ON GIRDLES AND GARTER BELTS…..

Wearing this confining body contraption since my surgery on April 22, I’m constantly reminded of life during junior high, high school, and even college.

Since at that point in time women couldn’t wear pants of any kind, hosiery (as it was called then) was mandatory, and not without problems. They came in “short,” “medium,” and “long,” and depending on the brand, that varied. They came shaped like the perfect leg, and if yours weren’t perfect, the fit might not be right. Too short, and they wouldn’t connect to the garter belt. Too long, and the top of the hose had to be doubled at the top, risking a run in the lighter-woven part and guaranteeing bunching at the ankles. Having a “run” in stockings was embarrassing. But we didn’t carry spares with us, so that shame had to be endured an we could only hope the run didn’t grow, and grow, and grow. Panty hose didn’t show up until the mid-70’s when “EGGs” came out, along with their sales girls wearing short shorts and driving cars with the “EGGs” symbol on the sides. Until then, getting dressed was a chore.

The hose were thigh-high, and not the “stay-up” sexy kind. Wearing them required one of two contraptions: a girdle with hooks to hold up the hose at the bottom, or a garter belt. And when we first started wearing them, they had seams up the back that were almost impossible to get on and keep straight.

Let’s talk about these methods of frustrating torture:

The girdle: White only. And they were open at the bottom giving the appearance of an upside-down “C.” No hooks at that underneath-strategic area to hold it in place. The prehistoric girdle wasn’t like the ones now. Moving, turning, maneuvering to get out from under school desk chairs could throw them off, the hose along with them. Between every class, there was a trip to the girls’ restroom to re-position and hope it would stay in place for another class period. I mean, after all, we had to maneuver ourselves into the next school desk chair in just a few minutes.

And talk about uncomfortable. They were itchy, clumsy, and still required wearing underwear, which made it worse.

Of course we had that wonderful alternative, the garter belt. Again, white only.

Now this wasn’t the sexy garter belt Victoria’s Secret has to offer. No way. This thing connected in the back with a couple of snaps or eyelet connections. And the long elastic straps that extended from the garter belt had these hooks at the end we attached to our hose. Front and back, hoping to get both legs on straight enough that they didn’t put creases at the ankle, because one those wrinkles were in place, there was no getting them to go straight again. If the fit wasn’t perfect, the hose would groove into the thighs at the top, an could crease under the clothes. If we wore a straight skirt when that happened, that groove would show through.

And this very unsexy garter belt didn’t come with instructions. Wear it over the underwear? Under the underwear? Both had plus’s and minus’s, but none were fun, and God help you if one of the elastic straps broke at the hose-connector-thingy and either the front or back side of one leg’s hose started creeping down.

Guys had it so easy. Have someone peg their jeans, and they were good to go.

There was also that “other” belt girls had to wear once a month along with the girdle or garter belt. It held that pad that was long enough to reach both the front and back of our waist, but was (with any luck at all) held in place by even more sliding hook connector thingies. Now, we’ve got your girdle/garter belt and yet another belt slipping and sliding and being maneuvered between classes.

Our mothers told us how lucky we were because in “their day,” they had to use strips of old sheeting. We didn’t care. We were in our own type of hell, and were always sure the guys could tell we were at “that time of month.”

Gym class was especially fun because we only had scant minutes to change out of our dresses or skirts & blouses into the lovely, blue, snapped-closed, Bermuda short length, short sleeved gym suits. Very few looked good in them, and when boys had to enter the “girls’ gym,” we were sufficiently embarrassed. Except in summer, guys didn’t see our knees.

Whenever I think of the girls’ gym locker room, I always think of Nell Sale. Nell was a CHS Mountain Lion cheerleader, and perhaps the tiniest person in the history of time. Cheerleading uniforms back in the day were wool drop-pleated skirts, a white princess-collared shirt, and wool letter sweater. I’m sure Nell’s weighed at least twice as much as she did…..yet she always wore a girdle. For some reason, my eyes went to her every time we were in the locker room, because if anyone ever didn’t need a girdle, it was Nell Sale, and I always wondered why she wore one.

For gym, we disconnected our hose from their clasps and shoved them down into our gym socks. Then, we pushed the garter belt/girdle into our underwear, because we only had scant minutes at the end of gym class to get redressed, re-connect the individual legs of hosiery to their slide-and-connect-keep-them-up-and-straight-if-you’re-lucky torture devices.

Of course, in that time we also had to re-apply our make-up, tease and re-coif our hair so we were back to looking beautiful by the time the line formed to be ready for the bell that would send us into the outside world of 2500 schoolmates.

And though it has nothing to do with the contraption I have to wear every day for 3 months, or the girdles, garter belts, an “other” belts we were subjected to, you wouldn’t believe the bras we had to wear. Again, white only. They made our boobs as pointed as a Wagnerian opera singer. Being over-endowed in those days was more than embarrassing. I never knew if guys were dating me because they liked me or because of how much my cone-shaped pointed boobs stuck out. (In ’88, I had them reduced from their 44DD to a civilized 36C. Happiest surgery ever, but I still have grooves in my shoulders from the straps of, as the guys called them, our “over-shoulder-boulder-holders.)

The girls today have it easy. Bras are built into tops of garments, so strapless outfits don’t require yet another bra. Hose? If they wear them at all, they’re well-fitting, non-twist-around pantie hose with no significant show-through-the-skirt features. They can wear jeans, where in my time, there were no jeans for women. We had to buy boy’s jeans, put them on, get in the bathtub of hot water, and shrink them to almost our size. Most of us couldn’t get the waist right, but at least we had jeans. And of course, blouses were tucked in. There were no tee shirts in those days, except the white ones guys wore with cigarettes rolled up in the sleeves.

