Good Read

I just finished the book, Boom !, a bestseller written by Tom Brokaw. The book chronicles the events of the 1960’s, as described by the people who had been there and done that. This work of non-fiction covers the Vietnam War, the civil and women’s rights movements, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, politics, music, and illegal drugs.

I was born in 1960, so I was just a newbie earthling for most of that decade.  I was more concerned with learning to walk and talk, skipping rope and playing with dolls, and was therefore fairly oblivious to the pivotal events that were occurring around me.This book provided me with a way to catch up on those early years of my life. There was so much change and controversy that took place in that ten-year span. This type of book is not my “usual” choice of a read, but I was most pleasantly surprised. It was a history lesson that did not bore me in the least, and one that I looked forward to reading at the end of the day.

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today, March 31st, would have been my father’s eighty-seventh birthday. He was born in 1922 in southern Germany, and passed away nearly 13 years ago, at the age of seventy-four. It has been a long time since I have heard his voice or hacking smoker’s cough in the flesh, but those sounds are still fresh in my memory.There are many things (the good, the bad and the ugly) that he has missed over the past several years, but he lives on forever in our minds. If he were here today, I believe that he would be an engaged grandfather to his three grandsons-the boys that he always wanted. (His own offspring were two clones of the female kind.)

We recently had a “visit” from dad. A few weeks ago, my sister and her son cleaned out his old tool chest in mom’s garage. They stumbled upon a receipt from Revco dated June 13, 1996. At precisely 1:55 pm, dad purchased 11 chocolate candy bars, for which he paid $6.90. (He had hidden the receipt and the empty wrappers amongst the tools so mom wouldn’t know that he was cheating on his “diet.”) We found some humor and comfort in knowing that dad had enjoyed one last binge in the days preceding his death. (Now I know where I get my chocolate addiction from.)  Happy Birthday, Dad! You are missed.

A Dog’s Life

I have always said that in my next life, I want to come back as one of MY dogs.  Any dog that is fortunate enough to be adopted by our family is guaranteed a life full of premium doggy kibble, peanut butter treats, oodles of chew toys, daily constitutionals, siestas on the sofa, warm, soapy baths complete with pedicures,  silly nicknames, tons of kisses and cuddles, and lots of love.

Our current canine family member, Lexi, has experienced nearly three years of the above mentioned lifestyle.  (Below, you can see her tucked in for the night.) If she could talk, I think that she would tell you that she likes it here.


The Writing Room

Several months ago, as I contemplated the notion of buckling down and doing some writing, I decided to convert a spare bedroom into a writing room. This particular space is small and cozy, nestled between two other bedrooms in our home. I donated the barely-used futon that occupied one wall, and in its place, I re-located a desk. I hauled two, six-foot bookshelves up from the basement, and carefully stocked them with books of inspiration. (These selections were written by authors that I aspire to be like when I grow up.) Their purpose is to supply positive and creative energy to this sanctuary of sorts. I scattered some framed photographs alongside the various novels and classic literature to fill in some empty gaps.  As a finishing touch, I purchased a new lamp for the desk, brought in a small decorative chair and a trunk to occupy some unused space, and hung photographs of nature on the walls. I also took some time to reread the writer’s how-to-book, “Writing Down the Bones, “ by Natalie Goldberg, for further motivation. The writing room was open and ready for business.

Funny thing, as the calendar flipped from 2008 to 2009, I actually did sit down and do some writing. However, I have found that I tend to do my better work plopped in my bed or hidden away in my walk-in closet, with a spiral notebook in hand. When I have crafted a story worthy of typing up, I get comfortable at a second desk, located in the great room, and begin transferring the words into the computer, to be filed and saved.

