My complacency elected Donald Trump, and for that I am truly sorry.

Oh, I voted.

In fact, I voted for her.

In my people-pleasing “don’t rock the boat” manner I wheeled my rolling walker behind the heavy curtain in our old-fashioned voting booths and quietly pulled the lever. (If I had to do it in a big open space like I saw the First Couple have to do it, I would have had some panic issues.)

I didn’t even think of it as “the lesser of two evils,” I thought of it as the only rational choice.

I even clicked on the voting machine switches extra lightly, as if people could hear me vote. I felt a sense of relief as I left the polls. Still, I told no one, as I I didn’t want to disappoint a loved one, and I didn’t want to become embroiled in debate.

Since my brain surgery 10 years ago doctors keep congratulating me. It is as if surviving a tumor that strikes primarily young men was something I deserved some sort of credit for-one Doc shook my hand like I won an Olympic gold. I never felt that way. But I felt that way about voting Tuesday. That I deserved some sort of medal for overcoming obstacles  physically, and mentally, emotionally and literally to get out and vote.

Not having my old confidence to debate (due to aphasia and the inability to hold on to a thought for more than a few seconds (think ADD on steroids), I avoid ‘talking  politics.’ On a certain level I started to feel less entitled to my opinions and that I should just leave it up to quicker, more articulate tongues.

I used to feel that everyone around me could do or say what they want but in the end, they, same as me, would go behind the heavy curtain and get one single vote. Naïve, and again, I am sorry.

I apologize to every person that will be marginalized by the incoming administration.

I am not deluded that speaking my mind would have changed the outcome of the election, but it is embarrassing that so many didn’t have a chance to know where I stand due to my conflict-avoidance behavior patterns.

Next time I will be more vocal, clearer and more transparent. The same things I expect from our government elected officials.

Next week: “Taking a knee.”

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100 Words About Jell-O

Words that make no sense to a child.

“If you don’t take those ear-muffs off, you’ll be freezing when you go out.”

My Nana had this yellow enamel pan with a black line around the top edge. She made the Jell-O in it. She made that jello just for me. Oh, she made a couple of other things in that pan, like baked beans, but the jello was mine, and it was always there. I understood that my parents and my mom’s parents would always be there for me, just the way the jello was always there.
It may not sound like such a big deal, but these are the things that separate us from the animals.
100 words about Jello. There.

At our house, we did our underage drinking *after* the crash.

BAP_0755-LIf you’ve been in a car accident where the windshield shattered, you know the feeling of “just get me the hell out of here” all too well. I’m not sure I ever got over it. There was not a scratch on me or the driver, but the totaled car looked like the kind they put on display at Project Prom to convince youth to not drink and drive.

I should begin from the beginning.

 

***

 

1976 -Adirondack Mountains, Wilmington NY

Uncle Arnold,  a Notary Public in town (this, before he became a judge) stamps the paperwork to make Joe the official owner of the car. Covered in primer, one had to don the imagination cap to even begin to have a vision of what the car was capable of looking like, but it sounded and felt like a race car, low to the ground, wide wheel base. Joe did his chores and then spent several hours hand sanding the heavily compounded Firebird. Sanding with a ¾ in drill and a half a million sanding discs, I’m sure my friend always  knew he would finish this project in one summer. I had my doubts.

I had my own sanding to do, it was my job to keep the cue sticks sanded and topped off with fresh tips and I took this job very seriously. I was pretty sure the  real Minnesota Fats  would come in and I don’t know, tip me for my nice tips? Headed for college in the fall, and I still believed my little jobs around the family business would somehow make a difference.

After the chores were finished and  dusk began in earnest, there where the fires and the dinners rich in garden vegetables. Toasting marshmallows kept the bugs away, and exhausted as we might be there was a steady group of us who talked through the night most nights.

1977-Middletown, NJ

It was always exciting to have the folks from Connecticut to hang out with, whether we were at our campground or theirs, but it was super exciting to be at our home bases, to show each other where and how we lived “the other 9 months out of the year.”

It was a different time, you could go visit your friend’s school for a day with a simple visitor’s pass, and you only had to be 18 to drink. I want to underscore that we did not drink, and that we were all super cautious about avoiding trouble. I like to think it was the goodness in us, but other stories might refute the point. Somehow we broke away from the adults and went for a ride in the Firebird, which had a bright new shiny paint job and a “new car smell” air freshener shaped like a go-go girl.