Sweat pants and shorts are perfectly acceptable attire for class now..we were stuck with dresses, skirts and blouses.

We had our own fashion statements, though. Bass Weejuns were the shoe of choice, and we all wore them, along with scarab bracelets, circle pins at the neck, raccoon collared tan wool coats, and madras skirts or dresses worn with white shirts was the cool dress of the day. Skirts had to be at a length where the knee wouldn’t show if we crossed our legs.

We wore curlers to bed at night and sometimes slept with soup cans replacing the curlers if we wanted our hair to be smoother. We dried our hair by brushing it upside down over the heat grates in the floor or with lovely portable hair driers with elastic-bound hoods that fit over our heads and were so loud that we couldn’t hear ourselves think.

Coloring our hair was out of the question. There were no dyes then, certainly not in boxes available in any store. And in the summer, we used peroxide to turn our head blonder, or if our hair was dark, we hoped to add lighter highlights. Unfortunately, for those of us with dark hair, we ended up with orange tints instead. Bleach-blond hair was the sign of a hussy (that’s slut for the uninformed).

We dressed up for parties, wanted to look as perfect as possible for school, dressed up to go downtown to shop, or to pick up friends at the airport or train station, and wouldn’t think of flying without being well-dressed, fixing our hair, and applying make-up.

It was a different time. Yes, we wore mid-century torture devices with a smile on our face and a song in our heart. We knew how to pose for pictures — there was a proper way to place the feet, and we crossed our ankles at a slight angle rather than crossing our legs. Our hands were primly poised on our laps or at our sides. Our boyfriends came to parties dressed in suits. They opened doors for us, expected to pay the checks when we went out on dates, and called our parents “ma-am” and “Mr.” We only bought presents for our boyfriends on their birthday or at Christmas, and then, it was usually Old Spice cologne or a monogrammed shirt if we really liked them. We never, never, never called boys. That was unseemly. “Courting” was done in the living room. They never saw our bedrooms. Our dates kissed us good-night at the door after dates, usually with the porch light on and the parents looking out the windows. We went to drive-in movies or to special places to “park” and “make out,” but never went “too far.” Most of us were virgins on the day we walked down the aisle in that white dress, (or at least that’s the story we told) and though there were divorces later – much later, I have friends who married in ’64, ’65, or after they graduated from college in ’68, and are still together. Still to the high school love of their life. Or the guy they knew in high school but started dating later.

My high school love was a secret, forbidden one, and I’m pretty sure the reason I haven’t been able to find anyone who lasted more than 15 years is because there’s still a huge part of my heart that never got over him. But our parents would have killed us….or disowned us….so, it couldn’t happen.

Growing up in the 60’s wasn’t easy, but it was pretty carefree. Though some of us had things going on behind closed doors at home we couldn’t talk about, because in those days we “didn’t air our dirty laundry in public,” and were concerned about “what the neighbors would think,” we still could live a laughter-filled life outside our homes. If the principal found a 6-pack of beer in a guy’s locker (a girl would never do such a thing), he could be suspended or kicked out of school. Guys played football on the capitol lawn, and the girls sat around watching and cheering them on. A trip to The Sweet Shop for a burger and vanilla Coke was all we needed for entertainment, and Flossie always remembered our usual order. We walked to visit girlfriends, listened to records, had sleepovers where we painted each others’ nails and “secretly” told a couple of guys so they’d crash the party. We hid behind closed doors, sat in a circle, and whispered as we read “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” or “Candy” while gasping and giggling at the forbidden sexual content — some things we’d never heard of and certainly wouldn’t talk about if we did. Our moms baked us cookies, made pizzas or sandwiches and brought us Cokes. At parties, we played Post Office and Spin The Bottle.

I wish the kids today had been raised in such a naive and carefree time. They become sexually active much younger, and sex takes over the relationship; it replaces friendships and getting together with others. Girls chase guys to the point that the guys have no idea how to pursue. And why should they? Sex isn’t a sacred thing anymore, just part of an evening out. Drinking and drugs are commonplace — not something forbidden and thrilling. There’s so little “all-girl” or “all-guy” time. They drive everywhere with music blasting, so communication isn’t what it used to be. Instead of the after-school phone calls to friends, today they’re constantly on their cell phones texting back and forth. I think it was better in our day.

Personally, I think they’re missing out. Their childhood ends too soon. Their world is a dangerous place where the news is filled with war and random shootings complete with teen-age and college-age suicides. There are few television shows that don’t include someone being blown away. In our ay, a degree guaranteed a job. Now, it’s just a piece of paper with no guarantees and little hope attached. They graduate and end up tending bar or taking jobs as bank tellers hoping it leads to something.

I’d like to go back to that gentle time. When movies had plots and acting instead of sex and explosions. When vacations meant no contact with home until we returned. When meeting friends at a bar meant laughter and talking, not everyone paying more attention to their phones than their companions. When we looked forward to receiving and reading a hand-written letter from a friend who took time out from their day to “spend some time” with us. Of “Thank You” notes and cards for no reason. Of summers spent lying in fields of clover looking up at the sky and picking out animals and Volkswagons and faces in the clouds and making daisy chains from the clover. Of hours searching for 4-leaf clovers instead of playing sometimes violent video games. Days at Rock Lake, lying out, going down the slide and dancing in the bandstand. It was OK to go with parents, because we’d meet up with our friends when we got there.

