I am Vicky

A hiking we will go
A hiking we will go

One of my favorite movies as a kid in the ’60s was The Parent Trap with Hayley Mills playing identical twins separated as infants when their parents divorced, who meet each other years later at summer camp. I loved everything about that movie. Except the awful Vicky.

Vicky was the gold-digging fiancée of the girls’ father, Mitch. A prissy city girl, she’s totally out of her element in the great outdoors, which is made comically evident when she goes camping with Mitch and the girls. Since the twins don’t want her marrying their dad, they sabotage her. The coup de grâce comes when a terrified Vicky awakens to bear cubs licking honey off her feet that the sisters poured on her while she slept. She freaks and storms off, shouting “Get me outta this stinkin’ fresh air!”

What a beyotch. And a wuss. My tween tomboy self laughed and turned up my nose at Vicky-the-wuss. Until nearly five decades later when I realized that now I am Vicky. (The prissy, wussy part, not the beyotch.)

I enjoy the great outdoors—gardening, walking our dog Mellie, and chillin’ on the patio. Camping and hiking? Not so much. I’ve never gotten the appeal of bugs, sleeping on the ground, and wild animals. Possums especially creep me out. They’re big, fat, mentally challenged rats that waddle and hiss and bare their menacing teeth like Jaws’ great white.

I’m a few months shy of 60 and have only hiked about five times in my entire bookworm life—usually on a wheelchair-accessible trail. Two of those times were in my single, evangelical days way back when. Christian singles do everything in a group—camping, hiking, rafting; all manner of outdoorsy things, which is tricky for an indoorsy girl like me. But I sacrificed my natural inclination to fit in with the group. (But mostly to fit in with a guy I was crushing on.) I even went backpacking. Once. Squatting in woods and packing my poop in the ground with a plastic shovel isn’t my idea of a good time.

Recently though, I hiked along the coast with my husband. A FIVE-MILE hike. Cue Gilligan’s Island theme song. I prepared by reading up on the hiking area in advance, but was disconcerted to discover we needed to watch out for poison oak, ticks (Eww) snakes (double-Eww) and bobcats. Bobcats? As in cousin to the mountain lion? Oh. My. God.

The morning of the hike I donned my khakis—a friend advised me to wear light-colored pants to show ticks easily—then pulled up the YouTube video on how to remove a tick. Like the Boy Scouts, I wanted to be prepared. I nearly lost my breakfast. The tick was stuck in the guy’s SCALP! Eww. So excited to begin communing with Mother Nature.

Our guided hike started out well on a wide open trail with great views of the Pacific. I’m feeling confident and in control. I can do this nature thing. (Especially since the only critters we’ve seen are hawks and seagulls.) An hour later, the trail narrowed as we headed into the woods where we’re surrounded by trees and ferns. As we hiked, I said to our guide in an offhand jokey way that I’d read there were bobcats in the area. (Were being the operative word.)

“Yep. They’re like big fat house cats. But they don’t usually approach humans.”

Usually? “You don’t have bears though,” I said in the same jokey tone.

“Sure,” Guide-man said as he led us deeper into the woods. “But they’re rare.”

WTF?? THERE’S FRICKIN’ BEARS IN THESE WOODS? (I only scream it in my head though; I’m no Vicky. I hum “I am woman, hear me roar” and forge ahead, keeping a sharp eye out for Yogi and his housecat pal). Eventually the trail tapers into a narrow path with grasses and greenery brushing against my light-colored pants.

“Watch out for stinging nettles on the left,” Guide-guy warns. “And poison oak on the right.”

My head swivels from left to right. What fresh HELL is this?! Poison oak, stinging nettles, bobcats, bears, and ticks? Oh my. This hiking stuff is DANGEROUS. And people do this for fun? I find it a lot more fun—and safe—reading Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. But seasoned hiker that I’m fast becoming, I forge on, using the hiking poles my friend loaned me to push aside any poisonous greenery while continually scanning the area for bears and bobcats.

Just keep going, just keep going, says Dory’s voice in my head. Another hour later as my out-of-shape, beyond middle-aged body is huffing and puffing up a steep hill, Guide-Guy cheerfully says, “Almost there.”

