This blustery January day

The wind is blowing so hard, my back door just swung open. Mind you, there is another door and a small, old-fashioned entryway where I hang coats and line up boots, between “outside” and the back door that creaked open. That means the wind muscled its way through the doggie door to push the heavier inner door ajar. The boys jumped from their fuzzy bed near my desk to investigate. Right behind them, I clicked the deadbolt closed so it wouldn’t happen again.

The sky is only a slightly grayer shade of white than the snow covering the ground and clinging in determined chunks to the dried zebra grass I see outside the window, next to the garage. That plot of ornamental grass is cut low and is the color of cookies now, but it springs up above my head by late summer, sharp-edged fronds finely striped in an emerald green and white pattern. For the dogs it’s a popular spot for lifting a leg, any time of year. The plant is, apparently, impervious to canine fluids.

Ginny and I had planned to meet for lunch today, but the morning brought those blustery winds with snow, then sleet and freezing rain. I’m grateful I wasn’t on the road earlier with all those poor souls creeping and sliding to work during rush hour. I experienced plenty of those years, so I am especially grateful on every day like this one that I can stay inside, safe and warm. I always pause to send out my good intentions – to all the single moms, to the inexperienced, young drivers, to someone elderly with an early doctor’s appointment, to all the doctors, nurses and staff who are driving carefully to be at work, intent on healing and bringing comfort. May you all get to your destinations without incident. To my sweet son driving to his office at the University of Akron to prepare for next week’s classes. To each every one of you on the roads, for whatever reason, I wish you safe travels.

blustery-day

The boys cuddle to recover from yesterday’s scary visit to the vet on this blustery winter day.

And even if the roads were clear and the sun were shining, I’m afraid I’d have to postpone meeting my dear friend, anyway. Yesterday afternoon I took Mick and Rich to the vet for yearly shots. They ate their dinner not long after we got home, but as the evening progressed, Little Richard became increasingly out of sorts. When he is not feeling well, he scares himself. Such a fragile, neurotic little guy. He shivers uncontrollably and acts as if he’s on death’s door. When Rich somehow uncurls his buoyant tail and tucks it between his legs, you know he’s one miserable pup – even if the event is unlikely to be serious at all.

This morning he is better, but still a little shaky and lethargic. That’s saying a lot for a dog with the nervous energy of a terrier. And  Mr. What-time’s-my-next-meal? Mick only picked at his breakfast. For Mick to be off his feed, something is definitely amiss. Whether reacting a bit to the inoculations, or to the stress of going to the doctor – or a combination of the two – the boys are just off today. I’ll keep an eye on them and hope their usual joie de vivre returns soon.

Anyone else remember that wonderful old television police drama, “Hill Street Blues?” Every morning after briefing, Sergeant Phil Esterhaus would send off his staff of police and detectives to their morning’s work saying, “Let’s be careful out there.” That has stuck with me, somehow.

May your day of work and school, errands or appointments, go nicely – and do be careful going home.

Hello. It’s me.

I don’t know why I’m pretending to know any lyrics to the popular song beyond “hello,” but . . . hey! Hello! And not in that depressing, moaning Adele way, either! (Yeah, she’s great, but I feel like crawling under the covers every time she sings.)

Just a quick note to say that I feel my funny bubbling up under the surface somewhere. It was squashed and mangled during the election process, but you know what? The hell with that. I’m still me. This is my one and only life. I want to spend what’s left of it trying to be happy more often than not and laughing whenever possible.

In fact, I’m working on a new blog. I’ll be calling on my buddies and family members and maybe even the occasional stranger – anybody who’s game – to share an adventure with me. Oh, it will usually be just a very tiny adventure. Choosing pastries at Corbo’s Bakery in Little Italy. Or maybe debating which one of the “Property Brothers” is hotter. Calling it an adventure may be stretching the meaning of the word, I admit, but it makes life more fun, I think. As my friend Jane would say, “Too much fun!” Jane is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met; we could all take a page out of her book.

Hey, Jane! Keep it up, girlfriend!

img_3905

Sue and I enjoying our morning coffee and croissant at our favorite cafe in Ribeauville, France, in 2015.

