Archive for the ‘Getting Older’ Category

A Somewhat Less Than Cheery Post

July 26, 2013
A little chipper I captured earlier this spring

A little chipper I captured earlier this spring

Well, I’m still here, more or less, for better or for worse.  I apologize for not commenting more on your blogs.  I think about you often, but the truth is, I haven’t felt well for a few months now, so I’ve saved my energy for the countless chores the summer season brings (gardening, mowing, weeding).   Commenting (and writing emails) has always been very hard for me anyway—it literally takes me hours—because in the same way that I find talking difficult (and I do), I find commenting so, as well.  It’s too much like talking.  I can write an essay more easily than I speak.

I assumed it was just my heart acting up again.  I’ve had arrhythmias in the past (and had catheter ablation surgery for it), so I worried that I’d have to have that again.  It finally got bad enough that I went to the doctor for the first time in nine years.  They did find heart irregularities (mostly related to sleep apnea) for which they gave me medicine, but they found something else, too.

They found breast cancer.  Invasive lobular carcinoma, in fact.  Unfortunately, lobular is a sneaky kind of cancer—it tends to not show up on mammograms.  Mine didn’t.  It showed on ultrasound just enough to do the biopsy. Next week, I’ll have a breast MRI (which is the most definitive imaging technique for invasive lobular carcinoma) to see if it’s also in the other breast (which loblular often tends to be).  This will help me decide what kind of treatment to have.  I have hard choices ahead.  Surgery is a certainty—either lumpectomy with radiation or a mastectomy, depending on what the MRI shows.

Initially (in fact, right up to this very moment ) I wasn’t going to share this on my blog.  I honestly felt I couldn’t bear to write about yet another crisis in our life.  After a while, you start to feel like a freak—like there must be something seriously wrong with someone who has such bad luck, and you feel something close to shame.  So you withdraw—at a time that you most need a loving hand to hold.  I’ve told very few people so far—mostly those I’ve known for years, whom I trust to love me no matter what.  I’m afraid I have no words of wisdom or inspiration right now.  I’m all spent.  Truthfully, I’m posting because I want to sincerely ask for your prayers.  Or if you aren’t the praying type, your very best thoughts.  I think I’ve never been in more need of it.

It’s funny that I say that because I’ve never felt more angry at God than I do now.  There, I’ve said it.  Might as well–He knows it anyway.  And I can’t seem to pray for myself.  I can pray—easily—for others (and I do).  But not for me.  Every time I try, I start crying and can’t stop.  But, despite my anger (which, in part, is born of faith—how could you be angry at someone you don’t believe exists?), I still believe in prayer.

And yes, yes, of course I know I should be thankful for all the good in my life.  Trust me—I am.  I’m human, so as humans, we’re subject to crazy, conflicting feelings.  “What the heck, God??” can co-exist with “Thank you, God.”   So along with my screaming “Why?” I whisper, “Thank you.”  Many times a day.  In fact, just now a mockingbird, still young and breast-speckled, landed in the shrub next to the window, looked in at me, and cocked his head.  He looked so comical, I laughed out loud.  And said, “Thank you.”

I don’t know when I’ll write again.  After the MRI, when they’ve gotten a better look under the hood, I expect things to start moving pretty fast.  So if you write me, and I don’t write you back, please don’t think I don’t appreciate it.  It’s just that now, I’m trying to stuff my addled head with enough information about breast cancer treatment to make an informed decision about my own care.  There’s a lot to read, and it’s hard reading.  Not only because it’s full of medical terminology that makes my head spin, but because the stories that so many brave ladies tell on the Breast Cancer Discussion Boards break my heart.

So, if you’ve read this far, I thank you for not turning away.  And I’m grateful for every single good thought and prayer for me you send into the firmament.  I can’t seem to bring myself to plead my cause with God, so I need you to do it for me. Please.  I’ll take all I can get—greedy supplicant that I am. And I thank you with all my heart.


(27) Thirty Days of Grateful Praise: Ibuprofen

July 28, 2012

See, I TOLD you the grass was tall!

We’ve got almost four acres here at the Doublewide Ranch, and most of it is grass.  The cows that used to live here kept the grass nicely mowed, but once the cows were gone, it was up to us.  At first, we faithfully mowed all of the yard and pasture, but it didn’t take long for us to decide that, “Hey! You know, all we REALLY need are some nice paths cut through the pasture and, really, wouldn’t it be nice to let the wildflowers grow??”

Yeah, losing over half of every weekend to mowing got old quick.

