Do You Suffer from Too Much Stim?

4837735360_644ed14665_ohref=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/40936370@N00/4837735360/”>Abode of Chaos</a> via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>h

Are You Unnerved by Too Much Stim?  Take This Test to Find Out.

  1. Your dear friends invite you and another couple to a small dinner party.

a. You can’t wait because you love being with good friends, and you enjoy eating great food.

b. You look for an excuse not to go.

c. You never received the invitation because you and your crowd are all forty-ish, and you don’t do dinner parties at home. When you entertain at home, you offer drinks, snacks, more drinks, more snacks, and dessert.

2. When you arrive at your friends’ home you hear the strains of music coming from their stereo or hi fi or whatever the heck we used to call that thing that plays (ahem) records. The music you hear is jazz. It is very loud jazz.

a. You start snapping your fingers and saying things like “Groovy, man, groovy!”

b. Your upper lip starts going numb, which your doctor assured you is a sign of stress.

c. You say, “Thanks, I’ll have a white wine,” while you’re still wearing your coat.

3.The drinks are poured; the hors d’oeuvres are luscious and:

a. The conversation flows; everyone (including you) is bright and witty.

b. The conversation flows; everyone (but you) appears to be bright and witty.

c. You smile, nod appreciatively, and when someone asks you, “What do you think?” you answer, “Yes, I have a new shrink.”

People who can’t do “Too Much Stim” have given the following answers:
Question One: a\
Question Two: b and/or c
Question Three b and/or c.

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Glad Tidings

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This blog post is for my friend, Katie, who asked me to write about glad….not sad, bad, or mad.

We’ll start with just a speck of “sad.

Last week the deck outside my kitchen was a sad place. There were no birds and no pesky squirrels. That’s because I stopped putting out water in my bird baths. I didn’t have any bird food out either. I stopped putting it out three years ago when there was a bear on our block. I stopped the bird food at that time because I was afraid of bears coming for it, breaking into my kitchen,  fighting me for my tuna fish sandwich, and finding the chocolate chip cookies I had hidden in the back of the pantry for my late night visitor, the elves.

At that time I discovered that I could bring birds to my deck with just water in two plant saucers and I didn’t need to put out bird food.  Throughout the summer and most of the fall I was really good about cleaning and refreshing the water in my saucers, but when the cold weather came, I stopped.

I got lazy. My leg hurt. I went to doctors, took tests, and got a tentative diagnosis of a muscle strain(? ),tear(?), and of course, the usual arthritis. During this time, I kvetched and canceled my annual Thanksgiving gathering. I was busy worrying about myself. Trust me. I was not worrying about birds or those pesky squirrels.

But, do not despair. Here comes the “glad” part of this tale.

Gladness starts with my family. My daughter came and after we joked about it possibly being my “last Thanksgiving,” under my tutelage, she cooked our traditional hot clam dip, carrot pudding, cracker stuffing, and cranberry relish. She left some for me, and took the rest to her beloved in-laws in Connecticut with my blessing. This was one year I did not want her to split the day by driving two hours each way to sit at two Thanksgiving tables. I knew she would feel as much at home at her husband’s childhood home as she did at our house…probably more so because her mother-in-law is probably much nicer and doesn’t pry, like I do. As usual, the fathers on both sides are perfect and can do nothing wrong. Moving along…

All my traditional guests (family and friends) found places to go and all invited Jerome and me. Gail sent over some turkey, her famous corn pudding, sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce. Everyone wanted us or wanted to cook for us.  I chose to stay home because if I had gone to one person’s house I would have been in trouble with the others.

People, even those who did not traditionally come to me for Thanksgiving, called and asked how I was doing.

Now, about the birds. Guess who came to their rescue? You got it. Jerome, the Great and Good! Off he went to the garage, and he found an old bird feeder and some bird food that we had stored in one of those metal holiday cans.  He put the food in the feeder and hung it from the tree. He cleaned and refreshed my dry birdy water parks with clear warm water. He poured a different kind of bird seed (thistle) on an old cookie tray and anchored the tray on a small table with a rock.

