Inspired by The Daily Post 4/14/13: The Satisfaction of a List

Cheaper Than Therapy:

We Pennsylvanians have a rather tenuous grasp on weather, that is to say we’re not exactly meteorologically savvy.  At daybreak every February 2nd, we gather by the thousands at a knoll in Punxsutawney–warmed by nothing more than beer and stupidity—and wait for a groundhog (also known as a woodchuck, a whistle-pig, or a land beaver) to announce that winter is over. We pass the next six weeks nursing our hangovers, lopping off frostbitten fingers, and cursing the animal for misleading us.

So deeply committed are we to our belief in animals as harbingers of weather events, we continue to do so straight through March. You know that saying if March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb? In Pennsylvania, that’s science we can get behind!

This year March came to Pennsylvania roaring like a lion—snow, freezing rain, blustering winds, the whole deal. But even if…

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We Pennsylvanians have a rather tenuous grasp on weather, that is to say we’re not exactly meteorologically savvy.  At daybreak every February 2nd, we gather by the thousands at a knoll in Punxsutawney–warmed by nothing more than beer and stupidity—and wait for a groundhog (also known as a woodchuck, a whistle-pig, or a land beaver) to announce that winter is over. We pass the next six weeks nursing our hangovers, lopping off frostbitten fingers, and cursing the animal for misleading us.

So deeply committed are we to our belief in animals as harbingers of weather events, we continue to do so straight through March. You know that saying if March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb? In Pennsylvania, that’s science we can get behind!

This year March came to Pennsylvania roaring like a lion—snow, freezing rain, blustering winds, the whole deal. But even if it had come in mild as a lamb, March can hold its head up high. PR-wise, March is covered. Option one:  lion– fierce, courageous, dignified, regal, lethal. Option two:  lamb–peaceful, pastoral, gentle, and when simmered among root vegetables and served with a Guinness, mighty tasty.

Truthfully, March could do a lot worse than coming in like either a lion or a lamb. To prove the point, let’s take a look at five animals March is glad it will never have to come in as.

Seriously, this is as good looking as I get.

Seriously, this is as good looking as I get.

1. The blob fish
Holy mother, the blob fish is a mess. With a body made primarily of shapeless,  gelatinous goo, it hovers slightly above the deep ocean floors off the coast of Australia. The pressure is so strong at blob fish levels that a gas bladder would be useless, and the environment is so dark it has no need for elaborate camouflage. So there you have the blob fish, ghostly pale and looking like a foot long lugie, just biding its time and waiting for edible substances to float past its apathetic, expressionless face–kind of like a Steelers fan by the end of Super Bowl 2013.

2. The angler fish
Like all men, the male angler fish lives only to find a woman and get lucky. But the manner in which angler fish reproduce gives whole new meaning to the term hook-up. While the female angler fish is a hideously scary looking deep sea creature whose cameo appearance in the movie Finding Nemo haunts children to this day, the male angler fish is tiny and rather benign. When he

Mrs. Angler Fish sporting this season’s crop of parasitic testicles

finds a female, he swims right up and bites into her flesh—and that’s where the real magic begins! The female begins to absorb the male; her blood vessels fuse with his, and his body actually disintegrates—except for the testicles, which remain behind as small lumps on the surface of her skin, providing her a continuing source of sperm. And since a female angler fish can—ahem—host up to six males at a time, she might end up with quite a few semipermanent testi-lumps. Years later when their children look at family portraits, little angler fish will see Dad reduced to nothing but his balls, while Mom appears to be suffering from a severe case of sperm-filled cystic acne.

3. The blood squirting lizard
Lizards are amazing. They’re like little real-life dragons, right here for us to visit at Reptile Land or occasionally even bring home in a tiny

Drama queen much?

Drama queen much?
(Click picture to see me SQUIRT BLOOD FROM MY FREAKING EYE!)

box marked Petco. But at least four species of lizards are such drama queens that, when confronted by a predator, they hold their breath so hard the pressure inside their skulls increases, tiny blood vessels in their faces rupture, and they shoot a stream of foul smelling, bad tasting blood RIGHT OUT OF THEIR FREAKING EYEBALLS, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY! I’m sure there are those who would find the whole blood-shooting eyeball thing to be incredibly cool, kind of like the way Spiderman shoots out webs. But the unfortunate coyote or cougar who receives a  faceful of bloody lizard tears will have something to tell his therapist next session.

