The Safe Friend

It was 1:30 in the morning.

“Can you talk?” My friend asks me. Well, I’d answered the phone I think to myself.

When someone calls at 1:30 a.m., they don’t want to hear me talk. They want to talk. They need to talk.

“Of course. What’s up?”

“You are never going to believe…” she starts, telling me about the trainwreck that has become her life. I put my hand to my mouth, close my eyes, ignore the wave of judgment that passes through me and think of the right words to say to the person who has said these things to me more than once.

“That must be have been hard,” I say.

Friendship is like the sun thawing an emotional chill.

“Yes!” my friend wails. I keep going, saying phrases designed to help my friend get her emotions out. It’s what my mom (a shrink) did with us around the dining room table after school. Of course, we had no idea we were being shrunk out. We just felt understood, heard and validated.

“Let it out,” I tell my friend, all the while thinking I was a safe environment, and that’s what friends need: a safe environment to emote. Friends aren’t always looking for advice. That’s what spouses are for (wanted or not). Friends want compassion. A listening, non-judgmental ear that is all for them and no one else. Taking sides isn’t even a question.

Here’s a few affirming statements I learned from mom. For a:

  • Breakup…..”It sounds like it really hurt you….” (“Yes!”)
  • Loss of a job…”That must have been discouraging…” (“It was!!”)
  • Rejection…. “It’s like it’s never going to get better…” …. (“That’s right!!”)

So my friend continued like a young child, until she finally got it all out, her energy spent. The dark fumes of hurt, anger, anxiety gone. She then cried again, but this time happy, relieved and able to sleep. The gift of a safe spot for a friend the only thing I could offer but precisely what she needed.

Grandpa Ken & Making a dramatic life change

It’s been a year since we moved to Idaho and the question of “Why did you move there?” has gotten old. Decrepit, like zombie stretching it’s moldy hand from the Earth old.

I’m all for curiosity, but when I start to answer the question, I lose the person shortly after The. Rog and I have discussed how we are perplexed, then pissy and now inwardly roll our eyes at the question because no one really wants to know. What they are saying, without saying, is “You two have gone crazy. You’ve given up convenience, good food, a great house and traded it all in for land, lakes and skiing?”

Shake your head with me. Who are the crazy ones?

But let’s back up and let me give you the backstory. It started with a wisened old grape-of a man I’ll call Ken. He married young, graduated college and proceeded to have a family of seven kids, typical of a couple now in their late sixties/early seventies. He went military while she stayed home. They both served in their church as he started and grew two profitable businesses. Over time, they were able to build an understated six bedroom home on three acres next to a creek.

We met Ken and his wife while their youngest daughter, Janaye, was fourteen and in high school. She became our first and only babysitter, during which time we had hours to observe her actions, attitudes and behaviors. Certain circumstances allowed us to get to know her parents better and years later, our eldest daughter was a flower girl in Janaye’s wedding.

Grandpa Ken, as he’d come to be known, adopted us as his children. Grandma Shari was my mom away from home, so this was awesome for us as a couple and our kids. Grandpa Ken, although not of my husband’s background, faith or profession, always held the easy, relaxed and non-intrusive countenance of a man who had nothing to prove to anyone but God. He retired early, set about puttering in the garage, fixing up an old car for about six months before he got bored. He went back to work, this time, not starting a new company, but at a mortuary.

A mortuary.

Think about that for a minute, because Rog and I sure did. In fact, we did more than think. We pondered. We wondered. We worried. Was he crazy? He sure didn’t seem crazy. In fact, they were the most sane people we knew. Yet Shari said it best.

“Ken wasn’t made to sit on this Earth and do nothing.” Helping others during their time of pain and crisis as a funeral director kept him busy, employed his organizational skills and ability to interact with people of all backgrounds, religions and cultures. In his spare time, he continued to invent new products, in his garage and on the weekends.

As witnesses to Ken’s decisions, we admired his work ethic and humility. We also applauded Shari’s attitude towards her husband’s career. She didn’t care a thing for title or position or the size of his office (which was good, because a funeral director has no real office). She simply wanted him to be happy and busy. How many men can boast a woman who, after having the trappings of a CEO husband, would so easily accept a change in status?

