God Help Me, I’m Making Grandma Noises

Not ready to fade…but I’ll take the senior discounts!

Grammie had a distinctive way of clearing her throat.

“Eh-ehehehehehehhh-eh-eh-eh-eh.”

As if she was trying to clear phlegm discreetly.

But there wasn’t really any way to be discreet about it.

That sound drove me nuts, and she did it a lot.

I was sure I would never, ever make that sound.

You know where this is going.

I caught myself doing it the other day, while looking in the mirror at my Mother’s face looking back at me.

I had been so determined not to turn into my Mother, or my Grammie.

And I have been unkind to them both in my writing and my mind, remembering only the annoying stuff (Grandma) and the painful stuff (Mom, a lot of it.)

Yeah, so, Karma’s a bitch, right?

Since Christmas, my daughter and I have been sitting together in the evening for our “music time,” listening to something soothing, and chatting, or just sitting together, until she decides she wants “quiet time,” and turns off the stereo, so we can just sit in companionable silence together.

That’s when I notice I have begun to resemble a slightly more colorful Whistler’s Mother – rocking in my 5-generation rocking chair, the one that started with Great-great Grandma, then Great Grandma, and then came to Grammie, then Mom, then me.

Wearing a flannel nightie, a shaker cardigan,  (not getting paid for those links, just wanted to give you an image of what I’m talking about) a wide plaid shawl on top of the sweater, around my shoulders, and a hat.

God, help me – I don’t want to be a docile, rocking-chair, throat-clearing granny, or a  crotchety Mom, fussing over my daughter’s hair or clothing choices. Not yet, anyway.

I have no intention of going gently into “seniorland.” (Oh, but I’ll take the discounts, thank you very much!) I will reveal my age only so others may marvel at it – “impossible! You don’t look a day over (insert highly unlikely much younger comparison here.)”

This year is a big one for me – when a certain date rolls around, my life as any kind of woman (as opposed to bent, chin-hairy crone) hits the “sell by” date.  I am scheduled to dry up, turn grey, and stop expecting much, especially not love, from life. I am expected to fade uncomplainingly into invisibility, and generally get out of the way.

Hell with that.

You may find me improperly dressed for a woman of my age, singing too loudly at inopportune moments, using foul language when inspired to do so, and generally making a spectacle of myself.

Because if you ask me, as Margo was asked, “is it over, or is it just beginning?” I’d reply:

Enjoy the ride, bumps and all!

(Now if I can just clear my throat….)

Going shopping for a dress like that, I remain,

Your non-smoking, sans diamonds but rockin’ the Bette-Davis attitude,

Ridiculouswoman

Caffeine and Cabin Fever

Clearly, too much coffee causes excessive italicizing.

That’s it. I’m cutting myself off.

Two cups of coffee and I’m a jangly bag of nerves.

Turns out OCD, caffeine and cabin fever don’t mix. Who knew?

We’ll be stuck in the house for at least another 24 hours.

Hours that will be spent listening to and worrying about the loudest popping and creaking sounds this house has made in the almost 20 years we’ve lived here.

Is that a joist cracking? Seventy-year-old nails popping? Window frames warping? Subfloors bending? Hot-water heat pipes pinging, over-expanding under the strain of the boiler (the thank-God-it’s-a-brand-new-boiler, but still) running non-stop?

I am probably the only person caught in the polar vortex who could find so many things to worry about when I am safe and warm inside a house with heat, running water, internet access and hot soup.

If I were Charlie Brown, I’d be the Charlie Browniest.

Climate change is killing coffee, did you know that? So in another few years I might not be able to do this to myself even if I wanted to.

There’s always chocolate. Until there isn’t. Because climate change is screwing with cocoa beans, too, apparently.

Coffee I can do without, but chocolate? Are you kidding?

OK, I’m on a roll here! Let’s find more stuff to worry about!

That steam blowing by outside the window by my desk, from the stove hood fan vent? Is that adding to the icicles dangling from the new gutters? How much can the gutters take, before they give?

There is ice on the inside of the new-ish windows.

