I was born in the 1950’s, live in a 126-year-old house in Virginia, I am retired and spend a great deal of my time writing. I have lived through the Kennedy assassination, civil rights, Neil Armstrong on the moon, and 9/11/2001. I have seen the Vietnam war, the war in Middle East, the war on drugs, Star Wars, and the war between men and women. I have written hundreds of short stories and essays and a handful of novels. Only one novel was (self) published and one poem published in a collection.
I have been a writer my whole life, creating my first stories when I was still in elementary school.
What I mean is, I like coffee. I drink it hot and black or sometimes with a little milk. I like the way it tastes. I like the way the coffee mug fits in my hand. I like the aroma. These things don’t make me a snob, however.
Coffee snobbery comes from my coffee preference. I will drink single-origin coffee and not a blend. I prefer coffee from certain parts of the world, like Africa or Asia. I prefer dark roast and don’t mind the strong acidic flavor. I grind my own coffee in a coffee grinder, so I purchase whole beans, always.
Also, coffee snobbery comes from the way I make my morning coffee. I use an analog coffee maker, namely a French press. I love the burst of aroma when the hot water hits the grounds. Anticipation mounts while I wait the three minutes for the coffee to steep.
Then, that first mouthful… Doesn’t get any better than this.
I worried that I had died the first death when rheumatoid arthritis greatly curtailed my range of motion and activity. You see, I used to be a dancer. To borrow a line from Steve Martin, music gave me “happy feet.” I danced all around my house, in my yard, in my workplace, in clubs and bars. I danced endlessly. It didn’t matter to me when or where. I just danced.
I was never a professional dancer, although I studied ballet dancing when I was a child and a teenager. I was a disco queen when I was a young adult and could match the best dancers on the disco dance floor. I could dance for hours, non-stop, and loved every minute of it. I danced with my children and I danced alone. All I had to do was to hear the music start and I was moving to the beat.
I wanted to be a professional dancer, but I had a conservative mother who insisted that no one makes a living with just dancing and I needed to get my head out of the clouds and learn to type so I would have something to fall back on. And that is what I did. I fell back onto my second choice and spent a lot of time regretting it. But, on the other hand, I was able to feed, shelter, and clothe myself and my three kids without help from others. So, did I really fall back on my second choice? That is something to ponder another day.
One day, my feet started to hurt, and my ankles. It took the doctors a couple of years to finally figure out what was going on with me. With the words, rheumatoid arthritis still ringing in my ears, my happy feet became very unhappy feet. I stopped dancing. Music no longer made my heart race. Music no longer made me smile. Music played and I cried because of my loss.
Maybe my mother knew something I didn’t. Had I tried to pursue a career as a dancer, it would have been cut very short because my body betrayed me.
On a bright shining day a few weeks ago, I realized that I had not actually died that first death when I was sitting in my favorite chair and wiggling to a favorite song. I didn’t couldn’t stand up and dance, but I went through the arm motions of Michael Jackson’s Beat It. It struck me at that moment that I was still a dancer.
I laughed aloud as if I was just resurrected.
I dance in my head and always have. In my mind, I dance like no one is watching–leaping, hopping, twirling, spinning, stepping, dancing. Now, when I dance, I am not limited to a confined area like a stage or a dining room with the table shoved aside. I can dance on the rings of Saturn, through a boreal forest, on top of waves in the ocean, leading a flash mob in a shopping mall. The possibilities are endless and only limited by my imagination.
The number of songs on my iPhone is ever-increasing. Many of the songs are OSTs from various movies that struck a chord with me at some point. I will think about a movie I saw and then go in search of the soundtrack. Many times, just hearing the music will bring back pleasant memories of the movie: my favorite scenes, my favorite character, my favorite quote. You get the picture.
Music can tell stories. How many people can listen to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and not think about Mickey Mouse trying to sweep thousands of bucketfuls of water out of the castle? This tone poem was written to bring about memories, although Mickey Mouse didn’t exist when the song was written in 1897.
This morning, I listened to John Barry’s High Road to Chinascore and recalled many of my favorite scenes from that classic movie just by listening to the music. It was a nice trip to an exotic world of high adventure, romance, and intrigue. High Road to China has always been on my list of the top ten movies to watch.
