Archive for the ‘LJ's Story’ Category

Just Write It!!

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Why have I been so silent, you might wonder? Clearly writing wasn’t on Lara’s list of New Year’s Resolutions, right?

Not so. I’ve been working on my second novel. While that sounds impressive, it is not. My first one has been relegated to the electronic equivalent of a shoe box tucked under my bed.

But the new novel? I’m currently very engaged. I had the idea for it back in June 2009. But I set it aside as I was focusing on the first novel.

In November 2011 I started “hearing” the voices of the new set of characters in my head.

Watch the wisecracks that I know are circling in your collective heads right now.

It isn’t uncommon for writers to have the characters “speak” to them. It also isn’t uncommon to start dreaming about the characters or to have breakthroughs during those hazy moments before you fall asleep or right after you wake up.

I had 15,000 words when I started writing on this novel, working title: Entangled.

Since the beginning of January I’ve added another 15K to the word total and I’ve been feeling pretty proud of myself.

I went to my Writers Group last night and get rashers of grief because I’m not presenting them a cohesive story. Like: Point A, Point B, Point C….etc.

I don’t write that way. I know some people do. But I don’t. I write in scenes between two characters. Or snatches of dialogue that I suddenly hear while I’m listening to the book’s Playlist. (Yes, my most successful writings have a Playlist.) The scenes or snatches of dialogue may be miles apart in terms of where they’ll ultimately land in my novel, but hey: I’m getting the word count up there!

So last night, I’m super shocked that even though I’ve doubled my word count I’m being chastised for not writing in a linear fashion. What. The. Heck.

“Finish the novel, Lara. Commit and write it. You have a great ‘Chapter 1’. What happens next??”


I have a history of starting things. Then I lose interest. In my work life I’ve learned to hire someone who complements that strength. I am the idea person. I love new stuff. I can brainstorm and generate new ideas for days!

But about halfway through a project I become enamored of a ‘new shiny thing’ and I’m off.

I always make sure I hire what I call, a “Closer:”someone who loves task driven work and gets great job satisfaction out of marking things off their lists. These people are a tailor made for my own brand of Lara-ness.

Given that I can’t afford to hire a “Closer” in my personal life, I suspect my family regularly has money changing hands when I start a new project or a hobby. “How long will this one last?” “The last XYZ thing only lasted 6 months.” “Nah. This one isn’t strong. I wouldn’t give it six weeks!”

But I decided this novel was going to be different. THIS novel I was going to finish.

Someone posted a Steven Covey quote at work: “Don’t prioritize your schedule, schedule your priorities.”

Someone else pointed out a chapter in Monday Morning Choices by David Cottrell which talked about the difference in being “interested” in something and “committed to” something.

As I examined my pile of unfinished projects (personal life, remember) I could see the difference: I’d been interested in lots of things. Committed to almost none.

Both of these messages struck a chord in me and as the old year drew to a close and a new year was fresh on the horizon, I decided I was committed to writing this novel and I was going to schedule my priorities.

Sleep and I aren’t the best of friends. I do my best sleeping between 3am and 10am, which of course , doesn’t work with most corporate jobs that begin around 8am.

It was really digging deep to arise an extra hour early to write. But I made the commitment and so far, I’ve followed through.

My word count is up. I feel very accomplished, like I’m pursuing my dream. Overall I’m just happier! All is wonderful in my world.

Until I arrived at Writing Group last night.

Really? Really? You want me to what? FINISH something? I don’t know HOW to finish a novel. If I knew how to finish a novel do you think the first one would be gathering dust on my hard drive???

I stomped out of that group last night, huffing and puffing like a mad 5 year old stomping her foot. I don’t get it. Why wasn’t what I’d been doing enough?

How dare they?

I drove home, muttering under my breath…okay, cursing loudly.

Slamming into the house, Mr. J’s eyes widened and the cats cowered a little.

“It went that well?” he asked.

Glowering at him, I relayed the evening’s events. The betrayal I felt.

“I don’t know how to finish anything!” I ranted. “It’s not like I know how to write a beginning, a middle, and an end. I mean who does that??”

“Toastmasters,” he said. “I think you’ve given a few speeches in your time.”

Not the point.

“What about some short stories? I know you’ve finished a few of those.”

Not the point.

“What about your blog? Now you can’t really argue with me on this Lara,” he said. “You put them out on the Internet. Like cockroaches and Cher: they’ll always be there.”

Okay. He might have a point.

But it isn’t like beginnings, middles and ends come naturally to me. I have struggled with endings. I’ve struggled with middles. Arrghhh.

I have suffered for my art!

Or at least (recently) I’ve yawned a lot.

“Who did these people in my writing group think they are, anyway???” I wailed, not ready to give it up.