There has always been condensation on the windows, old and new, but the only time I have ever seen ice on the inside of the house (windows and wash basin, to be exact) was in my third floor “digs” in a drafty, uninsulated (I’m assuming the UK has advanced considerably since 1980 in the area of home insulation) Victorian town home in Oxford. I’m from Chicago, and up to and including today, I have never been colder indoors in my life than when I lived in England. Perfect storm of dampness, lack of insulation and a laughable appliance called an “electric fire,” which was about a quarter-inch thick piece of “al-you-min-ee-um”,  about 17 by 24 inches with a too-wide loop of electric coil inside, that stood in front of an old coal-burning fireplace that had been half-heartedly stuffed up with newspaper, which didn’t stop its iron flap front from going “tink, tink, tink” all night when it was windy, and which heated a space approximately two inches around its surface, and no further. I slept with a shirt, flannel nightgown, scarf, hat and socks on, under a “duvet” filled with inadequate synthetic something or other and covered in damp cotton. GAAAA!

It was kind of charming when I could see my breath while (“whilst”) studying in the RadCam, but in my bedroom at night? Not so much.

My Mom, a former nurse, used to open the window in my bedroom in the winter, even in subzero temperatures. She was raised by Mainers (“Maine-uhs” a/k/a “ha-dee New England-uhs”) who allegedly put infants outside in the winter, wrapped in blankets in their baby buggies, for their naps, on the theory that “fresh ay-yuh is good for you, dee-yuh.” Sure, as long as you don’t get pneumonia or get eaten by a bear (hey but let’s hear it for the bear who kept that three-year-old kid company until he was rescued, uneaten and apparently pneumonia free).

The floors in my room were wood, not entirely covered by braided rugs. Awesome on bare feet on a winter morning with the window open. Builds character! That’s how we did it back in the day! “We’re getting soft, right?

But I digress. We’re worrying about here and now, OK?

Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t use my functioning, recently chimney swept wood burning fireplace today, because opening the flue would allow a blast of arctic vortex to roar down the chimney and freeze us in our tracks.

Did you know in the 18th century there was a sea captain found frozen in his cabin at his desk, pen in hand? So it’s not like it couldn’t happen. Even though the story of the Octavius is now regarded as a myth. But still.

Through the kitchen window I can see two sets of animal tracks heading straight under the back deck.

I don’t begrudge the woodland creatures some shelter (temporary shelter) but please, let those tracks be from a rabbit, not a skunk (does the cold obliterate the smell?) or a raccoon or a possum. Or a coyote or a musky fox.

How long does it take to come down from two cups of coffee? Coffee which clearly causes excessive italicizing?

At least there are no chickens in the back yard anymore to tend to, in this weather. Or more accurately, if there were, frozen chickens to dispose of. So there’s that, anyway.

Still rattled. I’m going to have to go clean something. Vigorously.

Stay warm, and stay off the caffeine. Unless it comes encased in chocolate. For as long as that lasts.

Wishing you a warm, calm, creaking-popping-pinging and indoor-ice free day and night, I remain,

Your over-caffeinated, under-productive, anxious, italicizing,

Ridiculouswoman

The Belated Obligatory New Year’s Post

Panic as a prompt…

We call them “revolutions,” not “resolutions.”

This year I’m thinking of doing two things that make me very anxious: first, opening up my Facebook page to “friends of friends” instead of just “friends.”

That might not sound like a big deal to you, but my brother is one of my “friends,” and he is one of those people who never ignores a friend request – he has over 1,300 friends on Facebook.

That’s a lot of aging hippies who love to argue about politics to contend with.

(Oh, alright already, “with which to contend.” Happy now, internal grammar bitch?)

Oy.

But my brother has 1300 friends because he courageously pursued his creative life from the tender age of 17, leaving college in the face of extreme maternal angst (but with paternal support, if not approval. And it was emotional support, not financial, as far as I know) and made quite a success of it. I’ve always admired him for that. Not sure I ever told him. I’ll do that today.

Which brings me to the other thing that scares me: posting the url for my blog on LinkedIn, and going all in on being the speaker, writer, blogger and singer (oh, and “aspiring professional party guest)” I want to be.

Oh, that’ll go over well among all those articles about how to improve teamwork and productivity and deliver deliverables, whatever the hell those are.

I’m supposed to be looking for a job. LinkedIn is one of the places I look. For a job job. You know, a day job. A real job. Something that might pay the health insurance and have a little left over for cat food.

