Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Peggy Lee and my life

Years ago, Peggy Lee sang a song, Is That All There Is. I know, who the fuck is Peggy Lee. That song was one of my mother’s favorites. Because my mother was an unknown artist, an unpublished writer, and a musician without an audience, I thought she was cynical to like a song like that.  But as I get older and deeper into how life and most all dreams and hopes, though sweet, dissolve like sugar in water, I’m beginning to think just like her.

We have such high hopes when it comes to the one life we get to live on this earth and sometimes, after even the grandest and most exciting experiences, I wonder, is that all there is.

Living the dream, the subject at hand over on Betsy Lerner’s blog today, is a pretty lofty prize. In my entire life I’ve heard only one person say they are living their dream, my daughter on her first day walking to class at the college she considered her dream-school. The path she took to get there was monumental, that she succeeded was, and is, huge.

“Do you know how lucky you are to be able to say that you are living your dream,” I said to her, “because people live their whole lives without being able to utter those words?” Through happy-tears she said she understood and I believe she did.

I’m always scanning the horizon for the next best thing, the next hope, the next dream. Like blowing on a candle I dare not verbalize it because once the smoke is gone and the room is dark...is that all there is?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

May your sheets have bedbugs and your pants have ants

I had been shopping around town, gas, groceries and a few whatever’s and my debit card - declined wherever I went. At the first place, a gas station, I thought, hells bells I mustn’t have enough in my account. I check my balance; jeez I’m loaded, got more than I thought. I figure it’s a glitch. Off to the grocery store, declined. Now I’m embarrassed, they think I’m a deadbeat. I make a lame joke, pull out my Visa and I’m on my way.  Few days go by and I need gas again, DECLINED, shit what the hell is going on. I check the balance again, I’m still loaded, sort-of so what’s up. Now I’m pissed.
After another very embarrassing $13.00 declination, the toothless clerk thought I didn’t even have a lousy $13.00 to my name - which I didn’t because I couldn’t use my damn card - do I really care what she thinks, yes, damn it. I return home, print a statement and call the bank.

What the - there’s a $299.00 charge to my account at Wal-Mart. I’ve been to Wal-Mart recently, used my card I think, did I, didn’t I and did I spend that much, I’m so confused.
“Have you been to California lately”, the nice young girl on the phone asks. Hell no. I live 3000 miles from there. I’ve never been to California and am not itching to go.

My debit card is flagged as a “Hot Card”, which has nothing to do with whether it’s sexy or not because some yah-who on the west coast charged $299.00 on my account in San Diego.

My bank’s loss prevention department spotted the fraudulent charge and froze my account. God bless the bank. Now I have to wait 10 days to get a new card. No problem.
Crooks, thieves, low-down dirty scoundrels who deserve nothing, I officially place bad karma on whatever you bought.

May all your electronics be infested with viruses and the rest of what you illegally procured be too tight, broken, the wrong color and stink of rotten marsh mud. Have a nice day.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Driving a happy marriage

            My mother and father were married for sixty-two years, a pretty amazing feat, considering they knew each other only eighteen days before they were married. Theirs was a WWII Navy romance, meet, marry and love like there were no tomorrows, because for them, there might not have been any. But, they had more than 22,000 tomorrows; some good, some bad, some unforgettable and a lot of them just plain funny.

            I’ve been with my husband more than half my life, which seems pretty monumental, yet I know decades together does not always a happy marriage make. Commitment has nothing to do with a piece of paper downloaded off the internet, then signed and filed with the town you’re getting married in; it has to do with endurance. My father was a humble man and the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet. My mother…she had an answer for everything and her answers were always right, even when she was wrong. My father was okay with that, and often took the blame for being wrong, because he loved her, was a master of endurance and he was in it for the long haul.

             I’m wondering at what point the bliss, which we call connubial, reaches its marital tipping-point; the instant at which a couple has been together so long that bad habits, become simply annoying, and the annoying ones are considered quirky and cute. Personally, this wedded point of no return basically means I’d rather put up with my idiosyncratic spouse instead of training a new one.

            Because I didn’t marry until I was thirty I was pretty much used to doing most of the guy-stuff around the house myself, like changing light bulbs and cleaning snow off my car. Because I was so used to being in control, attempting to give that up, and failing so miserably at it, has been an ongoing thorn in my husband’s side; principally among my control-transgressions, driving.