The move

It’s about this part in the story that we’ve seriously lost our listeners, which is a shame, because this is the most important part. As Ken told Roger one day, he and Shari had a plan, one they created when in their early twenties. Get a job, have a family, build a house, send kids to college, sell house, downsize. The end. When Janaye was in college, they got serious about selling their custom, seven bedroom home on three acres. We watched as they put their home up for sale, sold it within a month and moved into a two bedroom, one-bath home that is maybe 1,000 square feet. Gone were the double Subzero refridgerators and four ovens, marble countertops and dual bathrooms. Enter a four-burner stove and as Shari say’s “Grandma drapes.”

“We are following the plan,” Ken told Roger. It wasn’t about ego or square footage, just as it hadn’t been about title or office size. “It’s about freedom of mind and worries. The ability to travel and live without the overhead.”

This had a transformative effect on Rog and me. In our thirties and early forties, it was all about growing, building buying. When Ken talked about overhead, we knew exactly what he was referring to. The maintenance, management, worry and general costs associated with what we had. Rog and I looked at one another and asked a very simple question:

Do we want to wait another 20 years to have the kind of freedom Ken was talking about? The answer was no. That week, Rog started looking around at places to buy in parts of the country where we could dramatically downside while still having a nice standard of living. (Oh, and was close to civilization). After looking at many states and locations, he found Northern Idaho (which is radically different from Southern Idaho- think Boise or Twin Falls). We found a house on Monday, made the offer Wednesday and closed Friday. The following week, we started moving the few things over we were taking (we were like Moses. We left everything behind).

So here we are, a year later. Much smaller home but a lovely view of the lake. Far fewer restaurant choices but no traffic. Great academics, but no lacrosse. A Costco, but no Nordstrom (forget Saks or anything of the sort). At first, this bothered me, but then I realized, ‘It’s Northern Idaho. What does it matter anyway?”

Wisdom doesn’t help if you don’t act on it

Rog can’t have a conversation about moving without invoking Grandpa Ken’s name and philosophy, his gratitude oozing out of comments. He now has what we lacked when in our previous home with all the “luxuries of modern living,” all around us. We have peace of mind that comes with a safer area. We are also free of the major annoyances that we’d gotten used to because we couldn’t affect change: traffic, taxes, crazy rules that governed everything from Christmas lights to  trees and driveway rocks. Gone. All, long gone.

Was it hard, “giving it up?” Sure. For a while, I stopped cooking and gained weight (that’s what happens when you load up on hot chocolate and don’t exercise), but it was temporary. We’ve found ourselves more centered and yes, probably a bit more boring or sedate, but then, when most restaurants close about the time we were used to starting our evenings, it does put a damper on the social life.

The final questions is always this: Would you do it again? And our answer is an immediate, unwavering yes. I’d rather have a smaller home and live a less sexy part of the world for joy and contentment I feel every day, waking up to a lake, pine trees and no stress. I’m eternally thankful to Grandpa Ken for being the example to us, although he didn’t mean to be. I will also admit that the dramatic change, while temporary, had its brutal moments. But then again, what kind of great transformation didn’t cause a little bit of pain?



The Reluctant Dad

As tempted as I am to write about all things Halloween, I can’t get the image of a man sobbing in the arms of my husband, and then turning to me when my husband says, “He just lost his baby. He needs a hug.”

To backtrack, we’ve known this slightly-built man in his mid-thirties about eight months. The time it has taken him and his crew to work on projects on the property. Over this time, I’ve learned several things: he hunts, he has two rescue pitbulls, he’s married to his high school sweetheart, he’s never really believed in dental work or caring much about what he puts into his body other than highly-caffeinated drinks and beef jerky. I’ve also learned and seen that he works tirelessly, can eyeball nearly any piece dimension at a glance (and is nearly always right after he measures) and has a hard-as-steel outward countenance and like most men with a tough outer shell, is equally as mushy on the inside. Oh, and he has always maintained that he never, ever, wanted children.

Then came the incident above. This was preceeded by a week-long all-expense paid trip to Hawaii, courtesy of his boss, the owner of the small business. It was the boss’s 20th anniversary, and he was treating the man I’ll call Travis and his wife for a week on the big island. When Travis showed up at our house, it was two Saturday’s following his return. Rog observed him from the kitchen window, noticing he kept going back and forth between sites, looking around and off into the distance. His pace was slower, his head kept shaking. Rog thought something was amiss. He went out to investigate. Not long after, I looked out, and saw the two talking. Rog didn’t have his normal, casual stance. It was a serious, stand-to-the-side pose, his arm up on the temporary chicken coop, then I saw him put his hand on Travis’ shoulder.