Looking out at my deck this morning, I saw the essence of glad. I saw my birds in total ecstasy. Tufted titmice, chickadees, white throated sparrows, juncos, cardinals, bluejays, Carolina wrens, hairy woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, red bellied woodpeckers, and a mockingbird were fluttering around my deck, eating, drinking, swimming, chirping, and singing. It was like they had licked postage stamps of LSD! And those darn squirrels? Ah yes! They were right back to their insane scampering, jumping, and humping each other.

Joy was restored. Life is good. I’m glad to be alive. I’m glad I have my family, my friends, my leg pains, my birds, and even those damn squirrels. I’ll take Glad anytime, and I’ll cherish it!

 

 

 

 

 

The Next Writing Adventure

Hello Friends,

Please give me six “I” bullet points and then I’ll come back to “You.”

  1. I finished my book and self-published it in October.
  2. I was proud beyond belief.
  3. I did what I thought I couldn’t do.
  4. I goofed off in November,—wrote nothing—but thought about lots of stuff.
  5. Now, I’m  for my next writing adventure.
  6. I don’t know what it will be.

Now, back to “You.”

I want to write with much more of an awareness of “you,” my readers. I’m not sure if my new writing will be sad, glad, mad, or bad. (those pesky words are for you, writing teachers)  I’m just going to write, and see where it takes me. I hope you return to my blog and find stuff that touches you.

Also, there’s the other thing… the second book????????????????????  Ten mainstream publishers are engaged in a bidding war on it now. I’m waiting to see who gives me the largest advance. My agent is also negotiating for international distribution.

Please do not make the mistake some of my earlier readers (my wonderful cousins) made. I once wrote that someone had bought my short story for $75,000.00—and they believed me!

I love my cousins. See ya soon.

Getting Your Child Off to a Successful First Day of School: People to Thank

Looking out my living room window at the kids and their parents waiting for the school bus, I am remembering my own first days—as a parent, and as a teacher. No one has asked, but I am prepared to say, “Thank these folks.”

  • School Staff who are also parents of young kids: Many of them left their own kids in the hands of spouses, grandparents, and neighbors so they could be there for your kids.
  • Those wonderful spouses, grandparents, and neighbors who stepped up for all working parents.
  • The Boss who said, “It’s OK to come in late. Bring in photos!
  • The municipal workers who protected my child.
  • Your school’s: aides, nurses, social workers, office staff, janitors, bus drivers, crossing guards, and those truly wonderful cafeteria ladies.
  • The school’s administrators, who got about an hour of sleep last night, if they were lucky.
  • Your school’s teachers who are experiencing “the longest day” of the school year and who will arrive home absolutely exhausted. Somebody please bring in a pizza for them. For some teachers, it may be just the reverse. For them it will be “the shortest day” because they so over-planned, and the time flew by, and they couldn’t accomplish all they planned. They should get a pizza too.
  • Here are two additional categories of teachers to thank on the first day:
    • Smiling teachers. They could be the best teacher your child ever had.
    • Non-smiling teachers: They could be the best teacher your child ever had.

Parents, you won’t know yet. Give everybody a chance!

  • Finally, anyone in the school community who “parented” any child who nervously waited on line or walked through those big doors that day. Believe me, every school has many of these wonderful people. They are the folks who supply a change of clothes for a wet child, and a comforting arm around the trembling shoulder of a frightened child. These “mama’s and “papa’s” are also the ones who make sure every child has a costume for Halloween; a warm coat, mittens and boots for the winter, and (about fifteen years later) a cap and gown, and maybe even a tux or a  dress for a high school prom.

Parent, you thought I was going to forget. Thank yourselves too! You have done a wonderful job!

This retired teacher wishes everyone a wonderful school year!

Marketing for Seniors. Should You Memorize Your Pitch?

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Here are some things I learned to memorize long ago. Try them. See if you can add a few words.

  • My country tis of thee…
  • Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow…..
  • My name is Ozymandias, ________________g of ____________gs.
  • We the people………………………………..

How did you do? I bet you did just fine.

What do these ancient memories have to do with the title of this post? Read on.

