Your kids will out you, be prepared.

You made your family observe No Tech Day and your kids secretly checked and saw those sneaky calls and texts on your iPhone.  Or they found the chocolate gelato you cleverly hid in the mixed-veggies box in the freezer.  The worst part is that you will be outed in an embarrassing manner about these misdeeds when you least expect it.

It’s nothing new. In 1930 my grandmother couldn’t go to the bathroom without the world knowing all the details. Family legend has it that her son, my Uncle Orlin who was then 10 years old, answered the phone one morning when Grandma was in the bathroom. The caller asked to speak to Margaret Rice. “Mother can’t come to the phone,” Orlin said. “She’s grunting.”

About 30 years ago, my daughter Michele and I went camping with the Girl Scouts. We were all sitting around the campfire after dinner, roasting marshmallows, scaring the girls with ghost stories, and generally chatting. I told about Michele’s paternal grandmother going out on a tourist crab boat in Alaska. A large, speedy crab made a beeline for her (crabline, I guess I should say) and clamped a claw down on her glove. Fortunately the glove was way too large for her so the crab got no fingers, only the glove.

“But you should see the photo,” I said. “It looks like this huge crab has chomped down on my mother-in-law’s hand.”

“Grandma Myrl isn’t your mother-in-law, Mom,” Michele corrected matter-of-factly. “You and Dad never married.”

Time stood still. I was horrified. For all these respectable Girl Scout moms to learn about my impropriety…OMG. Then good-natured and infectious laughter broke out around the campfire from kids and Moms alike. It calmed my nerves. And then the troop leader said, “Selena’s dad and I aren’t married either.” I relaxed even more.

There will always be something for kids to out their parents on. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, get ready. It will. Maybe you’ll be caught in the act of rewinding and rewatching Harvey Keitel’s full-frontal-nudity scene in The Piano. (Don’t ask me how I thought that up.) Maybe you’ll be caught drinking a can of Red Bull right before your tennis tournament match, which is surely a moral, if not technical, violation of the club’s no-drug rule.

There will always be something for kids to out their parents on. It’s one of the things that make being a parent so interesting.

 

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Support Groups to the Rescue

I’m starting a 12-step support group for people who are addicted to lattes.  There are millions of us, and LA, Latteholics Anonymous, could help us. The only answer for latte addiction is total abstinence. 

She looks calm and happy, but she’s a secret latte addict. She needs Latteholics Anonymous.

It’s the same as for alcohol. I know, because after trying to control my alcoholic drinking on my own for years, I went to AA 30 years ago and I haven’t had a drink since. The 12 steps work! In contrast, I have a friend who tries to cut down her daily lattes to every other day, or just weekends, or whatever, but she always shoots back up to every day.

LA would not only improve her life in general but also her pocketbook. That Iced Coconut Milk Mocha Macchiato at Starbucks costs about $4.00. Yikes, that’s $1,500/year. That’s a latta money.

Though I like lattes, my habit isn’t daily—yet. But it could be. I qualify for many 12-step programs. My car used to autonomously steer itself into 7-Eleven parking lots. I would wander inside like a zombie and buy lottery scratch cards, often several times daily. I scratched all my cards off in secret after everyone was in bed. I finally admitted my addiction was controlling my life, and somehow managed to quit cold turkey. But it was comforting to know Gamblers Anonymous was there for me.

After LA gets going, I might start Chocoholics Anonymous. I have that heavenly substance every night, a piece each of Dove plain milk chocolate and caramel milk chocolate. Sometimes I spin out of control and have more than one of each, and maybe a cookie too. I never know when that’s going to happen, I just wake up in the morning and realize it did. It reminds me of how I never knew how many drinks I would have at night.

I make jokes—it’s my survival mechanism—but the truth is I’m profoundly grateful for AA and all the 12-step programs it inspired. In addition to AA, I also went to Al-Anon, for family members of alcoholics of which I am one. I went with my daughter, for help in healing the effects of my drinking on her and on our relationship. I also found help in CoDA, Co-Dependents Anonymous.  

