High School Reunions

I recently got this letter in the mail from a fellow Newark High School graduate Chuck Cover.  Seems I sent it to him about fifteen years ago, prior to a reunion.  I tried to trick him into thinking me fit and fancy.

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I’ve been to several NHS reunions, but two  stand out clearly in my mind.

My favorite reunion prank was played with a writer friend, Jane Guill, author of Simon and Schuster’s Nectar From a Stone.   Jane and I made up a fancy classmate, named her “Deweybrat” and spun an exotic world trotting lifestyle for her. Weekly we would meet for breakfast. Jane would dictate tales about  beautiful Deweybrat, owner of a lingerie factory.  Dewey traveled the world marketing her products.  She also had a gorgeous hunk handsome man in her life.  Jane based him on her hunk handsome Welsh husband, Andy.

I  asked family members and friends if they had any exotic trips coming up.  Jane wove the locations into our letters. My friends then posted mail from all over the world!   I have no idea how many we sent, but the prank went on for the better part of a year.  I even paid for a ticket for me,  as Alice, and for Dewey, anonymously.

It was a gas, and we had the reunion committee racking their collective heads to figure out who Deweybrat was.  There was some finger-pointing, but I denied any knowledge.

Deweybrat, being fictional, was unable to attend.  Jane invented a fire in Dewey’s garter belt factory.   Emergency!  Deweybrat couldn’t attend!  I then sent the committee a last-minute Western Union telegram voicing Dewey’s regrets.  Boo Hoo.

I specifically asked Western Union if point of origin would show  up on the telegram.  I was assured not.   WRONG.  My cover got blown on the afternoon of the reunion.   That evening the committee presented me, aka Deweybrat,  a white feather boa.  It was very Deweybrat-ish,  but a  disappointment after nearly a year of crafting letters and sending them from afar.

My second favorite reunion was my ex-husbands.  I wore the name tag of some woman who failed to show up.  All evening people were talking to me about how I’d changed,  Pretty funny.  There were amazing and amusing stories I learned about my fake me.  Fibbing has its advantages.

 Nectar From a Stone by Jane Guill

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Possibly my most embarrassing moment ever.

Years ago I walked in the Chicago Marathon. The only walkers permitted were those willing to fund-raise for juvenile leukemia.  I signed on with three friends and we made it our job to prepare by walking mile after sweaty mile.  Naturally, I got into darn good shape.

The evening before the marathon my husband hired a car to ferry me I to the city.  We were staying at the Men’s Athletic Club, a jazzy joint one of my friend’s husbands belonged to.

After I climbed out of the car and leaned into the back seat to pull out my small suitcase, I was surprised the driver kept me talking on the curb.  I thought, “What a nice friendly fellow.”

Finally, I entered the hotel.  The lobby was packed with men of all sizes and stripes.  As I strolled past the reception desk all those male eyes were riveted on me.   The millions of miles walking had paid off.  I clearly looked smoking hot!

To get to my room, I needed to ascend a long open winding staircase.  Enjoying the attention I slowed my pace, swung my hips, sashayed those steps and relished the moment.

Upon arriving I called my friends.  While on the phone I turned to the full-length mirror intending to dwell on the amazing, wondrous beauty of me.

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Looking sexy, right?

That’s when I saw the hem of my dress was tucked firmly into the waistband of my pantyhose.  And I wasn’t wearing any underpants.  

Sigh.  I had to go back through that lobby to meet my buddies.  That was a radically different walk….

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My walk of shame

It’s funnier when looking at it through my rear view mirror.  That night, not so much.

How knitting saved my marriage

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I have a wonderful vintage button collection, but still love to purchase buttons I don’t need with money I don’t have.
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This is my latest project.  I’ve found a victim and will ship it in the fall.  Isn’t the  big green button great?  Found it in a Chicago thrift store, as well as those rust colored ones.  They even have a hint of purple. Perfection.