Weekend days and early evenings were spent standing around our cars at Shoney’s or KFC in Kanawha City drinking Pink Lemonade and talking.

Somehow, I think this generation, and probably those who will follow it, are being cheated.

So I’ll spend time in the past, hope to find friends who also appreciate that gentle time while existing in a time when everyone is expected to be a Type A personality.

And you, my friend. Take time to watch an old movie. Walk to the store or to the fast food place to get an iced tea. Call a friend on the phone and actually talk instead of sending a text. Write a letter. Lay out in the yard and read a book. Look for pictures in the clouds. Make a wish on a star. And take time to breathe.

Until next time, know you’re important — to me, and so many others. Be good to yourself.

WHAT A DAY

I woke up Sunday morning super excited. After taking my first cold shower of the day (the air conditioning in the house has been out for a week, and acknowledge that I have become a full-fledged California resident — 78 is too cold and 80 is too hot, hit the computer to check e-mails and hit Facebook before writing a prepared, light-hearted blog.

My last AChiO Pledge Class at San Diego State was graduating, and I couldn’t wait to see their pictures in caps and gowns.

And the “Bay to Breakers” race was scheduled San Francisco. There’s nothing like it in the world. Everyone races in costume (except those who wear no costume at all — though nudity was outlawed this year, no one stops it. Hey, it’s San Franciso.) By the time I logged on to Facebook, there were already pictures of teams from all four of my sororities dressed as Smurfs, in “All-American” red/white/and blue mismatched outfits, tutus topping striped leggings, and everything in between.

It’s more interesting because not all the people who “race” actually pay admission and sign up to run — they just jump into the race course whenever/wherever they choose. That’s where the nudity/semi-nudity/lack of costumes find their way among the Santa’s tied together in tandem and other outfits no one would wear outside a Bay to Breakers (B2B) race. It’s a celebration of Bay Area life at it’s best, and I miss it. Trying to get a team together for next year — maybe other house moms –we could dress as Donna Reed in white gloves and pearls, or fuzzy robes with cigarettes hanging out of our mouths and bottles of wine. But doubt if that will happen. People my age tend to be pretty old. Most don’t get me. No surprise there.

Then, the news from Oklahoma started hitting the Facebook posts, changing the day. My first instinct was to divert back to the Oklahoma tradition of turning the TV (in my case, computer) to Gary England’s Channel 9 OKC streaming feed, complete with storm chasers on the ground and helicopter pilots risking their lives in the air. And, as if I still lived there, was glued to it all day, sending texts to friends as the tornadoes ripped through or near their home areas. There was a post from Kimi Winkler, one of Abbi’s old cheerleading team members who lives in New York City. She, too, was glued to Gary England’s streaming videos.

If I had been in OKC, at my 1911 NW 33rd Street home just south of Penn Square Mall, I would be watching the weather channel in the family room we called “The Lodge;” it had a great fireplace, and the back wall was almost all glass, looking out over our 16′ x 32′ pool, deck with hot tub, and my beautiful 20’stand of 50 year old trees. I would be worrying whether I’d be lucky yet again and not have any trees uprooted, whether the neighbor’s tree would fall onto the deck outside my bedroom again or crash through the roof this time, how much debris would be in the pool — and if I could add enough chlorine to keep the water from turning to a green pond of algae sludge or have to drain, scrub it down, and start all over with fresh water.

Like all Oklahomans, the safest closet had already been cleared out in case I needed to revert to the closest thing to safety my house afforded. The safest is usually a bathroom — get down into the tub under a mattress…but both our bathrooms were on outside walls. The closet between the living room and lodge was my safest option. And not very safe at that because the house had a crawl space and the whole house could have been picked up or leveled.

I would be thinking back to the house we almost bought that backed up to Westmoore High School. I chose against it because the fence backed up to the school’s parking lot and my concern of liability if the kids decided to jump the fence to swim. And that was a no-brainer. That entire neighborhood, plus the house we would have purchased, was wiped out in not one, but two tornadoes a year apart.

And flashing back to the days when our shop, Greeks Bearing Gifts, was in the University Center at University of Central Oklahoma and we’d all head down to the basement to hunker down until the storm passed by/over the building. Jarrett Jobe, who was head of Greek Life, would be on a central computer watching the streaming weather and keeping us apprised of the storm’s location and velocity. We would all be worried about homes, friends’ homes, businesses, Abbi’s gym that was little more than a corrugated metal shell, if our cars would still be in the parking lot when we went outside, and if we would get home that night. As I sent out texts/FB posts to friends (ex “kids) in the area, I found that some who lived nearby had already gone to the basement of the UC for shelter.

When I turned on the Channel 2 CBS news at 6:30 pm here in Los Angeles, they mentioned the Oklahoma tornadoes as if they were mere hiccups. I sent them a website e-mail telling them to watch their sister station in OKC and keep up.

This storm was all over the place. First news was from Edmond; just north of Oklahoma City where UCO, Abbi’s cheerleading/dance gym where she both coached and was a member of 3 squads, and most of our friends lived. Then, another storm started up east of OKC on the I-40 — threatening Shawnee, the mall, the casino, and two recreation areas. The casino was evacuated, the shoppers were diverted to the shelter within the mall, and the twisters barely missed both. The Shawnee Reservoir and Lake Thunderbird weren’t as lucky. An entire trailer park was leveled. Why anyone would chose to live in a mobile home in Oklahoma is beside me. The helicopter crew watched as water was literally sucked out of the Reservoir. A housing development on the banks of Lake Thunderbird was wiped out — and in true tornado behavior, three houses in the middle of the development were untouched while everything around them was flattened. At one point in time, there were 6 circles overlapping on the video — 6 storms that could merge into one superstorm. I watched as two tornadoes merged with a “halo” around the top meaning it could become even larger. Where the tornadoes touched down, brown debree clouds whipped up forming clouds at their bases. We wouldn’t know what was in them until later — just trees? Crops? Homes? Livestock? That would have to wait.

