As seen from my front porch

I spent most of my adult life wanting a front porch.  Not a deck, or ground level patio, but a sturdy, roof-covered porch with columns and rails spanning the front of my home.  A place of open refuge where I could grow geraniums and hang windchimes, sway in the evening breeze on a porch swing while reading a good book. A cat or two sprawled out on the rail or steps, a husband dressed in a white linen suit and panama hat, smoking a cigar in a high-back rocker. 

What I had for years was a salt box farm house designed by someone so fearful of tornadoes tearing off the roof that the house had no eaves, let alone a porch.  Nothing to shade the straggly flower beds I tried to cultivate, nothing to keep the blazing Nebraska sun from pouring through the large south-facing windows into the house that had no source of cooling other than to go outside where them temperature was about 2 degrees lower than inside.

When I moved to “The Big City”, I moved from one consecutive apartment to another–no yard to keep up, no garden, nothing to bring me outside.  At first, I loved the freedom; but as the years passed, I found myself wanting a yard, a garden, a clothesline…a porch.  When I remarried 6 years ago, I told my husband of my dream.  Would he be willing to be that man in a linen suit in the rocker?  Yes, he said.  But the years rolled by, apartment by apartment, until 2 years ago we found this house to rent.

Built in 1921, in a quiet neighborhood, surrounded by other homes of the same age, all stately, well kept, with deep front porches and backyards.  And clotheslines.  This house, as well.   Huge oak trees in front and back, fenced in backyard with a spot for a vegetable garden.  The first spring and summer here I planted, hoed, and weeded beautiful vegetables and flowers, and this summer they rewarded me with double the blossoms and plants I  put in. There’s a tiny pond with a continuous running pump fountain and gold fish in the back yard, the gurgling water is calming when I sit out back. I hang my laundry out to dry on the clothesline; just the act of snapping out each individual item and hanging is rewarding, especially smelling the fresh outdoors scent on the clothes when I bring them in. My sister would come over and ask why there was always clothes on the line, and I would answer, “because it’s there”.

  I spend as much time outside as I can.  If not in the back yard  with my flowers and garden, then sitting on my glider on the front porch, looking at my geraniums blooming, listening to the windchimes, and reading a good book.  I didn’t get the linen-suited husband in a high back rocking chair, smoking a cigar.  But I did get a husband in blue jeans and tshirt, sitting on a vintage patio chair smoking a cigarette. Not quite the dream I had, but seeing him relax and smile at the two cats lounging on the porch makes up for it.

   This is my definition of contentment.

Books…books…pieces of my heart, books.

Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you love.
4) Strike out the books you have no intention of ever reading, or were forced to read at school and hated.
5) Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve only read 6 and force books upon them

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 The Harry Potter Series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible (not all at once.)
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving [reading this book was a life-changing experience]
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon (brilliant!)
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses James Joyce ( still trying to get through this after 9 years…does going to Dublin to visit the Irish Authors’ Museum and seeing his statue count?)  
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl(Johnny Depp, doing his best Michael Jackson impersonation, ruined it for me.)
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Eight Things

My sister Mary, whose blog, The Eleventh, the first thing I look at on line in the morning, has invited (or challenged, as it were) to list 8 things I want to do before I die.  Now, I’m too old to actually do  all eight of those things, or even the 153 things I want to do before I die.  But her challenge has made me think alot about my priorities and what kind of lasting impression I would leave if I actually succeeded in doing those eight things.  So, here they are:

1) Have a loving and peaceful family get together with my daughters and their families.  The last time I was with them both was almost 4 years ago, at my youngest’s wedding in Las Vegas.  No time for Mother-Daughter bonding.  I would also like to have their father, my first husband,  there as well, to reminisce about their childhood and look with awe at the beautiful children they  had created. No acrimony, no bickering, no finger-pointing, just love.

2) Convince my father that my mother is his first at utmost priority.  This woman bore 13 children for him, raised 12 of them almost single-handedly while he was looking out for #1, himself.  Even now, in their 80’s, it’s still all about him.  My mother is one of the most intelligent, loving, compassionate and Christian person I know, and he still treats her as chattle.

3) #1, only with my siblings.  But there are too many of us, with too many personalities, too many conflicting mindsets and hangups, for that to happen.  One (or two, or seven) of us will start an arguement about politics, religion, or social status, someone will start crying, a few will leave.  You’d expect that from high schoolers, not people who are 40+ years old.

