Stuck in Paradise

Gliding on paddleboards through rough seas far from shore, my daughter, granddaughter, and son-in-law are surrounded by dolphins. One taps my daughter’s board with its nose. My granddaughter falls off her board, and a pod swims over to check her out.

My daughter and her family, minus their college-aged child who is working, visited us here in Virginia Beach from Michigan for a one-and-a-half week vacation. We went to the beach four times, paddleboarding twice, the Norfolk Botanical Gardens, pigged out on hotdogs and cotton candy at a night baseball game with fireworks, frequented happy hours at a couple of our many fabulous restaurants, and steamed four pounds of crab legs on the patio.

My oldest grandchild called my daughter from Michigan. “Mom, next summer I’m going with you on vacation. I don’t want to miss out on all that fun.”

Notice she did not say, “I want to come next year because I miss my dear, sweet grandmother so much, I can’t stand to be away from her another minute.” She doesn’t want to miss another vacation in paradise.

We put new windows in this year and have thought long and hard about updating our master bath and our kitchen. But we don’t want to put too much money in our townhouse if we might move. We still toy with the idea of relocating closer to our Boston kids or our Michigan kids. We look at Zillow quite often.

But then we face reality. Our kids would disown us if we moved away from here.

The man who’s coming to give us an estimate on our bathroom makeover will be here any minute.

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High School Revisited

High school yearbook picture

I was never in the cool crowd in high school. My best friend was much cooler than I, and I got close to some cool people by association. Not the same as having cooliousity myself. 

Now my high school, Roger Ludlowe in Fairfield, Connecticut, is having a birthday bash this fall to celebrate the fact that we all are turning 70 or have recently turned 70. I wasn’t going to go, but the party is being billed as possibly the last get-together we’re ever going to have.

And this is possibly my last chance to be cool.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been cool many times to many people. Just not in high school.

My children thought I was cool. Sometimes. Well, maybe that one time on a Friday afternoon in July of 1982? 

My grandkids think I’m cool. When they’re not laughing at me. All in good fun, right grandkids? 

And my students thought I was a cool teacher. The police had to intervene only once. Or twice. I warned the vice principal to wear clip-on ties. 

Now I have just a little over three months to develop some coolness.

Mr. Cool

My twelve-year-old grandson is the height of cool. He’s Mr. Cool. He’ll tell you that himself, and he ain’t fooling. He’s visiting next week, so I’m going to have him give me some pointers. I’m breaking into the cool crowd, you hear me? So look out, people, ‘cause here I come! And I ain’t fooling.

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Testing the Waters

So, here’s the thing. My brother visited this weekend and brought an obituary with him he’d cut out of his local paper. It was beautifully written about an amazing woman, her incredible life, and her abiding love for her beloved husband. It made you want to cry. And, no, none of us knew this woman.

Bringing obituaries is nothing unusual for my brother. In fact, he sends them to me in the mail. But this morning at breakfast, my husband, sister-in-law, and I sat in stunned silence after reading the tribute, so powerfully recorded, of this woman.

“You could write a book of obituaries,” my husband said to my brother. We all chuckled. Who would buy a book of obituaries of people they didn’t personally know and had never even heard of? Who reads obituaries anyway? Besides my brother, I mean.

And then I started thinking. Many old people probably read them, of course. But what about people who have to write obituaries and are having trouble coming up with one worthy of the deceased? Maybe an obit book could be profitable. I mean, I wanted to clip parts of that obituary my brother brought and put it in a file for future use.

So here’s my question: Would you buy a book of obituaries of not-famous people? I just want to get a “show of hands,” so to speak, before I begin the intro to my manuscript.

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Facebook Etiquette

So, here’s the thing: I really know nothing about how to use Facebook. A few years ago, my daughter set up my Facebook account when she was visiting. I did nothing with it for months. Finally, I got tired of my sister-in-law telling me what my grandkids were doing.

“Didn’t Hayley look gorgeous in her prom dress?” she said.

“ Hayley went to a prom? Isn’t she still in middle school?” I said.

“Duh!” she said. (Actually, that’s my duh. That sister-in-law would never say that. My other one would though. No hesitation.) “She’s graduating from high school in a few weeks.”

“Where did you hear that?” I asked.

“Facebook, you idiot.” Me again putting words in her mouth. 

“Am I invited?” I didn’t wait for a reply. I called my daughter.

“Emily, why haven’t you told me what’s going on with my grandkids?”

“Mom, I posted it on Facebook.”

Now I try to open Facebook once a day. Or week, at least. But I still don’t know how to do anything on it. Everything I’ve managed has been by accident, and then I don’t know how to undo it.