I am an awful knitter…and that’s good because practicing my knitting makes road trips with my husband way less stressful.

When I first began knitting I dropped so many stitches you could fit your head through the holes in my scarves.  So I’d knit patches to cover the holes.  Then I’d sew buttons over the holes in the patches.  My early scarves were really weird.  Twelve inches wide in spots, four inches wide in other places.  But that didn’t stop me from handing those odd rags out to (long-suffering) friends.  One was so heavy and thick I’m pretty certain my buddy had to crawl when wearing…it dragged her to the pavement.

Here’s how my bad knitting has saved my marriage.  I only knit in the car when Jim and I take long road trips.  He hates the way I drive.  I hate the way he drives right back.  He follows too closely causing me to have to press the imaginary brake in the passenger seat foot well.  And occasionally gasp loudly.

I took up knitting so I am looking down when he’s driving.  Eyes on the needles!  We’re both happier that way.

I suppose he hates my driving because I’m quite a bad driver.  I never knew it until a whole lot of people informed me.  I’m slow.  Hands nervously at two and ten.

In 2005 I bought myself a darling Mini Cooper. I chose the fastest engine, manual transmission, British racing green and SO CUTE.  That zoom-zoom engine was totally wasted on me.  I probably never drove that Mini over 55 mph. I swore I’d NEVER sell that car–her name was Maude.

Then, much to Jim’s dismay, I opted to trade Maude in for a mini-van– a baby blue, Honda Odyssey named Stella. We travel with our beloved dog, Bronson. More about him in future posts. I wanted Bronson to have total comfort and several cup holders.

The day we mini-van shopped Jim brought along Maude’s title. He swore he’d only mini- van shop ONCE, so we’d better damn well find the right car that day.

Well, he was wrong. We mini-van shopped twice.  I traded Stella in for a newer, slicker model. Gracie. She’s gray.  Creative, eh? She has a little refrigerator in the front seat. And, happily, she has a fine brake in the foot well of the passenger side.

We’ll take Gracie to Chicago in August.  Jim will be driving.  I will be knitting.  Anyone want a scarf?  I’ve gotten better! Rarely drop stitches, but still add patches and buttons for fun.  All my new friends are Floridians.  I need some cold weather victims. LMK if your neck needs warming up.

honda odyssey                mini cooper

Ah! First crushes were enormous, weren’t they?

Recently I found my meditating mind circling back to my youth. It occurred to me that another great thing about being sixty-five is the angst of my younger years is behind me.

When I didn’t have much time booked on this planet everything seemed enormous! Now, not so much.

For a time being my big anxiety centered around Carl Jacobson. I clearly remember the hours/weeks/months fretting over him. He was the dreamboat I “loved” in Junior High. He was gorgeous in a Paul McCartney floppy hair way.

Carl played alto saxophone, so I took up sax. I planned to sit next to him in band practice. Little did I know he was lead chair, I was last chair. Our paths didn’t cross. Plus I learned playing sax was a pain–you had to put the dry reed into your mouth and hold it until it became flexible. That made me gag. Furthermore being in band involved wearing ugly black and gold wool uniforms with ridiculous tall feather adorned hats.

Another “nab Carl Jacobson” plan involved basic stalking. Walking by his house. Going wherever he might go. Once I went to a MYF dance (Methodist Youth Fellowship) because rumor had it he’d be there. The passing clothing fad was denim pants that rolled up to just above the knees and wide horizontal stripe t-shirts. Mine was navy and white, purchased at National 5 and 10 on Main Street, Newark, Delaware.

The afternoon of the dance I worked for hours on my “look”. Set hair in big rollers and sat under the dryer. The dryers in the 60’s were plastic boxes with flexible tubing attached. The other end of the tube was hooked into a bubble cap that blew up like a balloon when the dryer was running. My dryer had a fancy feature whereby you could put perfume into a certain spot and your hair would come out smelling amazing. I used Jean Nate.

