Tatas are Overrated….


A Lumpy Curve Ball


I have learned in the last few days, what it is like to face a curve ball.


I used to play co-ed softball.  Catcher.  I could catch just about anything and it was a good time in my younger and single days.  Young and carefree and waiting for my handsome prince to arrive.


He was late.  But better late than never.  And it has been a wonderful and mostly magical thirty years.  Hopefully there will be thirty more at least.  I want to chase him around in wheelchair races if that needs to be the case.


But I am no longer sure.


You see, with no family history and enjoying good health, I went in for my annual boob squeeze expecting the same result that it has always been:  Normal.


Not so.  I have discovered that lumps really ought to be found only in oatmeal.


Not breasts.


I have joined the pink brigade.  After years of normal, there is a lump on one of my ta-tas.  The same ta-tas that I used to beg for when I was thirteen.


BAM!  One minute, okay and the next the world turns upside down….

I am having a lumpectomy and will figure it out from there.  With my wonderful husband by my side, we can lick this.  Because, apparently, I have what is considered a “good” cancer — an oxymoron if there ever was one.  I have the “good” receptors.  Who wants to receptor this shit?


But a lumpectomy and some intervention should (and WILL) solve this latest adventure on this train called life.  Sorry for the cryptic posts.  I thank you all for being my friends.  For right now, you can reach me in my cave – where I will be pondering the meaning of life, this issue and the blessings of my friends.


P.S.  I have always hated oatmeal anyway.  More of a Cream of Wheat person – less lumps.


Keep smiling.


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Cemetery Stomping

While I consider myself a writer, I also consider myself as a link in the history of it all:  my family of origin, my family we created, my extended family, the eclectic  friends from all walks as well as the oddballs who have my heart and keep me smiling no matter what.

In our new normal, we have a commuter marriage.  The King visits the Queen and the Queen visits the King. We have a honeymoon cottage in addition to our main residence.  It is a lovely situation by and large.  I have the hubby trained that I don’t like to come home to a bachelor pad filled with dirty dishes.  He doesn’t like to come home to an extensive honey-do list so I keep the must dos to a minimum so we can just be.  Together.

As I have mentioned before, I DIG genealogy.  I have dragged my family to remote graveyards to see old relatives graves.  It is fascinating to me.  Found a couple of felons, a counterfeiter, horse thief, first mayor of a small Iowa town, and a Revolutionary war hero as well as my original family homestead back in Ireland.  To my family?  Eh, maybe not so much.  But they are fairly tolerant if I don’t do it too often.  Payback for all the years of bench warming at soccer, ballet, piano, basketball, golf, cross country, and well, you get the idea.

Our commuter route is pretty remote.  There are small towns with services about every sixty or seventy miles on the route I take.  SMALL towns.  On the odd time I have driven some of this route after dusk, I pass by trailer homes that I would have sworn were abandoned only to see lights on.  It gives one pause to think.

My chosen route takes me between towns about thirty to fifty miles apart on state highways.  While not a wimp it gives me the comfort of cell service and more traffic.  (Sort of).  The wild west can be harsh, especially during the winter months.

On this route, there is a very small town.  Marmarth, North Dakota.  The population currently looks to be about 30.  But the Past Time Cafe is still there in this former booming railroad town.   Ironically, it has been allegedly featured on the Food Network.  But what is more intriguing to me is something I discovered a couple of sojourns ago.  The first building encountered is the old abandoned railroad depot.

Just before entering Marmarth, right when the speed level drops from 65 to 30, I happened to glance to the right as I was about the cross the Missouri River.  Up on a hill, just about fifty feet up on a bluff.  There is a cross.  Not only a cross, but a small iron piping enclosure around it.  I had to stop.

Marmarth Grave.jpgThis is very intriguing to me. The cross was very old and slightly tilted (toward the highway, ironically).  When I hiked up, the name on the cross was Hickey.

So, who was Hickey?  Obviously, judging from the age of the cross, he or she had died a long time ago.  Why did someone take the time to enclose it, let alone build a cairn at the base?  Is that car rounding the bend going to notice this site or am I the only one?

The next sojourn showed me that someone had put a small bouquet of plastic flowers and it had been recently mowed and tended.  Now I was hooked.

It took a bit of digging but I found a website.  The current population is about one hundred and forty people.  One of these days, I am going to swing through and take a picture of the white clapboard church just off main street.

I called the number on the website and rang through to the world famous Past Time Cafe.   (I have promised myself to stop by there some time between commutes.)  People in small towns like to talk.  This should please my husband who is one of the most genuinely curious people on the planet.  He loves finding out about people.  Usually the conversations include the person at the other end of his curiosity saying “I’ve never told anyone this before but…..”.  An odd and genuine gift indeed.

The gal at the world famous Past Time Cafe was very willing to chat for about a half hour.  She told me that the grave was there because that is where she wished to be buried.  Overlooking the scenic Missouri River in this amazing landscape for all eternity was her specific last wish.  People out here honor a handshake as binding, and honor last wishes as sacred.

She gave me the phone number of the a couple in town who would be able to answer my questions.  I called after a few days and found another history buff on the other end of the line.  We talked for the best part of an hour.  Even though the official cemetery is about a half mile east of the town, this was where Myrtle Woods Hickey expressly designated for her eternal rest.  She came from Nebraska with her family and settled into the new life. She was born in 1891 and died in 1910. People have offered to move her to the official cemetery.  But, someone long ago promised a dying nineteen year old that her wish would be honored and it is to this day.

Oh, and the gentleman I spoke with invested in a metal detector and is the sextant of the official cemetery.  He finds the bodies of those who died anonymously in the are during the time of the westward expansion.  The local funeral home provides plaques that honor the perpetuity of it all.

I did a bit more digging and could find no more.  Was she married?  Did she die in childbirth?  (There are a slew of Hickeys in the official cemetery.) Death certificates were practically nonexistent.  She has faded into history with a great view of the scenic Missouri River.  I get the feeling that she knew what she wanted — exacting to the end.  That is as far as I can take the story.