But instead I’ve spent the last week designing products for an online store I intend to open to support my blogging habit, and emailing queries to literary agents who represent authors who are so, way, light years out of my league that I have a daily panic attack that goes something like this:

“Well, Annie, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? Trading fear for flow, remember? Yeah, but look who she represents! I loved that book! I could never be that good! My God they turned that one into a movie! Who am I to be writing a memoir anyway? I didn’t grow up in a family of zealous religious survivalists (Educated) or dirt poor (The Glass Castle). The only group I might represent (see the interview with Stephanie Land, of Maid, who got an agent because she wrote an article that went viral – why didn’t you think of that, Annie, you dumbass? not that I could write anything that would go viral) is other widows in the US and there are about 11.75 million of them and 3.23 million widowers (oh, there’s some great odds for a date with a man who understands) and they’re all different from each other so no one person could be “representative” of them all and they’ll probably hate my story anyway because they are being good widow/widowers who don’t tell the world about the dark aspects of their marriages like I do in my book even though it is funny but also really sad and who wants to read that anyway? If I send it out there will be rooms full of snarky New York literary agents at conference tables laughing at me!”

Back here in reality, the second response I got, within two weeks of sending the query, was a request for the full manuscript. Rejected very politely after the read, but I got that far, anyway.  I’ve received two other polite rejections, one that even took the time to say “sorry for your loss,” and one that was probably canned (auto-reject), but it was a response, not a pocket veto.

Responses from four out of nine agents I’ve queried so far, in less than a month, and the other five are pending, still within the 6-8 week window.

So while I wait, I’m here blathering on about how I’m going to boldly pursue the creative life, when I should be putting all my effort into getting a job. Or at least getting something published.  Even if I do that, I’ll still need to get a job.

At my age, any job I’m able to land will likely involve a name tag, enforced cheerfulness and toilet cleaning. And still won’t pay the bills.

In the meantime I’m trying to work up the courage to do those things on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Facebook, maybe. I can handle aging hippies.

But LinkedIn? That’s my professional public face.

I’ll get another whole post out of that panic attack.

Losing my nerve, I remain,

Your shaky, anxious, fretful, stymied, what-the-hell-am-I-thinking?

Ridiculouswoman

Mrs. Maisel Took My Job. Sort of.

I have long aspired to become a Professional Party Guest.

“Professional Party Guest” has long been on my list of career aspirations.

I’m not kidding. I just ordered new Ridiculouswoman business cards, and they say, “Writer, blogger, speaker, singer” on them, but I’m thinking of getting some new ones with “professional party guest” added.

Or maybe, “aspiring professional party guest.”

I ordered the new cards the day before I binge-watched the entire first season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which was great.

But there was Midge, doing my party-guest act. (“Everybody does it,” right? – if you’ve watched the show, you know that Midge doesn’t.)

She was trying to work out her routine, and began accepting nightly party invitations where she’d end up entertaining the room – trying out material, improvising with another guy who was trying to make it in showbiz, and generally making a spectacle of herself, to the delight of the other guests (and the disgust of Susie, her manager).

Hey, Midge, dammit, that was my idea!

Except I intend to get paid for it. In money, not just free drinks.

Like the entire adult population of Chicago, I’m a trained improvisor, so why shouldn’t I make myself available to enhance your party? If you’re worried that some of the guests won’t get along, or be too boring, or won’t have anything to talk about, hire me! I can pretend to be mysterious, outrageous, elegant, charming….or just funny. Whatever floats your boat and adds a little pizzazz to the proceedings.

In ancient times (the ’50s and ’60’s) hostesses (back then, the party planning was done almost exclusively by women) worried about making sure they had the right combination of people at a party, especially a dinner party. If there was to be an extra woman (a widow, a spinster sister or aunt, or other pity invite) throwing off the seating arrangements, an “extra man” must be found. And vice versa.

That picture of me up there was taken on Thanksgiving, 2017 – our second one without Mike. I tried to make it as festive as I could for our daughter, following all the traditions we used to follow when he was with us. (Note Sophie the cat, in background in the Bulgarian-built kitchen, gazing appreciatively. Or more likely, wondering where her dinner was).

