Marvelous Night for a Moondance

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“Coolest thing EVER!” This was all I could write to describe witnessing the total eclipse of the sun yesterday. I was at a loss for words, and this happens rarely.

I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve, but it occasionally does seem to reside in my lacrimal glands. Oh, I don’t cry at the usual events. I like to keep my mourning private. You may never know how much I grieve, or hurt. If something frighteningly ominous happens to a loved one, I react with research, not tears. Physical pain makes me angry, not weepy.

My leaking problem is almost always related to awe, not sadness. For me, yesterday’s total eclipse was seasoned with copious amounts of saltwater. I still can’t accurately describe the feeling, except to say humbled, and thankful, and honored that I was given the chance to experience it.

My tears seem to come at that place just past happiness, that yoga/zen spot where I feel a part of the universe; significant and yet miniscule, and so appreciative for the gift of life and the ability to witness something so truly amazing.

I have enjoyed a few such moments, beginning with the most significant, the birth of my children. There were others, as well.

Once I stood outside in a small mountain town on a cold, inky-black night. Looking up, I saw more stars than I had ever witnessed before or since. Soon, they began streaking across the sky, seeming to fall all around us. I held hands with Hubs, neither saying a word, witnessing the glory of an unexpected (to us) meteor shower that seemed like a  celebratory gift from the universe. There were tears, along with an intense feeling of gratitude that I was able to experience this, and share with my life’s travel companion.

This summer I sat on a high cliff overlooking the Caribbean sea. It is a tradition on the island of Antigua that people go to this spot, Shirley Heights, on Sunday nights to watch the sunset. There are people from all over the world, sitting next to one another and experiencing together the beauty of the moment. I shared this with Hubs and lifelong friends. Yes, there were tears.

A few years ago, after Hubs was diagnosed (and cured!) of cancer, we took that dream trip to Italy that we always discussed but somehow never executed. Of course I obsessively researched and knew to take the public bus up above Florence, to a little town overlooking the whole valley. We disembarked at a village square; pretty, but where were the amazing views we sought? We trudged up a road and around the side of a brick building, and then … breathtaking. The town of Florence and surrounding countryside spread before us, gold monuments sparkling like jewels among the brick-red, terra-cotta rooftops. There was a group of college kids sitting on the ledge overlooking the stunning vista. We began talking with them, and one said they had been lingering for over three hours. “I just like to watch people’s faces as they come around the corner and see the view for the first time!”  She noted that everyone takes copious amounts of pictures but that “they will never capture what it’s really like.” So smart for one so young.

My brother once told me that he thought the number of pictures taken on a journey is inversely related to the amount of fun had. I don’t know if that is true, but I am much more on the “fewer pictures” side of the equation. I tend to use my journals rather than a camera. With the ubiquitous use of cell phone cameras, I am afraid many are missing out on experiences in their never-ending quests to document things. I would rather look at something with my eyes than through a lens.

I took no pictures of the eclipse.

I think, perhaps, one of the reasons I am moving to Colorado is to have the chance to experience just a bit of those awe-inspiring moments every day. The views don’t pay the bills, or take away life’s troubles, but the mountains do seem to have a way of putting everything in perspective.

And I’ll be in Dallas, Southern Illinois or maybe Quebec in 2024, God willing.

 

 

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A Dancer Dances

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I have never been the graceful type. I’ve never taken a single dance class, worn a tutu* or in any way dreamed of being a ballerina.

My mother intrinsically understood me. While she shuttled my pink-clad from head-to-toe sister to dance class, I was put under the watchful eye of fairly uninterested neighbors, happy to share and explore my sandbox with any and all half-feral cats and my set of lime-green dump trucks. I was not the girliest of girls.

I liked to scuffle. In fact, I can still hear my church preschool teacher, as she lead me to my designated corner once again, saying “God made hands to play with, not to hit.” Good to know. I did run into little Bobby Name Withheld when we were both in college. He stood up to greet me, all six foot two of him, and I finally apologized for beating him up so much when we were children.

