Word of Advice

Note: Since first publishing this blog article back in March of 2016, I’ve found myself back in the job market. Today I was looking at my own advice for job interviewees, and found it needed some updates that I had missed, probably because applying for jobs and interviewing has changed a lot over the years.  I’ve also done more with Craig’s List/Ebay etc, and am updating those sections as well.

Job Interviewee – Take a shower, groom yourself for Pete’s sake. Put on professional clothes and shine your shoes, lose the gum and brush your teeth. It really IS true, you never have a second chance to make a good first impression. This advice applies whether your interview is in person, or is a video interview. What’s that, you say? A video interview? Yes, Virginia, a video interview. Today’s businesses are beginning to use video interviews as initial screening interviews. The HR representative can record themselves asking a series of questions, and then the interviewee has a predetermined amount of time to respond. It saves the HR rep a lot of time, by not having to schedule the calls or bring people into their offices. You do, however, need to treat it as if it’s a true face-to-face interview. Test your system first, make sure your lighting is good, that you don’t have a distracting background behind you. I invested in an inexpensive photography backdrop that I hang up behind me, and put that up. If you set yourself up facing a window you’ll get nice, diffuse light that is flattering, but if that’s not available make sure you at least have enough light that your face can be seen.

For in person interviews, learn how to shake hands. Do you have any idea how many people I’ve shaken hands with that don’t know how? If you aren’t sure how to, then you probably don’t do it well. Go ask someone you know that is a confident business person to evaluate yours and help you improve because a limp handshake is horrible, and look people in the eye when you shake their hand.

Drive the route to the interview BEFORE you need to do it so that you know how long it takes. Don’t be late. If you’re going to be late, call. If possible, send a handwritten, yes, I said handwritten thank you note, and if your handwriting is illegible (you know who you are) then print. If you only had a phone interview or video screening, you may only be able to send a thank you via e-mail, and then you should do it that way, but that’s only if you don’t know an address for your interviewer. If you have an actual address, a handwritten note is always better etiquette.

Craig’s List/Ebay Buyers – Have you ever sold anything on Craig’s List or Ebay? If you have, then you know what an adventure it can be, but it can just as easily be a pointless exercise in futility. We’ve been cleaning out our crawl space, trying to get rid of a few things, make a little money, you know the drill. I’ve learned a few phrases that are rather helpful. “Cash is king” and “cash talks, bullshit walks” are my two favorites that my husband is continually beating into my brain. Now I started out being a Craig’s List softie…”oh, you need a day or two, sure, get back to me, I’ll hold it for you…”, or negotiating simultaneously with one buyer who then couldn’t deliver on time, going with a second who could then feeling bad when the first wanted more time because “I promised him he could buy the item, even though he didn’t have the money right then” or feeling like I needed to answer every email, and telling people that I had other buyers and what the conditions were. However, after being taken advantage of a few times, I’ve changed, become a radical hardliner. Gavel down, BAM! “SOLD to the first one at the neutral (and safe) meeting place with paper money that passes the counterfeit test wins the prize.”  For all you potential buyers on Craig’s List out there, here are some helpful tips.

1.Don’t email me to tell me “I’m interested.” I’m tempted to reply “that’s nice, so what?” Because I don’t care if you’re merely interested, I only really care if you want to BUY IT.  So if you really want to buy my item, tell me you want to buy it and when you want to meet, otherwise stop wasting my time.

2. Read the dang ad AND look at the pictures. I took the time to take photos, at different angles, to show you lots of information. I also said in the ad that the item a) works, b) does or does not have scratches c) is new or is used, etc. Now if you want more information about it that I didn’t put in the ad, that’s a different story, please go ahead and ask for it.  But don’t waste my time asking about what’s already there.

3. Don’t contact me unless you’re interested and plan to follow through. This week I had someone tell me she wanted something, we exchanged messages about connecting, then she dropped off the face of the earth. Meanwhile I had another person waiting to see if the item was still available.  I mean really, did you want it or not? If you changed your mind, I don’t care, you’re not hurting my feelings, just say so. Stop wasting my time for the love of…(are you seeing the theme?)

4. If you ask me to ship you the item because you’ve decided you don’t want to drive to me, realize it’s an inconvenience for me, act accordingly. Don’t dictate terms of this to me, I’ll choose my shipping agent, thanks.

5. And here is the kicker. If you ask me to accept money through PayPal, then you pay the fees to transfer! You came to me knobhead. I’m not taking a loss in my profit as a convenience to you.

Ebay Buyers – There isn’t as much to say here, probably because it’s an online bidding process and Ebay has already taken a lot of the guesswork out of it for you. The best advice I can give is to just pay promptly, because I won’t ship anything until your payment has come through. So any delays on your part will result in a delay in receiving your item.