The news came out that at least one life had been lost in the trailer park. From past experience, news about missing people wouldn’t be forthcoming for days.

The messages I sent out were answered over the hours — a pix on Facebook from one of my sorority nieces showed the tornado parallel to their car on I-40. There’s nothing you can do in that case except keep driving — you never know what it’s going to do — stay the course, turn onto the freeway and hurl you in circles then tossing you to the ground….you just keep on moving.

Others showed hail in sizes ranging from golf ball to baseball and sometimes larger. One newscaster claimed, “Just another softball-sized hail storm.” Only in Oklahoma.

Stories of near-misses — “It came within a mile of the house.” “We got home. We’re safe.” “My plane landed just in time.” “We had roof damage, but were OK.” “We’re in the shelter. The kids and dogs are all in my lap.” “The house is gone.”

Back to the news, I-35 and I-40 were hit hard. Cars that parked under bridges for safety were slurped out and tossed around. One tractor trailer truck was picked up off a highway bridge and pitched to the road below – smashed like a plywood toy. Another had been turned over and was perched precariously over the railing.

Tornadoes are so common, we often take them for granted. We’re outside taking pictures as the ground-touching tails travel straight towards us. Jokes hit the internet about grabbing a lawn chair and a beer to hit the lawn and watch. But there’s nothing funny about these things. They’re unpredictable.

Then, the word came that a storm was headed for Norman, home of the University of Oklahoma. The newscaster admonished “Don’t look for it. It’s wrapped in rain.”

The next from Prague and Meeker – east and south of the University. This day was never going to end. Again, a storm wrapped in rain that would be undetectable if someone was looking for the normal signs: Rain, hail, eerie silence, and the sound of an oncoming train.

At the end of the day, most of my friends were OK. A couple of houses sustained major damage. One family came out of their closet to find it was the only thing left standing. But no one was hurt. That’s what really matters.

Of course, that’s not the end. There was still the threat of more tornadoes during the night, when there’s no defense. And today will bring more tornado watches and warnings. These are never one-day events.

But Okies are a resilient lot. They know spring is coming, and with it tornado season. They know spring will be followed by a drought-ridden summer and winter will bring blinding blizzards and ice storms that will knock out power lines and send trees dropping through roofs. There’s always fall — time to breathe and watch football.

And, as the old song says, they’ll “pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start all over again.”

In times like this, no one cares whether you’re Republican or Democrat, whether you’re white, red, black, yellow, or green. Everyone comes together to make sure their neighbors have a place to stay, enough food to eat, a shoulder to cry on, clothes when necessary, and they’ll work together to rebuild.

Then, they’ll hit the back deck, grab a beer, grill a steak and live their lives until the next scare. They know it’s coming, but there’s no sense to worry about it until it happens.

Abbi and I spent 18 years in Oklahoma. It was an adventure. It still amazes both of us that most people never think of leaving. She had many friends who had never been out of the state. Most of them went to OU, OSU, or UCO. They go to Eufaula or Grand Lake for vacations, get jobs in Oklahoma and stay to raise their families…”Sooner born, Sooner bred, and when they die, they’re Sooner dead.” And they’ll always persevere. It’s who they are. It’s in their genes. And they wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, until the next time, I’ll probably be switching “weather TV” off and on my computer until Gary England is no longer talking about tornado watches, warnings, and imminent danger, and go on living my life — knowing that an earthquake could come at any minute, but hey..I’ve been through tornadoes in Oklahoma and Nebraska, blizzards and ice storms in West Virginia, Ohio, Nebraska and Oklahoma, a tsunami, hurricane, and the only tornado to ever hit Hawaii (it came through Koli Koli Pass, just like the Japanese planes on December 7 — and a mile from our house), and earthquakes in California. No, I haven’t been in a big one yet, and hope I never am, but if it happens, that 18 years in Oklahoma will kick in. And I’ll be OK.

Take care of yourself. Every day of life is precious. Stuff is just stuff. Treasure your family and friends. Tell someone you love them today, and every day. And live life to its fullest.

See you soon.

WHAT WAS I THINKING?????

Most of you know my feeling about malls. I’m a real believer in supporting local business, and secondarily, buying pre-owned stuff….no sense killing more than one tree if you don’t have to.

I used to love to shop. Would get off work, change clothes, hit the mall for food-court Chinese and shop till the place closed down. Always found something cute for work, and never left the house without something cute on casual nights. Back in Charleston, WV were I kinda grew up, I caught slack because when I bought an outfit, it was always paired with matching shoes, purse and gloves. Yes, gloves. I got called prim and proper more than once.

Then life got complicated. Married, baby, stuff….you know. it happens.

But I’ve lost some weight and wanted clothes that fit. I need some tops that aren’t tee shirts, and wanted new capris. So, yesterday I decided to go shopping (something I now hate to do, primarily because I go during day hours instead of waiting till all the under-10-year old set is at home.)

