Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween sounds wrong. Happy goes with Happy Birthday or Happy New Year or have a happy day. Halloween is not one of my favorite holidays although judging by the picture I’m showing, I thought it was then. According to the familar script on the back of the photo, I was five and it was my first Halloween costume. I don't recognize the background but I’m assuming it was taken in California where I was raised until I was five and a half. Proud of my costume and obviously so very happy and well-loved, still innocent of the evil and cruelties in life, I had no clue that that my life would change dramatically within a few months and I’d lose some of the people that I loved. I would move to Iowa and start life anew by the age of six.
My original plan was to write a few miscellaneous word fillers as I really only wanted to show off how adorable I was in my costume way back when. Yet this picture means so more to me. It was one that returned to me late in life and it haunts me, this happy little girl that I once was. Don’t we all study pictures of our youth, amazed that we were so full of life, joy, and innocence then? Don’t we all miss that part of us? Or maybe we still have it but are hiding it behind our masks? I know I do.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Class #2 on "Successful Retirement Planning"

While out one night with friends a few weeks ago, I accidently told them about one of my less sterling driving episodes. What prompted me to true confessions was their teasing me about my driving. Being competitive in some ways, I merely wanted them to know that my Iowan left turn they had just observed was nothing compared to my adventure of driving backwards. I prefaced the anecdote with my boast of “I’m really a very good driver. I’ve never hit anything moving.”

I then proceeded to tell them about my last accident fifteen years ago. It was Mother’s Day and I had a lunch date with a tall, dark and handsome son. On my way to Arlington, I heard a terrible noise coming from what I thought was a tire. Being a safe and caution driver, I exited off the freeway and pulled into an empty parking lot to check things out. Everything seemed fine so I got back into my car and looked at the clock. Late for my date. I put the car in reverse to turn around and gave it some gas. Hum. I didn't get very far. Had I hit the brake instead of the gas pedal? I floored the gas pedal a second time. Again I didn’t get very far and my head and neck were starting to take a beating from the head rest. What was the problem? I rechecked the rear view mirror and saw nothing to stop me. Getting a headache and becoming frustrated, I decided to give it my all to the gas pedal. Third time had to be a charm, right? My car rose to the occasion. Literally. When the car stopped, its rear was up in the air. Getting out I realized that my car was resting on top of a brightly orange painted cement post.

Now my friends who claim they keep me around for entertainment purposes only thought that this was a really funny story. So did everyone else I told when it originally happened. Did I feel pretty stupid? Yep. But in my defense, the post hadn’t been high enough for me to see through my rear view mirror.

What does this have to do with my second class for “Successful Retirement Planning” that I attended yesterday? While I sat there, I caught myself thinking that if I could only have twenty more classes and thirty more years, I’d be in pretty good shape for retirement. But would I? Would I have made that many changes in my life, made less mistakes, done things differently? All good questions that most of us ask ourselves more than once during the course of our lives, but that’s looking backwards. I don’t know about you but I don’t drive well backwards. Nor have I gotten very far.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Retirement Rant

I’ve always considered myself fairly intelligent even with my temperamental dyslexia which flares up at the most inconvenient times. I graduated from high school, attended business college, went on to earn an Associate’s Degree while working for a Fortune 100 company and raising a family at the same time. While my I.Q. isn’t a qualifier for Mensa, it’s high enough to get me where I wanted to go most of the time. So why am I feeling so darn dumb?

It’s because of the Continuing Ed class that I am taking titled, “Successful Retirement Planning”. Even though I’ve just started the class, I know I’m going to fail. What’s worse is the fact that all the time I thought I’d been fairly successful in life, I’ve been a failure.

We baby boomers are messing up the whole economical system it seems. There’s too many of us and we are living too darn long and are too healthy. Why does this sound more like a curse than a blessing, I wonder?

I also wonder why it takes fifty plus bar charts, certifications, designations and licenses, plus a degree in statistics to manage my retirement successfully? Some of these designations/licenses are obtainable in three-month easy installments plus a series of tests. Surely I could do that myself? Oh, I forgot. I’m slightly dyslexic. Plus my passion lies in the written word, not numbers.

All the doom and gloom of retirement made me think of my mother and the generation that raised us. I don’t know about everyone else, but money was a taboo subject in my house. It was considered uncouth to ask someone how much they paid for something, how much they made, and how much they owed. I knew my family was better off financially than some because when my mother bought me nice clothes, I was told that I needed to care of them so that they could handed down to the next family who wasn’t quite as fortunate as we were. We lived in a big house and we had a cottage on the lake. But I wasn’t spoiled as a child. If I had been, my mother would have given me that pony I always wanted.