At that point, I’m not sure what is up, but it wasn’t good. It needed a woman’s perspective (or at least input). I go out, the typical smile on my face, ready to say hello for the day. I see Travis’ eyes are red and he quickly put his fingers up, shadowing his eyes. I look at Rog. His own eyes are a little glassy. I tell Travis it’s nice to see him, and that it must be a hard day. Rog looks at me and says bluntly:

“Travis’ wife was pregnant and she just lost the baby,” he says in typical Roger fashion. “Travis needs a hug.”

“You asshole,” says Travis as I come forward, wrap my arms around him and hold on. The man loses it, his shoulders shaking so hard and his gasps come ragged. I say what someone who’s been through a late stage miscarriage says: it hurts. It’s normal. We love you.

He cries harder.

Eventually, I release him and tell him he should have stayed home. His wife and her emotional needs take priority over anything at our house. Rog concurs, and eventually he leaves. Only later does Rog inform me that his wife had told him on the Hawaiian vacation, and at first, he was shocked, then freaked out, then, as all men who originally don’t want children (think Roger, for 7 years), he turned the corner.

A child. His child. A family. Together, the three of them. All the emotions that accompany the prospective of creating a life and new experiences together came rushing forward. He had all the joy of that ideal for two weeks. They shopped for baby items, started talking about names and then it was over. His wife had waited over three months to tell him once she learned she was pregnant.

Then it was over. Since this occurred, two and a half weeks ago, the doctors, and Travis and his wife, expected the baby to come out on its own. It didn’t. Yesterday, she had to go in, and the baby had to be surgically removed. I will spare you the details. It was horrible. Like another death, all over again. I think in some ways, for those of us who have experienced this, it’s worse than the fetus dying (when its that far along, I call it a baby, for everything is formed).

Once again, Rog got a call that he was going to come today, the “day after.” I said no. Roger pre-empted me, already telling Travis to stay home and be with his wife. He did, and we were both grateful for it.

The entire experience has caused me to repeatedly reflect on how the unexpected changes us, and then how those of us surrounding the one in pain are able to–and I think, required–to give love, empathy and support. It’s the benefit of going through painful experiences: helping others. Love comes around. Empathy can be universal. The unexpected hug can mean so much.

It’s also another confirmation point that we have no idea what is going on in another person’s life. When I was at Costco, the day after my brother died, I was standing in line, with toilet paper and tissues; we were out of both. Life had to go on, I was the mother, and the man behind the counter, with whom I usually bantered with, got very stilted when I didn’t smile or laugh or joke. He took it personally. I found myself going out of my way to be happy and what I thought was “normal” because I didn’t want him to believe I had taken a sudden dislike of him.

And therein lies the resulting change in my perspective over the years. When someone cuts me off, I don’t get mad. Maybe that person just lost his/her job or got dumped. When a person is mean in line, I think–maybe that person just lost his or her brother. We never know the lives, loves and heartaches of another, and I’ve learned that listening is a great gift and hugs don’t cost a thing.


Thanksgiving mishaps creating thanks


No fingertips in the pie

The day before Thanksgiving was a busy one–three pies, the stuffing, four types of dishes…there I am, talking along with my father-in-law, slicing an onion when the bottom slips out from and bam, off goes the tip of my left pinky.

I never realized how important the tip of my left pinky is. Tying my shoe (it always presses against my foot), typing (I can barely type at all now) washing my hair…in fact, I now have an appreciation for the littlest piece of skin on my entire body that, quite frankly, I’ve always taken for granted.

You can imagine how this is yet one more metaphor for life, and I am tempted to dive down a philosophical rabbit hole that would make Alice in Wonderland proud, but I don’t have that kind of typing capability (for I am using my fourth finger as a substitute and it’s painfully slow & error-filled). Suffice it to say that I’ve given more thanks for the littlest of things during the last 72 hours that have always escaped me. Furthermore, this unfortunate mishap has further instilled in me a desire to cut everything out that’s non essential–thankfully, bathing made the list, but I’m telling you it was easier to get in and out of the tub while I had my foot and leg all broken up than to keep my bandaged up hand dry while doing my hair and toweling off. Pinkies are essential digits.