But I smile and wave as I drive by.

The gentleman who illuminated this for me?  Myrtle Woods Hickey’s father or uncle shot his great grandfather over a horse….

Gotta love the wild west.



Posted in A View from the Wild West, Finding Normal, Oddities and Amusements, One of Those Square States in the Middle, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To Pete S., Wherever You Are…

In the small town where I now live, there are a series of independent coffee shops. It was a scandal when the local satellite of a national food chain remodeled and installed a Starbucks. The coffee shop I favor has a very eclectic decor. Old Formica tables, very few matching chairs, dark old wood floors and an old sofa with books and magazines on the table in front of it. There are several groups of people who meet there for coffee quite regularly in the mornings. Another gaggle of groups meet for lunch and the after school hours find it filled with moms and kids getting snacks while waiting for church group (Wednesdays), music lessons, sports practices, or other after school activities to begin. The local university supplies a steady stream of students throughout the day.

On the front door is an unofficial calendar of a selection of the events pending in the near future. It was one of these that caught my eye the other day. The local university is presenting a madrigal dinner right before Christmas. I was immediately transported backs about twenty, no, wait, THIRTY years ago.

The end of the semester was in sight at the Big Ten University I was attending. Only finals loomed large before us. The pressure was on for the home stretch before Christmas. This can put a major crimp on the Christmas spirit as you are toting books to the library to pour the last bits of important knowledge into your brain and hope that it is enough to carry you through to the finish line.

So Christmas was far down the list, right next to the ho ho ho’s at that particular period of time. Though I am sure that Christmas cheer was catching on elsewhere.

That is when Pete called.

As a freshman, I had become a little sister at a local chapter of a national fraternity. Think “Animal House” on steroids. Though I had drifted away from the house and the antics inside, I still kept in touch with a couple of the saner members of the frat. One of them was Buzzy.

Buzzy built his own small pipe organ and played classical music in his dorm room. He opened up a whole world to me well beyond the standard classical selections we were introduced to in secondary school.

One of the other guys was Pete.

He was a soft spoken, hard studying and very smart and directed guy. He was several standard deviations off the mean of the typical profile of the fraternity brother. He was the kind of guy that always had interesting topics of discussion ready to launch at me. He was the kind of guy girls like to have as a friend.

It was the weekend before finals. He had two tickets to a Madrigal dinner to be held at the student union on Saturday night. Would I like to come?

As I had a serious shortage of hot dates, it sounded like an interesting thing to do. I agreed.

We met at the frat house, across the street from my dorm and walked to the quad and the Student Union.

The room we were directed to was transformed from a large meeting room to the 15th century. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Garland was draped everywhere, sending a soft pine scent throughout. The lighting was entirely candled.
Above us, in each corner of the room were musicians. Tamburo, Crumhorn, Lute, Recorder, Sacbut, Harp and several other instruments were filling the room with lively, festive music as people began to gather. We were not, however, allowed to enter.
First, four sentries in authentic costume marched out, and placed their heraldry trumpets to their lips played a processional and marked the occasion to begin.

A small, puckish gentleman came forward. He introduced himself as the king’s fool. He then informed us that we were to come in and be shown to our seats as we awaited the arrival of the king and queen and their court.

Led to our seats, after settling, the servants quickly filled our cups with Mead. Again the heraldry sounded and we arose as the court filed in donned in the medieval garb of royalty and singing a song from the period.

The fool was the master of ceremonies. As each course was served and during the interims, period songs, some skits, tales of courtly love served to explain the history, customs and ceremony that was both unfolding before us and allowing us to suspend our disbelief and participate.

To say it was magic was an injustice. The prestidigitation was subtle and drew us all into the period. We WERE at a medieval court, honoring the lord and lady and dining on fine fare.

But the best was yet to come.

The ceremony was heading toward its closing. As the servants brought in the flaming plum pudding and the wassail, the lights dimmed and the king arose and sang “Good King Wenceslas”.

It was over far too soon. The court adjourned in a formal recessional singing to us all, acapella, “Silent Night”. They bade us good evening.

The return to the modern world and present time was done softly and gently. The lights came on slowly as the candles were snuffed. It was with great reluctance that we stood to leave.

But, the magic hadn’t ended.

As we were leaving the union, back in modern space and time, for the long walk home, it was snowing.

Not just snowing. It was the kind of snow that falls ever so gently, drifting slowly from the night sky; kissing the ground and everything and everyone with large fluffy flakes. The kind of snow that is too dry and soft for snowballs or any other form of spirited frivolity. Just large flakes that accumulate ever so gently and make you stop and gasp at the silence and the serenity of the moment. Each snowflake was a gentle temporal blessing and acknowledgement of the presence of God, the peace of the world. Pierre Teilhard De Chardin called it an “evolutionary moment that inspires us to unite with God.” As each flake touched my cheek, I understood the angels were kissing me ever so gently.

I understood that at that moment. I can recall the feeling perfectly. It brings an indescribable serenity and peace. The Alpha and the Omega. Finals didn’t have any relevance. We had been “transported” back in time to see the traditions of Christmas superseded mere mortal and temporal concerns. My heart was full.

We said very little on the way home. I think Pete was as immersed in the incredible beauty and magic that the evening had presented. He walked me to my door and gave me a peck on the cheek.

I lost touch with Pete pretty soon after that. Graduation came and the disconnect was complete. But as Christmas roars around the corner and the commercials begin to blare and the have to’s begin to loom, I find myself thinking of that evening and the enchantment we were lucky to experience. It stills me to the core. It brings back a memory that will be treasured as long as I live. It brings a true understanding of what Christmas can be. When we pause to breathe.

Every time I think of that evening, I thank Pete, wherever he is.

