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October Musings

From the Kaleidoscope


That is My Brain

By

Judith C. Kiser
Owner and Proprietor of Judy's Corner
Do You Ride Horses Much? 4
Trust and Balls 5
We Didn’t Have Time to Practice 6
An Eight Day Clock 8
Straddle Who?? Where?? 10
Sunglasses, Then and Now 11
The Rules 12
Mirror Avoidance 15
Night Noises 18
Notable Quotable 20
Garbage In, Garbage Out 21
Fornication and Gum – Lessons Learned 22
My Cockatiel is EYE-talian 24
Looking Back 25
But Can You Still Whistle Through your Teeth? 26
Pitching a Fit and The White Bishop 28
Boomerang Parties 29
Family, Bonds and Space 30
A Side of Tongue 31
Thumbing Down Memory Lane 32
Half a Photograph 33
The Shrimp, The Gull and He-Man 35
Six Words or Less 36

2
Good Girl
Today I needed a break. I took a walk with my outdoor critters and marveled, as I always
do, at their singleness of purpose and complete and total enthusiasm in our walks. I say
"they" because, my adopted cat Dracula accompanies my dog Killian and me on our
walks.

There is something so natural about the way the two of them communicate. Killian jumps
about wildly, like a crazed puppy (although she is 11 years old) and Dracula watches her
carefully. If Killian gets too close to Dracula in her frenzied state, Dracula hisses and
swipes at her. Killian sits right down and behaves. Then Dracula strolls by, glancing only
slightly to her side, as she passes the chastised dog.

Once a few feet past Killian, Dracula breaks into a run...only a short one, but clearly
designed to get Killian riled up, and to egg her into attempting to chase Dracula. But
Killian, wisely looks up at me, and refuses the offered bait. She knows she will hear the
words which seem to be her most coveted…

“Good Girl.”

She has been in a bit of a quandary since Dracula came to live with us in July. The two
of them share the back porch, and this means they share sleeping quarters and eating
quarters. When I step out onto the porch, Killian immediately jumps onto her doggie
lounger, awaiting her petting and her invitation to eat, once I have put her food in her
bowl. She goes bananas waiting, as I pet Dracula and say those coveted words to her,

“Good Girl.”

It is comforting to know these two have a reasonable working relationship. It is also


comforting to know that the two words most coveted by both, come from my mouth and
are a simple recognition of their stellar behavior.

3
Do You Ride Horses Much?
When I was twelve, I lived in Cheltenham England. I attended Charlton Park Convent School.
My schoolmates were all girls. One day, as I was walking across the gym, another girl,
Theresa Davis, to be specific, said to me,

“Do you ride horses much?” in her very British accent.


“No, I’ve never ridden a horse,” I replied.
To which she responded, “Well, you’re awfully bow-legged, aren’t you?”

Well, at 12 I didn’t even know what bow legged was. So, home I went and asked the
official knowledgeable one.

“Mom, what does bow-legged mean?”

She explained the condition that, from that point forward, made me very self conscious
about wearing dresses or skirts…anything that showed my legs.

When I was in college, at Florida State University, we loved to go swimming at night in


the sink holes around Tallahassee, FL (not a terrible intelligent practice, but we were not
terrible intelligent, despite our grades which might indicate to the contrary.) I remember
being embarrassed to go swimming at first, because of the guys that were with us…that is
until those morons started their ridiculous “song” which they sang whenever we went
swimming.

“I love to go swimmin’ with bow-legged women.”

And there you have it. I was bow-legged at 12 and embarrassed. I was still bow-legged
at 18 and somehow, it was “special” and I am still bow-legged at 48…and I don’t care at
all…well, not much, anyway…

4
Trust and Balls
When I was a schoolgirl in my first school in England, I desperately wanted to have
friends. I was American in a school full of British schoolgirls. At age 10, I had studied
French for only one year to their four years of French and two years of Latin. I didn’t
know the British monetary system, so I was “behind” in math. All in all, I felt like a big
dummy.

As kids will do, I “proved myself” in other talents. The other girls were in awe of my
ability to shimmy up the poles that supported the roof overhang. (Little did they know
we had a pet Capuchin monkey from whom I took shimmying lessons.)

One day, toward the end of the school year, a girl, who until this time had been very
“snobby” to me, came up to me with a request. Her name, I recall to this day, was
Deborah Marsted.

“Judith, will you please climb on the roof and retrieve my super ball?

I don’t know whether you recall these tiny balls that bounced REALLY high, but hers
had managed to land on the roof. Hesitant, I asked,

“Are you sure I won’t get in trouble?”


“No, Miss Marshall said you could get it,” Deborah replied.
So, up I went. I retrieved the ball and shimmied back down the pole. When my feet hit
the ground, I looked up and there stood Miss Marshall. She did not have the look of an
adult who was pleased with what she was witnessing. No, rather, she had the look of a
very displeased adult.

I was hauled off to Miss P. (the principal’s) office, where I was informed that, not only
were my parents to be notified of my unladylike behavior, but were it not for the fact that
the school itself was closing down at year end, I would be expelled.

Two things I learned that day.

1. Never want something so badly that you are able to convince yourself you are hearing the
truth, even when that little voice in your head is yelling, “wait, wait!!!”
2. Never shimmy up poles to retrieve balls for someone who doesn't have the b---s to do so
for themselves!

5
We Didn’t Have Time to Practice
The audience filed into the auditorium at the nearby community college. Most were adults,
but there were a few children. Three young sisters sat in front of me, but two rows closer
to the stage To my right were a couple and their two year old -- again, not directly next to
me, but within earshot.
I worried that this was going to be another event which I wish I could just stand up and
scream,

“Don’t you people get it???

Children are not well suited to these things…they will make everyone’s experience
an irritating one.”

But, I didn’t and in short order the Virginia Choral Society made their entrance onto the
stage. My mind was immediately taken away from my neighboring audience members
and onto the performers. The first to take her place on stage was my son’s girlfriend,
Kristen -- lovely young lady. Row by row they entered until finally my son also joined
those on stage.

Introductions were made, as were cautions to silence cell phones, but as would be
politically correct, no mention was made regarding silencing children. And then they
began. It was wonderful. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 voices, this is a
fabulous choral society. Tonight’s offering was a program of show tune medleys. What
a lot of fun. I was blown away when, in the middle of one of the medley’s my son came
down to the front and sang a solo. His solo?

