Postcards from the Edge

Florida thunderstorms are earsplitting. They sound like they are happening in our living room, not the heavens above. Bronson is terrified of the noise.  He becomes a shaking, drooling, tail between his legs mess each time we have a furious tempest. We’ve tried a Thundershirt, but no luck. Finally, the vet prescribed Xanax.

For reasons only Bronson could explain, he never wakes Jim during storms. I’m deaf. I have no clue the sky is falling. I can blissfully snooze right through the turmoil. Yet, if it storms, you can be sure the animal will be nudging me awake with a cold, wet nose.

Bronson’s surrogate parents, Brookie and Earl, know about his terror. The other morning, following a rude awakening by the dog, I wrote to them to complain that he never wakes Jim.

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Damned if Bronson didn’t send out his own postcard of censure.

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He even went so far as to color in the front of the card.  He has pretty good fine motor skills, right?

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Trolling for Bolivia, Argentina and Nicaragua

Gentle readers,

Jim, my darling husband, tells me if readers in Bolivia, Argentina, Nicaragua respond to this post he will take me out and pay for dinner.  If those countries don’t respond, I pay. Which stinks since I have zero income.  Please, kind readers, respond.  I am bored with daily cooking.  New meal ideas are elusive.  And if I find them they require work.  Work is not fun.  Work is work.

Those of you in Bolivia, Argentina, and Nicaragua, please comment.  Manifest a night out.   Dinner cooked by someone else.  Served by someone else. Dishes cleaned by someone else.  Other readers, if you have friends in Bolivia, Argentina or Nicaragua please have them respond.

Okay….Here we go. Manifesting going out to dinner!  Yay us.  You and me, readers, we are powerful.

UPDATE!!  Since posting this I’ve had three “views” from Nicaragua!  Yay!

 

Romance, mayhap?

In the twelve years since Jim and I married, Jim has patiently watched me reinvent myself on a semi-regular basis.

I was a product designer.

When I gave that up, I opened an Etsy shop.  Beatrice Bee Vintage.  Etsy turned me into a hunter/gatherer of all sorts of random junk. Any day could find me at Goodwill, garage sales, estate sales, Salvation Army or on eBay.  I bought a  jewelers loop, studied the markings on jewelry, silverware, pottery.  I once found an Acme brand enamel dog pin at Goodwill for 99 cents.  Sold it for over $100.  I probably didn’t ask enough.  If you have time on your hands check out Acme enamel jewelry on eBay.

But Etsy changed.  Things slowed down.  It stopped being fun. I dumped my “inventory” (odds and ends, mostly rubbish) and moved on to doing textured paintings just for the fun of it.  I’d started down that path while living in Barrington when a terrific client commissioned me to do a large triptych.

I painted my son Matt a textured triptych of the Maroon Bells in Colorado.

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The textures used here were palm fronds, leaves, sand, clay and gel medium.

Then I did a bunch more textural non-representational paintings. People ask, “Why not sell them at art fairs?”

Several reasons:

1. The set-ups needed to display your work are big and expensive.

2. There are no guarantees of sales. During the many years I did murals it was commission work. Making money was for sure.

3. Truthfully, my skin isn’t thick enough. Jim and I frequently attend local art festivals. I see the shoppers wandering along, and I hear them critiquing the artwork. They are often nasty in their assessments. My hearing is pretty much shot so I might not be aware of all the sniping statements, but still.

 

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I sent this to my nephew Kelel who very interested in art.  He and his family live in Colorado, so I thought he’d enjoy a painting with aspen leaves.  The light blue areas represent daytime on the mountain, dark blue areas symbolize night, and the smaller canvas is the sunset.

I got tired of having canvases piling up in my workspace. So I moved to crafting art dolls. Fabric babies with hair made out of yarn or alpaca. I purchased forceps for stuffing the fiberfill and turning their fingers, and long needles used to stitch on arms and legs. I scoured Amazon and ordered piles of “how-to” books. I’ve got enough mohair and alpaca to make wigs for a hundred dolls. Plus I needed pens with disappearing ink and others with very fine nibs to draw facial features.