And it’s not just the time it takes.  It’s the heat and the bugs and the fact that both Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man and I have old injuries of various body parts that make mowing a painful process.  Many of my injuries likely stem from the days when I had to lift my mama, who had ALS and was in a wheelchair.   We had a Hoyer lift for home and a little slider thing for transferring her from car to wheelchair and back, but there were inevitably times when I just HAD to lift her.

Even though we cut back (no pun intended) on what we mow, we still end up having to mow a very large area.  Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man takes the rider, and I use our push mower.  (Benjamin is limited in what he can do because of his back fracture, but he does like to weed whack).   And I’ve got to tell you, when the weather gets so hot and muggy, I dread mowing like I dread a root canal.  It’s not the work I mind—it’s the pain.

And all that brings me to what I am grateful for right now—tonight—after a long day of mowing.  It was particularly awful today because we actually had a bit of rain which made the grass grow up to our kneecaps.  So hoisting that push mower up hills and around trees and through ditches just about killed me.  So, today, I thank God for ibuprofen.

Some take it for granted, I guess because it is so easily available and cheap, but those are the very reasons I am so thankful for it.  And it really, really works for me.  It’s my miracle drug; it’s how I keep going, and I really don’t think I could live without it.  I am so grateful for ibuprofen.

(1) Thirty Days of Grateful Praise: Buoyant Optimism

July 2, 2012

As mentioned in the previous post, I’m proud to be called a dork optimist. So I was thrilled to read your comments and discover that I have so many dork optimist comrades!  It seemed appropriate, then, to make my first Thirty Days of Grateful Praise post be about our ability to find joy in simple pleasures.

Interestingly, for me,  some of this likely has its roots in less than happy circumstances—the fact that my life has, in many ways, been hard and there’s never been a lot of money for the “extras” seen as necessities by modern society.  Clearly, when you’re in this situation, mourning the things you don’t have rather than celebrating what you do have is surely the way to unhappiness, so I’ve mostly chosen the happy path.

I’d never be one to romanticize financial struggles—it’s a hard business, especially these days.  But if you look for them, there are almost always gifts hidden in in even the most difficult of circumstances.  I do think that having less has helped me appreciate far more even the smallest pleasures.

I think, too, that hard times have a way of bringing into sharper focus what’s important and what’s not.  It turns out that some of the simplest, most humble things are the very things that make my life rich.  And if I Iost them, I would be impoverished indeed.

So maybe you can add “simple-minded” to my dork optimist moniker.  The older I get, the more I value simple-mindedness.  The older I get, the more I see the simple as deep.  And the older I get, the more I turn away from the clamor of the world trying to make me believe otherwise.

Simple-minded dork optimist.  Yep…that’s me.  And I like it.


May 24, 2012

(This is the very first place we went on our honeymoon 25 years ago—Chestoa View at Milepost 320.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway)

Our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary was last week, so Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man took the week off to celebrate.  The original plan for our 25th was to retrace the steps of our honeymoon, hiking the same trails and staying in the same hotels.  We weren’t able to do that this year, but have definitely put it on our Things-We-Really-Will-Do-Someday-When Life-Isn’t-So-Hectic list.

Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man loves a road trip, though, so we decided to take a daycation or two and follow wherever the road might lead.  He particularly loves a curvy, twisty mountain road that goes up, so up we went into the higher peaks and ridges of the blue and green mountain ranges that surround us.

Instead of detailing our week, though, I’ll post photos of a few of the wonders we saw on our wanders.  And I’ll tell you about the honeymoon we’d originally hoped to re-create—the one we took twenty-five years ago.

(This is the same enchanted trillium forest we saw on our honeymoon 25 years ago)

By the day of our wedding (a courthouse nuptial), we’d saved a little over a hundred dollars between the two of us for our honeymoon.  Now keep in mind that this was in the days before you had to take out a loan to buy a tank of gas.  Nowadays, a hundred bucks would barely get us from Winston-Salem (where we lived then) to the mountains and back, but in 1987, we filled up the tank on our 1967 Volvo 122S and had plenty left over. We had no particular destination in mind—just a yearning for higher ground.  So we headed west with the idea that we’d head home when the money ran out.

I call that honeymoon our Magical Mystery Tour because I honestly cannot remember how it is we managed to travel the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, stay three nights in hotels, and actually eat on a hundred bucks, but we did.  I do recall that we only ate once in a restaurant and that the hotels were all quite modest.  And also that Tom always smiled his most charming smile, told the hotel clerks that we were on our honeymoon, and asked for (and got!) a discount.   But I don’t recall any more of the practical details than that.