We weren’t supposed to be there. Heading off to college in months, it didn’t occur to us to obey any rules or even to take any advice. We were riding around without any destination just to be out of the house and enjoy the sun, I wouldn’t even call it “joy riding” because that term, to me, elicits an image of a sort of reckless abandonment. We were definitely belted in and obeying all traffic rules. The music was Emerson, Lake and Palmer, blasting from the new technology, the tape cassette. The music played continuously, no need to flip the tape, no “thunk” between sides like the eight-track that preceded it.

PART II-Fuzzy Details

We had the car towed to the family’s gas station without thought of convenience or price. I really didn’t know where we were and as it turned out, we were across the street from a police station. Due to this convenient locale, accident investigation and cleanup were as prompt as possible. My father, in his ever omniscient and magical ability to be everywhere at once, saw and recognized the smushed car with the Connecticut license plates before hearing any news of our adventure.

When I climbed the steps on my sister’s front porch, to her dining room that overlooks her yard, I began to feel my muscles stiffen up and ache. I was not sure what was going to be worse, the physical accident aftermath, Joe four hours away from home with a totaled, prized-possession hand restored classic car, my parents anger and worry, the aftermath of getting Joe back to CT. I would have been overwhelmed had I not been so numb.

Part III-What I remember.

I know everyone loves a good accident story. The more details the better…and I guess it is human nature. I hate to disappoint but I don’t remember all that much. I saw the truck in front of us going straight and realized our left hand turn was ill timed with the light, and the next thing I can remember is freaking out about sitting in the glass all about me and a cop calming me down and finally, when I would not calm down, allowing me out of the car.

Back at the house and reunited with family, we recounted the details of the crash. My dad handed Joe a couple of tens and said “Here, take her to Langford’s. Get yourselves’ a drink.”

I was not quite 18, the legal drinking age at the time. We began in protest but my father assured us it would be alright. I remember it was weird sitting at the dark bar without other adults, just us kids. It occurred to  me to ask for a Shirley Temple, but I had a beer.

The police station still stages pre-prom hullabaloos to show the fresh new drivers what their totaled car will look like, including a demonstration of the jaws of life.

Our parents are gone, but this is a story about, more than anything , how they showed their love to us.

I asked my friend, many years later, if he ever thought about it. And he told me:

“Only when I make a left hand turn.”

Put down what you’re reading and find Jennifer Laucks (book) Found.

It's a big, big, (adopted) world.

It’s a big, big, (adopted) world.

Evoking Jurassic Park-level fear, while softly reminiscent of Eat, Pray, Love, Jennifer Lauck’s memoir Found is a quick, and at times difficult read. I swore off of adoption memoirs for the summer. I had been reading them in a steady stream for 2 years, including the classics, the best sellers, the confessional, the kooky.

On the whole enjoyed the book. My buddy Luanne  who writes at Don’t We Look Alike and Writers Site recommended it and I immediately downloaded it; so much for swearing off memoirs for the summer. Addiction? I prefer to call it dedication.

I first encountered the concept that maybe historically closed and sealed adoption wasn’t always was the best thing through Deanna Shrodes excellent, heartfelt blog, Adoption Restoration.  Deanna is publishing the “book” part of her blog, meanwhile you  can read a bunch of her writing on her site.  Yes, faithful readers, this is the woman I called a nut, in print. It was akin to throwing a rock through a plate-glass window to get the owner’s attention., so  you get to say you’re sorry.

Three things stood out while reading Found:

This book is scary because she enables the reader to share her fear. Seldom do I find myself all scrunched up over a non-fiction book, but I did just that, turning the pages that wound down to reunion and ultimately, a type of rejection. There were a couple of pages where I could hardly breathe, so universal the emotions expressed, yet so distinctly singular to the author’s personal story.

The second thing that sets this book apart is the writer’s ability to cram so much emotion into one tiny book. I didn’t have heaving “Terms of Endearment” crying jags over it but it did touch me in a stony cold place where I usually don’t allow my “work reading” to go. Adoptees looking for a book to recommend to others will find something here to spark memory and conversation.

Finally, woven throughout the fairly linear story there were a few parts (when she talks about her therapy, and her relationship with one particular man) that I found to be preachy and assuming. But for the most part these moments are sparse and expert editing keeps the fast-moving narrative on track.

It is refreshing when a memoir is honest to a fault. Although her meditation journey is such an important part of the story, I found the amount of time and energy spent away from her family difficult to swallow, counterbalanced with her own feelings of abandonment. By including this in her story, she depicts herself as a flawed character, in other words, human. That is the best of what this book has to offer…it is utterly human.