Grocery shoppers – it’s just like driving (assuming you’re in a country that drives on the right side of the road). Carts on the right please, although I’d love to know if it’s opposite across the pond, where they drive on the wrong side of the road.  Do they move grocery carts on the left side of the aisles as well? : ) But how hard is it really, to get your cart out of the middle of the aisle. When you stop to get something off the shelf, just move to the side. Don’t stop in the middle. Look around. The aisles aren’t 3 carts wide. If you’re in the middle, ain’t nobody getting around. My parents brought me up to be polite, Minnesota nice, to say a gentle “please”, and “thank you”, and “excuse me”, and to cover my mouth when I burped in public. I am SO over that in the grocery store now (The Minnesota nice part. I’ll still cover my mouth when I burp in public, I promise Mom), it’s a firm and vocal “Excuse Me” that’s a whole lot closer to East Coast than the Midwest.

Anyone under the age of 35 – chronologically or mentally. Remove the phrase “I deserve” and “entitled” from your vocabulary and attitude. You don’t, you aren’t. Period. The world owes you NOTHING, you have to earn it. When you act like they do, you not only show your immaturity, but I really want to swat you off my shoulder like a gnat. Scat, go away!

Just sayin’.

 

Projects One-O-WTH

We’ve all done it. Started projects with the very best of intentions and plans, right? Scripted them to within an inch of their lives, laid out everything to the nanometer, knew exactly what we wanted, where we wanted it and when we wanted it, so that when we did it, it went as planned, and then we all lived happily ever after…I’m sorry, did you just  hear my snort of derision through the computer? Because if you’re anything like me, the end of one project brings about a strange euphoria that somehow erased much of the pain associated with it, so that you’re foolishly willing to take on the next one. When my husband let me know he was planning to go out of town for several days last month, I thought, “aha! here’s my chance to take a couple of days off work and paint our master bathroom! I hate the mustard color it is now, why not get it done?” And into full scale planning mode I went.

First, selecting paint, which as anyone with a half of a brain knows, is painful. I mean, we’re long past the days of merely light blue, or light green. Nope, there are now thousands of colors and shades to choose from. It’s positively mind numbing, and while the ability to get the little sample jars is certainly a help, it’s not without it’s own drawbacks, but more on that later. For now, I get the little cards in the colors I think I want which is a pale turquoise. My husband and I talk over which we like, I went back and get the sample jars in a couple of colors, and get them on the walls in the bathroom in a couple of spots so he can see it before he leaves town, and in different light during the day and at night. We agree on one of the samples, and I’m thinking nice, we found our color! (I should have known it was too easy, I got a little cocky there.)

Next, a light fixture. Currently we have light bars over the top of our mirror and detest them. You know the ones…4 light bulbs on a metal holder, which resemble the ones that are found on the sides of theatrical mirrors. I really liked one a friend had, found it came from Menards, internet check says one left on clearance. I’ve got a good feeling…and the next morning I run up there to get it. The one left is the display model, so they have to remove it from the wall for me, but it’s worth it to get it more than 50% off, right?  While they were taking it off the wall it was raining so hard we couldn’t see across the parking lot, and a neighbor told me later that his wife reported their widows actually sucked inward during the storm! I didn’t recognize the storm going on outside as on omen of destruction or the voice of doom, as it were.

Husband leaves town, time for me to get to work. Out comes the spackle, I start fixing dings and divots, scraping old, old, old paint off the woodwork. (Lesson #1 for everyone…do the free world a favor. USE FRICKING PAINTERS TAPE AROUND WOODWORK FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PEOPLE. I don’t care if you like the blue or green. Really I don’t. I DO care that as the new owner of your former home, because you were a lazy ba***rd I have to scrape 3 layers off my lovely oak woodwork.) (Lesson #2, if you spray it first with Pledge Multi-Surface Cleaner, and let it soak for 3-5 seconds, then scrape with your razor blade, it helps to soften the paint. Don’t ask me why I tried this out, I haven’t a clue, but it works.) Finally it’s time to paint. Get the light down, paint the walls around our sink and the ceiling over it. I wanted to do that first so I could get the new light up right away, then I wouldn’t be without a light in the bathroom for more than a few hours. As I bring the new light fixture into the bathroom, I realize my next problem.

Remember I mentioned that the old light was a light bar, therefore it’s very lightweight, and mounted on the wall with two screws. The wiring merely came out of the hole in the wall. No mounting box. Lovely new fixture needs a mounting box. Sounds simple enough, right? Just call the handy dandy electrician down the street to put one in? Which I did…only to find that the lovely little pipe I could see next to the hole in the wall where the wires came out would mean that the mounting box would be mounted to the right of center…and subsequently all light fixtures thereafter would be too. So now we get to have him split the wiring and put up sconces. Sigh. So back up went the old fixture until husband can get home and I can break the bad news that a) we ‘get’ to spend more money on rewiring and b) we ‘get’ to buy more lights.