Well, as I mentioned on my last post, I have written a book.  Now I’m expected to market this book. Actually I should have been marketing my book for at least the past ten years, but I couldn’t because I was too busy writing it.

So, along comes Rosie-Come-Lately to the new world of Marketing and Promotion. Ten years ago, I learned the words, elevator pitch. I needed to “pitch” my book  (to an important person) in the time it takes for an elevator to go from the third floor to the first floor.

So, let’s just pretend I get into an elevator with Ms. Gatekeeper of  the Biggest Publishing Company. Ahem! I curtsey to her, bow my head, kiss her toes, and cast my eyes downward, with reverence. Of course she doesn’t know I have been stalking her, and have planned this elevator pitch like Eisenhower planned the invasion at Normandy. I have thirty seconds to tell her what my book is about.

She says, “Good Morning.”

I say, “I have a book.”

Then Ms. Gatekeeper says, “Oh please tell me about it.” Actually she says “Oh sh–! How do I find these people?”

Then, I lick my lips and say, “My book is about (we pass the third floor) and then I (we pass the second floor). “Oh yeah,” I mumble, “I forgot to say it’s a memoir, and, and, and (she walks out of the elevator doors and into her waiting limo). I stand there in the lobby, trying to catch my breath.

So, I go back home and practice rewriting my pitch. I have written at least 4356, drafts of this one paragraph pitch. Book writing is a cinch compared to writing and delivering an elevator pitch.

I write another copy and this time, instead of stalking Ms. Gatekeeper, I decide to take it to my own unique audience, my fellow seniors. There is a Senior Fair here in Rockland County New York where I live. I go from table to table pitching my story and offering to speak to groups of seniors about some of the themes in my book that we all share. Again, because I am nervous, I flubber all over myself, can’t get the words out, and feel like a total failure.

Amazingly, they all want me!!! I think there is something about my words, “For Free! No Charge!” that ingratiates me with my tribe.

Every day in this book publishing trip, is a learning day for me. Now, I have decided that the key to delivering my pitch is to memorize it. Yeah sure. So I print it out, stick it on the fridge, and start memorizing it, sentence by sentence, word by word. I walk around my kitchen trying to memorize and make my morning coffee at the same time. Mistake. The milk goes in the dish cabinet, the spoon goes in the fridge, and the pot is turned on before I put in the coffee.

Long ago, I could memorize, thanks to my dear teachers.

Now it’s a different story.  I’m sure if you are a senior and I ask you to finish this sentence, you will be able to do it. “I remember what I did fifty years ago, but I ___________________________!”

Of course, you got it right!

So. as a public service, I’ll save you the trouble of listening to me fumble my way through my pitch.  I invite you to read it here…for free!

Here’s my elevator pitch for my book.

“My book Still Playing in the Dirt is my memoir that begins in my childhood and continues to today. Each chapter is about my search for serenity in the world of nature.  My problem, however, is that most times instead of finding serenity in the outdoors, I have found stress, usually due to my own ineptitude. If you are looking for a serious guide to camping, fishing and birdwatching, this book is not it. However, if you are looking at how a woman uses these nature experiences to make us laugh and cry about the common concerns we all share like belonging, parenting, yearning, and aging, then— this is your book.”

Like the kindergarteners who starts school on the first day with his name, address and phone number printed on a  card , safety pinned to his first- day- of- school shirt,  I am going to carry  a card with my elevator pitch on it, but for sure, I will use large print.

Thanks for riding the elevator with me.

How to Gain Weight and Exercise Your Brain at the Same Time!

Photo Credit: Boogies with Fish via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Boogies with Fish via Compfight cc 

In my earlier post, I said my brain was frozen during the summer.  But only part of that was true. So let’s move on to the subject of Neurology and the Brain.

As The Nothing Expert, I am qualified to write about the brain because I have one. Now that I have your attention, let me just say that my brain does not work like the brain of a millennial. I cannot multi-task. I’m lucky if I can do one teeny, tiny task at a time, and then for mental reinforcement, I munch on some chips, and dip.

