The AARP Life@50+ Expo has come and gone, and I must say it far exceeded my expectations. So much to see and do and learn.
Though the connections made — and the dogs met — were delightful and well worth the trip, my favorite experience there was hands down the Movies for Grownups screening of “At Middleton,” which stars Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga.
You may recall the trailer for the film, included in this post here. (And if you don’t recall the trailer or didn’t watch it then, go watch it. Seriously.)
You may also recall from that post that I mentioned Andy Garcia would be at the screening. Which he was.
After the lovely movie that I enjoyed from beginning to end, Andy Garcia, along with Adam Rodgers and Glenn German — co-writers of the sweet story of two parents who meet during their children’s college tour — took the stage for an “At Middleton” Q&A session with the audience.
Mike wranglers roamed the crowd, giving those in attendance the chance to ask questions. I so wanted to ask who chose the musical selections integral to the story, having seen Arturo Sandoval’s name in the beginning credits (whom Andy Garcia played in a 2000 HBO film on Sandoval). But… though I can write for crowds, I sure as heck can’t speak in front of crowds. At all.
So I kept my mouth shut, listened to others and shot frame after frame of the handsome men on stage.
Then the topic of distribution of the independent film and support for it came up. Suddenly there was some mention of the support for the film on a site called Grandma’s Briefs, with Andy Garcia saying something about there being a special request and… something else I can’t remember at all because I somehow found myself standing and waving my arms and declaring to the men on the stage, That’s me, I’m Grandma’s Briefs!
And then Andy Garcia asked me to come up front.
Oh, <cuss>! I said in my head.
“Oh, no,” I said out loud.
I quickly asked the gentleman behind me to please take my camera and get some photos, someone thrust a microphone into my hand (Here, take this!) and I headed up front.
Right into the arms of Andy Garcia.
I wanted to say, “Wow! What a wonderful, touching film!”
I wanted to say, “You are a good, good man, Mr. Garcia!” (I think he is. In part because he and his wife have been married as long as Jim and I, and his family is top priority. Need more? Google him.)
And I wanted to say — once we hugged and I melted into his unbelievably soft jacket that simply felt like home — “Gee whiz! Let’s just stay right here and hug all freakin’ day!”
I didn’t say any of those things.
Instead, I said, “The other grandmas are going to be so jealous!” Yes, at that very special moment, I thought of you all.
Andy Garcia kissed me on the forehead, he thanked me for my support. And I just babbled: “Thank you, thank you, thank YOU….”
(As I mentioned, I can’t speak for <cuss> in front of crowds.)
But Mr. Garcia was kind and seemingly genuine as he hugged me again — comfy, cozy hugs that, well, just felt like home. And we posed for pictures.
Then I somehow managed my way back to my seat — after a quick hug to Sue, the PR rep taking photos… whom I also thanked profusely. The gentleman who used my camera gave it back, I thanked him several times, as well, then I sat back down and tried to stop shaking.
A few questions from the audience later — what the Q was or the A that followed, I couldn’t tell ya — then the whole thing was over. Just like that.
When the lights came up and the crowd began exiting, the first thing I did was dial my husband. It’s the normal response when a long-time married woman hugs another man, right? Tell your husband?
I simply had to share with Jim.
And Jim was immediately jealous — jealous that he didn’t get to hug Andy Garcia!
But as he always is, my husband was thrilled for me.
“Was it a good hug?” he asked, as he and I put a lot of stock in a person’s hug, agree that so much of one’s character is revealed in their hugs.
I confirmed that it was.
And it certainly was.
Such a wonderful hug from a good, good man.
One truly unexpected, truly unforgettable moment.
Thank you, Andy Garcia.
— Lisa Carpenter
Lisa Carpenter is a freelance writer, most often for Grandparents.com, NextAvenue and The Huffington Post. She blogs at Grandma’s Briefs. One of her posts, “The grandma in a box,” was named the 2013 BlogHer Voices of the Year People’s Choice selection in the humor category.
