Posts Tagged ‘appearance’

About Face

I am in my 60’s. Not terribly long ago, a woman told me she ‘bet I used to be attractive’. I can handle that. I DID. Now, I am older. I am not as upset about that, as I am that people are unaccustomed to what we should really look like as we naturally age.

I saw Goldie Hawn on TV today. Face-lift. I remember when Mary Tyler Moore got hers. It broke my heart. I watch some cooking shows. Sandra Lee suddenly looked very odd. Honestly, I thought she had been in a fire. Nope. Face-lift.

As I see women changing their entire facial structure, I question for whom they do this. I used to wonder the very same thing about men who wore toupees. Did they sleep in them at night with the person they loved most? Probably not. They wore that stupid looking fake hair or did a ‘Donald Trump’ every morning for the people who do not really matter. Why is that?

We are the baby-boomers. We are supposed to have more answers than our parents had. We are supposed to be more perceptive. Why in the world are we afraid to be ourselves? Why are WE pretending to be younger than we actually are instead of showing how well we can age? I am perplexed.

I stopped coloring my hair a year ago. I know it ages me. I look so much better with my hair hi-lighted. Now, there is no mistaking that I am an elderly woman. Nevertheless, I AM an elderly woman! I recognize that 60’s isn’t the end of the path but when we start retirement, get our social security and have problems remembering and falling and driving, why should we be trying to look like we are a decade or two younger? If we were acting this way in our 40’s we would seem daft or drunk. If men could really see what a woman is SUPPOSED to look like as she ages, maybe they would stop trying to date women 20 years younger than they should. Maybe. Ok, bad example.

While I am on that subject, why do older men need to date younger women? Everyone knows how foolish they appear. They are trying to ‘borrow’ the youth of that younger woman to appear younger themselves. They are trying to appear more virile. They are trying. Trying. If you need a pill to have more sex than your body can accommodate, you are too old to be having that kind of regular sex. It is not the end of the world. It is just a slowing of a chapter in a section. We all live.

So, as I watch women I have admired throughout my generation, I am saddened. Too many of them have decided they cannot stand to be their age. They are pretending to be of a different age while all of us watch, distressed at how fake our generation is threatening to become. We do our daughters no favor.

Gloria Steinham had it right at one time: ‘This is how I am supposed to look’ or something to that effect. I felt the same way for ages. I let myself be what I was supposed to be. How sad that our society does not. How sad that again, men are telling us we are not ok unless we do ‘this or that’ and sadder still is that women do it to each other. When Marlo Thomas got a face-lift, I was heartbroken. Another woman who is supposed to be secure, brilliant, honest, talented, and beautiful. She used to be.

Yep, I used to be attractive. Looks fade. I hope I have managed to cull more than the skin on my skeleton for the next chapters of my life.

Joan Rivers aside, how often are you disappointed in the women you once admired because of plastic surgery? Plastic: doesn’t that say it all?


It is a nasty time of year. The leaves have begun to fall. The pine needles need constant raking. The rain makes for muddy footprints in the house.

This nastiness has made me begin to think of my abuse.

As I recognize the need to forgive, but not forget, I finally have started to see the fear of the abuser.

He beat me to a pulp one day in New York. We had dated for about 2 years. He drank too much. I could see it coming. I told him I was getting concerned that he might hurt me. He was surprised and honestly stunned at the idea. He told me that he had a tendency to do things to hurt him, not others.

I remained wary.

We got up early one Sunday to go for brunch. He decided to have a drink. It was 8AM. I could not understand the need. That was a warning I allowed to sink into my brain. He wanted scotch before we went to breakfast. We had mimosas with our brunch. We were having fun, flirting. We were in a very nice, well-known NY restaurant.

I saw it happen. His face darkened. He was angry. He began to berate me, taunt me. I sat, still, afraid to move. Then he pushed away, forcing the table onto me, everything spilled onto my dress. He stood, glared, exited.

A man and woman at the next table looked at me. He asked if I was ok. I was dumbfounded. I was in shock. I was disbelieving. I was frightened. I was humiliated. Yet, I assured him I was fine. I got a cab.

I had to return to our apartment. All of my clothes were there, my airline tickets, belongings, money, and ID. When I returned, he was asleep (passed out) and I began quietly packing. I think it was the click of my suitcase lock. He was on me immediately. He screamed, furious that I was packing, calling me names, and hitting me. I fell; I tried to shield myself, without success as he continually hit and pushed and threw me. Finally, I hit him. I hit him in self-defense, almost afraid to hit because as a woman, no one had trained me to hit. I do not even know where my ‘punch’ landed. I only know what happened next. “You hit me!” “How DARE YOU!” he screamed. Then, the beating took on a new urgency. He threw me onto the floor, began to kick, throw things onto me, and kept screaming at me, calling me names. Somehow, I got to my feet, and hit the intercom button on the wall. I screamed and screamed. In minutes, someone was at the door. I got to the door ahead of him. When I opened it, a neighbor and the security guard were standing there. I said, “He is hitting me.” they were speechless. He was a beloved neighbor. A young, upwardly mobile man beautifully dressed, polite. Angry. The woman came into the apartment while I picked up the rest of my belongings. She saw that he had ripped my clothing from me. He had even torn my leather belt in half. I was dressed again, but disheveled and able to leave. Oddly, he was in the shower. She never saw him.