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Dear Trevor


Santa Claus

The North Pole


December, 2005

My Dear Trevor:

As you know, it is a very hectic time of year for me. I got your Christmas wish list as well as your brother and sister’s.  I know that you have been a very good boy. You always are. You work hard at school and are kind to your friends and always do what your mom and dad ask you to do. You have made a great improvement in getting organized too!! I am proud of you.

You are getting this letter because it was one of your Christmas wishes. You wanted reassurance that I still could find you since your move from Chicago.  Thank you for still believing in me. When boys and girls get to a certain age, they start thinking too much, instead of listening with their hearts. This, unfortunately, is part of the process of becoming a grown up. It doesn’t have to be; there are plenty of grown ups out there who trust in the miracles that come around every day – in all shapes and sizes.

There is more magic in this world than people know. Because they can’t see it, they think it doesn’t exist. Be one of the special ones who will continue to believe in all the magic that the world has to offer. You were lucky to catch me each Christmas Eve when you and your family lived in Illinois. South Dakota is later on my route. But, just because you don’t see me doesn’t mean I don’t exist. And my spirit will always be in your heart. Keep the spirit alive

Don’t fret if you do stop believing for a while. I will always believe in you. One of the gifts I give a lot of lucky grownups is the miracle of children. It helps them remember me and believe all over again. That is some of the magic that you, Connor and Chelsea have given to your mom and dad.

Merry Christmas, Trevor.




Posted in Finding Normal, From Where I Live, Life as I Now Know It, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Power of Illusions

The Power of Illusions

I have personally come to believe that we all have one great illusion that weaves itself into the fabric of our lives. Maybe some people have more than one. Perhaps there are even people who have so many illusions that all of them collectively weave together to become the entire fabric of their lives rather than just a pattern within it. But I am talking about the kind of illusion that blindsides you. The strands of it’s fibers commingle with your world until it all becomes one, for a period of time. If you are lucky, you get one of those illusions.
I did.
Ultimately, the fantasies I created from this illusion made my world then, and the one I live in now, a better place. Or so I believe.
But because they can disguise what is real from what is imagined, illusions can be a dangerous chimera. The especially dangerous ones are about people. Illusions have no flaws. People always do. Still, within danger is the opportunity for growth; whether you want that growth or not. I did. At the time, however, I didn’t realize it. You never do with the truly special illusions.
If you are extraordinarily lucky, you can look back on the illusion, as well as the ashes of the fantasy it helped create, and smile.
I can.
There are times when you reveal and speak your truth. There are times when it is stashed away and stored in the smallest trunk of your heart in the dustiest corner of the soul’s attic. The truth becomes a scrapbook. It can be brought out casually at cocktail parties and mentioned offhandedly. This protects its importance. But you know. You always know. There are times you take it out of that attic on an ordinary day and view it with a fond smile. Such is this truth with me.
By the time I was nineteen, I can very honestly say that I was a mess. Not a felonious mess, or an uneducated mess, or even a going nowhere fast mess. I was the worst kind – a lost and scared mess. I could function in the bounds of society rather successfully. There were many times I could fool the world along with myself that all was great and I was coping with impending adulthood quite nicely, thank you.
Nor was I an unambitious mess. Once again, quite to the contrary. I was going to conquer the world. After all, I was just fine the way I was. It was everyone else that had the problem. Not me.
And that, as you may well have surmised, was just exactly the problem. It was genetic. We had a long standing family tradition to never accept responsibility for or the consequences of one’s actions.

It was my senior year at a large university. As each year gave way to the next and the big world loomed larger and larger, the cracks in the spackle of my façade of perfection spread and multiplied. They formed so many fissures in the mask that I wore for the outside world that it was obvious to everyone but me that in no way was I prepared to graduate and move to the next phase of life’s journey. Indeed, I was so busy fighting the mask my father was trying to put on me, that I couldn’t begin to face anything.
Even when he was sober, the old man was pressuring me by any means possible to become an accountant. An accountant!! When I couldn’t even add without a calculator? Wait, an accountant and then on to law school to be a tax attorney? Surely, there was a room in hell for me with just such a set up.

But, it was what the old man had always wished he had done before his parents had demeaned him into a bottle of scotch as the solution for all the world’s problems.
I was his chance to right some obscure karmic wrong, balance the scales of inter-generational injustice. Even though his parents had been dead lo these twelve years, he was still fighting the battle.
And he was determined that I take up the sword.
So, in addition to the major angst of not really knowing what my path should be, I was dodging the bullets of Catholic guilt and his sodden threats of suicide if I didn’t fulfill his destiny.
Not the best senior year one could hope for.
All this battling on so many fronts was exhausting and taking all my focus and a great deal of my time. The old man was relentless. It wasn’t too late for dual salvation, if only I would listen. He would fund this mutual salvation if only I would comply and switch to a business major.
Otherwise, I would be on my own.
I was on my own.
It is well known to be impossible to win a war fought on two fronts.
Despite the bravado I exhibited when facing the old man, I had taken the bait. The battle had become both internal and external and left me wallowing in doubt. I was fighting to maintain appearances as well.
Covering myself with the ever more fissured mask of the all American kid had me coming and going at the same time.
On top of it, money was running out just a bit ahead of the last of the tuition bills.
So I applied for a job.
I sought a proper job, one befitting my station in life as the daughter of a “successful” attorney. No beer slinging or pizza wench for me. The job board at the student union had one posted for a “girl Friday” (still a mostly acceptable term in the mid seventies, especially in the College of Engineering). The interview went well. After pestering the daylights out of the man, a portent of the future, he got the funding for the position and I got the position.
It was easy. Mostly, my duties entailed running to various libraries around the campus to pick up research articles, along with a bit of phone work, typing and other miscellaneous errands. I felt competent. I also wasn’t home to receive the old man’s calls.
HM was European in birth and education. He spoke five languages with fluency and had lived in several countries while growing up. He was ruggedly good looking in every sense of the cliché. He was also a private man. He was a very private man. Whatever and whoever he was in reality, I immediately saw him as a very sophisticated and educated older man, an enigma.
He was fascinating to me.
I began to wonder what was behind the enigma. Like a pit bull on a meat truck, I became determined to find out. On one occasion, several months into my employment, I had to drive him home from campus. Even his house was unique. At least it looked like it from the outside. I was not allowed inside, though had he crooked his finger I would have followed him to Mars by then.
And then I found out about the dancing.
One Friday as I was leaving his office and lab, I mentioned that I was going out dancing. With a smile, he told me he taught ballroom dance at the University center.
The illusion was complete. The perfect man wished me a good evening as I closed the door behind me.
I was in love.

