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Posts Tagged ‘humor’

both books (2)_LI

I’m growing older, but not up. (Jimmy Buffett)

The tension in my neck tells me I am not in synch with the world as it is. Mass natural disasters are difficult enough to understand; mass hatred is another. I don’t need to delineate any of it. The blind can hear about it, and the deaf can read closed-caption. The unaffected remain in a narrow, wire-thin margin.

Pain begins before the first commercial on any news channel. Gentle heat helps my muscles. Distraction, blended with love, helps my spirit.

My husband and I take Dakota to afternoon kindergarten on Thursdays. Dakota asks me to sit in the back seat with him. We discuss the six-year-old boy world and his unique observations along the familiar route.

This young man notices details: The recycling truck has two steering wheels and two sets of brakes… He discerns how a toy train track fits together. His mechanical expertise will probably surpass mine before he reaches third grade!

During a rare pause Dakota notices the back cover of my second book, Stinky Rotten Threats. It is on the back seat between us.

“Isn’t that your picture? Why is it there?”

I smile. When I am with this young man, my intention is to focus on him. My successes, failures, and mundane trips to the doctor or post office don’t come up. He probably assumes I don’t pretend to pilot a plane without knowing what an instrument panel is. However, other than stocking the refrigerator with his favorite cheese and hot sauce, he wouldn’t know what else fills my day.

“This is what I do, buddy. I write. This is my second book.” (The first was The Curse Under the Freckles.)

“Wow,” he says flipping through the pages without looking at them. “It must have taken you more than an hour and a half.”

Dakota’s notion of numbers and time hasn’t developed yet. I realize I want world change overnight, in my spirit, even if my head knows a sudden transformation is as impossible as writing a middle-grade fantasy adventure in an hour and a half. The Star League Chronicles fights evil—not with fists and swords, but with truth. Even in make-believe, a story takes more than one page for goodness to win.

“Two years,” I answer. “It took me two years.”

He doesn’t say anything, but I suspect he thinks I must be mighty slow.

I don’t mind. Slow is the general idea. My neck thanks me. Growing up all the way isn’t recommended anyway.

 

 

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What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

The flower our beggar squirrel beheaded has replaced itself—threefold. I suspect what I thought was a sunflower gift is a weed, a wild sunflower. The plant’s leaves appear as worn as my septuagenarian skin. I photographed the whole plant anyway. The leaves are part of its reality. I wear flawed parts, too, like every other ephemeral life form.

I struggle to conquer uncertainty and borderless fears. My husband and I are traveling to Europe soon. On past trips, I have met people who have brightened my spirit. Nevertheless, the worry-pain I build-up feels like surgery without anesthesia.

I have the same sense of direction as an untethered balloon. Leave my familiar surroundings and I float wherever the wind takes me.

I imagine telling my husband, “Sweetie, I’m following you everywhere you go as we travel. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Um, even on my way to the men’s room?”

There may be a few problems with my plan. Maybe I’ll take everywhere out of my request. Superlatives such as everywhere, the greatest, the worst, and all, lose truth somewhere. Death is final, as far as I know, at least as far as my limited vision can see. The other side has only sent subtle hints, two or three pieces from a billion-piece more-than-I-can-fathom puzzle.

In the meantime, I study the weed in my front yard. Yellow. Green. Hints of brown. Sun. Shadow. And I wonder how one dull, broken stalk replaced one flower with three.

“Hey, girl!” I tell myself. “You’re taking a trip that frightens you because you know it’s worth the risk. Have a good time, and recognize the flowers among the weeds. Who knows what lies ahead?” I’m about to find out.

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I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”   (Kurt Vonnegut)

No point putting my socks back on—my feet are covered with sand—from my son’s backyard sandbox. Yes, this senior citizen has been playing with dump trucks and plastic buckets. I follow the lead of my favorite kindergartner, Dakota.

He asks about what kind of work both my husband and I have done, and what I do now.

I state as simply as possible the jobs we had in young-person language. “I write books now.”

“Sounds boring.” He rams a motorcycle over a sand ramp. A wheel falls off. He grins as he clicks it back on.

I suppose when an individual’s written vocabulary is limited to one and two-syllable words, it could be. My granddaughter Ella has been reading since she was four. Different interests.

But, I don’t say anything. I let his opinion stand and heap a plastic shovel of packed sand into the next project, a castle. The building lasts almost three seconds before Dakota smashes it and turns it into something else. Another truck obstacle.

At age six, the pretend world is always in progress.

Next, he introduces me to a new Wii game. I have no aptitude for sports in the tangible world. On the flat screen, my lack reaches a new low.

“Well, I guess you win again,” I say.

We are ready to go outside for more activity, and he takes my hand. A gentle gesture. Dakota is considerate. I mentioned once today as I swung an invisible baseball bat, that I was thirsty and he ran to get me water, with ice. He also wanted to wash dishes, but left the big knife for me. A smart decision.

