notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Thank You, Eddie

In the early 80s, I worked for an Easter Seal Rehabilitation Center.

The work we did was mostly physical therapy, speech therapy, and vocational rehabilitation. It was in the north end of Hartford, Connecticut – one of the poorest sections of Hartford. I was glad we were there, even if it was not the best neighborhood. Because that’s where we were needed.

I had spent several years working at another nonprofit – a program that offered services to the elderly. (On Aging and Kindness). There I learned Compassion and Respect. And it carried me well throughout my career.

At Easter Seals, I learned Gratitude.

Because I saw all sorts of people managing with a whole lot less than I had. Financially, physically, mentally. People deal with what Life gives them. It’s what they do. They work with what they have. And I saw how much I had.

Not only with our clients – our employees also made the best of their lot in life. Within my own subordinates, there was a blind medical transcriptionist, a deaf accounting clerk, a bookkeeper with a prosthetic arm. I was thankful that my own physical impairment was trivial. I learned to be less self-conscious of my scoliosis. And I learned that even serious physical handicaps do not define a person. That we are all much more alike than different.

And of course the clients: Living good lives – lives that were full of love and not sorrow. Not DESPITE their handicaps but WITH them. Good lives, with what they knew and what they had. There were those born with cerebral palsy or spina bifida or perhaps a cleft palate. Some may call them abnormalities. I hate that word. These are NORMAL people. The human body comes in more than one style.

Sometimes your body style changes from the one you were born with. And you need to adjust to a new normal. And so we had many clients adjusting to life after a stroke or permanent change from a car accident. (And I try very hard not to be preachy here on my blog, but if we all could understand how fast our lives can change, we would all know the importance of good and affordable medical care for everyone. Don’t tell me that you don’t need insurance because you are healthy. You are healthy today….that’s all.)

So many people showed me in a thousand different everyday ways how lucky I am … what I had to be thankful for.

But especially Eddie.

We had a sheltered workshop that was an important part of our rehabilitation program. We concentrated on providing skills, and sometimes permanent employment, to those with broken or fragile souls. Those folks who not strong enough to manage the stress of the average work environment. Some of our clients had limited intellectual capabilities, or had not quite recovered from nervous breakdowns or other mental illness. Every one of us could benefit from a supportive work environment – these delicate and breakable individuals just needed a little more of it that the rest of us.

Some of our clients – to the outside world – were quite crazy. We helped a woman with partial catatonia train for a job – she could scoop mashed potatoes in a cafeteria line – and did it very well, by the way. We had one guy who was such a germaphobe that he not only sprayed everything with Lysol constantly – he sprayed himself constantly too.  Yes, he was a weirdo. But he was OUR weirdo. And we loved him.

And in the sheltered workshop is where I met Eddie.

Eddie had a borderline IQ. He functioned quite well but was easily confused and upset. I never saw his records, but I’d guess Eddie was somewhere on the mild side of the OCD spectrum. He liked to count things and he liked to make neat stacks.  One of the subcontracting tasks we regularly took on in the workshop was opening and sorting proxy votes for large companies. Eddie was great at sorting votes.

Eddie had been at the shelter for years. It was his life. He lived on the other, almost-as-poor, side of Hartford and took the bus to and from work. He packed a generous lunch in a big metal lunch box – the kind that makes you think of construction workers sitting on a girder. He was a very good eater but was a slight, skinny man. His nervous energy burned up the calories I suppose. He was probably in his thirties. So was I.

One day I had a meeting at the office of one of our board members. I did not know exactly where the street was. But our facility had a transportation department, because we had a van and picked up wheelchair-bound clients to bring them in for their therapy. So I went to the transportation office and consulted the big map that hung on the wall.

And Eddie walked by the room. He stopped.

“What are you looking at?” he asked me.

“Well, I’m going to somewhere I’ve never been before, so I am checking the map to see where the street is,” I explained.