4) Spend time with my oldest grandson.  His grandfather and I raised him from toddler to 6 years of age while his mother pursued an education and employment.  Those years were the most rewarding of my life. He was born at a time in my life when a lot of women contemplate having another child.  He was such an easy child, very imaginative, loving, and very aware of compromises and consequences.  I sincerely believe that the day his father, our ex-son-in-law, sued and got custody, was the beginning of the end of our marriage.  Vincent is now a klunky 15 year old, handsome, intelligent, talented, lazy; a typical teenager. He doesn’t remember the time he lived with us, and that breaks my heart.

5) . Move closer to my youngest grandson.  I believe (quite selfishly, I admit) that I can have a permanent, positive influence on this boy who is so much like his mother and grandfather it’s almost scary.  But because he is so much like them, it would give me so much pleasure to relive my life with them.  Cooper is such a smart, complicated boy, he needs Grandma J to take him off his mom’s hands for just a day or two at a time. Everyone would benefit. Especially Grandma.

6) Publish my book, if I could only recover it from the floppy disk where it’s stored.  I hate to have to rewrite it, since it was written in my pre-Prozac days when I was more painfully creative.

7) Find a church where I can feel accepted and where I can cultivate my Christianity, give mightily with my talents, and leave a legacy of love.  I have never found a church like that, and I’ve almost given up hope to find one.

8) Pay my debts, financially, emotionally, and socially.  I want to leave this life knowing that I owe no debts, that I’ve been forgiven my shortcomings, and that I have made a difference in someone’s life. The first one I will know before I die, the others I hope to see from the hereafter, in the positive and productive lives of those I have touched.

Oh blah blah about your new car.

My family has a fantastic website, where everyone (all 12 of us, plus our spawn) posts news, reviews, photos, etc.  This site is responsible for allowing us to refrain from gathering for a family reunion, thus preventing numerous meltdowns, shoutdowns, maimings and murders.

Once in a while, someone will post something just to brag on a new major purchase or increase in social status.  This has little meaning to some of the rest of us, we who pride ourselves with living somewhat within our means and doing things the old fashioned way, like cooking our own meals and making our own ice cubes. Simple things like that. Recently a family member asked what kind of car we drive, then posted this about his new vehicle:


   ‘ …Bought a new magnetic grey 2008 Nissan Versa SL hatchback in April… Love the car, plan to tint the windows in the future and install aftermarket rims….I already have a sound system in it.   Four 6.5″ 240 watt Kenwood door speakers, 1000W Kenwood amp and a 1200 Kenwood watt sub….Before, my plans were to get a ’08 Mazda3 sedan…. The interior was mediocre compared to the Versa…yadda yadda yadda…’   

Now, I’m not a jealous person.  Jealousy (like worry) is a waste of energy and time, and I’m too old for that. But I can  detect a vain cock-of-the-walk when I see one, and this was a prime example of one. So, I replied thusly. Everything you are about the read is true, except for the contents inside our car. Eddie’s a lot more cluttered than that:


    We own a beautiful 93 Chevy Lumina that has a radiator leak, bald tires (all 4 of them! What are the odds?!), the driver’s door won’t open from the outside (keyless entry) and the passenger side mirror has been reconnected to the car with Miracle Putty (that stuff really works! If it only came in metallic blue instead of “Putty” color).
The car’s name is Sir Edward, or “Eddie”, as we like to call him.
The interior is littered with old hats, gas receipts, a blanket, two pairs of shoes (mine) and our own GPS system, two local area telephone books.
We installed our own sound system, replacing the factory-installed am/fm/cassette player with a sweet radio/cd player purchased from Walmart for a mere 19.95. What a steal! It doesn’t quite fit in the dash where the old system was, so it’s held securely by scotch tape that does need to be replaced occasionally.
I would like to tell about Lola, my 99 Saturn, and how, when I changed the rear signal bulb, all the turn signals stopped working, and when I step on the brakes, all the interior and dash lights come on. Or how her rear passenger side window won’t stay up. Or maybe I just did.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have, once, owned a brand new car.  In 2001 I bought a Ford Focus, and was proud of it.  But I was 44 years old at the time, and had been driving a 1979 Grand Marquis banana boat.  I was newly divorced, moved 600 miles away from the home in the country where I had spent the previous 26 years as a rancher’s wife, and I needed a smaller vehicle, preferably one that didn’t have a U-joint and transmission going out. “Sparky” signified something other than status to me.  She signified a new beginning, a new freedom, and a new debt that I, alone, was responsible for.

