This Baby Boomers Real Life

Code Word Squirrel

A good friend, Mike,  tells me last time he saw me he didn’t think I felt well.

We had been together at a meeting,  “I didn’t feel bad. Why did you think that?”

You didn’t look right.

“What didn’t look right?”

Your hair.

“My hair made me look sick?”

It wasn’t fluffy. It looked like braids or rats or something. Like you hadn’t fixed it.

“Oh.. so a bad hair day made me look sick.”

There was more. You’re color wasn’t right.  You looked pale.

Because of  his sincere concern, I’m amused,  “Bad hair; bad makeup.  Anything else?”  

Your eyes were kind of glassy, like maybe you were on drugs. Maybe you were too relaxed.

“I must have looked like crap. I wonder if everyone thought I looked sick?”

No, he explains,  Don’t worry.  I stare at you more than the others do,

“This is bad.  I could be fired if I look drugged, glassy eyed, and pale with ratty hair.  l think we need a code word in case I ever look so out of it again.

He quickly picks our code word.   “Squirrel”

If you are with me and someone says, “squirrel” you and I will know I’m having a BAD day.

Daughters and Their Babies

Bad Eyes

I didn’t ask to be an animal caretaker. I’m not even sure I like animals. I’ve always had them because of the kids. Kids leave, but they bring their animals home to me.

This morning I wondered why there was a big empty fish bowl on the counter. Figured Dee’s fish must have died. Why didn’t she dump the water, clean the bowl, and get it off the kitchen counter? It’s a mess in here; a stuffed cluttered refrigerator, expired food, four demanding dog guests, a dead visiting fish, and dog poop all over the yard, which will be mowed today. Being a Meme is worse than being a mom. Meme’s don’t punish or get angry because grandchildren need good grandma memories.  

After feeding the dogs, I take my lunch to the back patio. Dee comes outside and wants to know where her fish went.

“How would I know? I figured the fish was dead.”

No, Meme. I cleaned the bowl. I made it my goal to take better care of him. He’s not even my fish. I’m fish babysitting.  He was in the bowl when I left yesterday.

“Really? Well, he wasn’t in the bowl this morning.”

Yes he was. I know he was in the bowl.

We’re both thinking, thinking, thinking. Where did the fish go?

“Dee, fish don’t have legs. He wasn’t in the bowl, so you didn’t put him in the bowl.”

Sometimes he jumps out of the bowl.  She’s nervous, as she should be.

“Okay, well that’s not good. I threw him away.”

Why would you do that? 

“There was dog pee on the floor and a little turd. I left it as long as I could hoping someone else would clean it up, but no one came. So, I cleaned it up. The turd was the strangest little turd, so I figured it was Puff’s. It kept slipping out of the paper towel.  That nasty turd was disgusting.”

Dee’s sad for the fish, but not angry.

My eyes are not good. I’ve mistaken mice for leaves and now fish for turds.  I’m making an appointment to get my eyes checked.

My Life - How I think and how I live...

My Father


“What would Dad say?”

My sister, Diane, asks me that question at least 3-5 times a year. We decide he’d say something like, “He’ll figure it out.” “If she does that she might not like what happens.” “He won’t do that again.” “She’ll learn.” Or maybe, “That’s malarkey.” Dad rarely gave orders; he’d briefly explain possible consequences; then we faced them. It could be scary. He taught us to think and make decisions. We didn’t need to beg or argue. The choice was usually ours.

Growing up was easy. I don’t remember punishments or lectures. I don’t remember a lot of restrictions or pressure to perform. I never heard screaming or fighting. Dad was predictable. We ate dinner together then he’d hang out with Mom and/or the neighbors. I heard laughter most every day. Dad had lots of friends. He liked everyone. If there was someone he didn’t like he never told us. Neighbors, co-workers, high school buddies, garbage collectors, construction workers, doctors, CEOs, blacks, whites, immigrants, Catholics, Protestants, … they were all the same.