In 1955 in our fourth grade class, I wrote the script for a puppet show, and then I decided that someday I would “Write a Book.”

When I was sixty, I started my book, and it only took me ten years to write it.

Then millions of people told me “Ha. Ha. You cannot publish a book without a platform and billions of followers. Get a platform.”

A platform means followers, billions of followers, even some from outer space.

And so, I put the book away, and decided to seek followers, on Facebook, Twitter, and on this blog.

Along the way I met some very wonderful people and I have enjoyed their blogs, comments, and our shared conversations. I still don’t get Twitter, and I’m past the point of caring how I screw up on Facebook.

But I have not been a good girl this summer. I have failed to write in my blog and I have failed to comment on other people’s blogs. I beg for your forgiveness, if you are one of my followers.

That’s because I have been working on my book, again. You cannot just write “The End,” on your last page and then say “OK World, Come and get It!”

Actually, I have been learning how to publish the book. Now if we break that up into steps, I would say that publishing a book takes about a zillion steps, all of them new for an old broad like me. And I can only concentrate on one step at a time, or I will get frazzled, eat too much, and gain 25 pounds of flesh, in my thighs.

So, who had time for writing? Not me.

Also, I never mentioned the book because somewhere in the zillions of publishing pointers, there was a warning on “shameless self-promotion.”

So, I am going to try to do the unheard of “Walk and Chew Gum” at the same time. In the coming weeks I am going to work on a few more steps, all at once! Along the way, I will tell you more about the book, but I will try to do it in a way that isn’t shameless self-promotion. 

Now where is that butter pecan ice cream? I’m spent.

Summer Brain Freeze

Photo Credit: Artotem via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Artotem via Compfight cc

Am I the only one?

My thinking brain functions about two or three hours a day, and then it stops. Those hours are at dawn. If I don’t use my brain during that very short window of opportunity, I am in deep doo-doo. This spring and summer, I admit, my thinking brain has been asleep. My non-thinking brain has enjoyed summer reading, playing, vacationing, entertaining, cooking, eating, entertaining, imbibing and a big fat bunch of crying on the bathroom scale.

As a human, I find there are many acts which require thinking, and this realization often leads to conflict. Writing is one of those thinking activities.  I often say, “Rose, you nitwit! You have not blogged for almost two months! You should get a flogging for not blogging!”

Then I made the mistake of writing the first draft of this blog yesterday at four in the afternoon, a time when my brain was not working. Here is what I wrote about my failure to blog:

Every author of every self- help book about blogging castigates those profligates like me who allow our gray matter to ooze out of our skulls like magma and harden over us like the poor souls of Pompeii who were permanently hardened during the eruption of Vesuvius…

Now, dear reader, I had great fun writing that sentence; and no, I don’t want to revise it two thousand times. I am seventy years old, and I just don’t want to! Period!

Ah, that was so freeing!

(Please forgive me. I’ll be so sorry I published this when I read it during my optimum brain time tomorrow at dawn.) Right now I’m going back to sitting and staring out at my deck at the robins and the bluejays as they fight over my bird bath. It’s my window of opportunity to do just that.

My Search for the Red Phantom

Photo Credit: budandjackie via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: budandjackie via Compfight cc

Sixty years ago I saw my first scarlet tanager. I was ten.

I was sitting outside “in the country,” and I don’t know what made me look up, but there was the most beautiful bird I had ever seen.  I called it a “real bird” because it was different than the plain brown birds I was accustomed to seeing. A “real bird” was the kind of bird I only saw in the Golden Guides my parents bought for me.

The scarlet tanager was in a tulip tree. The tulip tree was a “real tree” which I had also recently identified from my tree books. The days of pouring over those books were finally paying off.

I don’t know how long the gorgeous red bird graced me with his presence, but I do know that at the age of ten, it was one of the most joyous experiences of my life.  It was the day my hobby was born. After that day, and for the next sixty years I searched for another scarlet tanager and another tulip tree. The tulip trees were easy. I saw many of them.

But the scarlet tanager quest was unfulfilled.