There is a saying in the ballroom dance world that the dance begins with the dancer’s feelings. There is another saying that dance is foreplay in public.

To my eyes, this man was the be all and end all of masculine perfection and élan. Life and my guardian angels had put this man before me to answer all my prayers, right all my wrongs, and solve all my problems, even though these problems were not of my doing, as our family creed dictated. It would all magically get better.
Finally, I would learn to dance. All the grace, elegance, and sophistication I longed to possess would come to me naturally, commencing with my feet.
I don’t remember how it came about, but HM and I went dancing. He was patient. I was awkward. As a good partner does, he kept me on track and restarted when I went off count or off step.
The evening was heavenly. Like sampling laudanum, I was hooked and had to have more.
The dance nights became a regular thing, in a sporadic sort of way. The nights in his dance framed arms would occur whenever I could hint, finagle or arrange them with him. I got better at the dance. When we would step out to the dance floor and begin our revolutions, others would stop and watch. Occasionally, there was even applause. Cinderella, Isadora Duncan, and Ginger Rogers had nothing on me. Nothing.
As a concession and to gain some breathing room from the military maneuvers with the old man, I did take the LSATs during this time. My scores made him redouble his efforts on his relentless quest for salvation via progeny.
The sprint to the finish line of my senior year became endless.
The awkward ritual of my dance with HM and our elaborate moves carried me through the rest of my college days. As I fought the increasing panic that came from the impending prospect of graduation and of the real world, I found solace in the dances and the dancing with him. It was, in part, because of my illusion of HM that I managed to graduate on my terms.

My graduation ceremony came. My parents came down for the momentous occasion. The old man arrived with a gallon bottle of vodka under one arm and a gallon of Bloody Mary mix under the other. My mother carried the limes.

The old man fell down at the ceremony.
My college days ended and I went home. I found an entry-level job and stayed away from the house as much as possible to avoid the daily wars with the old man. Even if I was destined to be the greatest lawyer in the history of jurisprudence, there was no way I would give law school any consideration. Doing so would have cost me my soul. The contrast between who I really was and who I felt I was while on the dance floor hit me like a cold, wet towel. There was no doubt.
I was still a mess.
Having kept in constant touch with my elegant illusion, I poured my energies into finding a way to have HM make me a part of his life. This would solve everything. I knew I could make him happy and thus make myself complete.
That is where I would have to say that the music and the dance lost the rhythm. But a good dance picks up the beat and maintains the dance frame of the two dancers. Not too close, firm grip, leave a firm space between partners.

Every opportunity that arose, I would drive down to the university town and stay with my former roommates and go dancing with HM whenever he would allow it. A good dancer moves gracefully and gratefully into her partner’s awaiting arms. All the while the dance frame is maintained.
HM would not allow these moments too often. Just enough to keep me hooked. The tempo slowed considerably.

Things began to shift a bit. I moved into my own apartment after a short, ugly stint at home. Eagerly, I collected hand me down furniture and pots and pans and began to decorate in the style of early Salvation Army. It was my own space to grow in any direction I chose.
It was then that he called me.
He was coming through the city on business and would like to see if we could get together. Last minute? Not a problem. As usual, I would drop everything to be with him. At last, he was coming to see me. He was making the effort this time. The pace resumed and still, as always, he commanded the pace. It left me alone most of the time. It left me empty and waiting with anticipation for him to crook his finger in my direction and beckon for a meeting. Each time, it would be last minute and I would drop any plans and go to wherever he happened to be. Of course, we would dance.

My need for this illusion increased with each time we were together. But I also chafed under the strict but unspoken rules I was always following to be in the pleasure of his company. My calls were taken but only at his convenience. I needed him to remember my birthday and it went unnoticed. I needed him to transport me away from the disappointments of my life and make me a better person. The fortunately unfortunate part of all of this was that I had never discussed whether or not he wanted to participate in anything but a dance. I only knew that if I wanted this illusion to maintain itself, I had better not ask any questions. My silence and complicity brought me the moments in his company and the snippets of time.