At last we reach the end of the trail and kick back with snacks and water. I’m ready to return to the motel, but our car is at the beginning of the trail and the only way back is the same way we came. Past the stinging nettles. Past the poison oak. Through bobcat and bear country.

Two hours later, feet screaming and calves on fire I spy the parking lot. Civilization! I’m tempted to kiss the ground, but don’t want to eat a tick.

Just call me Vicky.

More Things I Love and Hate

IMG_0822Recently I shared some of the things I love truly, madly, deeply, and hate with a passion. Here’s a few more:

Things I Love

  1. Old movies (As in before the 1960s, not the ‘80s.) People always ask what’s my favorite, but it’s impossible to narrow down to just one, so here’s a sampling: The Best Years of Our Lives, Casablanca, The Philadelphia Story, To Kill a Mockingbird, Meet Me in St. Louis, North by Northwest, Singin’ in the Rain, To Catch a Thief, Some Like it Hot, His Girl Friday, and The Quiet Man. And that’s barely the tip of the movie iceberg; I’ll be sharing lots more in Movielicious, along with favorite performances and trivia. (As the queen of Silver Screen Trivial Pursuit, I think that’s only right.)
  2. Game nights
  3. What’s not to love? The Eiffel Tower. Notre Dame. Nutella crepes. The Orangerie, Musee D’Orsay and its bouIMG_0837 (1)quets of Impressionists. Croissants and the world’s best hot chocolate. Cruising down the Seine in a bateau-mouche. The beautiful architecture. Patisseries and mille-feuilles. Sidewalk cafes.
  4. A good juicy steak (pink, not bloody)
  5. Sunday naps

Things I Hate

  1. Conflict (Maybe that’s why my chick-lit novels didn’t sell. That and the fact that I can’t tell a Prada from a Fendi.)
  2. Football
  3. Mean People
  4. Misspelled words
  5. The heat (Makes me go all Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire)

How about you?

Directionally Impaired

I’m directionally impaired.medium-Compass-166.6-2348.gif

Have been since grade school when I learned that north is at the top of the compass and south is at the bottom. Naturally I thought that meant north was always in front of me and south was behind me. I made it happily through my childhood years without any major traumas due to my directional deficiency, but this handicap became a problem when I got my driver’s license in high school in Phoenix a few lifetimes ago.

Phoenix, being the “valley of the (scorching) sun,” has some gorgeous natural landmarks surrounding it. Problem is one mountain looks pretty much like another. So when someone would say, “Go toward South Mountain, then head east on such-and-such street,” I was clueless. South Mountain, North Mountain, what’s the difference? My only saving grace was when my destination was somewhere in the vicinity of Camelback Mountain. Appropriately named, that was a mountain even I could identify.

After high school I spent five years in EuroBitburg.12pe, courtesy of Uncle Sam, and never got lost; much to my family’s amazement. That’s because in Germany, I usually traveled by train or bus, plus most of the towns and villages near our American Air Force Base were so small even I could find my way around them. And in London they have this great color-coded underground subway system called the tube.

Piece of cake. Cup of tea.

It was when I returned stateside that the trouble began. While I was overseas, my family had moved from Phoenix to Sacramento, where the myriad of freeways in California’s capital city boggled my mind. They all sounded so similar: Interstate 80, Business 80, and “the old 880.” To further confuse unsuspecting travelers, the old 880 is now I-80 and the old I-80 is now Business 80. Got that? I don’t.

Even my then-eight-year-old nephew Joshua knew his way around better than I did. One day he was in the car with me when I was trying to figure the way to a friend’s house in a part of town I didn’t know very well. This time, I knew the general direction I needed to go, but was bewildered by the variety of freeway options to get me there.

Josh suggested one, but I disregarded him. After all, he was only eight. But as the lights of Sacramento receded in the distance, he piped up from the back seat, “Aunt Laura, we’re on our way to San Francisco.”

(Excerpted and adapted from my first book, Dated Jekyll, Married Hyde.)

How about you? Are you directionally impaired? Or is it just me?

My House is Alive with the Sound of Musicals

I’m a musicals geek from way back. My artist father was an ardent admirer of talent and beauty, and introduced me to many of the great movie musicals when I was a little girl. As a result, in my youth I had dreams of becoming a Broadway star. Those dreams were squashed forever when I auditioned for West Side Story in a Cleveland community theater production in my early twenties. I failed miserably at the dance-at-the-gym number. (To dance, you need rhythm and the ability to step-ball-change. I have neither.)