4. The hooded seal
Guys, imagine you’re spending a leisurely day by the ocean. An attractive woman walks by, and you feel a familiar swelling. In your face. Yes, imagine that whenever you see a beautiful woman, the skin from your eyebrows to your upper lip inflates to a pink, balloon-shaped

My inflatable pink face bladder is bigger than yours.
(Click the picture to see me in action.)

sack the size of your head, and that you’re overcome with the manly urge to honk and wave that big, pink, balloon around so that it flaps and attracts the attention of anyone within eye- or ear-shot. Horrified?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.

5. Darwin’s frog

Click picture to see me vomit up some babies.

Click picture to see me vomit up some babies.

That Darwin—what a wacky guy. Not only did he give scientists and creationists a reason to draw swords for all time, but he loaned his name to a variety of frogs whose male holds the developing tadpoles in his vocal sac while they mature, and then brings them into the world by spitting them up. Human females will tell their own birthing room dramas as often and to as many people as will listen. But if women gave birth to their babies by vomiting them up… well, that’d be a deal-breaker.

So here in Pennsylvania, we wait and watch outside our windows to glimpse March’s mood. Will it roar like a lion, or will it be cuddly like a lamb? Whatever–as long as March doesn’t come shooting sloppily out of February’s eye or upchuck April like a bad Mexican dinner, it’s all good.




10. Fiber has become my bff.
9.    I wonder when I hung photos of my great aunt Lois all over the house, then realize I’m looking at mirrors.
8.   Sensible shoes.
7.   I can remember when capris were called pedal pushers or clam diggers.
6.   I used to be offended when I still got carded before being served; now I’m offended when I’m offered the senior citizen’s discount after being served.
5.   Contacts or glasses? Doesn’t matter, because I can’t see well with either anymore.
4.   Fun and flirty or weird and creepy? Too close to call.
3.   I offered to share my box of Nips with a young coworker, and she said, “Oh, that’s the candy old people like!”
2.   At least those stray facial hairs are less visible now that they’re turning grey.
1.   During my last physical, the doctor happily announced that my uterus is shrinking right on schedule.

Ew. Just ew.



My father was a man.  My brothers are men.  I’ve been married to a man for nearly 30 years, and I spawned a male child.

No one gets out of here alive.

If through no means other than association, one might think I’d have come to understand men quite well by now.   Truth be told, however, my knowledge regarding those of the male gland can be summed up in two statements:

1.  In Man World, something is fun only if it a) makes noise, b) hurts, or c) smells bad.

2.  The basic difference between men and women is this:  Women wear black because it’s versatile, slimming, ageless, seasonless, sexy, and classic; men wear black because they think it’s navy blue.

Sensing many women might be lacking even the slightest comprehension of what goes on in the male mind, a popular men’s magazine offered to shed some light on the subject.   The article’s author, himself a man, claimed there are 15 basic fears harbored by all men.  They are:

*Hair in the drain (going bald)
*Getting caught noticing another woman
*Super Nanny
*His father’s death
*Her tears
*Being a lousy lover
*Not being a god to his kids
*Living paycheck to paycheck
*Beautiful women
*Getting naked
*Not seeing his kids grow up
*Public humiliation

Wow—that’s a pretty daunting list.  Who knew men bore the burden of so many insecurities?  But I sincerely appreciate the writer’s effort to educate us women, and it only seems fair to return the favor.   So what scares a woman?  Here, in no particular order and compiled by me and my research department (the women I eat lunch with), is a partial list:

*How we look first thing in the morning  No matter how alluring she appeared or felt the night before, a woman dreads her early morning visage.  Greasy hair, puffy eyes, blotchy complexion, sour breath . . . intensify those charms with a bladder loaded for bear and the result is something we’d rather you not see.  That’s one reason many women aren’t interested in early morning romance . . . who can feel sexy in that condition?  Besides, there’s vulnerability in letting him see you in such a raw state.  That’s something we’d rather save for later in the relationship, such as when we’re in the delivery room giving birth to his baby.