I even ceded control of our mode of communicating. As I was traveling with my job, I would send postcards or notes, but never call. I wrote long letters sharing my naïve and idealized outlook for my world. It earned me my pet name from him: Poppins.
On one trip to the homecoming football game with friends, I broke all the rules and called him at home. When he answered, I chose to use the wee bit of French I had learned in his company.
“Hello, H____? C’est moi, Poppins.
“C’est moi, Poppins.”
“Poppins. I’m in town.”
“Il est non ici.”
“I’m sorry, H____, what did you say?”
“He’s not here.”
“But you are talking to me!”
Obviously I was not good at grasping such subtle hints. That conversation should have made a rather large dent in the illusion. It didn’t. It never occurred to me that I was a sidebar in the relationships in his life. I was far too focused on making him the center of mine. I realized that there were never any other relationships discussed. I never met any one of his acquaintances.
Though beginning to puzzle over this, the relationship puttered onward on his clock and I continued to try to surrender all my power to this illusion of mine.
But he always chose the music that we danced to.
There continued to be trips and candlelit dinners and always dancing. That was all. I suppose, as I reflect, that it could have been enough. It was enough for the faceless, unknown others that dance with HM. It wasn’t enough for me.
I began to date occasionally and be more open to social life with people my own age. I made new friends in the business world and reconnected with old friends I had neglected. My life was full. I began to unravel the warp and woof of the relationship with my father with the assistance of a professional wise enough to ask me the right questions.
Learning to dance had been much easier.
I didn’t talk about HM with any of them. Any dates I chose to accept were always a disappointment. Even then, I was still holding fast to some corner of the illusion and still, no one could hold a candle to him. He still wore the cloak of this illusion easily and at his convenience. He remained patient with me as always. His hand kept gently holding me at arm’s length, within the dance frame, as I fought to shorten the leash.
My path was not without bumps and I did make enough mistakes that the music stopped and I had to take a long hard look around the dance floor until I caught my own reflection in the mirror. But I did one thing right during this time. I called HM and told him that the ball was in his court and I would no longer diminish who I was becoming by calling regularly and desperately flirting in hopes of a rendezvous.
The offer was accepted with the usual grace and poise. I had tried to become too intrusive in his private world.
This left me with no alternative to begin the hard and intense
introspection that would lead me down a new path. The fabric of my life was rewoven on my loom. I learned to be comfortable in my own skin and own not only my liabilities and imperfections, but my assets as well.
One of those assets was my acquired knowledge of the art of dancing. My quest taught me to apply the dance frame to my old man. Firmly, with the proper distance, I kept Dad in my life. Whenever he pushed too hard or tried to step over the boundaries I had established, I would walk away. I would not dance to his discordant tune. When his drinking finally put him in the nursing home with alcoholic dementia, I paid the bills and saw that the staff met his needs.
My life experiences were no longer laced with drama and desperation. I found what I was looking for within my own space.
I soloed.
The illusion that I had craved so badly became a very colorful spot on the cloth that is my life. The loom continues to weave.
I wouldn’t say, all told, that whatever it was I had with HM ended badly. I don’t think the dance ended at all. Rather, it just faded away. Several years later, I met the man whom I would marry. The absolute love of my life that I had only dreamt about with my illusions.  But I only met him after my own skin fit like a comfortable dance shoe.

I like to believe that the numbers of women who have had, or are having an experience such as mine are legion. Most of us have locked away these memories in the secret trunks in the attic of our souls. They gather dust, but remain intact and can be called up on the odd instance. Now we are all older, hopefully wiser, and hopefully in a place of peace. Some women, I am sure, dismiss this as a one-that-got-away story. Other women have these trunks of memories locked and padlocked very tightly against the light of introspection. Me? I like to occasionally open my secret trunk and look at the scrapbook of what is now a fond memory. There is just a tinge of embarrassment and remorse that the lesson took so much effort on the part of HM.

We are happy, my husband and I, though the music comes and goes. As it should, I suppose. The magic I was looking for in sharing life with another, the magic I demanded from HM, was found when I stopped looking. Then it was placed before me.  We just celebrated the anniversary of the night we met.   Yes!  The night we met.  December 18, 1988.
When the music leaves now, or fades, there is warmth and substance still present. Not emptiness. The laughter of our children adds depth to the music. It is a good life. I still have some of the moves I learned with HM’s tutelage. My husband and I dance very well together. But within the music and the dancing, there is honest discussion and complete exchange of respected needs and emotions. The volume goes up and down as circumstances demand, but the tune gets heard.

I have always felt, however, that there was one more thing to say to HM. I wanted to thank him for not becoming my myth. I wanted to thank him for not participating in my illusion, and thus keeping me on my path to where I am today – self contained and thriving.

Finally, I decided that I would act on this feeling. I reconnected electronically several years ago in an attempt to accomplish this one moment of truth with HM. He had left the academic world and become someone very technologically important in the years that had passed between that time and us. I have traded my dance shoes for a computer and a keyboard and my life circumstances. Though these circumstances are safer, there is also much more contentment within and without. I would not trade back for anything or anyone. Even HM.
Through e-mails, it came to pass that he would be passing through the airport in our city and had some time. With my husband’s full knowledge, it was arranged. I was to meet him between flights at the airport and, during this layover; all would be wrapped up. I was there. He was not. At the last minute, he changed his travel arrangements to something more convenient with no layover. Though he could have contacted me to alert me, he did not. I was inconvenienced. He was not. Again. That was the last lesson he taught me.
A friend recently showed me a cartoon that said, “Sure Fred Astaire was a great dancer. But Ginger Rogers had to do everything he did backwards and in high heels.”
Sometimes, backwards is an effective way to one’s destination.
The talk will never take place now. I know that. HM doesn’t want it. He wants the memory to stay in place with no new impressions upon the past. In our brief e-mails before the abandoned rendezvous, he admitted that he had gained “a great deal of weight”. So, it seems, he wants me to keep my illusions intact as well.
I do have to admit that I would have liked to meet him vis a vis. It would not be to renew this illusion/delusion I once cherished at all costs. It would have been to be honest and real and true and most of all, to thank him. Clearly, illusions can only end by mutual consent.
Some illusions do not want to be discovered. The illusion was as much for him as it was for me.
Occasionally, when I dance, I think of him and thank him. But I am in my husband’s arms and there is a glow between us that only people in true love know.
Je ne regretted rien.
Merci, wherever you are.
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Adding My Thoughts Today

Bears Repeating

Marysigmond's Blog

Today of all days, this bears repeating…..

I used to live in a suburb whose Main Street was right out of a movie.  The 4th of July parade was always one of the major events of the year.  When I wasn’t riding in the parade to promote the local charity horse show, we would ensconce our family in front of an old victorian mansion that served as a real estate office.  From that venue we would wait with anticipation.  My kids grocery bags clutched in their hands awaiting candy.

But the parade always started out with the flag and the veterans of our many conflicts.  At that time, and until a few years ago, the first vet was a World War  One Navy vet.  I found out later  that he sat in the back seat of that convertible cracking dirty jokes with a friend of mine.  That’s okay, he certainly…

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Random Rainbows

I am trying to find the words to express a magic so ordinary and mundane that it make it all the more magical.   Sometimes the simplest moments are the most profound. If anyone is lucky enough to take it for granted, then more power to them. I have mused before about how I have taken for granted the gift of multiple friendships that have lasted over several decades. When I start having a solo pity party complete with poppers, I am given a lesson to remember the gift, not the wrapping paper.