He was silent for a second. And then he whistled a bit through his teeth. “Wow,” he said. “You must be really smart.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“Because you can read a map. My father says that you have to be really smart to read a map. They’re very confusing.”

And I thought about that. About this man living his life – getting back and forth to work, and making his lunch, and cashing his paycheck. Maybe going to the movies once in a while. Paying his taxes. Just living. With what he had.

“Eddie, you take the bus every day. I can never figure out the bus routes. You must be pretty smart to do that,” I said. And I meant it.

“It’s not so hard once you get the hang of it,” Eddie answered. “I could teach you.”

I left that job soon afterwards. Eddie never taught me the bus routes. But he taught me so much more.

I am thankful that I am strong and healthy today. (I know that can change. So I am thankful for just today.)

But even more than physical strength, I am thankful that I was lucky enough to be born smart.

Eddie taught me to be thankful that everyday chores are not overwhelming for me. I can read a map. I can navigate a computer. I can manage my money.  I can understand the fine print in a contract. I can follow a recipe. I can communicate with my doctor.

That shit is HARD. And I can do it.

I don’t take for granted that I can use my brain. I try to use it often.

Thank you, Eddie, for reminding me.

theo&me 10-17 thanksgiving

from Theo and Nancy.

 

P.S. I also want to thank all of you who helped make Amazon’s free Kindle promotion of JUST WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED such an amazing success! I hope you enjoy the book, and if you do, I hope you also read my new novel, LUCINDA’S SOLUTION.

 

 

 

 

 

Three Little Kittens – The Sequel

A few weeks ago, I shared a little story (The Pushover) about how a tough heartless family (also known as: us) took in 3 foster kittens for a temporary, 10-day stay. And how they stayed. Permanently.

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The little monsters are six months old now.

They are adorable, demanding, playful and naughty.

And hungry. I never saw such good eaters.

They will eat their own food, then our old cat Lillian’s food, and then they take on our dog Theo’s kibble. They do not care if he is eating it at the time.

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They may be triplets, but they are also unique.

There’s Niko. He’s sort of the E.T. of the feline world. A friendly alien.

 

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And Athena.  Beautiful, aloof. She’s Greta Garbo. “I vant to be alone.” Yes, I believe Athena has a foreign accent.

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And then there’s Thor. He’s cuddly. He purrs. He drools. He’s a goofy-eyed dreamer.

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They have managed somehow to sneak on their little cat feet into the very depths of my heart.

And how are the other little monsters adjusting?

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Well, Lillian is not in love. She is still grouchy. But then again, she was born grouchy. She has increased her tolerance level however, to the admirable point where she doesn’t immediately hiss and hit. It is about a five second threshold, however. But the kittens have learned to count to five.

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And then there is Theo. As much as Lillian is not in love, Theo IS in love  – totally. And the kittens love him back.

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Of course, they are not quite kittens any more. At six months, they are hell-raising teenagers.

They have learned to scale the baby gate to our storage area, which is just full of wonderful things like wrapping paper, tissue, and ribbon. And since these items are surely for gifts – they bring them to Theo, who cannot scale the baby gate. Theo happily tears these presents into tiny little pieces.

And they knock things off counters. They tip over water.

They explore in the potted plants.

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They play the piano.

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And as adolescents, they needed to have their hormones dealt with.

So one month ago we sent them to bed without supper. And in the morning we scooped them up into their respective carriers for a trip to the vet.

Almost. We scooped two of the three: compliant little Niko and affectionate little Thor.

We could not catch horrid little Athena. My husband and I chased the wily female until we were panting. But she was not. She could have kept it up all day.

And I had some deep battle wounds.

So we gave up and brought only the boys for their little-boy-surgery.

And consoled ourselves that at least there would be no incest under our roof.

And a few weeks later, we made another appointment. We sent Athena to bed without supper, and locked her in the small bathroom. No more hiding under the bed for her!

And in the morning, when my husband opened the door, Athena jumped over his head and hid under the bed.

And my husband had some deep battle wounds.

