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School closings and delays

Cindy Argiento Wintertime is the time for school closings and delays. The weatherman predicted snow overnight. DOT crews were reported to be preparing, which makes me laugh because what they really mean is they pray (really hard) that it doesn’t snow. Where I live everything shuts down when it snows. Even the plows get confused and stay huddled inside. One snowflake and everything comes to a grinding halt.

We got our ‘school is delayed 2 hours’ phone call at 5:30 a.m. It boggles the mind to think they wake us up to let us know school’s delayed and we can sleep an extra two hours, but I never do fall back to sleep. I want to wrap my hands around the genius who invented this program.

Remember the olden days when we found out the distressing news by reading the crawl at the bottom of the television screen. As I read the list of closings I’d get more and more anxious as it got to my daughter’s school. I would cross my fingers and all body parts that could be crossed for good measure. I would make a pact with God if her school was open, I would never again use the Lord’s name in vain. Her school popped up on the screen — CLOSED. *** Dammit! I renewed my pact.

One night my husband and I were watching TV when a ticker popped up, alerting us my daughter’s school was closed due to inclement weather. Infuriated, I ranted and raved about the lunatics who would close the schools because it snowed in Alaska. This was safety overkill. This was ***! My husband told me we were watching a show we recorded back in January, six months earlier. Our daughter was on summer vacation. Just the thought had me frazzled and renewing my pact.

Then there was the morning my daughter waited for the bus for two hours. After two hours she came inside and asked, “Are you sure there’s school today? I’ve been waiting two *** hours!” Turned out the show I was watching was another old, recorded show and instead of it being 75 and sunny, it was 12 degrees and snowing. School closed! *** Dammit!

I renewed my pact with God and my daughter made her first one. I don’t know where she learned such language.

— Cindy Argiento

Cindy Argiento’s first column appeared in the Greensboro News and Record as a Personal Ads feature on April 30, 2002. Later that year, her first “As I See It” column appeared in the High Point Enterprise, where it would become a regular feature for several years. Her columns also have appeared in the Reidsville Review, Eden Daily News, Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Freelance, Hopewell News and Foothills Paper. Other essays have appeared in Chicken Soup For the Soul books, Family Matters and Married Life. Three of her pieces were recognized as a finalist, semi-finalist and honorable mention in HumorPress.com “America’s Funniest Humor” writing contest. She blogs at Cindy’s World.

How many awkward phases should one person have?

Kelly MarksIn fifth grade, I went through what you would call my “awkward” phase.

I was at a new school, with new braces that were zig-zagged across my teeth (no one warns you that the yellow bands just make your teeth look perpetually un-brushed), and I was a bit of a tomboy. I wore a lot of red and navy. That phase was a struggle.

But eventually, I started to make friends, the braces got a little straighter, and by junior high they were off completely. Things were good. I got a little less awkward, I learned about bras and shaving, and I started finding my own style. I was on a competitive year-round swim team where I met great friends and stayed in mostly decent shape through my high school years.

Senior year hit, though, and that awkwardness started creeping its uninvited self back in. I was putting on the pounds like I was on some sort of mission. I also had acne galore and accidentally bleached my eyebrows orange by using my zit cream too close to the hair. My brother called me “orange brow” for six months. For a 17-year-old girl, it was an upsetting time. I visited doctor after doctor. Most of them were jerks of the highest form who told me I was eating too much. Some listened, but had no answers. Then I learned my awkward phase of plumpness and acne had a name.

I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) at the ripe ‘ol age of 17. My ovaries were pissed off, causing my hormones to go wonky, causing me to gain weight and have some accelerated hair growth (yay!). I got put on birth control and Metformin (helps regulate blood glucose), and after a couple of months the weight started coming off. I thought to myself, “This is fine, totally manageable. These two magic pills keep me skinny!” Clearly my younger self was a bit too concerned with appearance. I stayed on this course of treatment, enjoyed college, graduated, joined the working class and eventually got married. My PCOS was always somewhat at the back of my mind, but mostly forgotten about.

