Lover vs. Beloved

This morning I was sitting on the beat-up wicker chair in my bedroom, tying my shoes. I looked across to the bed just as Little Richard tippy-toed over to cuddle up next to Mick, nestling his head on top of Mick’s upper back. Is it love? Or a show of fealty, acknowledging Mick’s dominance in their relationship?

Boys May 13

Little Richard is the white dog with his arm around his buddy, Mick Jagger. Naturally, Mick Jagger is alpha over Little Richard, in the world of humans, as well as dogs.

I can’t read dogs’ minds, but I can tell you this – it’s always Rich seeking out Mick. Always. If Mick is curled up in the dog bed near my desk, eventually Rich will join him. Rich is the cuddler (lover) and Mick is cuddled (the beloved). They are pals, but not equals.

It seems to me that love is rarely equally given and received. Now, I haven’t been married for many, many years, so I’m only going to lightly touch on this topic in regard to marital love. It appears to me that the Lover vs. Beloved relationship isn’t static. Illness, retirement, empty nest – all kinds of life events can tip the seesaw of who is overtly loved/cared for versus being the one in a more supportive role.

Anniversary

My parents on their 50th anniversary. Retirement (and all of us kids being gone!) seemed to soften my dad. I liked that he called Mom “honey” more often.

How about parents and children? It’s my thought that in the best of circumstances, parents love and the children are beloved. I’m not saying kids (of any age) don’t love back. In fact, we all know of sad situations where an errant mother or father may be unconditionally loved by a child long after the parent’s behavior ceased to warrant that love or respect. Under less-than-ideal circumstances, the love between parents and children can be complicated, to say the least. Best case, it’s pretty balanced. But — when you are a parent, part of loving is hoping that your child will one day find a partner that she or he wholeheartedly loves – above all others. That includes Mom and Dad.

And between friends? I think this can be the most interesting dynamic of all. If I am fortunate to have many friends, does that dilute the amount of love that I can share with each? My thought is we can say we love our friends, but I’d say that one of the more important ways that we demonstrate that love is by spending time with them. Can someone be one of your dearest friends if you rarely spend time together?

I’m not saying that only face-to-face time counts. Certainly in our world of social media, free phone calls to anywhere in the U.S., and various modes of transportation that at least make it possible to get together (imagine being a pioneer woman leaving her best friend behind when she went West with her husband – likely to never set foot back home again), today it’s very possible for a long distance friend to remain a cherished pal with whom we regularly communicate.

It wasn’t that long ago, by the way, that good, old-fashioned letters were our lifelines to loved ones far away.  When I went to Australia to teach in the 70’s, weekly letters to and from home were my only communication with family. Phone calls were so expensive, we spoke just on Christmas and on my birthday. I received letters from friends only very occasionally. We all were so busy with our young lives; that’s just how it was. Everyone was pleased to see me when I came home, and vice versa. But those friendships were pretty much on hold during the years I was gone.

Sue and Dan Austria 2016

My old friend Sue and her partner Dan. A group of us went on a Viking River Cruise last fall (here they are in Austria) and had a blast. Sue and I are going to Tuscany in October (thanks for sparing your sweetie, Dan!).

Today, when I look at different degrees of closeness in my relationships with friends, I sometimes see the Lover vs. Beloved dynamic in play. For instance, as a single person with several very dear married friends, I see myself as the Lover. That’s because my friends with partners must (and hopefully want to) put their spouses first. I understand that completely and wish those I love to have happy, loving relationships with their husbands or other partner. I’d be a pretty lousy friend if I thought otherwise.

The consequence is that it is rarely, if ever, that my invitation to get together takes precedence over plans with a spouse. I’ve had friends who I feel very close to, and have known for years, who I have seen on a weekend fewer times than I can count on one hand. I think women may be more accommodating to husbands in this regard, but again, not being married myself, I’m not sure.