I was a 6th grader in 1965 when our family went to the riverboat in St. Louis. After the boat ride we went back to visit with people Mom and Dad met on the boat. All the parents visited on a big front porch and all the kids played in the yard. We were the only white kids. In 1968, when I was in 9th grade,  there was a lot of whispering going on in our neighborhood. Lesbians moved in across the street. Dad was one of the few, or maybe the only one, who didn’t seem to notice. He treated them same as all other neighbors.

Growing up, I never missed mass on Sunday. If Mom and Dad had partied late Saturday night and were not feeling too chipper we’d head upstairs to the choir loft. We had rosaries, pictures of Jesus, the pope, John F. Kennedy, Jr. and a Blessed Mother statue in our home because that’s how cradle Catholics decorated. I’m grateful our parents introduced us to Jesus.

The best thing Dad did for us was love our Mom until the end. The end was challenging and not once did Dad complain. Mom and Dad were in heaven before age 65.

Today, I imagine he’s laughing and having a beer with Mom… exactly as it should be.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

My Life - How I think and how I live...

Almost Sudden Death

It’s December 23, 2014.  Mothers are not supposed to die two days before Christmas.

Cancer doesn’t care about mothers or children.

Karen was my grade school best friend.  I never quite figured out why she chose me.  She was athletic; by far the cutest girl in the class.  I was clumsy, immature, housed in a Milwaukee brace, and easily the most unpopular kid in the class. Karen was shy and I was ridiculously social.  I suppose we were a good match.

Karen and I met Paula in high school.  Paula was a cheerleader and by far the cutest girl in our high school class.  I had lost the brace, but otherwise I had not changed. Karen and Paula became good friends.  I moved in another direction.  It wasn’t something we decided; it just happened.

We graduated.  We lost touch for nearly 20 years and reconnected at a class reunion.  We more than reconnected.  We realized our friendships never ended. Karen, Paula, and I met for lunch, we met other classmates for drinks, we relived the past and we shared what we had lost over the years.

November 2014, I get a message from Karen’s daughter.  “My mom has an aggressive cancer.  Will you call my dad?”  How could that be?  We had been together in July and Paula had tried to set a lunch date in October.  Karen hadn’t responded, but so what?Sometimes it took a few months to set something up.  We were busy.  It was nothing for one of us to procrastinate or “forget.”

First, I call Paula.  She had received the same text.  I call Howard. He wants us to visit Karen in the hospital. We don’t talk about “aggressive cancer.”

When Paula and I walk into the hospital room, I’m not sure my face is able to disguise my shock.  What happened?  Karen is swollen and bald and discolored. Tears fall from her eyes, but she smiles and asks how we’re doing.  For two hours we stay with Howard, Katie, and Karen.  We reminisce; we talked about everything but the elephant in the room.  We laugh, a lot.

Howard walks us to the elevator and tells us there is one more thing they can try to save Karen.  He doesn’t look hopeful.  There are no words to make it better.  We hug.

I was able to see Karen one more time before she died.  Our friend, Dawn, came in from Dallas.  Dawn and I visited.  Karen knew she was dying and it would be quick.  I didn’t talk a lot. Dawn managed to nervous-ramble for over an hour about clothes, and kids, and the past.  Karen went from smiling, to crying, to sleeping. When we left, I kissed her good-bye. I knew I’d never see my friend again.


Karen is 3rd from the right; beside me, of course!

My Life - How I think and how I live...

When I Grow Up

I’m afraid I’m going to die before I grow up.

I’ve grown old.  I’ve met at least the minimum requirements of sister, daughter, cousin, niece, wife, mother, grandmother, friend, and Catholic.  I’ve been a file clerk, fast food employee, bus driver, freelance writer, secretary, advocate, facilitator, and trainer.  I’ve been on boards and in clubs; I’ve organized retreats and reunions.  I done enough and loved enough for a decent eulogy and obit.