*His silence  It’s no secret many women like to talk out their problems.  It’s a system that’s worked for us since the dawn of time, and we see no reason to change.  But in a cruel joke, the goddess created many men who prefer to suffer in silence.  They disappear to the privacy of the den or workshop to stew and putter, leaving us to wonder why we can’t just talk about it.  Oh, we know our men are just cooling off and allowing time for things to smooth over.  So what are we afraid of?  We’re afraid that in all that silence he’s contemplating a breakup or secretly wishing we would come and fix things with just the right words.   We’re afraid because that silence of his can be deafening.

*Hair issues  For women, hair is the source of endless drama.  The hair on a woman’s head is her crowning glory, and her body hair a lifelong enemy.  A man’s fear of going bald is nothing next to a woman’s; at least society accepts a bald man.  In fact, men as varied as Yul Brynner, Andre Agassi, Billy Zane, Michael Jordan, Vin Diesel, Patrick Stewart, and Cal Ripken Jr. have proven they can be attractive even without hair.  A woman, however, can never have too much hair on her head.  On the other hand, the shadow of a moustache is like the kiss of death.  Hair on your toes?  Ugh.  No, from the time a girl enters puberty she will shave, sugar, and depilate.  She’ll submit to the stinging electrolysis and the painful bikini wax—even the full Brazilian wax job.   Hair scares us.  We’re scared to lose it from our heads and grow it on our bodies.  Either situation is a self-image crisis!

*Bra or swimsuit shopping  Nothing make a woman feel less secure about herself than stepping into a harshly lit dressing room with an armload of garments designed by sadists to make her feel lumpy and inadequate.  She just knows it’s going to end badly.

*Our own girly bits  Those appendages and accoutrements which make us female are so prone to breakdown and malfunction an entire medical specialty is devoted to keeping our stuff up and running.  One body part or another is always developing a suspicious lump or oozing an unpleasant discharge.  Mammograms, pap smears, D & C’s, steel stirrups, cold specula . . . all scary stuff.  But not as scary as what could happen if we don’t submit to these uncomfortable but necessary health care procedures.

*The Other Woman  She’s around every corner, she’s waiting at every social event, she’s the new hire at your husband’s office, she’s someone you’ve known for years.  She’s out there, and she’s waiting to take him away from you.  And if you and your man are in your forties, you can bet she’ll be half your age.  The bitch.

*Guy stuff  We’re smart.  We’re employable.  We’re accomplished.  We’re worldly.  But many of us feel downright stupid when you start talking about earned run averages and single malt whiskeys.  We can’t name our favorite historical battle, can’t rattle off who was named MVP of Super Bowl Whatever, or tell what car was first to use an electrical ignition system.  We can’t recite the plot of The Dirty Dozen or prove the best way to defend ourselves during a zombie attack.   What really scares us is that you can.

*Ruined relationships  A woman’s world is defined by relationships, and leaving a trail of fractured friendships, broken romances, and estranged family members is a sign of failure.  Oh, we know it’s not possible, or even desirable, to get along with everyone all the time.  But since conflict resolution and comfort giving are seen primarily as feminine traits, something must be wrong with a woman who’s followed through life by a wake of hard feelings.

*Finding purpose  The path of our foremothers was predetermined.  They reached puberty, got married, managed a home, and reared however many children nature chose to send.  It was hard work, but it was in the cards for just about every woman.  Nowadays, women struggle to find meaningful careers and balance them with the demands of their personal lives.  Yes, we know men have always wrestled with job stress and God bless them for it.  But culturally speaking, the whole thing’s still rather new for our gender, and the thought of never meeting our destiny is scary!  Plus, guys, you have to admit no one ever argued that the fall of the American family can be blamed on the emergence of working fathers.  That’s a heavy thing to lay on us.,

*Ultimate Fighting Championships  This is a concept so scary to women, most of us lack the words to describe our aversion.   Can there be any doubt this debacle was some man’s idea of fun?

*Getting naked  Most women enjoy a relatively narrow window of comfort for getting naked in front of someone else.  It’s likely to be soon after our 19th birthday, perhaps between 7 and 8 pm on a Tuesday.  That’s about it.  The rest of the time, the thought of letting another human being—especially a male human being with amorous intentions—see us in the altogether can be extremely disconcerting.  We’re painfully aware of our flaws (even the ones invisible to others), and usually prefer to keep them hidden by clothing or dimmed lights.