Over the course of our relationship and marriage, I put some of that unwanted weight back on. I didn’t think much about it, I was in love and happy. People always warn you about those “love pounds.” You start mirroring your husband’s eating habits, and before you know it, you are eating just as much as him. Or is that just me? It wasn’t until this year when we started trying for a baby that my somewhat forgotten PCOS came front and center. I’ve come to find out that I have dysfunctional lady bits. That’s what I am calling my blasted cyst-covered ovaries. Long story short, I have had so many up-the-hootie ultrasounds that I am practically glowing, and the hormones I have been on make me an exceptionally pleasant person. Just ask my husband.

Now all of the struggle, the emotions, the tests, that’s all fine and dandy. I mean some days it’s not. Some days I feel like nursing a case of wine and a pan of brownies. Infertility is a real bitch. But for the most part, we have kept our humor.

So it pains me to say that about a week ago, I had a meltdown. Not over the fact that we still aren’t pregnant, and not over the fact that the husband and I don’t always agree on our next plan of action. Nope. My meltdown came as I was in the car, driving to book club. It started out as a good day. I showered, shaved my legs, ate healthy, and was spending the evening with friends. But then, at a stop light, I look up at the rear-view mirror and the sun hits my mustache just right. Wait, rewind, what? Yes, my mustache. I had realized that the hormones caused me to gain weight. And I was irritable. I thought that was all par for the course. But a mustache?? That took it too far. I had now entered the worst awkward phase of my life thus far. I called my mom in a panic and the conversation went something like this:

“Mom, I am regressing. You’re supposed to have your awkward phase as a child, and I already had one of those. I’m going backward.”

“Now, Kelly, calm down, it’s okay.”

“HOW IS THIS OKAY?? My lady bits don’t work, I weigh as much as a small man, and now I have a MUSTACHE!”

“Kelly, I’m sure it’s not that bad. You’re beautiful.”

“You have to say that, you’re my mother.”

My poor mama. Always there with a listening ear and comforting words for her dramatic daughter. So, that is where I am at. Awkward phase number three. Having discovered said mustache, I did what any normal woman would do. I had my sister wax it with a home waxing kit while I sat in a chair in her kitchen. It hurt, and now my lip is broken out, but I won the mustache battle (or so I keep telling myself). I am not sure how long awkward phase number three is planning to hang around. Hopefully not too long.

And please, dear Lord, let there not be a number four.

— Kelly Marks

Kelly Marks is a pediatric nurse living in Texas with her husband and their Great Dane, Gus. Kelly blogs at wifelifeandbooks.com where you can find her sarcastic (and sometimes serious) take on life. She loves books, wine and chocolate. Her doctor recently told her she has to adopt a gluten-free lifestyle, so she now loves wine even more.

Of Christmas lights and memories bright

Sharon L. CookTwenty years ago my father died on Christmas morning. He was 100 years old. For a long time my feelings about the holiday were tinged with sadness.

Yet time, mercifully, has a way of easing pain. Moreover, my dad, who enjoyed a good laugh, wouldn’t want his family to be solemn. And while I can’t work myself up to being “joyous,” I can appreciate the humor and warmth inherent in this family holiday.

My son, as a toddler, was not only joyous at Christmas, he was delirious. Very early Christmas morning, he raced into our room. “Mom! Dad! It’s Christmas!” Like countless other parents, we’d been up late wrapping presents and attempting to assemble toys. Thus, when my son didn’t get a response, he went to his father’s side of the bed.

“Dad, it’s Christmas,” he repeated in his ear. In case his father needed more encouragement, he took his glass baby bottle and clunked him on the head. Even I heard that. Needless to say, my husband did not awaken with joy in his heart. Not one bit.

The following year this same boy and his friend, Nicky, took it upon themselves to open all the presents under our tree. They claimed they were “helping.” More than a dozen gifts from friends and relatives lay exposed, the wrapping paper scattered. By process of elimination, we identified many of the givers. Yet whoever bestowed the battery-powered socks (Hot Sox) remains a mystery to this day.