I’ve made several dolls. Most have deformities of one variety or another. My sewing skills are lacking. So I write little back stories explaining the frog feet and other congenital disabilities. I pass them along to friends who likely think, “WTF do I want with this weird thing?” One doll takes days to create. Ultimately I got burned out as a doll maker.

 

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This little lady lives in our laundry room.

 

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These three paintings are across from her.  The trim on the dresses came from vintage hankies I had in my Etsy shop.  I hacked them apart and gave them new life.

 

If you’ve been following my little blog, you know I’m reinventing myself yet again. Writer! Eventually, with any luck and the creek don’t rise, published author.

My latest learning-how-to-write book is Writing Fiction for Dummies.
“Dummies” suggests I choose a genre in which I want to work based on what I like to read.

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Here are what I like: Memoirs, well written and researched historical fiction, breathtaking novels like A Thousand Splendid Suns, Cutting for Stone, All the Light we Cannot See and much more.

Here’s what I know: At age sixty-five I will never develop a skill set excellent enough to get published in those genres.

While plowing through “Dummies,” I discovered 40% of all books purchased are romance novels. I never read romance novels. Well, sure, Pride and Prejudice was a romance novel, but not the sort referred to by “Dummies.”

And supposedly publishing houses are always hoping for new romance novelists. Furthermore, some, like one imprint of Harlequin, will accept submissions from unpublished, un-agented authors.

I decided I needed to learn more about the genre.  Perhaps my odds of publication would improve.

So yesterday my patient husband and I went to the library. He read his latest Clancy novel while I scoured the racks for romance, trying to choose recently published books. Older publications have different sorts of heroes and heroines than more contemporary offerings.  Apparently in the 70’s heroes frequently raped the nubile virgin heroines, tearing their clothes in the act–hence the moniker “bodice rippers” was born.

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Here is a list of titles now sitting on my desk.

Back in the Game.
The Last Debutante
Christmas in Mustang Creek
Speak to me of Love
The Sound of Sleigh Bells
Dark Witch
One Texas Cowboy too Many
Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches Guide to Romance Novels

My well read friend Judy called this morning. She was rolling with laughter when I told her what’s on my reading list. She got even more hysterical when I shared that certain imprints are extremely eager for erotica! No, I doubt I’ll go there. In the unlikely event, I do no one will ever know. I’ll assure anonymity with a nom de plume.

(Although it would be kind of hilarious to be a kinky-smut-writing little old Granny!)

Related Blog Posts:

Textural Triptych

A Hobby!

Travel to China

Passion for Words

Attempting to reinvent myself at Sixty-Five. What am I doing?

I used to ask, “Why me?” Now I say, “Why NOT me!”

 

Road Trip!

This mornings meditation revealed the skeleton of my novel. Breathing and believing I met Kate. She will be my protagonist.
I’ve set a goal to begin writing in September. My plan, fifteen hundred words a day. By January I will have completed the first draft. Then I’ll lock it up for six weeks. In March I will begin revisions.

Why wait until September to start writing? Because we’re heading on a ROAD TRIP!

We’re going to Chicago by way of Waco, Texas. We are both Fixer Upper fans, love Chip and Joanna Gaines. We are excited to see The Silos, visit some of the craftspeople they work with, and buy a souvenir dish-towel. That’s what I collect. Dish-towels. Cheap, unbreakable, takes up zero room in a suitcase.

I have way too many. Now and then I have to retire stained ones to the rag bag. That’s sad.

While in Waco I want to visit Harp Design Company. Joanna works with Clint Harp frequently. His showroom will be fun. I’ve already looked on Harp’s website hoping they offer Harp dish towels. Nope. But Joanna and Chip have a Magnolia tea towel at the Silos.  This is the one I will buy.

We both read their book The Magnolia Story. Here is what I love about this couple–they are living proof that positive thinking creates positive results.

