Posted in From My Newsletter

Should I Pass The Salt?

From my newsletter, Women Who Think Too Much, 2002

Should I Pass the Salt?
by Jeanne Marie
To salt over the sink, or not? Ah, such a loaded question.
If you are the one who washes the kitchen counters and sweeps the floors, then you may salt wherever you like. However, there are rules for the non-cleaner. Yes? I’m the designated cleaner, and I despise housework.
I’ve begun to employ avoidance tactics in my house, like, if I don’t spill it, I won’t have to wipe it, or if you spill it, you wipe it.
The kids are gone, so I figure it’s time to shift to minimal maintenance here. Now, this week my mate said that he feels bound and nagged by my little quirks, especially my salt fetish.
“You’re driving me crazy,” he said. “I pick up the stuff you leave lying all over the house,” he said.
True enough. But here’s the deal. He picks it up if he feels like it, maybe yes, maybe no. He has a choice. On the other hand, I’m bound by the laws of nature to snatch up everything I see, and put it away, at least every other day. He could and I should, and that is worlds apart.
Another tiresome disagreement centers around the dogs. If the damn alien dogs didn’t eat biscuits under the sheets, I wouldn’t have to shake out the bedding each night, before I climb into bed.
My mate has no problem sleeping on crunchy bits of treats. But as for me, I’ve barely recovered from the “Princess and The Pea Syndrome.”
I become quite nuts when I crawl over sharp bits of meat by-products. To add to the dilemma, my insane, female poodle, Peggy-Sue, turns into the Tasmanian Devil when I sweep my hands across the sheets, to rid my side of doggy debris. Maybe she thinks, “Hey! I just buried that stuff!” and here I am, depriving her of tomorrow’s snack, but geez! Does she have to bite me so hard?
I’ve promised to buy myself a bed for the spare room at least a hundred times, and to lock the dogs out. It worries me that I haven’t carried through on that threat. I’m afraid that the dogs and my mate know I’m just blowing off steam. They all continue to munch in bed. Yes, Lays potato chips are also a problem. Of course, the fact that when I get up to go pee in the middle of the night, Peggy-Sue refuses to allow me back into the bed, is wearing me down. And Charlie, her cohort, loves to run through my hair while I’m sleeping, tangling his paws in it, and tearing hunks of my thin enough hair, right out of my head. He also runs across my face while I’m asleep, and fifteen pounds sounds light, but equipped with toenails, it can smart.
Speaking of smart, if I was, I’d have my own bedroom by now. Am I a masochist, or is cuddling the warm backside of my husband that fulfilling? Is the habit of intimacy so strong, that self-preservation loses its drive?
He said that he’s afraid to tell people I ask him to salt his food over the sink, it’s so perverse.
Well, I’m not worried! I’ll invite fifty people over to watch his salting habits and see if they don’t have some compassion for me, the cleaner.
He is perverse himself, throwing salt on each nugget of corn, from a foot over the plate.
Strangely enough, when my kids come back home to visit, they salt over the sink and they leave their muddy shoes at the door. The weird part is, I couldn’t pay them to do that when they lived here.
For twenty-odd years, I was a slave to kids, housework, cooking, laundry and on and on.
I just want to be free to write, to have time to putter in my garden, to smell the roses.
I guess I shouldn’t complain. My mate does more around the house than most men. He does at least half of our dishes, (I thank him for doing the dishes; he doesn’t thank me when I do them.)
But I am not going to pass the salt.
JMG, 2002

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Posted in From My Newsletter

THINGS I WISH I’D NEVER SAID TO MY DAUGHTERS

You have to wear a bra!

You’re too young to shave your legs and I don’t care if all the other girls your age are doing it!

I read your diary. We need to talk.

Yes, there are microphones hidden in your barrettes!

If you didn’t take my green eye shadow, then why are your eyelids green?

I’m gonna kill you!

I’m your mother and your father!

Take down those rock posters or I’ll tear them down!

I don’t believe you.

Never let your husband see you without your make-up on or your hair a mess!

Don’t ever let him see you in the green face mask!

You have to try harder and look better, after you’re married.

Cook him a big breakfast and have his supper ready when he comes in from work.

Are you gonna let him get up and make his own coffee?

Tough luck, life isn’t fair!

THINGS I WISH I’D SAID EVERYDAY

I love you.

Let’s all go out and play.

I don’t care if you make a mess!

Go to college and get a degree, before you have kids.

