every girl needs a greek chorus

a blog about hope


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Tastes like Christmas Spirit(s)

It’s Christmas Eve!  And, for my family, that means three of the major fattening holiday food groups; a 1950s version of Beef Stroganoff served over canned chow mein noodles, 1960s Layered Green Salad, and My Grandma’s Boiled Custard.  In my immediate family, I am the only one who knows how to make it, and, at least two weeks ago, My Mother, My Sister, and The Daughter started asking me, “You’re making the custard, aren’t you?”  Yes, not to worry.

Never heard of Boiled Custard?  It isn’t actually boiled, and, well, if you aren’t from Kentucky or Tennessee, let me explain.

My maternal grandmother was a tee-totaler, a hard-working woman who was uprooted from her hometown in (very dry, alcohol-wise) eastern Kentucky and moved to Detroit in the 1920s, where jobs were plentiful and generally safer than working in a coal mine.  She brought with her a love of quilting and family and cooking.  Having corroborated her stories of our heritage at Ancestry.com, I wonder which of her recipes trace back to our ancestors who came through the Cumberland Gap from Virginia and North Carolina into Kentucky in the late 18th century.  Most people have heard of chicken and rolled dumplings and cornbread (sugarless and made with white cornmeal, of course), hams cured with salt and vegetables cooked to death with every imaginable cured pork product, but outside of the area, few have heard of “boiled” custard.

Every Christmas Eve after my grandfather died, she came to our house to spend the night and to make boiled custard.  This is not the custard that you might think of, baked in little cups in a bath of hot water.  This custard was drinkable.  And it was spiked.  Spiked by a woman who did not drink alcohol.  Ever.  Except on Christmas Eve.

I suspect that it was originally made with good Kentucky bourbon, but, in the mid- 20th century, in Detroit, it was made with my dad’s blended Canadian whiskey.  Grandma would stand at the stove, beating sugar into eggs and milk in the top of a makeshift double boiler.  As the mixture thickened, she would gesture for My Dad to add a little of the whiskey.  She would stir it for a minute, then taste it, and, invariably, gesture for Daddy to pour in a little more.  The process took several minutes, during which my tiny little tee-totaling Grandma consumed enough uncooked whiskey to bring a little extra Christmas cheer into her life.

When Grandma died in 1981, I decided that I needed to make it.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a recipe.  I took some eggs, beat in some sugar, milk, and vanilla and used her double boiler.  As the mixture cooked, I tasted it and added sugar.  As it cooked, I stirred in the whiskey, as she did.  When it was as thick as I remembered, I removed it from the heat.  Alas, the eggs had over-cooked and curdled.

I tried it again and didn’t overcook it, but it still had a weird, lumpy texture.  Over time, I learned to strain it after cooking. I measured the ingredients so that I could reproduce it accurately every year.   Instead of whiskey, I tried Southern Comfort and dark rum.  Eventually, I went to bourbon, a Kentucky bourbon, of course.  Oh!  And in my version, the bourbon goes in just before I remove the custard from the heat.  It’s still hot, but most of the alcohol is retained.  Unlike Grandma, I like a lot of Christmas cheer at the holidays.

Yes, we drank this as children, because, ostensibly, the alcohol had “burned off.”  Tee-hee-hee!  Naughty children, we never let on that it was potent.  Of course, we were also children whose mothers rubbed our gums with whiskey when we were teething, so we were already ruined by the Demon Spirits.  I don’t recommend my version for children because it isn’t nearly as benign as Grandma’s.  Ladle some into a heat-proof measuring cup for the kiddies.  Keep the good stuff for yourself.

Kentucky Boiled Custard             makes a little over ½ gallon

Why did they cook it?  Perhaps it was to ensure safety on the frontier.  Salmonella can be killed at 145° F.  Perhaps just to thicken it.  Why didn’t they use cream?  Who knows?  Let me know, if you do.

Don’t get chintzy on the quality of the vanilla, because it adds to the flavor, significantly.  I keep three different vanilla brands (plus vanilla beans and paste) in my over-stocked larder.  One of the three is clear, artificial, and used in decorator’s icing, where the color is more crucial than the flavor.

You can speed up the cooking process by warming all but two cups of the milk.  If you add hot milk to eggs, they will cook.  Use a clean candy thermometer (I have a separate deep frying thermometer to avoid grease contamination).  Technically, you can cook the mixture until it just coats the back of a spoon (you can see a trail when you run your finger through it), but I find that an imprecise way to cook and too “frontiersy”.  It may have worked for Grandma, but it doesn’t always work for me.

This looks like a LOT of bourbon, but, consider that the recipe makes about 70-ounces.  This translates into one ounce of bourbon for every 8-ounce cup of custard.  Surely, you wouldn’t put less than a shot (1½ ounces) in a drink, would you?  Why do you think Santa is so jolly when he leaves my house?

Note:  If your double boiler is smaller than mine (which holds the entire ½ gallon), make it in two batches.

6 eggs, beaten until foamy

¾  cup granulated sugar

½ gallon whole milk (lower fat won’t do)

2 teaspoons real vanilla extract

1 cup bourbon

Freshly grated nutmeg

Whisk the sugar thoroughly into the eggs.  Whisk in 2 cups of cold milk and pour into the top of a double boiler, sitting over simmering water.  Whisk in remaining cold or warm milk.  Stir constantly, until the mixture reaches 160°.  Pour in the bourbon and stir until the mixture reaches 170°.  Immediately remove from heat and pour into a heat-proof container (I use three, to speed up the cooling process) through a very fine sieve (I use a Chinois) or a strainer lined with cheesecloth, to remove any coagulated egg whites or yolk.  Cover and refrigerate until cold. (It thickens as it cools, so don’t overcook it.) Uncover and whisk the mixture.  Re-strain into serving container.  (I save the plastic milk container so that I can shake it up.)  Top each serving with a fresh grating of nutmeg.

Grandma’s 1930s double boiler fits snugly into my 1980s stock pot.  In the photo at bottom right, you can see the coagulated egg remains strained through the Chinois.


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Our Christmas Story

Once upon a time, there was an unbelievably brave little girl living way out West, where the plains roll up to meet the mountains.  She was in need of a family with a cat, and we were in need of a girl. We packed her stuff into eight duffle bags, boarded a plane, and hauled her and seven Barbie dolls to our house and our cat in Maryland.

Seven Barbie dolls?” The Veterinarian asked me.  “I thought she was an orphan.”

“Remember all those years we bought Toys for Tots?  Well, she was a Tot.”

The first Christmas that he and I were dating, in 1969, he gave me a bottle of Robitussin cough syrup, because I was recovering from what would become my annual bout of bronchitis.  His mother made him give me a box of stationery with a Gemini zodiac sign, because his birthday was June 3, and mine is June 4.  I gave him a tie.  Three years later, I married him anyway.  We were married 30 years before he ever figured out appropriate gifts.  30.  Long.  Years.  He’s gone, but I still have the tie…and maybe the box of stationery.

The Daughter was our first (and only) child, arriving as an 8-year old, when we were 47. We always thought we were missing the joys of Christmas with children, hence the toy donations.  Oh, we put up a tree and stockings and our nativity display for ourselves, but a little bit of sparkle and wonder was missing.

Having been raised in a dysfunctional household before she entered child protective services, The Daughter had experienced holidays in a haphazard way.  She didn’t understand birthdays, experiencing her first at age 7, when she entered foster care.  That first Christmas with her, we went absolutely crazy decorating and buying gifts.  My Sister embroidered her a stocking with silvery threads.  My Mother made her a fleecy robe decorated with teddy bears and a pillow to match.

I broke my rule about cookie-baking and made —ugh— gingerbread men with her, but I refused to make a gingerbread house.  I hung her construction paper ornaments on the tree and wracked my brain for “Secret Santa” gifts for her classmates, who thought she was crazy for believing in Santa.

First Santa Visit (3)

Chatting up Santa

At eight years of age, The Daughter had never been to see Santa.  A friend invited us to a breakfast with Santa at her church, so that we could explain to Santa in advance why an eight-year old child wanted to sit on his lap along with the tiny tots.

“What do I say to Santa?” she asked.

“Well,” I told her what my parents always told me.  “You can ask for one or two things, but you have to finish with ‘Please bring me whatever you think I should have.’”

Instead, she patted his beard and engaged him in a long chat about the reindeer, where they were staying while he was inside, what they were eating, how long it took him to go around the world (“Well, just 24 hours, of course!”), all those things that a four-year old wouldn’t think to ask.

“Don’t you want Santa to bring you something?” he asked her.