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Then I put on my jean shorts and tee-shirt. Standing in front of my mom’s full length mirror I saw I had very big, very obvious thigh saddle-bags. I reasoned that I could reduce the look of those fat wads by stuffing Kleenex into my pants just above the widest leg lump. Not the best plan. I didn’t consider the fact the tissue balls would shift. By the time I ran into Carl Jacobson my backside appeared to have tumors.

Goodness, I spent a lot of my youth sweating the very small stuff. Being old is good because it’s given me perspective. Yay for being sixty-five.

Writing Letters is fun. Getting responses is even funner. (And yes, funner is too a word.)

Continue reading “Writing Letters is fun. Getting responses is even funner. (And yes, funner is too a word.)”

Growing up in a college town was good because…

Delaware stadium

I grew up in Newark, Delaware, home of the University of Delaware and the Fighting Blue Hens.  As a kid I took hearing the marching band on autumn Saturdays completely for granted.  Now, looking back, I realize what a gift it was to live close to the Delaware stadium.

In junior high school I had a close friend, Ruthie, who lived a stones throw from a boy’s  dormitory.  We were eager to get inside that dorm.  I was thinking we might actually see a naked boy or two.  I didn’t have a brother, so the prospect of seeing boy body parts was thrilling.  We dug through her brother Steven’s drawers, pulled out piles of guy’s clothing and dressed up like boys.  We then marched our male selves into the dorm.  I don’t remember much about it other than the place smelled like sweaty sneakers.  No naked guys, but it was still a big adventure.

The college campus was a wonderful playground.

I went to U of D and was an art major in the early 70’s.  It was a fun experimental time.  Junior year I gave a friend a bong for  her birthday. When her dad found it she told him it was a sculpture I had made in class.  Wild times and lots of laughs.

That same year  I got a job working at the Stone Balloon serving pitchers of beer.  My mother was horrified that I was “a bar maid”.  The Balloon was owned by a man named Bill Stevenson.  His then wife, Jill, was a beautiful blond who would come into the bar  looking somewhat bewildered.  She later married Joe Biden, and the rest is history.

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Who out there remembers the Stone Balloon?  Bruce Springsteen played there as did Tiny Tim.   The other bar in town was the Deer Park.  That’s where the frat boys hung out. The Balloon was for “hippies” according to my ex-husband.  Guess I was a hippie.  I had a peace sign necklace and marched in a Viet Nam war protest ( but only because I had a crush on a guy who was marching…I now realize a lot of my choices in life were motivated by crushes.)

I dated that boy for about a year.  He went on to become gay.  I wonder if dating me drove that?   He was the drum major in Delaware’s marching band and a fellow art major.  We tie died tee shirts together and spent an illegal night in the art studio.  He was cute, funny, and a wonderful dancer.

Somehow I wandered off the growing up in a college town topic.  Oh well.  It’s my blog.  I get to do whatever the heck I want with it.  Life is good.

University of Delaware

 

 

 

A Hobby!

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This is my latest creative hobby. I make wonky little dolls, decorate them with jewelry from my defunct Etsy shop and foist them off on friends. This little lady went to live in Miami. Her backstory is that she’s from Cuba. She actually turned out pretty well. Many of them have birth defects.

Like the chick below. She was my first attempt. Her feet look like frog feet. Her back story? Her mother was beautiful princess given to wandering the woods and kissing frogs. One day the frog she kissed transformed into a handsome prince. They married and this baby was the product of that union. Clearly, frog DNA was still in Dad’s system. I sent her to a friend in Pennsylvania.

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Yay! Marriage survived the birthday surprise!

My husband turned seventy on March 29th. Which, weirdly enough, is also my ex-husbands birthday.

Jim’s son, Jason, made the decision to fly in for the day and surprise his dad. I wanted to save the “kid” (in his 40’s) cab fare so offered to pick him up at the airport. Needed to keep his visit a secret therefore told Jim we were picking up a friend.