Fun read.

After Waco, we’ll visit Dallas where we will have take a private tour of the Kennedy assassination route. We had two options for the excursion. The first choice is riding in a 1961 Lincoln Continental four door convertible exactly like the one Kennedy rode in on that fateful day.

We settled on the second option: An enclosed and air conditioned car. Dallas in August is not to time to be riding around in a hot, open car.

From Dallas, we head north to Liberty, Missouri. We’ll visit our friend JR. He’s the guy who owns the cows I got to feed. I’m hoping to have another chance to get slimed giving Panda pellets. We’ll also have an opportunity to spend time with his delightful, irreverent Aunt Nancy.

JR isn’t a big fan of dogs. I’m proud to say our Bronson is the only canine creature ever allowed in JR’s home.

Then on to Chicago for a little over two weeks. I am thrilled by the prospect of spending time with my darling grandson, Tate. Plus we’ll get to see Maureen, her husband Stephen and Jim’s son Jason. It’s all good.  This is Tate! Cute, right?

In years past Jim and I have explored darn near every nook and cranny of Chicago. But recently friend Brookie sent us a pamphlet called Fifty Museum Marvels: Chicago Treasures Worth a Second Look (or maybe a first.)

I learned Chicago’s History Museum has an exhibit called “The Secret Lives of Objects.” Included in the display is Ann Lander’s typewriter, Booth One a the Pump Room, Nathan Leopold’s eyeglasses, as well as thirty-nine other unique historical objects. You Chicagoland readers may want to take in this show. It runs through 2018,

The last leg of the journey will take us to Atlanta. I’ve spent hours on Trip Advisor ferreting out adventures in The Big Peach. My next job is to dig up little side trips between Chicago and Atlanta.

In the past, we’ve visited Roosevelts Little White House in Warm Springs, Ivy Green where Helen Keller was born and raised, the Rosa Parks Museum, Churchill Downs, Louisville Slugger baseball bat factory and lots of much more obscure places. Bronson dons his service dog vest and joins in the fun.

Here’s what tricky about long car trips: Not gaining weight. I’ve worked hard to shed nearly twenty-five pounds of wobbly fat, and Jim’s lost over fifteen. We don’t want to find that lard while on the road.

Now, on to do some Trip Advisor research. Hooray for road trips.

Other posts regarding our road trips:

https://lovingsixtyfive.blog/2017/04/13/im-a-terrible-kn…ats-good-because/ ‎

 

 

 

Travel to China

For several years I designed fountains, statuary, and planters. They were made in China and sold at Costco. The job required travel to China. I begged my boss, Mary Beth, to take me there. I had no idea how grueling those trips could be. After my first trek, I began begging NOT to go to China.

The flight from Chicago to Hong Kong was nearly sixteen hours. I was in economy, often a center seat. From Hong Kong, we took a ferry to mainland China, followed by a long car ride to the resin factory, Peak Top.

What I mostly remember was being horribly jet-lagged for the first several days. But we hit the ground running in spite of exhaustion. There was always a ton of work to jam into our two-week junkets.

Peak Top Factory was a large campus surrounded by a fence and watched over by armed guards. On the campus was a three story hotel where we stayed. The first floor had sofas, a reception area, and a dining room. The dining room had five large round tables. In the center of each was a lazy susan. Management ate there, as did any visiting guests.

One morning my breakfast companions were six tonsured Chinese monks wearing brown burlap robes, tied at the waist with a rope.

Breakfast was congee, a rice “soup.” Wallpaper paste. Dinner was always fried rice. There were other options, but none looked too appetizing.

The second floor had guest rooms as well as a karaoke bar. No one was ever in there during our visits. Our threadbare rooms were on the third floor, furnished with lumpy mattresses, a small round table, laminate night stand and an overhead light.

Each day our laundry was gathered and washed. It came back a bit gray. Possibly darks and lights were put in the same loads.