My lack of rhythm doesn’t prevent me from loving musicals, however, it makes me appreciate them all the more. I especially love the old movie musicals from Hollywood’s heyday in the ‘30s-‘50s—like Top Hat, On the Town, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Meet Me in St. Louis, Singin’ in the Rain, Oklahoma, and The King and I. Unfortunately, many of those musicals and their stars are becoming forgotten.

So, I’m going to do my part to keep them alive by periodically writing about them and introducing you to some of the greats (which you may not know if you’re under 40.) Like the fabulous Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland and Gene Kelly, Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds, Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. (The latter you should know well from watching White Christmas every year—“The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” number with the inimitable Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen is one of the greatest dance duets committed to film.

Then there’s that great musical quartet who produced two of the most enduring movie musicals in the ‘50s: Rodgers and Hammerstein and Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones.

Carousel was one of Dad’s favorite musicals, due in large part to Gordon MacRae’s stirring and tender rendition of “Soliloquy.” I can’t hear “My boy Bill…” without thinking of Dad. The beautiful duet “If I Loved You” between Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan gave us both goosebumps, and left me with a longtime crush on Gordon MacRae (sealed for life when he sang “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” and “People Will Say We’re in Love,” in Oklahoma.) But it was the heartbreaking “You’ll Never Walk Alone” when Billy Bigelow died that moved us to tears when I was a child.

Less than a decade later that song was sung at my Dad’s funeral.

Dad appreciated great singing and dancing, and passed that appreciation on to his offspring. He revered Mario Lanza and introduced me to the great operatic tenor in “The Toast of New Orleans” with Kathryn Grayson. I still remember and love their gorgeous duet of “Be My Love,” a song that became a bestselling hit for Lanza in the ‘50s.

Another amazing musical performer from the ‘40s and ‘50s my dad introduced me to was Ann Miller, the leggy brunette famous for her machine-gun tap dancing. Many considered her the best and fastest female tap dancer in Hollywood—it was said she could do 500 taps a minute!

She usually played the sassy sidekick and was in a lot of not-too-good movies. Although the movies were forgettable, her dancing never was. To see her in her best films, check out Easter Parade, On the Town, and Kiss Me, Kate.

I’ll leave you with a little more Miller dancing to brighten your weekend.

 

 

Decorating (Un)Diva

Some women lust over designer shoes and handbags, some lust over diamonds and pearls. I lust over farmhouse sinks and pendant lights.

I’m addicted to home improvement—and home improvement shows—much to my husband’s dismay. Used to be, every time I watched one of the HGTV or DIY shows on Netflix, I’d get the urge to start a new house project—ka-ching, ka-ching—or do a little redecorating and rearranging furniture.IMG_0788

I come from a long line of rearranging women. It’s in our genes; I’m a “Miller girl.” My mom and her five Miller sisters all like(d) to rearrange and decorate. Growing up, it seemed every few months Mom would move the furniture, which drove my dad crazy, especially when he came home and tripped over the ottoman like Dick Van Dyke.

The thing is, as much as I love watching those shows, I could never be on one because you have to sign the design decisions over to their designer. Not gonna happen. I have very definite design ideas that I like to implement myself. I know what I like (farmhouse chic and cozy English cottage with lots of books, art, flowers, and touches of whimsy) and what I don’t (modern, minimalist, and sleek.)

Old books and our Bruges Pinocchio
Old books and our Bruges Pinocchio

I’m so not a modern girl. I like pops of color, but trust me, there will never be a pop of chartreuse or orange in my our house.

I love decorating and making things pretty. It’s one of my favorite forms of creative expression. Back in the day when I got to stay home and write books for a sort-of living, every time I finished a book—after weeks of being hunched over the keyboard during deadline crunch—and hit ‘Send’, the first thing I did (after a celebratory lunch) was jump into a new decorating or home-improvement project.