*Gravity  As the saying goes, Rome fell and one day, Honey, so will you.  After the age of 28 or childbirth, whichever comes first, nothing on a woman stays in its original location.  Our eyelids, jowls, breasts, bellies, butts, and knees all start to sag in what can only be explained as a terrible design flaw.  And since we can’t all pay to have our droopy parts relocated, the fear of gravity and its effects contributes heavily to the previously mentioned fear of getting naked, and to the next item on our list.

*The gift of lingerie  Unless she happens to be within that previously mentioned narrow window of comfort for getting naked in front of another person, nearly every woman cringes at the thought of opening a gift from her man to find some lacy, transparent, completely impractical garment.   Yes, we know it’s the thought that counts.  Yes, we know in his own way he’s trying to be flattering.  But good lord, does he really expect us to strap on that silly deal he found at Skanky Ho’s “R” Us?  And does he think that when we do, we’ll look like the woman he saw in the Victoria’s Secret catalog or perform like the one he saw in a porn movie?  Does he realize we’re going to feel like a right fool when our non-surgically-enhanced, non-airbrushed parts are flopping around with nothing to support them but a couple of pasties and a few , strategically placed lengths of floss?  Now that’s scary!

*Sex  OK, this one’s a wash.  I don’t think either gender holds a monopoly on bedroom insecurities.  Everyone suffers from performance anxiety, no one wants to pale against the memory of a former lover.  Life would be easier if we’d just cut each other a break, but because we’re humans that’s not like to happen any time soon.

*The whole mother thing  This is it:  the big ticket item, the whole package.  Motherhood is the queen of all womanly fears.  It represents the biological purpose of being female, and is at the core of our most intense human connections.  And a woman doesn’t even have to be a mother to experience mother-related drama.  There’s the fear of his mother.  Deep inside, women are afraid they will never measure up to the woman who raised him—especially in his eyes!  Then there’s the fear of becoming your mother.  That fear has nothing to do with love.  Even a woman who idolizes her own mother will die a little on the day she looks in the mirror and sees her mother’s face, opens her mouth utters her mother’s favorite platitude, or realizes she just bought a handbag that would look at home on her mother’s arm.

Becoming a mother affects each and every aspect of a woman’s life until the day she dies.  What’s there to be frightened about?  Motherhood is beautiful and natural, right?  The fear is of not knowing how to be a mother!  What if I don’t bond with my baby? What if I’m too strict or too permissive?  What I have no more sense than God gave a goose when it comes to parenting and I ruin this perfect little heaven-sent angel?  Being a mother, even a first time mother, is supposed to magically transform a woman.  What if it doesn’t happen?  What if motherhood swallows up my relationship with the man I love?

So there you have it: fifteen things that can scare the bejeezuz out of even the strongest, most capable woman.  My crack team of researchers and I invite your comments.  What have we misjudged?  What have we left out?  What scares a woman?


Go ahead and LOL. You know you want to.

Thanks to the magic of the internet, cats are cool.  Of course, cat lovers knew this long before our feline friends had the world LOLing with cheezburgerz and invisible sports equipment.

Pop quiz:  What’s your favorite cat breed?  Stumped?  That’s because surveys show that while most people can identify dozens of dog breeds and list their favorites, when asked to name cat breeds those same people respond with an astonished, “Wait. . .cats have breeds?”

The answer is yes.  Yes they do, and I’m offering to make sure you don’t look like a hopeless wang the next time you’re caught in the crossfire of a cat-centered conversation with my list of Five Totally Bad Ass Cat Breeds.

He's sexy and he knows it.