“Singing in the Rain.”


It brought back memories…unfortunately, the memories it brought back were of, “The
Clockwork Orange” but that’s another tale entirely.
I was pretty impressed that by intermission no serious kid offenses had occurred. I became
convinced I had under estimated the power of parental control and supervision on these
youngsters. I was glad I had held my tongue.
Cookies and soda for all....
When we returned to our seats, the three young sisters were literally spinning with
energy…the two year old was expressing his fatigue with clearly wide awake lungs.

The performers took their stage once again and the second half began. The children
competed with the performers while their parents convinced themselves that everyone
“understood” and the world revolved around their cherubs.

6
In the end, the performers received a well deserved standing ovation and I was left to
ponder the whole problem of these performances.

I have determined the problem lies in the fact that we, the audience, are not afforded the
same opportunity as the performers. They have been practicing for weeks and months to
prepare their program. They can deliver flawlessly. We, the audience, come together
only once. We do not have dress rehearsals to get it right. We are at a distinct
disadvantage because we don’t even know the other members of the audience.

I think we all must look at this serious problem of ill prepared audiences! They make the
most potentially enjoyable evening one that we are thankful to escape at the earliest
opportunity.

We simply need more practice, I think.

7
An Eight Day Clock
On the mantel over the fireplace in my in-laws’ living room sits an eight day clock. This
clock belonged to my husband’s grandmother and she had had it for many years before
she died at the age of 97. For the past twenty or so years since her passing, it has kept
time on the mantel in her son’s house.

An eight day clock is just that. It is engineered to keep accurate time for eight days and
then it stops. Unlike the clocks of today, the older clocks required regular winding, and
so it was that every Sunday, before going to church, my father-in-law wound the clock.
He took great care to wind it just tight enough, but not to over-wind it, for this would
result in breaking the mechanism. This clock requires the winding of the mechanism
which controls the keeping of time and a second mechanism which controls the chiming
of the bell.

It was with great love and devotion that Bud wound this clock each week. He never
made a big deal about it, and yet, he never left for church without making sure he had
taken the time to tend to this labor of love.

On August 23, 2006, a Wednesday, my father-in-law went into the hospital to have stents
implanted, to help with blood flow through his heart. Upon performing the
catheterization, the doctors determined that stents were not an option. He would have to
have open heart surgery and would not be allowed to go home while he awaited the
surgery. The surgery would be performed the following Monday, August 28, 2006.

Of utmost concern to Bud was the fact that the clock would not be wound. He worried
about that clock. My mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and my husband all assured him not
to worry. He could wind it again when he returned home after his surgery. All would be
well. He tried to tell them how to wind it. He wanted them to wind it in his absence, but
they assured him, it could wait.

My father-in-law passed away on August 30, 2006 due to complications of the surgery.
He never had the opportunity to wind that clock again.

One of the most moving moments in the aftermath of his passing was the afternoon after
his funeral. As we sat in the living room, our attention naturally drifted to the clock. Its
hands had stopped at 9:37. My husband asked his mother, “Do you want me to wind it?”
She said she would very much appreciate his doing so, and we all set about looking for the
key, and the method by which the clock should be wound. My mother-in-law repeated the
caution she’d heard Bud mention over the years,

“Don’t wind it too tight.”

In a few minutes, the clock was, once again, keeping accurate time. Everyone returned to
the business of trying to figure out what to do next.

8
It is a little thing like this, a seemingly unimportant labor of love, which we suddenly
miss when our loved one passes on. And in this case, each week, as my mother-in-law
winds this clock, she carries on her love for her husband and his for his mother, in the
simple keeping of time.

9
Straddle Who?? Where??
Today I was on yet another interminable conference call. The organizer of the call, we’ll
call her Janice, stated to all, that one of the men on the call had to leave in half an hour
(lucky him), so we needed to take care of his business first. Now this mild mannered,
gentle spoken man spoke up and said, “I do have to leave in half an hour, but I should be
able to return for the last half hour of the meeting. So, I think I can straddle you, Janice.”

I fell out laughing! I completely lost it. He, upon hearing his own words, said, “Um,
maybe that wasn’t the best choice of words. Let me try that again.” But it was too late. I
had a serious case of the giggles and the rest of the meeting, all I could think about was
this poor man offering to straddle the meeting organizer!

10
Sunglasses, Then and Now
I had one pair of sunglasses when I was a child. Only one. I was born with what was
known as “crossed eyes.” Now, polite speak is “lazy eye.” But let’s just call it what it
was. My parents worked hard to give me the gift of sight, which was not mine at birth. I
underwent surgery on both eyes at the age of eight months and started wearing glasses at
ten months.

When I was three, we moved to Cyprus. Now, for any of you not familiar with this island
in the Mediterranean, it was at the time (1961) divided in two. One side was Greek, and
the other Turkish. We lived in the Greek side, in the town of Famagusta. We were happy
as larks, playing with our landlord’s kids, speaking Greek as if we had been born there
within only a few months. But I digress.

Sun is a constant companion to the island of Cyprus, and my parents decided to spend the
big bucks to get me prescription sunglasses. This was an expensive proposition for a kid
whose prescription changed several times each year. Well, as three year olds do, I lost my
sunglasses, but not before I had posed for the photo below with my sister Jeannie and our
friends Andrea and Vasso.

My losing my first pair of sunglasses turned out to be a huge mistake, because I was
never provided with another pair. I didn’t mind. But the eye doctors always were
adamant that my tow-head blonde, blue eyed complexion really needed sunglasses. Even
so, as an adult I never wore sunglasses either. Not, that is, until about five years ago.

I was looking through some old pictures today and found these taken in Cyprus.

I had forgotten about those sun glasses.

And so I looked back. Forty-five years, to my first pair of sun glasses. I never really
missed not having those sunglasses replaced. I was glad to see the world in all it’s
brightness. I truly love the light. In my old age, I have become fearful of the eye
doctor’s dire warnings and have broken down and started wearing them again. I don’t
like plunging myself into the darkness, but, I suppose, relative darkness is better than the
permanent darkness of which they warn.

11
The Rules

When I lived in England I attended school at a Convent -- Charlton Park Convent, in


Cheltenham England, to be specific (not that you cared, I understand.) If there is one thing
the British school system excelled at, it was RULES. We had them for EVERYTHING.