There will be bigger adventures, too, of course. I’m trying to convince Ginny to commit to a trip to Savannah and Charleston this spring, and I’m hoping Sue will be up for an exploration of Tuscany in the fall. You know how I love to travel.

Stay tuned. I’m working out the site design now and will let you know when I’m ready to go live.

So, hello. Glad to be back. And I hope the year ahead is a joyous adventure for us all.

 

Leaving Facebook for a while

I just realized that this won’t show up on Facebook when I’m done writing. I won’t post it on the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop site (not many people pay attention there, anyway) or to betterafter50 or to the National Society of Newspaper Columnists site.

If you see this, it’s because you chose to follow my blog. If you read it, you not only follow my blog but also clicked onto the link to see what I had to say. To you, I am extremely grateful. Thank you. You’re going to love what I have to say – or hate it. On which side of the fence are you firmly planted?

So here’s the deal with Facebook. Not long ago I wrote about how we would need to give our president-elect a chance. I posted it here a few days before the election when, to be brutally honest, I thought Hillary would win and the voters who backed Trump would have to suck it up and give her a chance.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried that Wednesday morning when I opened up my laptop to discover that Donald Trump had won. It still upsets me, if not to tears, every single day. Now I’m the one who should “suck it up” and give him a chance. I’m trying. I truly am. I clutch at every positive word he speaks and think – there! He’s not so bad! There’s hope!

But for every seemingly wise or conciliatory comment he makes, he jumps erratically in some other disturbing direction – multiple times. Bring a white supremacist into the White House as an adviser because he’s “really a good guy?” Horrifying. Unfathomable. Put other ultraconservative people with little-to-no relevant experience into cabinet positions? Does shaking things up or “draining the swamp” work best by putting a randomly chosen woman (read: rich donor) in charge of the country’s education policies who has never attended a public school or sent her own children to public schools? Absolute folly. Why not make me Defense Secretary? It makes as much sense.

So, anyway, I thought that after the election I could go back to Facebook to laugh at memes of Christopher Walken, enjoy photos of my friends’ grandchildren, and chuckle at the antics of puppies and kittens, but . . . . Every day I am bombarded by the bizarre political antics of PEOTUS Trump. Every day there are posts about Muslim women wearing scarves being attacked in subways or of swastikas painted on the home of a mixed race couple.

There’s a bunch of nasty shit happening out there, folks.

The creepy bullies discovered that they could come out and play. They are comfortable in a country led by a man who believes that if he says anything with conviction, it doesn’t matter if it’s true. They learned that it’s okay to snarl and shout like a Nazi, only to back down if needed and wonder why others would take those words literally.

No one’s reading this. Just as well. Because if anyone dares to suggest I’m exaggerating or should “move on,” I’ll tell them to go fuck themselves. If you don’t see it now, you will later. We’re all going to have to pay for your choice. Your choice. Not mine. Crooked Hillary, my ass. She looks like Mother Teresa compared to this joker and if you don’t see it yet . . . well, you will.

So, obviously I’m angry. And I’m sick about this. Truly sick about it.

But I’m not going to rant about Trump on social media anymore. If you want to say, “Good!” say it to yourselves. Don’t you dare say it to me.

I want to go back to enjoying my friends and family for all the good things they represent, in spite of (in some cases) their politics. Hopefully, they will do the same with me.

I will try to become involved in some way with the Democratic Party, or better yet, with Democratic Socialists, if that becomes a viable option. I’ll put my money where my mouth is and support liberal candidates who want universal healthcare and respect women’s and LGBTQ rights. Politicians who aren’t afraid to stand toe-to-toe with the NRA for wise gun control that even most NRA members can agree to. Legislation to protect Medicare and Social Security for everyone who worked and put their hard-earned money into those programs our entire working lives. We really need to stop being intimidated by the loud mouths and money of the far right, folks. And Paul Ryan can kiss my fat, dimpled ass, by the way. Horrible man.