Take, for example, this profile picture thing. I see people changing their pictures all the time. Some of them have even used their pets as their profile pictures. Or cartoon characters. 

So I got tired of having the same profile picture since my daughter set up my account. Yesterday I decided to change it. But I didn’t know how. I clicked on different links and found something that said “edit profile picture.” I didn’t want to edit it. I wanted a new one. Eventually, after trying different things that proved unsuccessful, I saw my camera roll pop up. I scrolled through images until I found one that was taken a few years ago. Twenty, to be exact. I clicked on it to make it bigger. That’s all I thought I was doing. Uh-oh. It became my new profile picture. I couldn’t figure out how to get my original picture back.

No biggie. Your picture is sort of like an avatar anyway, isn’t it? But here’s the thing. I’m pretty sure my readers think it’s what I look like right now. How naive. I’m a wizened old woman, for crying out loud. (Obviously, the people who live near me and see me every day are saying, “Who’s she kidding?”) 

I was hoping no one would see what I’d done until I could figure out how to undo it. But people I haven’t heard from in ages are coming out of the woodwork to comment on it, so that hope sailed a long time ago.

Anyway, I’m working on fixing it. I know even less about blogging, but I’m pretty sure my blog setting doesn’t automatically link my posts to Facebook. People who live far away will never know what Facebook faux pas I’ve committed. I’m home free.

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Warning: Plastic Bins Ruin Clothing

Just a heads-up from your friendly consumer advocate: Don’t store your seasonal clothes in those plastic bins you can buy from discount stores like Target or Wal-Mart. They actually shrink your clothes. I don’t know how they do it exactly, but I think a build-up of gases produced by the clothing fibers permeates the fabric and tightens the weave. Very scientific.

I forgot about this little-known fact until I was reminded when I got out the plastic bins of my summer clothes this morning. I had to put nearly half in the donation pile. They fit fine last summer, but I can’t even snap some of the pants, and the shirts don’t button properly without gapping. I will have to speak to my two good friends, whom I’ve been spending a lot of time with lately, and see if they have a better explanation of how this happens. Yes, Ben and Jerry might have a clue. image

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Honest Mistake

When my husband brought in the mail recently and laid it on the kitchen table, I noticed the title of an article on the cover of our TIME magazine. “Monogramming is over,” it read.

“I can’t believe monogramming is now passé. Who makes those decisions?” I said, pointing to the cover. “What am I supposed to do with all of your monogrammed L.L. Bean shirts? Now, when you wear them to work, people will think you aren’t up on the latest fashion trends.”

My husband tried to break in, but I wasn’t done.

“That reflects poorly on me. Everyone knows I pick out your clothes. They’ll think I’m a bad wife.”

“Are you done ranting?” hubby asked. He pointed to the article. “Monogamy is over. Not monogramming.”

“Oh.” I’m not a bad wife. Just a bad reader.

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I Am Not a Calculating Woman

My first job after college was editing at a small publishing company in Westport, Connecticut. After I married, I took time off to raise a family, go to grad school, and have a career in education. Forty-three years after that first editing job ended, I have decided to try my hand in that field again. I had business cards made and scouted around for a freelance editing job. When I was finally offered one, I was ecstatic.

Then my anxiety kicked in. The publisher said this project, a fiction manuscript, should end up being about 90,000 words. I started figuring out how long that will take me. And the more that I thought about it, the more anxious I became. I researched the copyediting standard for the average pages one could edit an hour. The limit seems to be ten. The average is six. Since I’ve been away from this for so many years, and I want to make sure I don’t miss anything, I’m figuring I will only be able to do five pages an hour. I also don’t want to work at it more than five hours a day because I have other responsibilities, and sitting in front of a computer for more than five hours a day would be bad for my back and my eyes.

After doing the math, I realized I would have to do more than five pages an hour and work more than five hours a day. Much more on both accounts. This project was overwhelming me, and the publisher hasn’t even sent it to me yet. In fact, it’s been keeping me awake at night.

All that changed yesterday when my husband and I went out to lunch. We were sitting outside on glider tables by the water at our favorite summer spot, Rudee’s. We had ordered iced tea and were waiting for our beer-battered shrimp to arrive. I was trying to focus on what my husband was saying, but my anxious mind was pulling me back to the enormous editing job.

All of a sudden, a thought occurred to me, and with a huge sigh of relief, I started laughing and took out my calculator.

“What’s so funny?” my husband asked.

“I don’t want to tell you because you will laugh at me.” Since I was already laughing at myself, I reconsidered. I told him about my anxiety over this impending editing job and how, by my calculations, it would take me 150 days if I edited ten pages an hour and worked ten-hour days. Then, in a rare moment of clarity, I just realized I was thinking about 90,000 words as 90,000 pages. Obviously, there is a huge difference! A page actually averages 250 words on a double-spaced page of type.