A short list is provided here for demonstration of my point.

∗ Uniform must always be worn neatly.


∗ Hat must be positioned on head, with elastic under chin
∗ Gloves must be on hands.
∗ Outdoor shoes must be tied and polished.
∗ Blazer of Coat (depending on season of year) must be buttoned neatly.
∗ Socks must be held up in place just below knee by garters.
∗ Tie must be tied neatly and snuggly.
∗ You must WALK while wearing your uniform outside of school grounds
∗ No eating in uniform outside school grounds.
∗ Satchel (similar to back pack, but made of heavy leather) must be sitting on
back squarely, with shoulder straps in place.
∗ Students must say, “Good Morning Sister,” whenever passing one of the
nuns who were our teacher
∗ Outdoor shoes must be removed and replaced with indoor shoes upon arrive
to school
∗ Plimsoles (sneakers) were to be worn in the gym.

The list goes on, but you get the picture.

Imagine my friend and me, 11 or 12 years old at the time, basically bent on breaking as
many of the rules as possible in one fell swoop.

First, let me mention we were budding songwriters. She hated her form room teacher
“Sister Mary” and I helped her express her distaste through cunning words and music.

Second, let me explain that the was an ALL GIRLS SCHOOL and the ALL BOYS
SCHOOL was just down the road.

Third, Let me explain that we ALL were required to catch the bus at the bus stop closest
to our school.

12
Fourth, let me explain, before leaving school each day, every student was subjected to an
inspection, to ensure none of the rules were being broken.

Fifth, let me explain, My friend and I were pretty keen on a couple of the boys at our
“brother school.”

And so it was that the plan was born. Linda and I wanted to catch the bus at the Boys bus
stop. We knew we’d have to run like crazy to get there in time to catch the bus, but we
thought we could do it. We also would have to skip the inspections, and really, we’d have
to skip the whole changing of the shoes, putting on of the hat and gloves process.

On that fateful day, the day we had planned so well, we executed it to perfection.

∗ The final bell rang


∗ We flew down the stairs two and three at a time.
∗ We were first to the cloak room, where we grabbed our blazers, boaters (straw
hats), gloves, outdoor shoes and satchels.
∗ We then ran to the bathroom.
∗ We opened the window and climbed out (thereby avoiding the inspection station at
the door.)
∗ We ran out the gates and started down the alley. Our hats were attached to our
necks by the elastic, but they flew behind us! Our uniforms were askew as we ran
at top speed through the alley in our indoor shoes!
∗ And then it happened…Sister Mary came walking down the alley toward us,
returning from our brother school. We were caught! But we could not stop! We
HAD to get to the bus stop! We blew past her yelling, ”Good Afternoon Sister!”

∗ We arrived just in time to catch the bus. We told our tale to the boys and they
were duly impressed. And then we sang our song about Sister Mary, to the
impressed boys.

Hairy Mary

“Hairy Mary had a canary up the leg of her drawers


She pulled a string to make it sing And down came Santa Claus
It really was Father Mike riding on a motorbike
Hairy Mary had a canary up the leg of her drawers.
When she farted, it departed with a round of applause

13
The boys roared. We were SO PROUD!!! We were so happy.

That is until the next day at school. Detention is not the word for what we had to endure
for our lack of respect of

THE RULES!!!

14
Mirror Avoidance
Today was a day of making Judy into something she is not. It all began when I agreed to
be the matron of honor at my best friend’s wedding. She decided to book the two of us at
a nearby Day Spa, in preparation for the big event.
About me:

I am a basically fashion challenged person who achieves contentment by practicing


“mirror avoidance.”
Every day I:
1 Shower
2 Comb my hair
3 Dress.

That’s it.

1 No makeup
2 No blow dryers,
3 No hairstyles
4 No lotions and creams
5 No nail polish.

About me TODAY.

This morning, I picked my best friend up at 8:00. We arrived at the spa at 8:45.

We each had:

1 A massage
2 A makeover
3 Our hair styled
4 A manicure.

It was lovely being pampered. I am a very practical person and never do this type of
thing.

First was the massage.

The massage was perfect. I did as I was told and she mushed my muscles and generally
got me to relax a little (no easy task, I might add.)

15
Next was the makeover:
“What kind of makeup do you wear?” asked the expert.
“none.”
“What brand of makeup do you like?” asked the expert.
“I don’t know…I never wear makeup.”
“Do you want light or heavy makeup?” asked the expert.
“um…light I guess…but, whatever you think best.”
“What color is your dress?” asked the expert.
“Burgundy”

And so it went…and when I was done, I looked a little scary to myself…no


worry…practice mirror avoidance.
Next stop was the hair styling.
“How do you want your hair?” asked the expert.
“Umm, I don’t know, I guess however you think best.”
“Do you want it all up, or some down in the back and some up?” asked the expert.
“Umm, I don’t know, I guess however you think best.”

And so it went. At the end I had somewhere in the vicinity of 30 bobby pins strategically
holding my styled tresses in order, while an intentionally left loose lock was draped
across my forehead and sprayed like the dickens to make the whole thing look “natural.”
When I was done, I looked even scarier to myself…deep breath…mirror avoidance.
Our final stop was the manicure.
“How do you want your nails?” asked the expert.
“Umm, I don’t know, I guess however you think best.”
“Do you like rounded or squared off??” asked the expert.
“Umm, Rounded!” (or whatever is behind door number two)
“Have you ever had a paraffin dip?” asked the expert.
“Umm, no…I don’t think so.” (what the heck did I get myself into now???)

And so it went. In the end I had a French manicure and instructions not to touch my nails
to ANYTHING for an hour. What???? How can I drive, eat, change into my dress…

Well, out to the car we went, all gussied up in our new do’s and don’ts (still in our jeans
and tank tops) and headed for Smithfield. We stopped on the way to get “lunch”…two
Happy Meals from McDonalds…hold the toys.

We arrived at the church and I helped the bride dress and then dressed myself. In short
order, the ceremony began. It was beautiful. Very small and very intimate. Our circle of
close friends, most from the choir, and their families made up the guests, and most of
these were providing the music!

I was so happy for Lori and Chip. They are so right for each other -- old enough and have
been together long enough to be sure of their decision.

