case she gets caught up in it all (Which she had already done once before and had to go through the hassle of requesting a deposit refund.)

Unfortunately, my brain wiring hasn’t aged well. Sometimes when i am emotional, the words in my head don’t come out of my mouth in the right order. So tho i opened my mouth with the intention of saying, “We don’t have to decide today,” what came out of my mouth was gibberish. Real words, but in the wrong combination. My daughter asks me if i’m having a stroke, but she doesn’t seem worried because she can tell i knew the moment i heard the words come out that i had missed the mark. And i start to laugh.

Because of the yummy Greek lunch we had prior to arriving, the laughing makes me break wind. And because a small part of me is still a child, that makes me laugh harder. Which makes me toot again. Which makes me laugh even more.  And so on and so on. Within 60 seconds, my oldest weedling and i are laughing so hard we are literally crying, and the highfalutin dressing chamber may never be the same. We bust out of the room wet-faced, barking, and holding our bellies.  The saleswoman immediately grabs a box of tissues. My daughter tells her that we are ok, but the woman offers the box again in our general direction, saying, “You really look like you need these.” She then asks if we are alright and admits that she can’t tell if we are laughing or crying. Between breathless rib cramps, we explain that it is both, but that we are fine. She nods her head and makes towards the dressing room to grab the dresses.


We both yell it, and i run in to gather the dresses and bring them out, pleased to find that the little room doesn’t stink too badly, and the paint hasn’t peeled from the walls.

The barbie girls across the room seem pretty certain that we are certifiable.

Minutes later we are outside and still coming back down from the humor high. Even now, i am giggling as i remember it. Man, i love spending time with the woman who is my oldest! It is never, ever boring!

I honestly don’t know what my daughter will end up wearing to her wedding.  She will be beautiful even if she shows up barefoot in jeans and a t-shirt. But getting to spend that time with her: Talking about the magic moments in life, watching her transform into a princess, feeling my heart swell when i see her regal beauty all decked out, and sharing the kind of laugh that bashes the hell out of every other thought in your head… That alone was worth the trip.


Ruminating on Luminating

I decided a couple of days ago that it was time to buckle down hard on the self-care. Ok, truth be told, i’ve been telling myself that for months, but i haven’t been good about doing it. As a result, i am exhausted. Flat out burnt. I haven’t any energy to do anything good, but i can’t seem to sleep through the night either. And it’s my own fault. I haven’t spent enough time outdoors. I haven’t been exercising. I’ve been spending far too much time in front of the laptop. And i’ve not been making time for much fun. I’ve made small efforts here and there, but not consistently. It has been like a very badly played game of hopscotch.

The day i had finally had enough, i decided that, to help myself sleep better, i would try to stretch and meditate. And of course, that was a dismal failure. I don’t meditate well when my brain is fresh, so it is never going to work when my brain is a piece of gluten-free, whole grain bread that’s been left unbagged on the counter for months.

That night, as i lay in bed trying to decide if the noise in my head is the frogs and crickets outside my window or just terrible tinnitus, i promised myself that i would so something spiritual this weekend.

Fast forward to this morning, when i woke from a night of tossing and turning, showered, dressed and headed to  the Friends meeting across town. I hadn’t been in a couple years, so i was a little nervous. But the Quaker gathering is the one type of church where i never feel misplaced. In general, it is a very accepting group, dedicated to simplicity and service to fellow man. In fact, i doubt i was the only one there who wasn’t, strictly speaking, Christian. But we all share the common bond of knowing that the particulars aren’t important. The meeting in Chattanooga is unprogrammed, which means that there is no preacher. This isn’t a place where you go to confess, or recite, or be granted forgiveness. This is a place where the Light of each of us as individuals binds together and becomes exponentially stronger. Spiritually ennervating. Meditative. We wait in silence until someone feels moved to speak. Sometimes no one speaks and we all just take in the Peace – The Light that we seek.

The first half of today’s meeting was spent in silence. I closed my eyes and wished my thoughts away. My thoughts, however, had other ideas…

I can’t seem to settle down. I need to relax. Let me do that yoga thing… I tighten and release one muscle group at a time, starting with my toes. I made it all the way to my head and then took in one of those “Deep, cleansing breaths” that is supposed to maintain the stillness. Yah……. Nope.

They’ve changed the light fixtures since i was here last. I think they’ve painted in here too. C’mon Hol, you’re supposed to be quiet. But all the little noises are distracting. I can hear the children upstairs. And the birds outside. Someone is starting coffee. Wait. Did someone just fart? Oh God, that must be so embarrassing. Oh no. Was it me? Did i just fart during a freaking prayer meeting??? I mean, i don’t think it was me. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me.It’s so hard not to giggle. C’mon Hol,what are you? 5?  Everyone else is ignoring it, so just move on. Holy hell! There is a wasp in the room! Weird, tho… It doesn’t seem to be interested in bothering anyone. Maybe he knows Friends are pacifists. Doesn’t mean someone won’t squash him, tho. That coffee smells good. Man, i really suck at this meditation thing. I feel like that lemur in that meme where he is sitting there saying, “C’mon inner peace…. I don’t have all day!” I need to restart.