That project almost always begins with cleaning. I can’t stand a dirty house (another Miller-girl trait) but during deadline madness, normal household chores fall by the wayside; it’s all about the book. All my time and energy was devoted to writing, so by the time I finished my latest not-so-magnum opus, the house would be in serious need of a good cleaning. Michael regularly kept up with the basics—cooking, dishes, and laundry—but scrubbing toilets and dusting isn’t really his strong suit.

Once the house was sparkling clean, I’d jump into a new decorating project. Sometimes it was painting a room, sometimes rearranging the living room, sometimes ripping up carpet to expose gorgeous hardwood floors, sometimes repurposing an old piece of furniture, and sometimes it was simply moving a bookcase to another part of the room. (The latter always took the longest since I had to remove every book then re-shelve them. That was very distracting since each book called to me, “Read me, read me!”)

IMG_0778Although I love all those decorating shows (especially Fixer Upper; Chip and Joanna, subway tile, and shiplap, be still my heart) I must confess I see red when the designer displays books with the spines AGAINST THE WALL—hiding the titles and showing the pages facing outward. Sacrilege! Why would you have pictures of the backs of your friends’ heads? Clearly those designers aren’t readers.Cover - Daring Chloe

As I said in my novel Daring Chloe (I don’t usually quote myself, but when I Googled my name to see if my brand-new blog came up, several quotes from my books appeared. Pretty cool. I’m not used to being quoted.) Anyway, as I said in Daring Chloe, “How do you explain to a nonreader that books aren’t just things but treasured friends? Companions

No way will I ever hide my book spines. Nobody puts my babies in the corner. Are you with me?

IMG_0831

TV Crushes

IMG_0830TV Crushes

Growing up, I was in love with Little Joe Cartwright. How could you not be? He was so cute!

In the mid-‘60s, TV westerns were the best place to find a wagon load of gorgeous guys. My favorite was Bonanza. And not just because of the curly-haired, mischievous, and dimpled Little Joe. Some episodes I was drawn to the dark-haired handsome Adam who always dressed in black and was so wise and mature. Other times I even fell for Hoss; for such a big guy he was dadburned gentle. (Although what was the deal with their clothes? As rich as they were, you’d think the Cartwright boys could have afforded more than one outfit.)IMG_0829

My preferences changed weekly, depending on which of the boys was taking a girl for a buggy ride and picnic. But did you ever notice that going on a picnic with one of the Cartwright boys usually ended in death for the unlucky woman of the week? Once I realized that, I scratched that IMG_0831romantic scenario and moved on to the Barkley brothers over at The Big Valley.

Problem was, not one of the Barkleys alone had all the characteristics on my wish list. I yearned for the intelligence of Jarrod, the strength and raw masculinity of Nick, and the sensitivity of Heath. (Later, Heath became The Six-Million-Dollar Man, so I could have had two out of three in one package if I’d only known.)

Finally, there was The High Chaparral with Big John Cannon, his happy-go-lucky brother, Buck, sensitive son Blue, and flirtatious brother-in-law Manolito Montoya. Manolito was the dashing and charming ladies’ man who made my heart flutter every Sunday night. But my tween heart was fickle and some weeks I’d give my heart to Big John, the gruff family patriarch who reminded me of John Wayne. And a couple times I gave it to Buck, the fighting, free-spirited, Civil War vet who deep down didn’t think he deserved the love of a good woman. I wanted to show him he did. And then of course, there was the sweet, young “Blue Boy,” always trying to prove himself to his daddy. I fell in love with his beautiful blue eyes and sweet spirit.

But it wasn’t just the guys of TV Westerns who won my tweenage heart. I also fell for the dynamic secret-agent duo in The Man From Uncle. Although Illya Kuryakin was arguably the cuter of the two with his black turtlenecks, intensity, and thatch of blonde hair, I usually swooned over the cool suaveness and sophistication of international ladies’ man Napoleon Solo in his ubiquitous suits and tuxedo. A world away from the blue-collar guys in my factory town.

And of course the crème de la creme of my romantic childhood yearnings was Davy Jones of The Monkees who made a daydream believer out of me.

What about you? Who were some of your childhood TV crushes?

Not High Maintenance; Highly Sensitive

Sunroom
Sunroom sanctuary

I’ve never thought of myself as a highly sensitive person. Somewhat sensitive? Yes. But highly sensitive? Not so much. However, after reading this eye-opening article by Jenn Granneman discussing “The Highly Sensitive Person”, a book by Dr. Elaine N. Aron, I realized I’m a lot more sensitive than I thought.

