Monday, June 28, 2010

A Funeral to Die For

There’s nothing like attending a funeral to give you pause and direct your thoughts to your own mortality and the state of the world in general. I discovered this while attending a funeral this morning with my oldest son. A young friend of his had died most unexpectedly and he and I attended to honor this boy.

In my day, funerals were considered a fairly formal event, especially those held in churches. One would dress up to show honor and respect for the newly deceased. That doesn’t seem to be the case these days.

The clothing styles sported by the young mourners varied from the casual to the obscene. I’m sure the young man in the Grateful Dead t-shirt and dirty torn jeans thought the rose bedecked skeleton on his chest had something to do with death, much as moldy bread has something to do with science.

Another young man draped an oversized wool blazer on top of his purple t-shirt and plaid Bermuda shorts in an effort to dress up the ensemble.

Many of the young women showed up in skin bearing sun dresses and one in a short ebony colored number with a plunging neckline, proving thus again, that the little black dress isn’t suitable for every occasion.

Perhaps these attempts at fashion rebellion are an effort to keep the atmosphere light and avoid the grim reality that life does not continue forever.

That evening, we talked around the dinner table about funerals in general. One son insisted that he wanted his funeral to be held at a local dance club after which he wanted to be cremated and his ashes spread throughout the shopping mall. Another wanted a party, with all the nieces and nephews walking around with platters of appetizers and perhaps a bubble machine. My daughter insisted that all her shoes be stuck inside the coffin with her, just in case she figured out a way to take them with her.

We laughed, and changed the subject. But it got me to thinking about how short life is, and how once it’s done, well it’s done. No do overs, no second chances.

Behind me at the funeral, two young girls who were still in their teens sobbed uncontrollably. For them death was a horrible monster who had stolen their friend from their very arms. I understood how they felt. I was young once too.

For me the idea of death is not so frightening. I believe my spirit will go on and that there are many more adventures yet to discover and mysteries to behold. But I also know that life happens fast, and we need to savor every moment.

Of course by tomorrow I'll have forgotten these profound thoughts, and I'll go back to worrying about the dishes and what color to paint the living room. And that's the way it should be. We will all die sometime but we can't live worrying about that eventuality. But maybe between the hustling here and the rushing there, I'll stop and enjoy the now, at least for a moment.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Glass Breaks

It’s summer time and the dishwasher is running almost non-stop so I asked my youngest son to empty a load for me while I finished working on a writing project. Mid sentence the familiar sound of breaking glass assaulted my ears. Without rising from my chair I called out, “Did something break?”

A momentary pause. “Uh… no.”

“But I just heard it.”

Another pause. “Well, maybe. I’m not sure.”

“How can you not be sure. Did something break or did it not?”

Long sigh. “Sort of I guess.”

“Just make sure you sweep it up before someone walks in with bare feet and looses a foot.”

It was just a glass, so I don’t know why he was so worried. He’s broken things much more valuable in the past and still lives to tell the tale. But I guess we all have a hard time when something we value gets broken.

But that’s how life is. Things break, cars get dents, carpets get stained and people screw up. And you know what? It’s not the end of the world.

When my husband and I were first married, I remember spilling a glass of milk. It ran across our new tablecloth and dripped down the front of my husband’s dress pants. He was furious and I felt terrible. That was back in the day when we believed that if we were really careful all our stuff would stay nice and new forever. Then we had kids.

It’s amazing how children change your whole perspective on the world and teach you what is really important. We use to refer to our son as the human fire-hose. That kid could spit-up a stream of half digested breast milk and hit his father five feet away. For months we couldn’t get that lingering odor of sour milk out of our house. The carpet, walls and even our clothing were soaked with it.

But now that same son has just become engaged. He’s about ready to start a new life with a darling girl and he just bought his first car. Yesterday someone left a jacket on the top of his trunk and you’d have thought that life as we know it was ending. I just smiled. He has no idea what’s coming.

Sunday was Fathers day and it was my husband’s turned to get guilted out at church. I think it’s only fair after what they put women through on Mother’s Day. And sure enough, he was guilted out, although he did get to bring home two giant chocolate chip cookies afterwards.

“Sometimes I feel like I haven’t been a very good father,” he said later in the day. “There are so many things I could have done and didn’t. So many things I should be doing now and don’t.”

I know the feeling. As I said, Mother’s Day was just a month ago.

“Glass breaks,” I said.

He turned and looked at me with some confusion.

“Do you ever remember throwing out a set of glasses or mugs because we bought a new set and they didn’t match?” I asked.


“That’s because we never did. You don’t throw away glasses. They break, every single last one. That’s how it works. And you don’t cry or mourn or even worry. You toss the shattered pieces, and you buy something new and start over.”

“And this applies how?” he asked. My husband often doubts the true depth of my wisdom.

“We all mess up. Glasses get broken, harsh words get said, misjudgments are made, and time is wasted. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start over. Our parents weren’t perfect moms and dads, we aren’t perfect and our kids won’t be perfect parents – but that’s okay. We don’t need to be perfect. We just need to keep trying.”

He smiled at me and I think he felt better, and he should. My husband is a good man. He loves his children, worries about them, and is always there when they need him.

Talking to my husband got me to thinking about my own father.

