To My Chums on National Girlfriends Day


From the Celebrate Each Day website

It is National Girlfriends Day!  I can’t let the day pass without honoring the precious gift of gal pals.

A recent study by Stanford University revealed that the secret to a long life for a man is to be married; for a woman, the secret is to have good friends. Girlfriend time activates serotonin and is as important to our well-being as exercise.  Read that again: as important as exercise! Ha!

Like we needed an erudite Ivy Leaguer to tell us that!  If you’ve seen Menopause, the Musical (and if you haven’t, you must), you’ll remember that the final scene was a celebration of girlfriends.  If I could dance and sing, I would perform a tribute to my friends.  I can only write, so this is my ode to gal pals.

Men, if they’re unusual and very, very lucky (and quite possibly gay) have one or more good friends.  By friends, I don’t mean people with whom they just drink, watch sports, or share an office or power tools.  Not just someone a guy can call to ask advice beer kegs or discount plane tickets or plumbing. A “good friend” is someone a guy can call about his prostate problems (that’s not what I meant about “plumbing”), his obnoxious boss, his significant other, or feeling blue.

My husband has dozens of guy acquaintances, but only one man who seems anything like what I consider a “good friend.”  Rick and his friend George (not his real name) watch sports, play online Scrabble, and dance around their political and religious differences, but I don’t think George has ever confided in Rick about missing his daughter in Europe, nor do I think Rick has ever confided in George about his beautiful, young wife.

I am giddy with gratitude for all I have in my life:  my health, my marriage, my children, and most definitely, my friends.  I have at least three dozen women (and a couple men) with whom I could discuss personal, physical, or professional dilemmas.  I could discuss my checking account, my insecurities, my dreams, and my disappointments with all of them, as well as my thick thighs, facial hair, and vaginal dryness with a couple dozen.

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When Hair Care is a Family Affair

Life is an endless struggle full of frustrations and challenges, but eventually you find a hair stylist you like.  ~Author Unknown

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It’s hard to understand why none of us—not my brother, dad, or I—can remember her name.  She was part of our family for probably a decade.  She was quite visible in our home, and she went everywhere with my mom three days a week.

And yet we cannot remember the name my mother gave her wig.

I think it was expensive, this human hair wig that was dyed the same red as my mother’s was.  Mom’s hairdresser styled it to look exactly like Mom’s hair looked on Friday afternoon after she had had her wash and set:  a helmet of hair, with a smooth crust overlaying a nest of ratted tresses.  A comma of curl on each side instead of bangs.  Like a red-headed Lady Bird Johnson.

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The History of My Hair-Raising


If “Jesus loved the little children” so darn much, as the old hymn proclaims, why did He make little girls curl their hair for Sunday School?  “Suffer the little children . . .”  And suffer we did.brush roller

Every Saturday, my mother would set my hair with horrible brush rollers.

First she’d use the handle of the rattail comb to dig out a hunk of my aggressively straight hair.

Age 6. This is my natural look.

Age 6. This is my natural look.

Then she’d dip the comb end into an aluminum tumbler of stale Hudepohl beer (which wouldn’t stink, so Mom said) and then she’d pull the comb through the section.

Finally, she’d roll the sodden mess on a brush roller and, using her front teeth, pry open a bobby pin  and jam it in, attaching, it seemed, the roller to my scalp.  In a “stitch in time” measure, she stabbed a pink pokey thing into the roller and didn’t stop until she drew blood.

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A Fine Day to Die


It was a beautiful day outside, but my friend Teri and I sat in recliners in her basement, checking our emails and binge watching Botched, and A & E reality show about plastic surgery gone horribly wrong.

After about three hours, I said, “Teri, they say we should live each day as if it’s our last.  This could be our last day, and this is how we spent it?”

She paused then said, “I’m good with that.”

Teri and I were both teachers, and we worked our asses off (not so you’d notice) for three decades.  In retirement, we’ve become slothful, like pet rocks.  We are absolutely over all the activity: the setting of alarms, the running to meetings, the grading of papers, the getting out of recliners.IMG_2642

johnny-depp-dior-vogue-3jun15-pr_b_320x480Many people have their bucket lists.  My friend Ned (who has a bumper sticker that says “Mrs. Depp,” wants to meet Johnny.  My 87-year-old step-mother recently checked off three items on her list:  set foot in Mexico, zipline, and ride a horse.

Maryanne checking to see that Rick got a picture of her ziplining.

Maryanne checking to see that Rick got a picture of her ziplining.

My husband wants to photograph sunrise and sunset in every time zone on the planet.  Donald Trump wants to be a despot of a yuuuge nation.

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10 Reasons Why You Should Rent an Apartment Instead of Buying a House or a Condo

You have two Rottweilers, you raise bees for the honey you sell, and you are planning on installing a trapeze in your bedroom.  I get it.  You want to own your property.

You are filthy rich, so rich that you pay absolutely no income taxes.  You want to buy a house because, well, you can.

You want your 2.5 children to grow up on a big plot of land that they can see out the window as they play video games.  This is a lifestyle you probably need to buy.

But if you are young, and you don’t have much money, or you are old, and want to hang on to your money, rent!

Does your luggage have more miles on it than your car? Rent!

You don’t want to prune anything but your hair or your nails?  Rent!

The only tools you can master are a knife and a fork?  Rent!