(Leslie Marinelli, editor of You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth and Other Things You’ll Only Hear from Your Friends In The Powder Room, gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the book. Besides Marinelli, the book features pieces by six other EBWW alumnae (Dawn Weber, Wendi Aarons, Shari Simpson, Alexandra Rosas, Julie Stamper and Su “The Suniverse” ) as well as a recent Humor Writer of the Month, Abby Heugel. Marinelli is editor-in-chief of In The Powder Room, an online global community for women. She blogs at The Bearded Iris: A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All.)
What’s the premise behind the book?
“You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth” is a humor anthology of 39 original short stories written for women, by women, about being women — bodily changes, relationships, careers, motherhood, aging, etc. These are the kind of brutally honest, embarrassing stories women usually only tell their closest friends, often from within the haven of a ladies’ room. So aside from the voyeuristic entertainment value, the purpose of this book is to forge connections between women and help readers experience the solidarity of those “me, too!” moments that happen when friends reveal their deep dark secrets with humor and heart.
What’s been the response?
The response has been incredible. Right out of the gate we became the #1 top-selling book in our category on Amazon, and for several weeks following that we were the #1 top-rated humor book on Amazon as well. Based on the overwhelmingly positive reviews, there seems to be a real hunger out there right now for authentic and somewhat edgy women’s humor.
How long did it take to produce the book, from soliciting pieces and editing to production?
It took about four months total from creating the book cover to publishing, but we had a small team of editors working around the clock with caffeine IVs and adult diapers to pull that off.
How did you find a publisher? Why did you choose to self publish?
Choosing to self-publish was a no-brainer for us. The beauty of independent publishing (or “artisanal publishing” according to Guy Kawasaki) is that you maintain 100 percent control over your product and you get to keep the lion’s share of the profits. In The Powder Room has been around since 2009 honing our skills in humor writing, curating, editing, online publishing, and marketing. So extending our online community to include published books was just a natural progression for us.
How have you marketed the book?
Most of our marketing at this point has been through word of mouth…mainly by my mother who has bought and distributed 20 copies (and counting). If she buys any more, I’m going to have to make her a shareholder. Truly, though, this is the kind of book that women love so much they’re buying it for all the other women in their lives. We also have a built-in marketing team of 40 very enthusiastic co-authors who are out there proudly sharing it across their social networks. It’s really been a thrill to watch them take so much pride in the book, and rightly so — the competition was pretty fierce to earn one of the 39 coveted spots in the book, which is one of the reasons why the quality of the content is so extraordinary.
What tips would you give other writers who have a book in them?
My number one tip is to hire a professional graphic designer to create your cover. (We used Lisa Knight of Designs Done Now.) This is critical! The whole “Don’t judge a book by its cover” cliché exists because people really DO judge books by their covers. Also, make your book available in as many e-reader formats as you can. E-books are a win-win: the price point for customers is better, and your profit margin is much higher.
The single greatest lesson you learned from the experience?
As a humor writer, the single greatest lesson I learned was to swallow my pride, expose my jugular, and seek input from peers during the writing process. In addition to the professional editing I received from my team (Di Hayman and Kim Bongiono), I also sent a draft of my story to Abby Heugel (Abby Has Issues) and Julie Stamper (A Day in the Wife), two of my co-authors whose writing style and humor felt similar to my own, and they both gave me invaluable advice for how to improve my story.
As an editor and book publisher, the learning curve was pretty steep! I definitely learned to outsource some of the administrative and formatting tasks next time. But overall, the experience and final product were so fulfilling that we are already working on the sequel. Look for “How Can You Laugh at a Time Like This?” an anthology about finding the funny in the face of tragedy, early next spring!
As a little girl I used to keep a journal of all my thoughts and dreams. I haven’t done that in years, and it occurred to me that now would be the perfect time to start a new journal after something miraculous happened to me.
How good it felt to leave my worries behind, waving good-bye to anxiety and stress and welcoming calmness back into my soul.
A miracle happened to me on this trip. My non-disabled body was returned for four glorious days while in Santa Fe. With no humidity, I was able to spend an entire day — AN ENTIRE DAY — fully awake and functioning without the need to nap. My legs and arms were never weak. I felt like I did 30 years ago.
It was phenomenal, and something I won’t soon forget.