As I think about that time in my life, I have realized how much he resented what I was seeing. “You hit me” “how dare you.” it makes sense to me now. His weakness was an affront. How DARE I see that side of him? How dare I become someone to see the real man? How dare me. It let him know what a little person he was. He was 6’3 and yet smaller than my 5’7 frame. How dare I show him to be so small?

I learned that once a person hits, it will come again. You need out. You cannot trust yourself or that ‘hitting person’. Make plans. Leave.

I saw him once after that. We met in a public place, allowing him to try to convince me it was all ok. It was early on a Sunday morning. I could smell the alcohol.

You can still have fun in life. You just cannot have it there.

You must not dare.

take only if needed

People watch me in the grocery store. Decades ago I was watched because I was attractive. Now, it is a different situation: I am on food stamps.

Women watch what I place on the belt to checkout. I have no shame. I am so grateful for the financial help right now. I get food stamps. Thank YOU.

I have had no income for almost 2 years. I felt guilty to ask for help. A social worker suggested it and I am grateful. I get food stamps!

So many people have misconceptions about government help. My dad once said that anyone homeless just did not want to work. As a single woman, I knew better. I was part of the huge group. Missing one or two paychecks would mean I could not pay my bills. I was a flight attendant. To some people I earned great money. The thing is, when you travel for a living, you also spend more. The cutbacks at our airline were legend. We began flying more and earning much less. I knew I was on the precipice. My dad simply did not understand. It was black or white. More importantly, having never been in such a situation, it meant that nobody honest could. He was mistaken.

When my airline job crumbled, I began working in earnest, to pay my mortgage. Amazingly, the phone company, the utility company, and many others worked with me. They saw my huge credit history and knew I was not a bum. They put bills on hold while I reconnoitered. The mortgage company sent me a letter. If my payment was late, they would foreclose. Just like that.

I took every job I could. I did landscape work, I sold sandwiches from my trunk, I cleaned gutters and downspouts, weeded flowerbeds every evening, walked dogs early every morning, watered gardens while owners were away. On the weekends, I washed and waxed cars. It was hard. 7 jobs every week. I earned enough to pay my mortgage. I got food at the local food bank. It was humiliating. The woman handing out the choices gave me peanut butter. I cannot eat that. When I suggested she save it for a woman with children, she told me that I must not be very hungry. Humiliating.

The difference between then and now is that I was only 38. I had my entire life ahead of me and was strong smart and industrious. Now I am 61. I am not so good physically or mentally. I get food stamps.

I see women in the store, using their stamps, and look at their choices. I am not being critical; I am trying to learn. So many things are not included but you have to buy them to exist. No cleaning supplies. No light bulbs. Light bulbs in my home are a huge expense. Moreover, they are expensive. I try to buy CFL’s but now it is prohibitive. No pet food or cat litter. No personal hygiene products. No laundry detergent or softener sheets or bleach. Just FOOD. I am beyond grateful. I get food stamps.

I do not smoke but I certainly see the huge cost. People addicted to cigarettes have to feed that addiction. They have no choice. You do not stop smoking because you have run out of money. It is as powerful an addiction as heroin or meth. Your body makes you continue. You have no choice. Stopping is so difficult and society already hates smokers so the added shame of the addiction feeds the problem.

Medications. I take a ton of them. Between my brain injury, my blood sugar, my Cholesterol, my general stress of life circumstances, bills and an impending divorce, I take a ton of meds. They are not food. They are not covered.

I buy wine. Yep. I buy wine. I do not buy it nearly as often. I do not buy the 35-dollar bottles I used to get. I buy 6-dollar wine, on sale. Right now, it makes me almost feel normal. A few days a month, I can have wine with dinner again. Like things used to be. Before I got food stamps, before my life turned upside down.

You get a certain amount per month. Nothing more. It is up to you to decide how to parcel that money. I cannot pay for gas for my car, cannot pay for my utility bill, and cannot pay to see my doctor or light, cool or heat my home. No cosmetics or bath products. I can buy certain foods.

Next time you are shopping, look at your cart as you check out. Bear in mind that many people will not feel you have the right to certain things in your basket. They might judge. If you are on food stamps.

I am on food stamps. It is a huge relief.

Independence Day

I had a dream about my mom last night. She passed away several years ago. Any dream of her is a treat, even when the news delivered is not fun, I still had the opportunity to be with my mom again.

I dreamed that she was helping me pack. It was not a great time. I was moving to a small efficiency apartment, for the rest of my conscious life. She explained to me that eventually, as I already recognize, I would be ‘discovered’ and moved to full care. Alzheimer’s disease is rampant in our family. I have suffered 4 severe concussions. I know my limits.

The dream was daunting. I finally saw my future and it was not great. A small efficiency. That meant a one bedroom, one bath, small fridge and small stove, small living room. I have been here before.

When my mom left my dad, she left with one suitcase. Many in my extended family have never understood this. We were a military family, living abroad. The military person controls everything in the family unit. My mom and dad had been married 26 years. She left with a suitcase. Her allowance was 40 pounds. Think about that. Everything they had acquired together was under his control. As I look at my bleak-seeming future, I sense her immense fear. My mom never faltered. In my eyes, in my brother’s eyes, she never faltered. Privately, I later learned, she cried into her pillow.

Once she left, she went to the city in which she had spent most of her life. She got 2 jobs. She lived at the YWCA. She took the bus. She walked to work. She saved every penny.