Oh, I could go on and on. I will be reading the news and seeing how I can help without wasting my time, blowing off steam on Facebook. I made a monthly pledge to support Planned Parenthood. I will sign up as a Muslim if a national registry is ever instituted. I believe Black Lives Matter and hope to have the courage to use my own white privilege to help the people of color in my world if I’m ever needed.

This is how I feel. This is who I am. But right now, I want to step away from the constant influx of upsetting information just for a little while. I want to calm myself and stop skating on what feels like a thin scab of ice barely covering a pond of molten fury. It might be too much to expect to be happy any time soon. And it’s going to take more than stepping away from Facebook for a while for this wound to heal. But I have to start somewhere.

 

Well, poo

The kit sat on a shelf in my pantry for more than a month. When is it ever a good time to collect a stool sample? I procrastinated. I flat out didn’t want to do it.

Then the election results came in.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016, seemed like a good day to shit in a box and mail it out into the world. And so I did. It was cathartic.

south-park-poo

Compliments of South Park

And lest you think it was also totally disgusting and I should be ashamed of myself (especially at my age, I mean, really), it was a legitimate action. My doctor recommended I take the less invasive, and less expensive, Cologuard© test that screens for colon cancer. If there are any worrisome results from this test, then yes, a colonoscopy will be required. If not, a little poop in a box will save me from having to participate in the full blown procedure.

 

While it may not work for the squeamish, it seems like a practical alternative, right?

On Wednesday, I found myself beyond caring.

So with unwashed, straggly hair, no makeup, and wearing a threadbare Bellagio fleece that my son advised me never to appear in public again (it’s still so cozy; I hang onto it to wear in the privacy of my home), I delivered my package to the nearby UPS store. The lady behind the counter asked if I wanted a receipt. I declined. I was afraid she’d ask about the contents, like they do at the post office. I also was eyeing everyone in the store, wondering who they voted for, my paranoia in full bloom.

I scurried out the door, back to the car. As I started the motor and shifted into reverse, I surprised myself with a tiny smile – the first since learning the election results.

 

It’s just about time to grow up, shut up, and play nice

After months of Trump- and Hillary-bashing, we’re finally days away from the election, and guess what? We’re really going to have to stop with the jokes and the screaming and the hateful alle…

Source: It’s just about time to grow up, shut up, and play nice

It’s just about time to grow up, shut up, and play nice

After months of Trump- and Hillary-bashing, we’re finally days away from the election, and guess what? We’re really going to have to stop with the jokes and the screaming and the hateful allegations, folks. Like it or not – and there will be a boatload of people who do NOT like the outcome, either way – we are very soon going to be faced with a four-year presidential term for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

I say it’s time to suck it up, pull up our big girl/boy panties, and act like civilized adults about the situation.

Starting with . . . how about we decide to give these folks the benefit of the doubt now and then?

Let’s start with Donald Trump, since I’m a Clinton supporter. Personally, I think he’s a delusional nut job, among other things. However, if Donald Trump is elected president, I’d like to believe that whether or not I think there is any logic behind the majority of his pronouncements, his heart is in the right place. That’s right. He may be clueless – in my opinion – but I’m going to believe that he sincerely does NOT want to screw up the country and will do his best to be a good president. He will not purposely do anything stupid. However, when he does do something stupid (because we ALL do stupid things now and then), I will believe that he tried his best and meant well. I will pray that the stupid thing does not result in nuclear war.

I will not scream that he should be put in jail for screwing up. I will no longer make fun of his hair, his apparent fondness for tanning booths, his limited vocabulary, his multiple marriages, misogynistic tendencies, exaggerated rhetoric, etc., etc. I reserve the right to complain about any actions he takes that I may disagree with, but I won’t make fun of him or his family on a personal level.

Now, how about Hillary Clinton? First, let’s stop with the “throw her in jail” bullshit. If Trump becomes president and his followers say, “Hey, Donald, let’s get that special prosecution up and running so we can throw that bee-atch in jail, okay?” President Trump’s response will likely be something like this:

“Are you crazy, or just stupid? I just said that to get you to vote for me. You didn’t think I meant it, did you? Or that I’d actually build a wall and send Mexico the bill? That’s just politics, you nitwits. Move on.”