With more casual friends and acquaintances, it’s nice to get together when the opportunity arises. The love is there, but not as deep, you know? The effort to meet needs to be reciprocal, however. If one friend is always the one to suggest lunch or a movie or any activity, she may tire of nurturing the friendship if it seems that the effort is one-sided. To have a friend, you need to be a friend.

We all suck at that sometimes, don’t we? Good friends know when life is challenging and you need that extra nurturing for a while. Don’t drop a friend who seems uninterested in initiating plans unless you have a chat about it first. In my case, I sincerely enjoy the company of some wonderful people, but I’m an introvert. A homebody. If I have more than one or two things going on in a week, I begin to feel like a turtle, wanting to draw her head back into her quiet shell for a while. It’s not that I don’t love you. Promise.

You are beloved.

So. Lover vs. Beloved. Do you sometimes see those lines drawn in your relationships? Does it flow back and forth between you and your partner, friends, or family members?

And finally – does it matter?

Don’t cry for me, Argentina, or Cleveland, or anywhere else. I’m fine, boo!

Last night two dear friends said things to me that I found so perplexing, I had to go back and read my last few blog posts this morning. This is just a short note to all and sundry to let you know that life is good and, please, don’t take my self-deprecatory humor to heart.

So, at a class dinner, Brenda said she loves my writing and that I was “so brave.” Wait, what? Brave? I gave her a hug (I was about to head home) and thanked her, but was puzzled about the “brave” part. Brenda is great, by the way. We’re trying to figure out how we missed out on being besties in high school.

Then, I got home and called Ginny to try to meet for lunch today. I told her what Brenda said about me being brave, and Ginny said, well, there was something she’d been wanting to tell me, too. She said she loves my writing, but that she wants me to stop making fun of myself or people will get the wrong idea and think I’m down on myself for being old and fat.

Now, Ginny is my adorable, protective friend of twenty-plus years and I know she would walk on glass for me. She doesn’t want me to think of myself in a negative way, nor does she want anyone else to even consider thinking I am anything less than fabulous. She was annoyed with me for putting myself down!

I hope you have friends like mine (and I have MORE amazing girlfriends, too)! Aren’t they wonderful?

So this is just a little note to my darling Brenda and Ginny and anyone else who cares to tell you – don’t worry! I actually like myself better now than ever before in my life. In my mind, that gives me license to laugh at the challenges of buying clothes for short, chubby gals and to call myself “old” when, in truth, I feel anything but.

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Sue and I enjoying cafe au lait and croissants in France two years ago. Can’t wait for our adventure in Italy this fall! Life is GOOD!

The Boys (my dogs) and I just got back from our morning walk. Little Richard, the possible Morkie, is a slim, trim little terrier. Mick Jagger, my long haired dachshund, is a chubby fellow who really needs to reduce to a healthier weight. Consequently, the daily walks are intended to get us both in better shape. We aren’t likely to reach Richie’s doggie equivalent of Magic Mike’s physique, but Mick and I are getting healthier. This will allow him to more effectively terrorize the squirrels who dare venture into our back yard, and I will be better able to keep up with my buddy, Sue, when we explore Tuscany in October. It helps to have a big reward, right? Carrot (or better yet, carrot cake) on a stick?

So, don’t worry, my friends! And if you’re feeling old, remember this:  you will never again be as young as you are today. Enjoy!

Thoughts on this Saturday

First, I’d like to thank a number of neighbors who have rose bushes planted near the sidewalk in front of their homes. I stop to smell everyone’s roses each day when I walk the dogs. I am a cliche.

At least one pair of  large, handsome blue jays have claimed my yard as part of their territory. On the one hand, they are magnificent to see – bright sapphire with black and white markings. On the other hand, they are the meanest birds around. I’m afraid that they’re chasing away the nice birds. I actually found a dead cardinal floating in my little pond last week, if you can believe that. I’m not blaming the blue jays. But it was very sad.

And my last comment on birds: where are the hummingbirds? I have had my feeder up for two weeks, but no hummers have appeared. I changed the nectar Thursday because I didn’t want one to finally show up and go, “Eeuw! Stale nectar! I’m out of here!” I hope they will discover my feeder soon. I also hope the blue jays don’t scare them away.