Continue painting….and why am I not getting the same lovely warm fuzzy about the color that I did about the sample? As I studied it, it didn’t look at all the same to me. It didn’t look anything like calm and restful. Not even close…it looked more like 1968 turquoise! Now I’m starting to feel my WTH moment begin…what happened? Remember earlier  when I said I’d come back to the samples? Well, the paint samples were in eggshell…and the paint I bought was semi-gloss. It went on a completely different color in semi-gloss, and suddenly was intense! I thought maybe it was me, but figured I’d better wait for my husband to validate, so I held off any more painting until he got home from his trip, which I felt awful about since my goal was to present him with a finished bathroom, not one still covered in paint swatches. He agreed, however, it was too intense and we went back to the drawing board on paint. Hopefully I’ll finish before his next vacation.

Oh yeah, and the caulk has to be chiseled out too.

 

Who Cares?

“It’s a helluva day at sea, sir” the Coast Guard spotter said in the movie, Overboard, and that aptly described Monday’s RNC (and Tuesday’s and today’s for that matter but that’s a whole other dish of blog fodder.) The world waited with baited breath – sort of – to see if the current Mrs. Trump would be able to deliver, or fall flat on face. Given that English isn’t her first language, and no one has really heard so much as a peep from her this campaign season, it was anyone’s guess what would happen. Surprisingly, she was articulate, charming, somewhat disarming, and understandable. Then it all went to hell.

Portions of Mrs. Trump’s speech were plagarized from Mrs. Obama’s. If this is news to you, yikes, sorry to be the bearer of this news. Go and catch up. Camp Trump spent far too much time not only denying the obvious, but Mrs. Trump tried to also make us believe she wrote most of it herself. All of this was bad enough, but hey, it’s Camp Trump…do any of us really expect anything different?  Then along came Newt.

Yep, old Newt Gingrich, potential VP choice, and ‘presidential wanna be has been’. Remember him?  Repirmanded by the House in 1998 for an ethics violation, and other questionable dealings over time. Good old Newt opened his mouth and this came out:

“Who cares? Who cares?” Gingrich told CNN’s Jamie Gangel. “The fact is Melania gave a good speech. She is stunningly attractive. She is stunningly articulate. Most of the people criticizing her can’t speak five languages. She’s a bright person.”

Who cares, Mr. Gingrich? Well, let me tell you who. Everyone who is affiliated in any way with education does. From the first paper you write in High School, through your last one in Graduate School, students are taught that plagarism is wrong. At my alma mater, Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, MN the student handbook states:

Allegations of plagiarism or other forms of academic dishonesty are also subject to investigation and additional conduct sanctions under the Student Conduct Code Policy #1020 and Procedure #112.

Not impressed by my little school? Maybe something a little more prestigous is needed. From Harvard:

Students who, for whatever reason, submit work either not their own or without clear attribution to its sources will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including requirement to withdraw from the College.

From Yale University:

Plagiarizers suffer serious consequences in Yale College—including suspension or expulsion from school

And from the Purdue Online Writing Lab

A charge of plagiarism can have severe consequences, including expulsion from a university or loss of a job, not to mention a writer’s loss of credibility and professional standing.

Who cares, Mr. Gingrich? I do. I worked damned hard to earn my Master’s degree, taking one class at a time, working full time while doing it, not incurring any debt, and completing all of my coursework as assigned to me. With my skills, capability, time, energy and research. I didn’t ‘borrow’ from anyone, I didn’t use anyone else’s words inappropriately. If I quoted them in any papers, I also cited them appropriately and fairly. None of my papers were marked down for failure to cite something.

Who cares? All of us should, every single one of us that’s ever written a poem, a short story, started a novel, taken a photograph, hummed an original tune, sketched a picture. Plagarism is about the loss of your intellectual property. No one has the right to claim your creativity as their own. According to Wikipedia, Mr. Gingrich has written or co-authored 27 books. As an author, shouldn’t he also care about plagarism? I find it incredibly difficult to believe he doesn’t, but maybe it does that mean I can take passages from his books, and change a word or two, and now it really isn’t plagarism, and use it in something I craft, because really, who cares? I mean, isn’t that what he just said?

Honestly, I resent his cavalier dismissal of the plagarism of Mrs. Obama’s speech as if it doesn’t matter. It does matter. This stupid, backbiting bullshit being slung about during the campaign season so far proves only one thing: No one has the grace or character needed. Not one, but then five-year olds generally don’t.

Joy of Summer

It hadn’t been easy, growing up without a mother, but somehow Joy had managed. Her father did the best he could, but as the only veterinarian for their village, he’d been gone more than he was home. But after his death she has hard choices to make. Can she find a way to stay in Summer, the little village she’s grown to love? 