Perhaps, the writing room can be used as my meditation retreat? I have been meaning to get more serious about my nearly non-existent practice of quieting the mind.  Ohm…………

Only the Good Die Young

I borrowed the title of this post from an old Billy Joel song. It’s a phrase that I have repeated over and over in my head, as I learn of the premature passing of family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Yesterday, my boss was informed of the sudden and unexpected death of a childhood friend. He was 51 years old. My own husband passed away just two months shy of his own fifty-first birthday. And, the list goes on- Susan, gone at age 53, Debbie, Pam and Scott, age 47, Judi, age 37, Chris, age 21……

I have tried to wrap my head around this phenomenon that is occurring all around me. Young, full-of-life individuals, with so much to offer, are being plucked from this earth, often with no warning, and returned to their spirit form. Was their time here on earth just up, sort of a pre-negotiated quitting date? Had they simply completed all of their earthly tasks? These are some of the answers that I come up with when I allow myself to ponder the question, “Why?”

I will never really know the true reason for these seemingly untimely deaths (at least not in my current physical form), but I do believe that I crossed paths with many of these souls for a reason, and that my life is richer for having had them in it.

The Biography of Junior

My son was born in 1998. A few months after his birth, my neighbor mentioned that she kept journals on all three of her children. She used this writing medium as a way to chronicle their lives. I remember thinking, what a brilliant idea! I could utilize my love of writing to craft the story of a lifetime-the biography of my only child. What better author to compose this non-fiction piece of literature!

I purchased a composition notebook, and began re-tracing those first months of Junior’s life. I strive to pen an entry every two weeks or so. My topics have included food (likes and dislikes), potty training (we had some issues with holding “it” in), his father’s illness and premature death, preschool, Kindergarten and grades beyond, recaps of family vacations, friendships, bullies, Diabetes and more. I am currently working on Volume Seven. Sometime this year or next, I plan to share the notebooks with him.  I believe that he is old enough to enjoy them, and appreciate the time and effort that I invested in capturing his childhood in print.  It has been my pleasure to use this creative outlet for such a treasured purpose. I believe that there is no greater gift that I could possibly give him. Every volume has been written with love.

Joan and Son Lawn Care

It is spring, and that means that one can literally sit by a window and watch the grass grow.  I am not really looking forward to a plush, green lawn this year, because I have to mow it.  For the past six seasons, I indulged myself by hiring a lawn service to perform this dreaded weekly chore. Each week, Eric would faithfully show up, and within 20 minutes or so, have the lawn cut, weed-whacked, and the driveway and sidewalk blown clean. I just had to write a check, put it in a stamped envelope and leave it in the mailbox. No sweating, green-stained shoes, or gasoline-smelling hands.

I recently had to inform Eric that I could no longer afford his services. (Another budget cut resulting from my lesser employment status.)  This evening, I hauled out the spreader and sprayed fertilizer as I walked, row after row, up and down the lawn. (This is Step one of four of the Scott’s Fertilizer System. Good thing my lawn doesn’t have an issue with alcohol, or I would be forced to complete a 12-step program.) This feeding schedule is guaranteed to produce a lush, carpet-like covering. Great! Mow, mow, mow the lawn!

I hope to entice Junior to assist with my lawn care duties. (If I dangle the “increased allowance carrot,” he just might bite.) I measured him, like you do for those rides at amusement parks, and the good news is he is just tall enough to fit behind a self-propelled mower. I will buy him a pair of goggles, make sure that he is wearing closed-toe shoes, and pull the string. Vroooom! Off he goes………

Shopping Ban

I have been banned from shopping. This self-imposed edict is the result of my reduced employment. My once familiar shopping haunts-Kohl’s, Steinmart, Target, T.J. Maxx-are strictly off limits. I am also forbidden from Lowe’s and Home Depot, too. I will have to pass this year on a new Easter dress and bonnet.  ( I am not too upset about the bonnet. I don’t wear hats well, short hair and all.)  There will be no cute, strappy sandals in my closet, either. I will just pull out my varied assortment of open-toed heels and flats from years past.

I am experiencing few symptoms of withdrawal as I drive by strip malls, unable to pull in and park.  I don’t really need anything, anyway. (I am forever explaining the difference between a WANT and a NEED to my son.)  I am, however, finding it difficult to put the kabosh on any home improvement projects. Over the course of the seven years we have lived in our current abode, I have always had some kind of project to occupy my time and wallet. I have painted, tiled floors, re-modeled a bathroom, updated (in parts) the kitchen, and more. I would love to be able to re-do a second bath and replace my drafty, out-dated windows.  There are no funds for such luxuries in the budget this year, or possibly even next. Ouch!