“Who?” he asked.

“Charki. And she’s flying in on Southwest, landing in Tampa.” That was the first friend who popped into my brain. Charki lives 45 minutes south of us in St. Petersburg. Charki is a retired United Airlines employee. Naturally she always flies United because it’s free for her.

Happily, Jim didn’t pick up on that odd bit. Truly lovely to be married to a vaguely obtuse man.

We boogied to airport at about 3 p.m. “Charki” was to land at 3:50. Parked in the cell phone lot and began watching the giant light up board for arriving flights. The plane departed from Midway, Chicago. YIPES…there were NO Chicago flights are on the electronic sign.

Jim began to grill me, “Are you SURE it’s coming into Tampa? And you SURE it’s not St. Pete.”
“Yup, I’m certain.”

Five minutes rolled by and again he said, “Are you certain? There are no Chicago flights on the board. I think you should call Doug!” (her husband)
“Don’t have his number” Lie lie lie
“Then call (mutual friends) Brookie and Earl. Get Doug’s number. And
what’s the flight number? You should always get the flight number!”

I couldn’t call from my phone. The call would have been broadcast loudly from my bluetooth, which I have no idea how to disable because that would require reading the manual. I don’t do manuals, I just pound on buttons and turn knobs until (maybe) something works out.

Texted B and E saying, “I’ll be calling, please play along.” Then I called. Hooray, neither picked up.

Emailed Jason, “DO NOT TEXT OR CALL ME WHEN YOU LAND. (damn Bluetooth again)
” JUST EMAIL. And, oh by the way, are you landing in Tampa?” (Please please please be landing in Tampa or I’m toast.)

By now my normally rarely-wants-to-murder-me husband was fuming. No Chicago flights on Big Board. No way to reach Charki. And furthermore, why did Charki not fly directly to St. Pete where she lives?

At long last Jason emailed, “On the ground. Will be standing at Southwest arrival wearing plaid shirt and red back pack.”

“Hooray Jimmy, Charki landed. She will be wearing plaid. And a red back pack.”
That bit caught Jim’s ear….Charki, in plaid? Charki is known for crisp white shirts, flowy scarves, hip jewelry, cute color coordinated cross body bags. When he pointed out the curiousness of this I simply said, “She likes plaid for flying.” Seems I’ve easily grown into being a big fat liar.

We cruised along arrival area until I spotted Jason. Jim, looking keenly for Charki in her unique new ensemble, never noticed Jason until Jason pounded on the driver side window. The look on Jim’s face was worth all the lying, sweating, fretting and enormous anxiety attack.

Secret kept! Cloak and dagger stuff accomplished. Marriage survived! Yay. Altogether great day.

Plus neighbor Lynda baked him an awesome Girl Scout Thin Mints birthday cake. That’s it in the photo. 5 candles, one for every fourteen years. Needed a calculator to figure it out. 🙂 Just to be sure I counted it out with my hoof.

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At sixty-five I forgot how to make my formerly fantastic Toll House Cookies. What’s happening to me?

I really messed up my last batch of chocolate chip cookies. This was SO wrong. Once upon a time I had amazing cookie baking tricks and a reputation to maintain. After a while baking chocolate chippers was like riding a bike. I knew how to do it and they were always awesome…

Until they weren’t.

On March first I made our neighbor, Brian, a batch of my Toll House cookies for his twentieth birthday. I’ve made them for him regularly and successfully in the nearly four years we’ve lived here.

But on March first something went horribly wrong. The cookies ran together in a big mushy mess. I managed to scrape them onto cooling racks, whereupon the middles dripped through the wires to the counter below. They were a dismal embarrassing failure.

I blamed it on humidity. I blamed it on the oven, the ingredients, the alignment of the stars. I blamed it on everything but human error. (ie myself)

I should have started over. Instead I chose to go with, “Well, it’s the thought that counts!” When I was able to kinda’ sorta’ move from racks to platter I displayed the least unfortunate ones on top. Brian ate them without complaint but Brian is twenty. Twenty year old boys eat everything without complaint.