Here are 10 compelling reasons to rent:



Eight years ago, we put our house on the market because we knew we wanted to live a different way.  We had a beautiful home on a lot of land in a safe neighborhood.  We weren’t unhappy, but we were just so over the yard work, the space, the mountains of stuff.

Most of our friends who were downsizing were buying condos, but we didn’t want to be stuck someplace if we didn’t end up liking it.  (It took thirteen months to sell that beautiful house, and by the closing, home ownership seemed like a ball and chain.)  We didn’t know where we wanted to live or how much space we’d need, but we sensed that change, not stability, was what we needed to stay young – well, not so much young as still-kinda-hip elders.

So we rented a high rise apartment with a deck overlooking the river, and we loved everything about living in 1200 square feet within the city limits.  After a couple of years, we wanted to try moving downtown, and it was as simple as waiting out one lease and signing another.

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10 Things I Learned While Cleaning Out My Parents’ House



I pried open the overstuffed file cabinet and found, amid tax returns from the twentieth century, a hanging file marked “Birth Certificates.”  And there they were, the birth certificates for Ray Fred and Debi Briana.  My mother’s cabbage patch dolls.  My brother and sister, I guess.

My mother died three years ago, and my dad and his bride of six months moved to a cute cottage in the Evergreen Retirement Community.  They took their bedroom furniture, their kitchen table, their clothes, some dishes and pots and pans and, well, that’s all.  I told them I would be happy to clean out the house, and I was, and am, happy to do that.  Truly.

I had bragged that, after all, we had sold our house and everything in it in a couple weeks.  I told my dad’s sweet wife, “I’ll get it done in a day. I’ve got this.”

That was three weeks ago.  And I’m not finished.

What happens when hoarding meets the Protestant Work Ethic and is all wrapped up in an ill-advised organization plan?  My parents’ house, that’s what.  I never realized while my mother was alive that she never threw anything away because she worked so hard at containing and organizing her stuff.  If you walked in my parents’ house, which was decorated and organized mostly by my mother, you would probably not have suspected what was in drawers and behind doors.

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Downsizing: We sold our house and everything in it

“Why the obsession with worldly possessions? When it’s your time to go, they have to stay behind, so pack light.” ~ Alex Morritt

“Anything that costs you more hours of effort or worry than it brings you hours of enjoyment is a candidate for downsizing.”~Jonathan Lockwood

It was like taking off a too-hot parka.  Like handing an overstuffed suitcase to a Skycap.  Like finishing an exam.

That’s what it felt like eight years ago when Rick and I sold our last house (and by last, I mean final house) and nearly everything in it.  I thought the process of downsizing would make me feel melancholy, but instead, I felt like I had unburdened myself of stuff, stuff I didn’t need, stuff I had forgotten I had, stuff I couldn’t imagine why I’d bought or kept.

All I felt when we sold our six-piece white lacquer bedroom was relief.  We sold thousands of pounds of furniture: four couches, three coffee tables, two desks, one grandfather clock, dozens of lamps, a church pew, lawn furniture, bookcases, two refrigerators, the odd ottoman . . . When it was carried out our front door, I felt like I had lost weight, but I couldn’t be sure. We had sold the bathroom scale.

I felt nothing when the neighbors picked through the tchotchkes from Venice and Seville, and only slightly annoyed when they wanted to bargain.  Strangers loved all our thingamabobs and doohickies and whatchamacallits, the flotsam of our long marriage.  Gone!  Gone!  Gone!

I laughed when a little kid bought that huge sombrero (made in China, probably) I carted home from Mexico.  And when the five-year-old princess proffered her wrinkled dollar for a sack of my “diamond” costume jewelry?  She’ll wear it better than I.

I was delighted when a family, whose kids had K-Mart sneakers and homemade haircuts, boxed up the Harvard Classics, the 26-volume Compton’s Encyclopedia, and Funk and Wagnalls yearbooks (the ones published in the years the kids were born).

I did swallow hard when I sold the dining room set for $200, the one we bought at Clossons, but that was about money, not sentiment.

The Bentwood rocker in which I had nursed two babies languished at the curb with a sign that said “Free to a Good Home.”  I really hoped it did go to a good home, one with babies who needed rocking.

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As I pulled down the driveway of our suburban home for the last time, I paused to take stock of that FullSizeRender (93)stunning contemporary ranch we had built, the venue for showers, retirement parties, book clubs, and even one wedding. I hoped it would always shelter happy families.

Then the fog of nostalgia lifted, and I gazed up that driveway, and I thought, I never have to shovel those 400 feet again.

Even after selling the vast majority of our possessions, we still needed a moving van to take our bed, lamps, clothes, and dishes to our new empty-nesters’ downsized apartment.

My Box Collection

My Box Collection

In our car, we transported the priceless junk—the things with no material value that we absolutely couldn’t live without:   my box collection, with about fifty little boxes I had collected from around the world; the tiny spoon my daughter ate from, first baby food and then, as a teen, yogurt; opera glasses from Stella, my deceased friend; my dad’s Boy Scout bugle; the fringed leather vest my husband thought looked sexy on me forty-five years ago.

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Sandy Lingo

Life itself is the proper binge.  - Julia Child

A writing friend said that when she reads my writing, she always wants a second helping.



Second Helping Subjects