            I like to drive, not just because it is something I enjoy doing but because I like deciding the velocity and trajectory of the vehicle I’m in. Is it because I choose to exceed the posted speed limit, no, it’s because I like to be in control of the object in which I am housed as it’s being propelled down the blacktop mere inches away from other vehicles racing to keep up or get ahead of me.

            After a particularly hyperbolic exchange regarding my husband’s parking ability, (I always tell him where to park and how best to accomplish the task), I asked him, “How do you operate this vehicle when I’m not in it to tell you how?”

            “I simply ask myself,” he said, “what would Carolynn tell me to do?” I just love a man with a sense of humor.

            Maybe that’s the answer, not the sense of humor part, the just ask me part; I tell him what to do and how to do it, and he does exactly what he wants to do. And that, my friends, is what makes a long and happy marriage. It worked for my mother and father

            I do bow to my husband’s expertise often. He’s amazing with a hammer and nails, the man could build a ten room colonial from the scrape wood stored in our basement.

            I have a sign which hangs on the wall in our kitchen above the back door: “If a man is alone in the woods and speaks, and there is no wife to hear him, is he still wrong?

            Unlike my mother I admit, I’m not always right, I’m almost always right.

            Enough said.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My husband my cold

My husband had a cold; five simple words which record the actual end of life on earth as we know it.

Day one, “I have a scratchy throat.”

Day two, “I think I’m coming down with something.”

I ignored him because for the previous month my sniffles had morphed into a 4am visit to the emergency room and time off from work. I don’t get paid for sick days, but I took one, because I was, key word, sick.

Day three, “I think I have a temperature, I have come down with something.”

Not that I’m competitive, particularly regarding illness, but I had a double ear infection, (my left eardrum burst twice), a sinus infection, (my head felt like a cinderblock at the bottom of Long Island Sound) and I had not slept for a week. The worst part, because of the ear issue, I couldn’t hear a thing. My husband complained that the TV was too loud, so I turned it down; he got upset because I couldn’t hear him. I call it selective-nurturing.

“Day four, do we have any NyQuil?”

That, he uttered during Alex Trebek’s reading of Double Jeopardy categories. He fell asleep during Final Jeopardy and slept through Wheel of Fortune; I hadn’t had that much sleep in seven days. During Pat’s final spin, my husband took NyQuil, chased it with Busch, (dumb), and went to bed. I turned up the TV.

After my initial course of meds, I stopped carrying around a box of Kleenex and had two nights of semi-restful sleep. I was on the mend until everything came back, my ears filled up, my sinuses closed, I could feel my heartbeat in my head. I was going to resort to gin. I don’t drink, but I was willing to try Gilbey’s just to get a good night’s sleep. Within a day of starting another round of antibio-something, I entered the world of the living again.

By then my husband was miserable, I handed him my box of Kleenex. Mind you, the man was not sick, he did not have a cold, he had the sniffles. No temperature, no cough, no ear infections, sinus infection, headache, body-ache, can’t sleep, eat, drink or work kind of illness. But to him, no one had a cold as bad as his cold.

Why are men such babies when they get sick? Did their mother’s coddle them by massaging their egos with Vicks? Don’t get me wrong, the man is not a wimp, he’s a tough guy; he uses duct tape to close wounds that need stitches until a trip to the ER at the end of the work day.

After recently sharing with a group of female co-workers, my husband’s cold-whining, it came to our attention that almost all of us are married to the same man. And the single women…they are divorced from the same man. The general consensus, if men gave birth homo-sapiens would have become extinct eons ago. But what we thought was interesting was that when men are really sick, anything requiring an actual trip to the doctor like chest, head and back pain, they act like nothing is wrong until they fall flat on their self-inflated sense of strength.

I love my husband. I love that when I get sick, he gets sick too. Maybe it’s a sympathy-pain kind of thing guys get, and then again maybe it was a cold, a real cold. Even if it was, and I doubt that it was, mine was worse than his.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Grain by grain

The nursery school takes children as young as three, the seniors are five. They are cute, those little ones, so much energy and wide-eyed curiosity. Too bad we lose that inquisitiveness as we get older.
At my daughters’nursery school, years ago, they presented discovery, and fun, along with nurturing and consistency. The kids learned and so did the parents.

The little yellow school, all cherry and bright is built on a small lot in the center of a small town. The L shaped diminutive yard around the school is fenced in and carpeted in beach sand, a wonderful medium for little ones to play in. Around the back of the building the sand was thin, weeds were popping up all the time, so the head of the school ordered a dump truck load of sand. They made sure the truck came when all the kids were there, little kids love big-trucks.