We would have appeared to others to be wealthy. We lived in a 4 bedroom, 3-bath house, based on my dad’s high rank. We had a housekeeper, a cook. At one location, we had had a housekeeper, a cook, a gardener, a repairperson, and a nanny, on staff. It depended on where you were stationed. Therefore, we had a good life.

I joined her after a few months. Life with my dad had become difficult. She was thrilled. She bought me a ticket to fly from Europe to New York, to Florida. She met me in New York. I can only imagine the huge amount of money she spent for this. My dad did not help with the costs. He was angry that I was leaving. I had to leave.

When I arrived in New York, I had to clear customs alone, 13 years old. It was way over my head. My mom was standing in the upper levels of that most incredible terminal, JFK, watching, and dying for my inexperience. In those days, nobody helped kids alone on flights. Unheard of today but this was 1966. When we could finally embrace, it was lasting.

We got on a flight. Amazingly, it was an Eastern Airlines flight. I later flew for Eastern and had never put the two together. After a few years, my mom reminded me that we had come to Florida on Eastern. I just remember the flight attendant being so kind. We were in first class. Holy moly. The only tickets left on the flight. Mom not only had to pay to get me from Europe to the US, she also had to pay for 2 first class tickets to get us to Florida. A huge expense for a woman working 2 jobs, no car, no place to live.

We spent our first night in a relative’s home. The next day we moved into our own place. My nose could not have been higher in the air.

We lived in an efficiency apartment. It was dreadful. In my spoiled life, I had never shared a bedroom. Now, my mom and I were sleeping together, in one bed. We had a small bathroom, a very small living room, and a ‘kitchenette’. I was blown away. I am sure I was not grateful. She had worked so hard to start a new life for herself, then to add me, at my request. She was killing herself to make something for us both, and I was haughty with disrespect. Spoiled.

I began high school where she and my relatives had gone to school. I walked. I had been driving in Germany. You got an international license when you were 14, so driving at 13 was typical. We were poor. I did not remember ever having been poor. It was very hard to accept this new life. I was a teen, attending my junior year of high school.

Women do it all the time. Women are financially bereft by divorce. It is a government statistic that women never fully recover from the devastation of finances after divorce, unless they re-marry, gaining financial stability. Incredible situation. It still exists.

My mother was killing herself working, walking, and paying for an apartment because I could not live with her at the YWCA. The sacrifices she made were lost on me. I was a junior in high school and suddenly poor. This did not bode well for me becoming popular. Spoiled.

When my mom retired, at age 52, she was almost a millionaire. She and my step dad had amassed a great retirement. She was a whiz at investments and she saved every penny. I appear to have inherited that trait and I am so grateful. They had no debt. They owned 15 acres and a custom home. They raised cattle and had an active solar home. It was 1978. She had done it without help from my dad. He kept all of their furnishings, all of their money. They split a piece of land. She did it alone. Grit and determination should be named Marguerite. She did it. When she married my step-dad, he had never owned a checking account. He lived on a cash basis, renting a room in a woman’s home. He and mom loved each other dearly. She was in charge of the finances and served them both very well.

On this day of our country’s independence, I think of my mother. I think of my future and the way she would have had no nonsense about my next step. Living in an efficiency apartment, a trailer, on your own terms has no shame. You have earned your independence. Embrace it.

A Picture is Forever

The Division of Licensing has been beating me. This has caused me great angst because although they are not as official as many agencies, they DO control my ability to operate a vehicle. Additionally, many businesses require your driver’s license to identify yourself. As we move toward the obvious, a public identity card, some states have already declared that a driver’s license is not an identity card. Interesting. Nor is your social security card.

I just want to drive.

I went to the license office almost 2 months ago, all geared up to take the written test and get a new license. Did not work that way at all. They said I just needed to hand in my old license, prove my identity, get my photo taken and I would be finished. They did not even care if I could see. They did not care if I knew the driving regulations in their state. Seemed excessively easy.

I had looked at their website, learning what I might need to take along for ID. The website examples are to bring a utility bill in applicant name, to the correct home address. A passport not expired longer than a year. A military ID. A federal employee ID. A current driver’s license from another state. They offer many identity choices. Two very long lists of them. I have never had a problem proving who I am so I did not expect a problem here.

This is something with which few men will identify. My name is Dorothy Alexa Marguerite Conway. Society puts women in a spot after they marry. People in quite a few places can actually change a woman’s name, to make their filing system work more easily. When I married, I was 50 years old. I owned several houses in my name, owned my car, was buying another home, in my name, was an officer of the court, in my name, had 4 passports (you know, my name). So, since I already had 4 names, did I want to add a 5th? No, I really did not. My name was so long that no government office or form would accept it as it was. Therefore, someone (a typist) would make a decision to shorten my name. Think about that. Long name. 3 of the names can easily be misspelled. As a result, the typist usually drops a name. so, I have ID that shows me as Dorothy M Conway, as Alexa M Conway, as DA Conway, as (my favorite) DAM Conway, as Dorothy Alexa Conway. There are more, believe me. So many combinations available. I have too many names. I have never had a problem proving who I am, getting licenses in several states and territories.

