The Angel’s Feather

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The Angel’s Feather
by Grace Christine Doucette 1926-2009

To Jeanne Marie. It was 1953 and two angels were sitting on a cloud over the small town of Tewksbury. They were sunning themselves, if angels can sun themselves, and these two angels were smiling and happy. As they looked down they saw a woman sitting on a doorstep. She was crying and so sad and so alone and it upset the angels.
One angel said, “What can we do to help this poor soul cheer up a little bit?”
The second angel said, “Well, this woman is about to give birth to a little girl. Maybe through this little girl we can bring some joy into the woman’s life.”
The first angel said, “That’s a great idea and we can do that!”
So, she reached up and plucked a feather from her wing and she placed it next to the little baby’s heart. She said, “Now, this baby will bring joy and love and laughter to that sad woman.”
Sure enough when the baby was born, she had a smile on her face and she instantly brought happiness to this lonely woman and day after day, they grew closer and closer together. One day as the woman was holding the baby and looking down at her, her heart was just bursting with love and she had to sing a song about this love. And she sang:

Whose baby are you?
Whose baby are you?
Your hair is brown
And your eyes are too,
So, whose baby are you?
You’re mine, yes you’re mine
Cause God gave you to me,
You’re mine, yes you’re mine,
Now my days are no longer gloomy.
Whose baby are you?
Whose baby are you?
You’re mine, yes you’re mine
Cause God gave you to me,
You’re mine, yes you’re mine
And you will always be.

And for the rest of her life, whenever the woman looked at that baby girl the angel’s feather would tickle them both and they would both burst into laughter and they brought joy to each other’s lives.
“This is a true story sweetheart, and I know you still have that angel’s feather near your heart cause every time you come near me, you fill my heart with joy and laughter and you have made my life complete. Love, Mom”

I was going for my first surgery in 2001 and I begged my mom to make me a tape to listen to when I was under the knife. I wanted her with me in spirit and I was so happy when I got the tape in the mail. My surgeon agreed to play the tape for me and when I came out of surgery, I was told that everyone in the operating room had been crying.
It’s funny how time runs away from us and our priorities turn upside down. When I came home from the hospital, I put the tape in a drawer because I knew it was special, it was my mom’s voice, but I didn’t listen to it again after my surgery, not until Mom passed away in 2009. It has taken me four years to copy the entire tape onto a CD (a one hour procedure) and to write out this story. Time. Why do we always assume there is more?
This story was mixed in with my favorite songs that she had sung for me when I was a little girl, the songs I had asked her to record for me so I would feel safe in surgery. What a precious gift. This story is the reason I named my book of poetry Gracie’s Glimmer. I am Gracie’s Glimmer and I believe she is still with me everyday.