16
After the ceremony, when all the hugs and kisses had been shared and the tears of joy
wiped from all faces, we mingled and laughed. Everyone had to comment on my dress
and how beautiful I looked…blah, blah, blah. OK, I thought the dress came out well, and
this morning, at 4:30, in a sudden thought bonanza, it occurred to me I might be chilly in
this sleeveless dress. So I whipped up a totally cool shawl type thing that I fastened in
front with elastic. I can’t actually describe it well, but it really made a neat look. BUT,
When I looked in the mirror…I STILL SCARED MYSELF.

For Hallowe’en I will dress in my lovely burgundy dress and make myself up as I was today.

I think I will do well as the Matron of Honor to the Bride of Dracula!

17
Night Noises
When I was ten we moved to England. I had just completed fourth grade in the US and
was excited and nervous about starting school in a new country. Upon arrival, I was
tested and did poorly on the math, French and Latin portions of the entrance test.
What??? I was great at math…how could this be? Well, back in 1968 the British
monetary system was still base 12, rather than base 10 (decimal) used in the US. So, I
needed to learn how to count monetarily in base 12.
The long and short of it was that I was put back in the British equivalent of fourth grade.
I was embarrassed but it was what it was. Our “forms” as they called grade levels in
England, all had the names of ships. I started out in HMS Valiant. The form COLOR
was yellow. (Not that any of this matters, but it is ingrained in my brain.)
Within about six weeks, I had successfully demonstrated my mastery of the British
monetary system and I was promoted to the British equivalent of fifth grade. In my
school, this form was known as HMS Courageous. Our form COLOR was light blue.

Another month or so went by, and I, being the stellar student that I was, was promoted
again, this time to the British equivalent of sixth grade. In my school, this form was
known as HMS Vanguard. The form COLOR was dark purple/blue. But the interesting
point here is that this was my older sister’s form. She was NOT happy to see her twit
sister in the same grade as she!

One day we were given an assignment to write an essay on “Night Noises”. We had the
weekend to write it, turning in our literary offering Monday morning. There was never a
threat of our cheating by sharing even an idea. We belonged staunchly to the opposite
ends of the spectrum and cordial communication was not part of our repertoire!

On Monday morning we each turned in our assigned essays, and went about the business
of everyday class schedules. Later in the week, our papers graded and returned, the
teacher began calling students to the front of the room to share their essay with the class.
My sister, always a great writer, was one who was called to share. She read her essay
aloud, and it was beautiful…she wrote of owls and crickets, wind and rain and all with
such creativity, I was struck with the beauty of her words….I was also struck with the
realization that I had misunderstood the assignment. Now, let me mention, the teacher did
not write our grade on our paper, so we had no idea how well we had scored, only the
grammar errors and the teachers “comments.”
I was about the fifth student called to read my essay. All who went before me had
understood the assignment…I was SOOO embarrassed. If I could have stood up there
and just made up my essay on the spot, I would have, but the teacher had already read
and graded mine. She KNEW what I had written and was now clearly relishing the fact
that I was going to have share with the WORLD (OK 20 students) my failure to
understand the assignment.

18
While I don’t recall the exact words, I can tell you the “night noises” I wrote of had to do
with baths running, toilets flushing, brothers talking, parents telling brothers to be quiet,
dog snoring, cat purring, monkey rattling his cage….basically all the noises I heard in my
house after the lights went out.

I got through my essay and rushed back to my seat. I took a quick peek at my sister to see
how mad she was, because I was ALWAYS a source of embarrassment to her. She looked
ready to DIE. Other students read their essays and then the teacher addressed the class.
She told us our grades. All had scored pretty well, except me. I had scored 100%. She
explained to the class that the difference between my essay and the others was that I
THOUGHT like a writer. I LISTENED like a writer, and I WROTE with honesty. She
explained the benefit of looking at assignments from a different perspective. She said that
it was this perspective that made the reader INTERESTED in the essay.
Well, of course I couldn’t win. This made my sister mad too!

I was glad when, the following year, we each went to different schools. I am certain she
was pleased with that choice as well!

19
Notable Quotable
Today we had the rehearsal for my best friend’s wedding. She is 49, he is 40. They are a
funny couple. The rehearsal was, as I thought it would be, funny.
They are both Roman Catholic, but she, having been married before, and having not done
the work required to get an annulment, is not able to be married in the Catholic church.
So they selected a very old (1600’s) Episcopal church in Smithfield, VA. The Episcopal
ceremony is just close enough to the Catholic version to trip them up!

Anyway, the priest went over the details of the ceremony with all of us.

He told the bride and groom,

“Sometimes people are nervous when they are saying their vows. This can cause the
fingers to swell, making getting the rings on a little difficult. So, if you can only get
the ring past the first knuckle, that will be fine, it counts. Don’t break her finger
trying to shove the ring on.”

The groom, without missing a beat, said,

"So God’s OK with the first knuckle?”

I about fell over laughing, as did the rest of the cast of characters at this rehearsal!

When we finished the rehearsal, we went out for dinner. We were all talking about how
beautiful this very old church was, and the bride said,

“Yeah, it’s really pretty but it’s uncomfortable.”

To which, without thinking, my choir director responded,

“Yeah, it’s perfect for your wedding!”

Again, I had to laugh! I said,

“Kitty! What are you saying? An uncomfortable church is ideal for her
wedding!??”

We all laughed. I added both of these to my list of “notable quotables.” These are the
goofy things that come from our mouths when the mouth engages before the brain is in
full gear. I like to collect them. They are always fun to bring up at parties!

Do you have any notable quotables?

20
Garbage In, Garbage Out
Anyone who has ever written computer programs understands this concept completely. In
a world where I program an inanimate object to perform, or animate, I must tell define the
“thought” process it uses to do so.
Now, the beauty of this is that I, the programmer, can run my code to see how well it
works. I perform white box testing and black box testing to discover my success in my
HUMAN determined logic into MACHINE animation. When things don’t go as
expected, I sift through my code, looking for the erroneous bits and cleaning them up.

When my software is complete, when testing, both positive and negative, proves my
application to perform according to specification, I must then create the “User Manual.”
This guide tells the user of my software, how to use it and the acceptable parameters
under which it will operate, producing the desired results. Basically, my manual helps
the user avoid throwing garbage into the application.