In any event, those socks came in handy. The following December, four days before Christmas, I took my son to the ASPCA shelter, then located on Highland Avenue in Salem. I wanted to make a donation and, at the same time, teach him a lesson about giving. What was I thinking? We walked out of the shelter with an 8-week-old Lab/husky puppy. I had plenty of time to think about that lesson while staring up at a January moon, waiting for Tubbs to “go toity.” At least my feet were warm.

Tubbs wasn’t the only family dog who enjoyed Christmas. Gaylord Farquhar, our basset hound, was always looking to score holiday treats. In fact, his sister, Shaddy, owned by my mother-in-law, starred in her own family legend when she grabbed the Christmas roast off the kitchen counter. The family, gathered at the dinner table, was unaware there would be no seconds on the beef.

Gaylord, too, found food sources everywhere, even the Christmas tree. One year the kids did traditional homemade decorations: strings of cranberries and popcorn as well as ornaments made of dough. Basset hounds are not fussy. Gaylord ate it all. Each time he raided the tree, it crashed to the floor, sometimes pinning him underneath. Although it scared him silly, he was back the next day, sniffing out any remaining popcorn kernels or bits of moldy bread dough. The denuded tree became a pitiful sight.

My husband also embraced a family tradition: displaying strings of lights originally from his grandmother’s house. “They don’t make lights like these anymore,” he boasted. Every year he got them out, carefully replacing burnt-out bulbs. However, plugging them in created showers of sparks that resulted in trips to the fuse box.

The ancient lights were threadbare, the material covering the cord ravaged by time and mice. Plugged in, they snapped, crackled and popped. Sparks flew everywhere, including onto Gaylord, sleeping nearby. Before long we smelled something acrid: Gaylord’s fur was smoking! My husband grabbed the watering can under the tree and doused him. Only then did Gaylord wake up.

After that, my husband gave up on his grandmother’s lights. Whether it was the blown fuses, the mini-shocks he received or the smoking dog, he reluctantly packed them away.

Yet they live on in our treasure trove of family holiday stories. Like the memories of my dad, they glow a little brighter with each retelling.

— Sharon L. Cook

Sharon L. Cook is author of A Nose for Hanky Panky and A Deadly Christmas Carol.

Change

Seph PetersAll the tourists had made a fairly swift retreat, leaving a sudden, yet peaceful sort of emptiness in their wake.

They had crossed back over the causeway, their phones and iPads filled with enough pictures of fiddle players and famous fall colors to give them the Facebook likes they fancied. This beautiful island was all but abandoned now. Nights had gotten cooler, mornings frosty.  The hardwood trees on the gently rolling hills of Cape Breton would soon bare their branches. The familiar sweet smell of decomposed leaves on the wet ground and change were in the air.

Cliché, I know, but seriously, how the hell else do you start a blog? … This is my blog. I hope you like it… Nah. Besides, there’s generally not much happening in Margaree at the end of October about which a fella might write.IMG_1284

So this is it. We went for a lot of walks, and this is the stuff we noticed on our walks. The trees, the quietness, the change of season, the echo of tunes. This, and enough coyote sh** to make a load of it in my dad’s manure spreader. In fact, some of it was so big that we started carrying walking sticks to protect us (from the coyotes, not the sh**). If there was a lot of big sh** around, there was probably a lot of big coyotes, and there’s nothing like an alder branch walking stick to fend off a pack of ravaging coyotes. In any case, I personally soaked in enough scenic rural family life over the last couple of months to get me through to the next time, which would always be soon.IMG_1117

Along with all of these geocentric rambles was a parallel change; the fact that my calendar looked as bleak as my bank account would, if we were to stick around. I had few gigs booked, and winter was looming like my next birthday, when I’d turn a year closer to possibly never being able to do something about this state of stagnation.IMG_1074

So in turning to the new “man’s best friend,” the Internet, I saw that the price of plane tickets looked good. Good, that is, until they would start quadrupling in price in less than a week.