That year, it worked out great. This year, not so much. Lost my touch, when my rhythm was thrown off by our going to another house for the meal on the day itself. So I tried to do it all the next day. Disaster.

But I digress. I used the photo to indicate that under the proper circumstances, I can be amusing, fun, exuberant, charming, etc. You can’t see it, but I’m wearing one of those fit-and-flare ’50s style dresses with a crinoline underneath, and feeling pretty perky.

So that’s the woman I’d be as a professional party guest – dressed (ok – overdressed), smiling, laughing, the life of it.

I’m not as smart-alecky or quick with a comeback as Mrs. Maisel, so I need other people to play off of. Your guests should expect some prying or impertinent questions, or some barging in on their conversations (unless you want mysterious me, in which case I’ll be lurking alone in corners looking fabulously bored, searching your bookshelves. You do have bookshelves, don’t you?)

Here’s the Christmas version of ab-fab me:

IMG_20171224_202307211.jpg

If you look closely you can see the glass is chipped.

As part of last year’s New Year’s Revolutions, I threw it out. It was the last of our wedding stemware, which we never had very much of anyway.

I haven’t written the obligatory New Year’s post yet. It seems to be the done thing to create some sort of “best of” retrospective of the previous year, or share some new determination to get better, at something.

So, in 2019, I resolve to get hired as a Professional Party Guest.

No? But I have a purple dress for spring, just like the red one for Christmas! I have a demure black one with a white Peter Pan collar if you want me to look…I don’t know, “widowy” and demure!

And in another 10 pounds I’ll be back into that skin-tight blue one I wore to my high school reunion, or the same dress in red that I wore to the ballet, if you want me to look – well, like a woman of a certain age who probably shouldn’t be wearing skin-tight dresses.

I’ll be happy to entertain (converse with, get your mind out of the gutter, again) your “extra man.”

Seriously, think about it. Willing to make a spectacle of myself for a reasonable rate (and a coupla free drinks).

And a good time will be had by all.

Awaiting your invitation (and your check – half now, half when I leave the party, with everyone having a blast) I remain,

Your inappropriately-but-really-cutely-overdressed,

Ridiculouswoman

Wisdom Tooth Weight Loss Secret: or, How to Drop a Pound a Day by Worrying

Oral surgery and germophobia make a powerful weight loss combination!

I’ve lost seven pounds in ten days.

What’s my secret? The miracle weight loss secret you’ve all been clamoring for (actually, that should be, “for which you’ve all been clamoring” or, “for which you clamor” – there’s no quelling the inner grammar bitch, even when what’s wrong sounds more natural)?

How can you, too, experience this miraculous, effortless and swift reduction?

Lose unsightly weight! Feel more energetic (and hungrier – I think that makes one a little more manic) and suddenly start getting SO much done around the house!

All you have to do is:

  1.  Have all your wisdom teeth removed, and
  2.  Be living with (in my case, self-diagnosed) Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and/or, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a/k/a OCD.

All the stars aligned for me on this one.

I put it off for almost a year because everyone I asked who had theirs out said it was the worst, most painful experience of their life. Some suffered awful complications that I dare not mention, lest naming call.

But, it went very well. After a day of trying to talk with a mouthful of gauze, and two socks filled with ice tied around my head, I had…

No pain, and no swelling.

I was almost disappointed, having been robbed of the drama I had been told to expect.

But I digress – get on with it, I hear you plead. How’d you lose seven pounds in ten days?

Easy – my natural terror of germs and infection coupled with the stricture that I can’t eat anything crunchy for six to eight weeks.

And no lettuce or spinach.

Nothing crunchy and no lettuce or spinach pretty much means I eat….nothing.

No lettuce, carrots, celery, cauliflower, radishes or anything else that usually goes into a salad. I can have chicken, eggs and cheese and mushy overcooked veg.

The instructions said I could eat hot food after the first day and pretty much anything other than crunchy stuff, seeds, nuts, lettuce and spinach, after the second.

So, being a salad eater and a carb-avoider, what did that leave me?

Soup.

Strained, to take out any little bits of basil or herbs or tomato skin or seeds that might get through, lodge in the (small but deep) crevices in my jaws, fester, create disgusting infection and probably kill me.

And overcooked chicken mashed into mush with mayonnaise and a little curry powder.