My first thought was to hit up my consignment shops. My favorite is Haute Seconds on Wilshire between Brentwood and Santa Monica — they have great designer stuff and several production companies use them after films wraps. I scored Abbi the $3000 Loubitons Cameron Diaz wore in “Bad Teacher” there. And a couple equally good shops are within a couple miles. It seemed like a good idea until I reminded myself that it takes a dedicated day to find clothes for myself in consignment shops because I’m not a size 4. Never have been, never will be, and I would probably end up buying shoes for Abbi or a Fendi, Louis or Gucci purse instead of my intended purchases…and I’d still have to make another shoing trip for the stuff I needed in the first place. Problem Number Two is that I’m in Fullerton. Haute Seconds is anywhere from 40 minutes to 3 hours away — one way — and that would only be my first stop. To add to the frustration, there’s always construction on the 405. Logic dictated that drastic measures were in order, so in a moment of utter weakness, I went to the mall.

What I didn’t take into consideration was that Saturday, May 4, 2013, was “early shopping” day for Mothers Day, or maybe just the day that very large families decided taking their pre-pubescent crew to a crowded mall was more fun than a trip to the beach in 90 degree weather or Magic Mountain, Disney Land, or Knott’s Berry Farm where kids are both entertained and appreciated.

Not only was the place packed, it was packed with entire families, and evidently most families have 4+ children…..all running rapant, all in charge of their own little individual gift bags, and all ready for a) food, b) a bathroom break, or c) a nap. Mostly, they decided I was a target catch in their track meets, or something to use as blocking dummy. Not one parent intervened. I just wanted a peaceful day of putting together a spring/summer wardrobe that didn’t consist of jean capris and university/sports/hot spot tee shirts. Those of you who went to Myrtle Beach with me know I can’t resist a fun tee shirt. My all-time favorite is AJ’s in Destin, Florida. Down the sleeves are “Suck the Heads,” and b) “Eat the Tails.” The other favorite in Destin is Busters, an off-the-beaten path burger joint, and I can’t resist buying Cara Roy tee shirts that are copies of Seaside’s Spring and Fall wine festival posters.

But back to the mall, along with those tiny bundles of energy were at least one, usually two, and in some cases generations of adults…all in states of a) hunger, b) need of a bathroom break, c) in need of a good hockey game or a nap, and d) in serious need of a valium, xanax, or at least a beer. Mostly, they were in need of a couple hours with no kids. I’ve never understood why one parent couldn’t stay at home with the kids while the other one shopped. Men hate shopping anyway. Why should they be subjected.

Put those two classes of people together in a scenario that had been out of my frame of reference for over 6 years, and there I was…a) wanting to go up to some parents and say those words I used to utter on a regular basis before Abbi was born, “If you can’t control that thing, leave it at home,” b) still in re-coup mode from surgery when I really shouldn’t have been stressing myself out, c) in my usually-impatient state, and d) resolute to not leave until my mission was accomplished. I mean after all, I’d given up Haute Seconds (and probably a new purse) for this.

What (the f—) was I thinking?

Maybe I wasn’t. Maybe there are still some meds or toxins hiding deep within my body that made me less than lucid for just a nano-second. Maybe I forgot the frustration of going into a mall where I didn’t know the locations of the brands I like, the restroom, or my much-needed Coke for the first time. And on a Saturday. For whatever reason, there I was. There I would stay…..praying that I would find what I needed very quickly so I could get the hell out of there and finish the other things I’d planned for the day — filling the car’s tank and going grocery shopping for my 17 charges who go through snacks, Lucky Charms, apple juice, and toilet paper quicker than I can get them purchased and put away.

It seemed a logical move to go to Macy’s first. They carry both Ralph Lauren and Jones New York. Both brands have the butt to waist ratio.

I surveyed the first floor, which usually houses women’s clothes…..but after discovering only a warehouse full of cosmetics, perfume, shoes, jewelry, accessories, junior stuff and bathing suits, I headed upstairs, where I found nothing but “Women’s” clothes. A whole floor of “Women’s” (plus-size) clothes. Oh, and a sections of regular-sized suits and formal/cocktail wear. It made me wonder if that was the only assortment of regular clothes they carried.

There was no 3rd floor.

I headed back to First floor, asked about casual wear, and was directed to the basement. The basement? Really? But I was on a mission, so off to the basement I went. Mini-munchkins were still circle-eighting themselves around and between my legs or assaulting me with tiny gift bags. It amazed me that parents were letting their kids run wild. My assumption was they weren’t concerned about the kids being abducted — 20-minutes, and they’d be returned.

This made me long for the days when we dressed up to take a bus to downtown Charleston, wander through The Diamond, Stone & Thomas, Pecks, Frankenberger’s, and other stores where we could shop like ladies, pick clothes we liked with just enough staff to be helpful when needed but not obnoxious enough to want to establish long-term relationships, and could charge our purchases to our parents’ accounts before hitting The Diamond’s winding lunch bar, Valley Bell, or the Quarrier Diner for a hot dog with chili and slaw with a Coke in a coned cup (I’m thinking it was about 10 ounces, which was plenty).

But the good news was that the first thing I spotted in the basement was the Ralph Lauren department, where I picked out a couple pair of capris and some cute tops. The pants I chose were the size I thought I would wear, and they were a little loose, so I tried the next size down…and they fit. And the tops I’d always worn wear open with a cami underneath now closed all the way without leaving gaps between the buttons. It was then I realized that I’m only one size away from being where I was before my assault on December 7, 2007. It hit me that once the doctor gives me permission to exercise again, though I’ll have to take it easy for awhile, I’m scant months away from being back to my normal size. No, I’ll never be a size 4 — or even 6 for that matter. I don’t want to be. I enjoy being a real woman with a real body. I may get a mini-six-pack, and it’s great to feel my hip bones again, but I never want to be a “rail.” And I can get back down to my “fighting weight” well before the Writers’ Police Academy in September. That makes me really excited. Can’t wait to get my tee shirt with “WRITER” on the back. Even more excited to gain information that will make my mystery/thrillers more accurate and believable while meeting other authors from all over the country. They only accept 150 people, and I’m thrilled to be one of them.