Now, as I took my shower this morning, it occurred to me that my brain is not as easily
cleaned up. Nobody sets the parameters of what can enter my brain. Nobody tells my
brain how to process the information. Basically, as a human, I am subjected to a daily
flood of “information” and I must somehow sift through this onslaught to identify the
garbage, separating it from the useful material. The problem for me, at least, is the
garbage, though perhaps properly identified as such, is never discarded….I cannot forget
something I have heard or seen. I simply have to tuck it away in the GARBAGE
CENTRAL part of my brain.
Unfortunately, much of the garbage is spouted as truth from every source…TV...
Newspaper…Magazine…Books…Water Cooler Chats…Blogs, etc. No matter how
many times garbage is presented it NEVER turns into good solid information…It is
still just garbage. If I operate upon this garbage information, my resulting action will
also be garbage.

I find as I grow older, now 48, that the GARBAGE CENTRAL is taking up more and
more brain real estate! I worry that one day, my brain will reach capacity and, with the
disproportionate amount of garbage, versus good solid information, I will be left with one
big stinky mess!

I need a way to get the garbage out, and get it out now!

21
Fornication and Gum – Lessons Learned
When I was 15 I had a “long distance” boyfriend. OK, so, in those days, long distance
was 40 minutes away by car, but it meant we spent a LOT of time talking on the
phone…not long distance, or I would have been killed. I had some interesting
experiences while engaged in these “important” phone calls.
We listened to music on the phone….no joke…he’d put his favorite album on and we’d
just listen…stimulating, right?
Sometimes we talked about important things like whether he would be able to get the car
(he was a little older) to drive over to actually see me on the weekend. Sometimes we
talked about goofy stuff.
Two items of consequence happened that summer, during these phone conversations.

The first was a “freak accident.”

I had been chewing gum and it had lost its taste, so I was ready to ditch it. I was lying on
the floor at the time, receiver to my ear, listening to the latest album, in the dark. I took
the gum out and tossed it toward the garbage can, but “up” since I was lying on the floor.
Well, it hit the phone cord, and plopped right back, directly in my eye!. Thankfully, my
eye was closed, but it stuck to my eyelashes. Long story short, my crisis resulted in my
eyelashes being cut off to get the gum out….

So, My first item was a case of the very weird appearance of having no eyelashes on
one eyelid.

The second came as a result of a discussion we were having about the Bible, no less.

One word, I am afraid, I did not know the meaning of, and I decided to ask my father
over dinner that night.

“Dad, what does fornication mean?”

The whole table went silent. My mother looked away. My sister, concentrated on her
food, my brothers looked expectantly at Dad, as did I. Dad began his explanation.

“It’s when you build something up to be very strong. In the olden days, the castles
were protected by moats and tall walls…”

At which point, my brother Tim, laughing his head off said,

“Dad, she said FORNICATION, NOT FORTIFICATION!!!”

With that, my father’s face grew red, he turned his direct glare on me and demanded,

22
“Where did you hear that word?”
“Dave and I were discussing some passages from the Bible and….”

Well, I suppose I need not tell you, the Bible connection was NOT believed and I was
forbidden EVER to speak with or see Dave (he who would speak of fornication) again!

And so, the summer I turned 16, I learned two important lessons.

∗ Never take a pitch if you cannot see your target.


∗ Never ask the meaning of a word, when the house has a half dozen
dictionaries!

23
My Cockatiel is EYE-talian
Sydney was my cockatiel. She/he (I never had the bird “sexed”) loved me! She was a
“lutino” which means, she was basically yellow and white with a little orange, but
essentially no grey. I got Sydney after a mishap with another grey cockatiel my then-
husband had gotten for my daughter. The first guy (I cannot even recall that bird’s name)
managed to get his head hung between the bars of the cage. It was not a pretty sight, and I
was devastated.
After returning to Wal-mart, from whence the cage had been purchased, and trying to tell
my tale of sadness without bursting into tears (unsuccessfully, I might add) I was given
my money back, and they even paid for the bird.

And so it was, with a new cage better suited to the bird, that we got Sydney.

She was great. She sat on my shoulder as I worked on the computer. When I ate food,
she pecked at my mouth, wanting her share. She started her tribal arrival chant when she
heard my car grinding the gravel as I returned home from work each day. This bird was
HAPPY to see me. The rest of the family was less than impressed with her, but WHO
CARES???? She was MY buddy!

Eventually, my marriage broke up and the husband was gone, but the bird persisted. By
this time,Sydney had acquired a regular place at the dinner table. Her manners were
impeccable for the most part. She perched politely upon her plate, pecking at her food,
and eyeing mine, but recognizing well her “invited guest” status. Though the rest of the
family thought this practice quite, well bizarre, I was fine with it…..she wasn't just ANY
bird…she was MY bird!!

The one meal at which Sydney completely lost her manners was spaghetti. She loved that
pasta, and ate her couple of noodles with zeal. And then, when I was least expecting it,
she hopped into her plate and literally took a

BATH IN THE SAUCE!!!

Now my lovely yellow and white bird was and nice tomato sauce red! GEEZ
LOUISE!!! And I simply could NOT let her fly around like that! When I finished
laughed so hard I could hardly catch my breath, I picked her up and carried her,
unceremoniously, into the shower, where she squawked in protest as I removed her
cleverly applied “war paint!”

Needless to say, from that time on, until I was forced to give her to a friend (who still has
her today) whenever I served spaghetti, Sydney got hers plain…no sauce…I thought the
bird was from Australia, but clearly,

My Sydney was EYETALIAN!!!

24
Looking Back
Looking back on things that might have been does not always serve me well. I do indulge
myself from time to time, but only briefly. What if I had married my first true love, the
first guy who asked me to marry him? What if? What if I had decided to wait a little
longer before jumping into marriage to a great guy, only to find that growing to know him
was growing to loathe him? What if I had waited and not remarried when my first
marriage failed?
Would my world have been different? Yes. Would it have been better? Who can really
say? I firmly believe I am what I am today in part because of my decisions, both good
and bad, thought out or made in haste. I have not run from the consequences of my poor
choices, and I can look back at the true beauty that has sprung from even the poorest of
these choices.