As I started to write the title of the blog, all I could think of was that it sounded like a title for a cheesy bodice ripper novel!  In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. A few weeks ago in a prior post, I bemoaned the loss of something quintessentially summer…watermelon with seeds. I was surprised at how many people I have since spoken to, that agreed with me: Seedless watermelon sucks. Well, I am thrilled beyond words to be able to share with you that my local grocery store had REAL watermelon a few weeks ago. It was lucious, rich, textured…just like I remembered. And yep, …there was some honest to goodness seed spittin’  going on too. That’s what summer should be about. Snow cones, and water balloon fights in the backyard (or ‘thumbs over the ends of hoses’ fights, those work too!),  sparklers and black snakes, mouthfulls of Bubs Daddy bubble gum. And fireflies, or lightning bugs as they are known in some parts of the country. I love being out for a walk at night and seeing their ethereal lights dance in front of me, just out of reach. I know you can catch them and put them in a jar, I just have no desire to. I’d rather watch them appear, then disappear, and magically reappear feet from where they were a moment ago, and pretend to not know how that happened, just enjoying the sense of wonderment again. 

I miss having summers off. As an adult, the only time I really regret my career choice is during summer, when I wish I had become a teacher just so I could have had summers off…either that or found a way to become a professional paid student! But I’m so envious of the sounds of kids playing, having fun in the summer. Our house backs up to a number of others, and I can hear laughter of the kids playing from about six houses down some days. As a telecommuter, trust me, it can be challenging to concentrate. On the other hand, our house is also located rather close to some marsh lands, or as the DNR prefers to refer to them, nature preserves. Because that sounds SO much better than marsh, doesn’t it?  There are benefits of course to living near them, first and foremost being it’s packed full of wildlife. The frog chorus at night is something to behold, and we hear it from the ‘balcony’ seats, on the side of the road opposite the marsh. I’m sure if our house backed up to it, and we couldn’t even open our windows at night because the volume was so deafening, I wouldn’t feel quite so charmed by it. Another periodic gift the marsh gives it’s nearby residents, is the coyote choir. I’m not sure what will set up the howling, but when the pack gets going it’s both thrilling and chilling at the same time. I don’t know what makes people think it’s safe to let their pets run loose around here, I really don’t. Seems to me cats and small dogs might be fair game for coyote food, and I’d be terrified my pet might not come home, but that’s just me.

The worst part however, about living by the marsh, are the mosquitos, and in Minnesota, we know how to breed ’em BIG. Mosquitos lay eggs in standing, stagnant water, and this year it seems we’ve gotten into this never ending cycle of a couple of days of big rain, followed by a day or two of sun, then more rain. So in addition to being full of rich, green grasses and cattails that are taller than I’ve ever seen, our marshes are chock full of standing water and yep, you guessed it, lovely mosquito eggs. And you’ve never even seen a real mosquito until you’ve come here. There’s an old saying, about how a nearsighted one got confused last week and drained a 747…OK, maybe not really, but sometimes it almost feels like they’re that horrible. So the DNR does what they can, and “mosquito bombs” us. What’s that, you ask? Well, in summer, helicopters fly overhead, and drop pellets into the marsh (and onto decks, patios, porches and our public boardwalk) to help control the mosquito population. The first time they came around, the “chopper” as I now fondly refer to it, flew so low over my house  that I felt the cavitation in my chest and through my toenails. I was pretty sure I could put a spitball in a straw and hit a rotor without even trying very hard as they went over the neighbors house, then to the marsh, dropped the pellets and made the turn right past their house and then came back over mine, all within about 20 seconds. I wanted to drop to the floor and scream “incoming”, as I covered my head. I know it helps, it would be so much worse if they didn’t do it, but even so, it’s just a mite freaky. I mean, what happens if an engine fails? Or if the tail rotor goes wonky? I mean, I just know it’s MY house they’re gonna ‘find’ first, and suddenly I’ve got a lovely new piece of art in the shape of a helicopter blade decorating my mantle. Next thing you know, you’re a drive-by side show for half the city.

“Look Howard, there’s that house I heard about. You know the one where the mosquito bomb helicopter was hit with a spitball in the tail rotor, apparently throwing the yaw all wonky, and down she went. You can see one of the main blades sticking out of the side of the house, right above where the mantle sits. Rumor has it the owner was the one who shot the spitball. If that’s just not the perfect example of a karmic kickback, I don’t know what is.”

Maybe I’ll stick to marshmallow guns at family reunions. 

From the Files of…Part 2

And now, for another installment of I can’t make this s**t up.

     First out of the gate, on March 22 it was announced that Sarah Palin was getting her own daytime TV show as a judge. Yep, Judge Sarah, because of course she is a strong litigator and jurist…oh wait, she’s neither of those things. She only appointed judges to the bench during her tenure as Governor of Alaska. That’s like saying George Clooney should have an MD’s license because he played one on ER for so long. (not that I’d mind playing doctor…oops, off track).

Isn’t it nice that we make so much money at our jobs, that we don’t even notice when we misplace a paycheck. What, that never happened to you? Yeah, me neither. Apparently, however, it did for one NFL player who recently found one that he apparently  DID misplace and didn’t even notice was missing. How you don’t notice you don’t have over $135,000 you should have is beyond me. But hey, I guess when you make what they make, that’s just pocket change.