I see how I could easily develop a dependence on support groups. If I’m not careful I’ll end up needing a support group for addiction to support groups. SGRA, Support Group Recovery Anonymous! I’ll get to it after I get LA and CA going.

Home Invasion

Relax.


A massive prehistoric beast lives with us. It rumbles threateningly when it’s awakened, it shakes the earth when it moves, it gobbles up space, it’s always hungry. It’s my archrival. 

The beast is my husband’s beloved muscle car, his 1970 Chevrolet Camaro. It’s a polluter, with no catalytic converter, and a gas guzzler. It gets a mere 15 miles to the gallon. Maybe 10. Yet the old space hog gets to occupy the garage while my sensitive compact lives outside in the driveway because there’s not enough room for it. On cold winter mornings I bundle up and go outside and, teeth chattering, scrape ice off the windows of my two-year-old Corolla. I run the defogger to clear the windows before I can get on the road. All the while Frank’s beast snuggles comfy-cozy in the garage.        

When we married I moved into Frank’s house and from the beginning the Camaro was like a roommate. A roommate I’m jealous of. It gets so much attention. Even though it’s an environmental nightmare Frank loves it. It’s the closest thing to a child he’s ever had. He’s the original owner and lived with it for more 20 years before he met me. He’s always working on it. Changing the oil, or tuning it up, or fixing a leak of some sort, or adjusting something or other.  

It was never like that when we were dating. I came first. I wasn’t crazy about the car because it didn’t have air conditioning or a CD player, or anything modern. But I wasn’t jealous of it. We would just use my little Sentra with its air conditioning, electric windows, CD player, etc.   

I wish Frank had a teensie car like this, instead of his massive 1970 Camaro that devours the garage.

I was almost rid of the Camaro once. Frank called one morning from the side of the freeway where the Camaro had broken down. He thought the block was cracked. I don’t know much about cars but I was pretty sure a cracked block is fatal.

I told him I was sorry, trying to hide the insincerity in my voice. I drove over to him, singing along to John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High. I actually felt high. I was making plans for life after death of the Camaro. Frank would take my Sentra and I would buy the new Toyota I’d been wanting. Sweet. Lots of head room. Five-speed automatic shift, sunroof, 10-disk CD player. My fantasy ended when I saw Frank and his damaged chariot. I pulled over, turned off John Denver and tried to look sad.

The Camaro wasn’t drivable so we called a tow truck. It came and loaded up the car and drove away. On our way home Frank said glumly he didn’t think they made new engines for his model anymore.

“I’m so sorry,” I lied. When we got home I started dinner and Frank called his car guy. They talked a long time. After Frank hung up he was beaming.

“They do make new engines for my model,” he enthused. “And it won’t cost nearly as much as I thought.”

Then and there, I decided to take my stand. I took a deep breath.

“If you’re going to keep that old dinosaur, I want a divorce,” I said. “I’ve had it. It’s me or that car.”

KIDDING. I didn’t really say that. I thought it, but what I said was, “Gee, that’s great honey. I’m happy for you.” The truth is I was afraid to find out which of us he would choose.

Frank and I and the Camaro are still together. I still park in the driveway. Frank’s Camaro still hulks in the garage, like always except now it’s got a brand new engine. It’s good for another 50 years. It will outlast me. It’s not fair. When I break down, I won’t get a new engine. The most I’ll get is a new knee or a new hip or two in the coming years, maybe a pacemaker. Minor parts. But on the bright side, the Camaro’s longevity reminds me of my own mortality. It helps me to savor every moment that I have now.

My struggle with the Camaro has taught me that I can only change myself. I can’t make the Camaro go away. I can’t make Frank less attached to it. With acceptance comes peace. It’s good for me, after all, to get outside on those freezing winter mornings and scrape ice off windshields. It’s invigorating, and I can practice gratitude, being thankful I’m not back East shoveling snow. I see the positive side. I’ve stopped calling the car my husband loves a gas-guzzling, space-hogging, polluting, noisy, prehistoric old heap. Now I see an iconic American classic, majestic symbol of a bygone golden age of Detroit and American car makers. I’ve learned nonresistance. That wretched old road hog—oops, I mean that national treasure—is my teacher.