“Oh…”  she thought for a minute, “…a scooter.  I’d really like to have a scooter.”

“Anything else?”

“No,” she shook her head, “a scooter would be good.”

At church on Christmas Eve, she participated in the pageant and sang with the Children’s Choir in her sweet little velvet dress and patent leather shoes.

So, what did Santa bring besides a scooter?  The seven Barbies needed a deluxe mansion and a red Porsche Boxster like Mommy’s “Barbie” car.  Stuart Little showed up in a radio-controlled roadster.  An American Girl with The Daughter’s identical haircut, eye color, and wire-rimmed glasses came to stay.  There were books and a science kit with microscope and Legos.  It all went under the tree or in a stocking after she went to bed on Christmas Eve.  I dressed her in winter pajamas, red with white polar bears, her favorite, so she’d be camera-ready in the morning.

Barbie Dream House (2)

Can you tell that we were excited?

The Veterinarian ate the cookies and milk she’d left for Santa and set the alarm for 5am, so he could set up the video camera at just the right angle.  I wanted to make sure the hot cocoa was ready.  My Mother and Sister were on speed-dial to run over at just the right moment.  We just knew she’d be up before dawn, and none of us wanted to miss our first Christmas with a child in the house.

When the alarm sounded at 5, we jumped out of bed.  It was dark and really cold.  He lit the fire, and I started the cocoa.  We’d beat her.  Perfect!  We sat down and listened for her little footsteps to hit the floor.  And we waited.  And waited.  For two hours, we waited.  We called her name upstairs, but she didn’t stir.  I tiptoed up and saw her snoring away under her cozy quilts with her beloved cat on her pillow.  I tiptoed back down.

“What do we do now?” he whispered.  “I need to get into the clinic to do treatments.”

Finally, at 8, he woke her.

“Santa’s been here!” He told her.  She crankily told him to go away.

“Don’t you want to see what Santa brought for you?”

“What?”  She squinted at him, uncomprehending.

“It’s Christmas!  Santa’s been here and left you something.”

“What do you mean?”

“Gifts.”  He was getting exasperated. “Santa brought you gifts.”

She groaned and flopped back on the pillows.  We were frantic in our own excitement.

“Get up,” he ordered and threw off the covers.  “Let’s go see what’s under the tree.”  She was not happy, but she slid out of bed.  He brought her downstairs and stood her behind the closed door into the living room.

“Wait here.  I’ll tell you when to open the door.”  This was no holly-jolly start to Christmas.  “And don’t go back upstairs.”  We heard her sigh in the way that meant she was about to turn into Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.”  He fumbled with the video camera.

“Hurry up!”  I hissed.  “We’re losing her.”  I stood beside the tree with my digital camera.

“Ok, you can open the door.”

Her little face appeared, and she said, “What?”

“Look at the Christmas tree.”  She took two steps in and stopped.  The First Xmas Tree (2)room, which is 18’ x 12’, had a 10’ tree in front of the window, so the mounds of presents radiated 4’ out from the base in all directions.  [And that’s all the math I can do today.]  She looked puzzled.

“Santa brought you presents!”  I exclaimed.

“What?” She repeated.

“These are for you.”

“For me?”  She approached the tree and knelt in front of the American Girl.

And then it hit us.  She didn’t need the Barbie Deluxe Dream House
because she had a real house.  Her dreams had already come true when she was adopted by a family with a cat.  That’s all she ever wanted.

“These are mine?” A smile started to spread across her face.

“Yes,” I started to cry.

“Really?  For me?”  She reached out tentatively and picked up the doll that, unintentionally, had her face.

And that was our last peaceful Christmas.  A year later, she still wanted to

SCN_0020 (2)

All she wanted was a scooter.

visit Santa, so, at age 9, we took her to the mall at 8:30 at night, when few people were around.  Surprisingly, lots of tween and teenaged girls were having their photos made with Santa, so it wasn’t nearly as strange as we thought.  Who wants to give up the wonder of Christmas at any age?

Like many American children, a Christmas of plenty became the norm for several years but not for long enough.  Inevitably, instead of singing in the Christmas pageant at 5 pm on Christmas Eve, she served in other ways, on the altar at the 11 pm service as a teenager, and this year, she is concerned about buying just the right gifts for us.  A critical care nurse, she will work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day from 3 pm to 11 pm.  From being cared for, she cares for others.

So, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!


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Naughty or Nice?

Dear Santa

 

 

 

I have been a good girl (except when I told people off, but they deserved it, because I am NOT a doormat).  Actually, I have been mostly nice all my life, which is a really, really, really long time, considering my AARP-eligibility status.

I never talked to strangers.

I always came home before dark.

I never smoked behind the gym.

I never drank under the bleachers.

I was faithful to my high school sweetheart for 42 years.

I adopted a child when I was 47 and didn’t have the strength.

I wear tasteful, preppy clothes.

I’ve been kind to many, many animals, including dogs, cats, birds, a rat named Bernice, Franklin the box turtle, and a really nasty iguana named Jezebel.

I’ve been gracious under pressure and stood up to bullies, for myself and for others.

I always put money in the Salvation Army bucket.

I volunteer for numerous non-profit organizations.

I go to church every Sunday.

I strive to be a lady.

I drive a hybrid.

For Christmas, I would like a license to be naughty.  Not “cheat-on-my-taxes” naughty, but “let’s have fun without guilt” and “throw caution to the wind” naughty.  I’ve never thrown caution to the wind, but it sounds exciting.

I want rhinestones on my nails, which is a risky choice for an Episcopalian, but, hey, we respect the dignity of all people of every lifestyle, don’t we?

I want the courage to wear a two-piece bathing suit, in public, before I die, on a beach where someone that I know might see me. (Wearing one last September doesn’t count, because I was in Mexico.)

What do you think about a tattoo?  I’m undecided, because it would be soooo baaaad, but I don’t like needles and change my mind so often that I surely would regret it in the morning when the Champagne wore off, so, probably not.  Never mind.

I want to be guilt-free when I take a penny from the “give-a-penny-take-a-penny” container on the counter at my local convenience store, so I can give the clerk exact change.  Yes, I donate pennies, selfishly, because I don’t like all that copper rolling around in the lint at the bottom of my purse, but it’s agonizing to think that I’m taking a penny from someone who might really need it.

I want to throw on my skinny jeans and high heels and rock out as much as a sober, 63-year old woman can…well, for an hour or two, anyway.  (My knees can’t handle much more than that.)

I want to change lanes on a whim without signaling, like every other moron on the highway, and have people slam on their brakes, like I do, to avoid me.

I want to say “no” to things that I don’t want to do.

I want to walk out of boring meetings.

I want to send back inedible food in restaurants.

I want to return a dress when I get home and decide that it doesn’t look as good as I thought it did in the dressing room.

I want to tarnish my heart of gold and bend my spine of steel.  I’m tired of being the last woman on Earth doing The Right Thing all the time.

Oh!  And please bring me whatever else you think that I would like and/or need.

                                    Your friend kind and loving friend,

                                    Suzanne  xoxo 

P.S.  By the way, Santa baby, I’ll be home on Christmas Eve after midnight with oatmeal cookies and spiked eggnog, if you’d like to deliver my request.  <wink, wink>


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Cookies: Bah, Humbug!

FullSizeRender (18)I try to keep everything simple at Christmas time, otherwise, I’m easily stressed out by shopping and gift-wrapping, Christmas cards, decorating, food, and parties.  Maybe not parties.  I love parties.  I’ll do my little bit of shopping, and I think I’m going to use every leftover Christmas card from the ghosts of Christmases past.  Surely, you don’t remember what I sent you five years ago, do you?  I’ll put my tree up a week before Christmas (yes, I realize that would be, like, now) and pull out my nativity on Christmas Eve.  But I’m not a big holiday baker.  I don’t get the appeal of Christmas cookies.

On Facebook this week, many of my beautifully organized friends are posting photos of their scrumptious cookies and advertising cookie parties.  I admire them, and I told one of them, “You’re a better woman than I,” because, really, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do at Christmas, bake beautiful cookies from family recipes to warm the heart and resurrect fond memories of Christmas past?  Oh, I am such a cookie Scrooge.

In early marriage, I made rolled butter cookies and spritz cookies, because I thought you just had to provide your family with cookies at Christmas.  My Mother did.  I just don’t have the patience.  It takes you days on end to make about 500 dozen cookies, and they’re all eaten within a few days.  If I had to go to a cookie exchange and take a recipe, the other bakers would be pretty disappointed.  I’d either take my non-traditional chocolate chip cookies (with coconut and chopped pecans) or my oatmeal cookies.  Those are the only cookies worth making, and I only make the chocolate chips once a year, at the most.