Rich groomed Feb 2015

My sweet Richie. A Morkie? Maybe so!

I found a great Groupon deal for window washing, inside and out. Yesterday the young man who owns the company, Don, came to the front door and almost immediately asked what kind of dog Richie is. I explained that he’s a rescue and is some kind of terrier mix. Don said, well, my dog looks exactly like that! And his dog is a registered “Morkie.” This is not an AKC-recognized breed, but a mix of a Yorkie and Maltese that is recognized by some other organization that keeps track of specific mixed breeds, like Cockapoos and Goldendoodles, I suppose. I certainly see both breeds in Little Richard so, henceforth, he shall be known as a probable Morkie. He’s feeling fancier now, no doubt.

It was about 5:30 when Don and his helper arrived. These hard-working guys work twelve- to sixteen-hour days when weather permits! So, I took the boys with me and sat in one of my Adirondack chairs by the pond to read while they tackled the job on the house.

I thought I’d sprayed myself pretty thoroughly with mosquito repellent before heading out back, but as often happens, the little bastards found patches of skin I’d missed. By bedtime I was scratching furiously at four or five spots where I’d been bitten. Mosquitoes love me. Maybe I should eat more garlic in the summer? If anyone can suggest an effective spray that doesn’t smell horrible, I need to buy something new. And if anyone has a suggestion for making the itching go away, I’m willing to try just about anything. I tend to scratch until I’ve removed a layer of skin and end up with scabs and scars and red marks that last all summer. Yuck.

I’d also like to know how to kill weeds. I really do try to stay away from Roundup (which isn’t foolproof, anyway), but by this time of year, there are weeds that are so disgusting and grow so quickly, I just can’t keep up. The previous owners of the house put in a lovely shade garden with a variety of hostas and other plants that is now being overrun by hateful weeds. When the weather is just a bit cooler, I need to slather myself in what will hopefully be a new, more effective mosquito repellent and get out there and yank that crap out. My poor back. Gardening really is not my thing.

orange-is-the-new-black-netflix

Some of the cast members from “Orange is the New Black.” I love this show. Photo from Den of Geek.

So last night, safely back inside and in front of the TV, I finished watching this season’s “Orange is the New Black.”  Man. What a powerful season! The actors are great, but what I’d really like to do is write a love letter to the writers and tell them how brilliant they are. I think I will.

And those are my Saturday thoughts.

Happy Father’s Day to the dads out there. If you still have yours, give him an extra hug from me. I miss mine. Love you, Bob.

 

I’m a little teapot

That’s right. Short and stout.

teapotNow, a chubby little teapot conjures up sweet images, does it not? A pastel-flowered, porcelain vessel with matching, delicate cups and saucers, accompanied by warm scones with jam and cream. An old-fashioned nursery song acted out by precious preschoolers. A Neti pot when you . . . oh, never mind.

However, the mental snapshot of a height-challenged, overweight middle-aged (oh, fine, OLD) woman shaped like a teapot isn’t quite so charming.

Let’s call a spade, a spade. I have been a short, fat woman most of my adult life. Oh, there were periods when I starved and exercised myself into a more marketable size, but it was a constant battle to stay that way. Wait. “Marketable size?” Yes, that’s right. And every woman who has ever been out there looking for love, whether in all the wrong or right places, knows exactly what I’m talking about.

But that’s not what I’m writing about today.

Today I am focusing on the SHORT element of the description. Being “stout” is always an issue when you’re shopping for new clothes. Add “short” to the mix and the complications multiply exponentially.

Well, just buy petite clothes, you say? Oh, gosh. I certainly would – if a decent supply of petite fat clothes existed. Oh, they’re out there. But it’s not like walking into the Petite section at Dillard’s where a plethora of adorable outfits are on offer for, well, petite women. That’s short women who fit into a size zero to maybe ten or twelve. I am not petite. I’m just short, okay?