Well, here we go again

Triangles are magical, powerful, and mystical. They exist in sacred sites throughout every culture on this little blue orb that is circling our cosmic light bulb.

Father, The Son and Holy Ghost. Three wise men. The triangle is found in virtually every culture and is the most stable of geometric symbols. Squares may collapse, circles may never end, but the triangle balances onward. In quantum thinking it is representative of the of the unity, that, when united, become powerful beyond each individual separate force. But it is also much simpler than all of that.

We form a perfect triangle, the three of us. Of course, it is a triad. There are sixty degrees we each bring to the triad. It is important that we bring an equal balance…Different gifts to be put on the table of friendship. This perfect triangle is an art form. It is a study in divergence, convergence, and dynamic tension.

And oh, what a triad it is.

Spontaneously and as we have in the past, we arranged a reunion. We manage this about every five years, give or take a month or two. And, I might add, it is totally coincidental. Perhaps we just need a five-year fix. Perhaps deeper. Perhaps not. But we get in contact and things flow toward another gathering in perfect time.

We have been to each other’s weddings (both right and wrong) and rejoiced and mourned and buried parents as we take the con from those generations. But we all knew those parents. And they knew us. We were always welcome at each house as if we were family. Sleepovers, birthdays, high school was the backdrop for the foundation that remains rock solid — like the pyramids. Through hugs and tears and everything in between, the reconnect is instant.

During this trip, we honored the remaining patriarch from that era who knew all the dirt. (Well, most anyway.) (Well, maybe only some.) And, God bless them, they knew us. For me, it was an unspoken safe harbor.

So coming back to an empty house with the kids at college and the husband of my dreams working in another state, I bask, (OF COURSE), in the glow of my not taken for granted friends.

I was too old for Sesame Street. Though I hold a fond memory of my long estranged elder brother singing “C is for Cookie” as he was washing his 1963 POS Chevy Nova in our suburban driveway. The whole concept was charming and very innovative. I was of the WGN, Bozo Circus, and the “Ray Rayner and Friends” generation. It kept us occupied while our parents chased the middle class illusion.  By coincidence, (and there are no coincidences) there was a show on the television about Jim Henson and his beginnings with the Muppets. A marionette meets a puppet and it was borne out of his mother’s green cloth coat made to use in milk commercial. He, like Pinnochio, “got no strings” and an entire generation grew up thinking Kermit was a real frog. I don’t think he asked to borrow it. We creative types take a lot of poetic license. But nonetheless a new and unique media was borne. And the Muppets were fascinating, entertaining, irreverent, and fraught with adult humor. It charmed my wounded, cynical, early teen self nonetheless.

I remember vividly where I saw the “Muppet Movie”. It was at a drive in theater that is now yet another strip mall. Gone but not forgotten. It was on a date with a guy I thought was “the one”. Turned out I just loved and wanted to belong to his family. But, Kermit rode a bicycle! Irreverence meets culture and creativity. And I am transported back to that happy time of illusion whenever I hear the song “Rainbow Connection”.

“Why are there so many songs about rainbows?

And what’s on the other side

Rainbows are visions

But only illusions

And rainbows have nothing to hide.

So we’ve been told

And some choose to believe it.

I know they’re wrong, wait and see

Some day we’ll find it

The rainbow connection

The lovers, the dreamers and me.” (Paul Williams)

When I was dating my husband and we endured a mandated separation from each other, there were a couple of fascinating signs we were meant to be (besides his kisses). The first was that I saw at least fifteen rainbows in a two-month period of his absence. I’ve probably seen a dozen total in the ensuing twenty-seven years. It was definitely a huge metaphorical sign for me. Color was coming into my life.

The second was a night where I was sitting and feeling the ache of our necessary separation. As I sat looking out of the window of my balcony there was a storm. It was not just any storm. It was raining, thundering, lightning and SNOWING — all at the same time. I have never seen anything like it before or since. And, all I could think of was that I wished with all my being that we had been sitting next to each other, holding hands an watching this amazing celestial show.

Turns out he was doing the exact same thing.

My gals and I share the cultural references of our time in shorthand. Barnaby’s. Grooviness. Marijuana was for the “freaks”(non editorial statement). There was still shop class. Those cultural references stay to this day. Sometimes it need only be a look. Or one word. And we burst with laughter, or tears, or anything in between. Our husbands watch with puzzlement and bemusement. Sometimes, they get drawn in. I will never look at “full coverage” on a rental agreement without a grin. Thanks, Jim.

So, amidst the fun, laughter and realizing we never are really separate, we all caught up. But I never made pom poms. My life was over for at least a day and a half. I thought I wouldn’t be accepted anymore and I bring that up every time for a giggle…

They kept me around just the same. The triangle of friendship stayed in tune. We still strike the chime with our magic wands.

That’s just what rainbows and triangles do……

My husband and I have had a major shift in our lives over the past three years. I had alluded to it rather cryptically; both the highs and lows. There were both rights and the wrongs. And the roller coaster rolls on. And the wheel of life keeps turning ever onward.

My “sisters” were curious and I was cryptic. Not intentionally. But I knew that the time would present itself when the story could be told.

And it did. After a wonderful day, full of touristy stuff, a great sail on the lake and a wonderful dinner. I knew it was the right time. (One of the “sisters” had the great discernment to marry a gourmand and wine connoisseur). We sat down….

It took about an hour and a half to do the tell. There were tears (mine), hugs (ours), outrage and compassion (times four) and the pillow a soft landing of friends of forty years of that roller coaster that is life. They even forgave me for the wine glass I broke amidst the tale (and a too generous oenophile) Still owe you that one, Steve.