The Power of Faith: WWJD – What Would Jesus Drive? A fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly car like a Honda Accord. “For I did not speak of my own Accord….” ~John 12:49

The Power of Chocolate: I love cars. Especially milk chocolate cars, wrapped in Italian foil. ~Pat Torello

 

Life knows what it’s doing.

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Relax.


It was 1981. I was 35 weeks pregnant, at home enjoying a fun episode of The Love Boat. Suddenly I felt powerful contractions, while the ship’s bartender was belting out a song trying to court a talent scout. My enjoyment turned to foreboding. I had an undeniable feeling in my gut that the baby was coming, very soon. But it wasn’t time.  

I had never even considered the possibility of not going full-term to 40 weeks. Everything until then had been going along so smoothly. I was frightened. Even though 35 weeks is not extremely early, I had a sense of foreboding. In fact, by the time we got to the hospital and they were pushing me down the maternity ward corridor in a wheelchair I was crying. “Something’s wrong,” I sobbed, “Something’s wrong. It’s not time!”

Michele, our beautiful baby girl, was born that night with “multiple congenital anomalies.” They included her smallness—she weighed just over three pounds, very small for a 35-week baby; a bent nose, twisting to the left; and tiny ears. Some other anomalies and issues such as hearing impairment would be addressed as time went on. A team of doctors came and put her onto a gurney loaded with monitors and wires and rushed her to intensive care. The team leader came to my room later and, in a voice filled with compassion, told me and Michele’s father they weren’t sure she would live through the night. We were frightened, hoping desperately that she would. We already loved her deeply.  

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If Michele had been born at the “right” time, things might have been tragic.

I didn’t see Michele until more than 24 hours after she was born, because specialists were in and out of her IC room all that time, filing in and out, examining her intently.

It turned out I was mistaken to be upset about the earliness of Michele’s birth. I’m convinced she had reached an instinctual decision in my womb to come out early. And that was exactly the right thing. It turned out that she had cranial synostosis: her skull plates had fused prematurely in my womb. They’re supposed to be detached from each other for a few years after birth, to allow the brain and features to expand as the baby grows. The neurosurgeon told us later that if she hadn’t had corrective surgery by the time she was 38 in-womb weeks (two weeks “early”) there would almost certainly have been severe brain damage. Being born at 35 weeks gave her three weeks of beneficial out-of-womb nutrition and growth before the surgery. If she had been born at the “right” time, at 40 weeks by conventional medical wisdom, she would have been brain-damaged.

So, right from the get-go, Michele was wiser than I was. She knew things I didn’t. I shouldn’t have been afraid about her birth being early, I should have been reassured. I shouldn’t have been crying in my wheelchair about something being wrong, I should have been cheering—yelling “You go girl!”

Michele’s time of arrival in the world was miraculously right. Since then she’s had her share of challenges, undergoing many surgeries since that first one in early infancy until she was 20. Much has been corrected, aesthetically and otherwise. Today she’s married, a college graduate, a lover of life, independent, intelligent, compassionate, creative, energetic, beautiful…and, I might add, punctual. She’s never late.  I could go on singing her praises but I’ll stop here.

I’ve come to realize it’s silly to worry about her, because she knows what she wants and she knows what to do to get it. Just like she knew, nestled in my womb, exactly when to be born so she could have her surgery on time. 


rose-1403530_640The power of faith: As you do not understand the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the maker of all things. ~Ecclesiastes 11:5

 

chocolate-183543_640The power of chocolate: If God gives you chocolate, you open your mouth, no? ~Alejandro Jodorowski

Embattled female drivers

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Relax


Something comes over perfectly nice men when they’re in a car driven by a woman. Almost every man who’s been in my car when I’m driving has been annoying, and then some. Bob, my former significant other, was the worst of them. His name is not really Bob. I changed it for this blog post so I won’t be sued.

A typical example of driving with Bob was my 40th birthday. I was bummed out about hitting 40, but looking forward to dinner at the nice restaurant Bob was taking me to. Bob drove to the restaurant, and we had a great dinner and a lot of fun. I drove home because I don’t drink and Bob had had a couple of beers. He wisely never drove if he had more than one drink.

