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?


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 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!”
    (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?


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?