I thought I was just high maintenance. Or old. Here’s a few things this highly sensitive person (HSP) needs:

  • Time to decompress – According to the article, “noisy, busy environments can wreak havoc on a sensitive person’s highly reactive nervous system.” Yes! Crowded restaurants with blaring music, shrieking kids, and 17 TVs playing sports make me want scream, “Shut the hell up!” Instead, I just get the hell out of there. (This is also why I don’t frequent heavy metal concerts, clubs, or jam-packed stadiums.) I’d rather curl up with a good book and a “cuppa” in my quiet little cottage.
  • Plenty of sleep – Everyone gets irritable when they don’t get enough sleep, but the article says, “lack of sleep for the sensitive person can make life almost unbearable.” Preach. Eight hours of sleep a night is my ideal, but I can manage on seven. Any less than that and it’s not pretty. Trust me. Ask my husband.
  • Healthy meals spaced regularly throughout the day – Thanks to this article I learned a great new word: “hangry.” That’s me when I don’t eat regularly. The author says this is because “extreme hunger can mess up a sensitive person’s mood or concentration.” Got that right. Michael knows to leave a clear path to the kitchen when I announce, “I need to eat something RIGHT NOW!”
  • Time to get things done – “Sensitive people hate busy schedules and rushing from one thing to the next.” Can I get an Amen? Packed weekends without any downtime especially stress me out. I can’t be going, going from one activity to another all weekend long, no matter how fun it is. That’s why I never schedule things on Sunday nights (and preferably after Sunday lunch). I need my Sunday nap. Naps are delicious. Almost better than chocolate.
  • A space of my own – HSP’s need “a quiet place to retreat to” when they need to get away from noise and people. My home is my retreat. And luckily I have several retreat rooms to choose from: sunroom, den, living room, bedroom. My favorite newest retreat spot is our patio where I’ll stretch out in my gravity chair next to the new fountain Michael got with his last work bonus. Running water, a meditative margarita and sweet Mellie-girl sprawled across my chest. It doesn’t get much better than that.
  • Beauty – When the author wrote, “I’m deeply affected by my surroundings, especially the way they look. Cluttered, chaotic, or just plain ugly environments bother me,” I did an inner fist pump and breathed out, “Yes!”
    IMG_0858
    (Excuse the catty-wampus chair. Other than that, all that’s missing from this bucolic outdoor scene is me, Mellie, and a margarita.)

    I can’t stand chaotic, messy environments. Cluttered dining room tables–aka the drop zone–are a pet peeve. Bills, groceries, junk mail, glasses, magazines, pens, snacks, piles of paper, errant tools and all manner of things get dropped on the table. Makes me twitchy. And that other word that sounds like that. The only thing the dining room table should hold is that week’s tablecloth, Pimpernel place mats, candles, and a jug of fresh flowers. Although I do allow food and dishes at mealtime.

  • I also like a clutter-free living room. (Stop laughing, Lana. And Shane.) There’s a difference between warm and cozy and full of things that matter to us and cluttered with stuff that doesn’t belong. I’m a big believer in beauty and everything in its place. Before I go to bed (in addition to making sure the front door is locked) I’ll put Mellie’s toys in her basket, pick up books, shoes, jackets, and any empty cups or glasses and return them to their rightful place. Then I’ll straighten coasters, adjust crooked area rugs, tuck in slipcovers, plump pillows, and angle pictures. It only takes five minutes—seven at the most—and in the morning I wake up to a pretty, tidy living room. And all is right in my world.
  • I wish I could say the rest of my house is always as neat and tidy, but I’m not Wonder Woman. During the work week, clothes get dumped on bedroom chairs at night, shoes multiply in front of the closet, and Mellie’s random dust bunnies polka-dot the hardwood floors. By the end of the week though, the piles of clothes and shoes really agitate my aesthetic sensibilities so I spend an hour Saturday mornings doing a quick power clean so I can relax and enjoy the rest of my weekend. Thankfully, after 25 years of marriage, my sentimental pack-rat-man knows the importance of keeping the common areas clean and clutter-free. Sure, when unexpected guests drop by we may have to do a quick scoop and dump into the back room (his bursting-at-the-seams office/studio) but that’s what doors are for.