Other buildings on the campus were offices for management, a large showroom where buyers would view finished products, and the factory itself.

There was a giant plot of land where cast off fountains, statuary, and planters went to die. The puddles in fountains were a breeding ground for swarms of mosquitos. We spent hours wandering the graveyard looking for inspiration, being chewed on by bloodthirsty insects.

Every morning we walked from hotel to factory.  The cement stairways were long, each step unusually high. If you happened to be on those stairs when the lunch whistle blew you risked being trampled by hundreds of hungry factory workers.

We worked with design teams to turn our two-dimensional plans into three-dimensional products. First, factory workers made a styrofoam prototype. Once we signed off on that, they created a clay model and made a mold for the resin.

At lunchtime, we went to a small restaurant off campus, chosen because it didn’t serve dog. Before the meal, we washed our dishes with hot water poured from a teapot. Appetizers consisted of redskin peanuts. Picking those up with chopsticks was tricky, but I learned.

The street into Peak Top town was pitted. Chickens wandered the road, and raw meat for sale sat in the hot sun gathering flies. Small children played unaccompanied by parents. Mongrels roamed, picking up scraps when available.  We were told never to walk that street after dark unless accompanied by a couple of men.

While the work was physically exhausting, it was fascinating. We partnered with several English speaking upper management folks. Miss Gao, first name Sunny but no one ever used it, was a wizard with paint.  A skinny little thing, she wore shirt waist dresses, high heels, and on her wrist was a Hello Kitty phone case holding a minuscule cell phone.

When speaking Chinese to coworkers, she sounded angry. I once asked, “Are you fighting with those ladies?” She wasn’t. It’s just how Chinese sounds. Rapid and irate.

Jim Peng was a wonderful young man. He speaks excellent English and loves to read. I would pass along my finished books, and he would devour them in days.  He showed me photos of his childhood home, built into the side of a steep hill.  They had no running water or indoor plumbing.  The toilet was a hole dug in the ground.

Another woman we worked with was Maple. She was beautiful, gentle and ageless.

In spite of the long hours, we did find time for fun. Several times we went to Shenzhen and shopped Luohu market. Luohu is a vast building housing hundreds of vendors selling knock off everything. Gucci purses, Chanel jewelry, Hermes scarves. The shopkeepers are aggressive. They chase shoppers down the halls, pulling at their arms, demanding in pigeon English you buy from them.

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We were told never to pay the suggested price. Barter until you get down to one-third of asking. If you don’t get your price, move on. Three doors down will be another showroom carrying the same items.

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At first, I was timid about bartering, but as the day wore on, I began to have fun with it. I became a very “ugly American.” Mary Beth worked hard selecting half a dozen Kipling bags. She then settled on a price. I declared, “Mary Beth, we’re outta’ here! Put those back.”

She looked bewildered, then laughed and followed me to the hallway. Sure enough, the tiny shop girl pursued her. Mary Beth got the bags for a fraction of what she’d been about to pay.

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This is the Luohu ladies room.  No bathrooms offer toilet paper. If you don’t remember Kleenex you’ll be drip drying.

She was unable to go to China on my final trips due to illness. I went alone for two weeks, returned home for ten days, only to turn around and go back for another two weeks.  My body was completely confused about when to sleep, so I took Ambien. One night after swallowing my pill I opened the kitchen door to let the dog out.

The next thing I knew it was morning, Jim was looming above me. I had passed out and slammed my head against the granite counter top. Jim woke when a random man rang our door bell. He had Bronson in tow. The poor animal had been outside all night.

I ended up at the Emergency room getting ten stitches over my left eyebrow. After that, we decided I was too old to do such a taxing job.

My sister, Marilyn, is a nurse. When she heard my Ambien story, she said, “That’s why they call it the ‘velvet hammer.'”

I’m glad I had the experience of working in China.   And I’m glad I don’t have to do it anymore.

Related blog posts:

Introducing Bronson, our dog trained in the Colorado Men’s Penitentiary

I used to ask, “Why me?” Now I say, “Why NOT me!”