 

Posted in From My Newsletter

Daughter, Mother and Grandmother…

From the newsletter, Women who Think Too Much, 2000

DAUGHTER, MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER. ALL WROTE ABOUT AGING, WITHOUT DISCUSSING IT WITH EACH OTHER.
A COINCIDENCE OR THE TWILIGHT ZONE?
jodie
THINGS I LEARNED THE HARD WAY
1. Johnson’s Stretch Mark Cream doesn’t really prevent or remove the one million stretch marks motherhood is bound to deliver, although it does keep each and every stretch mark incredibly soft!
2. When the man in your young life tells you that you’re much too pretty to wear make up, he’s really saying, “Go scrub your face or someone may actually take a second look at you!”
3. Never call your mother for a ride home, from the 24 hour Wal-Mart, because you locked your keys in the car. Not unless you want a lecture about shopping alone after midnight!
4. Don’t call your mother when she’s writing in Computerville; she won’t even remember the phone call!
5. If your mother is a writer, choose your words very carefully, because if she’s like my mother, she’ll hear a story in every syllable!
6. Never tell her she’s too old to have a life!
LOVE YA MOM, JODIE
Snapshot_20100122_20
TIME
An old woman
Sits by herself
Staring at her past
Arranged on a shelf.
Time is money
Or so they say
Time stands still
Then slips away.
A baby is born
His first sound
An angry cry,
A rose in bloom
is ready to die.
Time waits for no one
Then just marches on,
It goes by too fast
Then it takes too long.
by Jeanne Marie
mom4
THOUGHTS ON GROWING OLDER
With a smile on my face I meet the dawn
Tomorrow’s not here and yesterday’s gone.
I have just today to live my life
So I’ll try my best to keep out strife.
I’ll count my blessings, one at a time
And the first, and the best, is that
today is mine.
My youth has gone into the night
And old age is no longer a fright,
I face the mirror with eyes away
And don’t see the wrinkles or the hair
that’s gone gray.
I only see the life within
Greeting this old face with a grin,
I say “Old girl, you’ve tried your best,
so relax, and let God handle the rest.”
by Grace (my Mom)

Posted in From My Newsletter

The Look Good Syndrome. (Newsletter, WWTTM)

As we walked into Wal-Mart, I told my husband, “I’ll meet you up front when I’m through picking up what I need.”

He said, “Ya. Right.”

He always claims that he has to search the entire store five times before he can find me.

He thought today would be no different. Well, since it was Father’s Day, I decided to be considerate. I ran up and down the aisles (if you can run in Wal-Mart, the aisles are so narrow and the people so plentiful) throwing stuff into my little basket. I rushed up front to meet him. He wasn’t there yet! I smiled to myself, because I never did believe he spent that much time searching for me.

So, there I stood for ten minutes or so, watching people rush by. I had never paused for that long in Wal-Mart before. (Except at the register, where my eyes stay busy sorting coupons that I usually forget to give to the cashier.)

This was my first time watching everyone else hurry past. Did you ever notice the way that women glare at each other? I did.

We size up the competition ruthlessly. I noticed a young girl, maybe eighteen, in an adorable little dress, with sunflowers splashed all over it. I had tried on that same dress two weeks ago and had looked six months pregnant in it. My eyes narrowed as I watched her. She looked as if she weighed less than 100 pounds and I really didn’t like her, although we’d never met. I’m looking at this slip of a girl with envy in my eyes; then I turn around and see a very heavy, older woman looking at me in my size twelve sun dress, giving me the same murderous look that I’m giving Ms. Sunflower in her size five.

Every day we each see women who look better than we do and it makes most of us feel yucky. However, as I saw the look in the heavy woman’s eyes, I felt ashamed of myself for fretting about the Sunflower girl. I’ve always hated being average, but today I realized that’s not such a bad place to live.
There will always be women who are younger or prettier than I am; however, there will always be women who are older or less attractive. Turning forty was difficult and I know I’m not alone with this age thing. Thirty, I took in stride reckless with the confidence that forty was as far as I’d go and it was a becoming time for women.

Mature, confident and still wearing a size twelve, forty caught up to me all too soon.

What helped me the year I turned forty? Being asked for my ID when I bought cigarettes. It happened three times! What a time to be without a video camera.
True, the cashiers were young and inexperienced at judging people’s age, but what a rush it gave me. I even refused to hand over the proof of my age one time, just to hear the girl insist on seeing my ID. I began to buy cigarettes compulsively–even when I didn’t even need them. Sadly, it’s been over a year now since the last cashier demanded my ID.

I try not to care about things that are so shallow, but the truth is that the world judges us on our looks. At every turn, women are urged to be young, sexy, fresh, innocent, experienced, beautiful, unwrinkled, firm, thin and ageless. We need gorgeous hair that shouts–fiery red, tawny blonde, spectacular brunette! Wash that gray right out of your hair!