I start that thing where you count your breath as it goes in and out. That lasted for maybe 5 breaths.

Dideedideedideedoooooooo… My brain is a big lump of jelllllloooooooo…. Maybe today wasn’t the best day for me to come. I can’t seem to get into my Spiritual Space. Probably because it has grown a hard shell from disuse. Well, i supposed i have used it, but only superficially. I wonder if that counts? Or does the Universe even keep count? Oh! Sounds like someone is standing….

One of the members begins to speak about how awesome it is that we can meet like this and combine our collective light.  Then another member speaks nostalgically about the history of the church for a couple minutes. Then comes the period when we can all offer up people who need to be held in the Light. Then it is over.

I stuck around long enough to reintroduce myself to a couple people i remembered, and to make new acquaintance with ones i didn’t know. Then i had to head out. I did feel a bit better. Just a bit more energetic. Enough that i actually went outside and did a little gardening after my Sunday chores and a meeting for work. Now i am out on the porch writing this. Maybe it’s not a landmark day, but it’s an improvement. Especially if i am able to get in a little exercise tonight.

Lots of us are in this same spot lately. We are doing a lot, but not the kinds of things that are good for us. We are trudging on with the dailies, while time passes us by and leaves us in the dust. We need to keep reminding ourselves:

If i am busy, i want it to be with fulfilling things, not trivialities.

If i am heavy, i want it to be from good food, not junk food.

If i have wrinkles, i want them to be from laughing, not frowning.

If i have aches and pains, i want them to be from doing things i love, not from allowing myself to get stiff and rusty. 

If i must advance in age, i at least don’t have to get “old”.

And if i die tomorrow, i want to leave behind a life of Love, Light, and Laughter.

Here’s to remembering that daily.




She Looked So Cute With Her Foot In Her Mouth

Last weekend i had an interesting encounter with two women just a tad bit older than me.

I was at the fabric store looking through the pattern books for a specific design. Now, if you have never looked thru a pattern catalogue, or haven’t looked in one recently, pretty much every company now has a few designers dedicated to the more “modern” creative. They have patterns for retro looks, funky punk looks, and even cos-play. The models for these patterns are selected as people who would likely be wanting them. (Makes sense, you don’t want a size 6 modeling a plus-sized pattern, so why would you have a supermodel aesthete modeling a 50s pin-up or Superhero look?) It is actually a very cool thing, in my opinion, because these new pattern makers are bringing a new generation and breed to the sewing circle.


Sitting across from me at the pattern table were two women. I vaguely recognized one of them as working at the same hospital i do. Both women have maybe 5 years on me. Both were dressed like more typical 50-60 somethings. Pedal pushers, sensible shoes, and shoulder-length hair dyed the color it was in their 30s. I was wearing a linen dress that i had designed and made myself, metallic sandals, and some kickass holographic lipgloss that i was told complimented the white in my hair. The table is the width of 2 school desks, so tho i was not intentionally listening to my tablemates’ conversation, i could hear every word.

“Would you look at that?” One points to a picture in the pattern book of a raven-haired, crimson-lipped woman dressed in a jumpsuit with a Rosie the Riveter vibe.  “What is she gonna look like when she is our age? She is going to look ridiculous. Like an old peeling billboard. Why would she think that is attractive? She looks trashy!” … As she points to the (beautifully done) tattoos on the arm that is poised in a power move.

I didn’t mean to laugh out loud. It just happened.

They look up at me and turn the pattern book so i can see what they are talking about.

I reach out to hold the page up, showing off my wrist tattoo.

They went parchment white.

“Bbbbuuut, yours is pretty. And it is small. I mean, hers covers her whole arm. She’d never get a professional job.”

I reach out with my other arm, the one with the rat, Algernon, on it, and lift the book to look closer.

I don’t want to make them feel badly, because i am an adult and i don’t pick unnecessary fights. But i also don’t want to let them off the hook because, well, because i’m me and i often do things before i think them thru.

“It’s ok. I know they aren’t for everyone. But i actually have a few others, some very large, and i do have a professional job. In fact, i work for the same hospital you do.”

I didn’t think it was possible, but they got whiter.

“I am sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you. I just don’t understand the whole tattoo / piercing / giant hole in the ears thing. I didn’t mean that you were… ” She drifts off here, i think because she wasn’t sure what, exactly, she had been trying to imply.

“It’s ok. Really. I understand that many people don’t get the appeal, ” And then i showed her the one that i got to cover a giant spider vein on my leg.