The sad part of the story is I admit, “I am the worst birder in the entire world.” On Audubon outings when I am on my best game, and I can see color, I can identify birds that are close up. On outings when I am on my regular game, I can confuse pigeons with bald eagles.  I have learned to laugh at myself and have tried to educate myself. Even though I am “the worst birder,” I love being outdoors, being silent, and absorbing the sights and sounds of nature into my soul.

No scarlet tanager. How can that be? The bird books says he (the bright red male with black wings) is up there, but hard to find. Hard to find! I wonder how many other scarlet tanager searchers have been seeking the red phantom for sixty years? I am supposed to listen for him. Well, I mix up all my bird vocalizations, much as I try to work on improving my sightings.

I’m sure if I asked for help, from the many wonderful birding guides I’ve known over the years, I might have seen my tanager decades ago. But I didn’t. Mine was a private desire, lingering in my psyche for so many years—my tanager was becoming my holy grail.

(Of course, between my cataracts, retina surgery, touch of macular degeneration, hearing problems, perhaps I should be given a bird watching handicap…I don’t know what that is, but I know golfers get one) Oh well, I digress.

So the other morning I’m just sitting at my kitchen table and looking out to my deck where I have a bird bath (a plant saucer with two rocks in it for balance) and guess what! There, sitting on the edge of the plant saucer and leaning in to sip the water, is my scarlet tanager—the bird I have not seen in sixty years!

The last time I saw him, I was wearing plaid Bermuda shorts, a sleeveless shirt, and red or blue Keds sneaks. I probably went into the house and ate a tuna fish sandwich on white Wonder Bread, cut in squares by my mother. Maybe I cooed to my brother sleeping in his crib. If it was a Sunday, maybe my father was there reading the travel section of the paper and eating bread and butter, or maybe borscht.

That’s why, the other day, when I saw the scarlet tanager, I cried, hard.

It took me a long time to recover, and I was glad I was alone. I thought “No one will understand.”

But I do hope you will.

And, my scarlet tanager? I don’t know where he is now. But I am hoping he will drop in again.

Magnolia Tree with Empty Nesters

magnoliaThe month of May makes me remember springtime in the 60’s, high school cheerleading days. This blog post is dedicated to cheerleaders and their coaches.  You should be sorry you didn’t pick me! Actually, I never even tried out in high school in the sixties. I was not ergonomically designed to be a bouncy cheerleader; perhaps if there were a team for professional seat sitters, I might have qualified.

Anyway, let’s fast forward to springtime in about 1977. A grown woman with two children now, I had the house (no more apartment 33B!); the magnolia tree in the front yard (can you believe?) and its zillions of fallen magnolia petals on our lawn (my lawn? me?) and our walkway (uh oh…slippery when wet…possible lawsuit?)

Add my son, who was three at the time, and now let’s add a bunch of his able-bodied contemporaries. I gave each of them a brown bag, and I guess you know where I am going with this story. “Ready! Set! Go!”  I cheered. I jumped!  I clapped! I might have even done a few cartwheels. My team of three year olds scampered and gathered, scampered and gathered, and emerged… VICTORIOUS! Their bags were full of magnolia petals, and my lawn and walkway were petal free!

So, if you read this, and you were a cheerleader, I hope you realize that my not being on your team was…your loss! Nah nah nah nah nah nah!

I’m sure I awarded my victorious team of petal baggers with something—probably ice cream. We were just on the cusp of the healthy snack movement in those days of the late 1970’s.

But those days were long ago. Now, my magnolia tree still stands on my front lawn and its petals still fall. I took this picture of it yesterday. I sweep the petals off the walkway so no one will fall if it rains. The petals on the lawn will decompose with time.

A Swinging Neighborhood

Photo Credit: arctia via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: arctia via Compfight cc

There’s my block and then there’s the other block. They have lots of little kids. No kids live on my block, anymore. They’ve all grown and moved away.  I wonder if my neighbors call my block, “Old People Land.”

I love nature and birds, and I have always kept my yard natural. Jerome, the Great and Good, has put our brush in the back of our yard for years. If I were to pick up any book about attracting birds to the yard, having a brush pile would be the first suggestion. I put water out and it attracts many birds and I suspect, some stealthy nocturnal raccoons too.