So what type of child was I, really? Let’s just say that a few years ago, a friend of mine ran into our old Girl Scout leader. The woman asked about a few fellow troop members.  My friend then mentioned my name, and our leader replied, “Oh, what penitentiary is she in?”

The flip side was that I was also a terrible boy. I liked to fight, but didn’t really know how to hit, or even make a fist.  I couldn’t catch a ball or play any sport … at all. Turns out I have no depth perception, which makes games like baseball and tennis infinitely more exciting.

Oh, I can fake my way through some things. After years of being kamikazeed by forty- mile-per-hour ping-pong balls, compliments of older brother, I did learn how to send one or two back in self-defense. I also occasionally could make a basket, as long as I stood in the exact same place that I had practiced the shot every single day of my life.

Years later, Son 2, aka Sporty Joe, was at first amazed as we played ping-pong together at grandma’s house. I could return most of his bullet shots. Ha! Right back at ya! As with every sport, he soon figured it out. Lob one, and watch Mom swat two, three or four times as the ball slowly descends, yet never make contact.   So    Much    Fun.

This handicap also helps with the revisionist history of my childhood. Of course I was picked absolutely last for every sport in gym class. It wasn’t that I was such a social oddity, it was that I had no depth perception! Um hmmm.

I still don’t like to wear dresses, haven’t worn heels in years, hate to shop, and am very ungraceful. Painfully ungraceful. I recently tripped over a sidewalk lip and bruised myself quite impressively: skinned knee and shoulder, black eye. In fact, I fall or trip somewhat often, and alcohol is almost always not involved. I also attract dirt and sand like a three year old. My most recent trip to the beach, I was dubbed “Pigpen of the Sea” by friends.

I do, however, love musicals, which of course involve singing and dancing. (I hope this is not too girly of an activity, as I did just recently discover my husband secretly watching Mama Mia on tv.)  I used to be a competent singer. Now I am a singer. I never, ever could dance, but oh, I love to try, how I love to try! Why? Because I’m absolutely abominable, and it’s guaranteed to make Hubs laugh. Every so often, I’ll bust out my “bad ballet” moves over morning coffee. Keep in mind, no dance classes EVER.

There also was one memorable scene, which will live on in family infamy, when, at 9 1/2 months pregnant with what looked like triplets (nope, just big old Son 1), I cast aside inhibitions and clothes, and gave hubs a lusty rendition of West Side Story’s  “I Feel Pretty,” with my own personal modern dance choreography. He will never forget it, no matter how hard he tries.

This week we saw one of my favorite shows, A Chorus Line,  at our local outdoor summer theater. Due to the serendipity of being a choir nerd in the late 1970’s, I know the all words to every song. Tomorrow morning I am planning another Hubs attack. I will simply wait until he takes a big gulp of coffee, and I will singingly proclaim “God, I’m a dancer, a dancer dances!” and proceed to do so. I’m predicting a large kitchen clean-up, but it will be worth it.

*Okay, I did wear a tutu once. A few years ago, I found one in the back of my sister’s closet and just had to put it on and model it for the crowd. Sis reminds me that this incident DID involve alcohol … or “too much sun,” in our family vernacular.

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Bare, Bear and Harry Potter

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It’s been a busy few weeks. A lot has happened, and I have found myself saying and hearing things I hope to never give audience to again. My top 10:

  1. “Could you please remove your (bare, hairy, smelly) foot from my armrest?” This happened last night, on a Frontier (You Get What You Pay For) Airlines flight from Denver to St. Louis. Dear Mr. 22A, I enjoyed so much your banging and kicking of the back of my chair, the way you stuck your legs all the way under my seat, past the bar that keeps stuff in place, and kept poking my ankles. But when you took your bare foot and shoved your toes up behind my elbow and onto my armrest, it was too much. I usually just talk about rude behavior loudly, hoping it will cease. This time I actually addressed the issue.
  2. On a related note, “What is that smell?” Our aisle mate, although less offensive than bare feet man, was quite amusing, yet slightly annoying, as well. Dear Mr. 21C, it is obvious that you thoroughly enjoyed your trip to Colorado and the opportunity to partake of marijuana legally. My first clue was your greeting of your seatmates. Yes, we are pretty cool, but seldom elicit the joyous freak-out you displayed upon meeting us. Our new friend then proceeded to eat an extremely malodorous Asian meal (props for using chopsticks) during takeoff, then opened a large bag of Fritos, demolished that, and finished by pouring the whole contents of a bag of peanut M&M’s down his throat. For more entertainment, he employed his ipad to first read a bit (I noted he was on the same page for about thirty minutes). Next he watched the Trolls movie, switched to Star Trek, then ended with a virtual reality game, riding a rollercoaster.
  3. “Are you sure this is beef?” I don’t know Colorado’s actual state motto, but I humbly suggest “The Alternative Meats State.” Okay, lamb is not really alternative, and many find it delicious, so I give it a pass. Buffalo is like those frozen veggie burgers you buy at the grocery store. It tastes okay if you put enough stuff on it. I do find it a bit strange that although live buffs look large and somehow pendulously fatty, their meat is almost fat-free. I imagine it is what an old, way-past-his-glory boxer would taste like, should anyone be so inclined to try cannibalism. Now elk, oh, elk. I love seeing you alive, and I admire your muscled, noble physiques, which serve in great contrast to your piercing bugle calls that somehow sound like middle-school girl screams when they see each other for the first time in like eight hours. But your taste? You are like a deer’s cousin, the one we don’t like to talk about, who never bathes and has very suspect personal habits. You put the “game” in gamey.
  4. “Come for the fires, stay for the floods.” An Estes Park, Colorado, friend advised us thusly, when we were discussing our big move. We figure we are giving up earthquakes, tornadoes, daily multiple shootings and horrible heat. Floods are a wash. It seems like a fair trade.
  5. Until you add in bears … “Do you think I’ll need bear spray when I walk the dog?” New neighbors report to us that there is an active bear community in the area, a mother and cubs. I’m not sure bear spray would help, as the only close encounter I have had with a bear so far was behind a locked door, and I was patently safe, yet still too paralyzed to utter a sound, much less move a muscle.
  6. “Where are all the elk?” Heard at Rocky Mountain National Park visitor’s center. The park is too crowded, even for elk. They hoofed it on out of there.
  7. “How much extra will that cost?” We are building a house, enough said.
  8. “No, thanks, we don’t want the upgrade.” (Also applies to #7, above.) We were on vacation with our besties a few weeks ago. As with typical Hagnauer travel luck, we were offered a room upgrade at our hotel, our friends were not. We declined, and then were told there were no  rooms immediately available of our reserved type.  Okay, if you insist …
  9. “Oh, God, how many stitches?” When I was growing up, my brother and sister always seemed to get into car accidents when my parents were out of town. Carrying on the family tradition, Son 2 seems to find himself in predicaments when we are away, especially if we are out of the country. It’s always bad when he starts off “Okay, I’m okay, don’t freak out.” So of course I do. It seems our young lad was leaving a downtown bar, by himself, (which I have set to repeat on the nag list of things NOT to do) and was sucker punched. Attempted mugging, knock-out game or drunken college kids, no one knows. He credits high school sports for saving him. He was accustomed to surprise hits (lacrosse) and still can run like the wind if need be (soccer). He says he won: They got nothing, he got 14 stitches. To add to the guilt, he was leaving earlier than his friends as he was dog sitting for us. Extra points for having a third interview with a great company three days later, and having to explain his new self-titled “badass Harry Potter” look. (Stitches cascading up from his eyebrow, and yay! he got the job.)
  10. “I am not getting in that car!” I feel like I need a bit of a lie-in after these few frenetic weeks. Lucky for me, it is 104 degrees here in St. Louis, and my car has no air conditioning, all the excuse I need to do nothing today. (Car’s worth, about $2400. Amount to fix air conditioning, $1200. Even this non-math person can come up with the correct answer to this equation.)

If you need me, I’ll be at home. In my pajamas.