I only like crispy cookies (hence the hint of coconut in the chocolate chips to give them a little extra crunch).  Crispy peanut butter cookies are good (slightly burnt), as are crispy lemon, and lace cookies and even those little French almond tuiles, which you cool around a wine bottle to look like a roof tile.  But, they’re all too much trouble for me, the lazy baker.  Cookies?  Meh.  You might as well buy a package at the grocery store.

Good luck with that.  I wanted to show you a picture of the perfect Christmas cookie, as opposed to the lame ones that I would make, so I went to my local Wegman’s, which knows how to bake dozens of different breads with just the right crust and elegant tarts with crystalline glazes.  Apparently, a color-blind person was decorating the Christmas cookies.  The icing on the snowmen cookies was slightly yellow, and we all know what yellow snow means.  The Christmas tree cookies were olive green, as if they had been standing in the living room on the 13th day of Christmas and were about to go up in flames.  The snowflake cookies were royal blue and sunshine yellow.  And, worst of all, Santa wore a rosy lavender hat.  All of the colors had a drab, gray cast, sort of like they got covered in soot when Santa fell down the chimney with them.

Now, I’m a creative person.  I appreciate different visions of the world, because that’s what adds joy to life, but, when it comes to Christmas, I’m a purist.  I finally found a package of cookies that looked like someone cut them with Grandma’s cookie cutters and sprinkled them with red sugar (Santa) and green sugar (trees).  They even had cookies for idiots like me that were entirely plain and labeled, “Decorate-it-Yourself”.

I, however, rolled my cart over to the dairy section and bought a roll of sugar cookie dough for $2.99.  It showed them sliced and baked and in the shape of stars.  I assumed that the dough could be rolled and cut.  How else could you get that star shape by slicing a roll of dough?

I hauled out cookie cutters that hadn’t seen the mini-lights of Christmas in decades, 13 in all, a baker’s dozen.  Two red plastic ones belonged to my grandmother and must date to the 1940s or 50s.  The aluminum ones are early marriage, c. 1972.  The Nutcracker is from the 80s; the hippo from a set of animal cutters I acquired from Williams-Sonoma in the 90s.

With enough flour on the granite counter, the dough rolled out to 1/4″ easily, although it seemed a little soft.  I carefully pressed the cutters into the dough, then removed the excess from around them and removed the dorky hat from the gingerbread man.  I slid a metal turner under each cookie and eased it onto the cookie sheet.  They all made the transfer except the red plastic holly.  The dough clung to little ridges inside the cutter.  So much for lucky number 13.

Unfortunately, they didn’t smell like butter or sugar or vanilla or lemon extract, just commercial cookie dough.  I decided to brush them with my cure-all for baked goods, Grand Marnier, and popped them into the oven.

When cookies collide.

When cookies collide.

Uh-oh — they were too close together and turned into Pangea; you know?  That supercontinent from which all the other continents broke off?  Santa appeared to be delivering a star.  The Nutcracker oozed into an aerial view of a sports car with its doors open — or a feminine hygiene product with wings, maybe. (I’m an eHarmony reject, remember?)  They browned beautifully, but they still tasted like commercial cookie dough, a real waste of Grand Marnier.  I pulled them apart.

One cookie stole my heart.  I’ve always wanted a hippopotamus for Christmas.

I want a hippopotamus for Xmas!

I want a hippopotamus for Xmas!

I’m not entirely down on commercial cookie dough.  You may recall that I keep Nestle’s Tollhouse cookie dough in my freezer for emergencies — like when I don’t have anything else to eat for breakfast.  I break off four little cubes, bake them in the convection oven until they get soft, and then flatten them with a fork, so they’ll get crispy.  I also push two pecan halves into each cookie.  Voilà!  Home-baked cookies!

If you’re as lazy as I am but need to leave something for Santa, my oatmeal cookies are the perfect choice.  You dump the ingredients into a food processor and drop them onto a cookie sheet (use a silicone mat so you don’t even have to grease the pan). Santa would appreciate them with a glass of spiked eggnog, I’m sure.  Nothing like a little fiber after a long night in the sleigh.

Oatmeal Cookies 

The number of cookies varies according to the size of cookies that you make.  An ice cream scoop makes a big fat chewy cookie — the kind that keeps Santa and Rudolph strong all night long.  A tablespoon makes a smaller, crisper cookie — my fav!

½ cup brown sugar, packed

½ cup white sugar

½ cup butter, softened

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 Tablespoon milk

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup quick-cooking (not instant) oats

Preheat oven to 350°.  Prepare cookie sheets either by greasing or just use a silicone baking mat.

In food processor, cream sugars and butter.  Add egg, vanilla, and milk.  Pulse until blended.  Add all remaining ingredients except the oats and pulse just until moistened.  Add oats and pulse twice, just to evenly distribute the oats.

Drop cookies two inches apart on sheet and bake 8-10 minutes, until golden brown, depending on how large you make the cookies.  Remove immediately from the oven and, using a metal turner, transfer to a rack to cool.  (Cookies will stick to the sheet if allowed to get too cool.  If this happens, return to the oven for two minutes to reheat and loosen.)

Didn’t I tell you it was easy?  Ho-ho-ho!  Merry Christmas!

 

 

 


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Yahoo! Yoga Pants!

Yoga pants memeOne of The Daughter’s fashion magazines recently recommended that young people search their parents’ closets for tracksuits.  Remember them?  They were either slinky polyester with Adidas stripes, stiff nylon, or tacky velour.  Darn! I just gave my last set away.  It was lavender, and I thought it made me look really old and out-of-date.

What do I know?  I’m in love with yoga pants!   That’s right.  Yoga pants.  Who says old ladies can’t wear yoga pants?  I wear them, and by many reference points (AARP, my local senior center, Regal cinema, Social Security, the Goodwill on Tuesdays), I qualify as an old lady.

Well, I’m here to tell you that they can be worn, but there’s a right way to wear them, especially if you’re over 16 and haven’t seen a yoga mat from the downward dog position in your life.  Flared yoga pants are better than leggings, because leggings end at your ankles, clinging like plastic wrap.  When you’re suddenly overwhelmed by heat, you can roll the flares up over your knees, plus they accommodate your sneakers and balance out the width of your hips.  Tracksuits just billow around you and make you sweat.

Yoga pants, like many fashion trends, are a mine-field of potential disaster.  While I like to express myself through my clothing, I’m also careful about the message that I send (eg., today, I’m Tasteful Lady, tomorrow, I’m Work-Out Girl, or whatever).  I googled “Yoga Pants Disasters” and noticed that, in every case, a longer shirt, covering the hips would have solved the problem…or maybe a mirror and a rational mind.

A man recently referred to me on two different occasions as “spunky” and “a classy lady,” so you can rest assured that I know what “tasteful” means.  Here are some other clues:

Crop tops and sports bras:  In the privacy of my own home, I love to wear sports bras with my yoga pants.  I plank.  My upper arms aren’t bad.  My abs are a little iffy; ok for the beach, not ok for the mall.  (I don’t have a plastic surgeon on retainer.)  In public, I keep them covered with a hip-length jacket or sweater, because I don’t need the attention and don’t have a navel piercing to show off.

Bad Yoga Pants 2

Bad, bad, bad — just trying to prove my point.

Underwear:  I know you don’t want to see my old lady panty lines, either above the waist or digging into my upper thighs, so, if my top doesn’t cover my hips, I wear low-rise panties (which is kind of a thrill at my age, actually) or lightweight Spanx.  Yes, I do hate Spanx, but I hate panty lines more.  And all of my yoga pants are thick enough so you can’t see through them.  I can’t afford Lululemon. (Really?  $428 for a synthetic “Cashmere” sweater at the brand’s affiliate Kit and Ace?)

Belts:  I have a pair of “dressy” yoga pants (an oxymoron, if there ever was one) with belt loops.  What is the point of belt loops on yoga pants?  The pants are so tight, they aren’t going anywhere.  How can you do crunches while wearing a belt?  Doesn’t the buckle pierce your navel?  Is that how the yoga moms get jewelry in there?  Ouch!

Pockets:  Several pairs of my yoga pants have tiny little pockets.  I’m not sure why.  I couldn’t get my car key in it, so there’s certainly no room for a cellphone.  Except for a Kleenex, why would you put anything in the pockets of yoga pants?  Why would you create more unsightly bulges?  “Oh, dear, Suzanne really should get that lump on her hip removed.”  I use a jacket with pockets.