But what I do recall is that I never felt deprived.  I remember thinking that I could not imagine a better four-day honeymoon than this; I could not imagine being happier.  We hiked to mountaintop after mountaintop, fed each other from the grocery bag of snacks we’d brought along, and drank gallons of ice-cold mountain water.

We were so full of hope and faith then—a miracle in itself for me since I’d previously experienced a difficult marriage to an abusive man.  I’ve been thinking this week how fortunate it was that we could not see the hard road that lay ahead of us.   Even if we had, though, I don’t think it would have deterred us.  We strode confidently into the future, hand-in-hand and certain that together, we could handle anything that came our way.

And I suppose you could say we have.  Handled things, that is…but only by the merciful grace of God.  We’ve had a hard time of it, I’m afraid, for most of our twenty-five years—illness, injury, job loss, natural and unnatural disasters, too little money, and worst of all, the loss of so many of those loved ones we held most dear.   There are scars, and sometimes, it’s very hard to feel hopeful, to have faith, to trust.

But broken as we are, we are still walking hand-in-hand.  Not striding so confidently now, I suppose.  Our steps are far more tentative and cautious, and sometimes we falter.  But we’re still climbing upward , vigilant for danger, yes… but for  beauty, too.  And still believing that something splendid, lovely, and worth the long and difficult climb lies ahead, just around the bend.

A Magical, Late-Autumn Walk

March 9, 2011

Well, of course, I know it’s not autumn.  And spring, I suppose, is an odd time to post autumn pictures.  But since Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man has been on my mind a lot lately and since I’m trying to fill my headspace with happy thoughts to crowd out dark imaginings, I thought it’d be a good time to finally post some pictures from a magical walk we took in November. I say “magical” because, well…it was.  Late fall, still a little color in the leaves, not too hot or too cold, lovely setting with forest and mountains and big, big sky,  and the finest of companions.  Plus, in seven miles of hiking, we didn’t meet another soul (except for the horses and mule, that is).

I apologize for not posting last week–we’ve had a few hiccups that we’re still hoping will be small ones.  Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man hurt his knee, a meniscus tear, so we surely won’t be hiking for a while.  We’re still trying to figure out why the Worker’s Comp people think he can work, since much of his work involves lots of walking while carrying heavy loads and crawling about on his knees.  A couple of other hiccups, as well, that we won’t know the outcome of for a while, but they occupy my thoughts just enough to make it hard to write. But, back to happy thoughts…

The place where we hiked was the site of homesteads long ago, and while there were few signs of where the houses had stood, the apple trees the settlers had planted were still there, still bearing apples.  Gnarly little apples to be sure, but they certainly made fine apple bread later.  In fact, the only living beings (beside birds and bugs) we saw, three horses and one mule, quickly smelled the apples that we’d stuffed in our backpack and pockets and followed us all the way back to the truck.  One even stuck his head through the window of the truck after I got in, and they were all staring accusingly at us as we drove away.  I felt quite guilty not to give them apple treats, but I only had enough for the aforementioned apple bread.  But I promised them that we’d come back next fall and would pick enough apples then to share.  And, God willing, we will.  I’d sure hate to break my promise to my four-legged friends, even if they only loved me for my apples. 🙂

(Follow the apple-strewn trail…)

Miss Beth’s Incredible Shrinking Two-Inch Tall Curiously Leathery Trail Cake

January 25, 2011

(Doesn’t my little carrot look a bit like a manatee?)

A big thanks to y’all for your bevy of bounteous birthday wishes—you’re very kind. They meant a lot to me.

It was a pretty swell birthday, all in all. Actually, it was my second celebration since we’d partied earlier when the kids were home. This time was more subdued, though I was delighted at good wishes from friends, my birthday poem from Benjamin, and a Happy Birthday song from Ariel. Here’s the last verse of Benjamin’s poem:

While her two young’uns are busy,
they still would want to know,
that this is a blessed, happy birthday,
hopefully not drowning in snow.

How could I not have a great day with odes like that? 🙂

I did get a hankering for some birthday cake, though. And since it so happened that Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man had some freshly-dug carrots from our otherwise lifeless garden, I decided that what I was really craving was a carrot cake—my favorite.

So I set about chopping, shredding, measuring, mixing, pouring, and my favorite part (besides eating the cake)—watching it rise through the oven window. I really, really love to watch cake (or bread) rise in the oven because it seems like magic. (As I’ve mentioned before, we are easily amused).

So, as usual, I eagerly peered through the oven window about 20 minutes in. “Hmm…that’s weird.” I said to Tom. “It seems to be about the same size as when I put it in there.”

“Oh, it’s probably just slow rising,” Tom said helpfully.