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Dogs and Bones

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I’m like a dog with a bone. The more ridiculously complicated you make something, the more likely I am to pursue it to fruition.

Every year, I buy a new supply of expensive contacts lenses, and every year the company, Coopervision, offers a rather substantial rebate. In the old days, you filled out paper forms, pulled sides off of boxes and sent everything in, along with a receipt from your doctor, eye of newt, a piece of the Ark of the Covenant, your cholesterol numbers and your firstborn’s vaccination records. Correspondence was quaintly through the actual mailbox, and the first rejection would be something along the lines of “Yes, but you did not circle the date in red, as per required on page forty-seven of our rebate instruction manual.” Now I am a rule follower. If they requested only flash-frozen eye of newt from states north of the Mason/Dixon line, that is what I would send. I don’t know how the circling only in red ink slipped by me, unless I simply wasn’t seeing very clearly, and then whose fault is that, really?

Anyway, after months of back and forth, eventually I would get a cash-money check. Per hour, my compensation for this activity, minus postage and drinkage, probably netted an hourly wage of approximately eleven cents.

Over the years, many things changed. First you could fill out the paperwork online, but you still had to send in the box tops. This year, you could fill out the paperwork online,  take pictures of the receipt and boxes, then upload them. This was very high-techie exciting for me, as I actually can take pictures with my phone! (It’s just the dang toaster and television that have me stumped.)

But some things never change. Rejected. Again. Of course I was out of town when I received the rejection e-mail, and I somehow managed to erase it, so I did not have the stated reasons for the rejection, nor the all-important tracking number. I tried to reapply for the rebate, but after filling out all the forms online again, the application was denied, as someone at my address had already filed a rebate claim …

They had an e-mail form on their website, which I diligently completed: Name, e-mail address, real address, phone number, cell phone number, age you first had sex … all required fields, and then … tracking number.  Required, or the e-mail wouldn’t go through.

Luckily, they have a phone number listed, as well. I called, listened to all the options, did not push numero dos para espanol, but hit the correct buttons when the options seemed to slightly resemble what I needed. Somehow, I got into the continual loop labyrinth, always ending up at the main menu, and eventually hung up, as I don’t think there was ever really a live person on the other end. Perhaps I didn’t factor in the time change from here to India.

Finally I decide on the live chat. I reach Roberto B, whose typing seemed quite friendly. He finds the secret code we need, and looks up my file. Evidently I did not have the eye exam date and the proof of contacts purchase, and did not have the qualifying postmark date. He then quickly explained that they just put the postmark date disqualifier on every submission that gets rejected, it doesn’t mean you really missed the postmark date. Ah, that makes sense.

I asked if he had a copy of the picture I took of the receipt. He said “yes.” I explained, “See on the left-hand side of the page, there is the date, right there. Move over to the middle column and you see the contact purchase.”

“Well ma’am, your picture is too small, you will need to take another one and zoom in so that we can read the document clearly.” “You can’t zoom it yourself and see? I can.” “No, ma’am, it just becomes blurry. You’ll need to take another picture and send it to us.”

I informed him that I had been wearing their contacts probably longer than he had been on earth, and every rebate I have ever submitted over the years had been rejected on my first try. I questioned if employees were perhaps paid bonuses on numbers of rejected applicants, hoping that many would simply give up.

I then asked if he really thought I was trying to pull a scam, or perhaps, just maybe, their rebate regulations are a bit arbitrarily complicated. Believe me, if I were planning a big heist, it would certainly be for more than forty-five dollars. Give me a little credit.

We finger chatted a bit more, and then he reminded me that the requested zoomed-in picture had to have the complete receipt in the picture. So I am to zoom in but yet keep the whole 8 1/2 x 11 sized receipt in the picture? That’s a neat new trick, and I’m an old dog.

I then asked for a good old-fashioned physical address to send in my paper receipt. This I did, making sure to circle the date (in orange, with giant arrows pointing to it) circling and drawing a big eye around the exam information (in red, with arrows) and highlighting the contact lens purchase in neon yellow, with yet more arrows.