How sweet it was to start our journey by spending time with family in Scottsdale that I rarely see and to renew relationships kept on hold while life continues to take us in different directions.
My journey continued to Santa Fe as I joyfully celebrated my silver wedding anniversary with Gary. It was a blessing. We spent quality time together in an area where art, architecture and landscape intersect to create a Mecca of beauty in a quaint, picturesque town.
It was thrilling to be here because this trip has always been on our l-o-n-g Bucket List.
I could breathe again and be myself. Wearing scarves, boots and turquoise, I fit right in with the rhythm of the creative culture.
The adobe buildings were captivating, housing unique galleries, museums, restaurants, shops and homes that colorfully dot the landscape.
Walking along the unique Canyon Road was bedazzling. As we took our time strolling along the area, we discovered that each adobe building housed new and creative artistic treasures of sculptures, jewelry and paintings.
The nature in Santa Fe reinvigorated me. We drove our rental car out of the city and into the narrow two-lane highway of High Road that brought us into the majestic mountains that offered breathtaking views at every turn.
Along the way we stopped at several charming galleries and walked around El Santuario de Chimayó, a National Historic Landmark church that is famous for the 300,000 yearly visitors it receives in search of their holy healing dirt.
We fell in love with one gallery in particular because of the sweet nature of the artist/owners, their creative pieces of art and the magnificent property they’ve owned for more than 30 years.
I imagined myself sitting outside, listening to the wind chimes created by the owners, surrounded by the beauty of the mountains.
We could finally understand why Georgia O’Keefe moved from New York to Santa Fe after losing her husband, famed photographer Alfred Stieglitz. To be alone with her art, and with the landscape she loved. Now it all made sense.
I loved the blending of Native American, Latino, White and Asian cultures who peacefully coexisted. I loved the vibrant colors of the textiles, jewelry, clothing and artwork.
Every meal was another adventure in delicious cuisine, whether it was authentic New Mexican or French food, or a small bakery (Sage Bakehouse) where using only organic, farm fresh ingredients is important to them. Their policy of providing leftover food to charities that feed the poor endeared them to me.
There was so much to explore, and we made a concerted effort to live fully in every moment, savoring each experience together while toasting to the next 25 wonderful years together.
With love and thanks,
A Grateful Girl
— Cathy Chester
Cathy Chester is a writer and health advocate from New Jersey whose blog, An Empowered Spirit, helps people live a healthy and vibrant life after 50. She’s a blogger/moderator for The Huffington Post, MultipleSclerosis.net and Healthline.com. She’s a peer advocate who also provides professional education presentations on behalf of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to nursing homes about the basics of living with MS.
I made it into the Top 13 of Blogger Idol, the premier blogging contest for bloggers, and my first assignment was to write a eulogy for myself. Yuck. As someone who is relentlessly optimistic, this is not a topic I want to think about. And, honestly, I don’t need people gushing on about me; I’d rather they just adopt whatever positive qualities they think I had and find a way to use them for good.
I know a eulogy is totally dependent on who’s giving it, so I thought long and hard about whose voice I should use. My husband’s? No. He’d be very funny but he’s always threatened to memorialize my tendency to procrastinate by etching “I’m gonna …” on my tombstone. My kids’? No. Death is probably a good time for me to finally stop trying to control their lives.
So, in order to present myself in the best light, I decided my eulogy should be written by Jessie, my beloved Newfoundland, who passed away last year at almost 12 years old. Ultimately, I hope I really am the person my dog thought I was.
My tail is wagging like crazy and I can’t stop pacing and panting.
I’m going to see Lois!
I remember we once watched a movie together called What Dreams May Come, and there’s a scene where Katie welcomes her human dad to Heaven. Lois cried hysterically and held me tight. I tried to wiggle out of her arms because she was making me a little claustrophobic, but now I can’t wait for her to do that again. I’ve missed her so much.
Lois took me to the dog park every single morning for years and years, even though she hated getting up that early, because she knew how much I loved it. She was excited to share her lunch with me — “Oh, Jess, look what I have” were some of my favorite words — and if I brought a toy over to her while she was sitting and working, she always stopped to play tug of war.