By tomorrow, my at-home to-do list will be too long to fit on the side of a mile-long wall. Those tasks will wait. Today I spend time with a young gentleman who doesn’t care about what I can or what I can’t do. He knows I care a lot about him, and he cares a lot about me. We are family, and that is all that matters.

You are right, Mr. Vonnegut. If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

(photo-shopped public domain photo)

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Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. (Joseph Addison)

When I try to make a fist, my middle finger doesn’t want to cooperate. It remains in an upright position and causes my ring finger to cross over my little finger—a bully gesture caused by a hand attached to a profoundly nonviolent individual. I didn’t like football before I knew about the number of brain injuries in head-butted players.

Therefore, I wait in my orthopedist’s office to discover whether I will need surgery. I’m early for my appointment and I open Janis Thornton’s new cozy mystery, Dead Air and Double Dares.*

Janis opens the story with a powered parachute destined to crash. Inside is an asparagus-thin woman who runs a newspaper in a small town. Crystal Cropper’s age fits in the senior citizen category, but she bristles when she hears the o-word. Besides, she investigates crimes without fear. And, after her experiences in Dust Bunnies and Dead Bodies, if she isn’t afraid after almost—oops, no plot spoilers permitted—she isn’t afraid of anything.

I have only read as far as Chapter Six and I have laughed several times already. Out loud. Crystal’s personality sparkles with every action. She has spunk.

Author Janis makes it clear the victim is dead, but long descriptions of the scene a coroner would explore, is gratefully absent. For me, facing a fictitious dead body beats the possibility for slicing my right hand.

I’m called back to be seen by the doctor sooner than I want. One more page, just one more page. This office is entirely too efficient.

Fortunately, an x-ray shows I do NOT need surgery, just a time machine to go back and remove twenty years of accumulated arthritis. Yes, the metacarpal fracture did cause residual damage, but occupational therapy should help. In time. Lots of it.

Patience is a virtue I’m told. However, when it comes to a good cozy mystery, I’d rather not wait. I wiggle my offending fingers a few times and pick up my new signed book. (Thanks, Janis.) Chapter Seven and onward. Reading is to the mind what occupational therapy is to my fingers. No interruptions please…my mind is busy.

*The links for Janis’s books can be found on her website.

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I ran and ran and ran every day, and I acquired this sense of determination, this sense of spirit that I would never, never give up, no matter what else happened. (Wilma Rudolph)

I am a cloud-white, magnet-covered refrigerator. Appliances don’t celebrate birthdays. We don’t speak either, but I’m making an exception. For my final goodbyes.

My compressor stopped. And the husband living in this small house immediately sought help from an expert, a neighbor who can repair anything from ceiling fans to jet engines. The expert declared me incapable of resuscitation. Then he offered a cooler to save my interior parts—including at least a hundred dollars’ worth of items bought less than an hour ago from the grocery.

Another neighbor also came to the rescue. She said she had a freezer in her basement. I was impressed. The wife, the woman who rules the kitchen, turned my controls to the coldest possible temps. I gave it one more effort. I brought life back into me, Lazarus raising Lazarus.

Maybe I don’t have vision in the human sense, but I know Terry smiled. She saved my handle when it broke last year. With black duct tape. True, it’s not a conventional cure, but it kept me in alignment for a while. The sides of the tape are frayed, but the handle works—even if my energy can’t be promised for much longer.

Yes, I too ran and ran and ran. However, modern stoves, refrigerators, wash machines, weren’t made the way my ancestors were—to function through generations. Before profit became a god. No need to mention my brand. The notion is universal.

My replacement isn’t going to be loyal any longer than I have been. I plan to hold on until the delivery service pulls my plug. I’ll go wherever I’m led. I can’t hold on much longer anyway.

Tomorrow? Who knows? But, I count blessings. I lost nothing I was given to guard. I thank a kind neighbor. And that sudden burst of energy to run one more time.

the old handle, new stainless steel, and old in thermal camera view

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My grandchildren are fabulous and funny. (Erica Jong)

Nine-year-old Rebe (Rebecca) announces that it is time to play. Her tone suggests Grandma hasn’t been feeling well and needs more entertainment and less work. At the same time, she is here to entertain and be entertained. It’s the nature of the grandparent/grandchild relationship.

Imagination explodes through these small rooms as Rebe and thirteen-year-old Kate feed off one idea after another.

“I’m getting married,” Rebe announces.

She’s marrying a famous film star Kate suggests. However, Rebe constantly calls him by the wrong name, Ansel.

“You’re marrying someone, and don’t know his name?” I ask.

“That’s okay. I’ll just call him sweetie.”

She leaves the room to hunt for bridal gowns—at a local dollar outlet.