What the hell is wrong with people? Three first graders in Alaska were plotting to poison and kill a classmate using silica gel packets from the seaweed in their lunches. I’m baffled at all the places in this story it’s going awry. First blech, seaweed for lunch. I’m more of a soup or leftovers from tater tot hotdish kind of girl, but that’s just me. Second, silica gel packets? Not poisonous, epic fail. Third, parents, step up and do some teaching here. Ever hear of a little ole commandment of “thou shalt not kill”? Even if you don’t go to church, aren’t religious, or are schooled in faith, most folks still support this statement. I am just baffled how children that age would ever have the idea that this was acceptable.

And finally, taken right from the plotlines of more romance novels than you can shake a stick at, an elderly gentleman decided his 49-year old bachelor son needed a wife, so he took out a $900 ad on his son’s behalfArthur Brooks, purchased the $900 ad in the Coeur d’Alene Press, much to his son Brook’s chagrin. The ad isn’t quite truthful, as it leads the reader to believe Baron knew about it (he didn’t) and the photo is not quite current (more grey hair) but hey, Baron says, he’ll keep an open mind. MIghty big of him I say!

Hope you don’t have too much weird in your world!

Driving 101

As many of you know, I’m the lucky recipient of a brand spanking new hip, which, for a number of reasons, has put me in a slightly different frame of mind over the last several weeks. Residual effects of anesthesia (which I’m told can mess with your brain for up to a year), pain dulling to annoying discomfort, a very slow moving body and forced down time I had all made me see things a little differently.

Among those things are the driving habits of about 75% of the general population, most of whom have forgotten what they learned only long enough to pass their driver’s test, apparently. So, how many of the following will each of you get right? Let’s see. (These are for Minnesota Driving Regulations only, I can’t speak to any other states.)

  1. Right turn on red is: a) never allowed. b) allowed unless otherwise posted, with a rolling stop  c) allowed unless otherwise posted, but only after coming to a complete stop d) always allowed
  2. A stop sign a) only requires a complete stop if there are other vehicles in visible line of sight  b) only requires a complete stop if there are police vehicles in visible line of sight  c) requires a complete stop at all times   d) what’s a stop sign?
  3. After stopping at a stop sign, you can proceed a) through the crosswalk as long as there are no pedestrians in it  b) through the crosswalk assuming you can get through ahead of the pedestrians c) the pedestrians have to stop for vehicles of course, drive on through!
  4. The Move Over Law  a) states all vehicles traveling slower than the posted speed limit need to move to the far right lane on a multi-lane road, or pull to the shoulder on a two-lane road if traffic is unable to safely pass on the left side  b)that you move to the lane farthest away from emergency vehicles, if possible to do so safely  c) we have a Move Over Law?
  5. Correctly identify the sign below:   a) Wheelchair parking only  b) Parking for vehicles with the appropriate disability plates or permits only   c) For use by anyone as long as they aren’t caught.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 7.58.35 PM

The answers are (in case you didn’t know) 1c, 2c, 33a, 4b, 5b.  How many did you get wrong? I hope none, but over the past weeks since I resumed driving after surgery, I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen most of these violated, the exception being the last one. Given adequate time, even that too will happen, sadly. Why am I more sensitive about this? Probably because the speed at which I had been moving much more closely resembled that of the proverbial tortoise, rather than the hare. At Wal-Mart a few weeks ago, I had just parked my car in one of the spots denoted with the sign above (and yes, I have my permit), and got out of my car, proceeding toward the store slowly using my cane. As I approached the crosswalk, a woman came from my right side, briefly glanced at the stop sign (see question #2) decided that red octagonal signs with white outlines were optional and proceeded through the crosswalk – which I had already entered – without stopping (see question #3).

Perhaps I had my cloaking device on again. That had to be it, because that’s the only rational explanation I can come up with for the sheer stupidity exhibited by this apparently adult woman who appeared to be in her 40’s. Not a teen, not anyone talking on their cell phone, and apparently in command of all of her faculties although that is up for debate from my perspective.

I do know that most insurance companies offer discounts to drivers over a certain age if they take a defensive driving course, and in Minnesota it’s 55 years of age. Perhaps it wouldn’t be an entirely dumb idea to offer that discount earlier? Start it at age 30, then boost the value at age 55 from 10% to 15%. State Farm, are you listening? Because apparently people are stupid WAY earlier than at age 55. News flash: yellow lights aren’t for fun, they are to alert you that the red is coming so you can try to stop, not speed up, dumbass! And if you’re climbing up my tailpipe when I’m going the speed limit, knock it the hell off, I’m not speeding up just to make you happy. Ain’t happening, and all you’re gonna get by tailgating me is a) more pissed off, b) a possible ticket for tailgating  c) a possible bigger ticket for the accident you caused when you rear ended me, because in Minnesota if you rear end someone, it IS your fault and d) a lawsuit for rear ending me, dumbass.

If you recognized yourself in any of the above scenarios, perhaps a refresher in Driving 101 is right up your alley.

I Am My Age…I Think

And now, back to your regularly scheduled lightheartededness…..