As an aside, I cut this same pinky two months ago, also while cutting an onion, but that time, I had glanced up and out the window to admire the lake beyond. A noble act, I think. My family called it stupidity, but whatever. That one went to the bone, but being the pioneer woman I’m quickly becoming, I cleaned it out, Rog lined it with superglue and I put on a bandage. The end. This time around, no such luck- its bloody, oozy and requiring jedi-like skills to clean the end before I put on more salve and bandages.

But the good news is the stuffing turned out perfectly–which was helpful, since it was the reason for the onions in the first place. The bad news was that my father-in-law asked me where the tip of the finger went (for it was on the cutting board–somewhere). I blinked, blinked again, and had to admit I had no idea. It either remained on the knife (which had been removed from my hand and cleaned), into the trash along with that batch of onions, or…gulp, made it into the stuffing.

“Oh well,” said my father-in-law in response to the thought a bit of my flesh was a part of the meal. “Tasted great to me.”

And for that, I was thankful.

Need an Upper? Everybody does

Before you throw in the figurative or literal towel on your relationship, try this. Start the day by recalling as many items that fall in to the category of grateful. ‘What’s the point’ you ask, of reciting items of gratitude. Let me tell you. It begets a certain amount of appreciation. Here’s how my list went..I am grateful:

  • I have a home (the recent Occupy Seattle-whatever-space-is-available protests depict folks living in tents)
  • It has clean toilet seats (did you see today’s data of public toilet seats? Mom always did know best)
  • My kids are healthy

Clean fannies and a roof aside, I was still a grump. I kept going, thinking about a story from a few years ago.

would you do this?

would you do this?

  • I was able to have healthy children and live. (see photo and caption)
  • We weren’t robbed a few months back like our neighbor four doors down. Side note-Our quiet little row of 16 homes on a hill is nary a stones throw from the local Sherriff’s office. Of course, had they tried to pry open the gate,  Rog was home alone, w/our pitpull and the guns were loaded (interestingly I’d just asked him to clean them yesterday). I feel badly for our neighbors, who had their door busted open and every bit of portable goods, including cash and jewelry, were taken. 45 yrs of acquired goods gone. This is potentially the only upside of our home with a street view–it makes it a bit harder for theives trying to jump the fence (their home was down a curved road and completely out of view from the street.
  • We haven’t had a natural disaster, drought or a heat wave, thereby giving us enough water and electricity.
  • The large rock that rolled down from our pond didn’t hit our driveway (whew)

I could go on, (and I did, for about another five minutes). It didn’t take long for me to raise my thick head out of the ground, have a whole new perspective and say ‘wow, I really am very, very blessed.’ All in under five minutes. The grey on my day turned to a much nicer, warmer color.

My mom refers to incidences where we are saved from irritations large and small as life’s tender mercies. The cynic in me refers to them as ‘near-misses.’ Whatever you call them, and whatever the impetus for the exercise, try it. Grey days are overrated.

Perfect Wedding Gift

Creative freedom is the ability to move from a memorandum for financing a movie to the right gift for a bride to be with the tapping of a thumb. Believe you me, my eyes glaze over.
It’s spring. It’s time for marriage and this spawns a whole lot of thought about gift giving. While I was at Macy’s buying mom a new set of placemats,  waiting for the salesclerk to round up the napkins, I roamed the crystal section. Lo and behold, I found an item I didn’t have, and never knew existed! Yes, friends, this can happen at 42. Keep the faith.

Cat Ring Holders, Set of 3
great for the 8 yr old

Ring holders. Sure, I’d seen the tacky, quasi-jewelry ring holders, usually in the form of a Bhudda or something, or the ones sold at the joints where piercings can be had for eight bucks. I’d also seen little holders that look like soap dishes for munchkins than an actual elegant ring holder. The very worst ring holders are oddly shaped cat ring holders, but I suppose these are fine for an eight year old.


Waterford Round Ring Holder
The adult version that
now sits by my kitchen sink

No, I’m talking a Waterford crystal ring holder, that came in two versions at Macy’s. The heart-shaped and the round version.