“Oh! That is pretty! I have a bad vein too, and i had been thinking about getting a treatment on it, but it is so expensive! I never thought to cover it that way!” And we start to talk about how all hospital workers end up with spider and varicose veins, and how much it sucks to be on your feet all day, and how so many don’t realize exactly how hard our jobs are, and on and on. A right proper hospital-sisters bitch session. Before you know it, they are asking my opinion on a dress pattern they are looking for that would be suitable for the older of the two to be married in (No… We were quickly approaching lunchtime, so there weren’t enough hours for me to discuss my thoughts on marriage. Or my many failures in them.) I tried to convince them that the Delores Umbridge look wasn’t celebratory enough for a wedding (Not in those words, because i’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have had a clue what they meant), but they didn’t care for any of the patterns i liked because they had this aversion to their Hi-Helens (Or bat wings, if you prefer) flying free in all their glorious, aged splendor. To each their own, i guess.

By the time we went our separate ways, we were laughing.

I am certain i didn’t change their minds on body ink. Nor did they change my mind on the appropriate dress for a woman our age. But maybe they learned that their viewpoint isn’t a given with women our age. Or maybe they learned that inked people aren’t what they expected. Or maybe they just learned to look before they speak. For my part, i got to practice how to confront behavior without being harsh, and how to handle differing opinions with tact (Confrontation in general isn’t my strong suit.) (Neither is tact.)  I learned that i don’t always have to suck it up. And maybe i even made a work connection with someone very different who shares the same love of designing.

In any of those cases, it beats not saying anything and allowing myself to feel stomped. It beats getting angry and causing others to feel attacked or shamed. I’m pretty proud of us and how we handled it. And since practice makes perfect, maybe someday i will grow to be that resolved and tactful all the time.

But i wouldn’t hold my breath if i were you. I’m still me.

Civil Anger Management

So my oldest just moved into a new apartment. The apartment is around the corner from a beautiful new mosque. As a result, there are a large number of Muslims living in the complex. There are also a lot of ducks living at the complex, but i am pretty sure that is unrelated.

Anyway, i went to see her new apartment today. I had brought raspberry muffins that i had made, my daughter made eggs, and her fiance made coffee. We had brunch before we changed into swim clothes and headed for the complex pool. She had mentioned to me that there were usually a handful of women in burkinis there, so i was a little disappointed to see only one. I mean, i had never seen a burkini in real life before, and i was curious as to the practicality of it.

I will also add that my daughter has just been waiting for someone to mouth off to a woman in a burkini so that she could give them the what-for. I think she is almost disappointed that, so far, everyone seems to be getting along fine. Which is pretty cool considering the ones not covered head to toe pretty much are only 2 steps above naked. Today, my weedling was wearing a moderately sexy one piece, and i was wearing boys’ swim trunks and a bikini top. There were other women there in a variety of usual western swimwear (Including one woman wearing a black tank that read “Slay” in gold letters), many of us with tattoos, etc. A big contrast from the Muslim swimwear. In spite of this, there were no issues to be found, which according to my daughter is the norm, even when the mix is more balanced.  No one degrading anyone else.

Well, except for some under-the-breath cussing at the pre-teens who kept jumping in the water next to people who obviously didn’t want to be splashed. But that is likely more a unifying thing amongst the adults than a source of ignition.

It made me feel good to know that not only are there very few issues between the groups in daily life, but also that my daughter was willing and ready to come to the defense of someone so different from herself. Her sisterhood solidarity quotient is incredibly high.

It was the second time in a week that i had been impressed by a behavior like that.

I have a former science teacher (now a friend) who is very much a liberal-minded man and has a lot of issues with the current political administration. A few days ago, he was out to eat with his family at a favorite local place, when he finds himself in close quarters with the Speaker of the House and his family, also enjoying the good food.

Mind you, my teacher-friend is not alone in his views. I come from a very politically liberal area. It is not unfounded to believe that other than the Ryan family, it is likely that nearly everyone else in the restaurant would be Democrat.

And yet, instead of raising Cain, tearing into the politician, disrupting and potentially scaring the wife and children, giving himself heartburn from churning up bile so soon after a meal, or otherwise causing a ruckus; my friend and the community remained polite and allowed the family to eat in peace. My hometown largely disagrees with the Speaker, so i wouldn’t be surprised if he was handed some napkin notes on his way out, but that is unobtrusive compared to some of the behavior that has been given to our government officials as of late. I am proud of my community that they chose to wait for another time and place before letting loose with venom.

There has been instigation on both sides of the political aisle to create disturbance at every corner. Tho i understand the urgency, i feel it takes away from the cause itself. It creates new arguments on decency and common courtesy, instead of focusing all the energy on the initial issue. If enough people contact their representatives within the contexts of emails, meetings, petitions, and respectful statements, the representatives will either listen or be voted out of office. But if we yell and scream at him while he is feeding his child an ice cream cone, we look like the bad guy and our message gets lost.

We are all angry at the current state of affairs. I’ve yet to talk to a single person who is totally satisfied with our government. But being a hothead about it is like yelling at a teenager – All it does is make the teenager yell back. The problem itself never gets solved.