We will try again before Christmas.

And even though I am swearing at the monster as I write this, I have to admit that a part of me is impressed.

You go, Girl!

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P.S. I had lots of fun on this post using the Prisma app for interesting filters.

 

And P.P.S. –  Do you have a Kindle?  If you do, and you would like to read my first novel, JUST WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED, for free (FREE!)-  Amazon is offering a free (FREE!) download from Nov 14 -18!  Just click here for your free (FREE!) download during those dates. Or just go to Amazon and search for the title . You’ll like it. I promise. Did I mention it was FREE?

 

Untested Magic

One of my favorite movies is “Funny Girl.

It was released in 1968, when I was 17 – and oh, how I loved everything about Barbra Streisand, Fanny Brice, the music, the costumes – and the whole era. Perhaps my enchantment with this film may have partially motivated me to write LUCINDA’S SOLUTION – which is set in the same pre- and post- WWI period.

My favorite scene from the “Funny Girl” is the adorable Roller Skate Rag. Fanny gets her first break into show business in a novelty roller-skating number. Of course, she’s a disaster on skates, completely out of control. Eddie Ryan (the soft-hearted guy who gave her the part) catches her as she careens wildly into the wings.

Eddie:  “I thought you said you could skate!”
Fanny :  “I didn’t know I couldn’t.”

Wow.

Just wow.

Just because Fanny has never roller-skated before, doesn’t mean she thinks she can’t. She instead assumes she can – because  – well, why not?

I mean, just think about that line for a minute. And put it into your own life.

Instead of focusing on all the things you can’t do, think about all the things you just might be able to – only you don’t know it.

This life is so complex – so full of possibilities. No one gets a chance to do everything. We are only just scratching the very surface of all the possible experiences.

And it’s very likely, with all the things that we never get a chance to do, that some of them we might actually be pretty good at.

We have undiscovered abilities that we will never know about.

For me, perhaps, I might be able to do lots of stuff that I most likely will never get to do.

But who knows? Maybe I could.

I don’t know that I can’t.

I will never know that I can:

 – Make friends with a bear

 – Create Christmas ornaments of blown glass

 – Deliver a baby

 – Ride a unicycle

 – Live in an igloo

 – Solve a murder

 – Discover a constellation.

Years ago, I knew a guy who had a plane. And he took me up for a ride. But before he took off, he showed me how to steer and what I would do if he had a heart attack or something. It was kind of surreal. And of course I never got a chance to land that plane. but who knows?  Maybe I could have.

Like Fanny, I don’t know that I couldn’t.

And how about you?

You are just full of amazing potential that you will never get to explore.

But it’s still there.

Doesn’t that just blow your mind?

You magical creature, you.

rollerskaterag

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Excerpt

As I mentioned – okay,  SHOUTED – in my previous post, my new novel LUCINDA’S SOLUTION is finally available on Amazon. 

Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ feature allows you to read the first several pages. But just in case that is not enticing enough, I thought I would share a scene from later in the story.

In this scene, Lucinda goes to her father’s lumberyard to tell her best friend Peter that she is going to be married – to the husband of her dead sister.

***

 