On the offbeat wedding day with the famous-actor-without-an-identity groom. Kate and Rebe design the veil: a shawl, held securely on her head with a pair of antediluvian white cotton underwear.

Then, seconds after Rebe removes the bridal dress, one of my white t-shirts, she is ready to deliver her first child. Or rather fifteen babies.

I don’t have anywhere near that many dolls and stuffed animals. Our fertile mama’s hyperbole delivery lowers to ten infants. Kate improvises the last child. She designs a creature from some of my summer clothes, and a pillow, held together with an Ace wrap and stretch band, with a toy Dora, the Explorer backpack head.

My grandchildren’s ingenuity can’t stay wrapped around pillows and scattered across the floor as make-believe infants forever. However, I celebrate this moment and cough through laughs.

No life is perfect. Illness, as well as problems both personal and world-wide, interfere and must be faced. Yet, beauty is not dead. I see it in two pair of bright eyes and hear it in two young voices.

I can echo Erica Jong: my grandchildren are mighty fabulous and funny, too. And I am grateful.

 

 

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Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. (Carl Sagan)

I laugh at my middle granddaughter Rebecca’s antics long after she leaves with Daddy. She loves to play with an old pair of crutches that are too big for a nine-year-old girl. Each time she has a different pretend reason why she needs them.

Today’s reason: “I have boneless disease.”

She relays the surgical procedure, including plastic-skull placement with an occasional ouch; then she rises from a chair and reaches for the crutches. The OR is our backyard. She claims that all she needs to sustain her now, besides the beloved crutches, is a house filled with medicine. She pretends to swallow the first roomful.

I smile on the outside and chuckle internally.

“You raised my daddy. You raised my daddy,” she repeats the same line with a rising chuckle. Yet, I know she wants to be just like her father.

Rebe’s daddy, Gregory Petersen, is an author and a stand-up comic. Rebe’s wit is already sharp. Moreover, she has my complete attention, and she thrives on it.

When she is not in pretend-mode, Rebe is one-hundred percent honest. Two years ago, when I gave her a signed copy of The Curse Under the Freckles, a middle-grade fantasy, she took one look at it and asked where the pictures were. She knows I write, but she sees me as her ancient playmate.

Imagination doesn’t need to disappear with childhood. I happen to be a very old youngster.

By late spring, early summer, the sequel to my first book will appear—Stinky, Rotten, Threats. (No link yet. All is in progress.)

Chase Powers and his magic woods friends are attending summer school. Chase failed sixth grade—he studies both everyday fractions as well as how to use magical skills. His friends are self-motivated. They have natural smarts; they grew up with magic.

Of course, even school in a magical setting doesn’t follow the teacher’s plan. The adults in Chase’s family enter the woods for instruction, and Chase sees how much trouble newbies can be. Add interference from the evil Malefics… Then, Chase sees a change in the magical world he could never imagine even with the most potent tools.

Boneless disease never appears in my story. That fantasy belongs to my granddaughter.

Chase Powers is a fantasy character in a world that does not exist. However, his character thinks, feels, and acts like a twelve-year-old boy.  Anna, his friend, is a near-genius who has a knack for unintentionally getting under Chase’s skin, the way real people do sometimes.

Even so, something incredible is about to happen.  In the story, and in real life. Yes, a lot of bad news rolls off commentators’ tongues with the same tone of voice used to forecast a partly cloudy day. Ugliness is real.

However, so is beauty. A friend calls. A child draws a picture—just for Grandma, Mommy or the dog. Not all brightness comes from sun. Hope is like a seed, or a plot. You can’t tell how it will grow in the beginning.

I do hope you will bother to turn a page that promises a lead out of darkness. Of course, I would recommend my own work. However, if anyone has suggestions for inspirational titles, go for it. I am always glad to hear about a good, positive-minded book.

Peace, and may something incredible touch all.

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You can never spend enough time with children. (Dwayne Hickman)

Dakota sits in the Captain’s chair as he punches tickets for passengers. When he isn’t driving an imaginary boat, I use that seat to work at the computer. (However, when I write I don’t use the swivel function for steering.) Dakota is spending time with me and Jay because his mommy is working toward a degree. She is in class, and Dakota isn’t. He is recovering from an ear infection. With the same speed he does everything else, quickly.

“How much are the tickets?” I ask, knowing that as a crew member this question would be ludicrous. Uh, shouldn’t that be printed somewhere on a board with letters the size of the E on an eye chart? Dakota is in a fantasy world. I am investigating his play. For fun. Imagination adjusts the rules.

“Three dollars.”

That sounds reasonable. However, after a few more hole punches and the tiny centers create confetti on the rug, he hands me the next ticket. “Four dollars.”

From my point of view the cost difference is either for inflation or the cost of clean-up. Then he turns, eyes wide. “This one is twenty-three-hundred dollars.”

