Themestream

It’s no secret that I have had a raging case of writer’s block since the beginning of the pandemic. It’s not just me according to the rest of my writing group. In our case it’s a matter of all or nothing. Some of us refuse to sit in front of a blank screen so we don’t even bother turning it on. Others are filling up page after page. I must find a way out of this so what could be more inspiring than finding the first (and only) payment I have ever received for my writing expertise. Don’t laugh now. This was over twenty years ago when Themestream paid writers a penny for each time someone read one of their posts. In digging through my archives, I managed to find eighteen of these articles. So here’s the plan. Since I have not been successful in coming up with anything new, I’ll just pull one out of the archives and write a THEN and NOW. Here goes the first one:

Lipstick          

THEN

“You need lipstick,” Mom used to say.  I was only thirteen and I didn’t think I needed it. When the Avon lady showed up and agreed with Mom, she shuffled through her bag. She lined up several little white sample tubes of pale pink lipstick.  “Try these,” she said.  I assured her I would try them.

I snuck into the bathroom and tried on the first pale pink shade. Ugh I thought as I tried to smear it off with a piece of toilet paper. Six tubes later I emerged from the bathroom, lips bright red not from lipstick but from removing it with scratchy toilet tissue.

Mom insisted I wear the Rose color to church the following Sunday. She always wore rose so therefore I must look good in Rose. I don’t think so. I licked my lips all the way to church hoping every tiny bit of evidence would be gone by the time we got there. I rushed into the bathroom and removed the stubborn traces. Mom came in and offered her tube of lipstick suggesting a fresh coat.

I never could get used to lipstick. I just never felt right. I never know – is it too pink, too red, too purple, too white, too orange, too brown? Is it me? Nothing feels right. I hate to see old ladies with red, or worst yet bright pink, lipstick. It is shocking against their pale white faces. I wonder what others think of mine.

My husband always asks me to wear red lipstick. Bright red lipstick. One time two of my friends joined my husband and I at our favorite Chinese restaurant in SF. I brought a tube of bright red lipstick. One by one we got up from the table and went to the restroom coming out with bright red lips. My husband never even noticed until we all started giggling.

Every time one of those offers comes around where you get free cosmetics, I jump on it. I must have collected hundreds of lipstick samples over the years. Each one I try in front of the bathroom mirror. Each time I feel thirteen again as I wipe it off with scratchy toilet paper.

NOW

Twenty years later, I am the old lady I used to think looked horrid with lipstick. You probably guessed by now – I just cannot bring myself to go beyond Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer. Looking past the wrinkles, I definitely don’t feel thirteen again.

Memory Triggers Inspiration

Sometimes it takes just a little bit of luck and sometimes you just happen on to something that brings with it a whole flood of memories. Thanks to someone I met two years ago at Silver Lake Sandbox when I visited Michigan, I stumbled on her FaceBook post announcing this new book by Ann Chandler. Terri was kind enough not to just get Ann to sign the book for me but also put us in touch with each other. Two days later I held the book in my hands.

Yesterday I dug through a box of old photos from my dad and found a bunch of shots from the early 50s. Then came the memories. Dunes, dune scooters, swimming, sunburns, bonfires, the lost village, rowboats, speedboats and platoons and my little green toy truck lost under all that sand. Strange sometimes what comes to mind.

Meanwhile, there is a short reference to the Silver Lake dunes in my upcoming memoir. It’s a meditation of sorts that gets me through difficult times:

I was six years old when I first climbed the razor back dune behind the cottages where we spent our summer days. I never once gave up in my climb to reach the top of that shifting sand and that struggle later came to represent the struggles in my life, literally two steps forward and one step back, but  it was that stubborn step forward that counted.

I sit on top of the tallest sand dune between Silver Lake and Lake Michigan and feel as though I have reached the top of the world. To my right is Silver Lake, a mirror shining within a frame of small cottages. To my left is Lake Michigan, big as an ocean stretching into infinity.

I feel the warmth of the midday sun, burying my bare feet under the hot layer of sand. I lie back and sink into the fine white sand, cradled in its soft formations, snug and safe. I close my eyes.

I am quiet as my mind clears, letting go of the daily trials, giving them up to a power greater than myself. I listen patiently, waiting for some guidance. Sometimes it comes, sometimes it doesn’t. It will happen in God’s time, not mine.

My mind is at peace and my body follows. I am safe, comfortable and everything is good. I know that all will be well.

Gently I return to life, opening my eyes ever so slowly. I roll to my side and push off, tumbling down the dunes, free from my burdens, ready for action.

As I rise to standing, I look up to the top. Then turn and walk away knowing that I can return anytime, anyplace.

Final First Draft

Twice this week Big Brother has emailed comics to me.  Speed Bump and Pickles. Go ahead and click on them. They are safe. You might even laugh. I can take a hint. I get it. “When’s the &#*$ memoir going to be done?”