Picture it.  (I borrow that phrase from Sophia in Golden Girls.) It’s a dark night. We walk to the car, I get settled in the driver’s seat, and turn on the ignition. Bob is normally an amiable, easy-going man except when I’m driving. I glance over at him and he’s in his usual male-passenger position: staring straight ahead, his jaw set grimly, his feet wide apart and firmly planted on the floor. There’s not one relaxed bone in his body. Not one relaxed muscle. Even his ears are stiff. His nose is tense. His nostrils are flared. It’s not a good sign. I’m not even out of the parking lot yet and he’s loaded for bear.

Dr. Jekyll has become Mr. Hyde.

I drive to the end of the parking lot exit. A car is coming on my left. It’s quite a distance away, yet I stop. I always drove super cautiously with Bob in the car, to keep him from getting agitated. 

After the car has gone by, I check again. Out of the corner of my eye I see Bob’s head turning left and right repeatedly. He is checking for cars, as vigilant as an airliner copilot. Traffic is very light and there’s only one more car coming, quite a distance away and traveling slowly. With plenty of time on my side, I turn right onto the road. 

“Wow!” Bob says tensely. “That car almost hit you. You shouldn’t have pulled out. Reckless.”

“It wasn’t even close to the driveway, Bob,” I say calmly. “It still isn’t. It was a mile away, what are you talking about?”

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A couple calming down after an argument about her driving.

“He wasn’t far away,” Bob insists. “He was almost on top of you!” I say nothing. I glance over at him and see that both hands are now gripping the seat on either side of his knees, his knuckles white, his jaw still set grimly, his feet still planted wide apart.  

“He was not close,” I insist. “Not even,” I add, imitating Lisa Kudrow, who always said that phrase with the accent on even.  Lisa Kudrow annoyed him no end, which of course is why I did it.

“Watch it! Watch it!” Bob yells all of a sudden. I’m once again reminded of how he always yells “watch it!” twice. It’s very annoying! It’s very annoying!

“Watch it! Watch it!” he yells again. I don’t know what he’s yelling about.

“Watch what, Bob?” I ask, exasperated.

I glance over. Bob’s right hand is now fiercely gripping the arm rest, with his left pressed tightly against the glove compartment. He’s clenching and unclenching his jaw. “That car’s going to sideswipe you! Watch it!” I can’t see what he’s talking about, and then a car passes by me gently and safely in the lane on my right. Bob was watching it. Bob was always afraid cars were going to go over their lines. He had no trust in the Universe.   

“Everything’s fine,” I say. “He’s just going past me, he’s well within his lane.”

“He was going over his line,” Bob says. “Way over. You have to watch people!”

“Well, what can I do Bob? I’m stuck in my lane, I can’t get out. We’ll have a head-on if I go over to the left. And I can’t go to the right because the car’s there. Anyway, that guy wasn’t getting close. I saw him in my side mirror. He was fine.”

There’s a red light coming up. I stop in plenty of time, with one car ahead of me. “You’re too close!” Bob yells. “You have to be able to see the tires of the car in front of you. Completely!”

 “I can see the damn tires,” I shout, starting to lose my cool. I glance over again. His lips are moving. He appears to be praying. He’s changed position and is now gripping the door handle with both hands, like he might jump out. A part of me, I’m ashamed to say, wishes he would.   

When the light turns green I cross the intersection, after I look both ways like I always do. I’m old and wise enough to know you can’t just shoot out like a bat out of hell because your light turns green. Someone could be running the cross light. I shot out without looking once when I was in my twenties and got T-boned. I foolishly told Bob about it and traumatized him, even though it was about 40 years ago and I haven’t had an accident since. Goodie-two-shoes Bob never had an accident, not even a little fender bender. His worse traffic offense was a fix-it ticket for brake lights.     

Down the road a car approaches on the cross street to my right, slowly, braking to stop safely at the intersection. “Watch it! Watch it!” Bob yells. “Watch it! Watch it! That car’s not stopping!”  