We had five days to pack up our new little family.

— Seph Peters

Seph Peters is a 36-year-old musician from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. His blog chronicles the details of trying to move to Europe with his wife and 6 month-old, with minimal savings, on the false premise that it would be the same Europe he knew so well as a backpacker 15 to 20 years ago.

Then/Now
(Back in the day)

Tracy BucknerI noticed a sign outside a restaurant:

“No wifi.
Talk to each other.
Call your Mom.
Pretend it’s 1993.
Live.”

Normally I would agree.

I have made a career of complaining about NOW and how it was better THEN. And based on all the positive responses I get, many of you feel the same. But it’s like we have become our parents, grumbling and saying things like….

(Back in the day we didn’t need 600 online friends. We had five or six who were from the neighborhood who didn’t need to plug into anything to have fun, and were usually waiting outside to play ringalerio).

There’s a lot of complaining about today’s technology and what it’s done to us on a personal and social level, but I’ve started to embrace the fact that there are some real positives to being “plugged in.”

(Back in the day, we didn’t have texting. Your boyfriend had to break up with you in person)

THEN, there was the telephone. NOW, there’s texting. Without it I would never hear from my kids as much as I do. Granted it’s embarrassing when I text something to my son that was supposed to go to my brother, but as soon as I see “huh?” I know I’ve done something wrong. It’s also clear that I’m not quite getting through to my mother (who calls me every day, sometimes a few times a day) on the difference between texting and FaceTime. Patience, I remind myself. It will help me get into heaven. My daughter says, “Nanny’s face keeps appearing on my phone during class.” Practice patience, I tell her. It will help you get into heaven.

(Back in the day we had to read a map).

NOW, I couldn’t live without GPS.

THEN, I remember being in a constant state of lost. My blood pressure rising while valuable minutes slipped away. My way around this was 1-800-CALL-DAD, but first I had to find a phone booth and hope I had dimes. NOW, with GPS I’m never lost. My blood pressure remains constant while a sweet voice calmly recalculates without ever once saying “Lady, WTF?” My husband asks, “Don’t you want to have an idea of where you are going before you head off?” No. I do not.

(Back in the day we were happy with AM radio and the music was better).

NOW there’s my beloved IPOD. THEN I carpooled to middle school while a friend’s father insisted on listening to opera and wishing I had a pencil to stick in my eye. NOW I never have to listen to someone else’s music; not to mention all the great music apps that I don’t mind paying for in the least. And since everyone in my family, including my 84-year-old Dad, uses my password to share their music stations it’s very eclectic to say the least. Think the following playlists: John Phillip Sousa, Lil Wayne, Rolling Stones, Judy Garland, Bix Beidebecke, Country Fitness, Akon, 50 cent, Bruce, Broadway, Glenn Miller and NO OPERA.

But my all-time favorite thing about NOW is Google search and my personal assistant, SIRI. There’s something wonderful about typing the word eschatology on the dictionary app and instantly knowing what it means.

(Back when I was your age we had to walk over to the shelf and use a dictionary).

NOW I can find a solution to getting oil stains out of a sweater, if it’s safe to freeze chopped liver, how to mix a Moscow Mule. NOW we can look up a new drug for Alzheimer’s, listen to how a song is supposed to be played on the piano before practicing it wrong for two weeks, get a list for the best Caribbean vacation spots in December, amazing hotels, what they look like and some reviews. We can find the weather in Canberra and pack accordingly, track a flight, find cheap gas, check the NASDAQ, reserve a cab, map the stars at night and know how to perfectly poach a chicken…INSTANTLY!

(Back when I was your age, we had to read a cookbook).

And these are just my short list of what I love about NOW! So instead of complaining about the disappearance of all that was THEN, make your own list of what you are better for NOW. You might be happily surprised by all you have gained.

I was.

Then turn off your WIFI and go call your Mom. It will help you with your patience and getting into heaven.