Silence rings in our household (only because I made Mr. J mute the TV).

“Yes,” he parroted back: “Who do they think they are?” His right eyebrow raised like Mr. Spock’s and I narrowed my own eyes. We both knew the answer:

“They” would be the chick who has been PUBLISHED. THREE TIMES.

“They” would be the guy whose plays are about to be produced in one of the artistic meccas of the Midwest.


This morning I dragged out of bed. Booted up the PC. And began the following document:

“Chapter 2”

Wish me well.

Posted in LJ's Story, Tangent |

Out with a BANG (AKA: The Ghetto-fication of the Jones Household)

Friday, January 6th, 2012

As I review the last 4 weeks of 2011 I gotta tell you: I’m not sorry to see it go.

You might recall from my last update that I’ve been in 24/7 pain since the end of September. When I make it to my chiropractor about the pain he says, “Your sacral-whatcha-ma-call-it is all locked up. You’ve been sitting too much. Too many plane rides, car rides, sitting all day. Stop sitting so much.”

Well that is a fantastic idea. Shame about the desk job. It kind of requires SITTING.

Shame about that scrapbooking promise. It kind of requires SITTING.

Nothing helped: not pain killers: over the counter or prescription.

Exercise was out of the question…..too painful.

I finally understood, I mean really, really understood emotional eating. The only time I wasn’t in pain was after one too many glasses of wine or when I was eating. Obviously being hung over on a school night isn’t a good plan, so I dove straight into a carton of Haagen Dazs’ dulce de leche Or a vat of all natural almond butter. Spoon anyone?

As long as I was eating: the creamy caramel-vanilla sweetness of ice cream melting on my tongue and then sliding down my throat, or the smell of roasted almond butter, creamy as well, but with a completely different mouth feel, I didn’t feel the pain.

It’s no secret that my relationship with food is troubled. I share it openly…..and unfortunately, the pain, the inability to exercise, and the only ‘painkiller’ that eased the brutal pain in my lower back and hip caused me to pack on so many pounds I found myself back in the Plus Size section of the local department store. Seriously not my favorite.

Fast forward to mid December….because it’s gotta get better, right?

One of the chilliest weeks we’ve had all season rolls around and for the first time since early Spring I feel a real bite in the air in the mornings and evenings as I walk to and from the parking lot into my work.

But luck is smiling on me.

One of the executives having a reserved underground parking spot at work was working remotely that week. He emailed me and offered up his parking spot.

“Now it’s a little tight,” he warns.

I think to myself, “Mister, I was born in a tight spot! I can wiggle my way of out anything.”

The first day in the warm, heated, cozy….yes, it was a small parking spot, my car slid into the stall and then out of at the end of my work day. No Problem.

The second day, as I’m backing out to head home, I hear a strange, grating sound. I hit the brakes! Sure enough: I’ve misjudged the 3 foot in diameter column and have just scraped my driver’s side mirror. Dangit!

The third day, I contemplated not parking in the spot. But a bevy of tired, slightly patronizing motivational quotes rolled through my head:

“Feel the fear and do it anyway”
“Get back in the saddle”
“You must do the thing you think you cannot”
“Never never never quit”

So I did. Or didn’t, as the case might be.

Within seconds I’m wedged into the stall quasi-sideways. Somehow wrapped catawampus around the concrete pole with no way in. Or out.

How could this happen, you might be wondering. “What do you mean you can’t get out? You did yesterday? I mean you got in, right?? You must be able to get out!”

Well dear readers, I was thinking all of this and much, much more.

Even better: It is 8am.

Picture this: here I am, wedged into a parking spot with no room to maneuver. Every inch I try to move: back up – scrape. Pull forward – scrape. Back up – plastic crunching. Once again the column extracts its pound of flesh from my car. (I will step away from the easy smart a$$ comment re: wishing the pound of flesh had come from elsewhere, like my behind. Okay. Okay. I just couldn’t leave it alone!).

I am in such a pickle I can’t even physically get out of the car: not on the driver’s side or the passenger’s side. Front or back.

Did I mention this was the EXECUTIVE parking lot? At 8am?? And for the plebe’s (like me) to get into the building you have to walk through the – wait for it – executive parking lot. The elevator is right next to my crammed in sideways car!

I try to remain calm. I say all the things I’m sure you’re thinking. I consider calling someone, but whom? And besides, I’m basically in a concrete bunker so I don’t even have cell coverage.

At this point I can see only two options: ram the car into the front wall and shatter the bumper, affording me enough space to maneuver. Or scrape the living hell out of the driver’s side as I back out, taking my best shot at the 3-foot concrete pole.

A few years ago I was hit in the bumper and it cost over $1,000 to fix the damage. Taking that into consideration I decide perhaps the most economical thing to do is scrape the paint off of the driver’s side. I mean how much can a little paint cost??