This was easy. I went in with my current driver’s license. It identifies me as Alexa M Conway Smith. Yep. Smith. Why? Well, because a well-intentioned young woman in Oregon added Smith to my last name, without proof of my identity, without a marriage certificate, without any substantiation that I had increased the size of my name. She recognized my husband, and then she just did it. When she handed me my Oregon license, it said smith, behind everything else. I gulped. I was looking for the first time at a name that was foreign to me. My brand new husband was standing next to me, beaming. She was beaming. I was silent, not wanting to hurt him or her. I thanked her and we went on our way. Today I would like to have her take that name off my license. Not just because he is having a very public affair. Not because we are heading toward divorce. Not even because smith is such a common name and it increases the difficulty of my identity. Nope. Just because it was never my choice and because I liked my name just fine and it irks me that a woman is so easily re-identified in this society. She did not change HIS name to conway-smith. Only mine. Uh huh. I am one of those.

So, the license office here did not like it that my name was smith on my license but not on my social security card. Well, duh. I never legally changed my name! But, you know who did? My health insurance company. Someone there decided that I would be easier to find if my last name was the same as my husband’s. Just like that, my records all went to smith. So now, I have to help them find me. Sometimes it is conway-smith, sometimes its smith. We never know. It is an Easter egg hunt. Then, amazingly, my insurance company that handles my auto insurance, my homeowners insurance and my credit card, began to call me conway-smith. Wow. Another ‘somebody’ just decided it was easier. The first time we got our insurance cards, after I added my husband to my accounts, the cards came in my name, with his name listed afterwards. He had a fit. This did not work for him. It was my account. Everything had been mine. I added him to my accounts. Now, he was mad because things came in my name.  I had to call them, asking that they put his name on things equally. The woman I spoke with completely understood. I explained to my husband that women deal with this all the time and he really should put his ego in check. It was not a big deal. He would have none of it. Therefore, when she put his name onto my accounts, she also changed my name. Again, I was stunned. I was also conway-smith.

I am at fault here for not fighting for my identity. However, I married for life. I knew I could handle the little upsets that might come along with the name situation. Now, things are different. I do not like seeing his name on my things. It hurts. I do not like the feeling I get, knowing my husband is living with someone who decided my marriage was not as important as her wants. I want to be rid of the ‘Smith’ stuff. However, that is a personal issue. Right now, I just want my new driver’s license. This is a fight.

I arrived in the licensing office with the following: my current license, an expired passport (the latest one was in an envelope, headed to salt lake city for renewal), a federally issued photo ID, two bills (utility and trash) mailed to me, at my home address, my auto insurance card and policy, in my name, at my address. Armed for anything, I took a number and waited. They would not accept my ID.

I went back 3 days later, better armed. This time I was carrying 3 passports, including the one that had been in the envelope to be renewed. This office caused an urgency I had not experienced in a very long time. I also took my airline ID, federally issued, with my photo. I took my court photo ID, 4 bills, a letter from the IRS written to ME, at my home address, with my social security number, and my full name and they would not accept it.

I went 7 times. By now, the people recognize me by name. Nevertheless, they will not accept my ID. Finally, I won. They took my photo and sent me on my way, promising my new license would arrive by mail w/in a week. I was happy/sad. Happy to accomplish this, sad because I had given up trying to look good in my photo. The first time I had arrived straight from the hairdresser. Looking as good as was possible for my age. As the visits continued, I began doing less and less about my appearance, knowing that today was not going to be my day.

I decided whatever picture I had was fine. It was not. Nevertheless, I still felt good about the achievement. That feeling lasted 3 weeks. By then my license was long overdue. I had travelled to Florida to help my aunt Dot, with a flimsy little temporary license that caused much dismay to the airline screeners. Their dismay caused lots of searching on my personal being.

I had no license waiting when I returned. I began to fret. I started calling the licensing division. That’s fun. It is also fruitless. I scoured their website for information and actually found a link that says contact us here if you have not received your license! What foresight! I ‘clicked’ and wrote. I sent my full name, address, date of application, old license number, and state, last 4 digits of my social. 3 days later I got a note back informing me that I needed to send my name, address, last 4 digits, date of application, old license number AND new temp license number. Otherwise, no help for me. Incredible but people NEED jobs and without this time consuming effort on her part, she might not appear to be as employable. I found the last puzzle piece and sent the note back.

She wrote. She did not like my ID. I would not receive my license. Noooooooooooooooooooooo. I wrote again, begging, offering meals, trying to be her friend, trying to learn anything that might help me work through this latest glass ceiling. No good. She finally told me to go to the social security office, change my name, get a new card, then start the process again. Amazing. This is where we live. Amazing. They all know I am really ME. Nobody will make a decision.

Today I went back. I was fully armed. Now I carry things in a large overstuffed envelope. I learned online that the office has an ‘identification specialist’ who has the authority to make a decision.

I went to one of ‘my people’, asking for the identification specialist. She was very nice. Sorry to learn I had not gotten my license. She was also perplexed that I had actually corresponded with someone who could supposedly help. She questioned me about that frequently. I kept explaining exactly where to find it on THEIR website. I was getting nowhere. Then, I began to cry. Really cry. One year ago, my dad passed away. It has been on my mind. Maybe that spurred the tears but my frustration level over them refusing something so basic, simply because the person making the decision can ‘choose’ to ignore the obvious, has beaten me down. I need them. They do not need me. I do not want to break the law but I WILL drive. I MUST drive. I am alone. I need things. Driving is the answer.

Two men began to eves-drop and move in closer. The customer next to me dug out a Kleenex. By now, I was well into the ‘ugly cry’, no stopping me. Two more men, one who had helped me several times, became part of the ‘employee circle’. Everyone is questioning and trying to help. Finally, one man (maybe he was actually the Identification Specialist!) made the decision. I would get a license! I was beyond thrilled. I asked him out for drinks immediately! He had the good sense to ignore me.