The huge pile of sand was a whole new playground for the kids. Problem…it was for the back area behind the school. A Bobcat was brought in and though the machine was small, it was too big to maneuver alongside the building to dump the sand in the back part of the yard. The teachers thought of calling for parent-volunteers with shovels but the kids were at the school because most of the parents worked. What to do?

The little-ones were excited, all they wanted to do was play on the hill of sand in front of the school. So, each child was given a sand-pail and a tiny plastic shovel. Before morning snack-time the entire dump-truck load of sand was moved behind the building, one sand bucket at a time. At naptime every child slept well.

Moral of this story;
If a bunch of toddlers can move a mountain so can you. You'll sleep better too.

Have you moved mountains?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Last night at 2:12 AM, (I love digital clocks, they tell to the second just how awake I am), I thought of a line, a saying, a cliché, maybe someone else’s, maybe mine,  whatever you want to call it, and after I thought of it I remember thinking, I won’t remember this in the morning and that pissed me off. But this morning I did remember.

Wake up with a dream go to bed with a prayer.

Passing math, getting your license, graduating, getting the ‘thick’ college packet, waiting for him to call, or show-up, pick-up or ask...the job, the house, whether the stick would turn blue…

Wake up with a dream go to bed with a prayer.

Writers do this all the time, from first byline, to title page, to NYT’s bestsellers list. We work so long and hard, (alone mind you), that the dream washes our DNA, soaks into it, becomes it and the prayer, an everlasting a mantra.

All of my life, the dreams that became prayers…they were answered, although I didn’t always get the answer I wanted. If I look at where I am, and where I have come from, the answers have suited my life well. I’m at the stage where I am trusting in the system.

Yup, it was 2:12 AM, exactly, not the time I was awake but the time I thought of the line.

Wake up with a dream go to bed with a prayer.

I wonder what I’ll think of tonight. What do you think of at night?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A clunker is a clunker is a clunker


            I need a new car. I have needed a new car for a few years. I needed a new car when I bought my old car which had belonged to my father and was already his old car.

            Because my three-owner, 2000 minivan averaged 19 miles a gallon, instead of 18, it wasn’t qualified to be a clunker during the governments’ clunker program a few years back. It looked like a clunker, sounded like one, got lousy mileage and yet it was considered an ecologically fit vehicle; how ludicrous is that? Now it’s so unfit I don’t buy ice cream when I go food shopping for fear it won’t start and my Klondike’s will melt.

            26,000 miles ago the odometer flipped over to a 100,000. About six months ago I backed into an ATV parked in our driveway so the hatchback only opens on days which do not end in Y. There’s a problem with the right front passengers window. Press the button and the window goes down, press the button again and the window does nothing. A couple of swift kicks to the inside of the door and it gets past the dead-spot on the window- motor and finally closes. The right front speaker only works if you go over a bump; when you go over another bump, it dies. Recently I realized that about half the time my speedometer and tachometer don’t work. I noticed that, when I spotted a police car in my rear-view. Upon checking if I was obeying the law I observed that according to the gauges I was not moving and the engine was off, so I slowed down.

            The most disconcerting of my vehicle’s ailments regards the starter or the battery. Often when I turn the key the car slowly groans like an old man clearing his throat after half-a-pack of Camels. I didn’t think it was my battery until I heard a couple of clicking sounds before the groan. My husband thought perhaps if he cleaned the corroded terminals the car might start normally. I should have known there is nothing normal about a vehicle built prior to the current millennium.

            My husband is in construction. There isn’t much he can’t do with a piece of wood and his workshop full of loud machines. And because he’s not a gear-head, when he decided to clean the terminals of my battery I should have asked him to redo our kitchen, re-finish the floors or build a house.

            It was after the first terminal was disconnected and cleaned when the problem started. Every time he went to reconnect the battery cable, the car alarm went off. It was like standing in the middle of the Mohegan Sun Casino surrounded by a dozen winning slot machines with sirens wailing and whooping all at the same time.

            We tried everything. Finally he slammed the hood and went back to sawing and sanding something. To top off his admirable attempt at car repair we heard thunder in the distance, (the windows were stuck open.) So for the rest of the day and night my poor wounded minivan rested comfortably under a blue tarp held in place by rocks.

            The next day I called AAA and a nice young man, (I have socks older than him), replaced my battery and reset the alarm. The next time I hear sirens, wailing and whooping I want to be standing next to a bunch of winning slots at The Sun. Then I’ll buy a new car, one without an alarm.

(published July, 2012, Shoreline Times)