“I Gotta Have More Bandwidth”

prscrpcb-bgRemember that famous line from the SNL Will Ferrell/ Christopher Walken skit, “I gotta have more cowbell?” Well, it appears that in our house the little spinning blue circle on my husband’s Facebook account means we gotta have more bandwidth, or mps or GPS or whatever the heck those things are called that make your internet lightning fast and frustration free. I really had no idea if bandwidth was even what it was called, so of course I Googled it. Google came back with an impressive list of very technical terms and definitions I couldn’t decipher, but this one seemed REALLY easy to understand, especially #2:



1. the range of frequencies within a given band, in particular that used for transmitting a signal.  That means getting on the Internet, right?
2. the energy or mental capacity required to deal with a situation
“he lives alone, and says he doesn’t have the bandwidth to handle a steady relationship


Ooh, that #2 is so easy to relate to. In this case, Carl definitely has no bandwidth when it comes to trying to update his status, reply to comments and watch You Tube videos without a swift connection, and to be fair, I have way less (energy and mental capacity that is) when it comes to dealing with the hubs and the Internet at the same time. I mean, I’m having the same problem with Facebook and all my other apps too, just not as frequently and without as much angst.  And to make matters worse,  I’m on a PC and he’s on a Mac, so I can’t always be as helpful as he’d like me to be. Totally different operating systems here, in more ways than one.


Anyway, in our now dual household, we have 2 computers, a laptop, a tablet, an iPad, a Nook, a smart phone and 2 Apple TV boxes all vying for network time, so it’s probably not out of the question that the cloud is overpuffed and we can’t operate all this stuff at once.  We also have “dueling desks,” a really cute arrangement I came up with a few months after we remarried cause I wanted us to be able to spend quality time together while we were surfing the net and exploring all the amazing viewing opportunities that are bountiful for those of us lucky enough to have Google, Facebook, Yahoo News and Jay Leno’s Garage available with the push of a keyboard button or the scroll of a mouse.

I already had the two massive cherry wood desks (a parting gift from my prior job) arranged in an L in my office, so it was an easy fix to slide them around and push them together, facing each other, where we could adoringly gaze in each other’s eyes over the monitors. We’ve both since upgraded to those huge all-in-one desktops where now we can barely see the tops of each other’s heads, but hey, at least we can still talk about the happenings of the day and/or night. That usually consists more of questions like why his email keeps disappearing for no reason, or why someone would want to hack someone else’s account, or how you spell something you think will be very witty, or why Trump is still the nominee, or most importantly, when the **f@@@**!! will the little ball ever stop spinning and get connected or quit stopping in the middle of those great drag racing videos he’s trying to watch. Personally, I wasn’t too upset when those quit suddenly, and there definitely was nothing wrong with the sound on his computer. I sip my wine pretty much the whole time and say “I don’t know ” a lot,  except for the spelling part. I’m totally responsive in that area cause it’s very important to be grammatically correct with your witticisms. I will also confess, just a little bit, to appearing smaller in stature behind by own monitor by crouching down a tad.


So, I figured it was time to call Cox about some kind of memory expansion, road runner type speedy upgrade, and have been suggesting that to my man-at-home-all-day- cause- he’s- retired- now (the guy with all kinds of fix-it and phone-calling time while I’m at work) for about a week now. Of course, come Sunday, when it was too early for wine, I ended up calling them instead. So he would stop asking me if my little blue circle was spinning too….

If you’re new to this blog, let me back-fill this story with a little history. Carl and I have been together in some capacity for the past almost 40 years. We were married in 1977, stayed together for 28 years, had two boys, divorced in 2005, and remarried again in September of 2014. We were the best of friends during the time we were divorced, and always spent lots of holidays and other times together, so we were happy to make it official again right about the time he also retired. And moved back into the house we had lived in (and I had kept) all those years. It’s a small house, but there’s plenty of room now that it’s just the two of us, for lots of TVs in all the rooms, surround sound systems, wireless headphones and big desks. We also have three grand kids, two dogs, and our newest baby, a long, sleek, black 1950 Rocket 88 in our garage. Oh, and a condo in Orange and a lake house just outside of Bakersfield. I’ll save that for another day, another blog.

Neither one of us is particularly well schooled in technology, but I work for a software company, I’m on the computer all day, 5 days a week, and I have a general idea of how these machines work, so rather than leave the computer issues to chance, I mean Carl, I just bit the bullet and called Cox myself. I gave the customer service lady my newly acquired bandwidth knowledge speech and she determined we needed to get more bitsmackers or gobstoppers because we only had 15 and we should have 50 with all those Internet sucking machines. I still have no idea how much the bill  is going up, because whether or not we ever have more airtime, I am now the lucky recipient of a reduced rate on my Showtime and Starz. My guess is that the bill’s going up a crapload, but she somehow knows how much I love Jamie and Claire, so she thinks paying less for Outlander is a fair trade-off.  She also said we should notice a change in the speed immediately, but if we didn’t, we could call back and purchase a new modem or router or whatever bandwidth device gets you what you need. There are two such devices nestled on top of each other on the very high you need- a -stepladder top of the bookcase in the living room, and having to disentangle those from each other and the back of the unit to replace one or both of them with new ones would require more wine and technical savvy than I have the patience for.

I’m thinking maybe more cowbell would be the best choice after all.



Twist and Tan

It’s been a really long time since I’ve written my last blog, and a pretty long time since I’ve visited the tanning booth, but as usual, I’m always up for a good story where I get to poke fun at myself.