Here are a couple of shots of the damage.

Mr. J called it the ghetto-mobile and said he wasn’t going to be seen in it. (Okay, that wasn’t him. It was me. I drove his car until I could get mine in the shop.)

Just so you know: I chose the wrong option. The damage to the driver’s side cost $2,000. The bumper would have been $750-$1000.

Luckily for me, I was traveling out of state for the rest of the week. I was able to get the car into the shop to be repaired while I was gone. Fantastic! Now I can lie like a dog if someone asks me at work, “Hey, did you hurt your car when you were stuck?” I’ll point toward my better than new car and say, “Heck no!”

Pride and pocketbook: they both hurt. A lot.

The following morning, because I was flying out, and cowering like a…well, cowering thing, I decided to work from home. I get ready to jump in the shower and boom: there is no water!


“Mr. J!” I yell, “I was about to get in the shower but there is no water.”

“There is too. I just brushed my teeth.”

“In the shower?” I ask, confused.

“No. In the sink.”

I turn the faucet in the tub again. Nothing. “I can’t take a shower in the sink, darling!”

“Do I look like a plumber?”

The conversation devolved from there.

For the first time in the 10 years we’ve been in our home our pipes were frozen.

We don’t know what to do. We’re not from this far North.

And why the heck have they never frozen before? What the heck changed? And it is the beginning of the season: so trust me when I say: they will freeze A LOT.

We call a plumber. He recommends we open all doors in the house ‘for circulation’ and turn up the thermostat. He’ll be along as soon as he can get there. After turning up the heat so high that we strip down to shorts and t-shirts (hastily dug out from being packed away in September), we figure out the frozen culprit are the pipes around the jet/Jacuzzi tub we have in the master bathroom.

Mr. Plumber gets there, strips off his coveralls, wipes the sweat from his brow, looks around, and charges us $150 after telling us we have a construction problem, not a plumbing problem. “And oh by the way: you should leave the intake door open around those pipes while it is still arctic outside.”

Did I mention we have cats? Let’s leave the intake door open and encourage the cats to crawl under the floor in our house?? Uhm. No. From the moment we had opened the intake door for the plumber we’d had to lock up two cats who were bound and determined to get inside the new cool place they’ve never been before.

What were our options?

Leave the door closed and risk burst pipes until we can get someone out about the apparently vanished insulation? Or risk losing a cat to the underbelly of our house?

How about a compromise?

We do what any redneck would do: we MacGyver an apparatus designed to:
1. Let warm air flow to the pipes
2. Keep the cats from disappearing forever down the rabbit hole beneath our house

The Ghetto-fication of our household is complete:


Please, please, please, 2012 – do me better than this!


Cat Tails

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

My apologies for the lack of posts. A couple of things have side tracked me.

One afternoon at the end of September, after a 15 mile bike ride and then a nap, I woke up and could barely move. My lower back and left hip were so painful I almost threw up as I tried to get out of bed. (See? Exercise will kill you.)

24/7 pain is not a good motivator for writing. In fact, 24/7 pain isn’t a good motivator for anything.

My chiropractor said, “You’ve been sitting too much. Stop sitting so much.”


That is fantastic advice: except I have a desk job. And my favorite form of exercise involves sitting (on the bike, people. Not channel surfing!).

And I had promised my sister I would scrapbook her wedding, which also involves rather a lot of sitting. YIKES.

However, I decided it was time to make an appearance here and after the cat capers of the last couple of days I thought now was the purr-fect time.

Since Mr. J moved back he works from home and all of our cats have attached themselves to him.

I mean, I get it: He is there 24/7. I am not.

We have a white cat that lost his Mama kitty very early. When we first got him he wouldn’t clean himself so we washed him to keep his feet clean.

After a few weeks he caught on. Generally, speaking.

I get home last night and he falls over at my feet so I can pet him and I notice he has a dirty butt. I turn to Mr. J and say, “Did you see this? Why haven’t you cleaned him up?”

“I didn’t notice.”

Because this is a public forum and Mr. J might actually read this I’m NOT going to type out what I thought. We’ll just call it: CENSORED

I drop my computer bag, lunch bag, purse and shrug out of my coat and scarf. I am now on the floor with a warm washcloth cleaning a cat’s butt. Gotta love coming home after a long day!

As the evening wore on another one of the cats started choking on something. I call out to Mr. J and we move in to grab the cat. Our quickly shouted back and forth plan is to do the ‘hooked’ finger method into his mouth in an effort to dislodge whatever is blocking his airwayThis freaks the poor cat out even more than choking. He jerks his back legs free from Mr. J’s hands, jack-knifes around and catches me square in the face, bunny-kicking the crap out of my bottom lip and chin.