But if we are able to stand in our bikinis and defend the rights of those in burkinis, firmly but civilly, things will be forced to change. If we can come face to face with someone who is our political opposite, and instead of chewing them a new one right then, say, “Enjoy dinner with your family! And i would love a word with you at another time.” If we can show respect – or at least civility and common courtesy – to people we disagree with, there is nothing we can’t accomplish.

Because, lets face it, not calling a duck a duck, or a schmuck a schmuck, takes incredible strength and tenacity. That kind of restraint is a superpower. Enough of those superheroes, and we can fix it all.


Putting on Glinda

Be gone!

Be gone, i say!

You have no power here!

you do, but i wish you didn’t

How dare you.

How dare you behave as if you are entitled to all this.

and why do i keep letting you live here rent free?

All this before me is the Queendom i have made.

No leg up.

i forget that i have power of my own

Those who live in the castle are my choosing,

and they have earned their way in.

but i have made far too many exceptions

I care not about the rules of your own kingdom.

These are my rules here.

My laws.

laws of kindness

Be gone you,

The purveyor of my own personal hell

Who leaves the black tar of despair in your wake.

Be gone and leave me.

Come back! Come back!

The pain and sorrow are too much to bear.

The boiling bile beneath the surface waits like lava

in a fissure

beneath a freshly and frequently paved road.

over and over again

I raise my scepter and pound the ground.

Be gone!

Be gone, i say!

Take your oily hot anger and pour it elsewhere.

let my insides stop burning

Be gone!

Be gone, i say!

You have no power here!

but my voice breaks as i say it,

because i know it isn’t true


Nadia, Frankie, and Reverend Jim

I am having a love affair with Nadia Bolz-Weber. Not literally, but spiritually.

Like many of us, i have spent much of my life searching for what i believe in. Or rather, refining what i believe in. I often find myself walking that fine line between “I need to work harder to be a better person” and “God/Goddess/ Universe loves me just as i am”. They are not mutually exclusive, but there isn’t a whole lot of crossover. I mean, if i am good enough, then why would i make myself nuts trying to be perfect? But conversely, if the goal is to be someone so far removed from myself that, short of shock-treatment-style exorcism, i don’t stand a chance in hell (literally) of attaining it; i would be a fool not to give up before i started.

I posed this problem to my priest once, decades ago. His response, before hugging me and kissing me on the top of my head,  was, “Why do you do this to me?”

So it seems that even for the clergy, this isn’t an easy issue.

Nor is it solely the issue of any one religion. The contradiction of G/G/U’s love and the striving to live up to the examples of the Holy Books is one that transcends the rivalries between churches. Trying to make a life of doing what is right and knowing you will fail a lot of the time is problematic even for the science-minded, the aesthete, and the apatheist. We all want to be better than we are. And we all know we won’t get to where we want to be. It’s like a supreme, cosmic, existential joke.

If you think about it too much, you will go insane.

But the appearance of people like Bolz-Weber, an improbably coarse but unusually honest Lutheran pastor, make it a little less painful, if only because they assure us that we aren’t alone in our confusion.

There is something comforting in a pastor, particularly a Christian one, admitting that they are in the same quandary that we are. It somehow makes it a bit less lonely and frustrating. After all, if the professionals can’t always make sense of it, then we certainly can’t be expected to!

I am fascinated by the spiritual paths that people take. Christian, Jew, Hindu, Sikh, Pagan, Jedi… Matters little to me… It is the way you set your compass and how you deal with times when the path gets overgrown or flooded that intrigue me. Because regardless of what code you follow, there will be times when it isn’t enough. Or when you aren’t enough. And at that moment, we are all the same. Small fragile creatures looking for forgiveness and/or punishment and reassurance.

Life can be grand and funny and transcendental technicolor. But it can also be hard and frustrating and painful. No one gets through it alive, and no one gets through it alone. And whatever kind of pole you need to help you balance while you walk that tightrope of personal and spiritual expectation, more power to you. As His Musical Holiness, Frank Sinatra once said, “Whatever gets you through the night.”

As for me, i’ll keep writing and questioning. Taking it all in and picking out the common thread that binds us all. That thread is what keeps me motivated. That thread is where i find my personal truth, the balance between my self and my goal. And yes, i will waver and fall on occasion. So will you. But as long as we get back on the rope and keep walking, we’ll be ok. As long as we keep reaching out to help others when we see them wobble, it is going to be alright. As long as we are never so sure of the path that we stop watching where we’re going, we will continue to improve.

And whether you pastor is Billy Graham, the Dalai Lama, or Jim Ignatowski, i like to think that they all would agree.

Aunt Nancy, Please Don’t Put Radish In The Jello Salad

You know that weird jello salad that everybody’s Aunt Betsy brings to each and every gathering? That is my brain right now.