I went around to the back of the yard and waited for Peter to come back with the horses. The yard had been transitioning to delivery trucks for the last year – Father had been brought along to the 20th century with Malcolm’s encouragement – but Peter still drove the old wagon with the now-ancient team.
I sat on a bale of hay and shivered, although it was a warm day for the end of December. Forty minutes later I watched him drive in. He didn’t see me in the shadows, so I sat silently while Peter unhitched the horses. He put away the tack, and brushed Zeke and Carthage, cleaned their hooves and fed them two carrots each, all the while cooing to them about being the best creatures in existence.
“You two are the loveliest smartest animals in Springfield. You are the loveliest animals in Massachusetts. You are the loveliest in New England. The loveliest in the whole of the United States of America. In the world. In all the planets.”
“What comes after the Universe?” I asked, jumping up.
Peter laughed. He wasn’t the slightest bit surprised or embarrassed by his effusion.
“The Heavens!” he answered.
He led Zeke to his stall, and I took Carthage and led him to his.
“It’s so good to see you, Lucinda,” said Peter. “I didn’t even know that I missed you until you are in front of me and then I think to myself, “Now the world is straight!”
“I’m back, but it is only to say goodbye.”
“Are you off to school then?” he asked. “Off to write of injustices and dirty dealings? To save the universe?”
“No. I am off to save a family.”
“Catherine’s, I expect,” Peter said.
“Yes, Catherine’s. Mine now, soon. It has been decided that I will raise her children. I’m to be married to Martin.” I added, “Tomorrow.”
Peter spun around to face me. “Jesus, Lucy!”
“Don’t swear, Peter!”
“It’s so fast. And you’re so young… what are you now, fifteen?”
“Seventeen.”
“Well, if I knew you were ancient I would have married you myself!”
“Very funny,” I said.
He turned and gave old Zeke another carrot. “Seriously, Lucinda I had a mind to marry you.”
“You did? Oh, Peter that’s so nice to know.” I sat down on an upturned bucket. “I would have made you miserable.”
“That’s likely,” he said. “How can you be married so soon? What about the Banns and all?”
“Monsignor got a dispensation from the Bishop. Martin needs to return to Connecticut right away.”
Peter sat down on the packed dirt of the barn floor facing me where I perched on my makeshift chair. He sat so near me that I could feel his breath against my leg. I thought for a moment he would put his head on my knee. I wouldn’t have stopped him.
“I saw Catherine once, he said. I was about ten. I think she must have been the age you were when you first came to the yard. She was so lovely it was a minute or more before I could get a breath.”
“Yes. She was beautiful for sure.”
“You look like her, you know.”
“Ha,” I said. “Only to someone with your poor eyesight.”
“I see well enough.”
I couldn’t think of anything to end this conversation. “Her children are as pretty. And they are smart and happy too. They have my heart already.”
“And Martin?” Peter asked. “Does he have your heart?”
I looked away. “He’s a good man.”
“I wish I had married you a year ago,” he said.
“Oh Petey, you would have made a fine husband. And you will. You will find a girl as beautiful as Catherine, who will see your good heart.”
“I will have a farm and seven children. All redheads. They will have so many freckles, the neighbors will call us the Spotted Farm.”
“When you find the girl, I would ask your brothers for advice. Ask Samuel if your girl is smart enough. But ask Richard if she’s beautiful enough.”
“Oh, I may be blind as a bat, Lucinda, but I know for a fact that smart and beautiful are the same thing.”

 

What happens next? 

Here’s the Amazon link:  click here to buy LUCINDA’S SOLUTION

 

Lucinda's-Solution (3)

PS… I apologize that the paragraph indents have disappeared.

It’s Here!!!!

My new book!

Lucinda's-Solution (3)

 

LUCINDA’S SOLUTION is a love story that encompasses the changing mores and the role of women from 1918 to 1920.

The novel was inspired by my own family – especially how my paternal grandfather’s family coped with the devastation brought on by the influenza pandemic. LUCINDA’S SOLUTION is fiction, but hearing the family stories for years and years ignited my imagination, and created characters who quickly became family –  in my heart.

Here’s the description from the back cover:

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LUCINDA’S SOLUTION is available in paperback and kindle versions on Amazon.

Here’s the link:  LUCINDA’S SOLUTION

I hope you will consider buying my book, and I hope you like it.

If you do like it, I hope you will also contribute a review on Amazon.

I am thrilled that I did it… that it’s real … that I can hold my creation in my hands.

I’m so fortunate – my dreams keep coming true.

 

 

The Seniors’ Door

Back when I was in high school – which was either just yesterday or fifty years ago, I forget which – there was a tradition associated with a door.

The Seniors’ Door.