I first started spray tanning about 10 years ago, when I was newly single, fairly fit and making use of any and all self-improvement techniques at my disposal. There’s something about that bronze glow that makes all the rest of your imperfections pale in comparison, and being the progressive baby boomer that I am, I figured dousing myself in brown mist while standing butt naked in something that resembled a time machine plunked down in a compact tanning salon in the middle of a mini strip mall a few blocks from work was a good idea.

For anyone who’s ever seen the classic episode of Ross getting spray tanned on “Friends” you’ll understand why I was just a little apprehensive the first time I went.  Ross’ big mistake was in not turning when he was supposed to so that the front and back of him would be evenly tanned. Trust me, when that stuff starts spraying, and they’ve been really specific about telling you to hold your breath and not breathe til it’s done or you’ll end up with tan lungs and brown teeth,  you’re not as focused on which way you’re standing as you could or should be. And if you don’t turn soon enough, that stuff just starts a sprayin’ anyway, and you get coated on whatever side is facing the nozzle. Poor Ross ended up very, very artificially sun-kissed on one side and distinctly white on the other. I know exactly why he went back the second time though, cause I definitely know what it’s like to believe you really, really get what they tell you after you totally screw it up and they explain it to you in simple (you must be an idiot) spa talk with hand gestures. You just know you’re going to get it right the next time.

Back in those days, you got in the booth, stood on marked lines, pushed a button in front of you, and held your breath while the thing started spraying heavy icky smelling mist in a rhythmic up and down motion. Kinda like The Wave. You know, the one you do when you’re not batting a beach ball around AND you should just be watching the baseball game. Anyway, that goes on for a few minutes, or around 10 up and downs, and then it stops. THAT’s when you’re supposed to turn around, and the whole thing starts again. Now you’re coated on both sides, and you can get out. Pretty easy to follow, and though I’ll admit I never got the hold-your-breath stuff down, I was fine with the process and okay, I rubbed my teeth off real good when I got out.

I always got the dark tan (level 4) because I have olive skin and I can handle the sun fairly well so I have a good base to start with, but the darker you spray, the darker you drip. Everywhere. Yeah, that dripping thing was kind of a problem. So once you’re out, you start wiping the excess off and then you get dressed, in your crappy clothes that you brought to change into because no matter how well you think you’ve wiped and dried,  there will be orange on the waistband of your pants and a ring around the collar by the time you get home. They give you towels and wipes, but you have to be very careful how you wipe it off (they tell you to pat it dry) or you can be streaky and stripey. Your ankles, palms and elbows will also look like they belong on an orangutan, not a 50 something trying to feel good about getting out in the world. I always left there in a good mood though, knowing as the night wore on, I’d get tanner and browner. I remember actually feeling myself getting that bronze glow all the way home. Glowing  on the inside, staining on the outside. And in the morning, I’d shower and enjoy my tan until the next time. I got pretty good at the whole thing, more confident with each spray. I only remember one time when Donna (my friend and manicurist) had to use acetone to wipe the orange off my palms.

So I did that for years, on and off. I’d be outside and get mostly naturally tanned in the summertime, and then in the winter I’d check in periodically for a touch up. Same place, same booth, same process. Until yesterday.

I’m a 60 something now, the weather’s getting warmer, I haven’t been outside much tanning since I got married a few years ago, had grand kids, a job, two dogs and you know, a life. But I’ve been feeling kinda pale lately, and a few of the girls in my office are tanning, so I decided to head on back over there to get myself sprayed. I knew the place had changed hands, or its name, something, but it looked the same on the outside and I hadn’t heard that anything was different on the inside. I had to re-register, pay, sign my life away and all that, and then the girl took me back to the room with the booth. To her credit, she did ask me if she needed to explain anything and I assured her I was an old hand at this and knew the ropes.

The first thing that tipped me off that I might be in trouble was that the lines on the floor of the booth had been replaced with four numbered ovals (see above). Remember, I’m still thinking that it sprays the front, you turn around, and it sprays the back. People must have been having problems with the lines (??) so I logically deduced that now you just put your feet on the 1 & 2 for the front, then you turn around, and your feet go on 3 & 4 for the back. Okey dokie then.

I’m standing there, on 1 & 2, ready, when I’m surprised to find out that apparently Siri has taken a second job as a tanning booth assistant. Listen, whatever pays the bills, right? So now  I have company in the booth and sure enough, she tells me to put my  left foot on 1 & my right foot on 2, and we’re about to get started. I’m there, in position, let’s get this show on the road. The spray mist is much finer now, and I feel like I’m farther away from the sprayer, so I’m thinking this is pretty cool. Yay for new technology. It stops, and now my new friend tells me we’re drying. Warm air, nice, bet that means less drips. Seemed like it was a shorter spray time than I remembered, but maybe we’re going to do this a few more times. Face front, turn, spray the back side. Again. Then she tells me to put my left foot on 3 & my right foot on 4, so I turn around and do as I’m told. More spraying, although in retrospect, I’m not exactly sure where it was coming from. Anyway, we spray, and we dry. Then she tells me to do what sounds something like put my right foot on 1 and my left foot on 2. Or my left foot on 4 and my right foot on 3, I don’t really remember, but if you look at that picture up there, it would have required me to turn myself into a pretzel to tan. I understand that they want you to get all the nooks and crannies so that you’re an even color, but come on, that seemed a little excessive, so I just stood where I was and kinda turned a little. This happened at least 3 more times, alternating between the spraying and drying. Finally Siri told me it was time to get out, the session was over.

I was amazed to exit the booth and find that I really was dry, no drips. What did I even need the towel for? I was more than a little confused, but determined to ask the girl at the counter some questions on my way out. That conversation went like this:

Me: “Hey, so that was great, but I was a little confused by all those numbers on the floor. The first spray went great, I turned around, got the back side on 3 & 4, and then it got really weird with where she told me to put my feet next.” (remember, I’m still thinking front, turn, back)

Counter girl: “Really? I think maybe you misheard her, cause it’s pretty simple.”

