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If You Woke Up Rich...

There was this meme on Facebook today that said, basically, if you woke up with 500 million dollars in the bank, how would you quit your job? I've been thinking about it ever since I saw it. And I can't help but wonder about something.

Why would you want 500 million dollars? Why would anyone? I mean, I definitely get wanting or needing more money than you have. We raised a family in fear of emergencies, because we never had that nice cushion in the bank that was recommended. Eating out was a Big Deal because we couldn't afford to do it very often. Paying book rent at the first of the school year for three kids meant robbing Peter to pay Paul until things fell back into place along about November, just in time to shop for Christmas. More money would have been nice.

It still would, I guess. But, if you're not going to give it away or help someone who needs it, what is the point of having a lot of money? Maybe I have been luckier than many in that I've liked my jobs, both the one I retired from and the ones I have in retirement. There's nothing more fun than writing books, not much that's more fun (for me) than working in a library.

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Fears, dreams, and donuts…

At a writers’ group in Rochester this week, WordPlay (, our prompt was to write about our biggest fear. One thing reaching a certain age does is make you fairly fearless about a lot of things, death being one—although my husband resents it and doesn’t see why he has to do it. He also resents running the weedeater and that donuts don’t have a respected place on the food pyramid, so what can I say? So, anyway, I had to give it some thought, and this is what I came up with. I hope you share your fears and that they are at least as goofy as mine.

There are some things that never change; one is that I’m totally terrified of water. We’ll just get that out of the way first. I have been planning to take swimming lessons for about 50 years and haven’t done it yet. However, there is still time. Right?

Last night, I had a dream. No, first, let me tell you I’m not one of those people who has dreams they can remember verbatim—I remember little pieces that don’t mean anything. But in this one, Duane and I were in the house in Converse, Indiana where my friend Nancy grew up. Denny, with whom Duane plays music, was there, too. So was another musician, a woman I’d never seen before. They practiced. I dinked around. Duane and I had an argument.

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Thanks, Mr. Kennedy

I'm not positive when I wrote this--I think somewhere around 2011, at a time when I'd taken a hard tumble off the fence I usually make my political home. But it was 50 years ago June 6 that Bobby Kennedy died. I remember the day and how I felt. At first I felt hopeless with him gone. There wasn’t anyone else in politics who listened, who wanted the good of all. But the hopelessness didn’t last, because he was all about hope.

In truth, I've visited hopelessness--and anger--often since then. I don't know that either emotion had positive results. My optimism has dimmed and so has my belief in what we euphemistically refer to as "the system," but reading back over this and remembering that June day in 1968 has given me back a little. It's okay to be mad, to have our rose-colored glasses smudged sometimes, but it's not okay to give up. I changed the title of this column at first today, to RIP, Mr. Kennedy, but I'm fairly certain he's not resting in peace. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't give up, so I'm not. And you shouldn't, either.

I never wanted to be a liberal. Truth be told, I never wanted to be political at all. It’s all Bobby Kennedy’s fault, because way back in the 1960s, he made me think all things were possible. For everybody.

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Are you busy today? Or maybe bored? Or would you like to look at some cool things or better yet buy them? Maybe you want to talk to someone you haven’t seen lately or someone else you have. You might be giving the sky anxious looks (I’m writing this on Friday, so I’m guessing) and wishing you hadn’t left the umbrella in the back seat or leaned up beside the door at home. But, oh, look, there’s food and flowers and eggs and clothes and chocolate and lots more. It’s the Farmer’s Market downtown there, in front of the museum.

Next Saturday, you might be bored again. You might want to go out to eat. To hear some music. To look at some startlingly good artwork. To just walk around a downtown where people are trying to make a difference. Notice the differences they’re making and tell them you notice—they’ll love hearing it. It’s Cole Porter Festival and Second Saturday all rolled into one big weekend.

It’s a Tuesday morning. The kids are bored. They might even be driving you toward the sharp side of the edge. But, hey, at 10:00 every Tuesday morning all summer long, the Roxy is showing a free movie. Then, after the kids have sat for two hours, they can run off some energy at Miamisfort or the skate park. Tired is so much better than bored, no matter who you are.