So when we start acting like adults, we must stop calling President Clinton a bee-atch and – again, with the benefit of the doubt thing – we will start to think that maybe the Benghazi incident happened for tragic reasons, but not due to Mrs. Clinton sitting in bed reading People and eating Chex Mix while thinking, “I’m not helping those crybabies.” No. The lady sincerely tried to do her best but in this case, it resulted in disaster. Ever heard the bible verse about throwing the first stone? Right. Unless you were there and know the circumstances, stop judging and move on.

In fact, unless you were sitting next to Hillary at her desk and saying, “Hey, hon, don’t use that private mail server. What are ya, stupid?” then just shut up about that, too. You can’t read her mind. She sure as hell didn’t do it to sneak state secrets to Papua New Guinea or anything.

Oh, we can go on and on and on, can’t we? But Donald said this. Then Hillary did that. We hate her because she’s a woman and her husband cheated on her and she sometimes has that stupid little smirk while people try to crap all over her. Yeah. That’s a good reason to hate someone. Maybe she really is a Good Person. A loving mother. A doting  grandmother. Give her a break, for crying out loud.

We hate him because he looks ridiculous and how can we take a guy seriously who thinks it’s okay to walk around with that hairdo, never mind all the absurd statements he makes. If Trump becomes president – we’ve just got to let all that crap go and hope that the outrageous comments were mostly just his version of political blather.

And for God’s sake, let’s hope they both are wise enough to surround themselves with intelligent, knowledgeable advisers who are, perhaps most importantly, GOOD PEOPLE, and – please, God – that they LISTEN to these people and don’t make any irreparable mistakes between now and 2020.

trump-and-clinton-ny-times

This is an old photo (thank you, New York Times), but you know what? It wouldn’t surprise me to see this same gang making nice (if looking significantly older) and yucking it up at some party not that many years from now. Will we be over the trauma of this election as easily by then? Moral of this story:  Love your friends and family – no matter who they’re voting for. To the Clintons AND the Trumps – it’s just politics, darlin’.

So that’s it. Grow up, people. Get ready for a new president and let’s treat him or her with the respect and dignity that the office deserves. Don’t forget – benefit of the doubt. Let’s make that our mantra when things look grim. Don’t go into this assuming our new leader is either the devil or a crook.

Let’s give them a chance and believe their intentions are honorable. I don’t know about you, but I can forgive, and even be supportive if I believe someone is sincere and honestly trying to do what’s right.

What do you say we start there?

Je suis Bill Bryson (and Robert Redford isn’t)

 

Okay, I’m not really Bill Bryson. Obviously. But if I could magically become the female version of a beloved male writer, I would choose to be known far and wide as Bill Bryson’s funny female counterpart. (I’ll get to the Robert Redford reference in a minute.)

If you haven’t read books by Bill Bryson, I’m going to suggest that you give this essay a miss. If you are unfamiliar with Bill’s hilarious writing and delightful nonfiction tales, including A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country and The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, to name just a few, then my little story will just have you scratching your head and wondering if it’s time yet for “Judge Judy” to come on.

As it happens, Bill and I were both born in 1951. He was born in Iowa and I, in Ohio. Since in many parts of the country, people get Ohio and Iowa confused, I think there’s an outside chance that we were separated at birth. I could be Bill’s fraternal twin. The less-talented, yet plucky girl child who was sent East to be raised by an intelligent but literarily clueless young couple who did not recognize or encourage her latent storytelling skills.

This would explain why Bill is a bestselling author with nearly twenty books to his credit and I am fumbling around, trying to be funny with occasional blog posts. You can see it, right?

Anyway, I went to the library last week to look for travel guides for the Netherlands and Hungary (there was nothing; huh) and sitting on the shelf right next to a Fodor’s Guide for Europe was Bill’s latest book, The Road to Little Dribbling, Adventures of an American in Britain.  A new Bryson book! Happy dance in the travel section!