Therefore, I am waiting for my new license to appear in the mail. I know what you are thinking: why would this time be any different? What makes me think it is actually going to be sent, when that ‘person’ is lying in wait to refuse me? I will tell you exactly why: because they took my picture again, because I looked like shit, because I had not washed my hair or put on make-up, because I had sobbed, let my nose run, and had a horribly red face. Yes, this license will come. This picture will follow me for years. Forget the name, forget the hassle, and forget the 8 trips to DOL. It is all about the picture. I have never looked worse in my life. One guy offered to take me to a beauty parlor across the street to let them ‘try to fix you up’. One of the male employees actually said “Alexa, (like we’re good friends), do you have any makeup in your car?” when ‘the picture guy’ got ready to take the picture, he looked at me and asked if I needed ‘a minute’. I was crying! I said ‘a minute’ would not do me a bit of good.

This license will arrive. I won!


I was raised by a cop. I was raised to know things are only black or white. Never grey, never beige. Black. White. Stop means STOP, not slow down. Criminals are the enemy. Rules are made to be followed.

You get the point.

My brother and I have borne the brunt of not coloring outside of the lines.

My aunt became a criminal, in her words, several years ago. Although she had prepared judiciously for retirement, she could no longer afford her medications. Except in Canada. She confessed to me several years ago that she had begun to purchase by mail, across country lines and was therefore, a criminal.

I have many friends who favor the legalization of marijuana. I am in favor too. I think once we legalize it, the government will start taxing the crap out of it, and maybe we can decrease the deficit. Maybe we won’t have the huge amount of pesticides being imported from Mexico, South America and the like. Maybe we can actually manufacture something in THIS country and not spend money importing. and…medical marijuana has made an impact on many lives. The very lives that would have gleefully prosecuted anyone who smoked pot next door. However, evidently those in great pain, or people who no longer wish to eat even, or people who have true anxiety problems, are benefited by marijuana. So, even your granddaddy can be a criminal. In my opinion, pot should be treated the same as alcohol and other drugs. Common sense. doesn’t mean criminal. My father would disagree.

I just opened something illegal.  I asked someone to get it for me. I knew I would love it. however, I didn’t access it for quite some time. Today I did. And I’m proud. And I’m thrilled with my personal freedom. If I am arrested or turned in, I have decided to finally take a public stand and go to trial.

I brought dishwasher soap across the border. ‘Cuff me Dano’.

I am an environmentalist from way back. our particular state outlawed detergents with certain ‘agents’ in them. Women all over this state tried to embrace the new soap. Unfortunately, it sucks. It does not get the food off of our dishes. I think it’s probably accurate to say that at least 98% of households have experienced the ‘new environmentally safe dishwasher soap’ because it’s the law. By now, we have all run out of the ‘other dangerous kind’. and, by now the higher majority of households have come to realize that the new stuff doesn’t get our dishes clean. We want to want to use it. It does not do the job we are paying it to do. We are sorry. ‘hands-up!’

My parents used to have a little dog named rocky. My dad always loved pets, especially dogs. He smuggled it into the house pretending it was a gift for our mom. Sneaky. My husband did the same thing one Christmas with a toaster.

my dad had no tolerance for anyone’s pet. that was the odd thing. heaven help the pet owner whose pet prints graced any part of my dad’s yard, car, sidewalk. dad would waste few seconds getting to the door to educate the pet owner. now, he had a dog. and he became a criminal.

for several years he took rocky everywhere. he tried valiantly to get his little white poodle into grocery stores, Disney world, busch gardens, movies. you name it, dad had his routine all worked out. carrying the dog straight to a young person he felt he could probably intimate he would suddenly assume that rocky had become invisible. when the employee would hesitantly point out the dog and tell my police officer father that animals were not allowed in the park, movie, airplane, grocery store, hardware store or planetarium, my dad would feign complete astonishment. “you don’t mean HIM, do you?” to the hapless employee, now caught in a web. then the sales job would start. never worked. they feared for their jobs more than they did for a story they probably heard 300 times a day. service animals only, no exceptions. if my dad were allowed to have a pet today, he would have managed to get it certified as a service animal, just to get his way.

poor rocky was the victim here. dad would walk him back to the car, in the summer heat, and leave him there. criminal.

when we were in Alabama for part of his military career, a next-door neighbor commented that he got his cigarettes at the PX. dad was infuriated. the man next door was a civilian. only military personnel can purchase on base. I was not allowed to play with my neighbor’s daughter anymore. somehow, the criminal had rubbed off on the 4th grader.

I have seen people walking their dogs unleashed. I don’t remember when I last lived where there was no leash law. normally, the law says something along the lines of “animal must be under your complete control at all times”. when I walk in our hills, I come across many dogs, loose. you slow down, hoping for a human to round the bend, hoping the dog you’ve just encountered is friendly. once the owner shows, he or she immediately assures you that THEIR precious would never hurt a fly–perhaps just lick you to death. common phrase for the circumstance. if the dog begins jumping on you, they smile and laugh, letting you know that THIS means their precious LIKES you. how lucky is this? your clothes aren’t nearly as important as the acceptance by a random animal, running loose. these people are almost without exception, wonderful people in general. nonetheless, criminals.