For the boat? “Wow! That seat must be really special.”

His eyes sparkle. I manage not to laugh out loud, and he nods. I place the ticket, representing the position of the paying passenger, next to his chair.

My little buddy is priceless.

I had other plans for today, nothing set in stone, only in intention—to finish more projects than possible. Instead, I received the opportunity to meet heart-to-heart with an almost six-year-old boy, a far richer time for my spirit.

Dakota takes a picture of me while I take one of him.

 

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Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans. (John Lennon)

Today. Finally. I’ll get a few errands completed. Even though old man winter is mocking the bright blue sky by plunging the temperature below ten degrees. My key opens the lock on the door of my 1997 Toyota on the second try.

The ignition responds. Unfortunately, the door doesn’t close—not because the seat belt is in the way. I pull the door shut and try to hold it sufficiently tight to lock, with the false hope that it will stay there. Oh, sure, the lock catches, but the door is not properly positioned—and I can’t get it unlocked again.

Great! I. Am. Stuck. Inside. This. Car. And Jay is at the auto repair shop now getting an oil change for his car. Naturally, my purse and phone are in the house. I am simply warming little green for a minute or two. My old car has decided it doesn’t want to go anywhere.

Now, if I can get the window to open… I press the buttons. The windows lower only on the passenger side. That means I get to climb over the gear shift, pray I don’t drop the keys out the window, and open the door from that side.

Hallelujah! I’m sprung. Little green Toyota remains iced, but at least I can call to see if Jay is still at our friend’s repair shop. Our friend suggests Jay make a simple repair with a spray; it does not work. Jay and I both drive back to the shop—not in our neighborhood. He follows, as my car-dian angel.

The warm drive allows the door to relax and behave as if nothing had ever been wrong with it. Ack! Ack! Triple ack. At least my-car-that-could-be-almost-classic-if-it-didn’t-resemble-a-demolition-derby-look-alike gets an oil change. And I learn to cover my key with the point of a pencil (graphite.) Graphite in the form of a pencil point or graphite spray helps to loosen the lock.

Of course, this cure only helps in models old enough to earn rust stains. My vehicle fits in that category. Little green is not old enough to remember carburetors, however.

My errands will wait for tomorrow. Maybe. Fate, the weather, Armageddon? Whatever tomorrow brings, I’m grateful not to be a four-foot eleven-inch ice cube.

iced-in

 

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Anyone who tells you fatherhood is the greatest thing that can happen to you, they are understating it. (Mike Myers)

I watch my sons interact with their children. Both the games and the more serious moments. And I see men who are creating relationships, not simply setting rules from an I’m-boss position. Sure, my sons set limits. But they also let Katie, Rebe, and Ella know it is okay to reach for stars. The girls are worth whatever effort it takes.

In addition, my younger son helps with the care of his fiancé’s son. When Dakota was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he answered, “A daddy like Steve.”

What more could I want?

And yet my sons give to me as well.

A few days ago I called Greg, my firstborn son, when I was in a difficult and frightening situation. I was away at a writers’ retreat and my wallet was not in my backpack. I knew my husband was swimming at the Y. I asked Greg, “Are you home?”

He didn’t say yes or no. He answered, “What do you need?” And while he had very little time he stopped at my house and searched my couch cushions for the missing wallet. And then he called my cell and let me know he had not found it, but would help in whatever way he could.

I figured out where I had left my wallet with all its essential interior parts later—after stopping credit cards and replacing my driver’s license. All my money and identification cards were locked in a restaurant safe. And I sent Greg a voice message to let him know all was well. However, he must not have received the message yet when I called about something less important. He answered his cell even though he was busy at work. Of course I told him we could finish the secondary business later. And we did, while making plans for Father’s Day weekend and for the next day Grandpa and I have with his girls—our grandchildren.

Once again, what more could I want?

Not that long ago I called Steve in a state of near panic. I’d gotten lost on my way to a funeral. And never made it to the service. My husband was out of town at the time. While I knew my friends would forgive my absence, I had difficulty forgiving me. Steve, his girlfriend Cecelia, (also my good buddy) Ella, and Dakota seemed to know exactly what to say—and exactly when to simply listen. Yes, even the children seemed to be aware on some level.

When I was able to let my husband know about the incident, Jay offered me the same kind of listening ear and positive feedback.

This is a blog, not a full-length memoir. I can’t tell every story.

I am blessed. What more could I want?

Then, of course, there is the humor the men in my life provide. All three of my Petersen men know how to enhance a celebration or lighten a sad situation. Greg and Steve have a mock rivalry going about who is the good son. They have even signed cards or notes that way.  It’s the family inside joke.

Happy Fathers’ Day, Jay, Greg, and Steve. My mantra of gratitude repeats: What more could I want?

Happy Fathers Day

 

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