 

 

 

Touching the Planet

WordPress offers the opportunity to look at your blog statistics. Those include how often people clicked on the blog and in which countries. So far my blog has had views from twenty-eight countries. According to Google, there are 196 countries on this planet. I just stamped the math out with my hoof. According to my calculations, I have 164 countries to go.

I’ve only been blogging for since April. It’s exciting to imagine what countries I’ll have touched by this time next year. My goal is one post each day, Monday through Friday.

Dear Readers, if you know anyone in the countries not listed, please send them a link!

Loving Sixty Five has traveled to:

The United States is the winner with 3694 views. Thanks, Americans.

India  Germany  Kenya  Canada  China

The United Kingdom  Pakistan  Ireland  Philippines

Belize  Australia  Hungary  Czech Republic

Singapore  Italy  South Africa  Belgium

Sweden  Brazil  Costa Rica  Spain  Thailand

Bahamas  Greece  Venezuela  Switzerland  France 

 

Isn’t the internet astonishing?  I’m delighted Al Gore invented it.

 

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Still Tapping Away. (with frustration.)

My goal is to learn to write. Not just postcards, journal entries, and “honey-do” lists for Jim. I want to write a book. Toward that end, I’ve been studying. Here’s what’s happening: I’m spending all my time studying and very little time writing.

I figured out why. I dunno’ what the heck to write. How does an author yank a work of fiction out of the ether? I seem only able to write about my personal experiences.

I’ve had oceans of experiences I’d relish sharing, but other participants in those adventures might end up suing me for libel. Anne Lamott of Bird by Bird tells me to turn the law-suit worthy stuff into fiction. She suggests changing enough details of the romps the actual players would be unlikely to recognize themselves. I suppose I could try that. However, those incidents are merely moments. I’d need to figure out what story strings those random snapshots together. That’s the hard part.

Stephen King’s On Writing suggests I play a “what if” game.

What if a short round middle-class housewife found herself in prison for a murder she didn’t commit? Or maybe she can’t remember committing.

What if a floorboard slid aside to reveal a never before seen staircase? Where does it lead and who follows it?

What if I fell asleep here, in the twenty-first century, but woke up three hundred years in the past. Or the future?

Stephen King also told me (yes, we are close) not to speak in a passive voice. And not to use adverbs. Those two things will reveal me as a beginner. They will also expose me as timid.

He suggests writing in a genre I enjoy reading. I like historical fiction and non-fiction. And pretty much everything else as long as the writing is good. I did not like Bridges of Madison County. Sappy. I steadfastly refuse to read Jacqueline Suzanne, or bodice ripping romance novels. I do confess I succumbed to reading the Fifty Shades of Gray series.  Embarrassing admission, but I wanted to know what the fuss was.

I’m obtuse when it comes to poetry. I think poetry is for people far smarter and deeper than I. Unless Dr. Seuss wrote the poem. I get him.
(FYI: At first I wrote, “Unless the poem was written by Dr. Seuss” then realized that’s passive. Fixed it. No rookie mistakes for this old girl.)

Yesterday I went to the library and picked up other books about learning to write. There is a shelf full of them. Dewey decimal system number 808. The librarian recommended a couple of DVDs along with the books. I brought those home too. The writer, Anne Perry, narrates them herself. She has a British accent. I’m deaf. Couldn’t understand a word she said. The DVDs go back to the library tomorrow. I’ll try to exercise self-discipline and not check out six more “how to write” books.

Natalie Goldberg says she often wool-gathers. She stares into the distance then goes for a snack. So far I’m best at following Natalie’s suggestions. I often I find myself staring into space or standing in front of the open refrigerator, unsure how I came to be there.

I just had a Natalie Goldberg moment. Wandered to the cabinet, pulled out our blue and white Graceland mug, sprayed it with Pam, beat an egg and microwaved it.
While eating, I read a bit more of Stephen King.