“Thanks, honey,” I said. “You’re very likely right.” By now it had been 30 minutes. I checked again. “Hmm…that’s weird. Still the same size…no sign of rising.”

“A watched cake never rises,” Tom said, with a sage nod and a knowing look.

“I’m grateful for your insight, O Enlightened One,” I said, laughing. “How did I ever manage without you?”

“I have no idea,” said Tom. “It must have been a struggle.”

40 minutes in: this time I opened the oven door. The rush of warm fragrant air was heavenly. At least it smelled good. In fact, it appeared to be done. But it was still the same size as when I put it in. In fact, it almost seemed smaller, like it was shrinking. I touched the top. Strange—the cake seemed quite firm. Not firm as in “nice crust with moist center” but firm as in “well-cured beef jerky.”

I took both pans out and we stared at them. “They look like they’re about an inch tall,” said Tom.

“Yep,” I said. “About an inch, I’d say.” I pressed the top again. Still very, very firm. “Well, at least there are TWO of them. I’ll just put lots of icing on it.”

So I did. Only I was in such a hurry to get the icing on that the layers weren’t fully cooled, resulting in the icing melting and the top layer of the cake sliding off the bottom one to tilt precariously near the edge of the table. The icing was flowing off, too, dripping off the top and sides of the cake and plate like molten lava. I didn’t realize this, of course, until much later when I came back from an outdoor task.

“Oh no!” I hollered. “My cake!  It’s…melting!”

Tom came in from the other room and we stared at the cake. “That is one pitiful cake,” Tom said.

“Yeah,” I said. “It is indeed a wretched sight.” I spooned up all the icing I could and stuck the two layers back together. We both scooped up what remaining icing could be salvaged, doing our best to repair the wreckage.

“I’m afraid it’s not much use,” said Tom. He wrinkled his brow and frowned. “You know, I think your cake is about two inches tall.”

I got a ruler. It was almost exactly two inches tall. We looked at each other and started to laugh. I got a knife from the drawer and cut a small slice. I took a bite, then handed it to Tom. We both chewed thoughtfully.

“Hmm,” said Tom. “Curiously leathery.” He chewed some more. “Robust.” We started laughing again as we gnawed and gnawed.  “Sort of like…hardtack.”

For anyone that doesn’t know, hardtack was the name of the rock-hard bread that soldiers ate in the Civil War.  It was also called “sheet-iron biscuit.”  To break it into smaller pieces, troops would bash it with their musket butts. 

Then Tom picked the cake plate up with a flourish and held it aloft in his right hand. With his left, he pointed at the cake and looked into an imaginary television camera.

“Hi there, friends,” he said in a Texas drawl, to his imaginary television audience. “I’m Cowboy Tom!  You know, when I’m out on the range with the other cowpokes, we can’t be bothered with a big, bulky old birthday cake. No ma’am. So what do we eat on the trail?” Tom looked over at the cake and smiled.

“Well, we cowhands like to eat Miss Beth’s Trail Cake! Only two inches high, so it fits neatly into your saddlebags! And it has that manly consistency—it’s REAL cake that a buckeroo can sink his teeth into.” He looked back into the imaginary camera and winked.

“So, buckaroos and buckerettes, don’t weigh your horse down with unwieldy cakes! Yes, if you want that long-lasting chewing satisfaction, reach for…” He thrust the cake towards the imaginary camera. “…Miss Beth’s Trail Cake!”

I was laughing so hard at that point that I almost choked on the cake. Tom put the cake back on the table. I got a couple of plates and cut two pieces. Despite its curiously leathery texture, it tasted pretty darn good.

And there we sat on my 53rd birthday and chewed and laughed and laughed and chewed some more. I thought about how blessed I am to have a man who makes me laugh. Who saves me yet another goofy animal-shaped carrot from the garden. Who thinks I’m funny, too, and always laughs at my jokes. And I thought about what a gift our sense of humor is. How it has so often saved us through all these hard and sometimes lean years. And how often that sense of silliness and the absurd has helped us to see what’s worth getting upset about and what’s not. A fallen birthday cake is nothing in the Grand Scheme of Things. Well, nothing but an occasion to laugh. And chew. And to be thankful that it’s at least edible.

But even more, I’m thankful for someone to share it all with. Not only to share Miss Beth’s Incredible Shrinking Two-Inch Tall Curiously Leathery Trail Cake, but to share the joy and pleasure of a big, ol’ deep-down, belly-shakin’, knee-slappin’ guffaw.

What a gift it is. And I am so grateful.