The good news is: that while he tried to launch himself from our grasps, he dislodged the piece of food he was choking on. The bad news: the bottom half of my face was numb.

Later, as I’m sitting there watching TV – okay, yes I was channel surfing in this instance – our girl kitty gets in Ray’s lap and starts nursing/making biscuits (whatever you like to call it) and generally settling down with an amazingly loud, happy purr.

What the heck? How is it HE gets the purring cat and all I’ve got is the dirty butted cat and the crap kicked out of me when I tried to save another cat’s life??

Mr. J points out that during the night the girl kitty sleeps on my pillow, walking right over his face to get to me.

Right…..I say. Sure, she does. “And you’re laying there awake monitoring cat activities at 3am??” This is from the guy who only needs a flat surface to fall asleep. Literally.

Fast forward a few short hours to 5am this morning. I am deep in sleepy-land when I feel a huff of warm breath on my face. Then the tickle of gentle whisker nuzzles followed up by a VERY loud purr.

And there she is: the girl kitty! Mr. J was right!

She is purring all over me, nuzzling my hand, getting comfortable on my pillow and nursing herself into a heightened state of satisfaction.

I’m lying there feeling very vindicated and far more forgiving of her furry brethren when suddenly she revs her purr into overdrive.

She gets so excited she flexes her claws, moves her paw and “BAM!” I’ve got a cat’s claw embedded in the very TENDER skin beneath my lower right eye.

Won’t that make for lovely holiday pictures??

This is fantastic. I’ve now been beaten, scratched and shat all over by the bloody cats in my house….

Tell the truth: this tale (or tail) sounds like something you hear from a mother of 3 toddlers, doesn’t it??

There is a reason I didn’t have kids! And this might be it.

Anyone want a cat for Christmas?

Posted in Cat Capers, LJ's Story |

What Is Your Holy Grail?

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

“I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles”

~ Janis Ian

The only thing I have to say to this song lyric is: what the heck took her so long??

I‘d figured this out by age 14.

As I’ve shared earlier, by the age of five or six I was already overweight. I had corrective shoes and glasses, set off by mousy brown hair. Could my worldview have gotten any bleaker?

Children are little sh!ts. They are merciless in their brutality in elementary and middle school. I was always the last one picked for anything in any sort of relay race, soccer or even tether ball.

The kind comments I heard from well meaning adults were: “You’re so smart.” “You’re so funny.”

It wasn’t long until I figured out those were consolation prizes for never being a great beauty.

Fast forward to adulthood. When I turned 40 years of age I called my sister and said, “There is now never any chance that anyone is ever going to look at me and want me.”

“What do you care?” she asked. “You’re happily married.”

“Not the point,” I responded. “No stranger on the street ever wanted me. Now they never will.”

“I understand,” she said.

But how could she? She wasn’t 40.

Luckily for me, on the maternal side of my family the women really don’t come into their own until their 40s.

Somewhere after my 40th birthday I collected a bevy of 35 year olds who seemed to be attracted to me.

I credit their (potentially) misplaced adulation for allowing me to re-write my thoughts on beauty.

Could a plus-size woman be attractive?

What about a mid-forties woman?

At my sister’s wedding last month, after being made up by a professional hair and makeup stylist I was shocked at how amazing I looked. (And of course, the bride, also a 40+, was just glowing.)

Several glasses of wine into the reception I had a moment alone with my father and I kept saying, “You have such beautiful daughters…..we look amazing!”

His response was: “And you’re so smart too!”

Like the screeching scratch of a record player arm ruining your favorite album in an Allie McBeal episode, my euphoria at my own reflection in the mirror shattered.

I stared at my father like he was nuts: “What? Why the hell would I want to be smart? It is a consolation prize!! Don’t you understand??? All I’ve ever wanted is to be attractive!”

Where the heck has intelligence ever taken me?

What about being witty?? I ask you – where? Why would I ever “settle” for being these consolation prizes?

Screw intelligence! Screw a great sense of humor! Screw a kind heart! I don’t care if you ‘can’t fix stupid’ I just want my Holy Grail: I want to be beautiful!

So, with less than 5 years left on my ‘decade of gorgeousness’ (without lots of plastic surgery….if you’d like to contribute I’ll be happy to supply you with my PayPal account information) I am glad to have finally (w/only two hours of help by professionals) reached my Holy Grail: I’m finally attractive!

I ask you: what is your Holy Grail? What would it mean if you could actually achieve it?

Posted in LJ's Story, Tangent |

All Things Sparkling

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Recently a friend of mine mentioned there is actually an “International Wear a Tiara Day.”


Before I go off on a riff, I’d like to see a show of hands from my readers: how many of you think I’m going to decry IWATD as the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard?