Color:  There is only one appropriate spandex color for most old ladies, and that is black.  That being said, I have a brown pair and a dark plum pair.  But…no floral prints, no stripes, and, God forbid, no powder blue.

Hip-huggers:  There is only one place to wear hip-hugging pants, and that is around the hips.  I NEVER pull them up to my waist, because that creates that crotch crease named for the foot of the Ship of the Desert.  (A little puzzle to exercise your brain.)  Eeek!  I spend so much time pulling down at the thighs of my pants that the dents in my pants look like I have cellulite.  Again, better to cover my hips.

Footwear:  Never wear loafers or flats or high heels with your yoga pants. Never.  Ever.   I’m not sure why I even have to tell you that.  Around here, women wear flip-flops with their yoga pants most of the year, but I am one of those silly and boring women who prefers Uggs, which are just one step above slippers.  So, sue me.  Socks with yoga pants?  Probably not.

Length:  A common complaint about yoga pants is that they’re too long.  When I was passing through Miami International Airport awhile back, a young woman came out of a restroom stall wearing yoga pants that were frayed and wet around the hem from dragging on the floor.  When I looked down, condensation from the tropical humidity had created a sea of God-only-knows-what swishing around.  It made me woozy to think about it.

Singing in yoga pants and a hip-covering top.  Who knew?

Singing in yoga pants and a hip-covering top. Who knew?

Sleepwear:  Sometimes, when I come home and put on my comfy yoga pants, I sleep in them.  However, I don’t wear them the next day, unless I’m holding down my sofa and writing.  It’s tempting to go from day to night in the same pair of pants, but, remember, it’s just one small misstep from comfy to frumpy.

Doesn’t it just figure that, by the time people our age embrace a fad, it’s “out”?  If tracksuits are now “in”, you’d better drag out your Bedazzler.  Nothing says “1980s” like a rhinestone-studded velour track suit with shoulder pads and mile-high hair, unless it’s a teddy bear-appliquéd sweatshirt.  And please, please, please, no fuschia velour pants at your age with “Princess” embroidered across your bum!

DATE UPDATE:

It’s been three months since I let my Match.com subscription expire.  In the beginning, there was some withdrawal.  I didn’t miss it when I was on vacation, but I didn’t realize how entertaining it was.  Oh, I don’t mean the dates.  They ranged from pitiful to downright creepy.  The profiles and photos were pretty funny but not $140 worth of funny.

My last date tried too hard to sell himself.  At least three times during our second date, he told me that he was “very wealthy” (his exact words).  This was during dinner in his country club’s formal dining room at 7pm, for which I had dressed up.  He ordered first, from the sandwich menu.  I recalled that he was the same guy who made me buy my own coffee the first time that we met (during which he ordered nothing, which should have ended our potential relationship right there).  I followed his lead and ordered a single lunch-sized crab cake with saltine crackers.  It came with a handful of potato chips.  I treated myself on his dime to a glass of house chardonnay.  How else was I going to make it through the evening?

Mr. Very Wealthy also didn’t listen.  He prefaced nearly every sentence with the exclamation “Jesus Christ!”  I subtly told him that I was the Senior Warden at my church and explained that it is the lay leadership position.  It went right over his head.  Then, I told him how important my faith is to me.  He still didn’t get it.  That’s clueless.  I wasn’t going to shout, “Stop it, you cretin!”  When he walked me to my car, he said, “Well, Suzanne, what do you think?”

“I think not,” I smiled kindly.  “We just don’t seem to have enough in common.” He appeared shocked when I told him I didn’t want to see him again.  Hope I didn’t break him with the little crab cake and cheap chardonnay.

Unfortunately, I had just been groped in a rough, forceful manner on a second date with a college instructor who told me, when I gently objected to his “ardor” (my word, not his), that I had “liked it” and had “misunderstood.”  Nope.  I hadn’t.  And I wasn’t even wearing yoga pants.

Match wants to help me.  They’re going to give me 50% off, if I sign up by tomorrow at midnight.  They send me that offer at least once a week, so I’m in no hurry.  I keep meeting lovely people who met lovely people online, but it’s just not for me.  I feel guilty laughing at the dating prospects, but, when I responded to some of them, I couldn’t help but think that they were insincere.  I had to ask myself if I equally was clueless about who I am.  Do I value myself too highly?  Am I nuts?  Am I unrealistic?   I’m just going to stay out of the fray for a while.

By the way, Karma is taking care of the man who stalked me about a year ago, one body part at a time, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!

 


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Christmas Shopping

Oops!  I missed Black Friday.  I was busy recovering from Thanksgiving and just couldn’t drag myself out of the house.  That’s not quite true.  I could have dragged myself out of the house and into the car, but I wasn’t sure where I’d go where people weren’t snarling over consumer goods and parking places.

Now, I’ve missed Cyber Monday.  I’m probably missing some significant sales today, too.  The pressure is just horrendous for me to consume irrelevant stuff this time of year, but I will not succumb.  I don’t really need to, since my shopping list is blessedly short, but I find Christmas shopping a very dangerous opportunity to over-spend — mainly on me!

Should I fight someone for the last large-screen HD internet- and Bluetooth-ready television?  Until Verizon gets its act together and installs the Fios cable service tomorrow that I ordered last week and wasn’t installed on Friday, as scheduled, and wasn’t installed yesterday, as rescheduled, I have no need for one.  I’m not sure that I could wrestle one into my car.  The Daughter buys whatever she wants, when she wants it.  My Sister has a limited tolerance for electronics; My Mother, no tolerance of any kind.  That settles it.  No electronics.  No Hoverboards.  No Drones.  No Droids from “Star Wars.”

Should I knock over small children to get to the toy department?  The BFF is the only “child” in my household, and she’d rather have a nice, bark-covered stick to chew on than a Cabbage Patch Kid.  On second thought, she just might like to chow down on a CPK.  [Are CPKs making a comeback?  Target seems to think so.  They’re also advertising that creepy little Mario guy with the Burt Reynolds moustache.]

Walmart (where I’ve shopped only 3 times in my life; once in Florida for lint rollers, once on the Eastern Shore of Maryland for aluminum drip pans, and once nearby for a plush reindeer), suggests “Pokemon 2015 Trainer Kit Deck”  “2-Player Learn-to-Play Set”  “Now $8.99.  Was $9.98.  Save $0.99.”  Wow.  A whopping $0.99 savings. That would be worth driving around for 30 minutes trying to find a parking space.  I never would have bought that, because the description is ridiculous:  “Two 30-card decks, each with a specially selected foil card, two guided game booklets, 2-player playmat, damage counters and Special Condition markers, a game coin, an illustrated deck box, and a code card for the Pokemon TCG Online!”

Not one word of that description tells me anything.  It appears that in order to play this game, you have to spend a minimum of $8.99 (plus $6.95 shipping if you don’t either pick it up in the store or qualify for free shipping by buying another $41.01 worth of stuff, plus sales tax) to learn how to play the game and then buy the game itself.  Nope.  No way.

Then, there’s this little gem in the tights with her fanny hanging below her jacket.  Of course, what else but a hunk of molded polyvinylchloride could wear that outfit?

Pickup OnlyPickup only

The puppies are cute, but “Pickup only”?  Yeah, kinda looks that way to me.  Maybe if she put on some pants, she could get a real job.  And they said Barbie was a tramp.

Where are Raggedy Ann and Andy with their soft bodies and embroidered hearts?  Where are the Lincoln Logs?  Doesn’t anyone want an electric train set?  Chinese Checkers?  The other day, someone,  obviously as old as I, asked what happened to Colorforms.  When I was a kid, they came in exciting shapes, like Batman and Star Trek and Barbie, and you put them into comic book-like scenes.  I bought the only set that I could find for The Daughter.  It was a huge set of basic shapes and colors organized in pages in a spiral notebook, and it was Very Expensive, sold through the catalog of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  My 10-year old self was in heaven.  Hers was nonplussed.

Colorforms“Like, what do you do with these?” she asked.

“You make pictures on the shiny black board with them.”

“You, like, stick them together and build stuff?”

“No, you arrange the shapes into pictures, with houses and people and pets and trees.  Anything.  You can tell stories with them.”

“Like, I can do that on the computer.”

“Stop saying ‘like.’”

“I never understood the appeal of Colorforms, either,” The Veterinarian had the audacity to chime in.