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I Am Sixty

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So how do you plan a perfect 60th birthday? You don’t. You just let it happen or at least that’s how it worked out perfect for me. I really dreaded turning sixty and I did a lot of whining about it for maybe a month before my birthday. Loud whining. Okay, so maybe it leaned toward ranting and sobbing, but let’s not judge.
I have recently gained twenty-pounds and my hair was burned and butchered last February with a subsequent offer of the famous Florida retiree discount the same day. (A first for me.) To make it worse, my hair has only grown two inches since then and my confidence has definitely taken a hit because of the hair massacre and the fat belly. However, that’s another story. (The Day I Lost My Cute)
WARNING! Although I detest long, rambling stories about nothing, stories you have to wade through to discover if it is hopefully about something, this might be one.
August 8
Okay, about my birthday. I meet with several women each week for a writer’s meeting and that is where my birthday celebration began.
We had decided to honor each other’s day of birth a few years ago.
A.) Because we care about each other and B.) We all love cake.
Especially my Mile High, Cool Whip, Jell-O Cake adorned with fresh strawberries, blue berries and kiwi slices. Or my Cool Whip smothered chocolate butterscotch pudding cake.
So, as I got ready for this meeting, I knew it was my birthday week and I had my usual “don’t make a fuss over me, I’m not worth it” jitters bordering on a full-fledged panic attack. I asked myself why I loved to give and why I was so uncomfortable when receiving, but as usual, I had no answer.
My friend Deanne picked me up, which was a good thing as I might have given in to the jitters and gone AWOL. Monica was hosting this week and she made an incredible dinner with all the extras including a special lamb dish just for me. She had also invited several friends I’d never met and I teased her that she had hired guests for my party.
These guests turned out to be unique, creative, unforgettable women and it was a pleasure visiting with them and my writing friends all evening. I read my August Is Gone story (https://womenwhothinktoomuch.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/august-is-gone/)  and I swore that not another August would pass me by without something special taking place, something just for me that I had never done before.
Oh ya, and let me tell you about the cakes. Three cakes. One even had a desk and a computer decoration. A strawberry cheesecake (my favorite) a fancy white cake and the best chocolate/Almond Joy/Cool Whip truffle cake I have ever tasted. Mmmm. My new favorite.
My friend Minzie had made the chocolate cake and it was just incredible. I am allergic to chocolate, so I hesitated and then took two Benadryl tablets. I ate two huge pieces of chocolate cake and a piece of cheesecake. I’m allergic to whole cheese products too, but I was in a devilish mood and I did tell everyone my Epi-pen was in my purse.
The crowd sang Happy Birthday to me! Then I got presents that only women who really know you could bestow. A striking black frame enclosed the ISBN from my book, Women Who Think Too Much (available at  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/287988 ) and Minzie’s daughter had talked to her about me and then written me a poem that I will treasure always. Minzie also gave me a gorgeous new journal, a friendship pen and a book, “Why Men Make Bad Pets.” Monica gave me an original oil painting. Beautiful, thoughtful presents.
Late into the night, we ate and we talked. I went home feeling so blessed to have these writing friends in my life. That night spun me into a new mood for my birthday week and I actually stopped whining. (Ya, ranting, sobbing, whatever.)
August 10
I was sound asleep when the doorbell rang on Saturday morning. My honey got up and answered the door and came back carrying the biggest plant my son and his fiancé had ever sent me. As I held it for a picture, I could barely hang onto it because it was so heavy. (Big isn’t always better, but when turning sixty, it helps.) With tears streaming, I proudly placed it as a centerpiece on my dining room table.
That afternoon, my honey takes me to the store and I pick out a strawberry cheesecake for a birthday dessert tomorrow.
I stay up and hug every minute till midnight cause I will never be 59 again. Maybe in some parallel world, I am still 17. Gotta love imagination.
August 11
The big day is here. I am sixty.
Our little dog is sick so we decide to stay home with her. We hang out while my honey and I talk about what I’d like for a present. I usually choose money to go shopping because I love to do a major hit on the clearance racks for clothes, but that thought doesn’t excite me this year. I have gained twenty pounds thanks to cortisone shots for bursitis and I’m not in the mood to try on a bigger size. Much bigger.
The week before my birthday, I had suggested that he search out an easel in the thrift stores and he didn’t seem too excited about it.
Late afternoon, he goes to Wal-Mart and comes home with a collapsible easel, three different sizes of canvas boards and acrylic paints. I was thrilled that he remembered until I realize, oh no, now I have to paint or he will feel bad! I have been collecting painting supplies and promising myself that I would experiment with painting for about four years, so it really was time to paint-up or shut-up.
Well, I walked around thinking about it for an hour and then I traced a picture of Tinker Bell onto a canvas and I started playing with the paints.
I only had about five colors but I was happy with the choices. I spent about four hours doing my first painting and I painted over Tinker Bell so many times that I lost her body. She morphed into a long black wig sitting on a brown toadstool. I didn’t care. I just let my hand work with my imagination. I was amazed that I had painted anything and I was quite thrilled to have done something that I had never done before–on my 60th birthday!
I got the same rush from painting that I did from writing and thanks to the present of an easel from my guy, I had now fulfilled a fantasy. I had painted.
As I started to throw my first work of art in the trash, stating, “What an ugly fairy,” my husband said, “No! Keep it! It is your first painting.”
So I signed it and left it on the easel to dry. When I looked at my painting the next morning, the dry colors seemed softer and my work had taken on a personality. In the days since, I have actually grown to love it. Of course, I love what it symbolizes more than the actual painting. I also showed it to my daughter and she told me that I had painted a mirror image of her first (very bad) tattoo. Spooky, cause I didn’t even remember her tattoo and it was covered long ago.
Okay, so here comes the grand finale. My husband of over thirty years had told me that I could have anything that would make me happy for my birthday. He had no clue what to get me because he already buys me anything I even think I want, within our means and sometimes even beyond our means.
All I could think about is how much I wanted to go to Sanibel Beach. For about three years, my friend Deanne (she spent every summer there when she was growing up) has been telling me about the huge conch shells (and more) that wash in with the tide and she had the shell collection to prove it. I invite the writing girls to go on an RV trip to Sanibel, but in the planning stage, it gets down to Deanne and me. My honey tells me to rent a room instead of fussing with the RV and I think that sounds good. He does the research and reserves us a room at the Holiday Inn on Sanibel for three nights, three days. It looks tropical and beautiful, but I don’t trust advertising pictures so we will see. PS I don’t drink but it was 5:00 o’clock somewhere!
To Be Continued