To show what a complete idiot I’ve been all these years, I actually asked the salesperson what it was. She looked me over head to toe, as though trying to determine if I was kidding her or not. No, I said, pre-empting the thought. I really had no idea what it was for. When she told me, it was with the undiluted pity of someone who had more money than sense. Well, I guess when I got married, I was gunning for the Quisinart, not the ring holder.

“Where do you put it?” I asked, thinking it redundant with a jewelry box. Once again, she looked at me askance. “By the sink, or the dishwasher or the breadboard. Any where you take the ring off.”

Well, there it was. My problem is I never take my ring(s) off unless I’m in a cooking frenzy. Doesn’t matter what rings I’m wearing. I’m one of those women, so paranoid of losing my jewelry, that I’ll do anything with them on, include painting and making cookies. I’ll extract them off my hand for dough, but that’s about it. No wonder they look dirty and grimy half the time.

Then I got to thinking about it. I’d spend a lot less money on jewelry cleaner if I took my rings off.

“I’ll take both,” I said, disappointed when she told me only the round version was available. Then she looked around her, perhaps to see if any other women were about. “I like it better anyway. It’s less femmy.” Spoken like a strong woman. No sense in shouting love and kisses with a heart-shaped ring holder by the sink.

When Rog returned from his hockey tournament, he was in the kitchen not five minutes when he had to wash his hands. “What’s that?” he said, picking the thing up. “A ring holder,” I responded, as though I’d always been in possession of the knowledge. I refrained from telling him it was $65.00 at Macy’s, and 20 bucks cheaper through Amazon (why didn’t I write this blog before I purchased. Will I never learn??).

“Nice,” he said, putting the thing down and wiping his hands. “Great for a wedding gift.” Ahh. But can still work as an anniversary, birthday or Valentine’s Day gift. (or Mother’s Day).

Two months already

My readers know that when I go dark (e.g don’t blog), life is brutal. Ironically, good things can actually serve like lights in the midst of a blackout; little points on the horizon that reminds me life exists outside my own microcosm of a universe. So since the Illustrious She and my cousin Nance have both now given me swift kicks in my be-hind, I’ll write a few notes on the last 60 days.

In 2 months:

1. I’ve had a relationship enema. I’ll blog at some point about the true-isms of finding renewed peace, energy, love and sex with your spouse/partner, but anyone in a relationship knows that those things don’t come without massive emotional constipation, tears, fury and the ultimate decision made famous by The Clash, Should I Stay or Should I Go. Children of the 80’s know that to stay means trouble to go means double. Tip. If you wake up and state 5 great things about your life, family, your partner, the day goes a little better, the sun seems a little brighter, and then a day passes, then its a week, then its a month. Then it’s a way of being. Do clouds come? Oh yeah. Thunderstorms? of course. But the lightening hurts a little less (or doesn’t make a direct hit).

2. Physical pain brings enlightenment. Why is it that God chooses to divert my angst and simultaneously humble me through physical travails? The day after I returned from Mexico last wk w/the family, I crushed the bones in my left hand. Who does this happen to? (me) Why? (clearly, I need it). Last wk I read in the Times a journalist who espoused that God doesn’t love the wealthy more and yet doesn’t love those who suffer any less. We are responsible for our own success, happiness and injuries. Ok. Then I’m an idiot for pulling out weeds in our pond, stepping on a rock, slipping and in an attempt not to get freezing water inside my chest-high waders, I thrusted my hand forward, thereby hitting another set of rocks and cracking my hand. I’m all about self-love now. Good thing I’m right handed.

3. Family vacations are great for kids and tiring for parents. 6 wks ago went to Puerto Vallarta with Rog. It was relaxing, got lots of time at the gym, and went to clubs/shows every night. I slept in. It was glorious. I thought-my kids will love this. For spring break, we went back down. It wasn’t relaxing. I spent zero time at the gym, but we hit shows every night (my kids are like that). It wasn’t relaxing. What it was however, was family-unit building, wherein the girls played, swam, made crafts, waterslided-their-hearts-out, and ate food from 10-10, all amongst mostly Mexican nationals, which had a side effect of improving their Spanish. The nt before we returned, daughter #2 got an earache, thus I was up all night, holding, comforting and administering Menthal (a natural earache healer I got at the local Pharmacia), fervently praying she’d be well enough to go on the plane. I came home needing a vacation.