“OK, fine,” I snapped, “they’ll just be mine, and I’ll lull myself to sleep with the boring Colorforms.”  I haven’t seen them since and couldn’t tell you what happened to them. I wish I could. They’re asking $25 on eBay for a well-worn, incomplete set or $75 at Amazon.com for a new set.

Should I spring for a white faux furry vest for The Daughter?  It’s kinda cute in a retro, Sonny-and-Cher way.  I’m just not sure what she wears these days when she isn’t wearing scrubs to work.  We always play a game when we’re in Target together.  We walk through the girls’ clothes, and I point at outfits and say, “I would have bought this for you.”

Sometimes, she’ll say, “Well, I wouldn’t have worn it” and counter with, “Would you have let me wear this?”

The answer to that one still is, invariably, “No.”  I’m not real fond of rhinestones, spandex, and bare midriffs in children’s clothing, unless they’re meant for the stage or the swimming pool.  Don’t like them on most adults, either, for that matter.

My shopping email inbox received 109 emails from Saturday to Monday evening.  I let them pile up so I could count them.  Most of them were from clothing stores, which is the most dangerous place of all to cyber-shop, but it’s also the most fun.  I choose the clothes (mostly for myself), put them in the “shopping cart” or “bag”, and go on to the next site.  I haven’t really purchased anything, but, somehow, my urge to acquire is satisfied.  I used to play this same game with catalogs, but cyber-window shopping is much more satisfying.

This morning, I heard a network broadcaster, on my small, non-internet-ready, Bluetoothless television, say that retailers use cookies to track when you have placed items in your cyber shopping cart but not completed a purchase.  He said that they will send you an email showing the item saying, “Did you forget about me?  I’m feeling rejected in the shopping cart.”  Oh, pull-eaze.  It’s bad enough that, when I walk into a mall, items scream “Buy me!”  “Buy me!” “You’ll be [choose as many as you want] taller, younger, hotter, thinner, __________ .”  (The shouting from Victoria’s Secret is especially annoying.)

Of course, actually shopping in a store is pretty dangerous, too.  I’m adept at dodging the model-wannabes trying to douse me with the latest celebrity fragrance.    On Monday night, around the dinner hour, I almost let one spritz and sniff me.  As I walked through the perfume department in Macy’s, I heard, “Hey! Having a good time?”

I looked up to see the women’s Chanel counter manned (in every sense of the word) by a cute young guy in a — get this — suit and tie — catnip to a woman over the age of 20.  I kept walking but looked around to see who he was talking to.  There was no one else.  He made eye contact.  At least, I think he did.  I was distracted by the dimples.

Thank God, I had just washed my hair and was wearing make-up to have my passport photo taken.  I assume he was confused because I’m short, like a teenager, and, I thought, not unattractive in my gray tights, my black suede Uggs, and, unlike the little plastic dog-walking floozy, my puffy jacket was covering my considerable fanny.

Did I want to be spritzed by a handsome guy with bad eyesight selling women’s perfume?  Oh, you bet I did!  But, I refrained.  I am just not delusional enough to smell like a cougar.  I kept moving and smiled breezily like that model in the old “Charlie” perfume commercial (google it).

“I am now!”  I replied to his question. He laughed.  It’s always a good day when a 63-year old woman can make a young man laugh with her, not at her, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!

 

 

 


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Thanksgiving Fantasy

Thanksgiving 2010 (2)

Thanksgiving past, table for 10, with the works, including place cards

Oh, God, I dread Thanksgiving.

And here it is, staring me in the face. I guess I have to clean the house this morning, after I get the stuffing made, the bird stuffed, and the dough for the rolls rising.

And find the skinny little candles that go in all the amber glass turkeys that march around the center of the table.  I’ll drag out the Lenox and my grandmother’s turkey platter and my silver and my Italian jacquard tablecloth with matching napkins that only see the light of day once a year.  That goes for the Lenox, too.  The Waterford stays in its storage box these days, while the equally fragile Riedel on the ridiculously long stems appears.

I see that I still haven’t dragged out the thousands of dollars worth of autumn candles and wreaths and other decorations that are stored upstairs.  Where’s the cornucopia that the Daughter painted in the third grade?  Good thing that I observe Advent, which starts Sunday, so I won’t be decorating for Christmas any time soon.

At some point, I need to change these yoga pants into something chic-but-grease-resistant and wash my hair.

Place cards.  Do I go with place cards, since we’ll have a guest, The Daughter’s beau?  Or is that over-kill?  There are only five of us this year, and most of us remember our names and pecking order at the table.  It’s over-kill, and we don’t want to frighten off this nice young man who bought me flowers at the ballroom dance debacle.

Oh, no!  I should have cleaned the ovens!

Does anyone really have that warm-hearted, sit-around-the-antique-pine-table-in-ladder-backed-chairs-with-a-smiling-lavender-haired- Grandma-in-a-lacy-apron-presenting-a-platter-of-bronzed-turkey-surrounded-by-fancy-cut-oranges-topped-with-maraschino-cherries-kind of Thanksgiving?  Did they ever?

Does anyone actually eat squash?

I don’t like turkey.  I don’t like cranberries.  I don’t like Jello.  And, most of all, I hate that slimy green bean casserole.  We don’t eat it any other day of the year, but, sadly, my family expects it on Thanksgiving because it was The Veterinarian’s favorite.  Years ago, another family always came for Thanksgiving dinner, and my friend recently told me that her now-married daughter doesn’t consider it Thanksgiving without the green bean casserole.  My own Daughter is now in charge of making it, because who can’t dump mushroom soup in green beans and top with canned French-fried onions?

I’d rather be remembered for my unique pumpkin pie which has ground black pepper as a key spice and candied ginger in the whipped cream topping.  The Daughter is going to make little pumpkin tarts.  Her date is going to make lemon bars for the family members who don’t eat pumpkin pie.  My Mother will make her candied sweet potatoes and charge me with toasting the marshmallows without burning them.  My Sister will make the cranberry mold, which is spectacular and which I can’t pull off.

I’ll get to flip the bird, not because I love to say that, but because The Veterinarian discovered that it gives a juicier breast to cook it upside down and then flip it.  I always held my breath, watching him flip a 24-pounder, but, without him and our friends, it’s just a 15-pounder this year.

Thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving 2014, with unironed tablecloth, table for 4

It will all be perfect, because there will be alcohol.  Trapped in my house for six hours, no one will be driving.  I charged the Daughter’s Beau with bringing a bottle of Prosecco under $20 to go with the brie and crouton appetizers (thank you, Wegman’s) and my Chipotle Butternut Squash Soup. (See?  I answered my own question about squash.)  There will be a pinot noir with the turkey and an ice wine with dessert.

Then, I’ll box up the leftovers in every spare plastic container, unless they remember to bring their own.  I’ll throw the turkey carcass in my huge stock pot, cover with water and a lid and bring to a boil for 20 minutes.  Then, I’ll turn off the heat (without uncovering) and let it sit on the stove overnight, when I’ll finish the stock.

I’ll hand wash the Lenox, silver, and crystal, throw the linens in the washer, start the dishwasher, and hit the sheets.

Finally, I’ll give thanks that I survived another Thanksgiving, another chance to be together with loved ones. If I’m lucky, there will be another chance next year.  Same time.  Same place.  Same menu.  Same love.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Cozy Crock Pot Cider

In years past, I always made this hot cider.  You have to omit the rum, if you have kids running around unattended, or, maybe not, if you want them to fall asleep.  (Just kidding!)

½ gallon apple cider

1 quart orange-pineapple juice

2 sticks of cinnamon

12 cloves, tied in cheesecloth

1 cup dark rum (or to taste – optional)

Combine all ingredients in crock pot and heat until warm, about 1 hour.


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What I did for Love

FullSizeRender (17)

The Paula Deen look.

Happy 70th, Mark!

Hey, there!  Remember me?  The insane little woman with the smart mouth and great shoes?  The Champagne Slut who can’t get a date?  I thought I’d check in and let you know how busy I’ve been, just when The Holidays get underway and render me fully frazzled.

I’ve been doing really crazy stuff, like wearing yoga pants in public, platinum blonde wigs, and really awesome dance shoes.  And a black velvet, rhinestone studded halter dress (thanks to my excellent plastic surgeon) that no dignified 63-year old woman with a pudgy tummy should be caught dead in (maybe I should call that plastic surgeon).

When we last chatted in September, you may recall that I had agreed to participate in the major fundraising event for our local center for the arts, as a “Dancing with the Stars”-type amateur.  I got free dance lessons from a renowned professional ballroom trainer.  I got to buy a pair of $185 pink satin shoes that I will never wear again but are almost as comfortable as my Uggs.  I got to browbeat my family and friends to buy tickets and cough up money for my cause, because I had agreed to raise a minimum of $5,000.  It turned out to be the easiest part of the challenge.