Go on: raise your hand.

Well, if you thought I’m going to flip out about ridiculous anti-feminist fashions rooted in times when women were nothing more than mere possessions (unless of course you happened to be THE woman, i.e. Elizabeth I, Victoria, Mary Queen of Scots or Marie Antoinette….and obviously it worked out better for the former two than the latter two) then you’d be very, very wrong.

I love tiaras. I think we should wear them because it is Tuesday. Or Thursday.

I mean, what is not to love? A little shimmer, a little sparkle, a girl walks around feeling like a princess for a day. It is perfect.

The friend who mentioned the IWATD said that in her office they’ve decided to have an unofficial IWATD during the month of October. She went so far as to mail me and a co-worker two beautiful tiaras!


As it turns out, Tiara’s aren’t just for chicks. You can get one for your favorite pooch too! (See below)


I have my own little story about the power of the tiara.

My sister recently married and for her surprise bridal shower I brought a few accoutrements with me.

My sister relocated across the country so most of the people attending her shower have only known her 5-10 years.

I felt like her new friends needed a little perspective and a peek into her psyche as she grew up that only a loving sister could provide.

I sat her in the middle of the room and began my tale:

“Growing up, like many of us, my sister wanted to be a Princess.” I pulled out a pink party hat, trimmed in pink ribbons and placed it on her head.

“So it is no surprise that as she decided to marry she chose to wear a tiara on her wedding day.” With a bit of flair I pulled out a plastic tiara to replace the Princess hat.

My sister grabbed for the Princess hat and protested loudly. “I want them both.”

Of course she does.

Improvising, I slipped the tiara down quite nicely around the replaced Princess hat.

My story continued, “When I asked her if I could wear a tiara too, she quickly said, ‘Heck no!’”

One last time I reached into my bag, pulling out my final prop, a tiny Witch’s Hat with a silver bow. I slipped it on my head and turned to face the room of 20 people. “But she said I could wear this one instead.”

There was much laughter and clapping in the room until my sister cried out: “I want that one too!”

Ladies and gentlemen, there you have it: my baby sister. She wants what she has and she wants what I have too!

So endeth the lesson.


In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that when I arrived for the final dress fitting at the bridal shop, my sister presented me with my very own tiara to wear in her wedding. It is absolutely beautiful and fit my dress perfectly.

Of course, that doesn’t mean now that the wedding is over my new awesome tiara will never see the light of day. In fact, I may wear it whenever. Like when it is sunny. Or snowing. Or Tuesday.

Posted in LJ's Story, Tangent |

Random Questions

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Admittedly, I often look at things differently but here are some of the odd things I wonder about:

In an office where you have the luxury of multiple toilet stalls, say four, as an example, once you’ve ‘chosen’ a toilet for the day do you stay true to it? How committed are you to your chosen stall? Use it only if it is free? Stand there and wait for it to be free? Go back to your desk and cross your legs hoping the next time you venture down the hall ‘your’ toilet will be free?

Here’s another: Why is it that when it is September and I’m in California 70 degrees it is a beautiful day? When it is September and I’m in Minnesota and it is 70 degrees I shiver in fear of what I know must follow.

And at the risk of offending someone it must be asked: what’s up with the drive up ATMs w/Braille?

But I’ve saved my favorite for last: who thought this through?

Who Wrote This?

Now. There are so many things wrong with this picture….not the least of which is where it is positioned. See below.

Whose Eye Level?

See the tiny red sign? See where it is? Above the eye level of the child too short to read it. And just because it must be said: he is quite possibly too young to read as well.

Who is this sign aimed at? Who is the target audience?

I mean, I’m kind of short. Should I have gotten my mommy on the phone to help me dip out the amazing ice cream toppings? Hot fudge, Caramel, chocolate chips and colorful sprinkles?

While I’m thinking about it: with that kind of smorgasbord dancing in front of my eyes what do you think is going to capture my attention? The ewy-gooey yummy goodness? Or a red sign (presumably to signify “Stop”) which either I’m: A: I’m too short to read or B: too illiterate to read.

Candy toppings will win every time….except obviously they didn’t as I’m now sharing this inept signage with you. Seriously – who sits around thinking this crap up? Do you suppose they asked anyone for input before they proceeded? Lord I hope not!

So now you have some insight into what monkey-mind thoughts roll around in my head when I’m not focused on work, Mr. J, my kittens or my family…..not necessarily (but maybe) in that order.

Random enough for you?

Posted in LJ's Story, Tangent |

And the Alternative Is?

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Once again, allow me to apologize for the long silence. I’ve been ‘nesting’ now that Mr. J is back home full time. Which begs another question: what will happen to this blog long term? Will I abandon it….like I’ve done on and off to date? Another topic, for another time.