He told me to write what I see. Right now what I see is a sixty-five-year-old woman who is procrastinating. I’m supposed to write 1000 words a day, eventually working up to 2,000. Here I’m at maybe 600 words.

What else do I see? I see the egg crusted Graceland mug in the kitchen sink. To my left, I see an Oceania cruise brochure Jim says he will read, but I suspect not. The booklet has been gathering dust for a week. On top of the brochure is a scratch pad with a leopard print cardboard cover and on top of that is a solar-powered calculator.

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To my right is a black Pentel .07 Energel pen. I buy those from Amazon even though we have drawers full of ballpoint pens. Jim’s travel hobby is stealing pens wherever we go. However, they don’t write “fast.” Natalie Goldberg told me to use fast pens. Pentel .07 Energel’s are my favorite. They are speedy, yet here I sit tapping on the keyboard instead of scribbling with a Pentel in my composition book.

Behind me, sacked out on our area rug I see a drugged brown dog. Due to storms, I gave Bronson Xanax about an hour ago. Loud thunder turns him into drooling, trembling, tail tucked between his legs mess.

I see a big metal spoon and fork hanging to the left of the kitchen door. On another wall I see three mammoth cows, gazing at me, asking, “What are you wasting your time for?”

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On the floor below the cows, I see a green dog dish, a stainless steel water bowl, and one slightly deflated soccer ball.

Picking up dog toys is the story of my life. I gathered seven from the dining room this morning and dropped them into the sturdy brass bucket my parents got as a wedding gift in 1939. Since then Bronson has retrieved all seven as well as about four more and happily littered them around the house. That was before the Xanax. Now that he’s stoned it might be a good time to clean up again.

Okay, Stephen, I’m up to almost 1000 words, and I’m boring myself. Odds are my six regular readers nodded off 717 words ago.

So with that, I’ll sit my ample backside in my swivel chair, meditate and pray some brilliant book idea manifests itself into my weary gray matter.

What I should do is what Faulkner suggested: “*Murder your darlings.” But I won’t because with this very sentence I crossed the 1000 word finish line! Whoooo Hooooo.

* A Google search revealed Arthur Quiller-Couch was the first to use this phrase. 

My Life of Crime

The first time I ever shoplifted wasn’t actually at a shop. I was five, and I stole a toy helicopter from my friend Lisa’s house. When I got home, my mom saw it. She marched me through the backyards to Lisa’s and forced me to admit my misdeed. I remember standing in the McDougle’s kitchen, tears streaming down my face, Mrs. McDougle looming above me. Lisa held out her hand. I returned the helicopter and vowed never to steal another thing in my life.

Until peer pressure kicked in. In fifth grade, I had a friend I idolized. Lucy. Lucy was everything I was not. She was slim. She had long blond hair, blue eyes, got tan, could play the piano, was athletic, funny, and popular. Boys were mad for Lucy.  Her parents even bought coca-cola by the case. We never had soda in the house. Do you get the picture?

I really wanted Lucy to like me, so when at the Rexall Drug store on Elkton Road, she suggested we each shoplift something I overcame my reluctance. Lucy sidled up to rack of rulers hanging on the front wall. She said, “Watch and learn.” Lucy then slid a ruler up the side of her shorts and walked out the front door. I followed suit. Every time I saw that ruler on my desk at home I burned with shame.

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The last thing I remember swiping was during my freshman year of college when I took a package of Mickey Mouse note cards from the Card Shop on Main street in Newark. I wrote to my terrible first boyfriend on those cards.  For more on that rat-fink, see here. My no-good-very-bad High School boyfriend.

So that’s my criminal career.  Not much to speak of.  But, I had a college friend, Marti, who took the art of thievery to historic levels. At the University of Delaware, everyone dressed up for football games. Marti wanted a brand new outfit every Saturday. As she climbed the bleachers, the other coeds envied Marti’s vast wardrobe of Villager and John Meyer of Norwich A-Line skirts and Fairisle cardigans.