Yes, there are some plus-size “petite” or “short” sizes (I prefer short; let’s not be coy), but I think most manufacturers think if you’re fat, just buy the fat pants or dress or whatever, and hem it.

I do plenty of that, but . . . . When you’re short, you also have a shorter rise. I’m sure you know the “rise” is the distance from your waist to your hooha. There’s no doubt some kind of standard ratio at work here that assumes if you have fifty-inch hips, then it only makes sense that the rise must be, say, fifteen inches. If, however, you are a shortie with fifty-inch hips, your rise may only be, say, ten inches. Get the picture? So that means with the pants buttoned at the waist, the crotch is dipping down somewhere between your hooha and your knees.

You can walk around all baggy-crotch like a gangsta, or you might try rolling the waistband over. Now, this frequently results in a pleated, ballooning effect that makes it look like you’re wearing a mini crinoline to emphasize your hips. The next step is to search for a top that reaches just below your crotch to camouflage the bunched up fabric pouch.

Or, wait – how about buying a tunic top?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahha!

spongebob-squarepants-ss4Oh, my short, stout friends – the tunic is not your friend. Once again, the 2X tunic is designed for a hefty gal who’s five-six or taller (that’s four inches above me). When something hangs a few inches below the hip on a taller woman, she still has a nice, long expanse of leg to balance the tunic’s length, as intended by the designers. That same tunic on me nearly skims my knees, then the chunky little calves and feet poke out below making me resemble SpongeRoberta SquarePants. SpongeBob has skinny little legs but, let’s face it, the over-sized, boxy sponge is not a flattering look for him, either.

Earlier this spring I bought two nice tee-shirts online. They have square necklines and elbow-length sleeves (another critical factor for those of us sporting exceptionally meaty upper arms). I tried one on quickly when the weather was still pretty chilly, then washed and hung them in the closet, ready for summer.

When it hit 90 degrees this weekend, I finally pulled one out to wear and realized that it doesn’t fit at all. Yes, it’s big enough. No, it’s not actually too big. Somehow, the proportions are seriously off.

The problem is that there’s maybe a four-inch expanse between the top of my shoulder, down to where my breasts begin. The square is modest enough so I’m not giving cleavage, but for this shirt to fit, someone would have to stand behind me and pull the whole damn thing up a couple of inches from the shoulders so the armpits more or less fit where my armpits are actually situated. Instead, the bottom of the shirt’s armpit is hanging somewhere around my lower rib cage.

I look okay if I stand still with my arms at my sides. I look quite nice, in fact. But when I wore this shirt to the grocery store, I discovered this weird effect where the whole front of my shirt is elevated when I reach for the Quaker Oat Squares on a higher shelf.

This was not the top shelf, by the way. It was the second shelf down. I can’t reach the top shelf unless the item I want is already teetering toward the edge.

Tyrannosaurus_Rex_colored

So much like me. Tiny arms. Chubby thighs. Big mouth. Oh, yeah. More to come another day.

I was going to write this whole, other part about my freakishly short arms, and my thoughts on fat arms and big boobs and ladies’ golf, but I’ll save that for another time.

But on the plus side, I can buy the currently fashionable (I think?) ankle-length cropped pants and just wear them as regular pants.

I also was going to write more about the plus side, but after considerable thought, I honestly can’t come up with anything else.

Quit bitching and lose some weight, you may be thinking.

Are you?

Oh, go fuck yourself.

No, you’re not. Never mind.

So you may wonder, would I rather be thinner? Or taller? The answer, of course, is BOTH. Duh. In the meantime, if you run into a short and stout woman at Giant Eagle with balloon-y pants, holding her arms tightly to her sides, that could be me. Or one of my height- and weight-challenged sisters.

Be a doll and ask if we need anything on the top shelf, hmm?

 

 

 

Me and Tolstoy

My son Chris called earlier this morning. I told him I was just about to start writing and had penned more than a thousand words on my novel yesterday. He congratulated me on my work ethic (or something) and I thought, why don’t I do that every day?