 

Not old enough to know better

Old enough to know better

Not old enough to know

Old enough to know

Not old enough

Old enough

Not old

Old

Not

And so goes the poem, “The Nine Ages of Man” by F.Emerson Andrews. I was delighted to stumble on the Diane Henders’ “I Spy” series of books about a year ago, for several reasons. The first is they’re just darn good, and keep me entertained. But the second, is that her protagonist Aydan, isn’t 20 something, or even 30 something…she’s – gasp – in her 40’s!!  Someone who is at least closer in age to where I am (and w here I mentally think I will be someday, because let’s face it, I’m still only 35 in my brain.)

Then in the last month or so, I found author Donna McDonald, who writes romantic fiction with a couple of her series focusing on – but not exclusively – adults in their 40’s and/or 50’s (See “The Art of Love””Next Time Around” and “Never Too Late” Series).  The characters may be widowed, divorced or never married, are flawed and imperfect, just like we are, know what they want and don’t want because they are of an age where they’ve lived and experienced life. They aren’t going to shortchange themselves for anyone. I LOVE that! Her characters are strong, funny, and her various series of books are engaging. I really would encourage you to check them out.

But it really got me to thinking about how much I appreciate these authors. The reason? Well, quite frankly it’s all about the old expression “Just because there’s a little snow on the roof doesn’t mean there isn’t a fire in the fireplace”.  Too much women’s fiction out there today is written about the 20 and 30 something crowd and honestly, at 55, I can’t relate. I’m never again (I hope!) going to fret about my apartment roommate, or go clubbing until the wee hours looking for a man (ugh). At this age, we’re over that nonsense. Let’s just cut to the chase because we know what we want, the type of man we want, what we are (and are not) willing to tolerate and we’ll end a relationship a whole lot sooner if it’s not working out. We have jobs, careers, families, hobbies and many of us are intellectually, socially, emotionally and spiritually satisfied already with our friends. A significant other doesn’t fill a gap, it’s an addition to an already full life.

When I finally understood those last two sentences, and truly believed them, I was 38. I had finally come to terms with not being married, and was pretty sure I was never going to be, nor was I ever having children. My sister had two of them and that was going to be enough for me. (I figured I could “borrow” hers on the weekends if I was feeling very maternal, and give her a parenting break, then give ’em back at the end. It was a win-win for everyone.) 1917020_1178599432945_4986073_n

 

Here are a couple of pictures of my niece Rachel on a weekend with Auntie Beth back in the day, clearly having a blast!

401485_3375010141840_1509729840_nI mean what kid wouldn’t have fun when she can wear her ball cap backward, cool sunglasses, and her aunt’s dive mask and snorkel (which she found all on her own and surprised me with!) Wouldn’t you have waited to go to your Auntie’s house too if you could have had as much fun as we did?  Of course you would have!

 

 

 

I remember when I started feeling really peaceful about all of this too.  I was on a sailing cruise in the Carribbean and stood on the deck of the ship with the wind blowing through my hair, just feeling the boat bob up and down, watching the horizon ahead of me as the sun slowly set on the water. The dolphins were swimming just ahead of the boat, giving us a great show as we sailed along, the wind catching our sails. Take a moment to go to Islandwindjammers.com. 149The line that I sailed with is no longer in business, but the photos here will give you and idea of what the boats were like. It was an incredible experience, and I was lucky enough to sail with Windjammer Barefoot Cruises four times before they went out of business. There are thousands of us still in mourning. Here is a shot from the deck of  the boat my husband and I sailed on for our honeymoon, which was the last time I sailed with them. As Jimmy Buffet says “salt air it ain’t thin, it can stick right to your skin and make you feel fine, it makes you feel fine”. And oh boy, does it ever.
Ah, the stories I could tell…but that’s another day.My life was my own and I had no one to answer to. The sense of accomplishment and freedom was amazing, no kids to worry about, no one that needed my time or anyone to split my income with. It was all about me. Then I came home and started seriously dating the man who became my husband. Yep, he was the addition to my full life. As it should be.

So what age am I now? I don’t know. I look at the poem and I laugh, because it depends on the day. I guess I’m at least at the “Old enough to know” mark, but then feel like I do move back and forth a bit, sort of how one moves through Kübler-Ross’ stages of grieving. I’m “Not Old”, then “Old” then back to “Old Enough” again. I’m certainly “old enough to know better” when it comes to going out clubbing, and “old enough to know” that a man will never make me happy, only I can do that. I’m “not old enough” for retirement and AARP (although AARP thinks I am!) and I’m “old enough” now that parts need fixing and replacing. I can only hope it’s a very long while before I feel and act like I’m truly “old”, and even longer before I’m “not”.

Life Lessons

You’d have to be living in another universe lately to not have heard about the Stanford rape case. I am so saddened and horrified by this. The fact that it happened at all is horrific in it’s own right, but the pathetic tripe that has come from both Brock Turner and his father, Dan Turner, make me alternatingly nauseous, furious and just sad. I’m not entirely surprised at the crap from Brock, he’s young and stupid….and by the things he has said publicly, he’s validated just how stupid. Most of us are a product of how we were raised, and it appears that Brock isn’t any different.