The Curious Case of a Cut and Curl Calamity

October 27, 2009

old crone

(Here’s a shot Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man took of me when we were on vacation recently.  You can see I look very happy and rested.)

Long-time readers may recall that last year I wrote a post on my misadventures at the beauty salon called The Strange, Sad Tale of a Beauty Shop Washout.  Now in case you don’t want to read the whole thing, here’s a little excerpt from that post:


She (we’ll call her Rhonda) obviously believed that the only good perm was a tight perm.  With every roller she rolled, she’d give this little yank at the end, just to make sure there was not one iota of slackness in that curl.  It hurt so much that tears sprang involuntarily to my eyes, but I just bit my lip and thought about how sometimes, we must suffer for our beauty.  And, really, all that tautness had the effect of smoothing out my wrinkles.  Why, my face hadn’t looked that tight in years!  My first facelift!

Two excruciating hours later, she was done and it was time for the big reveal.  As she started pulling out more and more of the little rollers, it became apparent to us both that something had gone terribly wrong.  There was no curl…no, not a bit.  Neither one of us said a word.  All I could think was—I do not care, just let the nerve endings in my head recuperate.  And she was probably thinking—If I don’t say anything, maybe she won’t notice. 

But there was just no denying it.  Rhonda took out the last curler and stared bleakly at my reflection in the mirror.  My hair hung lank and limp.  Finally, she spoke. “You,” she said sadly, “are curl resistant.” 

She called over the other stylists and they stood in a circle around me, shaking their heads mournfully, as though observing the scene of an accident.  “I just can’t understand it,” said Rhonda.  “I’ve never had this happen before.”

They all cast sympathetic looks her way and some of them looked accusingly at me, as though if I wanted it badly enough and if only I had lived a good life, my hair would have curled.  “Curl resistant,” they all repeated, like a chorus in some really bad opera.  “She is curl resistant.”

And now here I am over a year later and, believe it or not, my hair has not seen a perm rod or a pair of scissors since. Though it has had daily contact with a curling iron and an industrial-sized can of hair spray. Because those are the only things that can tame my wretched hair at the moment (or what’s left of my wretched hair).

You may recall that I mentioned in my previous post that “my curly perm makes me look like some refugee from the eighties.”  Well.  Now I’ve moved beyond that, I think.  Now I look more like maybe The Ghost From 80’s Past. You know, sort of like The Ghost from Christmas Past?  You can probably imagine it—a ghost crone with shoulder pads and wild eyes and long, stringy, straw-like hair (80’s music playing in the background) shaking a can of Aqua Net and saying, “Woooooo…beware this 80’s hair! It is not debonair! Beware, beware this hair!” And the ghost maybe showing scenes from Bad Haircuts and Perms Past. *Shudder*

You’re probably saying, “So what’s keeping you from getting it cut, Blue Ridge Blue Collar Girl? Who’s stopping you?” Well, part of it is just plain fear. You know, the shameful stigma of “curl resistance.” Will I still be curl resistant? Will I again be ostracized for curl resistance? It was a pretty traumatic thing to be surrounded by that angry mob of hair stylists fingering my limp hair and shaking their heads in disgust.

Also, it always seems a bit risky to just pick a salon right out of the yellow pages or go to one just because it’s near where you buy groceries. That’s what I did last time and you can see how well THAT worked out. I’ve asked a few folks for advice, but so far every one of them has recommended one of those fancy, high-falutin’ places in the city that maybe have French or Italian names. Or the words “day spa” in the name. I avoid those like the plague, mainly because they charge more for one visit than I budget for an entire YEAR of beauty. Sure, I could stand to spend a little more, but I’d rather buy books. I’ve found it yields a greater rate of return. Besides, they’d probably give me some weird hairdo that would make me look like Rod Stewart or something. Nothing against Rod Stewart—I just don’t want to look like him.

I always look for the kind of beauty shops I grew up with—the kind you see out in the country, maybe housed in a little shed in somebody’s back yard. You know, with names like Cathy’s Cut ‘n Curl or Barbara’s Beauty Boutique. I particularly love salon names where “K’s” are substituted for the “C’s” as in Kathy’s Kut ‘n Kurl. And of course, you know I can’t resist a pun in the name, like Shear Heaven, A Kut Above, Cut and Dried or my favorite ever, Curl Up and Dye. And there’s always the matter-of-fact, no-nonsense names like Betty’s Beauty Shop. They’re like yeah, that’s the name, I know it’s not cute—take it or leave it, lady.