I am confident that with a just a few more interludes and a final request for a report card from my first-grade teacher, I will receive my coveted Visa gift card sometime in 2018. I hope I can figure out how to use it.

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Too Soon?

football

Nothing makes me more patriotic than being out of the country for the Fourth of July.

Over the past few years, we have found ourselves away from our mother country on this most sacred day of national pride, as expressed by picnics, parades, fireworks, beer and the inappropriate display of our nation’s flag on clothing, coolers, beach towels and bikinis.

It hasn’t been a planned exodus/avoidance of the rampant pageantry; it’s simply that travelling over this week allows for a full week of vacation with only four days off of work. (For those who work like that. Not me, of course, but I do travel with some!)

This year we found ourselves on the beautiful Caribbean island of Antigua. Although it is now its own country, completely independent since 1981, it still has a heavy British history and influence. And at this time of year, with the British summer holiday season starting, U.S. citizens are certainly in the minority. Of course the Brits like to call us “Americans,” but since I am me, and that name applies to North, Central and South, I don’t use it. In fact, for the rest of the story, I will use “Yanks,” the intentionally, slightly derogatory term the Brits alternatively use for us.

We were staying at an all-inclusive resort, not my personal favorite as it is really very much like a cruise ship on land. There are rules, dress codes,  meal times, buffets, crowds, a bit of chair reserving, pushiness and some alcohol-induced bad behavior. In all honesty, our group did indulge in some of those things, but we adamantly are NOT chair hogs.

Over the week, as the novelty of watching fellow guests eschew coffee for tea and eat beans for breakfast waned, I started to be bothered by the random rudeness of some guests. “What? This line certainly isn’t for me, I’ll just push on through and right up to the buffet trough!” “Oh, I’m sorry, were you waiting to talk to someone at the front desk? I couldn’t tell there was a line, just thought you liked standing there…”  “I know you were in line to order a drink from the bar, but I’m hotter and thirstier, so I’ll just elbow on through.”

My conclusion: ignorant, selfish behavior is international. It was just as likely that the rude and pushy fellow guest was a big fat guy from New Jersey as an adorable, fawn-eyed twenty-something from Kent. Stereotypes fade, and you realize people are people, warts and all.

We were slightly accosted all week, with many Brits coming up to us and telling us of their abhorrence to our president, without first gently probing our political leanings. Luckily, we were all on the same side, so no worries. We also enjoyed watching a group of British children frolicking in the ocean. When one clumsily fell off a float, another pointed and laughed “Ha, ha, you’re Donald Trump.”

We became friendly with a nice older British couple from London. We chatted with them multiple afternoons while winding down by the pool. Finally the man said “It’s so nice to meet Americans that are not loud and big.” I laughed, and bit back the urge to retort: “Yes, and it’s nice to see Brits who are not wife-beater wearing soccer hooligans with bad teeth.”

We eventually created a beach game called “Brit, Yank or Jersey.”  We would guess the nationality of people strolling by, then surreptitiously eavesdrop to confirm accents. One fact is undeniable. If the man was wearing a Speedo-type marble bag swimsuit, he’s a Brit. For the love of God, please stop.

Many days we escaped the compound to explore and discover the real Antigua, which is a beautiful island filled with small villages, a rain forest, and breathtaking beaches on the Caribbean side.  We discovered a fantastic beach with a great beach bar, (Valley Church Beach, look for the sign about 50 yards down the road after you already made the unmarked turn) and camped there a few hours multiple days.

As we have been to the Caribbean often, we are very familiar with island time.  We send our secret weapon, Mr. Friendly, up to make nice-nice with the staff. They share their hopes and dreams, then he places our lunch order, approximately one and a half hours before we estimate we might be hungry. Mr. Friendly’s new best friend eventually waves from the bar, and gives us a two minute warning, which we know to mean “about 20 more minutes.” We amble up to the tables, sit down, and chat with Mr. Friendly’s friends. About 25 minutes later, our delicious food arrives.