Lois laughed a lot. I didn’t usually understand why, but it made me feel warm and happy. She used to say I sometimes smelled like a baked good (knowing how much she loved baked goods, that’s a huge compliment), and I want her to realize those are the times I felt so content, I must literally have been exuding sweetness. By the way, my sensitive nose picked up that same scent from everyone Lois came in contact with. She pretty much made us all feel like royalty.
Sometimes, when Lois was hugging her other kids or snuggling with Michael, I’d feel a little jealous and would have to nudge my way in between them. She’d scratch my head on that spot I like, give me a kiss and make room for me. I noticed she always made room for those who needed her.
Lois had so many amazing people in her life, and I got to meet many of them. Anyone who gave me the cold shoulder eventually got the cold shoulder back from her. She was fiercely protective of the ones she loved, like a Mama Newf with her pups.
When I got sick, Lois explained why she had to give me shots. Each one was followed up by an enthusiastic “Good girl!” and a soft, soothing rub on the sore spot. When I couldn’t climb steps any more, she would sleep downstairs with me if I barked because I wanted company. She even sang to me, which I know came from a good place although it sometimes made me want to put her Bose noise-cancelling headphones on my sensitive ears.
I still think of all the times Lois told her friends about the beautiful sense of peace I brought to the house. I want to show her she always did the same for me.
So I will greet her with the same unbridled exuberance I felt every time she came home. I will lick every inch of her face, jump on her to get as close as I can and make little — maybe big — sounds of joy. I will probably smell like a baked good.
And I will celebrate the fact that it’s now her turn to “sit” and “stay.”
— Lois Alter Mark
Lois Alter Mark blogs at Midlife at the Oasis and The Huffington Post. She won BlogHer Voices of the Year Awards in 2012 and 2013. After being selected as an Ultimate Viewer by Oprah, she accompanied her to Australia on the trip of a lifetime.
Last week Madam and I tried something new, a themed road trip. I needed fodder for my next book, and she hoped to point her book club cronies to a more inspiring topic than Senate filibuster. So, we decided to create the First Annual Up North Happiness Project. Surely it would be more fun than polarized politics and safer than last year’s project — recovering Madam’s stolen horse from Nowthen, Texas.
So I dusted off the Rand McNally Road Atlas, and chose a destination — Ely, Minn., home to North Pole dogsled explorer extraordinaire, Will Steger. It made a perfect spot to launch some lofty happiness goals. Madam invited friends Monica and Miss Vicki to join us. Then, in honor of our first happiness project resolution, Just Say Yes, she also invited Pooch One, Pooch Two and the Fluff Muffin Cat.
Ely is located approximately three rest stops and one doggie throw-up north of Saint Paul. That combined with Madam’s checkered past operating GPS made it a longish drive. Yet, the drive time and the Fluff Muffin’s erratic use of his litter box provided ample opportunity for each passenger to exercise resolution number two, Lighten Up.
The Happiness Project author, Gretchen Rubin, surely would have approved of our third resolution, Spread the Joy. It applied nicely to the birthday celebration we held in honor of Monica. Not only did the party include a fabulous soufflé cake and several bottles of chardonnay, it transformed our happiness blueprint into an AARP enterprise. In other words, the discussion veered sharply from men to Medicare and high-fiber food.
Night one, the women washed party dishes, picked up the cabin and tucked themselves into their cozy beds by nine bells. About midnight, a woodland creature attempted to make entry through an open window. Apparently the women believed the crackling sound came from a bear because they sprang out of bed as if someone had sounded a tornado siren. Madam shouted safety instructions and waved a canister of Mace pepper spray that she mistook for a flashlight. Pooches one and two barked bravely at the possibility of menacing wildlife. All the while, the Fluff Muffin reclined on the kitchen counter where he entertained a small field mouse. The terrified mouse was attempting to transport an M&M chocolate bar to his abode before the Fluff Muffin caught up to him. The candy wrapper made a fearsome crackling sound that no doubt prompted a bear alert. So much for lessons learned from the wildlife expert we just met at the Ely Bear Center.