The next morning, when I was wondering who put all those little socks on my teeth, the besties came up, hugged me, and asked, “What can I do?”

With that simple question they had just done it. Again…..

I love you guys. Words don’t suffice. Let’s just keep the friendship DNA cooking. It’s good. I truly hope that everyone has some of IT in his or her cadre of friends. IT is the rainbow connection.

It is simple magic.

No, it is HEAVEN  in the everyday and it is there to be noticed, noted and not taken as a given.

Thank you, Jim Henson. The lovers, the dreamers, and you….

Thank you Rhea Sisters.

The Rainbow Connection

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The Sine Wave Of Friendship

By all rights, I shouldn’t be writing about anything mathematical. Nothing about the entire subject makes any sense to me. Sadly and truly, I mean not a crumb, nothing at all. I am so mathematically challenged, that I am not at all certain I have a left lobe in my cerebrum. There are far too many rules that govern the subject. Math is too structured and illogical. I have survived quite well, always counting on my oversized right lobe to get me into and out of any scrape or adventure life can offer. It has worked very well thus far. The rules that govern the logic of communication have a rhythm that makes sense. I wouldn’t blink at a good argument with Beelzebub

However, as the sands of time continue to drip, I have discovered that there is a mathematical rhythm that makes sense. It doesn’t break any rules. It doesn’t defy gravity and allow the sands of time to run back up to the top of the hourglass, no matter how appealing that may be. There have, however, been times that the idea has been very absurdly appealing. Even with the best of friendships, wounds occur. Oh, that we could turn the hourglass over or reverse the sine wave in order to mend.

But even that, the wounds are a part of the sine wave. Indeed, it brings to me an added awareness of the gifts and the synchronicity that life offers us each and every day.

That structured oscillation is the rhythm of life and friendship. There is a mathematical formula for that:

                                         y(t)= A sin (2Pf+j) = A sin (wt+j)

There is a formula for everything in math and physics. For me, that is the problem. Life is not a formula from where I sit.

For those who share my left lobe challenge, a sine wave is a wave of oscillation across a midline median. Think of the bouncing of a spring. Think of highs and lows. The highs and lows have amplitude and frequency. The wave can be close together, like lightning strikes in the center of a thunderstorm. The wave can also be far apart, like the ocean waves at sunset.

But what it comes down to and for me is the absolute definition of friendship. Perhaps there is a way to come to a different but similar conclusion that combines it all?

                        y(t)= A sin (2Pf+j) = A sin (wt+j) = ❤

There was a moment recently where I read a blurb in which scientists recognized that if a friendship lasts more than seven years, it would likely last a lifetime. Apparently, lengthy friendships are rare and getting rarer all the time. People come and go in the rhythm of life. Hopefully, we remember them fondly. Other times we are willing to hold the door for them.

I have come to realize that I have the blessing of many friendships that can incriminate me with my childhood playground escapades at a cocktail party. They can regale with laughter some of my early choices in the dating game.

Of course, technologies beyond the telephone and postage stamp have played a large part. But, even before that, I had my “lifers”.

I call them my two o’ clock friends. If needed, and there have been times, I can call at two a.m. and laugh, cry, get and give advice and feel both real and the electronic hugs. It goes both ways, as does a sine wave. Even when the wave oscillates at low amplitude across the median, the heart connection is there. It is always there.

We have known each other through grooviness, definitely a high frequency oscillation. We have known each other through dorkyness and puberty; low frequency with a median that elevated and descended randomly.

Of course, in the path of our lives, through the daily mommy stuff and the administration of life, the wave still oscillates. We have our moments of annoyance, cookies and Chardonnay, stress and peace. Sometimes this can happen in the course of a couple of hours. That it happens and continues to oscillate and even when is what matters. That we have it, and when we have it, is what is the magic. That I have it on a daily basis takes the magic to a whole new stratum. Sometimes it is so ingrained we often we are simply not aware of it. Daily prestidigitation becomes as routine as checking e-mails.

That is how mathematics helped me. Awareness. Who would have thought? We get our lessons from whatever direction we need them to come from in order to be heard. Just keep listening. It is a heartbeat away.

The recent changes in my life have made me mathematical about my friends. I love my lifelong wavy friends, the ones who stay with our mutual heart connection. The connection is always there and omnipresent. It is almost sometimes idle, sometimes only whispering, like a sine wave barely moving. But it is there nonetheless.

I believe it will be there forever, long after we join the choir invisible whenever Gabriel blows that ethereal trumpet. When we cross over to the other shore, I think there will be a cocktail hour, a book club meeting, bridge club, shopping expedition, a golf foursome, a luncheon, or just one of my homies standing there with a bouquet of flowers and a box of tissue. Whatever is necessary will be provided. I can trust it will be there in someone’s manicured hand, arms open and ready to hug.

In this, I have discovered the magic of math. Albert Einstein said, “There are two ways to live: You can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle”.

But don’t expect me to ever grasp all of that algebraic stuff. And thank God for the people who invented online banking and checking.

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Anyone who has crossed the Mississippi in the back of a sparkling 1965 (or earlier) station wagon with his or her multiple siblings playing car bingo has met one.

I didn’t come to the awareness of the species until later in life. I was about eleven and my older half brother and I were being tortured by one of my father’s intermittent AAA® “family vacations”‘.

As near as I can figure, the old man decided this was the epitome of the family adventure. It played to his ego to go somewhere where he could come back and wax poetic about the collection of small and useless facts with his scotch drinking comrades. A compulsory slide show demonstrating his self imagined photography skills accompanied the endless evening.

So we were doubly tortured as the bro and I had to sit through the still life rerun with the accompanying stereophonic LONG playing accompaniment. It should be no surprise that we commiserated that this would be the last trip we were ever forced to make.

Enter that rarest of creatures of the Wild West: the Jackalope.