Indeed. Why don’t I do that every day? If I had done that since beginning this work months ago, I would now have content comparable to War and Peace in length, if not in quality.

How did Tolstoy do it?

I  wondered about the distractions that Tolstoy might have faced in his day. No temptation to check social media, of course, which is where I went to spend twenty minutes or so reading about his life. I learned that after partying too much in college and having a number of jobs and escapades, he finally got married and settled down to run the family estate. His dad had been a prince and with all of this being before the Russian revolution, the Tolstoys were living pretty high.

When Leo became disillusioned with farming and tired of badgering his serfs, he decided to focus on his writing. He retired to his study and relied on his wife, ten-or-so children, and a staff of (indentured?) servants to manage the estate. Tolstoy didn’t have any domestic chores or other pressing business matters to hinder his powers of concentration. I must admit, though, that even without having to personally look after their needs, having ten kids must have been disruptive at times.

Tolstoy chess

A grumpy Tolstoy is distracted from writing when one of his many sons wants to play chess.

I would rather mow my own grass than have ten kids.

So we’ve established that I’m no Tolstoy, in more ways than we can begin to enumerate.

But what about those contemporary writers who are so prolific? Mary Higgins Clark, for example, has written thirty-seven best selling suspense novels, four collections of short stories, one historical novel, a couple of children’s books, and has co-authored several more books with her daughter Carol and others.

Now, Mary’s not Tolstoy, either. But I have great respect for her hard work and success.

Stephen King is another remarkably fertile writer. He’s a marvel! King has written so many books, short stories, poems, scripts, etc., it’s hard to get an accurate count. I could venture a guess as I write this today, but it’s just as likely to be incorrect five minutes after I hit “publish” when he releases another story. On one website I counted about one hundred books, plus another seven under the pen name of Richard Bachman, and then I gave up when the site started listing short stories and poems and such.

Stephen King guitar

Sometimes Stephen King stops writing long enough to play in a band called the Rock Bottom Remainders with Amy Tan and other writers.

In fact, King makes Higgins Clark look like a slacker, which makes me look like, oh, a fourth grader trying to scribble her first book report?

But Stephen King isn’t Tolstoy either. Even Dostoevsky isn’t Tolstoy, although people do occasionally get them mixed up.

While we’re at it, I’m also not David Sedaris or Pearl S. Buck or Jane Austen or Ann Patchett or Jess Walter or Gina Barreca or James Herriott or Domingo Martinez or Alice Munro or Sue Monk Kidd or Thrity Umrigar or Anthony Doerr or Paul Theroux or . . . .

Well, the list of writers whose work I love and admire is endless. Those are just a few. A tiny taste.

Rich and Stripy

And I get distracted when Little Richard wants me to play with him and his Stripey.

Does it stand to reason that someone who LOVES LOVES LOVES to read, inevitably dreams of becoming a writer? I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, but it’s true for me. I never imagined myself writing fiction, but I’m giving it a shot. I think my book is pretty funny, so far. And if I ever knuckle down and finish it, I hope people will like it and – wonder of wonders! – that it could actually be published.

Just like a real writer. Wowser.

It won’t be Tolstoy. It won’t be King or Higgins Clark or Austen or Martinez or Theroux or any of those remarkably talented story-tellers. But I guess just being me might end up being okay, too.

 

Wonder Woman from the rear view mirror

Some of my favorite people are all excited about the new “Wonder Woman” movie.

Lori is a lawyer, judge, mother of teenagers, and hilarious author. She actually makes Wonder Woman look like a slacker, in my book. Beautiful Alyssa not only resembles Wonder Woman, but after putting in a very busy week in management for the area YMCA, she teaches and takes yoga classes, trains for triathlons – and loves the Yankees and a good craft beer.