Any other Highly Sensitive Person’s out there who can relate to this? Don’t be shy; I know I’m not the only one who needs my Sunday naps and drop-free-zone dining room table. What pushes your HSP buttons?

 

Tub Travels

Bathtub Vacation

Everyone needs to get away from it all occasionally. That’s why people take vacations to such exotic locales as Greece, the British Virgin Islands, and Hawaii. Some of us, however, have to settle for the economy excursion, or as I prefer to think of it, the budget-bathtub plan.

My tub is my ticket to paradise. All I need is a good book, some hot water, and Calgon (lately replaced by Bed, Bath & Beyond) bath salts to “take me away.”

It’s not the same for Michael. He’s a shower-guy. I enjoy showers too, but I’d IMG_0832much rather settle in for a long evening’s soak. And I come prepared. A cup of steaming hot tea with milk and sugar and some English shortbread on a flowery plate is essential if I’m reading Maeve Binchy or Rosamunde Pilcher. If I’m reading Sue Grafton, Daniel Silva or David Baldacci, I’ll have a margarita. But if it’s Harry Potter, Little Women, or Mitford, I choose milk and cookies.

Just not Oreos. Dunking’s too difficult in the tub. (Those little crumbs from the chocolate cookie outside have a tendency to adhere to the skin when there’s bath oil in the water.)

It took my husband a little while to adjust to my bathing habits. We’d been married less than a month when one night I told him I was going to “have a bath” (an English turn of phrase I’ve held onto after living there years ago; so much more elegant and Downtonesque than “take” a bath.) Michael was busy in the other room when I informed him of my bathing intentions, so just said, “Uh huh,” and continued with whatever he was doing.

An hour later, however, he called in to me, “Are you all right?”

“Yes. I’m just reading.”

“Okay.”

After another hour had passed and I still hadn’t surfaced, he knocked on the bathroom door, then poked his head in, concerned. He found me in the empty tub. Buck naked and bone dry. Clutching my John Grisham.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Trying to finish this. I’m on the last chapter.”

“But there’s no water in the tub.”

“I know. It got cold, so I let it out.”

“Wouldn’t you be more comfortable in a chair or on the couch?”

“Not now. I only have a couple pages to go.”

(Adapted from Dated Jekyll, Married Hyde)

How about you? Do you take tub vacations too? What kind of refreshments do you bring for the trip?

A Few Things I Love, A Few Things I Hate

A Few Things I Love, A Few Things I Hate

In the musical The King and I*, British governess Anna sings “Getting to Know You” to the children and wives of the King of what was then-called Siam (Thailand.) One way to get to know people is to learn what they love and hate. So, IIMG_5202 thought I’d share some of my love and hates with you. (Heads up: I’m a tad passionate—some would say opinionated. When I love something, I LOVE it! And when I hate something, you’ll know.)

*I had the privilege of seeing the amazing—and still sexy—Yul Brynner onstage in his iconic role in London’s West End, FIFTH ROW CENTER in the ‘70s. Fabulous!

A Few Things I Love “Truly, Madly, Deeply” (in no particular order)

Truly, Madly, Deeply is a romantic and quirky little English film starring the remarkable and much-missed Alan Rickman long before he was Professor Snape.

  1. Books
  2. England
  3. BBC mysteries
  4. Michael Kitchen (My Foyle’s War crush. Says more with a lifted eyebrow than most actors can in an entire monologue.)
  5. Our spaniel-pug mix Mellie and her adorable underbiteIMG_0187

A few things I “Hate, Loathe, Despise, and Abominate”

Judy Garland says the impassioned line, “If there’s anything I hate, loathe, despise, and abominate…” in Meet Me in St. Louis, a delightful movie-musical we watch every Christmas. It’s full of such memorable songs as the “The Boy Next Door,” “The Trolley Song,” and the achingly beautiful “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” with Judy resplendent in red velvet.