So, you may ask, what was I, clearly not a dance novice, doing in the group?  I had been rejected in previous years because of my dance training.  Finally, I was old and feeble enough to level the playing field.  I haven’t had a speck of cartilage in either of my knees in over 20 years.  And, of course, there was that time when I fractured my patella in two places.  And I have degenerative lower disc disease (aka “sciatica” or, as I like to say, “I gots the lumbago”).  Plus, they told me that I wouldn’t be judged.  I had nothing to lose and everything to gain for a cause that I dearly love.  I was really excited to get started.  I hadn’t danced in 20 years (a production of A Chorus Line, a show about what some of us do for love).

“You’re the oldest dancer this year,” the instructor, 12 years my junior, explained at our first private rehearsal.

I shrugged.  I had met my fellow “celebrity” dancers, a roster of lovely people dedicated to fostering the arts in our community. There was the distinguished retired general, the bubbly business owner, the charming couple who met on Match.com (seriously, I don’t want to hear about it), the young woman who had danced in one of my productions of The Nutcracker 30 years ago (I am so freakin’ old), and the adorable teenagers who could be my grandchildren.

“Yeah, I could tell.  As long as my knees hold up, I’ll be fine.”

“Besides dancing,” he continued, “I’m going to teach you to have stage presence and connect with the audience.”

“Not going to be an issue,” I replied.

“I’m going to try to shake you up, so that if something happens while we’re performing, you won’t be flustered.”

“Not going to happen,” I smirked.  “I’m pretty cool.  Look, I’m 63 years old and have been performing since I was 4.  Nothing throws me.  Not wardrobe malfunctions.  Not actors forgetting their lines.  Not an audience member vomiting in the front row.  Nothing.”

I was once doing “theater-in-the-round” when, despite instructions from the ushers, an annoying patron wouldn’t keep his feet out of the aisle.  During an entrance in the dark, I leaned over to him and said, “Get your feet back under the table.”  When the lights came up, I was standing onstage, in character, looking him dead in the eye.  Those feet never appeared again.

The instructor looked skeptical.  “You’ll be doing the foxtrot.”

My Mother taught me the foxtrot when I was a kid dancing to Frank, Bing, and Doris on her 78s.  I didn’t want to be the nice girl.  I’m always the nice girl.  I really wanted to do the Cha Cha or Rhumba or something really — dare I say — sexy.  The Shrew in My Head grunted in disgust at my self-delusion.

“Hmm, sounds slow and boring.”

“Not the way we’re going to do it.  Think Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire gliding across the floor.”  Images of a short woman (me, not Ginger), overwhelmed by feathers, sprang to mind.  “I want to challenge you because you don’t seem to normally move in that flowing, elegant way.”  He must have seen me in “Waltz of the Flowers” in 1981.

He demonstrated a few simple steps, as if he was teaching “Jazz 101.”  I repeated them flawlessly.

“Well, you have good lines!” he said.

“I told you I was a dancer,” The Shrew in My Head rolled my eyes.

After six weeks, he was hauling me around the dance floor doing “twinkles” and “passes” to a song by Metallica that had been re-recorded to sound like a vintage 40s tune.  Every week, he added something new and a little harder.  One week, it was turns.  I am not a turner.  Never have been.  I made the mistake of telling him.

“Good,” he smiled.  “We’ll have more turns.”

“For God’s sake,” I complained, “don’t let me fall down.”

“You aren’t used to having people tell you what to do, are you?” he laughed.

Once, during a rehearsal break, he asked me, “Who are we going to be?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, are we the 30s or 40s?  Or, maybe, Singing in the Rain?  Like a black and white movie musical.”

“What are we wearing?”

“That’s what I’m wondering.  The other ladies are wearing traditional ballroom gowns.  I thought you could be different.  A little flashier.”

“No feathers.  I’m too short for feathers,” the image of a waddling duck swam around my head, “and I’d like my upper arms to be covered.”  Duck lips are the only acceptable poultry flesh on aging women.  I thought about Bedazzled capri pants and a turtleneck to hide the wattle that is my neck.

“I wasn’t thinking of that,” he answered.  “Instead of a full skirt, maybe something straighter with a slit.  How are your legs?  I don’t think I’ve seen them.”  I looked down at the yoga pants that I wore every week to rehearsal.  I’m more Jane Powell than Cyd Charisse.

Paula Deen back

$14 and a few rhinestones

I drove right over to the Goodwill store and bought the beaded black velvet halter dress for $14.  It met with his approval, but he thought it should have more rhinestones.  I bought Swarovski rhinestones and glued them on (half of which fell off).  I bought the platinum wig for $40 and will wear it again when I’m in the old-age home, I’m sure.  I agonized over spray-tanning.  I bought a vintage pair of clip-on earrings (they are to-die-for, btw).  “Give ‘em the old razzle-dazzle.”

Then, it all went to hell in a hand basket.  One week, one of the 8 million trees on my property fell across my lane, and I had to cancel my rehearsal at the last minute.  Two weeks later, I came down with bronchitis.  I went to rehearsal after six days, thinking that the virus had stopped shedding.  It hadn’t.  I gave it to the instructor and didn’t see him for two weeks.  My dance didn’t have an ending.  Not until last Tuesday.  Two days before the technical run-through.

“All right,” I marched in.  “Let’s get this done.”

He started to teach the new choreography.  More turns.  Rather, pivot turns, which ended in another turn and a run around and another turn and me on the floor for the finish.  Or something like that.  I never could remember.  It seemed like something from Dirty Dancing.

“Wait a minute — my leg goes — where? Between your legs? And your knee is going to be where?”  Because I am so damn short, I ended up straddling his knee.

[Let’s pause for a minute, so you can visualize that.]

It just didn’t work.  I went home, dejected, and tried to practice, but there were no knees at home with which to practice.  I returned on Wednesday to rehearse, wearing the blonde wig, safety-pinned to my hair, and the clip-on earrings.  I needed to know that they wouldn’t fly off my head during the turns.

“Um, this pivot thing,” I stammered, “I just don’t get it.”

“Oh, you’ll never get it.  You’ll only get it when you’ve been doing ballroom dance all your life.”

And that’s when my hackles went up.  The Shrew and I were both indignant.

“So, why am I doing this?”  I demanded.  I said much more, but I won’t repeat it here, because it was mostly profane, and I, after all, am a lady.

“Let’s go,” he held out his hand.  We went over and over it for 40 minutes. Instead of crying about it, I started preparing myself for the disaster to come.  At Thursday’s tech rehearsal, the dancers saw each other’s pieces for the first time.  I would have killed to be doing the waltz or the cute little Cha Cha or the zippy Mambo.  My ending was a disaster.  Twice.  After rehearsal, the instructor asked if anyone wanted to run through their dances again.

“I’d just like to learn the end of mine,” I immediately spoke up.  He worked with some of the other dancers.  I waited and waited.  Then, he turned off the lights.  Disgusted, I tore off my dance shoes and pulled on my Uggs.

“Oh!  Did you want to go over your ending?”

“No, if I’m never going to get it, I’d rather call it a train wreck and prepare myself,” the Shrew and I were really worked up.

“No, come here, and let’s do it.”  I stomped across the shiny wooden floor in my Uggs.  We started to walk through the final moves, but the soles of my boots stuck to the floor.  I kicked them to the side and stood in my bare feet.

“Plaster the inside of your right leg to mine,” he went through the motions slowly.  I followed him without thinking, trying not to cry.  In the last move of the dance, I easily turned under his arm and stretched out as he slowly lowered me to within an inch of the floor.

“That was it, wasn’t it?”  I was amazed.

“That was it,” he agreed, looking exhausted.  I took pity on him and called it a night.

Dancing for the Arts Finale

Virtually finished. Photo Robin Sommer, Images of Sommer.

 

The next morning, I emailed him an apology.  I’m a Type-A personality.  I expect a lot of myself.  Mea culpa. Blah, blah, blah — but sincere blah.

We all practiced before Friday’s preview show.  My ending was better but felt out of control.  On Saturday, there was another preview in the afternoon, and the pivot turns seemed to be coming together.  Between shows, before the black-tie Gala in the evening, I watched my beloved Spartans beat the Buckeyes and felt all the energy leave my body.  I just simply didn’t care any more.

The instructor and the emcee wanted my permission to tell the crowd that I was an e-Harmony reject, erroneously thinking that I might be embarrassed about that.  Can’t you just see me rotflmao over that one?