1.  The Maine Coon
History:  The product of elopements between certain. . .um. . .morally flexible house cats and sweet-talking raccoons?  Descendants of Marie Antoinette’s own fashionable pets?  Though both theories have been floated, the real genesis of the Maine Coon is sketchy.  This much we know:  The Maine Coon has been in America nearly as long as Americans have.  Especially well-suited to harsh New England weather (check out the long tufts of fur that grow between his toe pads), the Coon is named for the state where his breed is thought to have originated.
Why the Maine Coon is Bad Ass:  Come on—just look at him.  He’s magnificent, from the lynx-like tips of his tufted ears to the end of his plumed tail.  Everything about the Maine Coon is both substantial and showy.  Known as the “gentle giant”, he is the largest of all domestic cats (males often top 20 pounds),  has a friendly, clownish personality, gets along well with children and other animals, and favors games of fetch with his people.  This cat is every bit as happy playing dress up with the kids as he is sleeping through some chick flick with a belly full of Cheez-Its, just like Dad.  The Maine Coon is also prone to polydactylism (extra toes); how bad ass is that?  And Maine is one of only three states which ever bothered to adopt an official state cat.  Guess which breed?

Like Bring Your Pet to Class Day at Clown College

honorable mention:  the Norwegian Forest

Because 128 billion Japanese people can't be wrong

2.  The Japanese Bob
History:  Native to Japan and Southeast Asia, the Japanese Bob has been documented as a feline variety for centuries.  That’s right:  centuries.   His trademark characteristic–a bunny-like puff of a tail–is the result of a recessive gene, although his publicist likes to tell a version in which a long-tailed ancestor nearly burned down the capital city when its tail caught fire and flames were spread as it ran through the streets, an incident resulting in the Emperor’s decree that all cats should have their tails cut off to prevent future misfortune.  You can believe whichever story you wish.
Why the Japanese Bob is Bad Ass:  Let’s face it; superstition-wise, cats really have been screwed.  What with their tendency to associate with witches, their occult powers, and that whole

I got your good luck right here. . .

stealing the breath from a baby debacle, cats can be a PR nightmare.  Except for the Japanese Bob!  He has been a constant figure in Japanese art and folklore, with the tricolor mi-ke considered especially fortuitous.  Ever seen one of those quaint “beckoning cat” trinkets at flea markets or in the odd-smelling homes of ancient people?  Those suckers are Japanese Bobs, and are guaranteed to bring good luck.  And perhaps you’ve heard of a little manga character called Hello Kitty?  She’s one

Screw you, I'm a Japanese Bob.

Japanese Bob who’s laughing all the way to the bank. Combine those cultural bullet points with a loquacious personality and the willingness to walk on a leash, and you’ve got a bad ass cat breed which has learned how to work its resources.

honorable mention:  the Scottish Fold
3.  The Bombay
History:  In contrast to the long and fabled histories of the Maine Coon and the Japanese Bob, the American Bombay’s story is a short one.  In 1958, a Louisville,KY, cat fancier undertook a breeding program aimed at producing the perfect black cat;  a black panther in miniature.  The Bombay is a medium-sized, tightly muscled feline with an almost majestic look.  Like her namesake, the Bombay sports a jet black coat and copper-colored eyes.  Miss Bombay is the supermodel of the cat world, but she is anything but highfalutin.  Social in nature, the Bombay loves to cuddle and burrow for warmth, and she tolerates dogs well.  Because breeders are relatively rare, bringing home a Bombay shows the sensibilities of a cat connoisseur.Why the Bombay is Bad Ass:  No matter what you might think of so-called designer breeds, the Bombay is something to behold.  Velvety fur so black it almost reflects white, eyes so striking they could have been Photoshopped, and a classic feline body type. . .plus, as a bonus, Bombays come with a string of characterisic-inspired nicknames that makes their owners wink and smile knowingly at their own wit:  the parlor panther, the Louisville hugger, the heat seeking missile, the patent-leather kitty with the copper penny eyes.  That shit’s legit.

What a Bombay sees when she looks in the mirror

honorable mention:  the Havana Brown

 4.  The Bengal

History:  A number of cat breeds are rumored to result from Tristan and Isolde-style unions between domestic cats and wild animals; few

Take a walk on the wild side

actually prove the claim.  Consider the Bengal, if you will.  In the 1960’s, a California breeder set up a blind date between one of her domestic cats and an Asian Leopard Cat she kept as an exotic pet.  The resulting half-wild kittens were the first of what would become known as Bengals.  Today’s pet Bengal must be at least four generations removed from the Asian Leopard Cat in its breeding line, but retain that exotic, just-out-of-the-jungle appearance.  The Bengal is athletic, opinionated, and vocal.  He’s a jumper, a climber, a swimmer,  and–when bored–a mischief maker.  Put simply, the Bengal is a trip.