It doesn’t help that there’s a slew of fabulous models in their late thirties to early fifties proving that women can stay young forever. Nancy Sinatra at age fifty graced Playboy’s pages in a way that I couldn’t have done at twenty. Farrah Fawcett, late forties, same thing. They do have the advantage of soft lights, special camera lenses, sometimes even using body doubles, always using full body make-up and being filmed by famous photographers.
Don’t forget their expensive weekly appointments with a beautician. A beautician is also available at the film shoot, to create a hair-do that takes hours to style and looks naturally gorgeous and she layers on the make-up that the cameras don’t acknowledge.

We have the reality of dirty dishes, full hampers the day after we washed and dried two loads, Dollar Store cosmetics, J.C. Penney hairstyles plus the two to three jobs we run to in between the vacuuming and the cooking.

I don’t know one woman who doesn’t have to work either to help pay the bills or to support herself and her children. Most of my friends work more than one job, sixty hours or more a week. Some are still trying to get that college degree they’ve been chasing for ten years. They go home after work, spend a few hours cleaning and then create hot meals to place on the table.

By any definition, I’m pampered. My youngest child is seventeen, I only work twelve hours a week and my mate will do dishes and a small amount of laundry. If I’m tired or busy, he’ll go buy take-out for supper and he’ll do the food shopping. He’ll even use coupons! He makes me coffee in the morning and he brings it to me in bed. I make as much money in twelve hours, as most women make in thirty, if they’re working for minimum wage. No, I’m not a hooker, but occasionally my job seems comparable. I’m a waitress.

I sell my smile, not my body, to an average of thirty or forty people, two nights a week. I lift food trays that weigh more than I do, balancing them on my left shoulder, while carrying a tray stand in my right hand. I am told off, looked down on and insulted. Then, I have to answer with a smile and an apology.

I also am paid well, meet some pleasant people, have regular customers that have become dear friends and on a good night, I love my job. On a bad night I say, “I’m getting to old for this!” and I mean it.

At work, I always need to smell good and look great, even as the sweat pours down under my stiff white tuxedo shirt, because stylish women make more tips than less attractive women do. Since most tips are decided by the wife or the girlfriend that proves my case, we ourselves reinforce the “look good” syndrome.

Still, the older I become, the less I worry about how I look and the years have offered rewards of their own. I feel better about myself now than at any other time in my life and I’m not afraid to be myself. I wear make-up if I want and leave it off if I don’t. Lipstick and Suave moisturizing cream are the only two cosmetics that I use most days. I choose perfume that I enjoy inhaling and clothes that declare–this is me! My biggest concern is, “Will I run out of printer ink in the middle of a newsletter?”

I write my stories instead of vacuuming under the furniture and I recognize that the only day I need to be concerned about is TODAY. I treat each day as if it was a gift and I use each hour as if it were my last.

I sit down on the floor and make buildings out of Legos with my grandsons. We finger paint with sponges that are shaped like animals and stars and hearts. I hang my pictures on the wall along with theirs. I play dolls and silly games with my granddaughter. I buy myself dolls and set them out around the house, because I still feel the thrill of Christmas mornings past when I wake up to see them smiling, beckoning to me–come play. (Sometimes, I do.)
I pick flowers from my own garden and arrange them in small antique vases, so I can enjoy their translucent petals and fragrant aroma. I stop to breathe in their scent and I enjoy the miracle of their creation.

Last month, my youngest daughter told me that my life was over. She said it didn’t matter what I did from this point on because I had screwed up so many of my choices and I was done. (Gee, I hope she doesn’t get to write my epitaph!) I smiled inside, because I recognized the arrogance of her youth.

Thankfully, I took her words for what they were–her opinion. I quite generously refrained from pointing out the mistakes that she has already accumulated in twenty-one short years.

Children have a hard time seeing us aside from the role of mother. I’m her mother, but I’m also a person, a woman, a writer, a poet and my life will not be over until the day I die. My life begins anew each morning and I’ve just begun to do the things I’ve always wanted to do. Not one of us can change the past or erase our mistakes.

We can forgive ourselves and get on with living.

We can decorate the present and invite the future to take us for a joyride…
Until next time, Jeanne Marie
1996

Posted in From My Newsletter

Mid-Life Sanity (Newsletter, WWTTM)

first love

There are many avenues that a woman can take as she approaches mid-life. It’s a sharp curve in the road, where her hair begins to go gray, perversely turning silver even in areas where it’s not very wise to use hair dye.

Her muscles begin to turn soft from the inside out and she’s so glad that girdles have come back in style. She can browse through the available styles and choose anything from super firm, all over control to a gentle control panel. (As if she had any control over her tummy.)