A Codependent Fairy Tale

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She changed after he died and God knows, she was strange enough before his death, but then he died and she melted into nothing, shuffling down the hallways clothed in someone else’s skin and we all realized that we were losing her and there was nothing to be done because we could see that her soul had fled with him into the death tunnel, even as her lungs continued to breathe and her blood continued to pump, even as she slept, as she walked, as she drew breath; yes, this woman in our mother’s body was now a stranger and even though we had all suspected that she still loved him as much as she hated him, we really didn’t know and we couldn’t have imagined the depth or the width of her self-imposed restraint and we never saw the chains that she had wrapped around her feelings, no, not until we saw how the grief broke her, watched the sorrow loosen her clenched pain, saw the anguish strip away her self-control, screaming silently as her imprisoned mind flung itself free, breaking like a child as she mourned his passing, regretting what could have, should have and never would be because now, all hope was annihilated as they lowered his body into the ground and we cried for him not knowing we should also be crying for her because he was dead and she was alive and he was gone so it was over, nothing could ever be fixed, repaired, restored or renewed and death, his death, the death of her first love, our father’s death, had written the final chapter of their insane love story, a fatal romance that had self-imploded thirty-five years ago, but did not die until the day he passed, dead and done and so this, his death, this was the tragic end of a waltz that should have been sat out because the band had played the wrong song, composing a doomed allegiance from the very first chord and we should have known, but how could we have known that his death would drain the spirit from her, crush her so totally and now, now we have to decide…shock treatment or lobotomy?

Mid-Life Sanity (Newsletter, WWTTM)

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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.

When The Kids Grow Up

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I began writing at fourteen but when I started my family at nineteen, I think that the sterilizer vaporized my creativity. I figured that it had boiled away with the germs on the baby’s bottles. Occasionally, I’d have a poetic burst, but by the time I was twenty-six, I had three children screaming for my attention and my writing ceased.

I told everyone that I was a writer, but my kids kept me too busy to write. “When the kids grow up,” I’d say. When the kids finally went off to school, “prove it” anxiety set in. I thought about having another baby, but that seemed rather desperate. I had to face facts. It was time to write. I began slowly, but regained my confidence as the words poured from me. Poems began to accumulate and I’d read them to friends and family.

In 1988 I bought an electric typewriter and started to organize my work. I also took my first college class. I enrolled full time, but the schedule overwhelmed me. After one week, I’d dropped all the classes except for one, Country Song Writing.

Many of the students were my age, which was encouraging. I continued to write, even bought a computer, but I often let kids, grand-babies and housework come before my writing. Then in 1994, a drunk driver killed my son-in-law, Donnie. He kissed his wife and his tiny son good-bye that morning and less than ten minutes later, he was dead. His sudden death caused me to reevaluate my life and to focus on what mattered most. I found out that it wasn’t clean sheets or dustless floors, not even baking delicious desserts or cooking big meals. Again, I enrolled full-time in college. This time I stuck to the plan. My husband was supportive and he took over some of the household chores. Some, I just ignored.

I decided to treat college like the ocean. The only way to go in the icy cold waves is to close your eyes and to run into the surf as fast as you can. Once you make it past the undertow, the waves are breaking in front of you, not sneaking up from behind and the water feels warmer as your body temperature adjusts. The gentle swell rocks you as you swim and the blue-green horizon stretches out as far as you can see.

I enjoyed learning in spite of the tremendous workload. I usually stayed up past midnight doing homework for Comp. I, memorizing outdated laws for Criminal Justice, (don’t even ask me how I landed there) or cramming my head with strange definitions for Biological Psychology and then I’d get up at 5:00 a.m. to study for a test or to finish an essay.

I got past the undertow and I finished the semester on the Dean’s list. (My mom wanted a bumper sticker.) When younger classmates asked me how I was able to do so well, I’d smile and say, “Underneath this bleached blonde hair is a smart brunette.”

The changes in my priorities did upset my fifteen-year-old son (my youngest child) especially since I’d stopped cleaning his room and I’d begun to consider heating a frozen pizza cooking supper. One night, he told me that I was too old to go to college. I laughed at him. He asked why I couldn’t wait to go to college, at least until he was grown-up.

I said, “I’ve already wasted twenty years cleaning closets and vacuuming under the furniture. By the way, you need to do a load of laundry if you want clean jeans for school tomorrow.” As he shook his head and walked away, I smiled.

After five years of working as a sports journalist/photographer, I decided to leave that job and I reevaluated my writing goals.

I’m not afraid because I know I’ll find another niche where my words fit and I know that the answer for me is to just sit down and let the creativity I’ve been blessed with guide me. It also helps to know that the only way I can lose my status as a writer is if I stop writing.

P.S. My kids did grow up, faster than I ever dreamed possible and I now have fifteen grand-kids, ages 28 to 3. I have also been blessed with five great grand-babies. The grand-kids are growing up even faster than the kids.

The picture above is grand-baby #13, Jonas,  playing with me at the beach.