Bengal playing flute in the style of Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson--on one leg!

Why the Bengal is Bad Ass:    Despite that unfortunate business with the Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA won’t recognize the Bengal breed because it’s a hybrid), Bengals have become one of the most popular cats worldwide.  Celebrity owners include Kevin Bacon, Bruce Springsteen, Ian Anderson, Calvin Klein, and the Sultan of Brunei.  Don’t expect to pay chump change for your pet Bengal, though.  A low end pet quality Bengal can cost $650, and fine breeders routinely ask more than $1,000.  In 1998, a foundation Bengal was sold at auction for an extremely bad ass $40,000–the world’s record for the most expensive cat ever sold!

honorable mention:  the Somalian
5.  The Sphynx
History:  One fine morning in 1966, a Toronto resident was presented a litter of kittens by his pet cat.  Among the litter, a particular kitten stood out:  it was completely hairless.  One can only imagine the cat lover’s initial response to the tiny,

Love child of Yoda and ET

bald creature must have been, “Ew.”  But, being a man, his second response quite naturally was, “Know what would be cool?  If I could make that happen again!”  So he named the unfortunate, wrinkled kitten Prune and raised him to manhood, at which point poor Prune was encouraged to mate with his own mother, as if looking like a foreskin with eyes weren’t traumatic enough.  After a rather fretful trial run in which only a few more hairless kittens were born (the bald females tended to have convulsions and the males possessed such low self-image that they were uninterested in mating at all), a dependable breeding stock was established, making the Sphynx that long-sought-after missing link between Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and the Cat Fancier’s Association.

Why the Sphynx is Bad Ass:  Bitch, please.  Although she is frequently mistaken for a walking spleen, despite her susceptibility to chills,

Just great. Another bad hair day.

sunburn, and a waxy buildup on her skin, the Sphynx has become a popular pet (among cat lovers of certain tastes) and a staple of popular culture.  Austin Powers’ nemesis, Dr. Evil, commits mayhem with his beloved Sphynx Mr. Bigglesworth at his side.  A series of children’s books called Bad Kitty (by Nick Bruel) features a Sphynx cat called Strange Kitty.  And in an episode of FRIENDS (The One With The Ball), Rachel brings home a show quality Sphynx named Mrs. Whiskerson, whom Joey insists is not a cat at all, Gunther suspects to be some kind of snake, and Ross claims must be inside out.  Though not an ideal pet choice for everyone, the Sphynx has truly earned her swag.

honorable mention:  the Devon Curl

And there you have it:  five varied, yet totally bad ass cat breeds .  One more thing—this list is subject to the author’s opinion only, and the author is only too happy to acknowledge that whatever cat belongs to you, the reader, is truly the baddest cat in the land.  So no hate mail, please.


Displayed in the various rooms of my house are trinkets, treasures, and mementos gathered during a lifetime of experiences.   Souvenirs, photographs, handicrafts— some were acquired at great lengths, such as the authentic Welsh lovespoon I commissioned from a craftsman and had shipped from Wales to Pennsylvania for my 2oth wedding anniversary; some came serendipitously, like the heart-shaped stone my then-five-year-old son proudly presented me one summer afternoon.  All keep company in my home because they help to tell  my family’s story, and because seeing them reminds me of things I don’t wish to forget.

We collect words, too:  pithy sayings, bon mots, slogans, axioms, oft-repeated advice from Great Aunt So-and-So, ironic messages revealed at the crack of a fortune cookie. . .Much of what we hear and read washes over us and out to sea without registering so much as a blip in our brainwaves; yet a few strike dirt,  take root, and grow to become part of what makes us who we are.


Another life lesson compliments of Indy: It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage.

Having lived long enough to realize the truth this one-liner from Indiana Jones, “It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage,” I offer up Six Life Lessons Everyone Should Learn

  1.  No One Gets to the Finish Line Without a Few Dents

From the time we hit the atmosphere, life is a race: a rat race, a horse race, a stock car race, a foot race. . .and though we’ve checkered flagall been admonished to “slow down and smell the roses”,  humans are in a perpetual rush toward the same, inevitable finish line.  But whether we reach our checkered flag in ten years or a hundred, no one crosses without a few dents.  My brother shared this with me, while another friend put the same thought in slightly less poetic terms:  Everyone has his own personal pile of shit to climb.  So, drivers, put on your helmets and strap yourselves in; life is no kiddie ride.