Meanwhile my daughter Mo–the cookie baking hot-shot show off–keeps posting Instagram photos of her baking products. Snickerdoodles, Toll House, Oatmeal Raisin, chocolate ones with sinfully delicious looking chunks. This pictures shows perfectly browned, uniform French-bakery-shop-worthy beauties.

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Her latest miraculous cookies.  She likes to taunt me by sending these pictures.  It’s a good thing I love her.

How is this possible? I’m the cookie person in this family, dammit.

Finally I broke down and confessed I had lost the touch. I asked Mo for advice.

“Are you using a cookie scoop, Mom?” …..huh?

“What about silpat matts?”….and those are? My deaf ears translated that as “thilfad”, then “willgab”. She finally spelled it out “Stephen, Igloo, Lady, Patio, Alice, Too bad/so sad/can’t hear.”

“Do you have half sheets?”  This one I actually knew about from Ina Garten.

“Furthermore it’s best to weigh ingredients rather than measure by cups–flour settles. A cup isn’t always a cup. Oh by the way the best temperature is generally 350 degrees other than for chocolate chip, which I bake at 360.” ….again, huh?  I thought 375 degrees for chocolate chip cookies was a hard and fast rule.

All in all I figured out I really don’t know squat about cookie baking.
Immediately went to Amazon–bought the aforementioned scoop and silpat mats.

Today I decided to dive back into the cookie dough. I didn’t have ingredients for chocolate chips, plus I was still too cowed by my recent failure.

I made peanut butter cookies instead. I even snuck in some of Jim’s closely guarded Dove Dark Chocolate mini candies. The results? Not bad. Not as gorgeous as Mo’s though. Guess my next purchase is a scale for weighing the flour I can’t eat. Celiac Sprue, no gluten allowed….which is a good thing because I shouldn’t be eating cookies anyhow.

Check out these yummy confections. Yay me! No they aren’t as uniform as Mo’s, but I’m just a beginner.

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Once every sixty-five years I do yard work whether it needs it or not.

Four years ago Jim and I bought our little patch of Florida.  The house we chose was built in the 1980s  (a grim chapter in architectural design) and had absolutely no landscaping.  In nearly forty years not one previous owner dug a hole and dropped in a bush or two?   Weird.

Shortly after moving in we found a landscape designer and had the place prettied up.  Along the sidewalk he planted Emerald Goddess Liriope.  It was beautiful the first year, pretty the second, tired the third and now, coming up on four years, it looks sad and mostly dead.

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Our pathetic plants.
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What they are supposed to look like (only in focus instead of all blurry).

Yesterday I suggested to Jim we rip out all thirty-two plants and replace them with something that “stays nice.”  Jim simply laughed.  I took that as a “fat chance, lady.”

So I decided to do a little internet research.  It seems liriope is to be pruned back early each spring.  Who knew?

I have always loathed yard work.  I know some among you find it therapeutic and satisfying.  By all means, come here for your therapy and satisfaction.   Me, I’d sooner endure a root canal than a day yanking weeds.   However, yesterday some insanity overcame me!  I decided to cut those darn bushes to the ground.  I grabbed the kitchen shears and had my way with seven of them.

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An hour after hacking away, seven down twenty-five to go!  Keep scrolling down here.  There is a big dead white space under this photo.  Figuring out how to do away with it is above my pay grade.  And no clue where the “K” below this post came from.

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Early this morning I hit the yard once again.  Halfway through the first bush of the day my arthritic old hands declared a strike.  I went to Jim and he set me up with a power tool!  I ripped through the rest of those plants like a hot knife through butter.

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Power!  It was a chain saw massacre.

Now I merely have to sit back and wait for manifestation of new growth!  Altogether the yard work was a satisfying experience.  Perhaps I’ll do it again in another sixty-five years.