I’ve spent so much of the last 30 years trying to ensure my daughters grew up to be strong, thoughtful, and independent. Ever in fear of breeding another doormat into this already infested world, i wanted my daughters to become paragons of badassery in whatever way suited them. And as you know from previous posts, the efforts were successful. I am inordinately proud of the women my daughters have become. Tho very different from each other, they both are fierce in their passions and principles. They are hard workers, big dreamers, and fair judges. Everything i had asked for.

When you have adult daughters like that, it’s a bit like living in an underground women’s magazine of the 70s. Force them into polyester pantsuits and big sunglasses, and they could be on the cover of “Ms.” (Don’t worry, my awesome weedlings. No polyester pantsuits for you, i promise!) But just like so many of the celebrities of that political era, life is more than a magazine cover.

What good is a life of untamed equity if you have no one to share it with?

But it takes a special man (Or woman) to accept a badass woman as a partner. It isn’t for the weak, or the staunch, or the confidence-less. A warrior woman doesn’t want someone who just lets her take all the sun. Nor does she want someone who is going to constantly battle her for it. It has to be someone who can let that Light flow back and forth like one of those waves-in-a-box that are supposed to help keep you calm at work. The conduit between the two shores must be strong and clear, the water going over and around obstacles, precluding dams and producing energy that feeds the tides as it goes. It is a precious balance. One that some never find.

And yet, both my daughters have found it.

In a few short weeks’ time, both my woman-weedlings have gotten engaged to awesome men. Ones who respect them, support them, and adore them. Ones who are strong enough themselves to share the spotlight… Not just as a mechanism for leadership and recognition, but also as facilitator of growth. These men are amazing, and each also a badass in their own way. And so, on the whole, i am crazy happy for them having found partners who truly see them, get them, and love them.

Which brings us to the jello salad.

Jello salad is one of those things that can be really yummy. I mean, sugar and flavoring and food coloring has that magnetic appeal to the 5-year-old inside us. Throw in some fruit cocktail or pie filling…. Oh, yeah baby!  There is usually some  cream cheese or something thrown in to make it more adult and fancy. Mmm mmm! Love me some sweet and savory together! Toss in some marshmallows because… Well, because marshmallows!!!!! What’s not to like?

But then the devil steps in.

To distinguish it from “dessert”, Aunt Sally always throws in something “salad-y”: celery, pepper, shredded carrots… Crap like that which has no business being in jello.

In the midst of my heartwarmed-happy jello concoction for my daughters, there appears some of Aunt Sheila’s lunacy. (Oh, Aunt Sheila… Is that pickled onions i taste in here?) It took me a while to figure out exactly what it was. I mean, like i said, i am over the moon for my daughters and adore my soon-to-be son-in-laws… So what could those bitter, chewy bits possibly be? And why the hell are they in there?

I answered myself subconsciously but out loud.

“What now?”

I only just figured out parenting adults, but married adults is a whole other level. Especially for me. Lets face it, three past marriages make me the exact opposite of an expert on it. And before you joke that i should just tell them to obviously do the exact opposite of what i recommend, i promise you, that will make me cry.

Like Hermione, i kind of pride myself on being an insufferable know-it-all. But my daughters are about to embark on something i cannot help with. Yes, i realize they don’t really need my help, but that is beside the point. Mothers want to help. It’s what we do. And i can’t. That fact leaves me stumped. It is the carrot in my otherwise delicious jello salad.

The irony of it all… In having raised daughters without so many of my own issues, i have made myself obsolete.

So that’s what those crunchy bits are: self-pitying garbage.

When confronted with jello salad, one has three choices. You can refuse to eat it. While that is an option, it also means you miss out on all the good stuff in it. No marshmallows. No maraschino cherries. That is a big price to pay for a little bit of green pepper. Not an option i would choose because marshmallows!!!!

Or you can just force a smile and pretend you aren’t gagging every time a bit of celery finds itself in the mix. This is, of course, the polite option. And if i were at a once-in-a-lifetime visit with The Queen, i would probably take that option. But this isn’t a one-time gig. This is the rest of my life. And once i get past the celery, there will be grandbabies and other things that i know nothing about and will become the next crunchy bits. So this is probably not the best option.

Then there is the last option. The practical option. Enjoy the jello salad, but surreptitiously pick out the crunchy bits when no one is looking. Make sure there is a lettuce leaf somewhere on your plate to hide the shredded carrots under. Or a rabbit to feed them to, thereby disguising your disappointment as an act of kindness.

That, i can do.

Decades of therapy has made me pretty damned decent at picking out my useless negativity and turning it into energy for other things. So when i find myself thinking about my weedlings and their awesome partners and their limitless lives ahead and starting to wonder what purpose i can possibly serve in it; i will remember that i can and will be whatever they need. If i don’t know how, i will learn, just as i did when they were babies and i knew nothing of raising children. I learned. And if i didn’t always do it right, at least i did it well in the end. And when there are more wee ones, i can read to them like i did to my own. I can help teach them to be independent badasses like their parents. And i can help show them that sometimes you just have to pick out the sour bits and just be happy for all the wonderful things that will come to pass.