“He is too! He is too!” I yell back, my voice growing strident. “He’s stopping in plenty of time. He’s a cautious old frug.” I manage not to say “like you.” I don’t want things to deteriorate into name calling. I proceed, glancing over at Bob whose feet are now raised up and braced against the glove compartment. His jaw is grimly reset.

 “You’re a reckless driver,” he says. “You’re dangerous, wild.”

“I’m a perfectly good driver,” I tell him. “I’ve been driving us around for 10 years and I’ve never had an accident. I’ve never even had a ticket,” I lie. I did get a few for speeding and one unsafe lane change, during my years with Bob. But never when he was with me.

He doesn’t hear me. “You don’t look,” he says. “You’re distracted, spacy. You’re a menace to society.”

“Not even,” I say. “I’m very alert. It’s a wonder I can focus with you in the car. You badger and badger, you’re like an annoying cockatoo. You have a voice like a jack hammer.” I glance over at him again. He’s now in the fetal position. And there we were, reduced to name-calling. The conversation deteriorated from there. The relationship deteriorated soon after. It was our final car fight. Before long, we split up.

A few years later I met Frank. We’re celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary this year, and 223 years of being together. I’m sorry, 23 years. Freudian slip. We’re going to Monterey today. I’m driving because Frank likes to look around when we’re going somewhere scenic. We get in the car, I start ‘er up, and look over at Frank. As usual when I drive, he’s looking straight ahead, his jaw set grimly, his feet wide apart, firmly planted on the floor. There’s not one relaxed bone in his body. Not one relaxed muscle. Even his ears are stiff….  It’s déjà vu time.

Oh well, nothing’s perfect. Frank and I have disagreements in the car but things are much better than they were with Bob. For instance Frank yells “watch it!” but not twice in a row like Bob used to. And I don’t do my Lisa Kudrow impersonation anymore. I’ve grown. Plus there’s no point to it since it doesn’t bother Frank. Most important, I realize now that nothing is perfect, including driving with your spouse. Including marriage, period. Marriage is good, but it’s definitely not perfect. Not even.


rose-1403530_640Scripture: Even though I drive through the darkest valley with my husband in the passenger seat, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. ~Psalm 23:3-4 

 

chocolate-183543_640The Power of Chocolate: There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate. ~Linda Grayson

 

owl-297413_640Urban Dictionary: Not Even. A term commonly used in Oakville, the state of denial. Used to strongly deny something. 

Oakville Kid: Yo i heard you were kickin it old school with corbin’s mom last night brooo!!!

Oakville Kid 2: Yo NOT EVEN

Meditation in Real Life

I’m pretty new at meditation, with only about a year under my belt. But already I find that the more often and the more consistently I do it, the better my life goes. When I tune in to my newly discovered inner spiritual center, I find peace, wholeness, and connection with God. It benefits my emotional, mental and physical health. It heals, soothes, and restores. It keeps me from wigging out when my anxiety disorder flares.

My church holds great meditation sessions twice a week but that’s not enough, so I meditate at home. I use an itty-bitty room in our tiny house. The room is right next to the living room where the TV is. We use this room for so many different things we call it the Infinite-Purpose Room (IPR). The term multi-purpose just doesn’t come close. The IPR is our office, our storage room, guest room, exercise room, spiritual-reading room, and my blogging room. It’s the bad-kitty room, where we put one of our two male cats–Jack and Joe–to separate them when they’re fighting.

I had a typical meditation session this morning. I entered the IPR, and carefully stepped around Christmas decorations covering the floor to get to the small couch. I had to remove a couple of angels and a Styrofoam snowman from the couch to make room to sit. I know, I know. Here it is more than a month after Christmas and I haven’t put the decorations up in the loft yet. In my decorations rule book it’s okay as long as you get the Christmas stuff put away before Easter.

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I’d love to meditate in the vast, silent woods.

I sat on the cleared space on the couch, turned out the light and turned off my phone. I put in earplugs to drown out the sound of Judge Judy from the living room on the other side of the wall, where my husband Frank was watching TV. Judy was shouting rudely at an annoying, logic-impaired litigant. Her cynical raspy Bronx voice does not contribute to a peaceful ambience. Fortunately it got pretty faint when I closed the flimsy sliding accordion door to the hallway, and then the door of the IPR behind me. The words grew unintelligible, reduced to a faint sound like a fingernail scraping on a blackboard. I sat for a while in stillness, or as close as I’m ever going to get to stillness in our house, and thought of God. When I felt centered and ready, I turned on my CD player and put in some soothing music. I settled in while the calm of the cosmos gradually enveloped me.