Me: “Hmmm, I’m pretty sure she was articulating properly. I just wasn’t up to playing Twister in there just to get an even tan.”

Counter girl: ” Yeah, well, hmm, the process is that you hold up your arms (spa tan gestures) and then you just move in a circle from one number to the other before each time the spray starts. Until it’s done. Don’t worry, though (dumb old lady) the booth is designed to spray you evenly, I’m sure it won’t look weird if you were twisting and standing in the wrong place the entire time (lots of spa tan talk). And if it does (look weird, you know)  just come right on back in and do it again, for free.”

Me: “Ohhhhhhhhh…..thanks, bye.” Great visuals by the way. Left right, left right, in a progressive circle, huh? Geez, got it.

Trust me, I’ll be back. And I promise, I’ll listen to Siri and do the Hokey Pokey and turn myself around next time. Slowly, step by step. Number by number. Oh, and I learned something else for next time too. You know how there were no drips and I was all dry? Well, apparently, all the fine brown mist that doesn’t stick to YOU, sticks to those numbered ovals your feet are standing on and turns the bottom of your feet browner than if you’d roasted them on the BBQ.  It only looks weird when I wear sandals though, which is all the time now, so let me tell you, Counter Girl definitely has some more spa tan explaining to do.





The Black Hole

garage 018One of the great advantages to owning your own home is the limitless amount of freedom you have to create space where God intended there to be none. In my case, I was married to a man who owned a home when I met him, so the rafters in my garage was something that came along with the package, like it or not on my part.

I have a single story house with an attached garage. The roof out there has support beams that point up like an A, and in my opinion, there shouldn’t be any more to that than that. I mean, I wouldn’t start putting shelves on the ceiling for all my shoes just because I didn’t have any more room in the closet, right?

Apparently not. Many men like to do what’s generically referred to as “puttering” out in that man cave known as a garage, so when I got married and moved into his house, the garage came with ready-made rafters. Boards were apparently nailed to those support beams to create a place to crawl around and hoard stuff. Probably man stuff at first, later kid and family stuff. Things would be in my house one minute, and the next they would be whooshed out and packed away in the rafters. Otherwise referred to by me as “the black hole.”

I had no idea what was out there, and I lived in fear of any reason I might have to look up there. Aside from not wanting to fall off the ladder or crawl around on those pieces of plywood, who really knew what else was hiding up there? Bats? Rats? Possums? Bigfoot? After our second and LAST kid outgrew his car seat,  that went straight up there (for posterity’s sake, I guess) until the day we discovered a dead squirrel hanging over the arm of it. It was buckled in though, so no worries.  Seriously. I complained about a weird smell in the garage for days, but until little white wormy things (I know they’re called maggots) started dropping from the beamed sky to the garage floor, someone didn’t think it was worth investigating.  And every year it was the same drill…I needed the Halloween decorations, then the Christmas decorations, then skis, dishes, whatever used to be at ground level and easy for me to get to, and then wasn’t. We finally had wall-to-wall cabinets built-in the garage (another guy thing) but still, the stuff up there never saw the light of day and I never saw the garage roof.

When we got divorced seven years ago, all I wanted was to take everything down from there and get rid of it, but time flies when you’re having fun, and here it is 2013. If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you know my ex and I are great friends, so we decided about six months ago we’d rent a dumpster, he’d get everything down from there,  keep whatever we wanted and get rid of the rest. Did you catch the six months ago part? He’s been busy building his dream house in the mountains, and I was tired of waiting, so my roommate (also known as baby son) and I decided we’d do it ourselves this weekend.

Dumpster rented, ladder in place, and he climbed up. I warned him ahead of time that for all I knew he had another sibling somewhere up there, but he plowed ahead and started handing stuff down. Box after box after box after box. Not to mention the 10′ pieces of siding (you know in case a tornado whipped through town and ripped off some of the existing stuff) enough wood to build a vacation home and spare tiles from every room in the house. We cleaned out one whole side, filling up the dumpster, and then stopped for lunch. I was feeling great, so productive and we had piles of stuff for Goodwill. We were ready to tackle the other side. More boxes, more wood. Baseboard, molding, you name it. We were careful, one piece handed down to me at a time. I walked away for a minute, and then walked back to where my 6′ kid was dangling over the rafters at the exact moment a 6′ piece of oak baseboard decided to make a run for it while it had its chance. I got nailed, just to the right of my left ankle bone. No one’s to blame here, but just the tiniest little “Run like hell Mom” would have been so appreciated. Suffice it to say what spewed forth was neither ladylike nor maternal, and a trip to the ER seemed imminent and unavoidable.

Apparently, when you have to drive your mom to the hospital and she’s groaning in agony, it helps to have a bag of peanut M & Ms to much on along the way. One after the other, at such a high rate of speed it was making me dizzy. I kept trying to elevate my leg on the dashboard and get comfortable in my own car for this 10-minute hell ride, but all I could hear was the constant pop-crunching of thousands of candy coated peanuts. SERIOUSLY???? Okay, okay, maybe he was a little nervous that a ginormous blood clot would break off from my swollen ankle and kill me on the spot, so I didn’t say one word the entire time. Except for all the obscenities screaming inside my own head…..