His father sent a letter to Judge Persky, asking for leniency since he’s a good kid, never been violent, etc. Now I could understand that if this were about shoplifting, TP’ing public property or some other nuisance crime. But it’s not. This was a horrific crime that violated another individual. If you haven’t read the victim impact statement, please take the time to do so. Her letter is 12 pages long, and I promise it will touch your soul, and speak to you in ways you wouldn’t have thought possible. I didn’t get through the first few paragraphs before I started to cry. This should be mandatory reading for every high school senior and college freshman, man or woman, for anyone who has ever gone to a party and had too much to drink, for everyone in college now and for everyone who thinks “if she isn’t saying ‘no’ then it’s ok” so they understand how wrong that is. Maybe just mandatory for everyone. Period.

Dan Turner is a prime example of what’s wrong with white privilege and why we even have that phrase in our lexicon. Oh, how I wish we could rid ourselves of it in this lifetime! But as long as there are fathers like him out there, we can’t. Fathers that write to judges, pleading for leniency for their sons who rape, saying how it’s changed their life, and now he can’t enjoy his rib-eye steak. His life won’t be the one he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. Here’s an eye opener for you Mr. Turner – his victim’s life is forever changed. She probably isn’t eating well or sleeping well, and no longer enjoys her favorite things.  Her life will never be the same, and won’t be the one she dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve either. She’s been violated, first by your son, then by the hospital where she was examined, in court where she testified and had to relive it all over again and be re-raped by your son’s attorney, and finally by you. All because your son didn’t have the balls to say “guilty as charged” and accept the punishment due him, and because he had daddy to ask the judge, a Stanford buddy, to go easy on his little boy. I’m sure you’re heart is breaking too, your life changed in that moment, so did your wife’s. You’ll forever be known as “that rapist’s parents” and that’s probably not how you ever envisioned the rest of your life. You didn’t ask for it, true, but…and here is the caveat…what did you teach your son about women? Did you teach him to respect himself as well as others? To be courageous in the face of fear? To stand up and say “no” when it really counted? Did you teach your son to be the one to stop on his bicycle, when he saw something wrong in an alley and do the unpopular thing, perhaps risking himself, to take care of someone else because it was the right thing to do? Or did you just laugh off his drunken high school escapades with “boys will be boys”? Maybe ground him for a few weeks, or take away the keys to his Beemer? Or perhaps punish him by telling him that he couldn’t go on a trip for spring break? And Mrs. Turner, you’ve been silent on this, I would imagine as a nurse, there has got to be some measure of shame you must be feeling; after all, part of the Nightingale Pledge says “as a missioner of health, I will dedicate myself to devoted service for human welfare.”  Yet your son was anything but, when he acted like an animal. But you helped raise him, did you not? So don’t you also have some accountability in this? I find it hard to believe you sat idly by and never voiced an opinion, never contributed meaningfully to raising your son by teaching him any kind of values, so it logically follows you must have also influenced the person he has become in some way. Did you turn a blind eye to his escapades and just not punish him? Let yourself be convinced by a charming liar that you didn’t see what was really there?

For the sake of the victim, it’s time that Brock Turner stops saying anything at all about himself, unless it’s to say “I have done a horrible wrong to her. I can never make it up to her. ”  Then shut up. And Dan Turner should either say nothing, or if he feels compelled to speak, say only that “my son did a terrible thing and should have accepted his punishment, I’m sorry I interefered”. Then shut up. There is nothing else either of them can say that can justify it, mitigate it, relieve it, erase it or reverse it. Nothing. Don’t get a publicist, don’t have your lawyer speak for you. Just apologize, shut up and for the victim’s sake, go away.

 

Anesthesia Brain

“Scientists have found that the drugs used most often in the administration of general anesthesia, produce memory alteration and loss side effects that can last anywhere from one to twelve months following surgery. These effects closely resemble that of…..squirrel!!!!!”

Sounded like a plausible headline at first, didn’t it? And much of it actually is an amalgam from several stories that I did read this morning on the web (because you know if you found it on the internet, it’s true). Well it was mostly true, right up to the part about the squirrel…although that part is true enough for me. I am finding that I’ll be thinking  about somthing I need to get at the store (and in fact as I write this, I just remembered something I didn’t get when I was there a short time ago, in spite of the fact it was on my list, dammit), then suddenly before I can write that thing down, I will be onto something else totally unrelated and I have zero memory of what I was just thinking about. None. Zippity-do-dah it’s gone. Before you know it the front door is left unlocked overnight, the shower is still running, the oven is on but there is nothing in it…and I’m taking a nap, because why not? It’s a short nap, because my brain freaks out after about 7.2 minutes and says “hey, remember the THING you were going to put on your list for the store and you forgot” and by the time I wake up enough to write it on the list, I’ve forgotten it again, but at least I turned off the stove. Just not before I stopped to pet the cat, water the plants, get the mail and take out the trash.