But probably the real reason I haven’t gone yet is that my hair looks so bad now that I can use it as a handy excuse not to do things I’m dreading. Like going to the doctor. I avoid doctors like the plague, too, but I really do need to get that long-overdue checkup. But I can’t until I get my hair cut. And we’ve heard of a church where we might actually fit in, but we’re pretty nervous about going. Terrified, in fact. But really, I can’t go anyway  until I get my hair cut. Plus, I have two friends from the past that I haven’t talked to in years that I’d like to call. One of them lives nearby, but I’m scared of rejection—it’s been a long time and maybe they will have forgotten me. Sure, I’d call them…but I can’t until I get my hair cut.

See what I mean? It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to see that I’m using my hair as an avoidance mechanism—a convenient excuse to not do the things I really should.

Hey, maybe that’s what I need—professional help! A psychiatrist! Because I really, really want to change. Maybe I should be looking for a psychiatrist instead of a hair stylist. Maybe it’s my head and not my hair that needs help. Maybe a shrink is just what the doctor ordered.

There’s only one problem: I mean, you know how it is.  I really can’t go to a psychiatrist…

Until I get my hair cut.

Embracing My Inner Curmudgeon (and Some Well-Deserved Applause)

October 19, 2009


(I apologize that I could not find the proper attribution for this great drawing, but am amazed at the striking resemblance to this writer.  Uncanny, really.)

One of the things that I looked forward to most about getting old was that it would at last be acceptable to give my inner curmudgeon free reign. Yep, I thought maybe I could give real credence to the stereotype of the grumpy old lady.

Well, the truth is, while I might have an inner curmudgeon, I’m actually pretty even-tempered, so I’m not yet shaking my bony fist at cocky young whippersnappers on a regular basis. But I will say that the past few weeks have sorely tested the limits of my patience and brought out my inner grouch.

First of all, our television went out, and it took the built-in VCR with it. Sure, it was 12 years old and maybe 12 years is all you can expect for electronic lifetimes these days, but it really hurt to lose our VCR, too. Then, the next day, the blade flew off our riding mower and took two fan belts with it. We have a big, big yard, so we really need that riding mower.

But it wasn’t just that. It was the little things, too, one darn thing after another—from problems with an item we just paid good money for to groceries scanning higher than the listed price to newly purchased carrots being slimy. I hate it when my carrots are slimy.

No need to rehash all our troubles, but allow me to indulge my inner curmudgeon long enough to say this:  The Eyeglasses industry, on the whole, is an out and out rip-off. A greed fest. A shameless screw-job. I have no idea what the mark-up by optical companies is on eyeglasses, but I know it is huge beyond all justification. And I’d like to say to the optometrist that I recently had the displeasure of seeing: You should be ashamed—charging those exorbitant prices, knowing full well that many of the people that come to you (including me) can ill afford to buy even the cheapest frames you provide. And, boyhowdy, that sure is one slick operation you’ve got there—the way you funneled me right out from my exam into your eyeglasses “showroom.” And what a friendly salesman you have in there! Or at least he was until I expressed my utter incredulity at the prices and I was ushered out quicker than you can say “flimflam man.” Of course, what I really wanted to do was to tell him just exactly where he could shove all those hip, trendy pieces of plastic “designer” junk.

Oh. Sorry. I lost it for a minute there. I told you I had an inner curmudgeon.

Anyway. What I really wanted to do here is to recognize my one interaction with a commercial interest in the past few weeks that was positive beyond all expectation. Where I was treated with respect and consideration. Where the response to my concern was cheerful and prompt. Who was this rarity, this paragon, this fine model of good customer service? Why, I’m glad you asked.

It was Oxford American, my favorite magazine ever. Perhaps you’ve never heard of it, but if you’d like to read the finest in writing from the South (not to mention their annual music issue that includes a really swell CD), you should definitely check them out. In fact, one of my dreams as an aspiring writer is to be published someday in Oxford American.

I recently decided to treat myself to a subscription and was mighty excited about the thought of finding it in my mailbox again, but experienced some difficulty in receiving a particular issue. It was their Southern Literature Issue with lots of writing about writing, so I wanted it real bad. But when I filled out their Customer Service form, I’ll have to admit that I expected just the typical form email back. You know, the generic, non-personal kind that leave you feeling angrier than ever?

So imagine my surprise when I was personally emailed back within an hour by Tammy Gillis, their office manager, who told me she was immediately forwarding my email to Matt Baker, Associate Publisher. Within a very short time, I received a very nice email from Matt Baker expressing his sincerest apologies and indicating that he had personally mailed me out a copy that very day!