Then, in 2006, when my now husband and I were taking a trip back to my hometown to visit my family, a man in a pickup, talking on his cell phone, t-boned my car at a highway intersection. I’m embarassed to say that at the time of impact, I wasn’t worried about us, I was more worried about my car. Fortunately, after being taken by ambulance to a local hospital, we suffered only a few bumps and bruises. But Sparky was totalled; I was almost inconsolable.  The insurance paid out enough to buy two used cars, plus enough left over to pay a few medical bills from the accident. Eddie and Lola are the two used cars, both with faults and quirks that come with used cars with an unknown background. I’m not really attached to them, but at least I don’t have car payments to make.  I’ve learned a car is just a car, a machine, a mode of transportation.  It is not a person, nothing to prove your value as a person, nothing to brag about. Except that it’s paid for.

Why, thanks for asking

Well, then.

This is my second attempt at blogging.  Of course, this blog pales in comparison to my sister’s blog,  and it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that most blogsites have. Yet.  I am getting long in the tooth, and anything requiring attention to detail is just a distraction and demands to be ignored. (Just look at my eyebrows).  I had found a treatment for this flaw, quite by accident. I had pulled a muscle in my back one day, and my doctor (who looks like Robert Redford as “Sundance Kid”, without the six-shooter. Or maybe that’s what he carries in the pocket of his Levi’s. I’m too old to even want to try to find out) prescribed Valium.  Hmm, Valium.  Isn’t that what the Stepfordian Wives take, along with a dry martini, whenever their child in Harvard fails to make the polo team, or when the housekeeper fails to reposition the leather wing-backed chair by the marble fireplace?  Nevertheless, I took the Valium as prescribed, washing it down with a gulp of warm flat soda in my car. Did I mention I took the pill right there at the drive up window of Walgreens? Cars behind mine, honking for their turn at the vacuum tube of pharmacopeia, while I wrestled with the child-proof cap.

Not knowing what to expect, I drove home immediately and sat down in the recliner, waiting for miraculous effects. 5 minutes passed. Nothing. 

 I turned on the television, bypassing the Food Network and Spike (Dr K’s favorite channels–when he’s not learning how to improve his Salmon En Crout,  he is watching people in Japan slide down hills in giant teacups and falling into vats of mud). I watch the ending of a movie from the 80’s where every woman is wearing bumper bang hair and wearing dresses with shoulder pads the size of footballs. Now I’m feeling a little something..a buzz? No, something else..but my back still hurts.

I stand up to go to the kitchen for a glass of something, nothing alcoholic for fear one of my children, if they smell booze on my breath,  will want to take my leather wing-backed chair back to their Ivy league school, when I finally notice it.

A scrap of paper on the floor. Who left that there? And here, a old, broken rubber band!  What the?  Another scrap of paper under the coffee table.  And here, a piece of yarn!   All of sudden, I see little bits of whatever all over the house. Never mind the dining table is heaped with library books, junk mail, cat toys, dirty coffee cups, whatever.  Or that the newspaper on the couch is from last week. Or that the dust on my furniture has a visible depth now and not a few drifts.  All I see, and want to pick up, are the little bits and pieces from the floor. My back is still hurting, but that doesn’t stop me from getting on my hands and knees with a plastic grocery bag on my search and destroy mission to find every scrap,every string, every twist-tie on the floors of my house. I spend about an hour going from room to room, ignoring dust bunnies and piles of laundry, until I have filled my bag and have exhausted myself. Oh, I am quite pleased! Thanks to Valium, I have the concentration and determination to clean my house, just as long as it’s miniscule and on the floor.

I get up off the floor, my cat’s meowing in concern that I’ve hurt myself as I moan in pain standing up.( I won’t tell you when the last time I was in that hands-and-knees position for any length of time, I’m too old to talk about it.) I go into the kitchen, make myself a rather large something-and-coke, then flop down in the recliner, imagining what it would be like to sit in a  leather wing-backed chair in front of my marble fireplace.