My list of movies that I can watch over and over and never tire of is:
Nate and Hayes
High Road to China
Sahara (Brook Shield’s version)
Memoirs of a Geisha
The Magic of Belle Isle
The Princess Bride
Dances with Wolves
All of these movies have memorable soundtracks and just hearing one of the songs brings the entire movie to mind.
I often spend several minutes hours fretting about what to write in my blog. I don’t normally just sit and note what comes to mind when the thoughts arrive. Today, I decided to give it a go and let my thoughts take me where they want to go.
I was looking for some fun things to post on my Facebook page this morning. I keep Facebook strictly light, airy, and totally non-controversial on purpose. I use a lot of self-deprecating humor, humor about getting older, problems with insomnia where I am in a constant battle with my overactive brain, and funny things I observe on a daily basis. It is humor that doesn’t hurt anyone and doesn’t cause anyone to rise up and challenge my thoughts. There is way too much of that kind of thing on the Internet, anyway.
For example, this morning, I posted this:
I love the look on the faces of people who own cats when they think cats are a majestic self-sufficient wonder of nature that doesn’t need humans for anything and suddenly they realize that Fluffy Cat is a total dingus who can’t drink water properly.
It is cute, slightly humourous and even a cat lover (which I am) can remember that defining moment in their relationship with their beloved pet.
This one is an example of my endless insomnia jokes:
Me: No insomnia tonight! Going right to sleep! Brain: Dr. Pepper is actually BBQ Sprite. Me: …
And the ever-popular self-deprecating humor:
What was I like in high school? You know that guy who drove a Corvette and dated all the cheerleaders? I am the reason he passed Geometry and English.
My Facebook has only 41 friends and believe it or not, these are actual REAL friends. With four exceptions, they are people I have met in person and even interact with on a regular basis in other places besides Facebook. Like at Congregation Meetings, restaurants, hanging over the back fence in a marathon gossip session, or visiting when I go on vacation.
The three exceptions are:
The sister of a man that I collaborated with online to write a textbook for firefighters. He and I were ghostwriters, so you won’t see my name in print anywhere.
A man I worked for as a virtual assistant, fifteen years ago, but I have never met in person
A granddaughter who recently cropped up as the love-child between my son and a girl he knew in high school. She doesn’t seem very interested in getting to know a grandmother she never met and doesn’t answer emails, texts, or even respond if I happen to post something on her Facebook page. Quite possibly, she is shy or maybe she has no sense of humor.
A distant relative who lives in Australia.
I don’t use Facebook as a place to validate myself as a human. I don’t require thousands of friends and followers to prove that I am loved. The people on my Facebook are real friends and family… that kind I would call if I need bail money.
I don’t use Facebook as a platform to air my views. I don’t deliberately provoke arguments and disagreements hoping I will get more likes or thumbs-up. Point of fact, if someone posts a comment that is designed to be click-bait, I simply delete it.
Everybody has an opinion and I am not different, but I will not tell anyone who reads my posts what they are.
We all have those moments in life where we can remember exactly what we were doing at a given instant. For example, we remember where we were when Kennedy was assassinated, where we watched the first men walking on the moon, and what we were doing when the twin towers fell.
These are moments that change our thinking. They change our perception of the world around us.
I sat with my Dad and my brother in front of the black and white TV to watch Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the moon’s surface. We were allowed to stay up late that night to watch history being made.
When the planes hit the twin towers, I was at home, not having to work that day. My mother called me and told me that it was like the world just ended. I turned on the TV in time to watch the second plane hit the tower and stayed glued to the TV screen for the rest of the day.
I actually saw the Challenger explode in real-time, looking up at the sky in the parking lot of Bennigan’s in Orange Park, Florida. I had seen many launches, living in Florida, but that was the first time I saw one EXPLODE. I instantly burst into tears and stood in the parking lot for several minutes absorbing the impact of the event, tears steadily streaming down my face. I knew before the commentators on TV told us that Challenger was gone.
The day I realized that the universe is bigger and there is much more going on than I previously thought was a day in college in a botany class. The professor brought in a stereoscope for us to play with. She put a daisy on the plate and let us look at the wonders. It was an ordinary daisy, with white petals and a yellow center. I don’t remember the magnification the professor had the stereoscope set on, but when I looked in the eyepieces, I saw a miniature world that I didn’t know existed.