Chambers in Poland. to be releaed May 2015

4. Authoring is no longer a hobby. Two days ago I approved the cover for Chambers in Poland. The book comes out next month. This is four countries now, and while I’m happy about it, honestly, I still feel like a complete loser. The largest publishers in 3 foreign countries have taken on this book, but no major US publisher (they are apparently still pissed that I gave the film rights away thereby cutting them out of the deal). I’m like David Haselhoff without the chest hair. I’m really big in countries where I don’t speak the language. In the interim, 2 books in my adult fiction line are almost done, and I’m constantly battling with Rog who is convinced I’m having mental affairs with the men I write about (some who I kill off, others who are completely hot. I can hear my mother-in-law laughing about the truth of this). Finally, in exasperation, I retort “Right, and I’m the lead girl in all my books, like just a schizophrenic-Sybil-like person. Gah!” (Us intelligent author-types can say that).

5. Billionaires like my food. I’ve been telling a particular person “No” to a project for some time. Said person flies west to call on me (sounds very 1800’s does it not?) brings spouse to my home, gives us amazing host/hostess gifts (exotic food and jewelry). I make food my family will eat and not offend my guests sensibilities (which I’ll detail in another blog, along with the recipes) and in the end, after 4 hours, I still say no. We all ended friends (they particularly liked my crab cakes and chocolate mousse). Said billionaire came back later and said-“I’m not interested in anyone else. I’ll wait for your schedule.” In my ever eloquent way, I said to myself, Holy crap. And this is why this person has billions. Perseverance. Patience, and the ability to wear others down.

Beyond these uber-level highlights:


comes in either capsule or liquid form. use 2x a day on an empty stomach. unreal results in 30 days but can see results in 2 wks

1. I’ve proven that the Omica brand Super Zlite Zeriolite capsules really do improve hair quality and thickness (it has ash, which strips the body of metals, which in turn increase hair and nail growth).

2. I desperately miss my chocolate ice cream. I want it. I can’t have it. I think about it all the time. Fondly. I daydream about it. Yes. I’m that pathetic.

3. I truly enjoy my readers from Russia (who, might I add, have great taste in watches and sportscars?) Who cares if the president is off his rocker? So is ours.

4. I’ve discovered Mulco Swiss watches. (My readers know that watches to me are like crack. I can’t get enough. And as my husband points out, crack is a lot cheaper, but at least this way, I have my teeth).

chumlee for president

my favorite episode in recent months is where Chumlee makes a coin. mighty fine looking president

5. I fear for Comedy Central.Can they lose any more good hosts (actually, are any left?) and finally, What. In. The. World. has happened to my favorite people of Pawn Stars? The shows success has made what was great complete crap, esp Rick. He’s now stilted and boring. Make Chumlee and Big Hoss the leads, please. And BTW. the last time I was in Vegas, I saw “the Old Man” driving a stinking Bentley! Show up to the actual store and learn that he and Rick are never actually there. Just come in on “show times.” Ugh. I hate it when something goes from pure to completely manufactured.

6. Bowing to publisher-pressure, I’m now on Instagram under my own name, sarahjgerdes. I haven’t really figured it all out- as in, what’s interesting and what’s not. My publishers want me to revert everything back to my blog, and I’m not interested in posting what I ate for breakfast. I’ll probably offend as many people as I entertain, but then, that’s me. (I do have to say I like following Ducatistas and Porsche and airplanes. very cool images and satisfies my penchant for  machines and speed). I do have to say I wish I knew the last names of people I’ve met. I’d follow them and keep tabs but alas, I’m so caught up in the person I don’t get it. sigh.

7. Vancouver BC was fun, esp given that we found a new place to stay for the hockey tournaments. It spurned me into becoming a travel reviewer, because the place we stayed at got such bad reviews, I had to dispute it. Thus, now you can find me in Trip Advisor under Sarah G. (I know. You can’t get quite enough of me, but this is solely reviews of places, nothing more).