For now, I’d ask for your indulgence as I wallow in self-pity. Of course, for those of you that know me an episode of self-indulgence will be nothing new.

I’ve had family members hand me a book with blank pages and the title, “All About Me” and say, “Knock yourself out.”

Before I get too deep in my melancholy allow me to throw out a few things I know to be true:
1. I know how lucky I am to be alive. I know from painful experience. Or three.

2. I know there are a lot of people who would happily change places with me, i.e. I have a very good life: awesome husband, friends and family that love me, a nice house, a fulfilling job, etc.

3. I know that pro-creating is no guarantee that you’ll live happily-ever-after in Walton-esque bliss.

If I know all of this, then why am I letting my upcoming 45th birthday bust my chops?

I didn’t care about 40. In fact, I felt liberated. I felt like, “New era. All that worry about what other people thought: to heck with that! I don’t care what anyone thinks. Now it is my turn!”

Sadly, 45 leaves me feeling lost. Being in spitting distance of 50 really makes me question what I’ve accomplished to date in my life. Have I lived up to my potential?

I know part of the melancholy comes from how so many people in my peer group are celebrating the weddings and college graduations of their children. However, for full disclosure purposes, I never wanted kids. It wasn’t my thing. (See “self-indulgence” above.)

But still…..there is something sad about knowing that when I’m gone there will be nothing left behind.

Which, of course, is why I wanted to write my novel and get it published. I am hopeful I’ll pick that back up shortly. I hear my characters’ voices whispering in my ear again.

On the other hand, there is one thing that will outlive me: this blog. Nothing is ever ‘gone’ on the web!

On a more positive note, by the time I’d finished this ‘dialogue’ on Facebook last night and written up this longer commentary this morning I realized that I am much closer to my life goals at 45 than I was at 40.

So all is not lost, dear reader. I am moving through my meloncholy to embrace all of the wonderful things in my life…including my age. As my father often says, “It’s better than the alternative!”

I’ll leave you with another quote:

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.”
— Wayne W. Dyer

Posted in LJ's Story |

25 Years Later

Friday, June 11th, 2010

I wasn’t the most popular kid in high school. Being overweight, wearing glasses and coming from the poor side of town didn’t do much to put me on the “A” list of cool kids. And I didn’t have a hard enough shell to pretend that being unpopular didn’t matter.

When I graduated from high school I never wanted to see any of those people again. Ever. Ever.

As our 20th year class reunion rolled around (before the advent of MySpace or Facebook) I gave in and provided my contact details to the reunion organizer. I recall a few days into January 2006 an email arrived from one of the classmates: “This is the year we turn 40. Who’s first?”

I stared at that email for a long time. Who is the “we” in this statement?

Then it hit me: the people on this email distribution list, for good or bad were my peers. We had a history together. Suddenly I was curious about them. Even those who made my life a living hell I wondered about. What were they doing now? Had they gotten what they wanted out of life? Were they successful? Bums? Rock stars? Drug dealers? Delivery men for Domino’s pizza?

I wasn’t an early adopter of social networking but in 2008 a high school friend emailed me and recommended I sign up on one of the sites. “We’re all there,” she said.

There is that “we” word again.


I was curious.

It turned out I love social networking. There is a little thrill about getting a friendship request from long lost friends and acquaintances. One of the nicest things I’ve ever heard is, “I’ve been looking for you for years!”

Last week when I realized I was going to be in my hometown for a family funeral and then staying on for a week, I threw out a post that said I was in town. If anyone wanted to get together to let me know.

Even today, 25 years later, that was still nerve-wracking. What if NO ONE responds? Jeez, it’ll be just like high school all over again. I imagine everyone in a private chat room laughing at me, “Who does she think she is?? No one wants to drop everything and go have drinks with her. She was such a loser!”

But luckily someone responded. A girl I had known since I was eight years old. And then she roped in other chicks for an evening of “catch up.”

How do you “catch up” on 25 years of history in one evening?

It is kind of like speed dating: one person gets 5 minutes to tell their story since high school and then you continue around the colorfully tiled table top in the chi-chi Mexican restaurant where Margaritas start at $9.

$10 for a drink? Where am I? Vegas??

On my drive over to an area of town that didn’t even exist when I lived here I thought: what on earth could you guys possibly have in common?

Uhm….let’s see: We all went to high school together. We all wore blue eye shadow together. We all turned 40 together. Surely there must be some common ground somewhere, right?

There was:
Two of us couldn’t have children for medical reasons. Two of us were on at least our second marriage. Three of us had children. Two of us considered ourselves mildly funny: one having actually done standup comedy.