— Tracy Buckner

Tracy Buckner contributes periodically to the Observer Tribune Newspaper of Chester, N.J., and blogs for the New Jersey Hills Newspaper, serving Madison, Chatham and Chester, N.J. She enjoys writing about the slow decline and vows to go down kicking and screaming. You can see read other pieces and sign up to follow her on her blog.

Mr. Tan Shoes and me at KFC

Jan WilbergThe other night at KFC, an older guy came in while I was waiting for my order. His hair was completely white and he wore those tan orthopedic shoes that are popular with folks fed up with pretending. He ordered a big bucket of chicken and two sides. Just like me.

I hadn’t been in a KFC in 10 years but the idea of fried chicken after a long day of helping a friend clear out her dead mother’s house seemed irresistible, so much so that I drove a mile past it and then made a U-turn, no mean trick in my husband’s new F-150 which has a turning radius of about a half mile. I went inside the KFC because ordering at the drive-thru makes me crazy. It’s indecipherable. Summed up as ‘what kind of sauce?’ What Kind of Sauce? WHAT KIND OF SAUCE? Screaming for food, I hate it. One of the queer life impediments of major hearing loss.

So I parked the silver bomber (aka the Chromemobile) and went inside.

“You know it makes a lot more sense to just get a small soda and fill it up than to get a big one.” He demonstrated by filling his small cup.

“So true,” I nodded, although this lesson has taken me many years to learn. The wisdom of age comes in these tiny droplets. Buy the small soda and refill it. You heard it here. From me on the mount.

His talking about soda made me want to have one. Suddenly, at that moment, there was nothing I wanted more than a small soda.

So I ordered one. The KFC guy handed me a cup, just a tad larger than what one might pee in at the doctor’s. “That is certainly small,” I said. Then he handed me a larger cup. So now I had two cups. There was dialogue that went along with all these cups but I only caught part of it. I’m a week into my new cochlear implant and, man, there is a ton of stuff I don’t get. Which is somewhat a what’s new situation but not.

After I got my soda and tossed the smaller cup in the trash, I continued waiting at the counter with Mr. Tan Shoes. He smiled at me. It seemed like he was trying to come up with another conversational gambit since the soda size topic kind of fizzled out.

You know where this is going. You can see it coming down the highway like a semi-truck hauling one of those mobile homes, big flags on either side and a little car in front warning the world of an “OVERSIZE LOAD.”

“So,” Mr. Tan Shoes said, leaning on the counter like he was waiting for another round of jello shots at the Christmas party and nodding in the direction of the ‘kitchen.’ I waited.

He shrugged and I could feel him wondering if we would have this one thing in common. Maybe it would be the start of something.

“Extra crispy or original recipe?”

Our eyes locked.

“Oh, original recipe,” I answered, frowning and shaking my head like I found just the thought of extra crispy to be beyond the pale. Unacceptable. Unorthodox. Trifling with the KFC brand. “Definitely original recipe,” I added, just to make sure I was in the right column. FOR original recipe. AGAINST extra crispy.

Then my order came up. At exactly the same moment, Mr. Tan Shoes and I said exactly the same thing, making me wonder later if I’d passed on a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“Have a good evening,” we chorused.

And we did, I think, each with our own perfect chicken.

— Jan Wilberg

Jan Wilberg writes about everything from national politics to outwitting rats in the basement with the help of her two sons. She is a mother, grandmother and a formerly hearing impaired person rejoicing in the miracle of her new cochlear implant. Her blog Red’s Wrap has a tagline that says it all: Happiness. It’s relative.

Apollo marries Adrian in Creed

Sammy SportfaceIn the new movie Creed, Apollo Creed marries Adrian and they have a baby named Creed. Rocky Balboa gets jealous because he was married to Adrian when he had those two fights with Apollo in Rocky I and II.

From Balboa’s perspective he and Adrian had a good life together. Sure, the marriage wasn’t perfect but none of them are.

But Apollo, whom Rocky thought he become good friends with, stole her away. Friends turn on each other from time to time.

Apollo seduced Adrian after Clubber Lang almost seduced her in Rocky III at a press conference on the steps of a Philadelphia government building in front of which was a statue of Rocky.