But back to the mall. There wasn’t anything in the Jones New York section that tripped my trigger, and I was starting to feel a little light headed, so decided to take a break and hit the food court. Finding it was another matter, and brought up yet another of my pet peeves. Why don’t people understand that driving rules apply at malls. Drive/walk/push the damned 3-kid stroller down the same side of the walkway you’d normally drive on. We’re not in the freaking UK– not down the middle or and certainly not maneuvering the bus of a stroller with your stomach while holding a Coke in one hand and your cell phone in the other. And if the kid is screaming its head off, pick it up. Feed it. Change it. Take it home. Immediately. Not after you’ve finished trying on every bra in Victoria’s Secret while annoying the hell out of all the other customers.

And it was damned near impossible to find the food court, which was nowhere close to the picture on the huge map depicting where it should have been…..they should have made a note that there are TWO Macy’s stores — one for women’s crap, and one for men’s and house stuff. Telling me it was beside Macy’s wasn’t enough information.

Finally got there, ordered a taco salad without the shell and the obligatory Coke to get my body revving again, but it didn’t work. After eating, I still was light-headed and came home without filling the car or grocery shopping for my little piranhas. But that happened Sunday, so no gallows were erected and they’re still happy with food back in the cabinets.

And in spite of the angst, I learned a couple of lessons…..a) if possible, schedule time to get to the Santa Monica area where I can shop in the upscale designer consignment shops I love, and where the staffs know me, or b) hit the mall during school hours or after the dinner hour when stroller or over-active-cookie-propelled kids are behind the closed doors at home playing video games. And I came home with a killer new outfit that I can wear for business casual, another trip to the mall, or even a date if that strange event should ever come up.

Other good news is that my website is back. My year-long subscription had run out, and they hadn’t sent me an invoice so I had no way of knowing. I’ve written down the date for next year so I can be proactive. See, I’m becoming a responsible adult again. (At least in some areas, but don’t expect miracles. I still gotta be me.)

Until next time, take care of yourself, and know you’re important to me. I’ll be more proactive with the blog from now on; so much has happened in the last month, and we need to catch up.

Enjoy your day. Tell someone you love them. Complement a stranger. Hug someone. Laugh out loud. Live life as if this is the last day you have. And love yourself. See you soon.

MY YEAR WITHOUT FEAR……SO FAR

Things changed quickly almost immediately after my last overly-optimistic blog.

Once again, the settlement date got pushed back, but I decided to go ahead and start taking steps to get out into the world.  That, too, was a little overly-optimistic.  After five years of becoming a recluse, it wasn’t as easy as anticipated to walk out the door, sooooo…….

I signed up for the Writers’ Police Academy that’s put on by Sisters In Crime (SinC) in September. It’s an abbreviated police academy held at the Greensboro Police Academy and training facilities in North Carolina.  I’m really excited…..and it’s several months in advance so I have time to get my act together. There will be police car driving, breaking down doors, gun stuff, and a ton of forensics information to make the details of my writing more realistic and accurate. And I get a tee-shirt with “WRITER” on the back. What more could a girl want?

Step 2: While waiting to renew my drivers license at AAA, I struck up a conversation about traveling destinations with a gentleman that lasted about 45 minutes.  On the way out, I handed him my card. He didn’t call, but I hoped he wouldn’t.  The fact that I reached out and made myself vulnerable was the important part.  The truth is that after not having a date for five years, it would be kind of like a dog chasing a bus.  I’ve read that if you don’t find your husband in high school or college you’re probably never going to find him.  I should have paid more attention.

Step 3: In an especially optimistic moment, I signed up for the Our Time/Jewish Date website, thinking that maybe having a date or two would get me up and running…..but the next morning I was more lucid and cancelled the membership.  I’m not ready yet.

Step 4: Marketing my book hasn’t gone well — again, fear of being in public..I mean, once I get there, I’m fine. It’s getting there that’s wanky.  So, I did a trial sign-up with an author’s publicist. We’ll see how that goes. 

One of the obstacles is that my current “part-time” job is more work than any of my full-time house director jobs. The house needs a lot of maintenance, we’re planning on doing construction this summer, and I both grocery shop and cook for the girls twice a week.  But I’m using that as an excuse, and realize I’m allowing it to happen. When I went to Abbi’s to feed her cats last week, I took a very long side trip and went to sit by the ocean for awhile. Just long enough to have lunch, but it’s a start. Tomorrow, I’m going to see “42.” Sure, it’s only a movie….but it’s not in the house.

My biggest problem is no local friends to call and hang out. Go out to dinner. Hit a movie. Walk around a mall or spend a day at the beach like I used to do with my precious Laurel. I’d bask in the sun, and Laurel, the tiny sprite, would be in sweatshirt and jeans over her bathing suit, wrapped in a couple of blankets. But we always had a good time, followed by dinner and a cocktail before heading back to our respective sorority houses. I miss those days. We were never on the same campus again, and that’s a shame.