I lost my centeredness temporarily when Judy raised her voice to tell a sweet, frail elderly woman that she was too despicable to even deserve to live. Then she lowered her voice, and I relaxed a bit more and let my thoughts float. I am at peace, I am peaceful, I am filled with peace, I am peace. I am hungry. I serenely let the stomach growls drift through my consciousness. The noise I make bothers me much less at home than when I’m meditating with others at the church. It’s always embarrassing to share body noises. Alone, I can just let everything rip and continue to drift in the vastness of my inner eternity. I am serene. There is nothing to be afraid of in God’s world. And nothing to be embarrassed about.

The growls stopped. In the silence I went deeper and deeper…deeper still…until I was tuned in to the heartbeat of the Universe. I entered into a profound and powerful state of relaxation, transported, transformed. I floated up-up-up to a higher state of consciousness, from which I was rudely torn away by the refrain of Lara’s Song from Dr. Zhivago. Frank programmed it on the doorbell. I remained calm, knowing it would go away and I would return to my altered state. Instead it played over and over. I paused the music to answer the damn door. I tripped over the wreath on the floor and bumped into our life-size plastic Rudolph.

“Quiet in there!” Frank called out.

It was the mail carrier at the door, with a registered letter that I needed to sign for. I was scared. I couldn’t think of anything Frank or I have done to anyone that would call for a registered letter. I took the envelope and studied it. Ah. It was for a person at the same number as our address, but on the next street over. Right address, wrong street. I was relieved. And annoyed. The mail service isn’t what it used to be. We get our neighbors’ mail all the time—retirement accounts and taxes and all kinds of private stuff, and they get ours. Being good neighbors, we always walk misdelivered mail over to the proper house and ring the doorbell, and put it in the mailbox if no one answers. Our neighbors do the same for us.

Once on my birthday I didn’t get the card from a dear friend that has come on time without fail for years. I was upset. I couldn’t believe she forgot about me! I sulked and spent a couple of weeks using up a lot of energy not forgiving her. Then the card arrived. It had been delivered to our neighbors while they were on a three-week cruise, and they brought it over when they got back. So I forgave my friend, and then I had to start all over, not forgiving the Post Office.

I returned to the IPR, relieved that the registered letter wasn’t from Frank suing for divorce, or some lawyer with clients in the neighborhood complaining that Jack and Joe were using their yard as a bathroom. In the silence I began to know with a total certainty, a sublime reassurance, that I am a partner with the Infinite and I do not walk alone through this world. Meows at the patio door affirmed this Truth. My feline companions were meowing for food and wouldn’t stop until someone brought it. I knew this, and I knew that I knew it. Jack and Joe will meow for eternity. They’ve done it before. The someone who feeds them, naturally, is usually me. Frank was glued to the TV, now tuned to Judge Milian, who is always yelling just like Judy but whose voice is more pleasant. At least there’s some humor in it. I paused the music, brought the boys their kibble, and returned to the IPR. Instead of Judge Milian, faint sounds of Hepburn and Bogart in the African Queen now wafted through the wall. I focused on my music, sounding like a river with its eternal flow, while on their river Kate and Bogey struggled in the background with leeches and hostile Germans.

I heard a click. The TV was off. Then Frank snoring. It was a soft, soothing sound and I fell asleep, which is an unpardonable offense when you’re meditating but it happens. I had a wonderful dream involving Hugh Jackman. It was not spiritual. Suddenly I was roused by shouts of “Fumble?! No!! You idiot!!” and other un-meditation-like exclamations from the TV room as the Pats socked it to the Steelers. I pushed my earplugs in tighter and the noise receded. I closed my eyes hoping Hugh was still there but he was gone. I was alone in my elevated state. I had no thoughts. It was all silence, stillness, eternity, infinity, all-life, all-God, all-love. Then all-football again, culminating in a deafening roar when New England ran out the clock to win 36-17 and secure their ninth trip to the Super Bowl in 32 years.