  1. Coffee (The taste AND the smell.) Since childhood, I’ve never liked coffee, or anything coffee-flavored, including mocha icing. Yuck. But the worst thing was selecting a piece of yummy-looking candy from a box of chocolates, and biting into it in delicious chocolatey anticipation, only to get a mouthful of mocha. Ick. I’d immediately spit it out and chase it with a chocolate-covered caramel to get rid of the awful coffee after taste. My lifelong coffee aversion was strengthened during my chemo days when the hospital orderly would bring me a breakfast tray with a cup of coffee. The minute he entered the room and I caught a whiff of coffee, I’d start puking. ‘Nuff said.
  2. Noise
  3. Crowds (especially in elevators or on light rail)—I need my personal space.
  4. Brussels sprouts and cooked cabbage
  5. Dirty bathrooms (Eew. Just eew. Ever heard of bleach wipes and pumice stones?)

And in case the above introductory references didn’t give it away, I also love movies (good ones.)

So what about you? What are a few (Top 5) things you love and hate?

IMG_0209

Boomerangle

IMG_0209I didn’t have a miserable childhood with crazy, alcoholic parents. I didn’t escape a third-world country after being sold off as a child-bride at 12. I wasn’t raised in the projects by a drug-addicted mother who turned tricks to make ends meet. I’ve never made a sex tape. (You’re welcome.) I’m not fleeing an abusive relationship with my tattooed and pierced lesbian lover. I’m not a woman trapped in a man’s body longing to develop an Adam’s apple, facial hair, and wanting to change my name to Bruce. I’m not psychotic, schizophrenic, anorexic, dyslexic, or eccentric.

Just occasionally neurotic. Although my friends and family might disagree on the occasional part.

I’m a happily married (most of the time), soon to turn 60, lower middle-class suburban white woman packing some extra pounds who has a steady 8-5 job, drives a 20-year-old Honda Civic, and sings in the church choir.

In short, boring with a capital B.

At least to young people and New York publishers. All 15 of them (or was it 25? I’ve lost count) who rejected my funny, sometimes spiritual, sometimes heartbreaking, good-girl-gone-bad-gone-good-again memoir. The best (she says humbly) book I’ve ever written. Of the dozen or more—17—I’ve had published. The most transparent. The book of my heart and soul.

But I’m not bitter. Just “unknown” and not very exciting, apparently.

photo - author in airforceI sure was in my younger days. Not many (any) girls in my high-school graduating class of 1974 ran off to join the Air Force, fly a typewriter through Europe, and date fighter pilots. Or toss back schnapps and eat wild boar in Germany, tilt at windmills and tiptoe through the tulip fields in Holland, and visit 13 countries before they were 23.

Not to brag (too much) but I also skied in the Alps (okay, snowplowed into cars in the parking lot, but let’s not quibble. I was on skis in the frickin’ ALPS! Were you?) enjoyed a gondola ride in Venice, went au naturel on a topless beach in Sardinia, and tried not to gasp in good-girl, Midwestern shock when I saw the women in the windows in Amsterdam’s red light district. I did gasp at Winged Victory in the Louvre, swim in the Mediterranean, watch Yul Brynner polka across a West End stage in The King and I, eat snails in Paris, frog legs in Luxembourg, and drink ouzo in Greece. (That ouzo left me winding through tables in a taverna doing a Zorba-like snake dance with the waiters and other drunken patrons, smashing plates and yelling “Opa!”)

I also flew a glider over the English countryside, belted out “Don’t Rain on my Parade” on the 3 a.m. ferry from Dover to Calais, and kissed Gordon MacRae. (My childhood musical crush Curly in the movie-musical Oklahoma. Shortly after that kiss, he died from mouth cancer. Just sayin’.)

At first glance, my life now—the year I’m turning 60—may not seem as exciting and adventurous as it was in my 20’s, but who needs all that excitement anyway? These days I’m excited about Sunday afternoon naps.

IMG_0237I’m glad I experienced the wild and crazy things I did (most of them) in my younger days, but I’m happier and more content now than I ever was back then. You couldn’t pay me to go back to my 20’s. Or 30’s. Forties? Maybe. Those were good years. (My first book published at 40.) But I prefer to look forward, rather than back. This year, in addition to turning 60—a number that seems surreal when I say it aloud since I still feel about 43—I’ll also be celebrating my 25th anniversary with the love of my life. And I find that pretty exciting. We’ve only just begun. Cue The Carpenters.

What about you? Are you more content now?