Say what you want about health care and Kaiser, but I’ve always been treated really well there and yesterday was no exception. They got me into a wheelchair, whisked me off for x-rays, then right into a bed in the ER. Nothing was broken, they cleaned up the scrape, wrapped up my ankle, gave me a tetanus shot and a pain pill, and said I could go home to rest and recuperate from the contusion to my lower extremity. Really, it said that on my discharge papers. Pain meds worked pretty fast, baby son went to get the car, and they were coming back for me with a wheelchair. So I waited, and waited, and waited….

I now believe that EVERYTHING they portray on Grey’s Anatomy is the absolute truth. You know how they’re always losing patients?  They open the curtain in the ER and the person’s gone? Well I got SO tired of waiting for them to bring me the wheelchair I just up and walked out of there. And of course, I had no idea where I was going, so a nice guy in scrubs took me out the secret way cause he said it looked like I was having trouble walking. Ya think? Only difference between this scene and the one on that famous TV show is I’m pretty sure I should have ended up in the on call room with Dr. McDreamy. Oh well, such is life.

The Black Hole is no more. The rafters are empty, my ankle feels better, and I’m gratified to know I raised a responsible, hard-working boy who can get me where I need to go in an emergency while driving with one hand and making sure the chocolate melts in his mouth and not in his other hand that really should have been on the steering wheel too.



Doggie Doctoring

cutcaster-photo-100504107-Dog-at-veterinarianAh, the joys of responsible pet ownership. I’m the mother of two boys, yet nothing prepared me for the trials and tribulations of raising a dog. Or two. I changed enough diapers, wiped enough bottoms and got peed on accidentally enough times to make me think I’d be prepared for whatever I might find myself doing with and to an animal, but really, not so much.

We had poodles when I was growing up, fairly small dogs with short hair and manageable size poop. The fact that they only went in the house on newspaper perpetually yellowed and littered with brown nuggets is a topic for another day. That experience somewhat soured me on the idea of owning a dog as an adult, so no matter how much the kids begged me for one, I wouldn’t give in.

Then one day, which happens a lot to me, by the way (see Fear of Flying) my adamant stand against dog ownership vanished and I decided I was ready for a puppy. I was 43, my birthday was coming up, and really, it was all about me for a change. I wanted a tiny dog, nothing that would knock me down or slobber huge quantities of drool all over my designer jeans. Something manageable, cute, lightweight, that I could lift and carry around with me at will. The boys were less than enthusiastic, but I was determined. I wanted a Yorkshire Terrier. They didn’t shed, were happy-go-lucky and cute. I wanted cute.

Baby Son and I made the rounds of breeders, ended up buying one from a nice lady right here in town, and so it began. We were huge Angels fans at the time, and I loved Troy Percival, our ace closer, so we welcomed little Percy into our lives with open arms.  Knowing full well that if I didn’t want to breed him or find out he accidentally knocked up some little chihuahua around the corner, I’d have to offer up his little marbles to the veterinary vasectomeer, I sucked it up and took him in. He was young, I told myself, he really hadn’t been attached to them for all that long, he’d get lots of TLC afterwards and he’d never know what hit him till, well, maybe one day if and when he met a studly Great Dane.  Anyway, we all survived that episode, but unbeknownst to me, my doggie doctoring had only just begun.

Percy was the love of my life, and a psychotic bundle of perpetual energy who developed skin allergies and an aversion to other dogs and anyone who came within a 2-mile radius of me rather quickly. I’d done a lot of things when my kids were little and sick, but having to inject that tiny dog every day for almost 3 weeks to determine what he might be allergic to was one of the things I’d never believe I could do until I had to.  His skin would itch, he’d scratch, it would scab and bleed, and we spent a fair amount of time at the vet’s office. I rubbed him down with special lotions, used hypoallergenic shampoo and conditioner on him every week, kept his coat short, well brushed and fluffy, but he was constantly on cortisone and steroid medication for his condition. Still, I wouldn’t trade my time with him for anything on earth, and when I had to put him down in 2008 after they discovered a cyst on his brain, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I was living alone by then, and I swore I’d never get another dog. That lasted all of a few weeks, and then I got Cooper. From a fabulous breeder in Michigan, who shipped him out on American Airlines at 8 weeks old. Almost totally crate trained, with 2/3 of his shots, and BEST PART? Minus the boys. Male dogs come neutered, thank the Lord for small miracles.

Cooper’s a first generation Puggle- his mom is a beagle and his dad is a pug. Puggles have short, coarse hair and a curly tail.  Some of them, like Cooper, have the Pug’s underbite, which makes for some pretty funny facial expressions most of the time, and he is the sweetest, happiest non drooly bigger dog on the face of the earth.  For sure. Cooper has some skin itching issues also, so he needs some cortisone shots every now and again, along with a Zyrtec wrapped in American cheese, but for the most part he’s maintenance free, and a lover. Which is why, a year ago, I decided it would be a good idea if I got a little sister for him from the same breeder.

Yikes. Simone is adorable, but she had even more energy than Cooper did as a puppy, and she chewed everything in sight. She was almost 12 weeks when I got her, and WORST PART? Girl puppies come with all their parts, which have to be scooped out of them before they do their little girl becomes a woman thing for the first time. That’s major surgery, involving staples and plastic cones on their head, then for Simone, redone staples and sedatives. It’s hard to keep a good girl down.

Also, Cooper didn’t exactly love her, like I thought he would. She likes to chew his ears, run after him, and entice him to play when he wants to sleep. Welcome to the world of Mars vs. Venus girlfriend.

But, a year and a half  later, things have actually calmed down some, and aside from the fact that Simone now itches, scratches and takes cheesy Zyrtec also, I’m thinking I’m doing okay. They both got their rabies vaccinations last week, look Ma, no fleas, they’ve adjusted well to their lack of parts, and probably could enjoy some worry-free hanky-panky (if I wasn’t around to see it) if they wanted to. Life was great, until I noticed Cooper scooting his butt along my bedroom carpet. WTF? What are you doing that for? Who do I call? No one peeps, I just Google it.  C’mon, isn’t that what everyone does?