The roar died down and I heard another click followed by silence. Then Frank snoring. In the stillness broken only by Frank’s softly wuffling snores, there in my claustrophobic IPR, I was transported to a higher plane, a state of divine consciousness, a sense of endless love and good and wisdom and power that surrounded me in an atmosphere of total tranquility. I was also aware that I had until six o’clock when the news would come blaring through the adjoining wall, and I would have to leave my cluttered sanctuary to fix dinner. I threw my arm around the 4-foot Santa next to me, settled back comfortably, and enjoyed the tranquility while it lasted.

Another day, another meditation session in the IPR. 


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Scripture: On the glorious splendor of your majesty and on your wonderful works, I will meditate, though Super Bowl ads egregiously assault mine ears. 

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The Power of Chocolate: Don’t wreck a sublime chocolate experience by feeling guilty. ~Lora Brody

 

Measure your blogging success.

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Relax.


I’ve wanted to be a famous writer since I was a teenager. It hasn’t happened yet and I’m seventy, so the outlook is bleak.

Some of my humorous articles were published in magazines about 30 years ago. My target audience was single working parents—SWOPs, I called them.  I actually was a SWOP, so I knew what I was talking about. For instance, one article covered the challenge of getting kids to school on time and yourself to work on time on weekday mornings. If you are, or ever were, a SWOP, you know how tricky this can be.

I shared my solutions with readers. For instance, I had my second-grader pick out the clothes she wanted to wear to school the night before, and lay them out on her chair. And she had to stick to her decision in the morning, or there would be a consequence. Threatening not to buy her a McDonald’s Happy Meal was usually effective, especially if she needed a piece in a set, like Papa of the Berenstein Bear figures. I had her decide what she wanted for breakfast the night before too, and set the table, maybe even pour the cereal and cover with Saran wrap, pour the juice…. Every saved step helped. Then in a flash of brilliance I suggested why not eat breakfast the night before too? That really saved a lot of time. The important thing was to make sure she ate breakfast after dinner.

And so forth. People enjoyed my columns. But after a year or so my SWOP life got so busy I ran out of time for writing and marketing my articles and gave it up. The need to focus on salaried work that covered rent money, medical insurance, and the like, and have time for my daughter, trumped having fun writing.  

I retired a few years ago and thought about trying to write for publication again, but the market in our digital age is even more saturated with aspiring writers than it was in my magazine days.

So I thought…why not blog? It sounded like fun. But I also admit to a secret hope my blog would go viral, and be so wildly popular and attract such a following that some publisher somewhere would be interested in putting out a collection of my brilliant posts.

That hasn’t happened yet either. Things with my blog have been pretty quiet. Quite the opposite of viral, and that’s putting it mildly. The other day I was feeling like a failure, pitifully unsuccessful, painfully discouraged. What’s the use? I thought. On my way out to the garden to eat worms, I vowed to quit blogging, to find something else to do with my talent, modest though it is.

But I gave it some serious thought, and what I decided was that rather than quit blogging, I would redefine success.

What is success, anyway? I had to take a long, hard look at that question and define what it looks like for me.  Not for somebody else. Success means different things to different people. And I decided that if I’m having fun when I’m writing, I’m successful. After all, what is more important than enjoying life? And if I’m enjoying myself, I am a successful blogger. If I had 10,000 followers but hated the process of writing, I would be unsuccessful. If I had one follower but was enjoying myself, then I’m successful. Well, maybe two followers. 

I do enjoy blogging. Sometimes I laugh out loud while I’m blogging away on the PC in our minuscule office. While I may have a tiny office, I have a big LOL. It booms out of the room and reverberates around our home, and my husband hears it wherever he is—in the living room, the garage, out in the yard…around the block if he’s jogging. He says it sometimes sounds like there’s more than one person in the room, like I’m having a party I didn’t invite him to.  