Okay, here’s where I’ll confess that, at the time, I thought, “Right. Sure you did. I’ll believe that when I see it.” Sorry to say, but some of my recent misadventures in customer service have made me just a mite cynical.

So imagine my surprise (and delight) when I found Issue #66, the Southern Literature issue of the Oxford American in my mailbox within a week, mailed personally by their Associate Publisher. I was thrilled.

So, thanks, Oxford American and Tammy Gillis and Matt Baker. I know you’ll probably never read this, but I wanted to say it anyway. I wanted to sing the praises of a company that is motivated by something besides greed, not to mention the fact that they put out a very fine product that even folks like me can afford. You’ve made me a happy woman and a slightly less cynical one.

It sure is nice to have something good to read. Maybe it will help to take my mind off the smirk on smug Mr. Eyewear Consultant’s face when he told me, “You really should try something stylish and fashionable for a change—it would make you look so much…younger.”

Why, it’s enough to make me shake my bony fist just thinking about it. *Shakes bony fist and mutters*   That impudent young upstart. Cheeky, brazen whippersnapper.

Happy Birthday to Me: My Two-Thousand Dollar Birthday Gift

February 10, 2009


I had a birthday a couple of weeks ago.  But contrary to the impression possibly created by the picture above, it was not my fiftieth.  As a matter of fact, it was my fifty-first. Or as I prefer to call it—my forty eleventh.  Because 51, in my opinion, is a numeral without much to recommend it—a rather dull digit without the pleasing plumpness and resonant roundness of 50.   Fifty-one is just…blah.

Anyway, I took the picture above (which shows my address number marker where I used to live) specifically to illustrate the post I was going to do last year about turning 50.  But long time readers of my blog may remember that last year about this time, we were moving.  Well, I say moving, but really, the problem was that we had nowhere to move TO though our house had already sold and the new owners needed to move in NOW.   So, things were a tad stressful and there was no time for thoughtful reflection on turning 50, especially since at the time, I was feeling about twice that.

And, as if all that wasn’t enough, just in time for my 50th birthday, the transmission on my usually reliable Camry suddenly refused to go into reverse, making driving a little nerve-wracking since all my forward progress had to be made with great care and consideration, lacking as I was the option of backing up.  And, yes, I did see the bitter irony in the fact that my car was beginning to fall apart around about the same time I was.  And, no, it wasn’t funny.  Not at the time, anyway.   Come to think of it, it’s still not funny.  

Which brings me to what Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man gave me last year for my fiftieth birthday.  I’d always dreamed of how I might get something really extraordinary when I turned fifty.   Maybe I’d take a special trip since I’ve rarely traveled farther than North Carolina.    And indeed, I did receive a lavish gift that involved travel.  And it cost almost two thousand bucks!

It was (drum roll please) a shiny, bright, sparkling…rebuilt transmission!

Yep, it was a beauty.  And when the man in the transmission shop told us (after gleefully swiping our Visa) that our transmission was guaranteed so that no matter where we traveled in the USA we could get it fixed if it failed, I told him, “Don’t worry…after paying for this, we won’t have the money to travel.” 

He was not amused.

Anyway,  maybe you’re wondering what wondrous thing Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man got me for my birthday this year.  Well, for a while there, it was looking like it would be another extravagant gift, perhaps even surpassing last year’s!  Yes, for a while there, I thought Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man would be giving me a shiny, bright, sparkling…new furnace!

Yes indeed, soon after my birthday, during the coldest snap here in six years, our furnace suddenly stopped. And although we kept it going for a while by manually spinning the blower fan just as we switched it on, eventually, that little trick didn’t work (not to mention the fact that doing that was really tiresome).  We had to figure out something more permanent.  Which we feared might be a new furnace.

To make a long story short—after much prayer and supplication and weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth and the repeated taking apart and putting back together of fan motors over a span of ten very cold days, we finally heard the sweet sound of our furnace roaring to life.  And we cheered and broke out the Welch’s Sparkling Grape Juice that I had gotten for my birthday and toasted our furnace and each other and all the many good things in our life.

“Here’s to the loud roar of our old heat pump and to warmth and to a husband who can fix anything!” I said. “Well….except for transmissions.”

Tom smiled and held up his glass and said, “And here’s to another year with you—and to you making it to fifty-two!”

We laughed and clinked our Winnie the Pooh jelly glasses together, drank, then poured another glass.

I raised my glass. “And here’s to love.” 

“Hear, hear,” said Tom. We clinked glasses again and sat back, sipping our juice and basking in the delicious warmth pouring through the vent, thanking God and all our lucky stars for our blessedness.