Anyhoo, in the interest of happiness resolution number four, Be More Inclusive, Madam chased away the cat and prepared a plate of quiet food for the mouse. This meant the candy wrapper had to go, but the tiny intruder could still enjoy a peanut butter sandwich without waking any intrepid campers.
As for the Up North Happiness Project, I’d say it lost a few points in wildlife identification but made up for it in field mouse hospitality.
— Noah Vail
Noah Vail and Mary Farr have collaborated on the newly published book, Never Say Neigh: An Adventure in Fun, Funny and the Power of You. Noah, author, philosopher, humorist, gin rummy ace and all-around “good news sort of guy” blogs here.
I recently faced my deep fear of needles and became a heroin addict gave blood. I decided to go for it for the same reason everyone else does: the free cookies and juice afterwards.
On the drive there, I hit two squirrels and a porcupine tried to block out the image of childbirth and the nurse trying for 45 minutes to ram the IV into my arm saying, “These aren’t veins. They’re pencil marks. Let her die.” When I arrived at the donor clinic, I couldn’t help but notice the decor. The entire place screamed blood: red walls, red chairs and red dots which I saw just before I went down like Miley Cyrus’s pants. When I came to I was asked to wear a special badge that read: DO NOT RESUSCITATE I’M A FIRST-TIME DONOR.
Next, a nurse asked me some questions and before I could say, “Get me the f@!! out of here” she whipped out a needle and stabbed my Peter Pointer. I blurted, “Owie! That hurt like hell but I saved a life right? Book me in for three months and point me towards the cookies!”
Apparently that didn’t constitute ‘giving blood’; it was merely a quality check on my red junk. (Paranoid freaks). After a 60-minute self-imposed breather, I moved on to the next stage: a questionnaire. I was appalled by some of the questions:
Have you ever taken a human pituitary growth hormone?
Have you in the last six months handled monkeys or their bodily fluids?
Have you pole-danced naked in Saudi Arabia followed by a blood transfusion and rabies shot?
Equal parts impressed and mortified by their astute fact-checking, I answered: Who wants to know?
Two hours, a change of clothes, (I don’t want to talk about it) and an affidavit (I don’t want to talk about it) later, and I was fighting for my life in the bloodletting chair. A young nurse came at me with a tranquilizer gun smile, examined my arm and remarked, “You are an android.” After Guinness World Book of Records left, the nurse found a vein. The vein was having a ‘me’ day and didn’t want to be found so it popped the needle out. Which hurt. A senior nurse suggested I stop yelling: “How would you like it if I did this to you??” try the other arm but assured me I need not feel pressure to stay. I hesitated but then I remembered the bigger picture and asked, “Will I still get a cookie if I bail now?”
With the help of three burly donors-turned-bodyguards, the nurse successfully inserted the needle. She said my blood was like unstrained porridge and gave me little tips to make it flow better: squeeze my hand, wiggle my fingers and do the Hokey Pokey upside down. I floated in and out of consciousness for an hour while a hot doctor dabbed my forehead with a warm cloth and told me I was the bravest, most beautiful woman he’d ever met and then it was over. I got another special badge: NURSES HATE ME I GAVE BLOOD.
In the end, it wasn’t worth it. I felt used. The cookies were a massive downer (pre-packaged and hardly the warm homemade macadamia chocolate chip number I’d imagined), the juice was warm, and I wasn’t even offered a manicure fluffy robe. Frig that. I just don’t get the point of being a bloody donor. Give me one reason, besides saving a life, anyone would do it.
— Colleen Landry
Colleen Landry has been writing since she was a child weaving tales of magic turtles and princesses. Now a fully grown (ish) adult, her writing offers very little magic but lots of laughs. Colleen thinks laughing at life’s stages is healing and infectious. She has been published in Canadian Living magazine and the Globe and Mail, as well as various local newspapers. Colleen also teaches high school writing in an online environment where discipline is as simple as ‘Ctrl’ ‘Alt’ ‘Delete.’ She is married and has two teenage sons who eat even while asleep. Follow her on Twitter @LandryColleen and enjoy her blog.