“Of course, you can!  Thousands all over the world have read about it on my blog (Why I’m a Proud e-Harmony Reject).  A few more in Harford County can’t make any difference.”

After my dance (which was finally good enough for my limited standards), I was interviewed by the emcee, a local reporter, who asked if it was true that e-Harmony hadn’t been able to find a date for me.

“Actually,” I corrected her, “after I took their personality test, they told me that they wouldn’t be able to find a date for me and never tried.”

Dancing for the Arts Auction (2)

At 63, still an e-Harmony reject. Photo by Robin Sommer. Images of Sommer.

To my shock, she called over the evening’s auctioneer to take bids for a date with me. I glanced over to where The Daughter and her beau were sitting.  The Daughter’s eyes were like saucers.  [My entire family puts up with a lot of crazy stuff from me.]

“Well, ok,” I thought, “I’ve been on so many crappy Match.com dates, I can have coffee with anyone.  And at least this one will be for a good cause.”  I got into the spirit by allowing myself to be paraded around the dance floor, blowing kisses, and posing with my leg sliding out of the slit in my dance dress.

700 bucks, people.  I brought in 700 bucks.

And now, the rest of the story.

It was a stunt to raise a few more dollars.  There was no date.  They just forgot to tell me, I guess.  Oh, foolish me!  I can’t even get a fake date!

Long story short, I AM a good sport.  I have incredible stage presence.  I never break character.  I have more experience living gracefully under pressure than any one person should have in a lifetime.  As one of my friends said to me this morning, “I believed it because I know you’re such a good actress.”

I am a great comedienne, because I understand that comedy isn’t pretty.  Think about it.  Anyone who appears onstage looking like a Paula Deen impersonator and doesn’t die of embarrassment is either a comedienne or has no shame.  And probably deserves whatever she gets.  However, I prefer to be the butt of my own jokes.

You know, I was planning to be cremated, but I’d love to be laid out in that wig and dress.  The mourners would probably think it was all a joke and expect me to jump up at any moment into a sappy rendition of “What I Did for Love.”

I’ve appeared onstage in lingerie and revealing dance costumes.  I’ve sung solos that went horribly wrong.  I once even prematurely revealed the name of the murderer in an Agatha Christie play because my brain had wandered off to what I was going to eat after the show.  Fortunately, the scene was so boring the audience didn’t notice, but the horrified looks of my fellow actors are permanently etched on the inside of my eyelids.

Life seemed so much more boring this morning, my trot a little less foxy.  I raised $6,500.  My fellow dancers, combined, raised over $102,000.  When you throw in the silent and live auctions and the raffles and other donations, we brought our community a little closer to building a center for the arts.  So, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!

Event photography of the Center for the Arts gala fundraising event, Dancing for the Arts on November 21,1 2015 at the Maryland Golf and Country Club, Bel Air, Maryland. Photography by Robin Sommer, Images of Sommer.

Geez, I’m short! Event photography of the Center for the Arts gala fundraising event, Dancing for the Arts on November 21,1 2015 at the Maryland Golf and Country Club, Bel Air, Maryland. Photography by Robin Sommer, Images of Sommer.


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Resting Place

Resting place

His clan tartan and a wee dram.

Greetings from the Twilight Zone!  Rod Serling is lurking behind a tree waiting to step out and sum my life up for you in a few pithy, ironic remarks.  I wish he’d sum it up for me.  This story is so weird that you may think that I’m making it up, but I have witnesses.

Yesterday, I was cleaning out a storage room in the basement of our veterinary clinic.  I was sorting old records for shredding and reordering and stacking boxes.  A large box of holiday decorations (plastic pumpkins and black cats, a wreath of Easter eggs, and a revolving ceramic Christmas display of dogs and cats) was sitting about 3” from the wall on a shelf.  I tried to shove it up against the wall to make room for more boxes, but it was hitting something.  I slid the box about 6” to the right and saw a plastic zippered bag stuffed in the back corner.  In the dim light, I couldn’t tell what it was, so I pulled it out.  It appeared to be full of gray, unmixed cement.  I pulled it out farther and saw what appeared to be small white stones in it.

“Wuh-oh!”  I held the bag by one corner and made sure that the zipper was secure.  I was pretty sure that I was holding a plastic baggie of the Veterinarian.  Not a bag that belonged to the Veterinarian, mind you, but a bag containing what is left of his earthly incarnation.

Had I found this bag within a year of his death, I instantly would have been hysterical.  Instead, I smiled and started laughing.  No, I wasn’t delusional (I don’t think).  Absolutely nothing surprises me anymore.  I was pretty annoyed with the person who had hidden him there, but, just for a moment, it struck me that I was holding the love of my life in my hands for the first time in almost four years, so I smiled (and then cursed him in my next breath, before smiling again).

I told you — my life is sooooo weird!

I suppose I should tell you how the Veterinarian came to be resting in the basement of his business.  It’s not like he’s a vampire, and I keep his coffin in the clinic crypt (sorry, you know me; I couldn’t resist the alliteration).

In the summer of 2011, as fans of the British television series “Doc Martin,” starring Martin Clunes, we decided to watch an earlier series starring Clunes as an undertaker, “William and Mary.”  As we binge-watched the series on dvd, we talked about death and dying.  We agreed that we wanted to be cremated, his ashes strewn at sea or at his favorite dive sites, mine at my church.

Life may be weird, but you can learn a lot, if you’re paying attention.  When he died suddenly, three months later, I knew exactly what he wanted.  I asked his friends for just one favor, to take his ashes to his favorite dive sites.  They looked at one another and smiled.  That’s exactly what they had already promised each other.  One of them put himself in charge of making water-tight, weighted, non-floating (!) containers for the ashes, and those certified in the deepest dives, decided where they should lay him to rest.  I turned the plastic container of his remains over to them, and, when the Veterinarian’s Little Dog died six months later, I suggested that they commingle their ashes, so they could be together for eternity.

Within a year, his friends told me all about the dives and where they left him and how much that site meant to him.  One of the places was a spot he had planned to explore but had not visited.  Another was a place where he loved to dive.  A third was the place where he died.  A fourth was the place where he dived more often than any other.  I was content.

Until today.

Yeah, I could be angrier with the jerk in charge of the ashes than I already was, but I won’t waste my breath on him.  Once a jerk, always a jerk.  Nothing new there.  My immediate concern is that I have this baggie of the Veterinarian and the Little Dog that needs a final resting place.  I might put them into an empty wooden box that once contained a bottle of Macallan single malt whisky, and then I’ll toast him with the little bit of vintage 1965 whisky that’s left in the bottle.  He must have left it for just that purpose.  I’ll pull out my Book of Common Prayer and pray the graveside service that wasn’t said at his memorial service.  This time, the BFF can attend.

When do I send him off, yet again?  On August 18, which would have been our 43rd wedding anniversary?  On October 13, the fourth anniversary of his death?  On June 3, 2016, which would have been his 64th birthday?  I’ll figure it out.  Right now, I like having him around the house.  We’re both resting in peace.

DATE UPDATE

My online dating days are drawing to an end when my subscription expires on August 25, unless they give me free months.  I’ve run through all the interesting men, who weren’t interested in me, and endured the ones who were interested in me.  I have found it enlightening and sometimes harrowing.  And pretty depressing.

Just last week, I met a lovely, younger married couple who met online and encouraged me not to give up.  Of course, the odds are better for them than for me because there are more men in their 40s and 50s still alive and in “marriageable” condition.  Everyone that I know who met their significant other through online dating was under the age of 60.  What does that say for the eligible over 60 seeking companionship?

After spending time with 15 men in 12 months, I have concluded that men over 60:

  1. Are delusional and looking for the impossible. (Have your mid-life crisis elsewhere.)
  2. Are angry at their exes. (You know, I’d have left you, too.)
  3. Are looking for sex. (What was it about me that said I wanted you to grope me between my neck and my knees on our second date?)
  4. Are looking for a financial lifeboat after decades of living recklessly. (Sorry, I’ve been careful with my life.)
  5. Are looking for a housekeeper, cook, and playmate. (I’m a lousy housekeeper, reluctant cook, and tired of games.)
  6. Are on ego trips.  (You’ve dated how many women?!)
  7. Are clueless about what women want.  (See #s 1-6, above.)