My brain told me that the fuzzy stuff in the flower’s center was simple little stalks or spikes that were covered in pollen. I had no clue that on top of each of the stalks was a tiny daisy. Duplicates of the parent plant. I could see the pollen grains, but the small flowers were a total surprise. A shock wave of understanding that I would never forget.
That moment, the universe shifted and I knew there was so much more going on than I could have ever imagined. Those miniature flowers expanded my world far beyond the limits of my previous thought processes. I physically felt my brain shift its direction about 60 or 80 degrees.
I realized that God was real if He could create something so perfect as a thousand tiny flowers inside a larger flower. I realized that human eyes were extremely limited and I needed to observe the world with a stereoscope of understanding. I knew that I had many more things to learn and I was not the self-professed genius I fancied myself being.
The world became much larger, which meant my brain got so much smaller and I had to do something about that.
I was thinking of a guy I had a crush on when I was in school. He was actually my older brother’s best friend and they had a band. They would come to our house and set up in the living room to play songs of the day. Randy, Mickey, Byron, and my brother, John. Their names are perfect for a sixties rock band.
My first love was Randy. A genuine crush. I tried everything I could think of to get him to notice me, but of course, he never did. He was 5 or 6 years older than me, after all.
There was a Halloween party at our house and Randy dropped a medallion that was part of his costume and I found it in the grass. I was over the moon because I was the one who found it and returned it to the owner. He said, “Thanks,” and nothing more.
My family went to Goldhead State Park for a week and he came down for a day or two. We were going on a row boat ride and I was completely mortified when I fell into the boat. He teased me by saying, “Well, that’s one way to get into a boat.” Crushed by my crush.
I never told him that he was THE ONE.
He joined the military and was sent to Germany during the Vietnam War and something bad happened to him. I never found out what. He wasn’t the same when he returned. Gone was the fresh-faced high-school boy and in its place was a man haunted by memories.
I saw him once after he got out of the military at my brother’s house. They played guitars together just like old times, and just like old times, he didn’t acknowledge my presence. I was just my older brother’s little sister. I heard he was gay, which explained why he never looked at me when I was young and cute.
Lately, he has appeared in my dreams, looking like that fresh-faced high school boy. The smile is bright and his eyes dance with fun and mischief. Just the way I remember. Why, after not thinking about him for 30 years has he arrived back in my dreams? Is this the beginning of senility? Dementia? Alzheimer’s?
Or am I just remembering a pleasant time in my life when the world revolved around a pretty fresh-faced high school student with dark hair, a devastating smile, and absolutely straight teeth? I am not going to try to find him, assuming that he is nothing like the guy I remember. I don’t want to move any of the furniture around in my memory because he will fade away or morph into something else.
Anyone who follows my blog knows I love Westerns (here’s the link to my Western Book Review category). One of my favorite authors is Robert Thomas. His 113+series about US Marshall/bounty hunter Jess Williams, who hunts only the worst of the worst outlaws, is one of my favorites. Jess Williams fights injustice, follows the law, and helps those who can’t help themselves. The stories are set during my preferred post-Civil War time frame of 1866-1899, an era in America’s west when fighting Indians had almost ended, Western law hadn’t yet solidified (US Marshalls and Town Marshalls aside) so outlaws often rode roughshod over good citizens, the Pony Express had been replaced by stagecoaches, themselves being replaced by trains, indoor toilets were the rage in the best hotels, the sewing machine was beginning to make clothing more abundant, canned goods were becoming popular (especially peaches), and so much more.
I (accidentally) watched a YouTube video about a current worldwide famous singing/dancing group and how they were continually losing personal items: sunglasses, phones, AirPods, passports, luggage, and tablets. Most of the time, it was another band member who took the item and hid it from the owner as a prank. FYI: This is NOT the normal video that I watch on YouTube, but it struck a chord with me and I found myself thinking, I know someone like that. A person who has, to my knowledge, left a small piece of herself at every location she has ever visited.
I give you my daughter as an example. Everywhere she went, and dare I say still goes, she left something behind. She would visit a friend and leave her sweater behind. She would leave her purse at home and not notice until she got to work, where she left her lunch box the day before. She left behind shoes, watches, and hair ties. Shoes? Seriously? How could you possibly leave a pair of shoes behind and not notice when you got into your car to leave? Just walking out to the car should have offered a clue that she was imitating Shoeless Joe Jackson.