As soon as my blog is finished today, I’m calling West Virginia Vital Records to get a valid copy of my birth certificate. I need to get a passport under Hyman, but they will no longer accept my original birth certificate with the adorable footprints.  And while I’m sitting at the computer, I’ll rejoin Sisters In Crime, SoCal’s chapter of California Writers, at least the national Alpha Xi Delta alumna association, and Classmates.com.  (I’m also doing this to put off, once again, doing my expense report.  There may be something I hate worse than paperwork and math, but I’m not sure what it is.)

You know how much I’ve missed exercising, and in about 10 days, I’m going to do something pretty drastic in hopes it will help take the pressure off my back and legs.  I’ve always been a risk taker, which is strange since normal stuff seems to have me baffled now.

My life has rarely been either normal or boring. Sometimes, that would be nice.  But more often than not, it could be a country western song without the train, dog and rain. And that’s OK. I look at my friends whose lives haven’t changed much over the years, and in some ways wish my life had taken that turn…..but that wasn’t the deck the universe handed me. When I look back, several of the twists and turns were things over which I had no control.  Others were of my own making because I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on around me.  I tend to be too trusting and believe the best in people – and it’s gotten me in trouble more than once.  That’s OK, too.

My life, with more twists and hair-pin turns than West Virginia roads has kept me on my toes and opened up adventures I never would have experienced otherwise.  There are so many things I want to do, and by sometime in May, I should be able to start doing them…..jump out of a perfectly good airplane, find a place to walk in a tank with sharks (the only one I’ve found so far is at Atlantis in the Bahamas), go on a singles’ cruise, mine for gems in North Carolina, spend time on east coast beaches, finish the thriller my agent wants redone, take Abbi and maybe a friend or her boyfriend to Hawaii to show her where she was born and swim with dolphins in the warm Hawaiian Pacific while we’re there.  That should take care of the next 12 months. We’ll see what happens after that.  I’d really, really, really love to find a way to get into the old City Hall  in New York City where the subway turns around, but there’s no longer a stop.  Hmmmmm. How could I pull that off………

At least on paper, I know how to get out of the house and start living. Now, I have to find a way to open the door and put the first foot outside. I promise that will happen, and you’ll be the first to know.

In the meantime, please take care of yourself. Leave the house and do something out of your comfort zone. Being comfortable can lead to being in a rut, and ruts become chasms.  Life should never be spent “content.”  It’s important to learn the difference between satisfied and content. I’m not in either state now, and once again, that’s a good thing. I know I’m where I’m supposed to be — right here, right now.

Remember, you’re never too old to wish upon a star. Dare to dream and live. Our job is to continue to embarrass our kids while we’re here and give them reasons to laugh once we’re gone. 

See you soon…….

A TIME OF RENEWAL — OR, CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the last week’s ‘holiday’ season —

 

Pesach, the time when the Angel of Death passed over all the Jewish houses while wiping out the rest of the community.

Easter, the day Christians celebrate the Jesus rising from the dead.

 

Spring…..the time for new beginnings, budding flowers and trees, and the hope of things to come.

 

So here we are.  Besides having seders and Easter egg hunts, how are we renewing ourselves now?

I’ve never experienced so much hate flying through the air, and I grew up in West Virginia in the 50’s and 60’s when blacks were called the “N” word, and my high school didn’t have proms or parties because they might attend.

Half of our Congress is still hell-bent to derail anything that could help the country — jobs acts like we had “back then” — the WPA gave jobs to those who needed it while building and repairing the country’s infrastructure…would that be so bad? And voted down the Veterans Job Act that’s already funded — wouldn’t have cost us a cent…..and backs Big Oil that pollutes our water supply while refusing to support the conversion to clean energy (they seem to forget we only have so much air to breathe).

Our rivers and lakes are drying up. Marinas once filled with pleasure and live-aboard boats now are nothing but silt. My GPS tells me there’s a river beside the road I’m travelling, but there’s nothing but dry earth. The ice cap is melting – breaking off in chunks.  I just read that seven….SEVEN states in the Midwest are once again becoming a dust bowl. Ask anyone in Oklahoma. Yet, there’s no global warming? I know. It’s aliens swooping down at night and sucking up our water for their own planet. Right?

Our education system has slipped double digits down the list of those worldwide. Yet, our teachers are asked to take pay cuts. My daughter’s favorite teacher, and the school’s “teacher of the year” the previous year, had to quit teaching when he had his third child because he couldn’t afford to do what he loved. Even before that, he had to work at White Water in the summer to support his family.

And Facebook is filled with hate for our President and anything else that doesn’t fit into a personal agenda.  I got a post yesterday that someone “heard”  the crowd at the basketball arena where Obama was attending a playoff game “booed” him. I was watching. It sounded like cheering to me. When I commented that the cheering was also aired on CBS news, he said, “CBS lies.”

WHAT?

I don’t understand.

I did not vote for either Bush either time. But they were our sitting Presidents.  I couldn’t say the words, “President Bush,” out loud, and I may have posted some funny things, primarily because there was always good material, but I didn’t hate them. I didn’t bash them. I didn’t disrespect them.  I pride myself on being an Independent. I voted for Clinton both times and Obama both times…but I also voted for Reagan both times. He loved his country, believed in the welfare of all Her citizens (not just the wealthy), and wanted what was best for America. I’d probably vote for him again.

Is it because our President’s name is Barack Hussein Obama? Or is it because he’s, as they say in Hawaii, hapa-haoli? (half white) We’re all a little mixed up if you get right down to it. (And birthers, if you’d like to see my daughter’s birth certificate from Hawaii, it looks just like his….and I’m pretty sure I know where she was born.) If we have descendants from colonial days, there’s a real good chance we have more black blood in us than American Indian.