Marriage longevity & the mantra of Time will Tell

Thursday morning I took a flight down to Mexico for a week, stuck on an aisle (I’m a window gal, more privacy) and had a couple beside me. He, looking like a throwback from the seventies with shoulder-length graying hair and a Geraldo Rivera-wide mustache that begged to be trimmed, and she still sporting a mullet, the puffy rims around her eyes barely moving as she concentrated on the itty-bitty phone in her hands. Her thumbs moved frantically as she attempted to kill whatever demons were in a game more suitable for an eight-year old. They say little and smiles are non-existent. The mood turns surly when they learn wine isn’t complimentary as it was on their earlier Horizon flight, which means instead of saying two words to each other and one sentence to me (“I need to use the toilet.” No please or excuse me. Ahh. These Canadians. So direct).

I sigh, thinking the four hour flight will be a long one and open my laptop and turn up the first of many songs I scored in Switzerland last year (of course, they are everywhere thx to Internet radio. I just happened to used my Shazam while I was in a club and it was the direct route). As I’m doing so, I turn to my right and see another couple, roughly the same age, but opposite in every way, already talking to Rog. I lower the music just enough to hear the banter about the flight, hometowns and how nice it will be for that Canadian couple to escape the quasi cold of Quebec to hit the shores of Mexico. I guess they are ten years older than the couple next to be by virtue of grey hair and wrinkles.

Two hours and a cheese plate pass me by. I unplug and hear the man (who I learned is Stanley) and Rog swapping pilot stories. Rog, once again bemoaning his “bad eye” that didn’t allow him to fly fighter jets but he can fly his own planes–so comforting, right? When they start talking hockey, I check out. I up the volume and return to my screen, which is far more exciting that talking about the Blackhawks and Patrick Kane (which is what Rog wants to name our next dog. May our present dog live until after I die). Stan’s wife has also checked out. Periodically, I see the man glance over to me in an ‘oh, really?’ type of way, his eyebrows raised, and I fear for what my husband is telling the man. Whatever, I say to myself. I’ll never see him again.

An hour before we land, my battery runs out and I’m too lazy to get up and retrieve my powercord. I eavesdrop again and learn the man has been married 47 years. Forty-sevennnnnn. Now, I pause to remember my own parents have been married over 50, so I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. I listen. I observe, and then I it hits me. He has a permanent smile on his face, his hands are animated, but not overly so. His eyes are bright and alive. Stan has a vibrancy and zest for life that exceeds his seat and pushes out and over him, front, back and sideways, to me. I momentarily visualize the airframe of the plane bulbing out at his positive energy. His wife, although in to her book, periodically touches his arm, gives a smile or leans her cheek on his shoulder.

47 years. Happiness. Zest and vibrancy. I do what I do, and start asking questions. What do you get a person for an anniversary gift after 47 years? Answer: “Nothing,” replied the wife, who never did offer a name. “We stopped at year 30. We don’t need anything.” How do you remain so happy? Answer: “What’s not to be happold couple photoy about?”

Eventually,  I ran out of questions that I wanted to ask, because I went inward, thinking about the couple next to me, and how they were literally consuming the lifeblood from within the plane (including my own). Then, I thought about me and those that I know- both in relationships or married. Where does the longevity come from–within–is what I think Stan would say. But as I’ve been sitting poolside or walking the beach or working out, I’ve thought more about the experiences that comprise 47 years–everyday, week and month–each one with choices that determine our happiness that hour, day or month. It all adds up. Can I do more? Yeah. Will I do more? Yeah.

When Stan looked me in the eye and said, “The best years are still to come,” he said it with conviction. I looked him right back and thought to myself, catch me in about 30+ years and I’ll let you know.

My tree of love

IMG_3337Being eccentric isn’t for just the old and decrepit, or wealthy and bored. You too, can embody the glorious traits of being eccentric by being right in the middle–young, fit, good-looking and able to pay the bills. When it comes to being eccentric, by motto is be smack dab in the middle, thereby avoiding the being in either the bottom, or top, 1 percentile.

I’m embracing eccentricity and being positively middle-of-the-road by keeping up my Christmas cards…for the. If that’s not eccentric, I don’t know what is (well, I do, but the list is too long and as She constantly reminds me–keep it short. 4- paragraphs. I’ve got kids!). In my burgeoning strangeness, I’ve renamed my log pole to my Tree of Love. I think it fits, and here’s why.