Fifteen  dates and not one serious prospect among them.  Some had possibilities on the first date but blew it on the second date, when their true selves showed up, the bigots, the misogynists, the misanthropes.  I’ve been told that finding a mate is like getting pregnant; sometimes you just have to relax, and it will happen when you least expect it.  As a 63-year old woman who had a hysterectomy at the age of 24 and didn’t adopt until age 47, I don’t have any time left to invest in this theory.

I have learned a lot about myself.  I’ve learned what I’m willing to tolerate for companionship; being lied to, groped, insulted, and stood-up are not among them.  I’ve learned that the company of good friends is preferable to trying to figure out confirmed bachelors (look up the word “compromise,” guys).  As the Daughter said to me not long ago, “I’m really starting to like where I am in my life.”

Me, too.  I’m starting to find some peace and comfort.  It just may be time to kick back and relax, to put all kinds of things and people to rest.  So, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!

 


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Deceit Detector™

Actual profile photo from dating site.

Actual profile photo from dating site.

Dating scammers, be gone!  Dr. Phil and I have railed against it for months, but a feature on a recent CBS This Morning about the “heartbreak of online dating,” subtitled “Older Singles Lose Millions in Online Dating Scams,” finally motivated me to action.  An “older” woman lost her entire life savings when a man, posing as a contractor from Virginia, hit her up for $300,000, because he, allegedly, was stranded in Africa by an emergency kidney transplant.  Oh!  And she had never met him face-to-face.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME???!!!!  Why would anyone of any age send any money to someone in a foreign country that she’s never met?  It’s obvious to me and should be to anyone else, regardless of her age.  The Shrew who lives in my head doesn’t think she’s even as old as I am.  However, we agree that the poor lady needed my Deceit Detector™.

“As you age, your ability to decipher deceit declines, so you have to be even more vigilant,” said the “expert” providing commentary.  My Deceit Detector™ works like a charm, so I should market it, don’t you think?

The expert also gave tips to recognize potential scammers, such as frequent spelling errors, fake photos, people working overseas, and requests for money.  I also smugly report that she said that men are more susceptible to online dating scams, while women report them more often.  Ha!  Same reason that men don’t ask for directions, I’ll wager.

Haven’t I been telling you about dating scammers for months?  I’m not talking about the exaggerations and the liars.  I’m talking about stolen photos attached to the profiles of real people.  I report several each week.  I’m just one woman on a crusade, but some of these other women need to pick up the slack.

Yesterday, a guy “favorited” me.  His profile said he was from southern Maryland (a good 50 miles from me) and likes to kayak in Indiana (500 miles from me) on the weekends.  The Deceit Detector™ wailed like a banshee.  Susceptible Susie would have thought,

“Wow!  He lives near the Patuxent Naval Air Station, so he could be a Navy pilot who flies his own private plane.  I would love to date a guy with a plane, especially a Naval officer.  It’s my lucky day!  He’s only 60.  He’s cute and young-looking and — uh-oh…”

The Deceit Detector™ did a Google image search of his one-and-only photo, which matched a photo on a dating site in San Francisco.  Not only is he not an eligible Naval Officer in southern Maryland, he’s a gay man looking for men in California.  See how easy that was, folks?  It took less than a minute.

Another guy, from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, wrote to me two months ago and continues to visit my profile regularly.  He doesn’t write anything else to me, so it really creeps me out wondering what he’s doing, but I won’t let my vivid imagination go there. This guy registers as a Perv on the Deceit Detector™.

I wrote to another repeated voyeur and said, “Are you just going to keep looking, or are you going to say something?” He’s still looking.  I think I need to block him, don’t you?

I replaced the tasteful photo of me on the beach with one where I’m holding a slice of pepperoni pizza, thinking that I needed a more approachable look.  I mean, who doesn’t like pepperoni pizza, besides vegans?  It must have worked, because, overnight, I had 40 views!

Yikes!  The Deceit Detector™ is screaming.  As I write this, a guy with no photo and just letters and numbers for a profile name “winked” at me.  Clearly, he didn’t read my profile, because it says that I only answer emails.  “Hey, MBE67 from city-I’ve-never-heard-of, MI —-“  [Screaming intensifies.] He’s from Michigan!

Susceptible Susie would rationalize that he’s attracted to the Michigan State Spartans shirt I’m wearing in one of my photos, although, since it’s dinner time, maybe he’s winking at the pizza in my hand.  Oh!  He, too, is a pilot.  He says he likes to “fly up to Lake Tahoe”.  If Susie is geographically challenged, she doesn’t realize that Lake Tahoe is in California.  His profile continues, “I really enjoy biking with my friends along the Monterey peninsula, as I used to live down there and have a lot of friends in the biking community. Most lunch times you will either catch me at Crossfit or on my bike. Also look forward to playing golf with my friends and completing another Ironman.”

He competes in Ironman?  Susceptible Susie is really impressed and overlooks that the guy bikes on the Monterey peninsula, which is also in California.  Excuse me while I reset the Deceit Detector™ and take a minute to report him for fraud.

I’m back.  Today is a big day for “winkers.”  Yep, it’s got to be the new pizza photo.  After all, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, isn’t it?  I heard you could boil cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans in a small pan of water on the stove to entice men, but I think pizza may be better.  And all you need is a photo of a slice or an empty pizza box.

A new winker said he’s from New England, so, while I don’t usually respond to winkers, the Deceit Detector™ was humming. I wrote, “Since you’re from New England, if you don’t mind, may I ask, who’s your favorite NFL quarterback?”  If he’s legit, he might try to curry favor and say “Joe Flacco” of the Baltimore Ravens, but if he says pretty-boy-turned-ball-deflater Tom Brady of the NE Patriots, he definitely won’t pass the Deceit Detector™.

Then, there was the guy who wanted to chat who said he was from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, just up the road.  I was very carefully answering his questions, while I checked his profile and discovered that he was in “construction,” yet all his photos showed him in business attire (ie, dress shirts, ties,and jackets).  Ok, so maybe, he owns a construction company but only makes $25,000 a year.  After the Deceit Detector™ turned up a nice guy who lives in Florida on Google image search, and after I was able to find the guy’s photo on Facebook with a different name and completely different family, I took over the questioning.

“Have you lived in Lancaster all your life?”  I asked, “Which is your favorite Amish restaurant?”

“Just the last 15 years since I moved to the states.”

“Oh.  Where were you born?”

“Riga, Latvia, but my mother was born in Alabama.”  The Shrew started laughing crazily.

“The Amish is a great restaurant,” he said.  By then, the Shrew and I were both cackling.

“Really?  The Amish are a religious group, not a restaurant,” I retorted. “Take it elsewhere, scammer.”

And, yes, we reported him to match.com, for all the good it does.

Finally, a 53-year old man in Los Angeles (allegedly) wished to chat.  “Jeez,” I asked, “could all these guys from California be the same guy?  I must ferret out this mystery in the same way that sexy Australian private detective Phryne Fisher does, using my wits and my devastatingly seductive haircut, if not Phryne’s pearl-handled pistol.”

His first mistake:  he opened our conversation with “Hello, dear.  How are you today?”  No American male calls a woman “dear.”

Mistake #2:  Here’s his well-written and inadvertently ironic profile, probably copied and pasted from a real profile:

Horror stories

Mistake #3:  In the IM chats, his writing is considerably less polished, to put it kindly.  I’ve observed that journalistic standards have plummeted in recent years, but, when I asked him, “As a journalist, for whom do you write?” he responded with:

photo (9)

I replied, “I’m looking for someone honest.  Are you honest?”  Of course, he ignored my question and started telling me about his “ideal soulmate”:

photo (10)

“…man in the military on here…” stopped me dead cold.  Are you a journalist or a “man in the military?”  I’ve heard that posing as one of our troops is one of the big scams to gain sympathy, followed by money.  This was more disgusting than the guy from Niagara Falls who looks but doesn’t write.  It’s way more disgusting than cheating naïve widows by claiming to be sick or incarcerated in Africa and all the others put together.  The Shrew was even speechless, so we blocked him.  I’m not sure it’s even worth reporting, because I’m convinced that match.com does not care.  CBS This Morning’s report said much the same.

Oddly, the news show’s next feature unwittingly provided a possible alternative to online dating.  “Robots are replacing humans at a surprising rate,” followed up Charlie Rose, introducing the segment. Of course, this got me thinking…just get rid of the human interaction altogether.  Give me a cute robot with a gentle, erudite wit and soft voice, maybe with a southern accent.  Hey!  Instead of The Jetsons’ Rosie the Robot Maid, give me a robot clone of Charlie Rose the Talk Show Host.  He could interview me and write down what I say for this blog.  If he gets too annoying, I can always disconnect him, so, who would I be to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!