I realize that I am contributing to the downturn of the economy. The only thing that I can afford to stimulate right now is my imagination. I may start a “wish file”, where I can store magazine clippings of trendy bathroom fixtures and ads for replacement windows. A girl can still dream. It’s free.

This Old Trunk

dsc002822I brought home an old trunk last weekend.  It has been in my parent’s basement for almost 39 years, and it was headed for either Goodwill or the garbage dump. I had been under the impression that the trunk had transported my parents’ few meager belongings from Germany to the United States in 1953, the year they immigrated. However, my mom informed me that the trunk had belonged to immigrants, just not them.

In 1938, a Jewish couple of German descent fled their homeland for England in order to escape the rise of the Nazi Party, and the trunk served as their luggage. (I can only assume that it may have carried their clothing, photos and possibly a few family heirlooms.)  Eventually, the couple and their trunk relocated to the US, settling in the Midwest. Mom and dad acquired the trunk sometime in the late 1950’s. When my parents purchased their first home, the trunk moved, too. They stored this treasured chest in an attic, where it served as a linen closet of sorts, stuffed with blankets and other bed linens. When they purchased their second home, the big leather box moved the short distance with them, and found a spot in a corner of the basement.

My sister and I have spent the better part of this year relocating my mom to a retirement community. The trunk was not among the items chosen to make the move with her. One recent day, I opened up the trunk and found it filled with old baby clothes once worn by my sister and I. Included inside were several Dirndl’s, which are dresses native to Bavaria and Austria, often worn by young girls. (No doubt they had been sent by relatives when we were young.) I also stumbled upon my fathers Lederhosen, which he wore on weekends as the drummer in a German band. (Lederhosen are leather “shorts” with suspenders attached. They are the special occasion attire of men, young and old.)

I emptied the dusty, well-worn trunk and transported her yet again. I spent some time giving her a real spa treatment. I vacuumed off the dirt and cobwebs and then washed her tough outer shell with Murphy’s oil soap and warm water.  (I was careful not to disturb the paper shipping stickers still stuck to the exterior. The labels are not really legible, but they are proof of where she has been.) I spritzed some Febreze on the inner lining to make her smell more lady-like. Once she had air-dried, I meticulously massaged her with lemon oil to help renew her cracked, weathered skin.

If she could speak, I’d bet she would have lots to share about her travels and the cherished tokens that she has given shelter to over the years. I found a perfect nook for her in my own basement, where I will watch over her carefully. She is, after all, at least seventy-one years old.


It is Friday, the end of the work week, and it has been a good one for several folks that I know.  My kindred spirit, Jane, received a copy of her first published short story. (Her man cubs are happy to have her back inside. She set up camp next to the mailbox and hasn’t been seen for weeks.) The next person to end the week on a positive note is my sister’s friend, John. His surgery to remove a cancerous growth that had taken up residence in a most unusual place-behind his tongue and down into his neck-was successful. This is John’s second battle with cancer. Once should have been enough. We then move onto my friends, Marla and Ed, who are settling into their apartment near a famous cancer center. Ed’s pre-transplant work-ups are going well, and they have even had time to explore the city that they currently call home. Ed is about two weeks away from his scheduled bone marrow transplant. I think of them often and keep them in my prayers.

It was a good week for me, too. I worked about twenty hours at the job that I quit last December. (If you are confused, you will have to read my earlier post, “Self-Induced Unemployment,” to get caught up.) I also made a new dog-walking friend. She is currently unemployed and is trying to keep busy. We may play hooky and go to the movies on a WEEKDAY, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE AFTERNOON. (Shh. Don’t tell anyone.)

If this week wasn’t a “10” on your list, don’t worry because things are looking up. Spring has sprung and the bunny’s coming soon and he’s bringing chocolate!