I’m about halfway through the book and have been dribbling a bit myself, as I find myself laughing heartily and incontinently (it’s not a word, I know, but it should be) at Bill’s accounts of his adventures walking around England. Now, Bill has written about walking around England before in Notes from a Small Island and a few others I’m too lazy to Google to give you the correct titles. In fact, many of Bill’s books are about Bill walking around, whether in England or Australia or on the Appalachian Trail in the U.S. or wherever. His unique talent is to take us right along with him, marveling at the size of spider webs in a Sydney park or recounting the history of the Belle Tout lighthouse on England’s rocky south Atlantic coast.

11 belle tout

Here’s the Belle Tout lighthouse not too close to the edge of the cliff in southern England.

The thing is, you wouldn’t think you’d be interested in some obscure lighthouse in Great Britain, right? Big spider webs, maybe – especially if it involves a little screaming and dancing around to get free of the creepy tangles. But an old lighthouse that the Canadians used for target practice during World War II? Somehow, Bill makes me care that after it was restored, but in danger of toppling off of its cliffside perch, someone paid to have the lighthouse mounted on rails and moved back from the edge to a safer spot. I wish I could see it, though admittedly, not enough to carve out precious vacation time to drive on the wrong side of small, scary roads to actually find it and haul ass up that steep path.

But here’s what I love most about Bill. He gives us some history and describes the scenery so aptly, you can almost see it yourself, and then – boom – he makes you laugh. After Belle Tout he hikes down toward sea level, then back up the next summit to the more famous Beachy Head lighthouse where he notes:

“At the top of the hill, where it flattens out, is a parking area where busloads of schoolchildren can get off and scatter a little litter around – it’s a tradition, I guess; school groups come from all over to put their potato chip bags and candy bar wrappers in the gorse and bracken, bless their sweet, undersupervised little hearts – but I am pleased to say that this was the only place along the entire walk that I encountered litter.”

I was all into the sea views and restored lighthouses, and then this. That’s Bill. Learn a little. Explore a bit. Then comment on something and make it so funny, I’m snorting coffee out of my nose.

Robert Redford Nick Nolte

This photo provided by Broad Green Pictures shows, Robert Redford, left, as Bill Bryson and Nick Nolte as Stephen Katz taking in the view along the Appalachian Trail in the film, “A Walk in the Woods.” The movie was released in U.S. theaters on Sept. 2, 2015. (Frank Masi, SMPSP/Broad Green Pictures via AP)

So, Robert Redford. Redford played the part of Bill in the movie version of “A Walk in the Woods.” First, he doesn’t look anything like Bill. Robert Redford doesn’t even look like himself anymore, but that’s another story. Honestly, I do not say this to be mean, but how and why is Robert’s face so lumpy? Is it a skin disorder? I don’t think it’s just old age because I know plenty of old people, but I don’t know even one who got bumpy.

Robert Redford just was not Bill Bryson for me. Here’s what Bill looks like. Who should have played him? Thoughts? I’m drawing a blank. An actor named Ed something, but that’s all I’ve got.

11 bill bryson

Here’s Bill at Stonehenge. Note the big, happy smile. Bill smiles in practically EVERY PICTURE I’ve ever seen of him. Why did Robert Redford barely smile in the movie? Does Bill NOT smile in real life? Photo from the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

On the other hand, I have never heard Bill Bryson speak or watched him being interviewed on television, or anything like that. Maybe Robert Redford’s rather deadpan portrayal captured the spirit of Bill perfectly? I hope not.

The truth is, if Bill’s a little on the dour side, I don’t want to know. Bill Bryson is one of my very favorite writers. He’s an inspiration to me. I’m his wannabe twin. If he seems to be getting a little more cantankerous in these later books, I’m okay with that. I’m crankier, too. If Bill has a slight tendency toward the pedantic, each carefully explained fact or slice of backstory is well told and truly interesting, then lightened with a burst of comedy that propels you on to the next step of his journey. I will continue to believe that it would be great fun to sit down with Bill over a couple of cocktails (Bill might go for beer, but I’ll have a margarita, please) and hear his stories.

In lieu of that, thank you for each and every one of your wonderful tales, Bill, and most recently, for taking me with you on The Road to Little Dribbling.

I love you, brother.