I get a lot of ideas for my blog when I’m grocery shopping or jogging or whatever. Sometimes they make me LOL. At first people stared at me and so I started wearing ear buds to make them think I’m talking to someone on my iPhone. I don’t want them to think I’m just some crazy senior. Anyway, let them laugh. I’m being a success. By enjoying myself and laughing I am stimulating chemicals in my brain called endorphins, which have been proven to reduce pain and stress and promote health. I’m making myself healthier. So I don’t mind so much if people stare at me when I laugh, but I do try not to fart.  

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I have some of my best blog ideas when I’m squeezing fruit in the grocery store.

One day I was squeezing and sniffing cantaloupes in Safeway and suddenly burst out laughing because I remembered my Victoria’s Secret misadventure. I walked in to all that pink and black silky-soft sexiness, feeling like a big old hippo in a pool full of dainty minnows. I was there because a friend told me they would measure me properly so I could find the correct size for my newly expanded senior body. A young svelte thing measured me in the dressing room. My band size was 44. I thanked her and told her I was going to go find a couple of bras, and she said “Oh, ma’am, the largest size we carry is 38.” I laughed, so I wouldn’t cry. I was humiliated, but eventually I wrote my popular post, “A Victoria’s Secret Reject.” No silky, naughty, X-rated lingerie for me. Back to Sears. (Sears might not be around for much longer. Then what?)

In the Tea and Coffee aisle I remembered the time I was in Kohl’s trying on sweaters, and brought a turtle neck on the sale rack into the dressing room. I put it on and when I looked in the mirror was shocked to see the neck of a bullfrog. My neck skin was being pushed up by the high, snug collar and hanging over it like a spare tire. I stifled a scream, but not quite totally, and heard the salesgirl outside ask “Are you all right in there, ma’am?” It was a depressing day for me, but in the end I laughed and wrote “Terror in the Dressing Room.”

Standing in the Pharmacy line I recalled a Girl Scout campout my daughter and I went to about 30 years ago, when she was five. We were all sitting around the campfire at night, and I related some little anecdote about my “ex-mother-in-law.” My daughter said, “Myrl wasn’t your mother-in-law, Mom. You and dad were never married.” I felt embarrassed and ashamed, but lightened up when delighted laughter burst out around the campfire. My resulting blog post was “Mother-Daughter Secret, Not.”

Standing in the checkout line, I remembered phone pranks my friends and I played when I was a kid, back in the Stone Age, before cell phones, when you had to be home to answer your phone, which was what we now call a “landline.” We would call and ask people if their refrigerator was running, and if they said yes we said “better go catch it.” Or we’d ask them to blow into the phone and then tell them “thanks, you just blew the bird turds off the line.” Those were the days.

It certainly makes grocery shopping more fun, thinking about funny things that have happened. I spend a lot of time pulling my cart out of the flow of traffic and writing ideas in my iPhone notes. And laughing. It makes jogging more fun, driving more fun, vacuuming more fun… I’m laughing right now, in fact, writing this very post. My husband just shouted from the living room, “Who the hell is in there with you?”

Now I have a difficult confession to make. Here comes the naked truth. The blog that you are reading right now (thank you!) has 60 followers. That’s an amazing number. Amazingly small, that is. There are millions of bloggers and readers in the WordPress blogosphere and only 60 of them follow my blog. Most of them are my friends, whose arms I twisted. I tell myself my work is good, but I’m just not much for social networking. That’s what you need to do to drum up blog followers. I know absolutely zip about SEO. (SEO is search engine optimization, by the way, the highly technical art of getting Google and Yahoo to direct searchers to your articles.) I don’t tie my blog in to Facebook, in fact I rarely post anything on my page.  I don’t tie it into Instagram because I don’t have an Instagram account, I don’t tweet about it because I’m not on Twitter.

I don’t do any of those things. I just write and enjoy myself and laugh in the grocery store and other inappropriate places. I will blog bravely on in obscurity, in the vastness of the blogosphere, like the humor-blogger version of John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness. Why stop, when I’m having so much fun?


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Scripture: What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? To gain 10,000 blog followers yet not have fun?


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The Power of Chocolate: Will looked horrified. “What kind of monster could possibly hate chocolate?”
― Cassandra ClareClockwork Angel