Now our fellow beach dwellers, Brits all, didn’t know how to play the game. About 1 p.m., “Darling, wouldn’t it be lovely to have a spot of lunch and a wee break from the sun?” They stroll up to the tables, peruse their menus, and then order, all before we sit down.  Their view: we come in, order from the waitress (we had already done that hours ago; we’re just gabbing) then our food comes out in 25 minutes, way before theirs arrives, and substantially after they had ordered. There is some table grumbling, loud enough to be heard, about tipping, throwing money around, rude behavior… and ends with “Damn Yanks!” Truly, my heart swelled with so much national pride I almost sang “God Bless America.” Damn right, and proud of it, no matter our president.

That evening, we breached the compound yet again and enjoyed a fabulous dinner at a restaurant situated on English Harbour. Our waitress gave us a mini history lesson of the area, and its 300-year-old pedigree as a British stronghold. Being British herself, she also advised us that if it weren’t for this very harbor, (catch that? ‘Murca!) our ancestors would not have gotten to the states. I made some innocuous joke about thanking King George, too, as there would not even be a United States without his tyranny. She didn’t seem to appreciate my comment.  It’s been 241 years, still too soon?

 

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Flat as a Pancake

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I don’t understand mammograms. Oh, I understand the need for cancer screenings, and in fact some people close to me have been saved by similar methods. What I don’t get is the barbaric nature of the mammogram machine itself. I do assert, however, with about 117% surety, that the mechanics of the screening were designed by a man who never had to “step up to the plate.”

I have had enough mammograms over the years to know that taking preventative Advil an hour or so beforehand helps. A bit. Not much, but maybe some placebo power?

Now you are thinking I must be a pain baby. Well, I have given birth twice; the first time I broke my tailbone, the second one was without anesthesia (not my choice). I am familiar with pain.

Boob squishing does rate substantially lower than these events on the pain scale, and is  much less in duration, but note that my breasts still hurt as I write this, one day later. Especially that pesky left one, which always acts more the rebel than the one on the right. In fact, I have the girls encased in their sling today, an unusual event when I am just hanging around the house (literally and figuratively).

If you have never had the pleasure of experiencing the boob vice, I’ll describe it to you. Your boobs, one at a time, are pulled and placed on a cold glass plate, then the top plate comes down and flattens your girls out into a pancake the size of a serving plate, if you are busty, or a saucer if you are less endowed. Discuss among yourselves which type of boob elicits more pain.

The side of your boobage always somehow gets painfully pinched, and then you must hold your breath, even when you want to scream out “F U Ann Wagner,” or whoever is trying to take your healthcare away at this moment in time.  Each boob gets two placements, and girl, do hold your breath, or you will have to repeat the process.

I guarantee if men had to do this annually, the machinery would be redesigned. I already have a great idea.  Why not have a massage type table where you gently lean your girls over into a warm vat of something like the jelly stuff used for sonograms? Figure out a way to make an image that way.

Or, how about a girl’s night out cocktail party? Throw back two or so drinks with your girlfriends, get your mammograms, and Uber on home. I think this is a great idea for breast cancer awareness month, girls watching out for each other’s girls. (Don’t start with the “alcohol consumption increases the chance of breast cancer” stuff, I’m talking one night and a couple of drinks. Life is short, lighten up!)

Flat as a Pancake is only enjoyable as background music at high school reunions.

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Ode to a Summer Monday

dog days 2

I hate to be hot, I’d rather be cold.

Snow over heat, with winds blowing bold.

This morning I arise, our house unusually roasting,

A brief investigation, we’ve an indoor pool for the boasting.

The furnace is leaking, the a/c is crying,

I’m sweaty, and crabby, and just about dying.

So …

In the wait for the repairman somewhere between morning and winter,

I bring my also non-functioning a/c car to a center.

Estimate is more than half the valued blue book,

No car a/c for me, enjoy my new summer look.

Back home to repairman, cost not so bad,

Everything fixed, and cold air to be had.

Emotional recovery (lukewarm) bath calms things down,

Until my i-phone decided to join me. It drowned.

It’s now residing in a big bag of rice,

Yep, going out to dinner sounds really, really nice.

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