So here’s to warm hands and warm hearts, to cold sparkling grape juice, to cars that go backward and forward, to bland and humdrum 51…and to love, no matter what your age.

Hear, hear.

Wide-Eyed Wonder at the Wii We Won

October 23, 2008


If you want to see this better, click on it to enlarge it.

(The cartoon above was created by my daughter Ariel aka Lucky Pennies in Microsoft Paint.  Now, in case you were thinking, Gosh, that seems kind of mean, well, let me explain.  The truth is—I have a large fanny.  (Or Gluteus Maximus, if you prefer, with emphasis on the Maximus).   That’s just the way it is, no ifs, ands, or…um…buts about it.   There’s no getting around it.  (I mean, reallythere’s no getting around it).  So, like Steve Martin making jokes about his huge nose (in one of my favorite movies, Roxanne, a hilarious retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac), I’ve always made jokes about my big rear end.  Might as well laugh, because there’s not a darn thing I can do about it.   So my family has always been given license to poke gentle and affectionate fun at my derriere.  And, yes, they’re laughing with me, not at me.  Really, they’ve always been the first ones to boost my confidence by telling me I’m pretty.  So, I really don’t mind being the…er…butt of their jokes.)




Recently I heard yet another story about an Idaho man who won big, not just one—but three times—in the state lottery.  I always roll my eyes and sigh when I hear those stories because, although I’ve entered any number of contests in my life, I’ve rarely won a thing. 


Okay, there was that dozen eggs in the PTA raffle I won when I was six years old.  When they called my name, I was nearly beside myself with rapture.  I ran up to collect my dozen eggs, then in my excitement, almost tripped and dropped the eggs on the way back to my seat.   Yes, you read that right—I was practically apoplectic with ecstasy upon winning a dozen eggs.   Sad, but true.


So you can imagine my excitement recently when my daughter Ariel called me with some exciting news:   She had won a dozen eggs!    No, no…I’m just kidding.  Actually, she had won a prize for writing the best definition of “health” at a…what else…health fair at college.  She had won….drum roll, please…a Wii!  And a Wii Fit! 


Yes, it’s true!  She broke the family, never-win-anything curse!  Even better, she brought the Wii home for fall break.  I’d like to tell you that we spent her break communing in nature, discussing deep and profound philosophical insights, feeling one with the universe and all mankind.  I’d like to, but I can’t.  Because the truth is, when we weren’t out running errands or shopping for things she needed, we were one with our Wii.  (Now for any one that might not know, it’s pronounced  “wee” and don’t feel bad if you didn’t know because, a year ago, I didn’t either.  I pronounced it “why”).


And, oh my, this Wii is just way too much fun. To start with, it was a blast to make the little Beth Mii character (of course, pronounced “Me.”)  I could make my Mii as pretty and thin as I wanted to!  Never mind that later, after the Wii Fit had weighed me and done my “fitness evaluation,” that the Wii made my Mii fatter.  At least my Mii still had that gorgeous hair!  Yes, that’s right—the Wii Fit, after it weighs you, will actually change your Mii’s size to match reality.  That just amazes me.  Sure, it annoys me a little, too, but mostly…it amazes me.  Ariel and I made some more little Mii’s—she made Oprah Winfrey and Bill Clinton and I made an Obama Mii.   He was really cute.


Anyway, Ariel went back to college Sunday and took her Wii with her.   Good thing, too, because if she had left it here, you wouldn’t be reading this post because I wouldn’t have written it because I would still be playing that river bubble game where you float down the river in a giant bubble trying to get to the end, which only happens if you don’t burst your bubble on the rocks or if the bee doesn’t puncture your bubble with its stinger, thus drowning your little Mii.  Sadly, my Mii was drowned repeatedly, which, I can assure you, is most unpleasant. 


Yep, no doubt about it—I am a woman obsessed.   I have a wiikness for Wii, and the only cure is to get one myself or have counseling.  Or possibly I could exert my parental authority and tell Ariel of my grave concerns that the Wii might be too much of a distraction from her college coursework, so, regretfully, her father and I think it might be best if she left it here (I would say this, of course, with great gravitas, shaking my head sadly). Or perhaps I could rationalize buying a Wii for Mii—after all the Wii Fit provides obvious health benefits by encouraging people to exercise.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.  We need a Wii  ’cause it’s good for me!  Who knows… maybe it could do something for my big backside—tone my tush, give definition to my derriere…


Or…maybe not.  That’s probably just a little too much to ask.  🙂  



(I sincerely apologize for the small print.  I have no idea why it came out that way.  I tried to change it, but it wouldn’t let me.  I’m sorry!)