My babies are growing up and getting married.

Holy cow.

If i make Aunt Shelly’s jello salad for the celebrations, I’m gonna leave out the celery. Who needs it anyway? Things are so much better without it.


Reading Is Fundamental, And Not Just For Nerds

Friday night on the porch. Lemonade with a shot of Hendricks. Feet up in my wicker chair while the rain makes its beautiful music. And a brand new volume of Uncle Walt to annotate and highlight. Curious as to how many of my friends were also spending their Friday night delighting in solitary literary pleasures, i posted the fact on Facebook. I was surprised at how many of my friends enjoyed something similar… And overjoyed that so many obviously knew who Uncle Walt was. (Walt Whitman, for you non-poetry geeks.) But i do have to admit that, before i posted it, i wasn’t sure if the fact made me a geek, or a nerd, or just a dork. I had to look it up. Thankfully, there is a simple Venn diagram to help (This one is courtesy of Laughing Squid).

Screenshot 2018-06-23 at 08.11.14


Truthfully, i wasn’t sure if i was more of a geek or a nerd. But yep, nerd it is. Kind of hard to be a geek and NOT be a nerd, really. I mean, social interaction is difficult when people don’t “get” your Klingon vernacular and Chemistry jokes. I have to say, tho, that it is getting easier, and i believe we have filmmakers to thank for that. I mean, millions of people who never read any Tolkien now understand what all the geek-fuss was about. The Star Wars and Star Trek franchises have made it to mainstream action film lovers. And Marvel… Well, come on… Who wouldn’t want to see Robert Downey Jr’s sexy visage on the big screen? Because of these cinematic successes, people who never would have otherwise are actually reading books! Ok, mostly e-books (My hardline feeling on the distinction will be saved for a later post), but none-the-less, people are reading. How glorious is that?

We all know, as it has been repeated for decades, the benefits of reading to children. But more and more, science is proving that reading as adults has a multitude of advantages as well: Improvements in critical thinking, analysis, vocabulary, writing skill… Not to mention mental focus and stress reduction. (Rather than me posting a solitary website to cite, please GTS. There are articles on it from all corners of the scientific community) And You don’t have to be reading Dostoyevsky or Shakespeare. Non-fiction, poetry (Yes, song lyrics count), self-help (Which is often halfway between fiction and non-), religious texts, cheap romance novels, short stories … Even reading children’s classics has a positive effect. Some studies go as far as to say that in-depth magazine articles make a measurable improvement.

I admit, the last makes me happy. Tho i know it is a sin against Mother Earth, i do enjoy a nice, glossy magazine.  Online versions, just like with books, just aren’t the same to me.

Reading makes you smarter. It makes you better able to communicate. It provides entertainment. And it makes you more entertaining at parties because it gives you something to talk about other than TV shows and our volatile Orwellian jello mold of a government. It can also be relatively little cash. I generally buy used books because i prefer hardcover, and those aren’t inexpensive when new. Your local thrift store likely has whole bunches of books on the cheap. And more e-books (Ugh, i just tasted bile) than you’d imagine can be gotten for free on many websites.

If you prefer something more  politically relevant, there is Machiavelli if you want to impress people, and Limbaugh if you don’t. And whether you are religious or not, reading religious texts is a good thing because, on top of the benefits of reading, they help you to understand why other people think how they do. (Reminder: You don’t have to agree to understand.) And if you haven’t read one recently, pick up your weedling’s history or Social Science textbook. Things have changed a lot since we were their age. Hell, the globe doesn’t even have the same countries on it.

Before you say you don’t have enough time…. Writers from Stephen King to Rosamunde Pilcher have short story anthologies. And i personally own quite a few compendiums of short stories by groups of authors. There are short novel writers à la Steinbeck and Bach.  There are observationalists like Robert Fulghum. If you have a spiritual bent, the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa both have books to their credit with short affirmations to consume. There are great articles in National Geographic for the naturalists, and in The New Yorker if you are an urbanite. If you love song lyrics, try some poetry. Pick up some Maya Angelou or Dylan Thomas. So many options, so little time.

If you have some brain wiring that makes reading difficult, try a large print edition or one made specifically for dyslexic readers (They use specific fonts and paper color/types that are known to make it easier). From what i found with a little research, there are a lot of resources out there for you. Do not give up!

If you don’t know what to start with, ask your favorite voracious reader. Tell them the kinds of things you like. Those of us who read a lot are usually pretty good at recommendations. Your librarian or bookstore clerks are good to tap. Or, perhaps my favorite option, What should I read next?, a website where you type in a book that you enjoyed, and it makes recommendations.

So make yourself a cup of tea, or a cocktail, or a special soda, put your feet up somewhere pleasant with good light, and dig in. Even if it is just a chapter a day, it will make a difference. And whether you are like me and have a tendency to highlight and annotate as you read, or you are one of those who tries hard to keep the book like new, there is no wrong way. Just like physical exercise, the what and the how are less important than the fact that you do it.

