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If you're saving it for good, the time is now...

This is from 2010, and I can't say I remember the reason for writing it. I like it, though. I still feel the same way. Yeah, I know change is good, but I also know that no matter how old I get, I'm not good at it. When I think of collections I think of my mother-in-law's teapots--and of her--and my heart breaks a little, but I also remember the fun she had collecting them and the fun we all had helping her find them. They were, like the quilt I talk about below, well loved, and I like having the ones she gave me.

She had collected experiences, I realized, as much as she had collected all these things. - Jenny Moore

I’m not a collector. I’m also not a saver-of-new-things. About the only thing I collect or save up is dust, and I’m told that’s not in demand on the resale market. While I enjoy other people’s collections, I don’t want any of my own. (In a disclaiming aside here, I will admit to having more fabric than I’ll ever get sewn and two more laptops than I actually need, but I’m not collecting them. Exactly.)

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I wrote this in 2010—I think. Reading back over it makes me think very little has changed. Sigh.

It is December, the time of retail dreams. Or nightmares. It can go either way. Although my job is not precisely retail, I do spend many hours each day working with the public. December’s our busiest time, and I come home at night with both my feet and my smiler worn out. On the way home today, when I was congratulating myself for not screaming, “HURRY UP!” to a customer who wouldn’t move, I thought a behavior list would be a good idea. You know, from the point of view of the person behind the counter who has sore feet and a smile that’s fraying around the edges.

Then I thought—it’s a long drive home; lots of time for thinking—I should also make a list for folks on the other side of the counter. I was a consumer before I was a public servant. Sitting here hungry and half asleep, I’ve tried to decide which list to start with. In the interest of being fair, I flipped a coin.

The person behind the counter won the toss—winning depending on how you look at it. Therefore, if you are the clerk/cashier/whoever-else-is-serving the public, here are a few basic rules.

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Let’s Keep Dancing

This is from 2005. I thought my writing days were winding down (that was about 12 books ago) and I was on the reinvention wheel once again. I'm not sure I've ever gotten off. Anyone else been on that ride?

"If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing..."   -from "Is That All There Is?" by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, sung by Peggy Lee.

There are times — long, achy days of a bad knee and raging sinuses and throbbing finger joints — when I resent that I’m 50some and tumbling inexorably down the wrong side of the middle age slope. Is this all there is? I whine, channeling Peggy Lee. Have I worked all these years so I could afford to go more places and see and do more things just to learn I’m too old, too sore, and too damn tired?

I have time, now that I no longer preside over carpools, hold down bleachers, or operate a short-order kitchen and 24-hour laundry, to read all I want to. I have stacks of books and magazines beside my chair, along with a strong reading lamp, a spot for my coffee cup, and a blanket to cover my cold feet. However, if I sit in one spot for more than 15 minutes, I fall asleep. Most of my reading these days is done in the car, where I feed CDs of my to-be-read list into the player and “read” all the way to work and back. I love audiobooks, and listening to them makes my commute downright enjoyable, but there’s something lacking without the reading lamp, the cup, and the blanket.

Now that tuition, six-boxes-of-cereal weeks, and expensive shoes and jeans are in my past, I could, if I was interested, buy much nicer clothing for myself. But gravity and years of eating too much and exercising too little have made buying clothes a nightmare instead of a pleasure.

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Turkey, joy, and a small glass of beer

Quite honestly, I'm not sure when I wrote this, so if you've read it too recently to like reading it again, my apologies. The greatest gifts...the greatest reasons for Thanksgiving...are the people in our lives, and I'm so grateful for Aunt Nellie. She gave more richness to my life than I can ever explain.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” ― Marcel Proust

Aunt Nellie was my great-aunt. She was born in 1892, loved and married two men, and never had any children. She was the other side of the coin from my grandmother, who’d undoubtedly been the Good Daughter, and even though I loved them both, I worshiped the ground Aunt Nellie walked on.

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I’m bewildered.

There are many things I liked about the “good old days.” Fifty-seven Chevys, 60s music, bell-bottoms—yes, really, I did; using complete sentences that didn’t include the f-bomb, not having to pump my own gas, milk in glass bottles, not knowing virtually everything good was bad for you. I could go on. And on. But then I remember other things, too.

My husband recalls black people having separate drinking fountains. The signs in Louisville used to say “colored,” and he always wanted to try it out to see if their water really was a different color.

He remembers coming home from Vietnam when people turned away from him in his uniform. When the personnel director where he had worked before he was drafted didn’t want to give his job back.

I remember not being able to get credit because of my gender and even when the bank finally gave me a loan in my own name, they sent the invoice for it to my husband.

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Heroes and heartache

I don't remember when this was. It was in the early days of the Window, after Tony Hare had taken my picture for the paper. What a nice guy he was. So, anyway, sometime in the early 90s, I think. The times have done some changing since then, know, not everything. I've updated this some, subtracted a few things that were too dated to make sense and added a few.

I had to add something here, too, a category of heroes that is new on my Top Ten list. There are a lot of heroes who clean up the devastation left by disasters--both natural and human-made. I can't imagine walking into one of those places where children were harmed by wanton violence. I can't imagine being a nurse or a doctor trying to save those young lives and not being able to. My thanks to them for doing what they do, and my everlasting admiration.

There are words that just go together, you know. Bacon and eggs, peanut butter and jelly, his and hers. I've noticed as I've aged that heroes and heartache are that way, too.

“That's why you can't give up. Heroes don't give up.” ― Kiera Cass

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It ain't easy...

We’ve been married a long time and I hope we’re married a lot longer, but contrary to the belief of everyone who hasn’t been married a long time, it never gets easy. On either participant. Although it’s harder on the one who’s right. In our case, that would be me—but there, as in virtually everything else, we don’t agree.

Take, for instance, spending winters in Florida. He—Duane, the roommate, the boyfriend, my husband, the person I do in all actuality love more than life itself, but for now we’ll call him “he”—loves Florida. Loves heat and says he never has to shovel it or blow it out of the driveway. Loves the beach. Loves palm trees and all the other tropical things that grow there—except roaches; I don’t think he loves them.

I like most of those things, too—other than unrelenting heat, but I like them, it must be said, for a week. Maybe two.

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I was thinking about coping. Or maybe I was coping while I was thinking. I don’t know. Sometimes things just pile up on you until have to find a way to…deal. I am not there now—thanks for asking—but hey, no one raises kids, stays married, works a job, or gets an education without some coping mechanisms.

There are obvious ways of coping. Counseling and medication. They are both effective and many, many of us do, will, or have used one or both. But I’m talking about less formal methods here. As I brewed my tea and pushed my feet into comforting fuzzy slippers, I asked writer friends how they did it. Predictably enough, their answers were unpredictable.

From Cheryl Reavis. “Conversation with a long-ago nursing school classmate":

She: I'm embarrassed by some of the things I did in school.
Me: Why?
She: Because they were so silly.
Me: Like what?
She: I rode around on a broom singing "Goodbye, Old Paint." I felt like people were looking down on me.
Me: Well, there is absolutely no way I could have been looking down on you.
She: Why not?
Me: Because I was riding the other broom.