Too much information is not always a good thing. Turns out #1 reason for that activity has something to do with anal sacs. Holy crap, I want nothing to do with this. Isn’t that something they do when they give the dogs a bath? Every few months when I take them for their daily romp at the Bone Adventure? Run wild and free for 8 hours with your doggie friends, then get a nice bath and your anal sacs expressed? That was my understanding anyway.

Ohhhh noooo. This is what they tell me when I call. They just get a bath. You have to ask for that other service. Ask for it? Why would I ask for it? How would I know to ask for it? So let me get this straight. If I’ve never asked for it, and you’re the only ones who would do this procedure, my dogs have never experienced this special service? Cooper is 4. Lord have mercy, I’m lucky he wasn’t wiping his ass on my pillow. Oh, some dogs, especially the smaller ones, do it themselves she tells me, so it may not be as big of a problem as it seems. Do it themselves? How? Where? This conversation is going over the falls in a barrel rather quickly now. Okay, never mind, thank you, I’m calling Petsmart. Which I did on Friday. Scheduled them both on Saturday for the “express” bath. The girl was very understanding and assured me they’d be taken care of. “We’ll call you in about 4 hours to come pick them up.”

Simone was fine, Cooper not so much. The very nice young lady told me she kinda couldn’t find his sacs and maybe I should call the vet in the morning. I’m not even going to relay the rest of that conversation. They give you a groomer’s report card at Petsmart, and when I got home, the note on Cooper’s said: “Cooper’s anal glands were either express on his own or they are compacted. ♥ Shelby” Compacted woulda been so much better than impacted, although luckily,  for all concerned, his weren’t. Took him to the vet this morning, and twenty minutes and $37 (more) later, the veterinary tech was able to milk the crap out of my sweet boy.

Doggie doctoring. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

Fear of Flying

New-York_plane_682_499948aIt appears I have the traveling bug.  I want to go to some places I’ve already been, places I haven’t been to yet, near and far, alone or together, but somewhere, anywhere I can relax and explore. Pack a bag, hop a plane and be gone.

Lots of people do that everyday, but for me it’s kind of a new feeling because I used to be scared to death to fly. It wasn’t so much about a smashing into the ground, splattered into a million pieces kind of thing (although that definitely was a consideration) as much as it was, I think, about floating in an area that seemed (because it was) eons from the rest of the world in a pressurized cabin that rocked and rolled along with a very annoying humming noise for the majority of the flight. I was never really afraid during takeoff, and I loved, loved landing. The closer we got to the ground the better I felt, and I’m eternally grateful that the runway was never shorter than the length of the taxiing.

One of my favorite movies is “French Kiss”,  primarily because I love Meg Ryan, even though it appears she’s been kidnapped by aliens and vanished off the face of the earth, but also because I love the notion that she overcame her deathly fear of flying to cross the continental divide in a misguided attempt to snatch her fiance from the arms of the woman he left her for and was now happily banging in France.  Her attempt at those airline classes intending to show people how irrational their flying phobia is was a dismal failure, so Kate just sucked it up and got on the plane, determined to see it through because she had no other choice. Once  on board, she meets Luc (aka Kevin Kline) and their subsequent conversation describes my former feelings to a tee.

Luc: “What do you think, the plane is going to crash and we are all on the ground in a thousand pieces dead? I promise you, if it happens, you won’t feel a thing.”

Kate: “You’re French, aren’t you?”

Luc: “I am curious, how did you get around before, or do you just stay at home, curled up with the windows down?”

Kate: “I get around as nature intended: in a car.”

Aside from trips to Hawaii or France, which I think would be difficult, not to mention expensive in terms of gas, I just figured I’d see the good old US of A (maybe Canada and Mexico too, I think you can take like a year-long road trip there) and forget anywhere else that required high-powered takeoffs and the unfurling of landing gear.  I was in good company, too. Even big, burly John Madden went everywhere in a bus.

I wasn’t always afraid to fly. I grew up in New York, and I was in a relationship in high school with a guy who went off to college a short plane ride away. Not a 747 plane ride away either. A small, little puddle jumper kind of plane. Maybe the romantic notion of a weekend together cancelled out any thoughts of death I may have had brewing subconsciously, I don’t know, but I flew. Fairly often. Then I moved to California, and because my family was still back east, I flew back there at least once a year to see them.

I had one really scary flight once. My fiance and my future mother-in-law were flying home for an engagement party my parents were throwing for us in New York. Apparently there was terrible weather the pilot wasn’t aware of (really, no one else flying through Armageddon a few hours before had radioed that maybe we’d want to bend over and kiss our asses goodbye? Oh wait, no way to do that anyway, since the glow-in-the-dark picture of the buckled together seat belt was still on) and the flight suddenly developed into something like one of those monstrous roller coaster rides at one of the country’s top amusement parks. Anyway, the flight was a stopover, we landed, took off again, made it quietly and safely to New York and I still flew again after that.

When my dad was diagnosed with cancer and had surgery in the late fall of 1990, I flew back to be with him. Then in May of 1993 when my brother graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis, and again a month later when my dad passed away. The following year my husband, kids, sister, brother and nephew flew to Hawaii to vacation together in the one place my dad had always wanted to go and never made it to.  It was a wonderful vacation and I was glad we did it, and you’d think maybe that was a lesson I would learn something from, but the truth was that it was a white knuckler flight for me and I remember thinking I had had enough.