I haven’t done what I was going to do when I grew up.  I haven’t written a book.  I haven’t even attempted to write a book.  I ventured toward the book idea 30 years ago by finding out if I could write something others would read.  I sent query letters to magazines by the truckload.  I was ignored or rejected for months then given an assignment by a local magazine.  I wrote.  I obeyed word limits, met deadlines, found good sources, researched, interviewed experts and wrote easy to read, entertaining, thoughtful articles.  I was a monthly contributor for nearly six years until I chose to quit.  Writing 30 years ago required a lot more leg work than it does today.  There was no easy-access research.  I went to the library.  I used a thesauruses and dictionary, electric typewriter, and finally a word processor. Buying five copies of a magazine and seeing my byline was the biggest payoff.  I figure my income was probably $5 an hour, at best.

I stopped writing and drove a school bus for my daughters’ Catholic grade school.  Other than the writing job, I rarely looked for work.  I was a lucky stay-at-home mom.  I had options and people knew it.  That’s how I ended up behind the wheel of a run-down stick shift dilapidated yellow school bus.

My life has been good.  Of course, a good life is not a life without crosses.  I faced health challenges, my parents died young, and my 34-year marriage failed.  I had times when I wondered if I’d recover.  All of this was necessary.  I often think of the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross quote, ” The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.  Beautiful people do not just happen.”

Getting old can be ugly, but unless we give up or become resentful and self-centered we are eventually beautiful.  I have become beautiful.

It’s time to write.

This Baby Boomers Real Life

Crime and Beer


I joined the neighborhood Crime Watch committee. The members are close to my age and they wooed me, promising fun and beer. Maybe I’ll invite them to our neighborhood Bunco.

I arrive at Peggy’s for my first meeting. There are name tags in the entry. That’s okay; I see a bucket of beer. We take our places in her living room. No one grabs a beer. I’m asked by the committee which month I’d like to walk the neighborhood at night to make sure everyone is compliant with their outdoor lights.

“Uh, I don’t walk at night. I could get mugged.”

Oh, okay you don’t need a month. For those of you who have a month, if you find someone’s lights aren’t on just knock on their door and tell them. They may not realize their lights are out.

“Uh, if you knock on my door at night, I won’t answer. You could be a murderer.”

Oh, right. Let’s write down the addresses and send emails. Now, what about bushes? People need to keep their bushes low. Email anyone whose bushes are over 3 feet tall. Also, check out the houses with side entrances, those people should have their porch lights on. A burglar could spend all night on one of those dark porches.

More emails. I want a beer.

Next on the agenda – Bluff Road has overgrown brush almost covering the sidewalks. That is part of our community, but the city needs to take care of it. Someone could be hiding in that brush and grab a walker. And, I’ve seen coyote footprints. It’s dangerous. Joe, can you call the mayor’s office?

“I walk on Bluff Road all the time. Where is this brush?”

Which way do you walk?

“North, south, all over it and on both sides of the street.”

Well, then you’re walking right through it.

“I am? I haven’t notice brush.”

Do you take your phone when you walk?

“Yes, with earbuds and Pandora blaring. Now, I’ve got to worry about thugs and coyotes?”

Not for long. If the mayor doesn’t clean it up, our committee will clear it out. Everyone knows which month they have and Joe’s going to take care of Bluff. Now, who wants a beer?

I’ve never waited so long for a beer in my life.

“I’ll have one.”

I’m not telling this group about Bunco.

photo 1 (7) photo 2 (7)

I didn’t know “brush” meant 30 ft. trees, and I didn’t realize this is not near our property.  I will not be ripping trees out with the committee…maybe the mayor will do it.  I’ll be okay on this committee if I can drink a lot, not get arrested, and stay alive.  Crime Watch can be dangerous!
Daughters and Their Babies

Winter Storm 2014

Winter Storm …  Sunday, January 5 – Thursday, January 8, 2014

The storm was set to begin late Saturday or early Sunday morning. Six to 12″ of snow with wind chill up to minus 50 degrees.  Media issued a constant stream of warnings… I had heard a lot of warnings in the past few decades.