Now, if you will excuse me, Uncle Walt is waiting. I am counting on him to help keep my brain working as i head toward decrepitude. Well, him and his cousins Heinlein, and Poe, and Allende, and Avi, and Thoreau, and Chopra, and Lawrence, and St Paul, and….



Travelogue – Canuck Edition

My writing has taken a back seat these last couple of weeks while i spent some time gearing up and making a whirlwind round of college tours with my son. My son, just as unusual as his sisters, is intent on a school in Canada. I dealt with the travel, and he made the arrangements for the tours. (I have been surprised at how many people found that “too much” for a kid who just finished his sophomore year of high school. And how many thought it was “too early” to be touring colleges. Both things are done on purpose so that he knows full well what it takes to get what he wants, and he knows he has to make the effort to get there….)  Anyway, with a little help from my middle weedling who has become a budget trip master, and my oldest weedling who graciously took care of Siridog, we set out last weekend for the Atlantic provinces.

In spite of the fact that i have been blessed enough to have traveled a lot of the world, i had never been to our northern neighbors. My son had been to Ottawa, but not east. So we were both excited for the journey. On top of the college tours, we had a few other things we wanted to experience as well. First on the list was a good lobster roll.

We left long before the crack of dawn to get to the airport on time. And to save a good-sized wad of cash, flew into Maine and rented a car to drive the 6 hours to Moncton, New Bunswick. It all went off without a hitch til we set out of the city of Portland.

It appeared to us that Portland is the Newark of Maine.

Trying to get to the interstate, we ended up in a neighborhood where it seemed the entire residency was gathered in the street to shout insults and cusswords at each other. One woman, hair like rusty cotton candy, dirty jeans and tank, boobs at her waist and yet somehow still hanging out, was dead center of the street leading the colorful pack of profane poets. When she saw us waiting for her to move so we could pass, she flipped us the bird and spun around so fast that her boobs were still facing us when she started to walk away – Directly up the middle of the street. Ok, lady, you win. When we finally made it to the highway, we had to pry our fingers out of the grips they had in fear.

Once we were safely outside the mainstream, we googled a lobster roll and found our way to a local joint. Tho it was technically a brewery, to my delight, they also brewed their own root beer. The lobster rolls were spot on. The Maine wild blueberry desserts were outstanding. The rootbeer was perfect. We were in heaven until the bill came.

The menu had listed “Market Price” as the cost of the lobster rolls. I hadn’t thought to ask. I mean, the meal was served on paper plates so we weren’t paying for fancy, and it was important to both my son and i that we start our trip off with a bang (Thankfully, not one on that side street in Portland.) I grew up on Cape Cod, so i know that lobster isn’t cheap, but i was unprepared for the bill. 2 lobster rolls with potato chips, 2 sodas, 2 modest desserts was $74. Seventy-four freaking dollars. My son was apologetic, but i explained to him that it was my own fault for not asking. Besides, it was worth it. The food was good, and it was a yummy start to the trip.

Back on the road – the fast route, not the scenic route – and we arrived in Moncton at what we thought was 2200. We were unaware that they are an hour ahead. The daughter of the owner to our Air B&B was kind and accepted our apology for the late arrival before showing us to our suite. We hit our beds and slept like the dead.

The next morning, we set out for Fredericton after hitting Tim Horton’s. My God, what a wonderful thing to have a place that keep hot tea brewed day and night! The drive to the University of New Brunswick is a beautiful one. Lots of farmland and rural communities. And the University itself was smaller, warmer, and better equipped than we expected. The students who showed us around and the faculty advisor that explained their process to us were a delight. We left with a great impression and a good recommendation for lunch.

Can i just say that smoked fish cakes are surely the nectar of the Canadian gods?

Day 2 was Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Dalhousie University. Dal, as they call it, is an upscale school in a surprisingly city-ish city. I guess i expected more of a fishing village city, so the excess of construction, modern office buildings, and traffic took me back a bit. There were some beautiful Historic buildings nestled in between newer business quadrants, especially near campus. And the school was a Canadian version of Ivy League… Imagine a smaller, laid back Yale where everyone has a slight Celtic accent.

Fish & chips and seafood chowder on the Boardwalk were the order of the day. Then we took a different route back to base to see more of the countryside. Unafraid of getting lost, i drove us along the coastline, dipping into coves whenever the road allowed. All of it was so breathtaking that my son barely rolled his eyes when i stopped on the side of the road for the umpteenth time to snap a picture. I was even able to gather some shells for souvenirs.

Oh, and not to be forgotten, we were also, on the way back to Moncton, able to engage one of our trip traditions…. Homemade ice cream. We happened to pass a sign on the highway advertising it, so we took the opportunity and exited. True to Canadian form, the shoppe was not exactly on the exit, but approximately 5 miles down the road. But it was worth it. We find a homemade ice cream shoppe on every trip we take, and it is always worth it. Homemade ice cream is a gift no matter your destination!