We laughed about make out sessions in our high school auditorium, about cutting class to go sit in our cars waiting for the next class where we actually liked our teacher. We remembered eating French fries and chocolate ice cream from Braum’s for lunch and how 25 years ago we couldn’t wait to grow up. Now, at 44 and counting we didn’t really feel that much older. But sadly, no one ID’d us as we ordered and then downed top shelf margaritas.

It wasn’t all light hearted banter. One of the chicks brought our senior yearbook and as we looked over our classmates we talked about who from the class we’d already lost to death, who was the first to go barely out of high school and the most recent loss just this year.

As we talked about what it was like to have adult children one of the “girls” was telling us how she’d taken her son to Vegas for his 21st birthday. “I’ve always been the cool mom.” (I’m sure she was. She was the first friend I had to give me alcohol. Strawberry daiquiris! Gotta love her!) “But that was all over when I saw a prostitute proposition my son in a casino. I was done being cool! I almost decked her!”

“Well you can mark ‘seeing son w/prostitute’ off your bucket list,” I quipped back. (Okay. So clearly I wasn’t the one who had done standup comedy.)

The evening wound down and we detailed our various infirmities and decided: yes we must be 40+ year old women because we were sitting around talking about all the things that ailed us. Cancer. Odd female maladies that made us grow hair where we didn’t want it while cruelly losing hair where we did want it. Can anyone say “male pattern baldness”? We waxed eloquently about painful skin conditions, killer migraines, and the hormonal hell known as peri – or just straight up full blown – menopause.

Of course no regaling of life would be complete without sex. Yes, women always talk about sex. Always. Just deal with it. Giggling through another drink we discussed the good, the bad, and the kinky.

BTW: Mom – if you’re reading this: none of this was me. I was there trying to have a prayer meeting and drinking tap water….but these other chicks? They were wild!

Standing up to leave, we all groaned various knee, ankle and back issues uniting us even further. “This was so much fun!” we all said as we hugged and said our good-byes.

And it was fun. Life isn’t for the faint of heart. And after we’d all had a turn sharing our own personal stories, it was good to be united by this thing called “life.”

These women are all so beautiful not in spite of, but because of the curves life has thrown at them. They’ve gotten back up…even if it was on creaking knees. They are strong. Vibrant. Women I’m proud to call my friends.

I can’t wait to come back to town!

Posted in LJ's Story, Uncategorized |

Apropos of Nothing

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Have you ever gone to the grocery store and the checkout clerk is looking at you strangely as she rings up your purchases? I was at my local Trader Joe’s (love them: except the snotty check out girl) stocking up on a few of my favorite things:
• Six containers of hummus, various flavors
• 1 large “party size” salsa, mild
• 2 packages of black beluga lentils
• 1 bag of Thai Lime Pilaf.
• EnviroKidz Organic Peanut Butter Panda Puffs (give me a break: it was the only gluten free cereal they had and I was craving cereal)
• Almond milk, unsweetened chocolate

Now I admit I have a hummus fetish. And TJ’s has some of the best store bought hummus I’ve ever had. My new favorites include: Cilantro Jalapeño and Roasted Red Pepper. The Cilantro Jalepeno has just enough of a kick to make you want to have a 32 oz bottle of water handy. The Roasted Red Pepper is very mild but the color and taste remind me of Pimento Cheese which was one of my mother’s favorite spreads as I was growing up.

So the check out girl says, “You like hummus?”

Duh. I’m not buying it for the cats.

“How do you eat it?”

So many smart aleck comments came to mind. I settled for my standard answer, “With a spoon.”

“No,” she continued. “I mean what do you eat it on?”

I stared at her, not blinking. “A spoon. Why do you think I need six containers of it??”

Honestly. I mean: I get that it is an odd list of groceries. But it isn’t like she followed me to the liquor store (my next stop) and watched me pick up a bottle of Cask & Cream Caramel then followed me home and spied on me as I actually ate dinner from the fixings of my two stops.

If she’d seen me mixing Cask & Cream into my unsweetened chocolate milk and then pour it over the EnviroKidz Organic Peanut Butter Panda Puffs after spooning hummus up with broccoli florets – see I’m eating healthy here – maybe then she’d have been justified to look at me strange.

Know what I’m mean??


The Many Modes of Magical Mulch

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Spring has come early(relatively speaking) for my neck of the woods and that means the most happening places in town are garden centers.

We have awesome garden centers full of amazing plants – mostly trucked in from warmer places, no doubt. Lush coral and crimson colored begonias, calla lilies in ranging in hue from traditional white tipped in green to a deep burgundy, and varieties of roses in every shade imaginable from the palest ivory to the velvetiest ruby.

Having said all of that I’m actually too cheap to go back to the amazing nursery up the road. I mean: I only need mulch. How different can mulch from the hoity-toity upper scale gardening “nursery” be from the mulch you can buy at one of the big box stores?