Jill began texting me and Jan Saturday morning    Snow supposed to start at 7:30.  Getting my emergency action plan ready.  What are you going to do if the power goes out?  Do you have firewood?  Enough bottled water if the heat doesn’t work?  Jan will be okay, she doesn’t shower.  Leave the faucets dripping.  Do you have high protein food that doesn’t need to be cooked if the power goes out?  What if the power goes out and it’s minus 45 degrees?  Fill your gas tanks.  Better to have a plan and not need it than no plan and die!  I have a big headache right now.  Means the snow is coming.  I can predict weather with my brain.  Snowpocolypse is coming.
Jan’s response: OMG I’m going to shower so I don’t have to the rest of the week.  I have no food, no gas, no plan.  We’ll probably just die…surviving sounds too hard.
Me:  I’ll buy milk.

By Sunday morning, Jan and I were listening to Jill and the storm warnings.  Snow was falling fast.  This would be a record breaking storm; talked about for decades.  Jill asked Jan what she was going to do if her heat went out and her car wouldn’t start or she was unable to drive?  What about your kids?

Sunday morning, Jan and Chris come to my house because they often lose power and their car stays outside.  My underground power lines made my house appear safer. The plan was to put my car in the driveway and Jan’s SUV in my garage. I knew that wouldn’t go unnoticed so I told my neighbor, Mary Ann, our plans.

Jan, Chris, the kids, and both pugs arrived around 11 a.m. on Sunday.  The snow continued to fall and the temperature began to quickly drop.  We played in the snow before the deep freeze.

photo (4)       photo (4)_00     snowman

I loved having Jan, Chris, the kids and pugs here for 2 days. They brought lots of food.  Both are great cooks. We pretended it was a vacation. We ate and watched movies and played games and ate and took crash naps and then ate some more. We texted with Jill non-stop and threw in some Facetime.

photo (4)_02   ruth shoulder   photo (4)_03

I’m sure Jan and Chris would have preferred to be home, but the kids and I loved it.  On Monday evening when Chris decided they were safe to return home, the kids and I were disappointed.  They voiced it.  I didn’t.  It was time for them to go…  Adults want to be in their own home.  Chris cleaned the snow from my car, packed up their car, returned my car to the garage, and they headed home at 5:30.  I gave them a snow shovel and a down comforter for the kids if they should get stuck trying to get home.

newman  They didn’t get stuck in the snow and the kids didn’t get the comforter.  Newman had a nice ride home.

At 5:40, ten minutes after Jan left, Mary Ann called to see if I was okay since my car was missing from the driveway. It’s nice to know someone’s always watching.  I live in a great neighborhood full of nosey neighbors who want to help.  While the kids were here, we needed ketchup for the their French fries, so I tried to borrow some.  The neighbor I called didn’t have any.  She called another neighbor without telling me, who hiked through 12 inches of snow to deliver it to our front door.

Jan and Chris arrived home safe and warm; Henry with his new dice and Ruth with her new makeup, which is always applied to her left eye.  Jan thanked me for helping Ruth look abused.

ruth makeup

It’s Tuesday evening and our city is still cold.  Too cold for the salt to work on the roads.  The office is closed again Wednesday and my gym is closed because of frozen pipes.  I’m one of the lucky ones not forced to go out,  but still antsy hanging out at home.  The house is back to normal, laundry finished, not much else needs to be done…  I’m writing, playing on the internet, and looking forward to Spring.  Right now, anything above 30 degrees will feel like Spring.

Just Do It

Diet – Accountability Partners

My weight gain came later in life, which left me scrambling to figure out what to do.

I joined fitness gyms and bought fitness equipment. I tried diet supplements, aids, pills, bars, and frozen dinners. I tried my mother’s egg diet, my aunt’s grapefruit diet, and my neighbor’s Sleeping Beauty diet. I read dozens of books on scientific breakthroughs. I joined Weight Watchers, Nutri-System, and Jenny Craig. I fasted four months on a medically supervised liquid-only diet. I joined internet weight-loss programs, which tracked every calorie. I tried yoga, Pilates, and meditation. I committed to multiple life-style changes. I kept food journals, counted carbs, and permanently banned donuts and Big Macs. I own 34 work-out DVDs and VHS tapes ranging from nice guy, Richard Simmons to the terminator, Jillian Michaels. I’m sometimes at a good weight, but more often on a yo-yo… 30 up – 20 down – 10 up – 5 down…

I’ve been on a diet for 20 years.