The high school was a low, 2-story sprawling structure. I don’t think it was all built at the same time. It looked to me like every time the city (Bristol, Connecticut) grew a bit, a new quadrangle was added. Certainly the classroom numbering was fairly odd – like someone made up numbers as necessary. It reminded me of adding a new exit on the highway, and instead of renumbering the whole slew, they just added some As and Bs… Exit 25A, Classroom 213D.

So it was a big school that never seemed crowded because of the long wide insane squares of hallways. But it was pretty big for a rather small city – there were 450 kids in my graduating class alone- and another couple of hundred at the crosstown rival school.

But back to the door.

A rambling structure like that – holding two thousand kids and maybe 100 teachers and staff – had a gazillion doors. Fire drills were chaos, but everyone got out fast. (Getting everyone back in was a different issue.)

But there was one door – facing the main parking lot – that was reserved.

Seniors only.

Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors used mainly the other front-facing door.  This lowly door  (in status only; it was huge) was just a couple of dozen feet away from the Seniors’ door. But there was no honor in that door.

I think about it now.

How crazy and useless the separation of those doors was. And who in the world decided to give such designation to doors?

But when my time came, how I loved the Seniors’ Door. Even if a different door was more convenient, I would walk to the Seniors’ Door. Opening that door conferred my specialness. Well, mine and my 449 classmates. It was as if that door opened into the world of adulthood. And we Seniors were ready.

But I remember a day – a year before, when I was still a Junior. I was working on a project (I can’t for the life of me remember what it was. I hardly ever volunteered for anything) with two other girls who were seniors. And we were leaving to go to one of the girls’ homes to finish up, and they were heading out the Seniors’ Door.

I made a dead stop.

“What?” they asked.

“I can’t go out that door!” I said. “I will go around and meet you in the parking lot.”

“Are you kidding?” said the girl whose home were were going to. A girl who – in our very ordinary, very middle class community was considered ‘privileged’. I think her father had a print shop.

“It’s the Seniors’ Door!” I explained.

“It’s a DOOR!” she said.

And held it open for me and I held my breath and walked through.

Holy shit. I went through a door I was not allowed to go through.

And the world did not come to an end.

I did not get arrested. I did not even get detention. I did not even get noticed.

And it felt AWESOME.

I would recommend that we all go through all the forbidden doors more often.

Not the ones with the alarms though.

The ones with rules. The ones with stigmas. The ones that only allow certain people to go through.

Go through.

Dance through.

Push the damn door open and run like hell – right through.

 

opendoor

 

 

I Have A Few Questions

On this day of the long-scheduled release of thousand of documents related to JFK’s assassination, I am reposting my blog from last year.

 

UNANSWERED

I have mentioned before my mild obsession (Can an obsession be mild? Is that an oxymoron?) with unsolved mysteries. (Eureka, Sort Of)

I’ve always wanted to solve some great mystery or cold case.

In part, because I always like to show how smart I am. I was one of those obnoxious kids in grade school whose hand was always waving frantically in the air. (Well, OK, that was high school too. And college. And grad school.)

But mostly, because I am one of those types that just NEEDS to know. I hate a mystery with no answer.

Just TELL me.

Why, for example, when suspected murderers are dying, why don’t they just TELL us? I felt that way with Dr. Sam Shepard, who I thought was almost certainly innocent. Of course, it would have been even more convincing had their REAL murderer given us a death-bed confession.

Or Lizzie Borden, who on the other hand, I think was probably guilty. She’d been acquitted. She was already pretty much a social pariah in Fall River, so she had no reputation to lose. So why didn’t she just tell us?

It’s unfair.

I have a couple of minor, trivial, mysteries I will share in my next post, but I am in a serious mood today, and so I want to share a few important mysteries.

I am a Conspiracy Nut.

Yes, that’s what people call people like me.

I’m not one of those true overachieving nuts who believes EVERYTHING is a big conspiracy.

No.

I have just a few very specific conspiracy beliefs.