Of course, there was that one the year that I did frequent the awesome nursery and found that you could purchase mulch made from the shells of cocoa beans. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that meant that every time it rained my garden smelled like a chocolate sundae. It was bliss.

However, after gaining five pounds while applying the chocolate mulch I decided that not only could I no longer afford the $5.99 for a 1.5 Cu Ft of chocolate mulch but per my last post, I’m really not looking to gain any more weight. Seriously people: the smell. Five pounds…..or it could have been the half-pound of Dove milk chocolate I felt compelled to eat when I went inside. No matter.

This year I decided to turn to the Big Box Home Improvement Store which carries everything you could possibly want except clothes….and sometimes they carry those too. Surely they must have mulch.

Strolling through their seasonal gardening area I rounded a corner and come face to face with pallets and pallets of mulch. There are varieties of cedar, cypress and pine in varying colors and chip sizes. It is truly a sight to behold. I step closer: there are a variety of price points as well: $2.99, $3.83, $4.85….clearly I was being taken to the cleaners by the choco-love mulch. Even more proof: the mulch here comes in 2 Cu Ft.


Then I notice something peculiar. There are four people standing around staring at the $2.99 Cypress mulch.

I glance around, not sure what they find so fascinating and I continue my price checking, inspecting the various colors of the mulch: trying to remember what I have left over on the flower beds from last year.

I scratch my head and begin to mentally calculate how many bags of mulch I’ll need.

Now I don’t have to get it exactly right: To find the area of a square or rectangle… length x width = square feet (area). The area of a circle equals pie r squared or 3.14 x the radius of the circle x the radius of the circle again (the radius is the distance from the center of the circle to the edge)

Now my beds are a cross between a rectangle and a circle. So all I have to do is….

HAH! Just kidding. I have NO idea what 2 Cu Ft means! None. Who makes this stuff up?? What I’m really trying to do is remember how many bags we bought last year and if we had excess or not enough.

I look back at the gathering at the $2.99 area. What ARE they staring at? I wander over.

Ah. I see. There are no single bags of mulch there to purchase. All that is left are bags that are broken open or multiple pallets that have been shrink wrapped to within an inch of their lives.

I look back at the $3.83 bags. Do I really want to wait until someone comes to open up the $2.99 pallets of mulch? I mean the alternative isn’t even a dollar higher.

I look back at the group staring at the pallets and check my watch. They’ve been there for at least five minutes. How long ago did they send someone to get box cutters?

Finally I ask, “Is someone coming with a knife or scissors to open those up?”


“I’m sorry, what?”

Everyone shakes their head, confirming what the first guy said.

Really? You’re standing here why? Why? Why? Why?

There are FOUR people standing here gazing at the mulch waiting expectantly. One was an elderly lady so I’m going to give her a pass.

The other three were men. The men were in their mid to late 40’s so not so old as to be feeble nor were they 15 and indecisive. Yet there they stood.

Once I again I thought about grabbing my bags of $3.83 mulch but it just amazed me that these adults were standing here waiting for the Messiah or something.

What? Were? They? Waiting? For?


Someone to chew their food for them too?

What was the deal with mulch?

Was it special mulch?

Was it Transformer Mulch and going to turn itself into some kick-butt crime fighter?

Was Harry Potter going to suddenly show up, wave a wand and the pallet of mulch was going to magically jump into their carts??


Oh for the love of –

Taking my keys out of my pocket I stepped forward, past the passive people and starting ripping cellophane off. Folks: I’ve had body wraps less tight than this stuff was wrapped around these individual bags of mulch.

After a moment the spell broke and two of the men who had stood there in limbo came to assist me.

“I guess this is what you call ‘self service,’” one of them said to me.

“I don’t need no stinkin’ service,” I replied.

Actually I’d just call it “taking action.”

Mr. J. called me as I was leaving the Home Improvement Center. I relayed to him the oddity of the situation. He said one of those men would probably go home and say to his wife, “Dang. I wish that woman had come along sooner. It would have saved me from standing there for 30 minutes!”

Once home I piled the bags of mulch onto my front porch and considered. Maybe I jumped the gun. Maybe I broke the spell of the “special” mulch too soon. I spent the rest of the afternoon keeping careful watch on the Bags ‘o’ Mulch. I mean: if they’re going to do something worthy of getting me on Oprah! then I’m happy to sit here drinking a cold one (just kidding: beer has gluten in it. Who knew?) watching those bags of $2.99 mulch until the cows come home.

Sadly, not only did they not turn into breathtaking renditions of Michelangelo’s Pieta or David, they also didn’t spread themselves on my roses and day lilies. Nope: they were still sitting there this morning.

Heavy sigh. I guess I’d better get to work.

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Posted in LJ's Story, Tangent |