I decided I wouldn’t fly again. It just wasn’t worth it to me to tempt the hands of fate in a vehicle piloted by someone I had never had the pleasure of actually meeting and getting to know before we spent 5 or more hours together packed like sardines with a hundred or more strangers in a giant metal container with wings and tiny retractable wheels. I missed weddings, family gatherings, high school reunions and fabulous vacation spots, and I disappointed more than my fair share of friends and relations, but it was what it was.

Fear is a funny thing. It protects you by not allowing you to risk anything, but it also prevents you from experiencing some of the most incredible places and people life has to offer.  I was grounded for many years, and then one day, 50 and single, I just decided it was time to spread MY wings and fly.  I wish I could help anyone else who may have a flying phobia by giving you all sorts of tips on how I did it, but I can’t.  I just realized that life was short and meant to be lived, and that when my number was up, it was up, no matter where I might happen to be. Plane, train or automobile. Some things are just out of our control, and my truth is that one day my fear of flying was just gone. As if it had never been.

The first few trips I took were short. Phoenix and Las Vegas. You’re up and down before you can figure out how to open the damn bag of peanuts they give you.  I had an iPod by then too, so a headset and music definitely helped with the humming noise and the friendly conversationalist sitting next to me. Then I flew to South Beach with my kids for my nephew’s wedding, and I knew I was on my way.

The turning point for me was the first cross country trip I made solo in May of 2009. My aunt and uncle owned a fabulous house in Hoboken, NJ and I wanted to see them, their house, and the new New York City. You know, the cleaned up, safer, vibrant, exciting, throw your hat in the air Mary Tyler Moore style Manhattan.  I know that was Minneapolis, I just liked the descriptive visual. Broadway, cute little boutique hotel for one night, Fifth Avenue, the works.

Not wanting to waste a day flying, I opted for the red eye on JetBlue out of Long Beach to JFK.  I drove myself to the airport, parked in the long-term lot, unloaded my 100 lb. suitcase (which I ultimately had to pay extra for, both ways)  out of the back of the car and onto the shuttle they take you to the terminal in, and headed straight for the bar. It was a great flight and that trip allowed me to do something I’d only been hoping for and wanted to do for a long time.  Besides the flying.

I’ve been back and forth many more times to Vegas and Phoenix, to Santa Rosa a few times, and I’m headed to Florida in May to see my mom, then to New York in July for my 40th high school reunion.  Someday I’ll get to Nashville, New Orleans, France and Italy.  Look at me, I’m flying.

Meet My Roommate

31256-Clipart-Illustration-Of-A-Cute-Baby-Bird-In-A-Nest-Looking-Up-At-Its-Mother-As-She-Arrives-HomeMy roommate doesn’t pay rent, he eats me out of house and home, and his bedroom could easily be featured on an episode of “Hoarders.” On the plus side, most weeks he remembers to put the trash cans out on Monday night, he does his own laundry and he makes it possible for me to go to happy hour with the girls straight from work when I want to because he’s there to feed the dogs.

Welcome to the world of the not-so-empty-nester. I’m a single, independent woman living with my 27 yr. old son. He’s the younger of my two boys, and I often refer to him affectionately as Baby Son. One of my favorite bloggers  (https://www.facebook.com/stfd.shutthefrontdoor) refers to her kids as Noodles (macaroni noodle for the little one) and in one post where she was talking about an older daughter, it was all I could do not to say, “Oh the lasagna noodle” in my comment. I wish I had thought of names like that for my offspring, but Baby and Older (sons) was as creative as I got.

Baby Son graduated from Arizona State in December of 2009 with a degree in Communications and moved back in with me hoping to find a great job and his own apartment pretty quickly. I was hoping that too. I’d been living alone for 4 years by then, and was used to my own space, a clean house and quiet. But it was the beginning of the Great Recession and jobs were hard to come by. Even with a college degree. Time flies when you’re having fun, and here it is 2013. Baby Son has worked as much as he could these past 3 years, taking temp jobs, a job with the Los Angeles Angels for a while (which we both enjoyed) an unpaid internship at a sports marketing firm, and his latest stint as a production assistant with Fox Sports in LA. He does a great job, they all seem to like him, but they aren’t hiring for permanent positions, and he’s back pounding the pavement again. Applying, interviewing and hoping something comes along so he can get on with his grown up, away from Mommy life.

It’s interesting living with your adult son. He’s free to come and go as he pleases, and he does, but he’s home a lot too, more often than not on my new, leather living room couch. He alternates between playing  really loud video games, watching extremely interesting TV shows like Amish Mafia and keeping up with every sports team on the planet. He’s a statistical sports whiz, and he would make a great broadcast announcer or analyst. I know, I’m the mom, just sayin’, give the kid a job. Please.

Neither one of us is dating right now, which is good because when we were, neither one of us was exactly sure what the rules were when it came to um, having friends over. Which is why when I heard voices and came out of my room one night a few years ago to find a cougar on my couch, I was at a loss for words.

Baby Son and & have a great relationship, and we’ve always talked about pretty much everything. He’s the kind of kid (just like his mom) who tells it like it is, and was always open with me about whatever was going on in his life. So I knew he’d met an older lady out somewhere one night, and that she’d been texting him, wanting to get together, and fortunately for him, I can put two and two together pretty fast. It was like 2 in the morning and I was sound asleep in my bedroom when I heard the front door open, and then talking. Definitely a female voice in the mix there, Cooper was barking like crazy, so in my pjs, I opened the door and came walking out into my office. Someone was in the bathroom,  and straight ahead, sitting on my couch, was a woman (even without my glasses on) way too close to my age than his, with more cleavage than I’d seen at any hour of the day or night. Up close. Ever.