I am reminded of a Doris Day song my parents had on LP. I grew up without television,
but we had a record player and man, did we use it! But, back to the Doris Day hit,

“When I was just a little girl


I asked my mother, what will I be?
Will I be pretty?
Will I be rich?
Here’s what she said to me,

Que sera sera


Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be…”
As a mother of two grown children I tend to wonder whether I did the best I could for
them. I remember the fault I found with my own upbringing and swore not to subject my
children to the same. I didn’t. But I do not know that my way was better. I do know it
was honest. I did the best I could, worked hard every day to give them every opportunity
they could ever want, and was surprised to find the opportunity they sought had little or
nothing to do with the opportunity I thought I was providing them.

They have made their own way and will continue to do so. I’ll peak back now and then,
lest I forget how I arrived where I am today. But I will continue to look around me, so as
not to miss the moment, while keeping a keen eye on the future.

25
But Can You Still Whistle Through your Teeth?
When I was in my mid twenties, my then-husband and my dentist colluded to change my
dental appearance forever. My dentist had started his campaign for this change year or so
earlier. You see, I had very widely spaced teeth, or big gaps between my teeth, or Jack-o-
Lantern teeth (keeping it real for the Hallowe’en season.) At any rate, as a dental
professional, it bothered him immensely that I did not care about my “appearance”
enough to get this horrible deformity “fixed.”
One day my then-husband accompanied me for my dental cleaning. In passing, the dentist
mentioned that he’d really like to “bond” my teeth. His original $200.00 per tooth was
now something like $35.00 per tooth. This man wanted to fix these teeth BAD!!! Being
the “head of the household” guy that he was, my then-husband said, “Just do it!”

I was a little apprehensive about losing my gaps…

I mean, they were mine.

I’d had them a long time.

My brother Tim had similar gaps.

We resembled each other…..but, what’s a girl to do?

The dentist determined that my front four top teeth needed bonding. He did two the first
visit and two the second visit. It was all very high tech, cool blue lights and all. Still, it
was weird! It wasn’t too painful, and I returned to work after the first appointment, a
little shy. I didn’t really want to open my mouth…I mean; my wee little tiny teeth now
looked like rabbit teeth to me!

When I sat down at my desk, my office partner Dave, looked casually across the desk at
me and said,

“Looks good…can you still whistle through your teeth?”

Oh my goodness! I hadn’t even considered that! I LOVED to whistle through my teeth.


I gave it the old college try (I mean I DID learn SOMETHING at FSU) and, sure enough
the whistle still worked! Whew!

The next week I returned for the rest of the bonding. I hated everything about my new
teeth. Nothing chewed right, I had to learn to speak again (my gaps apparently were quite
useful in forming words) and my food got stuck between my teeth! GEEZ LOUISE, and
WHY did I do this? I kept wishing I could just go back to old gappy, but, unfortunately,
once bonded, always bonded.

26
A week or so later we attended a family reunion in Michigan. When I arrived and went to
greet my brother (the one who still had all his beautiful gaps) he looked at me and said,
“Hey Jude, do you have bread between your teeth?” I had to laugh! I explained what I
had gotten myself into and we had a good laugh about it.

Now 19 years later, I have grown accustomed to my bonded teeth and my full tooth grin.
Still, when I see the photos of my Jack-o-Lantern days, I feel a little nostalgic. I was
actually sad to find out that Tim had succumbed to the pressure and had braces at age 43!
No bonding for him, but still, we have nothing to show for our gappy heritage!

27
Pitching a Fit and the White Bishop
Pitching a fit was one of my earliest talents. I had lots of reasons to pitch them. I was
number two in line behind my sister, “Miss Perfect,” about whom I have previously
written. I was number two in line ahead of four brothers. Each and every day posed a new
opportunity for me to pitch a fit. If it wasn’t my sister's picking on me, it was my brothers
not doing what I told them to do (basically, not responding to my picking on them.)
I never shied away from an opportunity. One particular day I was playing chess with my
brother Timmy (yes, he endured that name until Jr. High, when he started the 3-Letter
name trend followed by my other brothers.) Timmy was a year my junior and the biggest
source of my frequent dissatisfaction. It mattered not the game, Timmy ALWAYS won!

So it was that we were sitting in the living room, engrossed in our latest battle of black
vs. white, when my sister breezed through the room. With a quick glance at the board,
this sister of mine, who would NEVER play such a game, broadcast to the world,

“Timmy’s Winning!!! Timmy’s Beating Judy!!!!”

Well, there you have it. I was already ticked that I was losing (again) and my two biggest
irritants were focusing their attention on my failure. With barely a moment’s hesitation,
the “white” bishop was in my hand and hurled through the air, directly at my sister!

Well, OK, I was a lousy shot, I have no depth perception and bad eyesight…but my
intent was to hurl the bishop right at her head!

The bishop’s trajectory and velocity brought it to a direct and fatal impact with the wall.
Now, we lived in England in those days and the walls were not the soft stuff of which our
modern-day U.S. houses are constructed. No, these were plaster walls. The white
wooden bishop, one of only two in my father’s prized chess set, broke in half!

OMG!!! I was going to be KILLED….

My dad used the belt for the least offense and THIS ONE WAS BIG!!!!

And so it was that I learned the true humiliation that accompanies admitting I have
thrown a fit and lost control. My father did not use the belt. Nor did he scold me. He
very carefully took the poor white bishop and painstakingly carved a new one.
The burled maple of the new white bishop reminds me to this day that he is a “step
bishop,” and his slightly different colored green felt slides just a little less easily across
the board than does his “twin’s.”

But I learned a great lesson that day. While I might feel justified in throwing my fit, I
must understand its lasting effect. I grew up a little that day. I was eleven years old, and
it was about time!

28
Boomerang Parties
When my son was 21 he decided he wanted to go into the military. He wanted to work in
cryptanalysis and the military offered the best training for his interests. He went through
the normal application process, including the testing which resulted in his being able to
“choose whatever field he wanted.” A sidebar to this story…when he took the test, he
called to tell me the results. He had been “stumped” by some of the questions geared
toward auto mechanics, and was disappointed he didn’t know the answers to all the
questions. He was embarrassed when they called out the results for each candidate….his
score was the highest that day, at 97%. So it was that his military career began. He was
accepted in January of 2003, with a report date of May 1, 2003.
On April 13, 2003, I came home from getting breakfast, to find my son looking positively
white. He held his stomach and said he’d awakened with a stomach ache and back ache
that he could not relieve. A quick call to the family doctor and off we went to the ER. My
husband, the doctor and my son all thought appendicitis might be the culprit.