Day 3 was Prince Edward Island. Everything the storybooks say about it is true. In full Spring mode, the island was greener than Ireland itself. The landscape is heavily dotted with lupine and cows. The people are friendly and relaxed. We had a bit of a  disappointment when we found that the Confederation house was closed for refurbishing – My son is a history buff and was eager to see it. But we did get to enjoy St Dunstan’s cathedral. And we had an amazing lunch.

The Chip Shack reminded me of one of the many fried clam stands of my youth, except being in PEI, it served Lobster rolls (For much less than $74) and poutine. And Lobster poutine. Seriously. Lobster flipping poutine. A glorious coronary intervention of perfectly seasoned fries, cheese curds, a gravy that the owner makes from seafood broth, and a huge scoop of lobster meat. Could you come up with a meal that screams Atlantic Canadian more?

I think not.

The food was accentuated by the owner. She was energetic and tatted, singing boisterously along with the radio, and if she is not a direct decendent of Anne Bonny, i’ll eat my hat. She is a Pirate Queen in her soul and it exudes from her like perfume. She made our day and had smiles on our faces as we made our way to the University of PEI.

Tho Charlottetown is a city, it is a much smaller one than Halifax and retains a more of that port-town feel. And it extends to the University. There was plenty of diversity at all of the Canadian schools we visited, but the most at UPEI. In true port-town fashion, nearly half the student body is foreign. In fact, the contagiously congenial man who took us on our tour was a student from the Bahamas.  He waved to everyone we came across, and each wave came with a short commentary about where they were from. Tho he admitted that most of the Canadian students were home for break, it was still evident that my son would not be the only international student by a longshot.

Again we took the long way back. I spent an inordinate amount of time pulled off on the side of the road, admiring cows grazing in a pasture at the oceanside. If i had seen it in a movie, i would have sworn it was fake, but there it was in front of me. The ocean, a few feet of sand and rocks, then a grass pasture full of beautiful cows. After a while, the cows noticed me staring and came over to the fence. Not wanting to be rude, i said hello,  fawned over their home, and asked if they minded me taking their picture. My son was not amused and laid his seat back in the car to nap.

He missed out. Those cows sat there and engaged with me as if they knew what i was saying. Or maybe they just knew that i was taking time with them and liked them. Either way, they stood by that fence and regarded me with thoughtful muzzles for nearly half an hour.

My son perked up just before we hit the bridge back (As expensive as a Maine lobster roll, but definitely impressive!), as there is a little mini village at the front sporting the flags of all the provinces. My son is an amateur vexillologist (One who studies flags… I had to look that up), so of course he knew which flag was for what province, could expound on why each flag was decorated as it was, and listed his favorites in order. His enthusiasm made me smile. Only my kid would get so exhilarated by a bunch of flags.

By now the traveling had caught up with us. And by that, i mean that the food had caught up with us. Apparently, Canadians have yet to get on the fiber train, and days of croissants, fish cakes, and poutine had me feeling like the Pikachu float at the Macy’s parade. So we made a dinner stop at a local Moncton place for salads and a hummus plate. Before eating, i said grace to myself that it would work long before i got on the plane.

Early to bed and early to rise for the trip back to Portland. Thankfully, we left in plenty of time, because my idea of taking a smaller back road wasn’t the best i’ve ever had. First off, i have become spoiled in Chattanooga. When there is massive construction, there is someone with a sign standing in the middle of the road telling you when to go. Apparently, in rural New Brunswick, they stand on someone’s lawn…. Where, of course, i never saw him. My son did, but instead of saying anything let me proceed like the Queen of Prussia. I had to pull onto the grass halfway through the cone maze because there was a semi coming in the other direction who apparently didn’t know the Queen has the right of way. Then, to add insult to injury, i realized about 5 miles after that i had gotten turned around and was headed in the wrong direction…. So i had to tuck tail and head back through the same construction zone that i had just ignored the signs for.

The extra waves of the sign by the guy still standing off in left field let me know he recognized me.

But we made it back to Portland finally, got thru the plane flight without hummus interruptus, and survived my son driving back from Atlanta in his ancient convertible, top down, and thru traffic.

I think that last was when my blood pressure caused the blood vessel in my eye to rupture.

Now that we are home and mostly recovered, i have to say that it was a good trip. My son is a good traveling companion. Tho the whole thing was a lot more driving than i would have liked, he got to see the schools he wanted, and his opinions of each changed with the experience. I am glad we did it.  And i’m glad we’re back. It may be way too hot here in the summer, and i may hate the mosquitos, but i do love the area that i now consider my home. And of course, i love my home itself. I may not have pasture, or lupine, or cows on the ocean, but i have my own bed and my favorite haunts, and my Siridog. The place may change down the road, but the feeling of home when you return… That is the perfect ending to any road trip.