So I did the only civil thing a mom in my position would do. I put out my hand, said “Hi, I’m Sue. Just letting the dog out to pee. Have a nice night.” And went back to bed.  She left not long after that, and I figured I’d deal with the situation after I had some sleep.

The kid and I had an interesting convo the next morning, all about how NOT to ever bring someone home again to MY house, but we were laughing so hard at times it was hard for me to stay too mad at him. Turns out she lived somewhere really far away, she was driving, and he didn’t want to go to her place, so he told her his ROOMMATE wouldn’t mind if she came to his. She never did find out I was really his mom. He had told her I was an older lady he rented a room from, and when she asked him if there was anything “going on between us,” he just told her nope, and that she had no idea how far off she was with that question. Classic story we’ll be telling for years.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned about parenting, it’s be specific. Spell it out in no uncertain terms, or they just act confused when you come unglued over the things they do.

I love my roommate, and I’m pretty sure if he wasn’t around for dinner I’d be eating crackers and cheese with a wine shooter most nights.  I like having someone to cook for, and someone there at night in case there happens to be a serial killer on the loose again, but I really think I’m ready to push this baby birdie out of the nest once and for all. It’s time.

These Are My Words

vintage-writingI wasn’t always a writer. I was a reader, a lover of language and words, and a straight A student in English all through high school, but I didn’t start writing until I became a reporter for a local newspaper at the very young age of 50.

Newly single and ready to start the second half of my life, I decided to follow my dream of someday working for a magazine or newspaper as a copy editor. It’s important while fantasizing about a glamorous career as a magazine editor to keep in mind that you should have some experience and/or education in that field, and since I was an accredited bookkeeper working for a CPA for the past 16 years,  I did what any smart woman my age would do and registered at the local community college for a journalism class.  Do I know something about how to get your foot in the door or what?

I grew up in the suburbs of Long Island, New York, and moved out to California when I was 19, after graduating high school and attending our local junior college for a year. My dad was an engineer at Grumman Aerospace, and in the summer of 1974 was told he needed to move to Southern California for a one year subcontractor job at North American Rockwell. I was an avid follower of all things related to movies, television, gossip magazines and celebrities, so I was singing “California Here I Come” as soon as I heard the news. I believed all I had to do was walk down Sunset Boulevard and I’d be sure to run into the likes of Burt Reynolds or whatever other stud muffin happened to be People’s Sexiest Man Alive at the time.

We moved into an awesome rental house in Irvine, and I enrolled at Orange Coast College (OCC from now on) to continue my undergraduate education. Lost my accent as quick as I could, and knew in my heart that no matter what happened with Dad’s job, I wasn’t leaving the sun and the surf.  Telling my parents was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but when my family moved back to NY in the summer of 1975, I stayed. I found a roommate, moved into an apartment in Huntington Beach, started working at Bank of America, and eventually got my AA degree at Golden West College. I got married, had a couple of kids, went back to OCC for my accounting degree, got hired as the bookkeeper and office manager for aforementioned CPA and fast forwarding to January 2006, divorced and wanting a change, found myself once again at OCC in a night class full of mostly young students. Which was incredibly interesting, and fun.

I sat in the first row the first night, you know, so the teacher could see how serious I was, and couldn’t wait to get started. It was a great class, and by week two I had discovered that the eminent professor was none other than the editor of the Daily Pilot, a local newspaper covering Newport Beach and Costa Mesa that was distributed daily as an insert in the Los Angeles Times. Bingo! I joked about whether he needed anyone to make him coffee or pick up his dry cleaning, but lo and behold he told me they had unpaid internships and if I was interested he would see what he could do.

I was interested, and in March of that year I began what would be a 4-month copy editing internship. Oh, and before I forget, I got an A in the class. My final assignment was to interview and write about someone famous, so I chose best-selling author Jodi Piccoult. I had met her several times, seen her speak, got an A on that paper and with my one class in journalism under my belt, figured I was on my way to being the next Helen Gurley Brown. I had made sure both feet were in the door. Along with an official-looking press credential that you swiped in order to gain entrance to the great and powerful LA Times building in Costa Mesa.

For the most part, copy editors work at night. Sometimes late at night. They wait until all the stories are in, and then they start reading and editing. And editing and printing. Stacks of printed pages, with tiny print, that you read over and over again, looking for errors. Checking grammar, spelling, content, facts, words or phrases that could spell trouble, and whether or not the story needs to be cut for SPACE. That’s right, all those nice columns in a newspaper can only hold so many words, and sometimes, some of those words just have to go. And that’s hard. Reporters are telling a story, a story they wrote, and it’s hard when you have to cut sentences, quotes, eloquent descriptions and powerful verbiage because there just isn’t enough room. Preserving the voice of the writer, their unique style, and let’s be honest, their ego, is a challenge. For the lucky reporter with a team of copy editors who respect the process, it’s a gift.

I was taught by one of the best. He was a young one too, a 20-something genius who could edit a story and write a headline like nothing I’ve ever seen.  Most people don’t realize that copy editors write the headlines for every story a reporter writes, and it’s challenging.  The reporter can have input, make suggestions and hope for the best, but in the end, it’s the copy editor who creates those big, black headlines that spark a reader’s interest and draws them in. That was the hardest part of being a copy editor for me, and there were many nights I sat there banging my head on the table in hopes that I’d come up with something that would do the story justice. That’s about the time the other “kids” would tell me to go grab a sheet and proofread. There were deadlines to meet, and getting the final cuts to the big printer in the sky by midnight was mandatory.