At that crowded event, Clubber invited Adrian to his place where she could get to know a real man, implying Balboa was not a real man. Lang, also known as Mr. T., claimed Balboa was afraid to take on Clubber in a title fight because Lang had a malicious Mohawk and was, according to Balboa’s trainer Mickey, a wrecking machine. Mickey died in that movie but reappears in the movie as Creed’s trainer.

Adrian never went to Clubber’s house — she feared his physique — but she always felt Apollo was handsome and neatly dressed. She especially like that he was articulate, a much smoother verbalizer of his thoughts than her unsophisticated husband who said “Yo” all the time.

She had been thinking lately if he said “Yo Adrian” to her one more time, that she would punch him in the face. There it was again: boxing. Always boxing.

Her life was always about the brutal sport since she met him at the bird and turtle store many years earlier when life was simpler. Like so many people, she longed for less complexity.

When Apollo helped train Balboa to fight Clubber in Rocky III, she saw how caring a person he was. He sprinted on the beach with her husband to get him ready to beat the Mohawk Wrecking Machine.

That showed he was a man of kindness and concern for someone other than himself.

Her attraction to Apollo intensified.

She also developed an attraction for Tommy Gunn, who fought Balboa in the streets of Philadelphia. But Gunn, she decided, was too young for her.

While yearning for less complexity, paradoxically she sought more of it.

She didn’t want to work in the store anymore where Rocky bought his turtles, Cuff and Link. She wanted more from her life, and felt unfulfilled being married to a guy who kept making movies about himself that ended up with him, in Rocky XVIVL, fighting a Russian and making a “jump the shark” political statement after he won that fight in his red, white and blue American flag boxing trunks.

Adrian got tired of her husband going back to the gym and working out for his next fight because he felt that’s all he knew how to do. The Rambo movies weren’t generating enough income or fame for her husband so he would always go back to his core competency of making another Rocky movie.

Rocky X, Rocky XI, Rocky LMX.

All this added up to a marriage gone stale. Many do.

The American dream had once again been shredded.

This is why she married Apollo. And because they were married, they had a baby named Creed. Married people create children.

Creed is a movie about a woman getting tired of her husband. It’s about a man moving in on another man’s wife. It’s about a man losing the only woman he ever loved but having to come to terms with the fact that he loved himself and making Rocky movies more.

This is about a man knowing deep down in his heart he was afraid of Clubber Lang and never wanted to fight him. But he knew he had to or Rocky III would not have had a fight. All his movies have to have a fight or they aren’t Rocky movies.

This is a movie about the young kid, Creed, who grows up in Philadelphia and drops out of high school. He starts to read books and writes a script for a movie called Creed about an unknown boxer in Philadephia getting a chance to fight the heavyweight champion of the world, Apollo Creed. No one in Hollywood thinks the movie will work.

Creed, son of Apollo who himself shockingly becomes a boxer, continues to knock on doors and believes this story about him being born the son of Apollo Creed and Adrian will be a mega-hit. Finally one movie producer agrees to make the movie but wants someone else to play the part of Creed because of Creed’s lack of acting experience.

Creed insists that he be the star of the movie or there will be no movie. The producer agrees yet doubts the project will be a box office hit.

Creed then starts training on how to box. He hooks up with a trainer named Mickey at a nasty gym in the Philadelphia slums. He is only half committed to this way of life but is making enough money to get by. In the movie’s opening scene, he fights a journeyman named Spider Rico and beats him by the length of a boxing glove.

Feeling lonely, Creed then goes to a small turtle and bird store because he’s attracted to the woman who stands at the cash register with her unattractive glasses on. He convinces her to go out with him and tells her, after seducing her up to his junk pile apartment, that he wants to kiss her.

“I just want to kiss you,” he says. “You don’t have to kiss me. But I want to kiss you.”

Though scared, she falls prey to the moment and human instincts. They embrace, smooch, and fall to the ground near the front door. One wonders, but it can be imagined, what happens after that.