And eggs and cheese. Improvised turkey and swiss roll-ups with mayo and honey mustard.

Boneless, skinless chicken with overcooked green beans. Turkey burgers.

I’m so afraid of bits getting stuck where they shouldn’t be that I’ve been eating really, really slowly, and chewing and chewing and chewing with my weak and wobbly front teeth instead of the remaining molars in the back.

Then I rush madly into the bathroom to rinse, floss, and use this odd looking little syringe with a curved tip to shoot a water-hydrogen peroxide solution into the holes left by my former wisdom teeth, blasting out any of those little nasty bits that might get stuck in there (and fester, and kill me), which (the rushing madly, and the worrying about festering bits that might kill me) probably counts as exercise.

I didn’t have any milk in the house to make canned cream of chicken soup, so I made it with heavy whipping cream instead (hey, it’s called Cream of… right?)

Which was delicious and, it occurred to me, probably so high in fat, even though it had too many carbs, to, along with the cheese, almost qualify me as a Keto dieter.

I’ve also been drinking LOTS of water – I don’t know what it is about losing my wisdom teeth, or taking prophylactic antibiotics, that made me so thirsty, but the effect seems to have been a sort of cleanse.

And, while I was supposed to be prostrate with pain, not bending or lifting anything and taking it easy, I was actually

  1. undecorating the Christmas tree
  2. packing all the ornaments away
  3. getting the lights off and packed away
  4. hauling the tree outside so my brother could help me get it on top of the car
  5. driving out to the forest preserve to drop the tree off for recycling
  6. maniacally cutting up four cashmere sweaters that my angelic daughter innocently washed and put in the dryer on high heat for me, rendering them unwearable, and hand sewing them onto a fleece backing to make a blanket for my Great Nephew and racing to the only FedEx place open after 8 p.m. to pay a ridiculous amount of money to have it overnighted to him so that it would get there on time, thereby negating any money-saving idea about making something homemade for him but I really didn’t want to be late for his first birthday and, today,
  7. taking down the outdoor lights and garlands.

I’m beginning to sense a theme here.

Things that haven’t been dusted in months (OK, maybe years, but whatever) got dusted.

Vacuuming has occurred, often.

I just might wash that kitchen floor.

And clean the bathrooms.

And finally get a blog post done. Voila.

So, if you want to lose weight fast, all you need is:

  • a smooth, uncomplicated episode of oral surgery coupled with
  • a mortal fear of germs and infection which causes you to
  • chew very slowly with your front teeth, avoiding the molars, at the back of which are those openings into the dark and infectable places, plus
  • a determination not to eat any of the recommended mushy but very carby foods (potatoes! Hell no! Pasta? Are you kidding me?) and a whole bunch of too-long-neglected housekeeping.

No? Oh well. Works for me, anyway.

I’ll let you know where all this goes, in six to eight weeks.

Until then, I remain,

Your anxious, germophobic, mindfully masticating (yes, the word that starts with “m,” to give me some alliteration here, that means chewing, so get your mind out of the gutter), hydrogen-peroxide rinsing,

Ridiculouswoman

I Got My Wivdom Teef Ow

I didn’t expect hilarity – but I’ll take it!

“Why don’t you get yourself a smoothie on the way home?”

“Bup don tho hab lil sees in em?”

“Get a Mango smoothie.”

I started to chuckle, and the chuckle turned into a laugh, and pretty soon I was guffawing and crying.

Guffawing and crying, with my mouth full of gauze.

Ha! I couldn’t stop imagining it, trying to order at the drive through:

“May I pwease hab a man smooey?”

Drive through guy:

“I’m sorry, I didn’t get that, can you say it again?”

“Meem man smooey.”

“Sorry, there must be something wrong with my headset. Once again?”

“I wan a meem man smooey! A smooey! Oo know, wif orange fooot? Fwozen and bwended?”

“A smoothie?”

“Yef, yef, a smooey!”

“OK, what flavor?”

“Oh, Ga! a MAN smooey! Manjoo!”

“Mango?”

“Yef! Yef, Manjoo!”

“What size?”

“Oh, GAAAA! Meem! Meem, pwease!”

“Medium?”

“Yef, yef! Meem! Bup no stwah.”

“You don’t want a straw?”

“Wight. Na pose hab stwah fo two wee.”