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I'm not sure when I wrote this, but our 30th wedding anniversary was in 2001, so somewhere along in there. It's been around the publishing block a few times, one its incarnations being in The Saturday Evening Post. As of May 29, we've been married 48 years. When I read through this before using it again, I asked myself if anything had changed since then--other than my hair color and his golf score and how many grandkids we have.

Not much. I still think of Peggy Lee's song sometimes and I'm sure Duane does, too. We still have days we wonder what in the world we're doing here. We're still not in love every day. But even then, when sadness is like a veil or anger a disruptive rattle in the cadence of the day, we know (and say) that we love each other. And we do.

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” – Mignon McLaughlin

What’s it like, you ask, being married to the same person for over 30 years? How do you do it?

Well, it’s like this.

You know every word of his body language, can identify every freckle that dances across his shoulders when he walks into the sun, can buy him a year’s wardrobe in 15 minutes flat counting the time you spend writing the check and asking the store clerk how her kids are doing. You know better than to cook tuna casserole even if you like it, that a sure way to get him to talk to you is to start reading a book, that if you’re not feeling well, he’s most certainly feeling worse.

You’ve learned by now that there’s no possible way you can be in love every day.

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On being retired...

Continuing my revisiting of things written long ago, this one was from March of 2011. In the years since then, I can say honestly that I still have trouble saying No, cooking lost its charm early on, I still have calendar issues, routine can become a rut if you're not careful, and that 15 minutes is plenty for housework. Part-time jobs are fun and I have one and no matter how much stuff you get rid of, more grows in its place. I can also say without qualification that I love being retired, but that the learning curve mentioned below continues to steepen.


I like learning, which is a good thing, because there’s a definite learning curve to being retired.

First thing you need to figure out, said my friend Cindy, is to say No. If the request is for something you don’t want to do, just don’t do it. This would be a whole lot easier, I’ve discovered, if I didn’t want to do everything at least once. So far, I haven’t had to say No because I haven’t wanted to. (Except for when another friend, Debby, suggested skydiving. I have a vein of cowardice that runs full width and very deep.)

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When she was young, before she had formula stains on her clothes or crows’ feet around her eyes or stretch marks, your mother had dreams. In those dreams, she was a singer or artist or engineer or a CEO. She wore designer clothes and her hair was always perfect and she always had a healthy bank balance—no one ever looked at her debit card with disdain. Her vacation plans never included fast food or Motel 6.

For many mothers, there was a man in those dreams. Strong, handsome, intelligent, and sensitive, he never left his dirty clothes on the bathroom floor, never left the seat up, and never forgot her birthday. Depending on whose dream it was, he liked to eat out a lot, never told her how to drive, and wasn’t as scared of spiders as she was.

Sometimes there were children in the dreams, ones who behaved well and stayed clean and ate their vegetables without complaining. They did their homework and turned it in on time and never watched crummy television or listened to music that made her ears hurt. Even after she gave birth to these children (painlessly, with hair and makeup intact) she regained her figure instantly and never looked like death-warmed-over because her babies were the kind who slept through the night and whose teeth appeared miraculously straight and without pain.

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Our neighbor passed away on April 18th. She was nearly 100 years old. She hadn’t lived in her house up the road with its peonies and pristine white outbuildings for several years. A beautiful young family lives there now, but it’s still “Marabel’s” when we drive past. When we went to the funeral home, we saw more neighbors there, talked to her family, and looked at the photographs on display. Lots were of her grandkids—Marabel did love those grandkids—and even more were of other kids. Picture after picture after picture of first grade classes with a few third and fourth grades thrown in there, too. All hers. I can remember her using the term “one of mine.”

I interviewed a retired teacher for a newspaper article once. She showed me gifts from students that spanned the decades, picked individuals out of pictures and laughed over memories. Spoke in grief and through tears of one recently lost to cancer. It had been twenty-some years since she’d taught her, but she was still one of hers.

I’ve written about him before, but Joe Wildermuth taught me as much about algebra as he could (it wasn’t much) and a lot about being a good person. About standing up when giving up would be easier. When my first book was published, he brought me flowers. Because I was one of his.