2. Now Isn’t Forever

Ever find yourself caught in what seems like a loop of misfortune or despair?  True story:  during an especially trying time for both my mother anddove chocolate wrappers me, we used to meet daily and exchange moral support in the forms of an hour of television and a piece of chocolate.  Printed inside the wrapper of one Dove bar was this message:  Now isn’t forever.  OK, I know the cocoa-tinged inspirations are nothing more than a clever marketing ploy, but day-um!  No matter what fresh, new hell the day seems to bring, those three words remind me that it’s only temporary.  This, too, shall pass. . .in the meantime, pass the chocolate!

3. If God Forgives, So Can You.

More than ten years ago I sat knee-to-knee with a dear friend, nursing the self-inflicted wounds of anger, guilt, and yes, pity.  Although I’ve never claimed perfection, I was disappointed in my failure to bring resolution to a situation I’d created even more years in the past.  “Do you pray?” my friend wanted to know.  I answered that, indeed, I do pray.  “Did you ask God to forgive your mistakes?”  Yes, in fact, I had.  “And do you believe that He has forgiven you?”   Yes, I did believe it.  So my friend looked in my eyes and calmly inquired what I was waiting for.  Then she asked pointedly if I thought my own forgiveness came at a higher premium than the Almighty’s.  Snap.  The inability to forgive one’s mistakes is evidence of a healthy conscience—to a point.  Beyond that, it’s self-flagellation.  I’ll admit I’m still my harshest critic, and probably always will be.  But I’m working on it.

4.  For Better or For Worse, but Not For Granted.

Accepting a partner no matter what life dishes out is a promise more easily made than kept.  Sobered up from the sex and stupidity of early love, a long look at what’s been wrought is in order.  And sometimes that’s the point at which a single, dangling thread is revealed—a thread that can be pulled until the fabric of the relationship begins to unravel, leaving the partners standing before each other, truly naked for the first time.  Recently I overheard two guys complaining about the manner in which their wives helped with jobs around the better or worsehouse.  “She just can’t carry as much as I can, and it slows me down,” said Guy#1 while Guy #2 commiserated.  “I know, right?  It’s like having a kid try to help.  After she leaves I have to go back and redo everything the right way.”  I was reminded of a woman I know who remarked about the lunch her husband had packed for her, “He knows I like more jelly than peanut butter.  How hard can it be?”  Little inconveniences aside, it made me sad to hear these people being so harsh.  Wives who ache to help— however awkwardly—and husbands who express their love with poorly ratioed PB&J’s are to be treasured.

 5.  The Only True Happiness Is Inside You.

We all can cite the circumstances and activities during which we feel happy:  spending time with a special person, making music, traveling, exercising, at work. . .but what if those circumstances and activities change or disappear altogether?  What then?  I am supremely happy with my husband, but if he should die and leave me alone (as was the case with my own parents years ago), I would have to carry on.  Tying your happiness to something or someone else is tenuous at best, and it’s an awful lot of pressure to put on the recipient of your expectations.   I don’t pretend to hold the secret, though  I’m sure some would say it can be found in faith—and here I won’t differentiate between traditional religions and the zen-like inner peace sought by some.  But I do believe that true happiness comes from within.  Everything else is gravy.

6.  And In The End, The Love You Take Is Equal To The Love You Make.

I was just a kid when the Beatles released the Golden Slumbers/The Weight/The End medley, which was to be the last time they recorded collectively, and the piece closed with this proclamation.  My little girl mind focused on the final four words, as I had only just learned about the birds and the bees (tee hee hee).  I don’t remember at which point I realized the message wasn’t about sex at all, but about karma, about applying the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have done to yourself.), about not expecting more from life than what you’re willing to invest.  Although they put a decidedly flower child spin on it, the message is rock solid, and hearing John, Paul, George, and Ringo sing it gives me chills—even after all these years.  Want to know a secret?  I’m not a tattoo kind of girl, but if ever I were to submit my flesh to the needle, it would be for these fifteen words.


And in the end. . .