But, two times, the majority of the nation voted for him. Heck. Half the world voted for him last time. It was a massacre. Deal with it. He’s my President, your President, OUR President for another three years.  Would there be this much hate if Hillary had been elected? Or a white man? I don’t know, and I don’t care.

How can we blame the president for the horrible state things are in? He can only sign bills that show up on his desk. And he has to sign some bills into law that have clauses he disagrees with to accomplish something else. If you’re unhappy with the state of the nation, call your Congressman. Tell them you expect a full three months of work out of them. That’s what they’re scheduled to work this year. What business could run staying open three months a year?

It’s time to put our differences aside.

We need to get our people back to work — stop posting that some organization said America will never reach full employment under Obama. When was the last time America had full employment? I’m thinking it was back when everyone had to farm to survive. Don’t tell me it was during WWII – I’ve heard that too many times — I have a letter my Uncle John wrote to my mom while he was in the Navy telling her he was glad that she and my dad finally found jobs.

We need to make sure our veterans get the physical and mental medical,  immediate and ongoing care they need when they return from active duty, and that not one veteran is ever unemployed or homeless.  Did we learn nothing from Vietnam?

We need to rebuild our infrastructure. Our roads and bridges are crumbling. Our dams and levees are breaking under pressure.

We need programs for our youth so they have alternatives to the violence (and zombies) on TV and gangs. When I was growing up, mothers stayed home unless there was a family business, and then the kids showed up to work in the afternoon or the mom was home in time for their return from school. Now, the kids go home to an empty house. And they’re not practicing dancing to American Bandstand while holding onto a doorknob for a partner. They’re not out playing with their friends. They’re watching TV and playing video games. Alone.

We need to teach our youth self-respect and respect for others. I wonder how many of the children and teens who have murdered their classmates believed they were wanted, needed, loved, appreciated, and that they were valuable members of society. Or that their job was to leave the earth a better place than they found it.

We’ve got to get assault weapons off the street. The police are doing the best they can, but what stalwart American really needs to shoot and carve up a deer at the same time? Where’s the sport in that? I believe in the right to bear arms….but haven’t seen a well-ordered militia in quite awhile, and when there is one, it’s called a terrorist cell or we mow it down like the ones in Waco. And clips that hold 30- 100 rounds? Again, why do we need them? While the Shady Brook shooter was reloading, it’s reported that eleven kids were able to escape. Imagine if he’d had to reload every six shots. Or that his parent’s gun was locked up securely in the first place.

Any American who chooses to should be allowed guns to hunt (if it provides food), protect his/her family and property, and for sport. No foreign power in it’s right mind would put their feet on American soil because there are too many retired Marines and old ladies with arsenals.  They’d never make it through Oklahoma and Texas.

We need to teach our kids respect, morals, values, and to accept responsibilities for their own actions instead of bailing them out of every problem and encouraging their behavior by convincing themselves that it’s someone else’s fault. It’s the teacher’s fault if they get bad grades. If they slug someone, the other person must have thrown the first punch. If they get arrested, they were targeted because they were black/rich/in the wrong neighborhood/whatever. Parents call the university and get grades changes — so what if the kid forgot to go to class.The prof must not have been interesting.  Corporations have classes on how to deal with new graduates and their parents who call and fight their battles for them or ask for raises because their urchin is so valuable (I had one call me when I was employing sales reps to reprimand me for not letting his 22-year old Oklahoma State grad with way too much Delta Chi in him, go on spring break with his friends).

The world has gone nuts. Our tv shows are filled with serial killers, zombies and the walking dead. What happened to Peter Gunn, Mike Hammer, The Twilight Zone?  We know bad things happened, but we didn’t need to see pools of blood oozing from under bodies. Most of the shows now are unscripted, reality pieces of crap, because they’re cheaper to produce. Who needs a plot line or script when women who are seemingly wealthy and of class will tear each other’s extensions out with no provocation?

I’m tired of being “unfriended” on Facebook and I’m tired of “unfriending” people I care about because of conflicting views and the abusive, snarky comments that go with them.  It’s more fun to go to a bar, have a drink, and hold an intelligent conversation about differences of opinion. There’s good food, good booze, and everyone comes out with something to think about.  In the end, we all want the same thing, but have different ideas of how to get there.

Where do we go from here? Hell if I know. But what I can do is stop responding when someone puts up a post that is unfounded, partisan, or cruel. By not responding, at least I’m not adding fuel to the fire.  I can’t promise I won’t post ironic or funny things, and I’m going to try to stay out of the political arena completely — but not those about our environment or educational system. I’m going to spend less time on Facebook and more time living my life. I’ve lost too many friends to not know that life is precious — every second of it. Every second I spend doing one thing is a second I can’t spend investing in something else. I will use my time more wisely.  I will let everyone I know understand that they are appreciated. And those I love will know it. “My” girls will be told on a regular basis how amazing they are, and that they can change their worlds. Of my first 22 seniors, there are half a dozen attorneys, two who just finished medical residence programs, one who has a Masters and now an MD in Public Health, two Naval officers, some teachers, an MBA, a small-business owner, a model, and a nanny. I couldn’t be more proud.

What can you do? Walk up to someone wearing a military hat and thank him for his service. Don’t just leave a tip, write a note thanking a waitress for good service. Tell someone you like their hair, or dress, or smile. Tell someone you love them. Hug someone. Buy a meal for a homeless person. Let someone know you believe in them. Pay the toll for the person behind you. Show up for beach clean-up day. Live life like it’s the only one you have…..because…..it is.

So, for now, be careful out there. You’re important to me.