Her gimmick? Each weekend, before a game, Marti would go to the local Ladybug store wearing a raincoat over a bra, panties, knee socks and Bass Weejuns.

She was friendly with the clerks, trying on vast quantities of outfits, passing them over the stall door when they didn’t quite fit. Soon the shopgirls lost track of just what the heck they had gotten back. Within forty-five minutes Marti made a small purchase and left the store wearing an entirely new outfit under her coat.

She continued this practice well after college. And she added a new twist to the pattern. She would buy a dress for a black tie event, tuck the tags in to hide them, then return the gown the next day. The curious thing about this was Marti’s family had plenty of money. She didn’t need to steal or cheat. She just liked to.

She only got caught one time. She was in high school and shoplifting at Kennards in Prices Corner. Her father picked her up at the police station. Her Dad expressed his deep disappointment, which Marty said was worse than if he had yelled at her. It wasn’t compelling enough to cure her.

I wonder why some people are willing to risk their reputations taking stuff that doesn’t belong to them? Fifteen years ago I had a friend who got picked up for shoplifting at Neiman Marcus. As I reflected back over the gifts she had given me it was always little stuff. A Limoges box. A vintage brooch.  Her arrest made local papers.  Her husband was infuriated.

Oh, wait! I just remembered something else I took. On my twenty-first birthday at the Stone Balloon, I drunkenly loaded up my large handmade yellow satchel with about fifteen rocks glasses. When I walked past the bouncer, Tommy, he heard my purse clinking. Busted! He made me give back the glasses then asked me for a date. I said yes.

I doubt filling a purse full of stolen bar glasses would net me a date today.  Happily, I have a steady boyfriend I call “husband.” And I have rocks glasses.

So gentle readers, who among you ever shoplifted? If so, what did you swipe and how did it make you feel?

My Baby Turned Thirty-Four today. (I’m still thirty-nine.)

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This was taken in first grade.  My father chose the outfit Mo has on as her fifth birthday gift. After third grade, she refused to wear anything but boy’s corduroy Levi’s.  By high school, she insisted on wearing pajama pants to school daily.  I was lazy enough to be fine with that.  No ironing.

Today my daughter, Maureen, turned thirty-four.  That kid has been a lifetime of delights.  Mo is smart, hilarious, wonderfully sarcastic, artistic, and athletic.  And no I’m not biased.

Thirty-four years ago today we were in the Wilmington Delaware maternity ward.  Mo’s scant hair was pulled up into a small ponytail on the top of her head, held in place with a bit of pale pink yarn.  She was swaddled as tight as a pea in a pod.

My parents brought Matt to visit.  Mom had made cupcakes.  We gave Mo her first birthday party.  She had gotten a gift for her brother, carried it with her right straight outta’ the womb.  A Fisher Price cop car, motor cycle, and policeman.

Mo went through a four-year-old phase where she refused to answer to anything but “Brucie.”  She sat at the top of a sliding board, screeching at her pre-school teacher “NO, I’M NOT MAUREEN!  My name is BRUCIE!”  We complied.

That teacher suggested to me we hope for a kindergarten teacher who was comfortable with a “creative” child.  I think she meant willful.

In first grade, she wouldn’t sit still.  Teacher Miss Evensen told her to pretend she was in a box.  Mo mimed being in a glass box, reaching out touching sides, ceiling, floor, and moving her mouth to pantomime speech.

By high school, all her buddies congregated at our house.  I remember one night sitting on my bed, reading when suddenly I was surrounded by about six sixteen-year-old boys.

Her senior year, Mo was planning to go to a Jimmy Buffet concert.  The day of the event our yard men came to mow and trim.  Suddenly there was a knock at the back door. The guys had something to show us in the garden.  Lo and behold, there under the evergreens were cases of beer and oceans of liquor bottles.  We gathered it all up, put it on the kitchen island and called Maureen down from her room.

Her eyes bugged out when she saw the booze. Busted. She was forbidden to go to the concert. Then we called our friends, invited them to party and drank up her goodies.