Perhaps it stems from the fact that some momentous world events happened when I was at my most impressionable. Those experiences that made me question authority for the first time. And understand, for the first time, that Authority is not always admirable or honest.

I don’t want to be too preachy or morbid. And I am no expert. So I won’t go off on a huge rant about the numerous unanswered questions or inconsistencies. I won’t beat the drum for thousands of pages or millions of words.

Let me just pose three questions. One question on each awful puzzle that has haunted me for decades. That may be demonstration enough. A few simple questions to represent the hundreds that continue to plague me.

1.

President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. His murder was the most horrific thing most people had ever experienced. And I was only twelve. I watched events unfold, as I stood before our black-and-white TV, with my hands to my mouth. I saw Lee Harvey Oswald killed. I have only witnessed death once since… in 53 years. Two deaths. One a cousin, in her hospital room. One – an assassin on live TV.

There are many unanswered questions. I’ve read dozens of books, probably hundreds of articles. Most people who believe the lone gunman theory think that those of us who don’t are in denial. That we just cannot accept that one miserable unknown human being could have the power to change history.

But I am not naive. I am not an idealist. (Well, OK, perhaps somewhat of an idealist.) I do not think Oswald was a patsy in the true sense of the word. I believe he was involved. It’s the “lone” part of the “lone gunman” theory that worries me.

Here’s my one single JFK question. How does a young ex-marine who defects to the Soviet Union in the height of the Cold War– how is it that he was able to return so easily 2 1/2 years later? Why did the FBI or CIA appear to have no interest in him?

2.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered in 1968. I was 17. He had changed the world significantly in just a few years, and he was not yet 40 years old. He was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. The convicted murdered was James Earl Ray, a petty criminal and avowed racist.He recanted his confession only a few days after pleading guilty.

Here’s my Dr. King question: Ray was captured in London, with a false passport. He had escaped through Canada to the UK and was attempting to travel to white-ruled Rhodesia.  In 1968, air travel was still extremely expensive – out of the reach of most Americans. Where did a loser like Ray get the money for his escape?

3.

Only a few months after Dr. King was assassinated, Bobby Kennedy was shot as his entourage moved through the kitchen at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after the California Democratic Primary. The assassin was Sirhan Sirhan, a young Palestinian (whose family was Christian, by the way) who may have been truly deranged. He fired his 22 even as he was wrestled into submission by members of Kennedy’s group. He emptied the gun.

Here’s my RFK question. Sirhan’s gun held 8 bullets. Kennedy was hit three times, but only 2 bullets were recovered, with one supposedly lost in the ceiling. Five were recovered from other injured people. That’s seven bullets recovered. So there is just one bullet unaccounted for (the ceiling bullet). So why were there extra holes in the ceiling and the walls? One door-frame was photographed with 2 holes circled by investigators. By some accounts, bullets had been recovered from these or other holes. Sirhan was firing wildly as he was subdued. But that is one hell of a lot of ricochet.

bulletholes

****

I know this is a crazy atypical post for me. I wasn’t sure whether to even publish it. But I’ve been thinking so much about the passage of time. In the not-too-distant future, all the folks who were witness to these events will be dead. And perhaps no one will care much about unanswered questions.

I hope the interest in Truth will still matter.

 

 

A Lesson In Shame

This week, after stopping at the Starbucks in my old hometown, I took a little shortcut down a side street in order to avoid the traffic on the busy avenue.

And I was accosted and beaten.

By a memory.

It’s not an incident that I had completely forgotten. There have been several occasions in the last half-century when this memory crept into my consciousness. The only difference is that this time, it did not creep. It came stomping back in steel-toed boots.

I know why it is particularly vivid right now. It is because we are bombarded with headlines of bullying and harrassment.  And so our own experiences in that mean realm shake off their dust and demand some daylight.

I was twelve. I know this because the incident was about my bra, and I did not wear one until I was 12. Not that I needed one even then, but my mother had noticed that all the other girls in my class were wearing bras, and she kindly suggested that I wear one too – so that I would not be teased.