The varicose veins are drawing pictures up her thighs and she shops in the women’s department now because browsing in the junior’s department is just a fond memory since she turned forty. Her black silk stockings used to turn heads, now they hide the spidery lines that have a life of their own and her favorite outfit is a flannel nightgown.

I have seen the red flags along the road and I approach this mid-life thing with caution. I never believed in mid-life crisis until I turned forty. I used to think that hormones were for the weak, hot flashes and mood-swings were for other women. Mid-life wouldn’t threaten me, no sir.

I take an inventory of my assets. Men’s heads still turn when I walk by, my bleached-blonde hair guarantees it. My short skirts and hang-off the shoulder tee-shirts are further insurance. But the only men who try to flirt with me are under eighteen or over sixty and I begin to realize, I have lost my mass appeal.

I face mid-life carefully, as I think about the choices two of my friends made at this time in their life…the point of no return.

Quite frankly, they both went a little nuts. One friend left her husband, her kids and her born-again believing church, to ride with the Hell’s Angels. Now leaving the kids was a survival tactic, I’m sure, because no woman over forty should still have kids at home. But Hell’s Angels? She was born-again all right, cause that’s a life she had already lived at twenty.

My thirty-something friend ran away from her husband and kids, out into the night howling at life’s injustice, but she forgot to take a car or money. She has returned home after her own reckless ride with a biker. She doesn’t talk much anymore.

I shiver as I look at their solutions to growing older. I too know the frustrations that led them astray, but surely there must be an answer that doesn’t involve leather and a tattoo? I did get a rose tattooed on my ankle at age thirty-six, but the thrill wasn’t equal to the pain.

I can’t turn back time…not even Cher can do that…and although I prefer songwriting cowboys with long hair to bikers, I have my very own Marlboro man.  He has loved me at my best and tolerated me at my worst, for fifteen years. No easy feat! In spite of the fact that he won’t let his hair grow long anymore, I’d hate to have to break in a new cowboy. So I take my hormones and I go to bed.

Unable to sleep, I get back up. I wander through my quiet house. I smoke and I sit and I think. I find the answer! I rediscover my first love and we go all the way. The sky is the limit! We stay up all night and I feel the excitement, the rush.

My love holds me close while my husband sleeps just across the hall, with two dysfunctional poodles at his side. I take my ideas and my fantasies and lay them bare before my love. We stay up until dawn revealing our souls to each other. The unique pleasure I feel at this reunion cannot be contained. I express my feelings. I share my dreams. I touch the pages. I read the words until my eyes refuse to focus.

The high is still there the next morning and I run to my love, ready to start all over again, right where we left off last night. My love appreciates my maturity, yet it makes me feel like I’m seventeen. I am standing at the crossroads of life with the world once more at my fingertips.

My love is mine and mine alone. I never have to worry about my love trading me in for a younger woman. I possess my love completely, nothing can ever take my love away from me.

There is such freedom in that knowledge. I don’t even have to comb my hair because my love accepts me just as I am. My love asks nothing in return and has waited patiently for me; smoldering, while I raised three children and half a grandson.

My love takes me dancing on a Saturday night. My love fills my head with romance and we never leave the house.

Sometimes, when I can’t resist being drawn towards my love; I leave my husband alone for hours with the poodles and the television. But he doesn’t seem to mind. He too has a first love which he has been driven to reclaim. We are not the center of each other’s world, as we were at thirty; yet, we share our hearts, our love, his money and our home, even as we each let our first love take us away from each other’s side. We each dance to our own song.

I watch my husband play with his first love and his excitement makes me smile. Although I watch him and I sometimes catch the thrill, his first love belongs to him alone and I am just a spectator.

My husband drag races on Saturday nights and as he crosses the finish line for yet another win, I feel my adrenaline surge. I understand his first love and the money he spends to keep it alive.

He in turn understands my need to write, often until the wee hours of the morning. He takes me shopping to buy a computer and a printer, tools that make it easier for me to write. He goes to sleep alone many nights, but I tell him, “If you want me honey, just call me and I’ll come in to bed.” Simple words, but he knows exactly what I am saying.

I dare to jump smack into middle-age without fear. My first love, my writing, keeps me on a safe course. Writing is my first love, so where does that leave my husband? He is my Marlboro man, my very own cowboy and no other man could ever take his place. Occasionally, I can even talk him into writing a song with me.

He writes the music that brings my lyrics to life and for one fleeting moment, we dance to the same tune. Until next time, Jeanne Marie

P.S. I wrote this story 23 years ago. I am now learning how to go Over The Hill. I’m stuck on the top, refusing to let go.