My mother’s generation believed mortgages were to be paid off, furniture was to last a life-time and credit cards and the stock market were the devil’s making. Ahead of her times, she was the bread winner of the family. She didn’t work for a company for years; she started her own. That meant no pension plan; only tiny social security checks and herself to depend upon when she retired. But she never got to teach me how face the challenges of retirement. She died at the age of 46. She remains with me still, teaching me when I take the time to listen. And instead of reprimanding me for ranting and feeling sorry for myself, she is whispering, “Stop the search for a retirement genie and instead learn to trust yourself and your own wisdom.” Thanks, Mom, I needed to hear that. Love you.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


My weekly blog will be short today for several reasons. One, I don’t have much to write about and two, I really need to clean house, go to the grocery store, do laundry, clean house, work on my novel, take the dog to the doggie park (a first if we actually go), work in the yard, cook myself a decent meal, exercise on my Wii, clean house some more, and somehow squeeze in a nap. And since I’m a morning person, I’ll have about two and a half hours to do it all except for the nap. I never take naps in the morning. I have too much to do.

If you are a detailed-type reader, you’ll question what time did I get up this morning that only leaves me two and a half hours before afternoon? A bit of a personal question, I think, but a fair one and one I’m embarrassed to answer. My little dog, Shelby, is a morning activist as well so she woke me around 7:20. Sleeping in on Saturdays and Sundays is a treat for me so I tried to ignore her. It’s hard though when your closed eyelids are being tickled by doggie kisses.

Once up, I had my usual morning routine: make coffee, get the morning newspaper, feed the dog, drink the coffee, and read the newspaper. Then I make my breakfast and read the newspaper some more. On weekends, I manage to sneak in a load of laundry into the washer and a short walk with the dog before I get busy. Remember I’m a morning person.

I’m really motivated this morning to clean house though. A friend with whom I was going to spend Saturday doing Halloween crafts thought she’d locked herself out of her house. This sent me into a panic because my house is in such a mess. I lucked out when she remembered the keypad entrance to her garage. She’s one of those who have those forever neat-and-clean houses. Hum. I just realized that I’ve never had a friend who is a house-slob. What does that say about me? That I’m a morning person who simply does not have long enough mornings? Makes sense since I can’t be the only messy housekeeper in the world. Can I? Or maybe I just have good taste in selecting my friends? All three answers are correct.

The blinds have been opened to let in the cheerful morning sunshine that exposes the dust and dog hair, the oldies-but-goodies music I’ve turned on is making my toes want to dance and now I have only two hours left so…… watch out dust bunnies, here I come. Unless I decide to dance to the music instead. It is a beautiful morning, you know, and life is short.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


I’m going to blame my sudden attack of melancholy on the weather, an easy target like the full moon, the stars’ alignment, low blood sugar, and hormones. But the moon isn’t full, I don’t know the North Star from the Eastern Star since I’m directionally challenged, my blood sugar tested fine at my last checkup and I’m at the age when my hormones are basically nil.

It’s a Fall-perfect weekend that I should be enjoying especially since Fall was my favorite season growing up. I grew up in a generation and small Iowan town where we looked forward to school starting again, the colorful leaves that snapped, crackled and popped under our feet, and the changing of our wardrobe from crisp cottons to soft wools and cashmeres. Early nightfall meant drive-in movies fell within my curfew. I remember how I loved to snuggle under a blanket with my boyfriend in his old Studebaker while pretending to be watching a B-rated movie… oops, I digress.

Perhaps I’m melancholy because Fall means changes and I’m not changing? My life is as it is and that's not bad. I have a good job when so many don’t have any, I can pay my bills and still occasionally splurge on a pair of tennis shoes that are guaranteed to lift my tush and firm my thighs, and I have a collage of good friends. I have a son I’m ever so proud of and I have Shelby, a little dog who rules my world.

Or is it the losses that are making me melancholy? I lost Mercedes, a dear little blond dust-mop of a dog and Shelby's best friend, about two months ago. She was only three years old. Healthy one minute, gone within the next hour and no one knows why. I tried to replace that heartbreak with another little pup last weekend who visited us on a trial basis. This pup was literally nothing but skin and bones, a hank of gray hair, and huge eyes full of love.

I discovered that the pup wasn’t housebroken (nor had Mercedes been). I told the rescue group that I couldn’t handle that. But I lied. What I couldn’t handle was the way she hung on my every word with cocked head, like Mercedes had, and her developing raspy cough that panicked me into sending the e-mail, “Come get her.” I couldn’t open my heart right now to more pain. Or love. Or loss. Maybe later. So I settled for guilt instead even though I know the rescue group will find her another good home.

Or is because of the box of photographs that I found yesterday while cleaning out a closet? Pictures I hadn’t looked at for almost ten years. Pictures of the family I once had and loved so much. I’ve never written about Eddie, my husband, who died before his time. I still can’t. Maybe later.

Fall, a season of both changes and losses, is fleeting though. Especially in Texas. And so will be my melancholy.