Friday, July 29, 2011

Passing Time

My granddaughters are here this week. And the universal cry is "I'm bored..." We talked about what Nanna (that would be me) did when she was young. They were fairly appalled to discover that I didn't have cell phones, video games, and other electronic paraphernalia in my youth. But the crowning touch was when they found out my family didn't have a television.

To be perfectly honest, it wouldn't have made much difference if we had one because we lived so far out in the sticks there wasn't much available for television, anyway. It was well before cable and satellite was even a twinkle in someone's eye. I remember the to-do Sputnik caused when the Russians put it up.

Movies showed up once a week at the tiny theater in town and besides...they were considered sinful by most folks in town--except for the new Disney movies. I remember the excitement when I got to go see Bambi.

Mostly we went outside and played. Sometimes I rode my bike. I played with my dolls on a blanket under the shade of a mesquite tree. We didn't have any grass. It was dirt and rocks.

It rarely rained, but when it did, the yard was a sea of mud. Then we played inside on the living room floor. There were some critters to contend with, of course. Since I lived in the desert southwest, there were scorpions, spiders, millipedes, and other assorted wildlife. Somehow, we survived.

Telephones were grown-up devices. I remember the half-dozen times I was permitted to talk to someone on the telephone prior to my teen years. Time was strictly limited on the telephone. It wasn't an entertainment device. And we shared a party line with other people so whatever you said was broadcast through out the town.

The thing that strikes me now was I never felt underprivileged or deprived. Life was what it was.

I wonder how our children of today would cope if they were suddenly tossed back in time?


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Temporary Leaning

During the in-and-out ups-and-downs of life, most people stand on their own two feet, making do the best they can. That's the way it should be for the most part. But the day arrives inevitably when we just can't do it all by ourselves. When that day comes, there is no shame in asking for help. Actually doing a little bit of judicious temporary leaning demonstrates wisdom and good sense.

None of us are so strong we can deal with everything. None of us are invincible. And none of us can always be the rock that everyone else depends on.

It is a reality that it is so much easier to be the helper than the helpee. No one wants to admit they can't do it all on their own. As a matter of fact, I suspect it's harder for us to admit our need for assistance than it is to deal with the actual emergency or situation.

I know it was for me. The temptation to bear up and hang tough rather than ask for help was something I had to deal with more than once. But I want to point out something from the other side of the coin.

I've also been the helper occasionally when a friend or family needed that temporary rock. There are blessings to be earned by being a helper. If no one ever gracefully accepts help, then how are helpers to earn those blessings?

Rather than shame at needing help, we should feel blessed that we have friends and family who love us enough to make that offer. See? Blessings all around.

Everyone wins.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Baby, It's Hot!

As most of my readers know I live in Baltimore...where the heat index at eleven a.m. was 114 degrees Fahrenheit. When I write a post about the weather, there's always some competition among commenters about how hot is it where they live (or cool). But the bottom line is it's hot, hot, hot and uncomfortable. And more importantly, it's life threatening. So if you don't have a really, really, really important reason to go out--then stay in.

And don't forget the pets, either! Keep 'em cool!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Er, leave of absence... Too many things goin' on. So I'm taking a short time off. If things slow down I might pop back in with an update!


Monday, July 11, 2011

Some Days

Some days are just like that. I suspect I've had too many overloaded days in a row. And the next two weeks look to be mostly that way as we race up to the house hunk's surgery on the 20th.

If I don't show up every day, bear with me until it's over. Thanks!


Saturday, July 9, 2011

I Know Why

I know why you sing in the cellar
where the darkness deliciously enfolds you.

I know why you creep down the stairs in the night
Tip-toeing by the clock as it tolls half past two.

I know why you sit on the moldy old tuffet
With your head cocked just so to catch the view.

I know why you wait, wait, wait for the whispers
The whispers that flutter and snarl and sigh, too.

I know why you twirl and dance in the silence
So deep, so quiet, like you have something to do.

I know why you desperately scribble on parchment
With glittery ink in red, black and blue.