 

You might like:

 

Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age, An Anthology by Deanna Doss Shrodes, Corie Skolnick, Richard Hill and Rhonda Noonan (Jan 14, 2014)

 

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That time I was sexy-broke.

When I dug out this photo, I was surprised the artwork was not how I had remembered it!

When I dug out this photo, I was surprised the artwork was not how I had remembered it!

Presently a trend in make-up towards dramatic lips OR dramatic eyes forces one to make a choice, but in 1983 we women (and Chuck Wollery) enjoyed both! There was no smoky eye, the eye was either blue or green, lids painted like little garage doors, like little Volkswagen convertibles, lashes dark with mascara forming little windshield wipers.

I was facing the back of the room and the “keyhole” opening of my semi-backless jumpsuit was likely the first and last time I attempted such a feat: the black crepe neither loose nor clingy felt wonderful and I gave no thought to what the ladies room would involve once I was belted into this. I loved the look and feel of my outfit and imagined our big night out with childlike enthusiasm. It was our first anniversary, “Married” magazine had just selected one of my stories for publication, and life was good.

We stood in front of the Arthur Skinnner print “Dies Irae” for the photo. I scrimped and saved to buy the etching at $250. It looked fabulous on the stark white wall of my apartment years earlier but it was really too large for this one.

Skinner was an art professor at the college. I didn’t know him but used to attend all the art shows on opening night, a good way to meet people and enjoy free snacks. Humus (called mashed chick peas back then), gently browning around the edges, was a staple at each Elliott Gallery opening, along with the cheapest possible wine spritzer an undergraduate could muster.

I moved several times and that print was always the first thing I hung up and the last thing I took from each place. I mention the cost because rent at the time was only $205. I can’t underscore the comfort and happiness this particular piece granted me. Over the years, people have been unusually generous with their comments regarding how dark, dreary and depressing they find this particular piece of art. It just makes me love it more.

We worked such long hours with conflicting schedules it is a wonder that we found time to notice we liked each other, much less get a dinner out. This particular night, on the occasion of our first anniversary, we stopped and had our picture taken standing in front of the print, shown here. I promise to show you the whole thing one day.

The film had to be sent away to be developed, and before we had children and began chronicling their every move, we used maybe 4 rolls of film a year, and almost all photos were taken while visiting others. A roll of film was perhaps 20 pictures and a 50% success rate was a big win. It cost $8 to develop a roll and the wait was a week. Wait, what?

Yes! The mailman brought the prints or we picked them up at a local drugstore. We didn’t yet have our first VCR and getting the film prints was at least as good as seeing a movie. If this idea is incomprehensible to you, you might want to take your selfie out of here, right now. It is about to get much worse!

The first year or so we were married, we didn’t have a phone. We didn’t miss the phone, or think we needed a phone. As our other friends started feathering their nest with comforters and televisions, we feathered ours with two baby girls one right after the other. When you have babies, people force you to get a phone: all I can say is thank God. Our families supplied everything we needed, and made us promise to get a phone “in case of emergency.” We had that phone when we had to take our baby to the NICU.

Our anniversary day began when our friend Patrick came over and hot-rollered my frizzy, permed tresses. Deeming Hubby an unacceptable match for his new creation, he administered a fast, manly haircut to my mate.

Finally, freshly coiffed, it was time to go! We piled in our 20 year old Ford Falcon (all three of us) and dropped Patrick off on the way. The restaurant was beautiful, and I can still remember my delicious stuffed chicken. We were at the Brown Derby,  St. Petersburg, Florida, but as far as I was concerned, it could have been the Don Cesar. I excused myself after dinner and Hubby stood up, 30-something years later, can still feel his fingers gentle on my near my near backless key-hole crepe black jumpsuit, pointing me to the restroom.

What happened next is a blur. I returned to the table to find him still standing there, looking pale and sheepish, a look reserved for things like VCR’s eating the “rental” movie, or an unexpected  EPT result. My first thought was that he  administered the “new Heimlich maneuver” to a fellow diner in my absence.

Holding the check, he quietly confessed that he didn’t have enough money. After some rummaging around in my purse we scraped up enough to pay for the meal but left our waiter tipless. Our hearts hurt and it put a damper on things, but we rallied by midnight and our coach did not turn into a pumpkin. It wasn’t the first nor the last time I felt like Cinderella close to midnight, my Prince Charming by my side.

Update #1: Married magazine folded after a single issue. In an act unheard of today, they sent me a chocolate 7 layer cake as a consolation prize.

Update #2: After being in the tipless situation I make sure there is enough cash to make a mortgage payment on the restaurant before going in. I am incredibly appreciative of ATMs.