It seems like I’m constantly stumbling across references to “The New 50.” “50 is the new 40″ articles and posters crop up online and on Facebook seemingly by the minute, assuring us to whom it matters that we may be 50-something, but we can look 40-something. Not as easy as it sounds.
For many of us, our 50s are an age where we begin to struggle with issues that seem to have cropped up overnight. (I swear I gained 10 pounds the day I turned 50, and they’ve permanently parked themselves across my midsection with the tenacity of chewing gum in a toddler’s hair.) Suddenly phrases like “age-appropriate” filter into our clothes shopping, makeup we’ve worn forever now looks somehow wrong, and we’re wondering if we should grow our super-short hair into a more flattering length, but aren’t quite sure what that is.
Having been in the retail beauty business since the invention of lip gloss (I was teaching for Estee Lauder in Canada the year they introduced the first Clinique counter into the country. God, I’m officially older than dirt), I’ve learned that the best source of beauty advice is, not surprisingly, other women. Women are wonderfully willing to share insider secrets and tips, and I’ve yet to meet a beautiful woman who’s tired of being asked how exactly she got that way. I’ve collected dozens of tips over the years on how to age well, and what I’ve learned is that what you don’t do is as important as what you do. So I’m sharing my most-repeated advice from gorgeous women with you (because I’m generous that way).
Top 10 Things to Avoid to Not Look Old:
1. Mom jeans. High-waisted, tapered or cropped at the ankle, and made of heavy denim that adds the equivalent of a backwards fanny pack right where most of us need it the least. The belly. You don’t need to pay $175 for flattering jeans, but you do need to shop at stores whose names don’t end in “Mart.”
2. Bad bras. Ill-fitted, with not enough support for two Chiclets, much less gravity-assaulted beagle ears. By your 50s, it’s time to start buying bras that actually fit and that get ‘em up there. Keep the lacy, dental floss styles for the bedroom.
3. Overdone makeup. Heavy foundation falls into the cracks, red lipstick bleeds, and thick eyeliner starts looking a little “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.” Lighten up. You’ll look years younger and your pillowcases won’t look like a four-color Rorschach test every morning.
4. Mall hair. If your bangs resemble a large cauliflower floret attached to the center of your forehead, it’s time to rethink your stylist. I’m not sure why hair schools teach that unfortunate cut, but they must, because it’s everywhere in rural America. Repeat after me. Bangs should not look like they sprouted from your forehead, independently of the rest of your hair.
5. Baggy, oversize clothes. If you could fit a hamhock up under your shirt, I guarantee you that you look heavier and older than your years. Baggy clothes don’t hide middle-age weight gain. They draw attention to it by suggesting you’re actually filling up all that space. Think maternity clothes. What woman ever looked thinner in anything called a “smock”? Find a style that flatters your shape, then buy every color they make.
6. Conversely, your daughter’s clothes. This is a epitome of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Yippee for you (and I mean that. Really, I do) that you’re 55 and still wear a size 2, but this does not give you free rein to root through your size-2, 17-year-old daughter’s closet for what to wear to your high school reunion. Trust me, everyone will know how tiny you still are, even without the midriff-baring top and the vagina-peeking skirt.
7. No sunscreen. Very few things turn our faces into the backside of a saddlebag faster than sun exposure. Wear a minimum of 15 SPF. Every. Single. Day. And don’t be saying, “Well, I use sunscreen in the summer.” Swell, except that 80% of premature aging comes from UVA rays. The year-round ones that cut through clouds and glass, that we’re exposed to when we go get the mail. In February. And for those of you still using tanning beds… STOP THAT.
8. Church Lady clothes. Skirts longer than your va-jay-jay doesn’t mean a drab A-line down to your mid-calf, and less cleavage doesn’t mean buttoned up to your upper clavicle with a white Peter Pan collar and matching self-belt. If Laura Ingalls Wilder wore it to church on Little House, you shouldn’t be wearing it, ever. There are lots of choices out there that celebrate our shapes and sexuality (gasp!) without shoving it all up people’s business. If you’re not sure, grab a well-dressed girlfriend to go shopping with you and agree to try on every single thing she brings you. You’ll both have a ball.