We were going out to visit my uncles in Idaho. My eight-year-old bladder was expected to maintain endurance until we made the entire trip. One accident in the back seat after five miles of pleading and crying taught him otherwise.

As my mom dug in the trunk for dry clothes and my father sought out the nearest liquor store, we found a diner and ordered sandwiches while reparations were made.

Next to the diner was the obligatory gift and souvenir shop.  I felt his eyes on me before I spied him.

The Jackalope.

At first glance, I thought it was the biggest wabbit I had ever seen. My dad, seeing my gaping slack jaw, explained that it was Bugs Bunny’s older brother and a member of a particularly aggressive branch of the species of lagomorphs. While the bunny and hares of this order were friendly, jackalopes were the enforcers. They were the aggressive and vicious goon squad of the gang.

Furthermore, we were heading into the worst of jackalope territory and I shouldn’t even think of getting out of the car. They were sneaky as well and would sneak up on unsuspecting eight-year-old girls who couldn’t control their bladders.

His sadistic streak won. I was petrified. I fled the gift shop as quickly as I could. All the while I could feel the creature’s eyes following me. His antlers were a lethal weapon – with me in mind. I refused, as always, to show any fear.

Flash forward to life here in the present. I hadn’t thought of the dreaded jackalope in several decades. Even as we travelled to our new permanent home in the Wild West, my encounter with the jackalope on the shelf in Wall Drug yielded no fear; only a smile remembering my old man’s demented sadism with a smile. He was, after all, a champion bullshitter.

Recently, I was reading our local paper. It has been in existence continuously since 1876, when Wild Bill and Custer were local residents. I found this advertisement in the classifieds:

Jackalope Ad

There is a large section of the classifieds devoted to the divine and desperate of items for sale. On any given day, one can ponder the purchase of a 1970 Ford Falcon (“runs great!”), a mink jacket (slightly used, one owner!), a 1/4 or 1/2 of fresh buffalo meat (one owner!).

But Frank and his entrepreneurial venture intrigued me. How did he come to this price point? What if he were flooded with hundreds of jackalopes from all over the entire state? Does size matter? Could he legitimately declare bankruptcy if the jackalope market tanked?

And, why, Frank? Has it long been your call in life to open the International Jackalope museum? Will it be a broad spectrum of jackalope demographics? The sweet, kind jackalopes as well as the jackalope felons and evildoers? What does an evildoing jackalope do to be evil?

When you live out here, passing fake mannequins checking speeders and trying to collect jackalopes for fun and profit becomes one of life’s bigger questions.
I’m thinking of calling Frank for the answer. It’s right up there with the meaning of life…

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The Angst of National Sibling Day

I am sitting in an airport waiting for my flight home.

I spent the weekend in Chicago visiting my son at his college and marveling at the amazing man he is becoming. While I was backing and forth-ing and smiling, I overheard someone say that Friday, the day I was flying into Chi-town, was National Siblings Day.

“A Day to Honor, Recognize, and Celebrate each other”.

Rick and me


I have envy.

I saw many pictures of my friends and acquaintances who followed the suggestion and posted photos of their group of sibs. They all seem happy and glad to be in each other’s company.

I have a sibling.

He doesn’t know what state I live in. Actually, he is a half sibling and our mother didn’t speak to him for the last three years of her life. He gets to live with that one. My father did a major number on him. I would say he is a very wounded person who is very shut down. He had to in order to survive. The last time I laid eyes on him was at my father’s memorial service. He and his family came late, left early and never exchanged a word with me.

He did cry at my mother’s service six months earlier.

He would say he is fine.

He probably is. Married a woman of mediocre intelligence who provided him with a nest, as well as a welcoming Italian, if odd, family and two beautiful daughters.

I like that he doesn’t know where I live. I arranged it that way after a lifetime of jumping through his brotherly hoops hoping to get his approval and affection. All the while I was acting out my own demons bestowed by the paterfamilias. He was wrestling with the detritus of his childhood.

There are times, I must admit, where I still long for the connection. I want Christmases and Thanksgivings together with his family and mine. I want laughter and merriment and board games to work off the food coma that results from feasting together.

I have occasionally sent a Christmas card or a note.  There has been no response.  I no longer expect one or even waste the stamp.

It will never happen.

I drank the Kool Aid ® the television poured for me. I wanted to be The Beaver to his Wally, the Marcia to his Greg and the other Bradys. Instead we both survived out respective childhood as best we could. The scars are not visible. I have come to a peace about my parents. He barred the trap door.

The odd gift of this situation is the relationship my three children have now that they are crossing the threshold of adulthood. I have repeatedly told them over the years of the magic of being the only three people to share the same history.  They may have different perspectives, but they are the only ones.  All of them routinely talk, smack and otherwise, to each other on a regular basis of their own choosing. They tease, boss, laugh, and connect. It is a joy to know they do this of their own choosing with no cajoling on my part whatsoever. They have independent relationships with each other. A victory of the highest order over the scarred history of my brother and I.

There is one memory I hold out whenever the brother pops into my mind — or is forced there by a contrived “national” holiday.

We were in the park across the street from my parents’ house with his then small daughters. While they played on the slide and in the sand, he and I sat down on the swings. Slowly at first, we began to pump our legs and the swings gained momentum. We were in synchrony swinging back and forth at the same time. Higher and higher, we maintained our rhythm until we were at the maximum of the pendulum. There was very little conversation — none seemed to be needed. We just kept swinging and watching our extended legs touch the sky at the top of the arc. Slowly we let the momentum die down until it was time to go. We walked away in silence with a sense of contentment and the grasp of a moment not to occur again. The memory lingers when it surfaces and leaves me with a smile.

I understand the respective places of the heart we have chosen. But it makes National Sibling Day a farce. In observing friends with siblings, I think their relationships run the gamut. Some have angst, some have joy, most have a mixture of the gamut. But it is still family and the power to maintain the connection is up to the brothers and sisters.

But, I still miss you sometimes, Rick. Happy Siblings Day.


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