I never choose diets or strategies on a whim. I hear about them. A fat person loses fat and then tells me how to lose fat. I’m convinced it works and I can do it, too. Later I run into the advisor and we’re both fat.

This time is different. For the past 10 months, I’ve been losing weight and getting fit the hard way, which is the right way, which is supposed to become the natural-easy way, eventually resulting in a permanent way of life.

I’m networking with different kinds of people; some former fatties, some athletes, some wanting to lose weight, or get stronger or healthier. We met on a dating site. I internet chat with these people every day…they are available 24/7. We call ourselves Accountability Partners (APs). We share our health and fitness goals each day. In sharing we teach and learn. I’m mostly a student.

Many days my workouts happened because of a promise I made to my APs in the morning.

I’ve lost over 20 lbs., but even better I’ve built endurance working out at least four times a week. I’m stronger and I’m faster. I’m not a graceful jogger, but I try. I watch and I listen to my APs. I would not be where I am today without them.

I’ve never met daily requirement for fruits or veggies, so when I learned many of my APs experience weight-loss and increased energy by juicing, I bought a juicer. The raw fruit and veggie pictures on the juicer box were beautiful. The promises in the literature made me want to become a juicing maniac.

By using the juicer, I’ll have beautiful hair, skin and nails; an enhanced mood, increased energy, and increased athletic performance (I can use that when I jog). Juicing will improve my digestion, sleep, cholesterol, and blood pressure. Over time, I will see a visible decrease in wrinkles and improved elasticity.

Day 1 – I head to the grocery. Many juicers use kale, but I was told beginners will want spinach because it’s not as bitter. I don’t want bitter. I want delicious. I return home with bananas, apples, strawberries, mango, red pepper, broccoli, and lots of spinach. I clean the produce and make my first juice. It’s ugly. I drink it. It’s not as good as I had hoped, but not bad.  Later in the day, I make a second juice with different ingredients. I can’t drink it. I add strawberries and bananas and finish the drink. I don’t like it. I need to acquire a taste. I finish 8 cups of juice.

Day 2  – I wake with stomach pains.  My stomach never hurts. It’s either the juice or a virus. I wait until 1 p.m. to make my first juice. It’s extra ugly…thick green; smells like wet grass. I sip and then add 6 strawberries. I pour it over ice. Ice might help. I sip, I gag. I continue this pattern long enough to drink about ¼ cup. One more gag is going to induce a horrible juice reflux. I make chicken tortilla soup; delish!

Day 3 –  I’ll decide whether the juicer stays. I’ve been doing this diet stuff long enough to know there are millions of scientific findings and roads to fitness. Juicing is very expensive and my taste buds are screaming Gag Me.  At the end of the day the juicer leaves!

This Baby Boomers Real Life

Neighborhood Association Meeting

For the past six months, I’ve been trying to get in shape and lose weight. My goal is to live longer, build stamina, and improve my cardiovascular health. I downloaded an app Couch 2 5 K. It’s a program designed to help you run a 5K. (I know I’ll not be able to run a 5K, but still this is good exercise.) I’ve been using the APP as I walk/run in the neighborhood.

I was at a neighborhood association dinner tonight. One of our “honest” residents, 86-year-old Lou, said she saw me jogging.

Debbie, I saw you out doing something. You might have been jogging, I’m not sure.

“Oh, yeah. I try to jog, but I can’t really do it.”

Well, I tooted my horn.  I was afraid if I honked it might kill you.

“Nah, I’ve been honked at before. I swerve all over the place. I’m usually delirious.”

I waved…but, you were panting and leaning forward. Looked kind of glassy eyed; I was afraid you might fall down. (She mimicked my jog – it was horrible.)

“Becky told me I look good when I jog.”

Becky lied. You look like a sick jogger that might pass out. You be careful, honey.

“Okay, don’t worry. I think I might look worse than I feel.”

Well don’t die out there, we’d miss you at Bunko.