When my young neighbors moved in to the other block ( Young People Land) about four or five years ago, they put in a swing set near the back of their property. Their property touches the back of my land. One day, I looked out from my deck and I noticed my elm tree was dead. It had probably been dead for years, but honestly I never noticed it until the old widow moved out and the young family moved in.  My tree was right over their swing set. Terrified, I called the tree company the same day, and arranged to have the tree removed.

I left the stump of the tree, however. I thought it would be a great place to sit, or put a natural container garden, or a rock sculpture. I found serenity in my natural looking backyard.

My neighbor called one day, and said he was taking down some trees on his property, and he asked if he could remove the stump from mine. Not knowing what else to say, I said, “Thanks.”

His swing sets got bigger and brighter. Vivid plastic colors of red, yellow and blue stood next to my brown and gray brush pile. He added a basketball net on a blue, white and red plastic pedestal.

One day I got a call from him. He was very polite when he asked me about cleaning up my brush pile. He blamed “the mess” on my lawn guy who, he said, “Never cleaned the back of my property.” My neighbor felt I would want to know that my brush pile possibly harbored poison ivy or dangerous wildlife, like mice. Would I speak to my lawn guy, please.

I called up my lawn guy and told him the brush pile would have to go. I wanted to be a good neighbor. And so, after forty years, the brush pile in the back of my property—went.

These young families really know how to build on to a house. I watch, as each of them on the “Young Family Block” adds on, up and out. My neighbor is almost finished with his renovation. His house, which was once the size of mine, has quadrupled in size.

And these young families, they also know how to maximize the possibilities of a backyard.  Let’s take another neighbor. He has created a veritable adult and kiddie playland! I know because his backyard diagonally touches my backyard.

He’s got:

  • One in-ground swimming pool, with many lounge chairs, and lots of colorful pool toys. Often his pool is the meeting spot on hot summer days for the folks from the Young Families’ Block. Therefore he also has:
  • Some umbrella tables and chairs
  • Some grill or grills. I can’t see, but I bet he’s got a smoker.
  • A large outdoor fire-pit.
  • A wire fence which he is required to have by law. It also works to contain his kids, the rest of the neighborhood’s kids, and his three large dogs, barking dogs.
  • A super-duper outdoor gym set which includes one or two slides, several creaky swings, ladders, parallel bars, places for kids to crawl and climb, and a little slant roofed house at the top. His gym set is bigger than some sets I see at public parks.
  • A large outdoor trampoline often filled with hordes of joyful jumping juniors.
  • A vegetable garden with a plastic composter…near where our properties touch, fenced from rabbits.
  • A purple martin bird feeder, high on a pole.
  • A shed

Last night, at twilight, I heard the joyous sounds of children’s laughter. There must have been ten little ones of all different ages jumping around with glee in the sideyard between the aformentioned neighbor’s backyards. I saw the reason for the kids’ delight. It was a tire swing, hung between two trees. The kids were delirious as they took turns. I watched four at a time swing together, but they squealed the most when a dad pushed them.

The teacher in me watched from my upstairs window. I wondered about the older kids’ homework. Then, I figured the parents must have said something like, “Homework first; then the swing.”

Long ago, when our block was the Young Family Block, we had a swing too. It was in the back of our house near our brush pile. Like the tire swing, our wooden swing was tied to the strong branch of one of our trees. I pushed my babies in that little swing and listened to their chatter and the chatter of the birds in my yard.

The swing is gone; the tree it hung from is gone; my brush pile is gone; and my children are gone from my backyard too.  When my kids visit, we  play ball with my grandchild  and she learns which tree to use for first base, second, third, and home base. We bat the ball around, and then they all go home.

I hear the sounds of other people’s children in my backyard now.  Maybe that’s a good thing. I enjoy watching them and listening to them. I know, that if ever I needed help, my young neighbors would be right there for me. They are really wonderful neighbors. I’m lucky to have them– and all of their bright plastic colors.