I was always taught to respect my elders, but I had more respect for my younger colleagues at The Daily Pilot than for many of the more experienced, and supposedly mature people I ever encountered in my daily life.  They were an energetic, brilliant, PATIENT, hard-working group of kids I was proud to be associated with. I learned more there than I can tell you about, especially once I became a reporter myself.

I was hired as a News Assistant in July of 2006 (no copy editing positions available at the time) and I went kicking and screaming into the world of writing. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, and the most exhilarating. I did a lot of different things at first, like the daily calendar of events, a weekly column where I’d go to the local movie theater and interview people after the screening, a monthly feature about taking a day trip to a local attraction, and the required daily news brief or two. I started writing more as time went on, and in September 2007 was promoted to the Features and Entertainment reporter when one of my closest friends left to take another job at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. Jessie was a formidable talent, and she had big shoes to fill. Many years my junior, I’ve always thought of her as my soul mate (still do)  so it was a relief for me that she was still available for me when I needed help. Plus, we got to work on a lot of stories together since I covered many of the events there. It was a stressful, deadline-driven job, but I loved the people I got to meet and interview. Some of them were even those celebrity types I dreamed about meeting all those years ago.  I interviewed authors, athletes, actors and singers. In truth though, it was the average, everyday hero, doing incredibly good deeds or overcoming adversity that touched me the most. I was humbled by the trust people placed in me to tell their story accurately, with honesty and integrity, and over time, I became more and more protective of my subjects. And my words.

Don’t get me wrong, I was open to constructive criticism, suggestions, and that wonderful exchange of ideas tossed back-and-forth that many times produced a better story. “This would flow better moved up here,” “What about using this phrase instead,” ~ all of that was welcomed and more often than not, appreciated.  A good editor knows how to share their opinions, their perspective, and their experience without taking anything away from you, the writer. That’s called collaboration, and I did work with some really good ones.

I was at the Pilot for two years. I have four portfolio books full of the articles I wrote, and I’m still awed when I see my byline at the top. I can’t tell you how many times over the years someone mentions a person, place or thing and I’ve remarked that I think I wrote a story about them once, when I was a reporter.  Not only do I have the print articles, I kept all the original drafts of the stories before they were edited. I liked being able to look back and compare, especially when there was a cut I didn’t feel was necessary.  Being reminded of my words when I felt the end product was more a reflection of what the editor would have said than what I had written was gratifying.

I interviewed Valerie Harper when I was at the Pilot for her role as Golda Meir in the movie “Golda’s Balcony.” Fabulous lady, and I was heartbroken to learn this week that she’d been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.  Valerie was on tour and out-of-town promoting the movie, which was due to open the following week at a local theater in Costa Mesa, so the interview was done over the phone. She was open, friendly, funny, easy to talk to and so proud of her role in the movie.  We talked about the years she spent playing the character she’s most identified with, the beloved, single, Jewish Rhoda Morgenstern and how here she was again, playing Jewish Prime Minister Golda Meir. “Everyone thinks you’re a nice Jewish girl from the Bronx, Valerie, but the truth is you’re Catholic, right?” I asked her. Her candid and heartfelt responses to my questions made it easy for me to write the opening line of my story. What we call the “lede,” and the following paragraphs. I was happy with the final draft, proud of the story and I felt confident Valerie would be okay with what I’d written if and when she read it.

I left work that night before the story was edited. Reporters had a 5:00 deadline for submission, and the first edit was always done by either the features editor, the city editor or the editor editor. The big guy. They made the major corrections they felt were necessary (if there were any) then it went to the copy desk for their review before it was submitted to print. I had a terrible relationship with the city editor. He routinely changed my work because he liked to interject his own personality and style into it, and he was notorious for delaying the editing process when there was a Cubs game on. Really.  I usually stayed late when I knew he was the one editing so I could see what it looked like when it hit the copy desk.  It was already late that night when I left, I had dinner plans (a date) and I was angry he was taking so long, so when my phone rang at 9 p.m in the restaurant, I didn’t take the call.

When I came in the next morning and grabbed the paper, which is the first thing every reporter did in the morning, the whole opening had been changed. He pulled some stuff that was almost at the end of the story, completely out of context, and made it the lede.  When I confronted him, he told me he liked what I had written, but it didn’t make sense to him because Valerie Harper was Jewish, so he had to cut the entire intro. At that point, short of strangling him, there was nothing constructive I could do or say that would change the fact that I was holding that day’s edition. The first words every reader, including Valerie, would read, was not what I had written. That was my name on the story, but those were not my words.

The printed story is in the Daily Pilot archives. I also have my original draft, and I’ll share the two versions below. All I ask is that when you remember Valerie Harper, especially after she’s gone, you remember what she told me. Here’s how my story began:

“Actress Valerie Harper may have an even harder time now convincing people she isn’t Jewish. Her claim to fame was her Emmy-award winning turn as Mary Tyler Moore’s Jewish sidekick, Rhoda Morgenstern, on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and its spin-off series, “Rhoda.” In her latest incarnation, she portrays Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in the movie “Golda’s Balcony,” which opened this month across the country. Not being Jewish matters not to Harper, who said she has “neshama” or a Jewish soul.”

The edit: “Valerie Harper believes some people might have big dreams, but aren’t able to act on their visions, while some activists can’t see the big picture. Golda Meir, though, could do both, says the actress best known for her Emmy Award-winning role as Mary Tyler Moore’s best friend, Rhoda Morgenstern. The Israeli prime minister’s success came from her ability to speak clearly, intelligently and in a down-to-earth way anyone could relate to.”

I left the Pilot in May of 2008, and didn’t write again until I started this blog a month ago. No edits. No deadlines. I’m back to doing what I love. Writing. These are my words.