I know why you cry as the world turns round now
I know the end’s coming with dawn’s rosy hue. ~~Anny Cook © 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Here Be Dragons

I had a discussion recently with my granddaughter. She was talking about the issues of babysitting her younger sister. I pointed out that girls and boys who babysat younger siblings regularly weren't as likely to have babies themselves at a young age. The glamour of a baby is worn off for them.

When I was a young woman, career choices were limited. Without college, you could be an office clerk, a warehouse worker, or a fast food worker. With college, you could be an office clerk, a warehouse worker, or a waitress. If you were really pushy, you could be a nurse or a teacher.

Or you could get married. And have babies.

For every year past twenty-one that you weren't married, you lost status. Seriously, by the time you reached twenty-five you were considered a lost cause who would probably end up an old maid.

I had no money for college and most of the programs they have now were not available. So I opted to marry and work as an office clerk. There was an unspoken understanding that I wouldn't be around a real long time because I would no doubt get pregnant.

There was one other quirk back then. Immediately after you informed any employer you were pregnant, you were asked to give your two week notice. Bamm! You were out of there. It didn't matter how attractive your maternity clothes were, you absolutely couldn't work. No, no, no.

Pregnancy wasn't just a possibility. It was an expectation. You were expected to be fruitful and multiply. Quickly.

It was the height of the Vietnam War. The United States was suffering daily losses. As in the way of most wars, there was a baby boom going on to replace those losses.

No one talked about things like parent fatigue back then. You had babies. You stayed at home and kept house. And you were damn glad for the privilege. Period.

By 1973 I had three kids under four. The hunk was transferred to Houston so in twenty eight days we packed up and moved there from Chicago. We didn't know a soul there. No family safety net. No friends. Nothing.

Immediately, we dealt with several emergencies. The hunk worked two full-time jobs while I tried to keep things rolling at home. And life steadily grew more complicated. In the winter of 1974 I broke.

Quite frankly, I don't remember much of 1975. Valium was my best friend, my lover, my confidant. And then my doctor very firmly cut off my supply. He offered me a choice. Get clean and have a family. Or retreat to an institution.

Rehab wasn't an option back then. They didn't have meetings and counseling and all that other stuff unless you had money. And that definitely wasn't one of the things we had. But the idea of being institutionalized was pretty damn scary so I opted to get clean. It was hard.

Years later I found one of my notebooks from that period. It was filled with pages of one phrase. I am a real person. I am a real person. I am a real person...

Amazingly enough, we all made it. The kids grew up without too much trauma. The hunk hung in there through thick and thin. I survived and found out I was a real person. I suppose you're wondering what my point is.

Just this. When you see a young mother with a bunch of kids and no emotional support, maybe offer a bit of friendship. Rearing kids is a tough job. Sometimes as a parent, you think you'll go crazy and lose your mind. Sometimes you do.

Sometimes the dragons win.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Side Effects

There's an epidemic across the world. It's called obesity and it's to blame for everything from diabetes to heart disease. As always when there's an abrupt change, scientists and researchers are rushing to find the cause.

When I was a kid, fat people were fat because they ate too much. Size sixteen was healthy. And chemicals in mass-produced foods were not even a glimmer in most minds.

Cigarettes were being touted and healthy and glamorous. Cute commercials lauded the wonders of tobacco.

And then people started dying of lung cancer. A couple generations of people died before someone started shouting about the dangers of tobacco and smoking.

Over and over the same scenario is repeated. As humans, we can't seem to get our acts together. We still trust doctors, pharmaceutical companies, big food industry, and all the other people out there producing products for our consumption.

The newest revelation is diet soda/drinks make you fat. Back when I was a young married woman with four small kids, I consumed a ton of TAB. That was the premier diet soda at the time. Then all sorts of information came out about the dangers of caffeine so I switched to a caffeine free, sugar free, sodium free soda. In effect, is was colored water. But wait!

Now it turns out that the sweetener used makes our body's insulin not work right. Great...