But wearing one caused me to be teased.

It was Summer, and we were at a picnic at the home of my Great-Aunt Lillian. Aunt Lil had a tiny home but a very nice backyard, and so she hosted lots of picnics when I was a kid. Several times a year, all the family and many good friends ate hotdogs and drank beer and played cards and laughed in her nice yard.

When I was 12, my companion at these parties was the daughter of my parents’ best friends. Jan was 10. This was an awkward age for both of us. At 12, I was no longer interested in playing games with the little kids. And at 10, Jan was not really welcome in the circle of snickering teenagers.

So after our share of hotdogs and potato chips, Jan and I asked our mothers if we could take a walk to the nearby shopping center.

This shopping center – that now hosts a Starbucks – was two blocks from Aunt Lil’s. And although it was on the busiest street in town, there was a back way in – down a little side street that began right near my Aunt’s house – the street I drove down just this week.

Our mothers – miraculously – said yes. Take the side street and stay on the sidewalk, and yes, we could go.

That was so cool. There was a Woolworth’s in that shopping center, which held aisles and aisles full of junk to look at. And there were birds and goldfish and hamsters in the back, so we didn’t even need any money to be entertained.

Jan and I started walking down that quiet street – there were small ranch homes on the north side of the street, and the south side contained just the fenced backs of the stores that lined the main road.

A young boy came out of a driveway on his bicycle. Behind him were two other boys. They all dropped their bikes and came over to us.

And this young boy – younger than me, I think – perhaps ten like Jan – pointed at my shoulder and yelled, “Bra strap! Bra strap!” like he had seen something disgusting. Like I had shown him something disgusting. Like I was disgusting.

At 12, that’s how I felt. This was in 1963, when it was indeed a terrible thing for your bra to show. Now, it seems that girls want to wear racer-back tees that show their fancy bras, and there doesn’t seem to be anything so terrible about it. But you will NEVER see me dressed that way. Because of that day.

I was humiliated. I fell such shame. My bra strap often showed if I wore a sleeveless top. I had scoliosis, and the crookedness of my right shoulder shifted my bra to the right.

This young boy saw and laughed and pointed it out to his friends. And they laughed.

The tears welled up in my eyes.

I said, “I have a crooked back. I was born that way. And so my bra shows. You must be a really mean person to laugh at someone because of something they can’t help.”

Surprisingly the kids got on their bikes and rode away. They didn’t bother us any more.

I stood there on the sidewalk though and cried.

And Jan said, “Don’t let that little jerk make you cry!”

And I dried my tears and we went to Woolworths and watched the hamsters run on their little wheels.

It’s such a small thing. It wasn’t so awful. It was just some little kid who made me feel bad about myself for a minute. But feeling bad about yourself never really just lasts a minute, does it?

But looking back on it now – in the light of the meanness we see and hear so much today – surprisingly, I don’t feel so bad anymore.

Because I see three good lessons I have learned from that minute.

First: Little Jan, at 10 years old, gave me some amazing advice. “Don’t let that jerk make you cry.”  She was so right. I don’t have to give anyone that power.

Second: I shamed that boy for shaming me, telling he must be a mean person to make fun of me. Did it make him stop? I don’t really know why he rode away. But maybe it helped a little. Maybe he thought about it once or twice since then.

Third: I may have been only twelve, but I already knew that it was wrong to ridicule someone’s looks. It seems there are lots of adults who don’t know that yet.

Oh wait.

Let me change that to FOUR lessons learned.

Hamsters make you feel better.

 

 

Helping Out

Have you ever gotten one of those emails from Amazon, asking you to help answer a question?  One that says something like: “A customer has asked a question about a product that you have purchased in the past. Can you help this person with an answer?”

I’ve been asked about the fragrance of a face cream or the thickness of an iphone case. I’m happy to share what I know.

So this week, I had a question of my own. And the response I got was surprising. And in a small way – profound.