As I drove my son to the ER, I observed his writhing in front passenger seat. I said,
“Steve, I think you have a kidney stone. You are doing the EXACT same avoidance
maneuvers I did when I had mine!” He stopped his writhing long enough to ask, “Aren’t
I too young for kidney stones?”

Well, long story short, I was right and he made it through the ordeal WITHOUT taking
the pain medication prescribed. He notified his recruiter, who said there was no problem
as long as the stone had passed. Please report, as planned, on May 1. So report he did.
They whisked him off to Missouri when he began basic training.

The weekend before he reported for basic training, I held a going away party for
him.

About ten days into basic training, I received a call from my son….he was being
discharged. What? Well, it turned out that on day two of basic training, he had felt the
pain of the kidney stone again. Knowing he had successfully gotten through the first one
with essentially sheer perseverance, he determined he could do the same this time. He
told no one. He did all the required physical qualifying, successfully, while experiencing
increasing “discomfort.” His kidney stone was impeding his ability to do the most basic
of bodily functions…after day four without being able to urinate, he passed out during
PT.
At the hospital on base they found the kidney stone (only 3mm which is passable) and
started his discharge proceedings. He would be discharged as if he’d never been in the
military, and could come back after remaining kidney stone free for a year.

Three weeks after his entry into the military, he returned home. He focused on finishing
his education, still with the intent of returning to the military. At 25 now, he has his
education, works full-time for a surveying company, his own business, has a fabulous

29
girlfriend with whom he shares his life and has not mentioned the military in a while.

When my daughter announced her decision to move to CA this past spring, I supported
her all the way.

In June I threw her a going away party.

In July she set out with her boyfriend and they drove across the country. They arrived in
Napa the first of August. Jen has been incredibly successful in finding work, and starting
her own business out there.

And yet, yesterday, she was already speaking of a return to VA in the next year….

I am beginning to think I should call my “going away parties” “boomerang parties”


instead!

30
A Side of Tongue
Today I went to lunch with a friend. We spoke of the weather (lots of rain, wind and
general blustery commotion), the pond (lacking water since the dam broke, rebuilding,
etc.) and family. We meet a couple of times a week for lunch and it is always nice.
Today, as always, the food was excellent. I was nearly finished with my Main Street
Steak Salad when it happened. An errant move of my tongue, positioned it directly in the
cross hairs of my already closing teeth.

OUCH!!! OUCH!!! OUCH!!!

As I was raised to always “mind my manners,” I did not shriek out in pain. I did not spit
my half chewed food back on my plate. I did not cry or leap up from my chair. As
befitting my lot in life, I suffered in silence. Mouth closed, hardly daring to swallow, I
sat, numbed by the pain. My friend, noting the lull in my otherwise brilliant
conversation, asked what was wrong. Again, fearing the loss of control, should I attempt
to verbalize my dental collision, I simply pointed to my clenched mouth and conveyed the
pain with my eyes. She got it, and winced….whew, that sort of felt good…share the
PAIN!!!
My moment of paralysis passed and my automatic processing of the remainder of my
salad proceeded, without further incident. Once my salad was consumed, I started in on
their specialty...a nice thick slice of zucchini bread. Mmmm…it was good.

Our conversation continued as we moved on to topics worthy of our two cents…politics,


interest rates…you know the stuff. On about bite number three of the thick hunk of
specialty, my once again errant tongue sought out my teeth for a repeat encounter!

OUCH!!! OUCH!! And double OUCH!!!

OK, the message was clear….I was done eating for this meal! I wrapped the remainder
of the zucchini bread in napkins for “later”, we said our goodbyes and I headed back
home.

Sometime between conference calls, I was feeling a little hungry and decided to finish off
the last of the fudge I had ordered from a fellow eBayer. It positively melts in my
mouth…and yet….GEEZ LOUISE!!! Not again!!!! Yes, dear friends. It would appear
that today’s menu “special” was,

“SIDE OF TONGUE!”
As I sit and write this sad tale, my tongue is severely swollen on the right side, my throat
is sore from the “healing” lymph nodes kicking in, and it hurts to swallow. If I hadn’t
been through this at least a thousand times in my 48 years of dining, I might be worried...
instead, I wonder…what percentage of my tongue is now scar tissue????
31
Thumbing Down Memory Lane
Tonight I was looking through my filing cabinet. I was looking for something in
particular, but, as is often the case, became mesmerized with all the papers and photos,
newspaper clippings, etc. that serve as reminders of my own history. Note to self:

I must consider what my children, siblings or friends will think when they have the
dubious honor of sifting through all my “important documents” upon my departure
from this life.

So it was that I was thumbing through a file marked “Jennifer”,

∗ pausing to review the results of the standardized testing the public schools
routinely used to compare my offspring to others her age.
∗ Thumb, pause, on a photo of Jen in her field hockey uniform,
∗ thumb, pause, on a letter from Jen to me written at age 17, during a time
when verbal communication with her mother seemed too hard for her,
∗ thumb, pause, on a pencil drawing Jen did of her brother,
∗ thumb, pause, on vaccination records,
∗ thumb pause, on a newspaper article with photo of Jen at age 9 starring in
the Community Theatre's production of TheSecretGarden,
∗ thumb, pause….what's this? Paper-clipped together in a neat little bundle…

Seven U.S EE Series Savings Bonds!!

I stopped my thumbing down Memory Lane and proceeded directly to the computer.
With just a few keystrokes I was able to verify the value of the savings bonds at just
under $300.00! And they had just been sitting in the filing cabinet, between the saved
birthday cards and the letter for Marching Band!

Tomorrow, when Jen calls, as I am certain she will, I will be able to tell her that her long
forgotten savings bonds have resurfaced and she will have a little extra “pocket money”
this holiday season! I feel like I do when I put on my winter coat for the first time of the
season, only to discover I had stashed a five dollar bill in the pocket! I know it seems
irrational to get excited over something that was

∗ mine to begin with,


∗ was never “lost”, and
∗ was never missed.

Still, it feels like I just discovered buried treasure!