1. People must love me (or my family). I have proof. This gives me a certain comfort when I’ve fallen from my mountain and into the valley, sometimes doing a nose-dive and not a smooth slide. Seeing the cards reminds me I have friends & family who care, and more to point, who I might actually call if I need some help.

2. Others have struggles. I know, Christmas cards are supposed to present the best face- hair is combed, outfits are coordinated etc. And more often than not, the accompanying notes of travel, graduation and births are positive. But every so often, one comes out that calls it like it is (think of my Christmas card 2013- death, death and pain). Do you know I received more comments, calls and outright expressions of love and caring from that card than any in the 12+ yrs I’ve been sending cards. Tells me one thing. Reality sometimes hurts. Honesty is good. (Of course, this year, I skipped the badness and just put in travels and happy things. I don’t want to create the impression I’m Winnie the Pooh running around with a little black raincloud hovering above my head all the time).

3. It’s a conversation starter. Like most folks with one foot in the business world, we entertain. Over the years, it seems more professional acquaintances come by than friends (friends have lives/children/spouses who complain we live too far out in the sticks). Not surprisingly, the conversation will sometimes lag. The first thing a guest will do (first-timers) is check out the photos. On the piano- or the tree of love. That begets conversations about all kinds of things which is a lot of fun. (Of course, just for kicks, I’ve been tempted to create a card that looks like it was sent from a prison, just to see what happens. I’m evil that way)

4. It’s a one-shot gauge of life. This is interesting to me. At first, we had a few cards, then more, then for a couple of years, over a hundred. We felt seriously loved, and had to put the cards on two different logs. Then the cards started dwindling (see my early blog on excising people from my xmas card list). I suppose people were doing that to us: our kids no longer attended the same school, the couple divorced and we were collateral damage, postage was too expensive. This year, we received 24 cards from family and friends. Our accountant was the only non F & F to send a card, but since he knows more about our state of affairs than any other living person, he probably counts at least in the friends category.

Twenty-four families who care, who I care about and who are in my life. That’s the kind of love I want to look at all year long.

The bad boyfriend is me- the girl

bad boyfriend blog

Do bad boyfriends have long blond hair and wear Fox Racing visors? I don’t think so…

I sit, I type, and I furtively glance over my shoulder every so often, wondering if Rog is going to pass by and catch me not-working. You see, I tend to write at my bar counter because Roger usurped my office while I was out of commission the last year. The good is that I’m close to the stove, which is handy for making chocolate pudding, a writer’s version of caffeine. The bad is that anytime he emerges from the troll den, as I now refer to my former-office-that-was, is that I have to bounce back and forth between screens to show that I’m not working–or wait, I’m working.

According to the Illustrious She (who, to this day, 5 years after starting a blog, insists she remains an anonymous ghost of a person), makes me: “The bad boyfriend.”

“I’m a girl,” I moan, tired of reminding her. “Tell me again why I’m like a bad boyfriend?”

“Two reasons,” she explains, mocking me, but still serious. “First, you retreat from the page you are working on like a bad boyfriend caught looking at an adult site, when in fact, you are writing a blog and yet you act just as guilty.”

Okay, there is truth in that (but seriously, do men even feel guilty about looking at ‘adult sites’?

I don’t say this out loud of course. I just make it all about me, and realize–yes, I DO feel guilty, because I should be writing any of my three projects and yes, I do feel like I’m doing something wrong by writing this.

“But it feels so right,” I whine defensively.

“And that’s my point exactly. That’s what a bad boyfriend says,” to which I burst out laughing, and then she continues, ignoring me. “The second reason you are like a bad boyfriend is because you call me when you only have five minutes, and you speed-talk and then say “I have to go because I only have 5 minutes.’ Only bad boyfriends do that.”

“I thought bad boyfriends just never call,” I tell her.

“Nooo,” she drawls. “Those are guys who have dumped you.”

Oh, I’m so glad that’s cleared up. So then I ask her if she’d rather have me dump her entirely (e.g. not call at all) rather than call only when I have more time. “It’s like sex,” I say to her. “Wouldn’t you want to have something rather than nothing.”

She hesitates, an rare thing for She. “Sometimes.”

Ironic. Because I think that’s exactly what a bad boyfriend would say.

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