I am unable to get my driver’s license renewed. It’s enough to lose my good humor. I started trying about 7 weeks ago. They didn’t like my name. I have a big name. lots of letters and words. Hard for most to spell without asking. And, then I got married. It gave me my 5th name. holy crap.

When my husband and I got to Oregon, we went to get new licenses. Rule followers. Don’t wanna be criminals. The young lady behind the counter pointed out that our last names were not the same, even though we were obviously married. My husband and I exchanged smiling glances and explained we were newlyweds. When she handed me my license, I was shocked to see that she had added his last name to my license. I didn’t ask. She hadn’t asked. He didn’t ask. She did something criminal. She had no proof I was married. She had no proof my name had changed. She thought she was doing something nice and because of that, I hated to hurt her feelings by asking her to change it. I also hated to hurt my husband’s pride by appearing to refuse his name.

Now, I have no official name changing documents with which to get my drivers license. I had never officially changed my name anywhere. The bureau here required several types of ID. Bear in mind, I was not required to take a test, an eye exam, or do anything other than exchange one license for another. I was surprised because I expected a test. I would happily take one if it meant I could get a license. Because my license said I had an ‘extra’ name, they refused to allow me to be identified. They refused 3 passports, a court ID, a federally issued airline ID, 5 bills mailed to my home, in my name, a letter from the IRS to me, at my listed address, any number of credit cards, my auto insurance card…. Nothing was good enough to get a drivers license. Now, my license has expired. I am driving around with a very flimsy piece of paper, giving me a bit more time. The bureau has informed me that I need to have social security verify my identity, then I can re-start the process. Sounds simple enough but then I thought that the first time I went to get my new driver’s license. Right now I have been made to feel I’m a criminal and although I’ll continue using the dish washing soap, I’m not ready to be identified by the govt division of drivers licensing as a criminal. I’m jumping through hoops just as fast as I can buy them. what scares me so much now is that social security doesn’t think I ever changed my name. so, their record is not going to match this driver’s license. I’m frightened to pieces. Nothing else is ever going to match this Oregon license.

I think dad needs to put me in the car.

are relationships built on suffering or friendship? does one lead to the other?

This season mostly cars and coyotes have hit the deer hard. as more and more housing is pushed onto former farmland, too many cars are on the road where once a slow country road existed.

I have always enjoyed watching the wildlife in my yard. It’s such a treat to be able to observe so many things and learn from nature.

a few weeks ago a neighbor called me. as we chatted she said, “I’ve seen too many dead bambi’s this year, hit by cars down our hill.” I concurred and we wondered aloud how the mother deer cope when this happens. oddly, you don’t really put our emotions into wildlife. they are animals. they are wild. they don’t talk to us about feelings so I guess we often decide they don’t have feelings, other than physical pain.

this season we had 2 moms with new babies. a young doe who had one bambi and another doe, a year older, who had twins. I’ve written about watching the babies all play and challenge each other in my yard, mom’s letting them get the lessons they will need, but close enough to protect if necessary.

one day, all of us noticed another young bambi, lying beside the road, hit by a car. you can’t help but feel sad. the deer were always here. the builders have put up fences, forcing the deer onto a curved road, on a hill. a recipe for disaster and disaster is met repeatedly.

we wondered to whom the bambi belonged. I learned very quickly that our doe that only had the one baby this year was now alone. that was difficult. what I watched unfold made it worse. the doe who had the twins would not allow this young mother to be around now. whereas they used to all be in the yard together, now the mom with the twins would run the other doe away. I felt so bad for that mom who had just lost her bambi.

putting my emotions into a wild animal. I know better. I admit freely that I have no clue if the mom even remembers her baby was killed. I have no clue.

watching this kept haunting me. finally, I realized I was remembering a mean neighbor from my childhood. she was just plain unpleasant. I told my mom about her and my mom just told me to ignore the woman but to stay out of her yard so she wouldn’t have any reason to complain. all of the kids in the neighborhood knew she was a meanie. we talked about her as we passed her house, some of the boys were taunting, showing they were brave.

we heard that she was pregnant. Well, that seemed weird. she hated kids; why would she want to  be a mother? this turn of events completely stymied our innocence. a few months later I overheard my mom talking to another neighbor. they were planning to take some food over to this ladies’ house. that night my mom explained that the woman had miscarried. I really didn’t comprehend that, I was in 5th grade. my mom explained that the neighbor wasn’t pregnant anymore and that actually her baby had died. then she told me more: this was the 4th time this same lady had lost a baby. my mom told me that several of our neighbors kept their distance from this woman over the years and that bothered my mother. she explained that sometimes when someone in your life has severe heartache, people pull away. almost as if you can ‘catch’ that heartache if you get too close.

everyone felt sorry for her but I was still angry over the way she had treated me and my friends for over a year. why would she want kids if she was mean to all of them?

my mom became a friend to this neighbor. she told me later to always try to look inside people more, to understand why they act the way that they do. she told me that I would probably find a really good reason and it was probably something to do with personal pain.

the neighborhood rallied to this neighbors side. they took turns bringing food because she was still in bed. it turned out that she would not have the opportunity ever again to have a baby. everyone felt sad about her pain. everyone did things to try to comfort her and her husband. when she finally began to venture out, the neighborhood went out of their way to encourage her. through such severe pain she gained friendships and support she had missed before. my mom said people were feeling guilty, trying to make up for their attitudes toward this lady for so many years. sometimes pain brings people closer, even though that pain is what pushed them away in the first place.