This Summer, I found a new hobby. Or rather, I rediscovered an old one. I went as a guest to a watercolor painting class. I loved it. I took another and another, and then bought new paints (from France, no less). And I’ve been painting twice a week since.

You may have seen a few recent post of mine with watercolor illustrations. They are the product of my reinvigorated love for painting.

 

And I’ve been watching amazing watercolorists on YouTube. People describe being bored as ‘watching paint dry’. But  OMG, I can watch artists paint all day. I am truly fascinated by watching paint dry.

But when you watch a certain genre of videos with any regularity, you start to get ads. I’m very good at ignoring ads, but sometimes something sinks into my consciousness.

I saw some ads (actually the same ad dozens of times) for watercolor brush pens. These are like felt tip pens, only with a brush head and watercolor paint rather than opaque colored ink. The commercials made them look pretty nice.

So I found them on Amazon. They were relatively inexpensive and the reviews were good. But I had a question. How long did they last? I wondered whether the brushes might dry up right in the middle of the sky, so to speak.

So I posed the question.

And I got five answers.

And I was amused (and just slightly annoyed) that three of the five answers were “I don’t know.”

Why in the world would someone take the time to log in to answer that they didn’t have an answer?

The more I thought about it though, the more I was intrigued. Why WOULD someone do that?

And I have come up with two reasons – which can readily coexist and both be true:

First, I think that people want to be part of the conversation. They want to be heard.

And second, I think that people truly want to help, even if they just can’t.

Which is really sweet.

So I have decided to give  a few more people that opportunity  – in a small way. It’s something my husband does frequently, and I’ve always thought that he did so out of a combination of friendliness and nosiness. But now I see it is both of those things, but more.

When I am in the supermarket, I am going to notice what the person in front of me is buying. And I will say, “I see that you are buying the kind of soap (or soup) that I have been considering. Have you bought it before? Do you like it?”

And so I will give one person a little opportunity to be heard – and be helpful.

And I just might find some good shit I would have missed.

theopainting100617

My watercolor of my best friend.

 

 

 

How My Father Retired

In the middle of October, my thoughts naturally return to my father.

His birthday is in a few days. He would be 95.

He died at 88, and so he had a good, long, and happy life. I don’t think he had too many regrets. He worked hard. He was honest. He was unceasingly cheerful. He loved and was loved.

That’s what I would call a successful life.

Recently, I saw this image on Facebook:

spacey

The same day, I was discussing my retirement (in glorious terms… I love it), and I recalled my father’s own retirement.

Here is how he retired:

After my mother retired, Dad started to consider his own retirement. He liked his job very much, but understood that there would come a time to let it go. To move on and enjoy the leisure years with his wife.

He had no pension from his job, but he and my mom had been saving, and so, when he was eligible for health coverage under Medicare, he retired.

Well, almost.

He decided to ease into retirement by cutting his hours. (I did the same… it makes for a nice transition.) And when he was finally ready, he stopped. He was well-loved at work – he was the inside sales manager for a factory that produced precision gauges – and they threw him a marvelous retirement party.

All done. And ready to enjoy retirement.

Well, almost.

It wasn’t too long afterwards that his employer called him and asked him to come back – at least part-time. They needed his skills. And since he had always enjoyed it, and had no burning quests to fulfill at the moment, he agreed.

So he went back and worked for a while again.

Dad was happy.

Then the economy took a turn for the worse, and there was a correspondingly downturn in business at Dad’s plant.

And he saw plans in the works for a layoff.

Dad went to the owner of the business and made a request.

“Please keep someone on who has a family to support, and let me go instead.”

And they did.

Dad was happy.

He sent the elevator back down.

And he finally retired.

My father later said to me that everyone should get a turn. And his turn was great, but it was the next guy’s turn.

If I have become a good person, it is because I have had such good examples.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

You sent the elevator back down for me too.

dad1945portrait

Dad, around 1945. Awarded the Purple Heart twice and my heart forever.