And words are gone too…I HATE that. It’s like living in a game of perpetual Charades. “Sounds like…, two words” argh. It’s not like they are complex or unusual things either. Every day items just don’t have a name for a moment. “Honey, have you seen my…” as my voice trails off. Poor husband. He just has to wait it out patiently as I pound my head on whatever flat surface is nearest to me, in frustration. “oh crap, you know, that….thing….it’s almost there…ah, shit, it’s gone. It’ll come to me someday”.  And it does, at 2 am, when I want to desperately be sleeping rather than having this random verbal vomit of words in my head. It slowly is resolving, and I can now go a couple of days without an issue, then suddenly it will creep up on me and WHOOMP. Here we go again.

It can be embarassing too, depending on when it happens. I was talking to a colleague at work the other day, and needed to ask her a question when the topic of the question was just gone. POOF!!  Into thin air. For about 10 min we had to just chat about stuff. Eventually it came back to me, but honestly, the idea was just airborne on the wind until then. Even writing this, I start out thinking “hey, I’ll add….squirrel!!” and off I go again. I’d try writing things down, but that damn squirrel would bury the paper someplace, like an acorn, and then next spring when I’m cleaning I’ll dig up the list and wonder why the hell I wrote down these weird, seemingly random statements.

In the meantime, if you’re talking to me and I just go off on a tangent, bear with me. I’m sure it will improve in time, and remember my husband really needs your understanding and….squirrel!!!

 

 

It’s the Little Things

Thanks Tom, for another great idea for your monthly theme of “It’s the Little Things”!

Listening to the neighbor kids laugh and squeal the other night, my cousin was over and asked my husband and I if it bugged us, to sit and listen to other people’s kids hootin’ and hollerin’. I thought about it and said it didn’t, because they were having fun outside, just being kids, and not indoors playing video games. I thought back to my own childhood, and  remembered how much fund it was when  we used to play “Starlight, Moonlight” and “Kick the Can” and all sorts of other games, some real, some we made up, like the “Run Around the House Game”. I don’t recall the rules, but it involved running around the outside of either my house or my friends  house. We stayed out late, until mom’s voice called us home, sometime close to dark. Sometimes she would even have to call down on the phone (a real one!) to my friend’s house, and tell them to send me home. It was only about 6 or 7 houses away from ours, not very far, but around a curve so if it was after dark, she would watch for me. The yard light would be on, and she would be on the porch, waiting. Remember yard lights? Not house lights, but lights out in the middle of the yard? You don’t see a lot of those anymore.

And it was HOT. Holy crap. We didn’t have central air, only a big window AC in our dining room, so that it was comfortable in the evening where we sat, but not in the bedrooms so much. So at night, AC went off, and windows opened, and the box fans went into the windows, moving the nice, hot, sticky air around. Because that helped so much. If it was really ugly we could sleep in the finished basement. It was much cooler there, oh yeah. So instead of hot and sticky, you got cold and clammy. Hmm. Sometimes we’d sit up in bed, and make funny noises into the fan, because it was just hilarious listening to our voices change against the sound of the fan blades. When you’re little, it doesn’t take much.

As a kid, I felt like summer was magical. Fireflies and fireworks, sparklers and bottle rockets, sandboxes, swingsets and tire swings. We biked up to the 5 and dime, and got some penny candy, or to Brown’s Farmers Market, a little place nearby that was family owned, along the highway frontage road. They knew all of us kids by name, and it was just the coolest thing to get candy there, or an ice cold pop from the dispenser. I loved old Mr. Brown.

I remember pulling carrots out of the ground, wiping them on our shorts and just eating them, right there, or pulling an apple off the tree at grandmas, polishing it on my pants, and digging in. Garter snakes were no big deal, neither were worms. We drank from the hose, and yep, there was a metallic taste to it. I ain’t dead yet. We got into our swimsuits, and ran through the sprinkler for hours at a time, and thought it was wonderful! My sisters and I below, in our backyard.

girls summer 1970

I was lucky too, being a July baby, my birthday fell in the middle of summer, when everyone was bored out of their minds and ready for a PARTY!  That’s me in the middle for my 6th birthday (and my kid sister directly in front of me), with the lovely glasses and striped top. I love how our moms put all of us in dresses back then. Beth's 6th bday 1967 d

 

And I swear, watermelon tasted so much better then. I wish I could find seeded watermelon now. While seedless is easier to eat, the hybridization process removed the flavor…it just doesn’t taste the way it did. And let’s face it, seed spitting is part of summer too and now children are deprived of that.

kids with Atkins 1966

 

 

Here I am, second from left, with the neighbor kids. I’m thinking it must have been a chilly day that day.

 

 

Happiness doesn’t need to come from big stuff, we’ve just allowed ourselves to become overwhelmed by the details of life. It’s the little things, really. Let yourself find them again.