I thought about her over the years, wondering how her life turned out. again, I was a kid, still learning that not everyone has a baby just because they plan.

yesterday I saw the doe. as I watched, I saw one bambi. I went onto my deck, looking for the other. they can hide so easily. then I saw another deer. I still saw no bambi. just the one, missing the twin. that was when I realized that we had lost another bambi. I’d been hearing lots of coyotes the last couple of nights. this disturbed me so much that I stayed on my deck for about 15 mins but the twin never showed.

today I saw the doe again, with the lone bambi. I saw the other doe too. I watched because she had not been allowed in the yard since she lost her baby. now I had 3 deer, one a baby and 2 adults. as I watched, both of the mothers began to walk toward the bambi. I knew someone was in for it. then, together, the two older deer began to wash and groom the little ‘left-over’ bambi. both of them. I was astonished. somehow there was no longer animosity between these two mothers. I continued to watch, mesmerized. then, the bambi began to lick the mom, then the ‘other mom’. it was beautiful. the three survivors. I no longer knew which mom was which.

maybe the mom who had the twins had been threatened by the mom whose baby was lost. I don’t have any way of  knowing. you can’t put human emotions onto wildlife. I just know that today, the two moms who had lost a child each were able to co-exist again.  I guess it was their way of bringing food over to the house, offering comfort and support.

sometimes it takes true pain to give birth to friendship. sometimes you feel it’s ok to allow someone in if they have suffered in a way you can understand. of course, you can’t give human feelings to wildlife.

Vanity. What IS your name, exactly?

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about vanity lately. I had to get a new driver’s license. I have gained weight. I’m certainly older. until this license, all of my photos have actually been pretty flattering. I knew better this time. I see pictures of myself and cringe. how did THIS happen? I have lots of reasons but no excuses.

When I was ‘young’, I watched older people (the ones who are my age now) and thought the dumbest things: why doesn’t she put lotion on her legs?, why didn’t he/she comb the back of their head?, why do you always poke along, needed to look at everything?, why would you wear those shoes if they aren’t comfy?

what I was basically thinking was “who cares, you’re old, everyone can see that”. naturally, I’m ashamed. I thought I was better raised than to have such thoughts.

I wish someone had smacked me one. but, I have the answers to those questions now.

because you can’t reach your legs anymore. because you have dried out sooooo much that it doesn’t matter how many gallons of lotion you use, you will absorb it in record time and be scaly by the time you need to dress.

because you don’t see the back of your head, because you don’t remember the back of your head, because you don’t CARE about the back of your head, because your arms don’t work well in the position needed to comb the back of your head.

because you enjoy looking at so many things you didn’t bother with when you were busy. because you recognize you are on the side of life that will be less than it has, and you want to see what you can. because you are older and it takes longer to do everything.

because even though they are uncomfortable, you want to fit in, because you want to look nicer than if you wear your regular shoes, because you want to appear better dressed, even at your age because you want SOMEONE you care about to be pleased with your appearance

I have finally realized that no matter our age, we are all vain. we all want to be accepted. we all want to fit in somehow.

being insecure isn’t just for the young. we watch our children go through phases of needing to dress just like the people they most admire. we watch them needing to fit with people we know they won’t care about later in life. we watch them become part of groups to feel a family away from home.

when I started kindergarten, we lived in Louisville, Kentucky. During the winter my mom made me wear the dreaded snow suit.  the one that prevented movement of any type from any limb. we had lived in Germany for 3 years so I had several of them. when I finally managed to get out the door without that, I was in jeans, lined with soft flannel. they had an elastic waist and she bought them long so that they could be rolled up while I grew into them. that meant they had the checked red and blue flannel showing. I was mortified. I looked like a little kid! most of my schoolmates were 6. I was 5. I felt like a dork.

think about that. at the age of 5, I felt like a dork. like I didn’t belong or fit in.

I attended high school in 2 countries, 4 different cities. one per year. it was daunting. each time we relocated, I had to retrofit myself for the next clothing trend. it was never something that carried over from school to school. I was constantly playing catch-up.

fortunately, I began a career as a flight attendant when I was 22. I learned so much about myself and self-esteem. no longer did I care if people thought I fit in. I didn’t need to. I was my own person, living internationally, dressing perfectly because I saw constant fashion change on my flights and layovers. I didn’t need a group. I didn’t need to blend. I didn’t need to wear certain things for appearance sake.

the older I’ve become, the more I have recognized how we are viewed by kids. naturally, they believe we were raised in covered wagons. I certainly thought that of my parents. and naturally, they don’t know why we fuss about appearance. we’re old. how could anyone care about OUR appearance?

my aunt is in her late 80’s. she is such a keeper. I see in her all of the very same issues. she wants to look nice all the time. she wants to wear style over comfort when she leaves home. she wants her hair to be perfect and she takes forever to accomplish anything. she has earned everything and has a right to do things her way, finally.

I am much more patient now. my kids don’t get it at all. they look at me and their dad and see two old people. one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel, as my brother would say. they have no clue we are them. they have no idea they are us. I guess you have to get old to get that part of the lesson.

careful kids: your time is coming.

meanwhile, I would give just about anything to find a pair of comfy, elastic waisted flannel- lined jeans.

plan ahead, flight attendant able

well, I just can’t stand it. I need every flight attendant I can find because we are the only people on earth who will completely ‘get this’.