32
Family, Bonds and Space
Today my daughter called, as I knew she would…does anyone recall that old Doris Day
song,
“I walked down the street like a good girl should
He followed me down the street like knew he would,
Because a guy is a guy, wherever he maybe
Now listen while I tell you what this fella did to me…?”

Well, it has absolutely no significance to my tale, save the fact that I used the words, “I
knew she would,” which reminded me of the song….

Therapy anyone?

So, I told her of the bonds I discovered last night (no, savings bonds…not perverse sexual
toys) and she was thrilled, as, “I knew she would be.”

We chatted for a long while and she told me of her life -- that part that had happened in
the three days since last we spoke. At 23 she is anticipating her first Christmas away
from home…..she has been so successful in establishing herself out in CA, where she
moved just this summer, that she will be completely swamped at Christmas! I am so
happy for her. She has wanted to move to California for such a long time, and she has
really taken a huge step in bringing her dream to reality. And then….she said,

"I really think I’d like to move back the VA….there are TOO MANY PEOPLE
HERE!!!"

I had to laugh! My little country bumpkin, the one who couldn’t wait to get out of the,
“reason everyone hates America,” state, has had a change of heart! She told me she
really misses being able to get in the car and in a matter of minutes be out of the city and
into the quiet of rural life. Apparently, though Google Earth shows her place in Napa as
very rural, she contends it is still wall to wall people.

She said when she is trying to turn out onto her road, she feels as if she is watching a
ping-pong match….and never getting a space to jump in!

Come to think of it, that Doris Day song is pertinent to my ramble…my daughter is what
she is, and I always know who she’ll be, because, she was raised on solid ground, with
lots of love and an equal amount of space…room to roam…room to think….room to
create….

It was nice talking with her…as it always is.

33
Half a Photograph
The day I turned twenty-nine was the last day I enjoyed the company of my brother Ted.
Teddy, as he had been called throughout our childhood, was my brother, four years my
junior, and next to the youngest of my siblings. His freckled face and huge dimples gave
him the face that people mirrored with a grin, every time that saw him. Even at just shy of
twenty-five, Ted, now all grown up, possessed the nature that drew people to him. His grin
was contagious.
Ted left my house that night, Saturday, July 11, 1987, filled with enthusiasm. It was the
first time in the fourteen months since he moved to Tallahassee, FL, that he had Sunday
off from work. He was going to “stay up all night, if it killed him.” It did. He fell asleep
at the wheel of his truck on his way back from Pensacola, where he’d gone to “sit on the
beach for a while.”

That Sunday was a blur to me. I had the unenviable honor of informing my father that his
son had died. This came less than two years after I’d had to tell my father that his father
had perished in a house fire. These are not things a person wants to do, but they are the
things a person must do, as these are the terms of life.

Two of my other brothers came to help me take care of Ted’s “estate.” The estate of a not
quite twenty-five year old is not substantial. In fact, his possessions were few. Amongst
the piles of dirty/clean clothes, and mail (opened and unopened) were the items that
defined Ted. There was the saxophone my mother had found at a garage sale for $20.
There was the legal pad with the “novel” he had been writing. There were letters from
friends, male and female. And there were photos. There were photos of Ted with family
and photos of Ted with friends. In every photo, smiles were abundant.

Very few photos were of Ted by himself. Many of the best photos were of Ted and my
youngest brother Ray. 22 months apart, these two had always been members of the group
in our family know as, “the boys,” and the further subset known as, “the little boys.” At
6’2 and 6’3, the “little boys” were still just that to me, though I stood only 5' 4 1/2" tall.
As we went through Ted’s evidence of existence, Ray commented, with a catch in his
voice, I’ve lost half a photograph.

More than 19 years later, I look at the photo I have hanging on the side of my fridge. The
photo is of Ted, and his little puppy, which was stolen before Ted’s death. His deep
dimples still make me smile. His photo is etched in my heart as are his smiles. I have
never before written of his life or his passing. I wanted to tonight.

34
The Shrimp, the Gull and He-Man
Another true story, from the tales of my former life

During my first marriage I lived in Tallahassee, FL. Weekends were made for fishing and
we generally headed off to Apalachicola, or took a longer drive to St. George Island
where I loved to surf fish.

One Saturday I was surf fishing with shrimp as my bait. I cast my line and darned if a
seagull didn't catch my shrimp bait in mid air! I had a seagull on the hook! Well, being a
“girl,” my first inclination was to scream, which I did, at the top of my lungs! The
seagull, now on the sand, was flapping around, trying to get away from the very hook she
had found so enticing, just moments earlier.

Enter my He-Man husband.

He grabs my pole and starts flailing the pole, slinging the poor bird all around!

Well, now I am FREAKING OUT because this poor bird is defenseless against this insane
method of “bird from hook removal!” So, screaming again, as would be my nature that
day, I grabbed the pole back from He-Man and suggested where he might want to “store”
it on future occasions. I then went to try to console the now severely traumatized bird.

I approached the seagull with caution, neither wanting to further distress her nor fall
victim myself to her defensive struggles. I carefully held the bird, and clipped the hook.
Pulling it back through was not something I thought either of us could endure, so my
“catch of the day” now sported a “pierced lip” (or beak lining, or whatever that is called.)

I had never been up that close and personal with a seagull before and had never noticed
they have a neat line of red, like eye liner around their eyes.

I learned a few things that day:

∗ One fish's bait is another bird's delight


∗ Never call for help unless you know your rescuer's competency
∗ Always take time to notice the details of every creature
∗ Always treat the other guy with the same respect you'd wish to receive!

35
Six Words or Less
My brother contends the following:

A girl, any girl, wife, girlfriend, daughter, can keep the attention of a guy for no more
than six words. Now, in his explanation of this phenomenon, he cautions us not to be
fooled by the APPARENT interest being paid if the communication goes on longer than
six words…that is ALWAYS because of an ulterior motive.

My brother tells his two daughters,

“Just give me the facts! I don’t need to know that, you woke up this morning and
thought there was something wrong because you didn’t hear the cat meowing, and
your sister was still sleeping and so you woke her up to see if she had heard the cat
meowing and she said no and you went downstairs…..”

He raises his hand and starts to counting off words with his fingers.

The Cat Is Missing! (There! Only four words)

I find it hysterical he has raised two very chatty girls and one very quiet son…but they all
know the rule…if you want to tell dad something…you’ve got

SIX WORDS OR LESS!!!

36