“I may not be in trouble after all.” I wiped my eyes, my laughter not subsiding. “By my new calculations, I can edit this manuscript in three or four weeks doing five pages an hour and working five-hour days.”

I thought my husband would share in my mirth, but he just stared at me and shook his head.

“It’s a good thing you aren’t editing a math book.”

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Country Music Makes Me Cry

WHRO, our classical music radio station here in Hampton Roads, plays constantly in our  house. I tune to it in my car, hum along with the recurring themes, and win, more times than not, the classical music quizzes.

I have never been a fan of country music, but that’s not to say I don’t appreciate it. Certain times in my life I have found myself drawn to country. When we moved to San Antonio in 1980, it was such a foreign place to us, I wanted to drink in the flavor of our new city. I started listening to one of the many country music radio stations. My two favorite songs were “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille” and “If You’re Going to Do Him Wrong Again,You Might As Well Do Him Wrong Again With Me.”

I finally outgrew my country craze and went back to my classical music. But recently, I’ve started listening to Emmylou Harris. Don’t know why. One of her songs which I play over and over is “Calling My Children Home.”

Country music is so plaintive, drawing out every loss and sorrow. It tugs at your heart.  My children all live far from us, and we don’t get to see them but two or three times a year. It’s been this way for years. Emmylou’s song grabs hold of the raw edges of my heartstrings and plucks away. These are some of the lyrics of her song:

“Back in the years with all together,
Around the place we’d romp and play.
So lonely now and oft’ times wonder,
Oh will they come back home some day.”

“I’m lonesome for my precious children,
They live so far away.
Oh may they hear my calling…calling..and come back home some day.”

I can listen to that song over and over again as tears stream down my face. I’ll make myself a cup of tea as I hear Emmylou’s sweet twang. The tea isn’t always enough to stem the flood, so I will add a few biscotti (Sorry, Darling, I didn’t save any for you. I was too sad). Sometimes I need to pour myself a glass of wine. Or two. Wine is always best with cheese. Or dark chocolate. I try not to cry into my chocolate chip cookie dough–oh, did I mention cookie dough is fab with cab?–because I don’t want to make it soggy.

I’ve added a few pounds lately since Emmylou has taken up residence. I suppose I could turn that durn song off. Or maybe I could just retitle this blog post, “Country Music Makes Me Fat.”

Listen to this at your own risk.

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Toward a Realistic Body Image

I had weighed nearly the same for decades. No matter what I ate, how much or how little I exercised, my weight didn’t fluctuate more than a pound or two. Even when middle age hit and my hormones went on permanent vacation, the needle on the scale stayed the same.  I was  satisfied with what it said.

Why, then, when middle age is a distant memory, has my body decided  to sock away some extra pounds? I could understand if I were in my forties or fifties. But with seventy  looming in three and a half years, I am crying, “Foul!”

If all the extra weight were evenly distributed, I could live with that. I could get new clothes and feel stylish. But the poundage has settled in one area: not north of the equator—which would be much appreciated—or south of the equator, but totally at the equator. If I buy new clothes to fit the equator, the rest of me will be swimming in them. I’ve taken to wearing my husband’s shirts to cover zero degrees latitude.

I used to look at other women’s bodies at the gym and pick one I wanted to model myself after. The young women leaving the body-sculpting boot camp class always inspired me. I’ve become more realistic lately.  I look for women with more mature bodies and aim for that look.

Yesterday, in yoga class, I saw a woman with the perfect body for me. She was sleek and toned. However, she did have the slightest pooch to her stomach. Granted, she just had a baby. But, hey, I just had three children. A little while ago. It takes time to get back in shape.

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My Best Friend, Dave

My time is running out, and I’m beginning to panic. When I bought my most recent computer, I purchased a year’s worth of one-to-one sessions with a techie to help me with things I didn’t understand. You would think that I would require fewer and fewer of these sessions, but  the opposite is true. The closer I get to the end, the more questions I have. Just when I think I’ve got a handle on one of the computer applications, Apple decides to update it. Nothing works the same way anymore, and I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to do.

For example, iPhoto no longer exists. It is now called Photo. How could the removal of a little “i” cause such chaos? I have three separate photo libraries–make that had–which I could switch between at will. The dropdown menu gave me the choice. When I updated to Photo, that option disappeared. With the help of Dave at the Apple Store yesterday morning, I was able to find my three libraries again, but accessing them wasn’t as easy anymore, and my default library had changed without my permission.

I’ve thought of never doing another update, but sometimes you have no choice because something else won’t work until you do. I think this is all a scheme to get me to buy another year with Dave.

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