“I’ll be at Bunko. But, thanks for setting me straight. Now I know it’s not in my imagination. I have a bad gait.”

As we stand in line at the buffet I explain to Lou,  “Well, I figure even if I’m slow and terrible and look like a sick turtle, I’m moving faster than the person sitting home on the couch.”

When I’m 87, I hope I can be as honest as Lou. And, Becky… I’ll never trust her again!

ASSOCIATION BUSINESS: The neighborhood may need speed bumps; yellow painted on the curbs to prevent parking that blocks driver views; neighborhood watch to prevent fishing in the ponds; and police presence at the unnecessary flashing stop signs. The president will look into issuing a warrant for the arrest of the kids who ride the golf cart through the neighborhood without helmets..

Thank goodness none of the Bunko Ladies voted for these restrictions. Lou says we live in a neighborhood full of idiots. They don’t know about our secret clubs.



This Baby Boomers Real Life

Bunko Ladies

Carol and I were the last to arrive at Bunko. I quickly go to the kitchen to get coffee. The hostess, Helen, catches me.

“Debi, I saw you walking the other day,” she says looking concerned. “I was going to invite you in for coffee, but you looked so pitiful. I was afraid you’d be embarrassed that I saw you.”

“Oh, I don’t get embarrassed.”

“Well, you were in bad shape,” she said, while imitating my walk and anguished face.

We begin to arrange the tables. Card table in kitchen, then out of kitchen, then folded against the wall. We decide to use only two tables to be close to each other.

Carol rings the bell. Bunko begins. Whoops and hollers – “BUNKO” “21” “1, 2, 3”

Between games, Candi calls a Bunko Meeting.

“We have things to discuss,” Candi shouts as Carol tap-tap-taps the bell calling the meeting to order.

“We will vote on these things with a show of hands.”

Monthly Prizes for Bunko Winners: Helen votes to discontinue. No one needs more junk. Carol agrees. No one cares about hands.

Hostess: Who has never hosted? Lou quickly says Debi. Unanimous hand approval, I host November.

Holiday dinner: Candi votes Vegas Bar & Grill and adds that the gift exchange will be a $10 limit. She ignores hands.

Cookie exchange: Becky votes 2 dozen per person. Hands are flying up.

Membership List: Secretary distributes phone numbers, addresses and emails.

Lou dismisses Helen and Carol’s Monthly Prizes for Bunko decision. “Winners need something or why would we want to win?” Mildred agrees. Everyone bring $1 to Bunko and winners get money.

Lou dismisses Candi’s holiday dinner suggestion: Vegas Bar & Grill is too expensive – Lou changes it to Stony Creek.

Lou dismisses Candi’s Gift Exchange decision: Waste of money, no one needs junk.

I dismiss Becky’s Cookie exchange idea: Too much trouble. Everyone STARES. I silently question my clout.

Marsha challenges Lou’s Gift Exchange dismissal: Bring a small gift and we can pass and steal from each other. It’s a fun game. Hands approve.

Lou disapproves Marsha’s Gift Exchange idea:  Too loud to play a game in a restaurant.

Lou confirms my nixing the Cookie Exchange – “Debi’s right, we’re too busy to be baking cookies.”

We take a short break after the meeting to get dessert. Lou sneaks over and whispers, “I’ll bring you fudge next month. It’s only for you. Don’t tell. I’m too busy to make it for everyone. When did we get a Bunko secretary?”

When we finish Bunko the winners rush to claim their “junk” prizes. We hug good night and no one can remember where we’re going for the holiday dinner, whether we’re having a gift or cookie exchange, who’s hosting in November and whether or not she’ll need to have gifts for the winners. I tell them not to worry. The secretary will tell us in the minutes.

“We have a secretary?” Lou asks.

FOLLOW UP: Two weeks later Helen calls to see who is having Bunko in November. I tell her it’s at my house. She agrees to let everyone know. She calls back a few days later to see if we are going to play for money or if I’m buying “winner” gifts. I tell her I’ll do either one. She’s going to call everyone, take a vote, and get back with me. Until we find a Bunko secretary, I think we should hold off on the meetings.