9. Too thin. I added this one because I love you. Yep, too thin can be aging. The body and face need a little padding to soften lines and smooth the skin, making us look healthier and (there is a God) younger. After raising six kids, my mother mastered the art of brevity in life lessons and told her girls, “At a certain age, a woman has to choose between her face and her ass.” Bless you, Mom. So have a piece of cheesecake. And a glass of wine. Your face will thank you.
10. Woman on Top. Then there’s my Grammy, whose pithy wisdom I still miss every day. Years ago, she instructed me to grab a large mirror and lay it on the floor, then kneel over it on all fours. Look down. That’s what your partner sees when you’re on top. (Go ahead and try it. We’ll wait.) If your face skin falls forward like a TV ad for the Life Style Lift, or your boobs dangle like two sock puppets on a clothes line and your belly drops low enough to sway to the beat, it’s time to get underneath or consider dimming the lights. Hubs and I have been doing it in the dark since I was in my 40s. He blames it on childhood nightmares. He has no idea.
(Author’s disclaimer: I don’t follow all of these rules, so don’t take lessons from me. Most of the time, I’m an insecure mess who does as much wrong as right. But fortunately, I have a lot of beautiful friends.)
— Vikki Claflin
Oregon writer Vikki Claflin writes the popular humor blog, Laugh Lines. Two recent pieces have been published in “Life Well Blogged, Parenting Gag Reels, Hilarious Writes and Wrongs,” sold through Amazon.com.
I love riding my bicycle and I adore playing with my cats, Shilalie and Shmeekie. So, shoot me already. Both activities bring out the kid inside of me. Makes me feel 70 again and all that rot. Unsurprisingly, my children think I’m beyond foolish, hinting that Poppy must be entering his second childhood.
That’s ridiculous. I’m still in my first.
I moved to a retirement housing complex recently. While observing “Poppy’s reckless passion for biking,” my new neighbors smile patronizingly when they notice me pumping along with my hands off the handle bars. (I’m such a showoff). I imagine they’re thinking that the old boy is out to recapture his youth.
Poppycock. The old boy is in his prime, baby.
Until lately, the only thing the neighbors have known about Poppy is that he’s quite the biker. They know nothing about my very favorite childhood passion. Cats. Now I’ve decided I should probably tell them about my felines. Here’s why:
Shilalie and Shmeekie love for me to blow bubbles. It’s become a daily ritual. After dipping a tiny wand into a solution of bubble-soap, I blow on it and fill the room with eclectic-sized bubbles. Last weekend, while proudly blowing bubbles for the little brats, I felt human eyes upon me.
I turned and looked directly into the bugging eyeballs of an elderly couple passing by my window. Recognizing them as neighbors, I started to wave. Then I noticed they were studying me with unequivocal pity. Shaking their heads in mock melancholy, they walked away.
What’s so pathetic about my blowing bubbles for my cats?
Then I realized that the Norfolk Island Pine plants in my apartment had considerably obstructed the neighbors’ view. They could easily see me blowing bubbles –– but they couldn’t possible have seen my cats. Now they surely believe that I’m just an old man who likes to recklessly ride bikes in public and blow bubbles in private. No enigma. No mystique. Just Grandpa Goofus at large.
Henceforth, while sunning my plants, I must be particularly careful because nosey neighbors suddenly love to peek in my windows. Today I was engaged in articulation exercises for a throat condition. My routine was interrupted when I heard muffled snickers. It turned out to be three neighbors blatantly propped against my window, observing me as I uttered nonsense syllables and mimicked the sound of a horse.
Good thing I keep my drapes drawn at night. Pronto at 11 p.m. Poppy parties heartily with his stuffed animal collection. Don’t ask. Perhaps tomorrow I should take my stuffed animals for a bike ride while blowing bubbles and reciting my speech exercises.
— Steve Eskew
Retired businessman Steve Eskew received master’s degrees in dramatic arts and communication studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha after he turned 50. After one of his professors asked him to write a theater column, he began a career as a journalist at The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This led to hundreds of publications in a number of newspapers, most of which appear on his website, eskewtotherescue.com.