I have diabetes. So far I'm on my third medication because of side effects. And you guessed it--last week an alert was issued regarding the side effects for my third medication. Seems it causes heart attacks in older patients. Unfortunately, they didn't define "older" in the alert.

Even foods we buy and cook ourselves at home contain chemicals. There is considerable speculation about the effects of hormones in our meat and the cause/effect on our young girls who are hitting puberty earlier and earlier. Maybe that hormone filled milk we've been pushing has something to do with our little girls menstruating at age ten instead of thirteen.

I wonder if there's anything out there that's safe to consume. Or in our rush to make things better/more convenient, are we hastening the end of our days?


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New Reality

In the last two years the house hunk and I have made some major adjustments in our financial lives. For the last nine years, we've lived a cash only budget. But now, things are tougher. There are four principle reasons for this.

1) The hunk retired. We now live on a fixed income comprised of Social Security and a pension from his job. Just between us, the two allow us to live pretty much where we've been living, and pay the bills. But there's no leftover at the end of the month, if you know what I mean. We budget carefully, watch our pennies, and usually end up in the black each month.

2) Rising prices at the grocery store, gas pumps, and other assorted places. There's a reason people are taking Staycations and shopping at Aldi's and the Dollar Tree. Many of us can no longer afford to take that little side trip to the beach or lake. And we certainly can't afford to shop in the mainstream grocery stores. Every time we go to the store, it's always with a carefully compiled list--a list we follow faithfully. Lights are turned out when we leave a room. Nothing is wasted.

3) Medical costs have gone up. Not necessarily the price of services (although I suspect that might be true, too), but our need for those services have increased in the last two years. We've had a never-ending string of medical issues that required services and medication. And don't get me started on the high cost for prescriptions!

4) There's been a steep nose-dive in my royalties. The publishing industry is crashing and burning. Some publishers have adopted less than honest avenues to keep their heads above water. Most of those avenues involve paring the author's share back to zero--or close to it. It really doesn't matter which publisher you have. Big or little, print or digital, they're all scrabbling for dollars. I've seen an 80% decrease in my royalty checks. Hmmmm. Tough to live on an 80% decrease.

What does it all mean?

In concrete terms it means my granddaughters can't come to visit me this summer. I can't afford the gas money to drive back and forth twice in one summer. Their parents can't either. This is not a life threatening issue. So many families are in much worse circumstance, losing their homes to floods, fires, and tornadoes. But it illustrates the way we, the American people are dealing with the plunging economy.

How has life changed at your house? Do you make fewer trips to the grocery store? Are you more aware of lights left on in empty rooms? What's your new reality?


Friday, July 1, 2011


Essentially, there are no new plots--only a rearrangement of the details. That rearrangement is half creativity and half razzle-dazzle. At least that's what I call it. The writer can be creative as all get out, but if they don't believe in their story and characters, then they're just typing a lot of rearranged letters.

That razzle-dazzle is what makes the difference.

Genre doesn't matter. Romance, mystery, tragedy, comedy...none of those matter as long as the writer is totally immersed in their world. If the writer escapes their world and characters the razzle-dazzle stops.

How many times have you read a book that just seems to fade away half-way through the story? Some people try to assign it a writerly explanation by calling it the "sagging middle" or some such thing. Nah...

It's just the point when the writer left the story behind. Other things captured their attention. It could have been a personal or family problem or maybe even a different story. But for whatever reason, they left their characters and world behind.

Even if they finish the story, they aren't participating in the action anymore. They moved from storyteller to narrator. You know the difference don't you? The storyteller is living the story. He or she is the one sharing the story around a campfire on a dark stary night. The storyteller enthralls because he or she is living the story.

The narrator, on the other hand, is passing on the information second-hand. The narrator hasn't lived the story so he or she is at a remove from the action. Whereas the storyteller lived the bank robbery, the narrator read the police report. That's not the same thing at all.

The trick is to be able to tell whether we're in storyteller mode or narrator mode. Are we there inside the story? Or are we watching it on television?

And if we've shifted to watching it from the outside, how do we jump back into the story? What do you think? Have you ever found yourself on the outside of your story?