Creed tells her he would rather fight Tommy Gunn than Apollo Creed because Creed, who is Creed’s dad, has quicker hands.

“If they want me to fight the fight, I’ll fight the fight but it has to be with Tommy Gunn in the streets,” Creed says. “His hands are slower than Apollo’s. I can’t stand it when Apollo pops me in the face before I see his fist coming at me.”

Creed changes his name to Rocky Balboa.

He makes a movie called Rocky. The star of the movie is Rocky Balboa.

Apollo takes her glasses off. He thinks she looks much prettier with her glasses off.

— Sammy Sportface

Sammy Sportface is possibly America’s best sports blogger. Sometimes relevant and insightful. Often funny and satirical. Only mildly interested in the truth. He’s written an ebook, Wipe That Smile Off Sammy Sportface, blogs at Sammysportface.com, can be found on Twitter and is accessible via email at sammysportface@gmail.com. His pieces appear frequently on the sports website, Ngscsports.com.

Place matters

Connie BerrySeriously, I just realized earlier today that I wrote an entire blog talking about how I’m 53. I’m 54. How do you spell denial?

Personally, I love aging. I was never a hot chick in a bikini anyway so I don’t really know what it’s like to feel devastated now that my breasts touch my belly button. They were halfway there when I was nine.

Maybe I just forgot that I’m 54. God knows I forget a whole lot of other stuff. This all comes to the forefront because I’ve recently watched that Still Alice movie. I’ve always liked Julianne Moore because she’s not your usual cleavage actress. But in Still Alice she really gets to me. She’s got the familial Alzheimer’s and it ain’t pretty. God love her for playing that part and at least bringing a discussion to the table.

The older I get the more I realize that courage is the most effective character trait you could ever have. Anybody can do a lot of stuff, but unless you’re willing to move out of the box and take on something completely foreign to you (and sometimes to everyone else) you aren’t going to make change happen. It’s like all those great quotes I’ve gathered over the years…be the change you want to see in the world….you must do the thing you think you cannot do. That stuff takes courage.

You’ll get talked about and you’ll get discouraged. And I wouldn’t suggest agitating anyone unless you are completely comfortable and prepared for what that means.

And I wouldn’t suggest a move of any kind in any direction in any part of your life unless you are okay with who you are. You gotta know yourself and you have to be okay with yourself before you really move forward in any direction. The beauty of this is that once you know yourself and you are okay with who you are, you have no boundaries. You can literally do anything because you know you can. The only one who limits you is you.

Now, if I could only apply that whole risk-taking mantra to myself, it might really make a difference in my life.

I was turned upside down when I lost my most recent job. Mostly because it meant I wasn’t contributing to my family’s livelihood. I have spent almost 20 years bringing home the biggest paycheck. And after all, isn’t that the most important thing for my family?

This is all a roundabout way of saying that I feel like a loser, with a big ol’ L on my forehead. I am definitely out of my comfort zone.

The fear of the unknown is weighing heavily on me now. I have a lack of confidence in my employment area that I’ve never known before and yet I’m at a place in my life where I feel better about everything else. I had no confidence at age 20; conversely at age 50 I just began to recognize all my awesome goodness.

I guess what I want to say is that your awesome goodness is always there; you just don’t know it. I could feel like crap because I’m in this crazy career limbo or I could keep thinking that the right thing will happen when it’s supposed to happen. And because I’m old, I have a lot of faith in the fact that whatever I’m supposed to do, it will present itself to me one way or another. And it won’t be the way I’m expecting and it won’t happen on my timeline. It will just happen. And I know it will. It always does.

— Connie Berry

Connie Berry grew up reading and loving Erma Bombeck. She is former editor of The Catholic Sun newspaper in Syracuse, N.Y., and a new resident of Martha’s Vineyard where she was copy editor for the Vineyard Gazette. She lives on the island with her husband and youngest son. Her two older children read her blog, thejoblessgoddess.blogspot.com, from Syracuse.

Reflections of Erma