My friend Fran is most likely planning on popcorn for lunch at Diamond Cinema’s matinee tomorrow, if she hasn’t already paid full price to see the movie on the day it opened. Fran has her own impressive history as Wonder Woman and continues to volunteer for several organizations, plays in a couple of golf leagues, is on the board of her condo association, and travels alone to Europe whenever her budget permits. Oh, and she is a self-proclaimed super hero movie geek.

As for me, hell. I packed away my costume and wrist cuffs years ago.

The thing is, there are so many Wonder Women out there and honestly, I think most women embrace the role primarily because we don’t have a fucking choice. Did I elect to become a single parent, working full time, bringing home the bacon, frying those sodium-packed heart attack snacks up in a pan while overseeing homework and running a quick load of laundry and whipping up cupcakes for tomorrow’s PTA bake sale and . . . ? No. I did not. That was not the plan. Man.

But I did it. And I mostly stayed pretty positive. My son was a smart, funny little cutie pie and now and then when I made time to go out and kiss some frogs, I was occasionally rewarded with some pretty great sex. True love evaded me. Alas.

My little cutie pie grew into a challenging teenager who I put through college. Gave up on my quest for Prince Charming and worked longer hours to pay the bills. Started my own business (it will be twenty years in September!) and my challenging boy became a handsome, accomplished, kind, sweet, funny man. I am so proud. Pinch me!

Wonder WomanNow I’m tired. I don’t want to be Wonder Woman anymore. Even the wrist cuffs don’t fit these days. If I tried to squeeze into the costume, you’d want to poke your eyes out.

I’m glad I was Wonder Woman instead of a princess, though. Princess isn’t really my style. But it feels good to amble away with nary a backward glance at the dragon-slaying, villain-bashing and ass-kicking activities that feature in Wonder Woman’s days.

You can have it, WW. For me, it’s all about easing into a kinder, gentler future. Preferably with a Democratic Congress and maybe a young, female Bernie Sanders in the White House.

I don’t think that’s asking for too much.

I’m just a girl who can’t say no

This post is, most of all, a message to friends and family:  I no longer will answer the phone unless I recognize the number. Please leave a message. Don’t ever assume I’ll call you back because I won’t, unless I’ve known that was your number since the fifth grade.

crazy phone princessThe biggest problem is, I hate saying no. Hate it! All those people who call who want me to donate money for worthy organizations and charities? It truly pains me to say no. I have my list of groups I contribute to each year. I do add to it occasionally, but I’m getting to the point where I’ll soon have to pick up a second job welcoming people to Wal-Mart to cover my donations. It’s not that I’m such a wonderful person or anything. There are just so many, many, MANY organizations that need help.

I also hate saying no to PACs (I guess?) supporting candidates running in states that desperately need to take steps toward becoming a kinder, gentler place. I completely understand that having good people in Iowa or Michigan or wherever is just as important as having representatives I believe in here in Ohio. It all adds up. But all I can do is support my local senator and two political organizations I won’t name here. I wish I had the Koch brothers’ bankroll, but I’m not even on the same planet as those guys, let alone ballpark, when it comes to discretionary cash.

Now, it’s easy to say no to Rachel from Card Services or to anyone else who tells me not to worry, but they have important information about my credit card. Go to hell, Rachel. You’ve been calling me for years and getting NOWHERE. Knock it off, already.

It’s also easy to say no to the guy who claims to be calling from Windows because they detected a problem with my computer. My language gets a bit salty with that guy, calling him a liar who should be ashamed of himself, among other things. Sometimes he hangs up on me before I can hang up on him. I realize, of course, that it isn’t the same guy calling every time. I have yet to receive that call from a woman, however. I guess the gals are employed by Rachel, rather than Fake Windows.

Between getting riled up over the scams and feeling guilty about the worthy causes I can’t afford to help, answering the phone has become a crap shoot. It’s an emotional roller coaster. Will I be apologizing or yelling obscenities or just acknowledging that my prescription is ready for pick up at Rite Aid? I can’t take the pressure any more.

So if I don’t answer, please – leave a message.

You, I’ll call back.