How Do You Shock a Pool?

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My above ground pool is so big that if it burst, it would wipe out my neighbor’s gardens the
length of our street, maybe on both sides. It covers almost my entire backyard
and for five days, the pool drew water from my garden hose, requiring 15,000
gallons of water to reach the fill line and to engage the filter, which some
idiot designed to sit just at the fill line. Probably designed by some stoner
who giggles every time he remembers the blueprint.
It is steel reinforced and my honey installed it all by himself, because the
video showed a small woman installing her pool in thirty minutes. Well, after
he had popped his hip out and sat down to read the manual, the instructions told
him to find at least three people to help complete the installation. So much for
the video. Now he was mad and he wasn’t calling anybody.
I almost wandered out to help him several times. Almost. I watched anxiously from
the patio, but because my hips are already damaged beyond happy and I have had
my fill of surgeries, I resisted the urge.
I had a feeling that two mature workers kicking the pool’s steel bars into
place wouldn’t help anything. I thought we needed three young bulls plus one
mature manager.
I also didn’t think two injured people in one house would be healthy for our
karma. I was right.
Now flash to pool installed, filled, sun-stroked man who just retired without
health insurance (popped his own hip back in place) recovering on couch.
Gigantic pool is all clean and sparkly and water is the perfect temperature. Iced
coffee is flowing, colorful floats are bought and sunshine is unlimited. Ahhhh.
Light the grill, here comes summertime!
Man hobbles out to tests chemical levels daily and keeps pool all clean and sparkly.
I can swim anytime I want and I get daily exercise for my arthritis.
Grandson visits and mistakenly thinks we’re rich because our pool is so big and
we live near Disney and the ocean. Promises not to pee in pool. (He ran through
the house while soaking wet to get to the bathroom, so I know he kept his
promise. Yay!)
Man says, “Pool chemicals are expensive, but it’s worth it to me because you can
exercise at home, and I love it when you are happy.”
I smile gratefully. “Thank you honey.”
Now flash to the rainy, thunder storming, unbearably hot and humid hurricane
season.
Leaves and twigs fly over the entire yard but decide to rest when they see the
pool water. Pool overfills at least once a week. Water starts to cloud.
New $12.00 filters every day because of the thousands of bugs who thought they’d
like to take a swim. (That was their last thought.) More chemicals. Water cloudiness
increases. Water turns green. I wish the pool would turn pink when it goes bad
because I really don’t like climbing into green.
Thunder rolls, now no swimming.
“It can’t rain every day,” I keep telling my man. (Our favorite movie line from
The Crow)
We smile bravely and he buys more chemicals.
I start to wash and bleach the filters twice a day when he’s not looking so we
can save money.
He is buying his chemicals in fifty-gallon buckets now. The pool has been green
for a month. When the little stick says it’s safe, and it’s not thundering and
lightening out there, I bravely climb the weak, narrow six-foot ladder and tiptoe
down into the murky water.
“How is it?” he asks.
“Nice. Really nice.”
Making sure I never get any water near my mouth or in my hair, I do my
exercises carefully. Get out and RUN to the shower.
So, we dumped six bags of shock into the pool last week. It didn’t even
surprise the pool let alone shock it. (My skin was shocked into blistering, but
maybe I shock too easy.)
We take our water to the pool store to be tested again and we are told that our
water is safe.
Green turns to gray. Another trip to the pool guy.
Pool guy says, “Dead algae. Sweep the pool floor and the walls every day, vacuum
it and keep shocking.”
I hate to say it but I no longer trust the man at the pool store, especially
after his wife drove up in a brand-new BMW. I think he gave us the right chemicals
just long enough to gain our trust and now? Now he is paying for his wife’s BMW
with our money.
We snuck to Wal-Mart for chemicals last weekend, but ended up with soap bubbles
in the gray water and the pool man said it was our fault. I’m sure it was.
The live green algae were actually more inviting, maybe even Probiotic like my
yogurt, but I am learning to get into the gray pool and exercise with my eyes
shut. I wear my oldest bathing suits so I can bleach them after I swim.
I solved the “shock” problem fast the year a squirrel had sat at the bottom of
my pool all winter and my husband told me he could get the water clean again.
It was a good lesson for me too. I sliced the side of the pool and the force of the freed water
carried me right smack into my fence. Bought a new pool, filled it with new water. Okay!
The weight of the water in this pool would drown me if I sliced through its
wall. Good thing for my neighbor’s gardens that I learned that fact.
I even tried running around it naked, howling under a full moon but that didn’t
help at all and now the neighbors aren’t even saying hello anymore…
Well then, how do you shock a pool back to behaving so it’s shimmering with sparkly,
clean water?
I don’t know.
I was hoping you could TELL ME!