So, what did I do? It’s obvious my blog posts have been a bare minimum. Do you get it now? I’ve been writing. It was a beautiful day out there today in my neighborhood but I didn’t step foot out the door. I got up, salutated the sun, drank my coffee, and glued my butt to the chair.

Morning affirmations: “I’m so close. I can finish this. Today.”

And I did.

Someone said “print it out.” I did that too, almost passing out from the fumes of 309 hot pages spitting out of my new laser printer. I punched holes, three sheets at a time, with my inexpensive paper punch. Found an old binder left over from tax course days.

So there. Here it is. Ready for the red pen.

Can I go for a walk now, Big Brother?

Dot or . ?

Hot Jazz 2016

The Labor Day weekend drive on Highway 80 is tedious to the point of absolute boredom. No not boredom. Frustration. These ladies do not get bored. No matter what. But opportunity strikes in the middle of one of many traffic stalls. The phone rings. I see the number pop up. (983) 147-6055. “Shhhh ladies. We are going to have some fun with this one.” I turn on the speaker phone.  (warning – this gets a bit nasty)

The scammer speaks. “Hello ma’am. I’m calling from windows. There is a problem with your computer.”

“Oh no, what can I do? Can you help me?”

My passengers roll their eyes as he responds, “Yes I help you. Are you at your computer ma’am?”

“Oh yes, please what shall I do,” I ask.

“Bring up your internet browser,” he says.

“How do I do that?” I ask.

“Oh my God. Click on the little ball in the lower corner of your screen.”

“Did you say ball? I don’t see any balls.”

“There’s a little ball. It looks like an E.”

“Oh that one. Thank you so much for helping me. I did it.”

My passengers are holding back the snickers now. Our scammer comes back on the line. “See the box on top of the screen. The one where your cursor is located.”

I resisted the urge to ask him what a cursor might be. “Hmmm let me look. I don’t see it. Oh wait. There it is.”

Jeanette can’t hold in the laughter. I look at her with consternation. “Shhh.”

Scammer comes back on. “Oh my god. Just type in the bar. http://www.”

“Where’s the w?” I ask.

“OMG. under the number 2.”

“Oh I see it now. Okay w w w.” More stifled laughter in the back seat. I look in the rear view mirror, a warning look.

“Dot,” he says.

“Dot? What do you mean dot? D-O-T?” I chide back at him.

“OMG. Dot. Period. The key with the dot. One dot.”

“Okay, can we start over?” I ask. Carol and Pat are bent over in laughter.

“We will try this slowly w – w – w – dot – support…..” he begins slowly.

“Wait,” I interrupt. “S U P… how do you spell support?”

“OMG S U P P O R T. Then type slash me dot com.”

Jeanette lets out a yelping laugh. “Shhhhh.” I give her another warning look.

“Okay, I think I have it,” I say holding back the laughter.

“What do you see?” he asks.

“Nothing. The screen is black.”

“Wait a minute. Now what do you see? I need you to click on …”

I can’t understand what he is saying but traffic has now begun to move and I must end this distraction. “My screen. It is black. You killed my computer. It’s dead.”

“Oh. My. God. Wait a minute.” We listen to some foreign whispers as he consults his fellow scammers. “The screen. Is it really black?” He sounds worried. I expect him to say he can fix it.

“Yes, I yell back. You killed it.” We can’t hold it in anymore. We all burst out in laughter.

“You f***ed with me. Go shove it up your P****.” He hangs up.

A few minutes later at lunch we are roaring in laughter. The phone rings again. It’s him. “Hey you already told me to shove my computer. It didn’t fit.”  (Okay… I really didn’t say that. Didn’t think of it in time.)

 

 

Charming

Charms
Charms

Remember the days we had charm bracelets? I was looking through my jewelry box the other day for missing earrings when I came across this. How convenient that it showed up  since my 50th reunion is on the horizon for next year. Mostly it’s a visual trip through the senior year and I suspect each one of these charms could be a prompt for a future story.

The drunk hanging on the street lamp at the corner of State and Madison streetlamp may have been added a few years later when we honeymooned in Chicago.

Yarn with knitting needles and scissors with the thimble represent hobbies. I made most of my own clothes.

Not so sure about the orange ball but I think has something to do with bowling.

Typewriter – yes I learned to type on a manual typewriter and my first job was typing address labels of all the private airports in the states. I think it was busy work given to me by a friend of my dads.

Faith, hope and charity – I am a preacher’s kid.

Not so sure about the corn cob – the trip through miles of corn fields from Michigan to California.

Diploma – obviously I graduated. Probably a gift from mom and dad.

The crutch – a little tobogganing mishap and a perfect excuse to skip P.E., my least favorite class.

Expo 67 – my senior trip.

What’s on your charm bracelet? Do you still have it?