During her four years at Notre Dame Mo spent every summer as a counselor at Camp Sweeney, a Texas camp for diabetic kids.  She and I would drive from Chicago to Texas together.  I’d fly home, leaving her with the car.  I loved those road trips!  We rarely left Chicago before 3 in the afternoon.  We played great games in the car.  One of my personal favorites was trying to decide how we’d murder someone and where we’d hide the body.  We could play that for hours.

Hard to believe my baby now has a baby of her own, Tate.  He is now singing Mary had a Little Lamb.  Mo used to sing that.  She pronounced it Yittle Yamb.  A yittle yamb who yived down the yane.  I would tuck her in for a nap, then stand outside her door giggling as she sang to herself.

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Here he is in his crib. Could the kid be any cuter?

 

Now she’s is a critical care nurse.  I suggested she be an artist. But for some reason she feels being a nurse contributes more than a lifetime spent coloring.  Go figure.

Mo, happy birthday and thanks for thirty-four years of laughter. We can’t wait to see you next month!

 

Our Phony Service Dog

The fabric of my days is pretty consistent. Since my goal is to learn to write, I spend all day reading about writing, journaling, blogging and meditating.

Recently I also spend a percentage of the day working with Bronson, the wonder dog, on his obedience skills.

We adopted Bronson from the Colorado men’s penitentiary. He came to us wonderfully dutiful.  Then we proceeded to untrain him. That began when Jimmy began walking him off leash.   For more on that experience see this blog post– Introducing Bronson, our dog trained in the Colorado Men’s Penitentiary  

I wouldn’t be fussing about Bdog’s behavior if we didn’t have to pass him off as a service animal. No, he’s not a service animal. He is, however, Houdini. Bronson can and does escape from hotel rooms.

The first time it happened was in Georgia. We arrived at our La Quinta and checked in at the front office. Then we piled into Stella, my beautiful blue mini-van, and drove about half a mile. This La Quinta was a lot like a college campus. There were several “dorms.” Each room had an exterior door.

We fed Bronson, left him in the place and went to dinner. Following the meal, we stopped at the front office to ask a question. I waited in the car. Jim entered and exited through the automatic sliding glass doors. As he left, he looked down to his right side with astonishment. I peered through the glow of headlights and saw that there next to him was our Bronson!

Sure enough, Bdog had left our room, found the office, and wandered about. The employees said he had come and gone several times, roamed about, put his paws on the front desk. He was looking for us.

We drove back to our building. In the parking lot, we encountered an apparently drunk man. He took a glance at Bronson, then asked, “That your dog? Pretty darn smart dog you got there.”

He continued, “I found him wandering around, asked him where his room was. He led me up there.” (pointed) “I put him back in the flat three damn times and he kept right on escaping.”

The second time he absconded in spite of us rolling a desk chair in front of the door as we backed out of the room. We arrived home from dinner, and Bronson was in the reception area, holding court with employees.

The third occasion I went to fill an ice bucket and returned within minutes to find Bronson bounding down the hall, ears flapping, wearing a giant grin as if to say, “Here I am mom! On the way!”

So we can’t leave him in hotel rooms. Nor can he wait in a hot car while we dine. Therefore I went online and ponied up sixty-five dollars to get Houdini a service dog vest.

My daughter, Mo, is horrified we pass the kid off as something he isn’t.  She shouldn’t be so darned honorable.  I have to wonder how I failed as a mother.

Recently I checked how to have him certified as a service animal. It would take two years. Forget that. So I signed him up for obedience classes to brush up his skill set.

There are five dogs in his class. The handlers use little “clickers.” Each time the dog responds well to a command we “click,” then reward with a treat. He’s a rock star student.

I’ve only been asked once why I need a service dog. I responded, “I’m sorry. Will you repeat that? I’m hearing impaired.” By the time we head to Chicago, the kid will be totally believable as a guide dog to the deaf.

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Here he is on an Aspen ski lift.