I’m talking “packing for your trip”.

I know all of us can go anywhere for 14 days with one bag and a tote or garment bag. our layover bags used to have some extras to make our lives better. (dinosaur alert!)

a plug-in ‘heating coil’ to heat hot water for coffee, tea, soups, broths. a few of us carried some sort of exercise band or something that took no space, weighed nothing, and we could possibly exercise in our rooms. we would have a spare set of undies and sox or stockings, our overnight bath items, our own shampoo, conditioner and hair dryer, probably a camera, a set of clothes for the layover, possibly a 2nd set if the trip was long. shoes. medicines, possibly a game, an IPOD or similar gadget, possibly a bathing suit. if not, then gloves, scarves, a sweater.we would be able to mix and match several different outfits in order to make our packing more efficient.

point being: we had everything we needed. we are VERY good at packing essentials, extras and personal extras into one bag. I think most of us would agree is it something of a source of pride to us. most people seriously overpack.

so, please. imagine for a moment that you were here, watching this tv show. commercial starts: “do you know how to handle those travel times when you are trying to eat healthy?” they show an attractive woman, packing a flight bag. they continue to drone: ‘remember that broiling or using nonstick cookware is important, as well as having ready snacks so you aren’t tempted to eat on the run.’ as they say this, she is picking up a small skillet. then, she grabs a bag of fruit (BAG of fruit), a coffee grinder, a bag of coffee beans, 2 cutting boards, 3 bottles of spices, and a cookbook. as she begins loading all of this crap into a suitcase, they point out that the utensils can be washed and used for a next meal (yes, she packed utensils and serving items). they continue explaining how much healthier they will eat and how much money will be saved by simply ‘planning ahead’.

they are shown reaching their hotel. oh, I know! it wasn’t just ONE person, it was TWO!!  that news caught me by surprise too. so, this man and this woman enter their hotel bedroom and he puts the one bag on their bed and she drops the tote. yep. they have a kitchen in their suitcase, plus all of THEIR stuff!

one bag, one tote.

and we thought we could pack. are you as ashamed as I?

and people always thought we were dumb. I wonder why Madison Avenue still thinks everyone else is dumb?

on death and dying

I’m not certain how easily this will come out. it’s about my mom, who passed, and the ramifications of one incident.

my mom was very very ill with alzheimers. she had not been ‘there’ for about 9 years. it was heartrending. she had been brilliant, exercised daily, worked 15 acres with my dad and used her mind. but, a gene is a gene. her dad had alzheimers. it’s all over my family. my brother and I wait and watch.

I had flown down to florida several times because she was not doing well. I live in Washington state, so the trip is daunting. but, when they call, you fly.

if you are familiar with alzheimers disease, you know that their faces become ‘wizened’, slack and empty. she had been this way for years, not knowing me, not knowing her husband, her sister, her son. she was gone except for being in such excellent physical shape. it took longer than expected for her to draw her last breath.

I was so accustomed to her appearance. I knew my mom wasn’t there anymore. we were so damned close. she and I had conquered mountains together. she is responsible for my wonderful smile and great sense of humor, among other things. I was also lucky enough to inherit her legs.

we had a pact: if ever, in any way, she could reach me afterwards, she would. we both believed it possible but had no proof because you never really see that happen.

when I got to the hospital, the family was with her. I went over, kissed her and whispered “hi mom. I’m sorry it took me so long but I’m here now. I’ll help you.”

as those words left my lips, the nurse began barking orders. my mom was going. right now. she was DNR and I said that loudly as the nurse ordered a cart. then the order was given to move my mom to another location. a room where family could be with her, less of a hospital nature. they were hurrying. I was walking alongside her, holding her hand, looking intently into her eyes, this woman who gave me everything in life I cherish.

I talked to her, explaining that we were moving to another room and trying to connect with a brain that had long since vanished.

the most amazing person took her place. I was suddenly entranced. my mother had become an absolute beauty. she and I locked eyes. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing but I refused to look away, even for a second for fear it would vanish. my mother was just beautiful. no longer the wrinkled, blank body she had been for so many years. this woman was breathtakingly beautiful, looking at me with such love. I can’t explain this better. I just kept talking to her. I told her how beautiful she was. she just looked at me, intently. I knew she knew. I knew I knew. I was looking at a soul. I have not had such an experience prior. I’ve known when people passed away and I’ve had warnings of it and even short visits as they transition. this was the most spectacular vision I have ever experienced. she was vibrant and lovely. this moment lasted for about 3 minutes. I never let my gaze change. I was enthralled.

we got her to the new room and she became ‘mom’ again. I was not fooled. I realized I had seen her soul and I would never forget the privilege.

I know when someone passes, the only real tragedy is for those left behind. we grieve. we miss having that person. but. I know for a fact that our bodies are just a ‘thing’ for our souls to use. seeing my mother that day taught me so much. I don’t grieve in the same way.  when someone passes away, I easily recognize that only their soul has moved, their body has stopped and they continue elsewhere.

I am lucky to have learned that. I am at an age when death and dying are a normal experience. I have few relatives left. aunts, uncles, parents, are leaving the planet in increasing numbers. knowing so well that they have only left HERE is a huge help to me. I have seen the soul. I know the soul. I know it continues. and I know it gives only love.

I just felt the need to finally share that.

there is more to our story. I might begin sharing that as well.

thanks mom. I love you. I miss your presence. I hope you are having a ball.