She would go to a sleepover and leave her toothbrush and leave her wallet at the convenience store where she just bought gas and cigarettes.
At the end of each school year, she would bring home 7 or 8 sweaters and jackets. She would bring home extra shoes, backpacks, gym clothes, lunch boxes, papers, reports, and library books that I already paid for because she “lost” them.
On the upside, that gave her a new collection of things she could forget the next school year.
On the flip side of the coin, until recently, I never left anything behind. But, the mind starts to go as we age. I have left a zucchini in a friend’s car, a jacket in that same friend’s car, and a walking stick in the doctor’s office that I went back to get, just to name a few. I am slowly turning into my daughter.
That is not altogether a bad thing because I think she is one of the funniest and most delightful people I have had the pleasure to know in my life.
I tend to read and re-read books. It is like visiting an old friend and reminiscing about the good times we had. Of course, my choices are not nearly as lofty as Stephen Marche’s PG Wodehouse or Hamlet. My favorite book is called The Moonspinners, written by Mary Stewart. I read it the first time when I was a young teenager–maybe 12 or 13–and over the years have read it at least 1 or 2 times a year.
I wish now, I had kept track of how many times I have read it. I am certain at least 100 times.
I bought a paperback version when I was a teen and over years I read it to death. The spine was broken and many pages were yellowed from age and dog-eared. The pages started falling out until I had a stack of papers that were not attached together. That book is now in a keepsake box and held together with a ribbon. I have since purchased a Kindle Version of the book so I don’t have to worry about losing pages 136 and 203.
I started reading the book again two days ago. The story is the same Gothic Romance I remember. I have passages from the book memorized and can quote literally pages of the story. It is the story of an English girl who goes to Crete on her Easter vacation and gets embroiled in a drama of murder, kidnapping, jewel heists, and intrigue. She encounters bad guys everywhere and barely escapes with her life and limbs intact. As a bonus, she gets the guy in the end.
My love affair with this story hasn’t dimmed over the years. In fact, reading it with much more mature eyes adds something to the story that I missed when I was a teen. Mary Stewart fully developed her heroines. No vapid, silly, immature girls here. They embody strength, virtue, athleticism, and courage.
Mary Stewart wrote many mystery romance stories and I have read them all. This one stands at the pinnacle…the best of the best.
Summer is here. That doesn’t mean I will be running in a bikini-clad body toward an ocean because with an arthritic hip that has no cartilage left, I will not be running anywhere. Summer means I can open my windows and remind the neighbors that I know all the words to “Hello, Dolly,” and everything Karen Carpenter ever recorded. Yeah, I am that neighbor. I sing loud AND off-key. Who cares?
The fact that I am not a good singer doesn’t matter. I just sing. I don’t need permission to sing.
In an interview with Tom Snyder about 30 years ago, Jeff Goldblum gave his rendition of the theme song to “Jurassic Park” with words that he wrote: “In Jurassic Park, scary after dark. I’m so scared I’ll be eaten.” He was not a good singer, either. He pointed out something that is so very true and so very sad at the same time.
According to Jeff, you go to a group of 5-year-olds and ask them, “Can you sing?” They will all say, “Yes! What do you want us to sing?” You can ask them if they play an instrument and they all say, “Yes! What do you want us to play?” You can ask them if they can draw and they all say, “Yes! What picture do you want?” You ask them if they can dance and they reply, “Yes! We love to dance!”
Fast forward just 10 very short years and asked those same questions to the same group of kids, and you hear answers like, “No, I can’t sing,” or “I only sing a little.” You will hear, “I play piano a little bit,” and, “I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler” and, “No, I can’t dance at all.”
What happens in that short ten years? Someone says, “Don’t quit your day job because you can’t sing,” “You piano playing sucks,” “What is THAT a picture of?” “Your dancing looks like a fawn on a frozen lake.”
Those enthusiastic 5-year-olds turn into bashful teenagers who are more interested in what others think than what they can actually do. Something is lost as we age and realize there are other people on planet earth besides ourselves. Everyone we meet gets totally judgey. And, those same people feel really bad when people judge them.
Kinda seems like we should all pay more attention to the Golden Rule. You know it. “Treat others how you want to be treated.” Sing out! Dance like crazy! Draw a picture! Learn to play the flute! You don’t need permission to dance, sing, or draw.