A lot of my cousins have lost their fathers over the last few years, and I feel lucky to still have my dad in my life. He’s been married to my mother for over fifty years. During those years he has been a hard worker and a good provider. I never knew a moment of fear or need growing up under his roof. As an adult I find that I have many habits and traits that I picked up from him. Many of the values I most treasure and the beliefs that have guided my life were instilled in me by the lifelong example of the man who loved and raised me. I’m sure he wasn’t always perfect but it’s funny how I can’t really remember anything but the good.

And as an imperfect mother myself… this gives me hope.

Happy Fathers Day to the two most important men in my life… my father and my husband.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Summer Time and the Living is Crazy

Every year about this time I do a blog on how nuts I’m going with the kids at home for the summer. That is probably because during the school year I forget what it’s like. I imagine summer to be lazy days sleeping in till ten or eleven in the morning. A patio chair under a shaded tree, with hours to spend catching up on my reading or day dreaming as fantastically shaped clouds glide peacefully over head.

It is similar to my Christmas fantasy where I’m serving hot wassail and homemade cookies to my neighbors and friends who’ve dropped in for a visit. My house is sparkling clean and twinkles with lights and tinsel and Christmas music is playing in the background as I bask in the joy and peace of the season.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we imagine such impossible scenarios for the three months after spring and then beat ourselves up when they don’t happen? Perhaps because we refuse to deal with the realities of summer life. Who wants to think about piles and piles of plates and dishes growing in the sink thanks to a herd of hungry teenagers with access to the kitchen twenty-four seven? And where is the magic in lying on a bed on a hot summer night, stripped down to the most minimal of clothing and wishing a nice blizzard would come rushing through so one could cool off and go to sleep?

Personally, I think it’s nicer just to imagine how fun it would be to pack up all the kids and take them to a California beach vacation for a week then to actually do it. The dream is delightful, while the reality is grumpy kids that can’t decide on one activity they all want to participate in or one food they are all willing to eat.

My mom tells me to enjoy these days. She says that the kids will grow up far too soon and move on with their own lives. She says the things that annoy me about a house full of summer bored kids will become the stuff of fond memories in the future. She says this and then she and my dad hop a plane to Hawaii or take their trailer-for-two and cruise around the country, stopping at gift shops and restaurants that don’t offer ‘kids-eat-free’ deals. Hmmm

So what’s a middle aged girl like me gonna do? Only one thing. Lock the bedroom door, turn up the stereo really really loud and dream of the first day of school, the only daydream in my life that always turns out as good as I’d imagined.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Awakening Avery Book Review.... well almost

About a year ago, I created a website. The main reason behind this website was to practice my ever growing skills at using Adobe Dreamweaver, and partly to play around with my love of books. I had this idea that I could make a place, almost like a real live bookstore, where visitors could leisurely explore a wide variety of books, maybe read some excerpts all from the comfort of their own computer chair. See

It was one of those projects that ended up being a lot tougher than I thought it would be, but has also proved very satisfying. I’ve gotten to know a lot of authors, and my html skills are increasing all the time.

I was asked to do a review recently for part of a blog tour. The book, Awakening Avery by Laurie Lewis arrived in the mail a short time later. I read the book, wrote my review and then discovered that the link that was being provided for my part in the tour was this blog, my personal blog, the one that has nothing to do with my website, and everything to do with expressing my own unique brand of humor.

So I wrote what I humbly consider to be an insightful review, which you can find my clicking on the following link, Annie’s Book Blog.

I have to admit I find it flattering and more than a little amusing to be asked to review a book. Not that I don’t have experience in it. I’ve been reading and then privately reviewing books for years. We all do right? Take J.K. Rowling. We didn’t just read Harry Potter, but we discussed it in detail. Did Harry whine too much in book number five or was it six? And just how long could book number seven possibly be?

I’ve read books I’ve hated. Books I thought had no business even being published, and then I find other readers just like myself who think they are the greatest invention since tracking devises on children.

Sometimes I like to explore Amazon just to see how many strange and varied plot lines I can find.

Take mysteries. I love mysteries, as do many other people. So the challenge for a writer is to find new ways to present a genre that is already overflowing with hundreds if not thousands of book ideas and find something fresh. There are books with main characters who are old, young, fat, thin, actors, writers, garbage men, and even cats. There are mysteries that include recipes, knitting instructions and free prizes inside. Some are written from the point of view of the detective, some from the point of view of the killer and a few from the point of view of the victim. One has to get really creative to come up with something new.

I’ve been playing around with an idea myself, and I thought I’d shoot it out there to all of you, see what you think. I’m putting together a mystery series with an older widow like Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote. Then I’d combine it with the success of the Twilight series, so she would have to be an ageless vampire. That would be tricky because it appears most vampires prefer to remain in their late teens through late twenties, but surely there is room for an aged but winsome vampire woman.

She can have guests over, feed them lobster bisque (recipe included), then once they are full and sleeping in her guest room, she can drink their blood. Thus energized she can go out, solve mysteries and provide down home advice to the locals. I think it could work…in some alternate reality.

Unlike my book idea, Awakening Avery is good, really good, so please read my review at Annie’s Book Blog and then go buy the book.

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