“OK, no straw with the smoothie. Anything else?”

“Ife cweam”

“Ice cream?”

“Yef, yef, Ife cweam!”

“Cup or cone?”

“Cuh – wif a poon.”

“What size?”

“Warge.”

By the grace of God, they only have one flavor, so I wouldn’t have to try to say, “vanilla.” But it would have been fun.

“Vaniwa. Wif chawla sauf.”

Etc. I’m crying, here, and I’m not supposed to be. Better go re-stuff my mouf wif gaub.

Now what’s so funny, Sophie cat?

OK, so I’m a little swollen.  It is nowhere near as bad as everyone said it would be. I’ve got the tube socks stuffed with ice tied around my head, the bleeding has stopped (but it will start again if I can’t stop laughing), the clove-tasting things the oral surgeon stuffed in the holes on the bottom seem to be numbing whatever pain there is supposed to be, so, so far so good. Not much pain at all.

Yet.

I suppose I should be a little concerned that, as soon as she pulled the final tooth, the oral surgeon jumped up and ran out of the room.

And puked.

I’ve decided to treat that as hilarious, too.

I mean, I’m sorry she wasn’t feeling well, or is pregnant, or my ancient decayed wisdom teeth were so disgusting they made her hurl, or whatever caused her to puke. At least the bathroom was right in the next room.

And she didn’t puke on me, at least. So there’s that.

I’m not even getting all germ-freak OCD about it.

Because I can’t stop finking bow owdwing a meem manjoo smoowey at the dribe tru.

I’ll keep you pof sed.

Until then, I remain,

Your swollen, gauze-biting, laughing-til-I’m-crying, pudding-eating, smooey-drinking, honest-it-was-only-local-anaesthetic,

Ridiculouswoman

The Heat is On

How much? Oh, my God! THAT much?

No, seriously – the actual heat is back on.

I am pleased to inform you that I will not be sleeping in my Santa hat tonight.

After 5 days of heating water on the stove to wash dishes, carrying “dressing in layers” to ridiculous extremes, and keeping my Santa hat on 24/7 (I did do the kneel-next-to-the-tub-and-use-a-cup-to-pour-water-over-my-head hair wash thing, once – the novelty wears off, fast), we now have heat, glorious heat, and hot water.

Drowning in layers of wool (and it wasn’t even that cold – just one day under 30 – we’re lucky it happened now instead of next week when temperatures are scheduled to plunge) I have been staggering around trying to comprehend, process, cope with and respond to the impact of the cost of the new boiler.

Heat guy who lives pretty close by came Saturday morning.

“Sorry, ma’am, you’re going to need a new boiler.”

“How much?”

OH MY GOD! THAT MUCH?

Here I was, spending money on frivolities like new paint (at least the labor was me) and new carpet (which I’m expecting accommodation about, for the little bulldozer tracks in it that don’t vacuum out) when something as essential as the boiler decides to surrender, lower it’s flag, go kaput.

Turns out that heart-stopping amount was lower than the next guy and the first guy could install by yesterday.

So, you, first guy – your company has been servicing this house since before we moved in, anyway.

Sigh. Sell the mutual fund in the morning.

Miraculously, market rockets up and the value of the fund to be sold is calculated at the end of the day.

So there’s that, anyway. Small buffer.

Begin job search in earnest.

And I love looking for a job.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I wouldn’t say we’re exactly desperate.

Yet.

But I’d better get a move on, here.

A woman’s gotta make a living, until she gets a job that is actually a living.

I’m trying to turn writing into a living (HA!) but that takes time, so since I’m still determined not to allow ads on this blog, because I think they detract from the….well, blogginess of it, I have succumbed to the PayPal “donate” link.

Hence, the new “Donate” page on the menu.

So that explains that.

I will now penalize myself 500 words for the excessive use of italics. So gushy. Damn, there, I did it again.

May you never have to kneel by the tub with a pot of water heated on the stove, may your showers ever be hot and your radiators…uh, radiate.

I did it! Resisted the urge to italicize “radiate!”

Now, if we could just get a grip on those dashes and exclamation points…

Until then, I remain,

Your humble, devoted, loyal, always-willing-to-edit-if-it-makes-it-better-and-especially-shorter,

Ridiculouswoman