Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Joke's On Me



                                                                             
                                                                   

Welcome to the April edition of the IWSG, Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh, and all of the other talented writers.

The IWSG and the blogging community have always held a special place in my heart, because the writers welcome all writing styles, and are always quick to laugh at each other and themselves. Unfortunately, the real world isn't always as understanding.

My first experience with disgruntled readers occurred in a most unlikely news story. I was writing about a talented sculptor and writer who penned his first book at 90. He was an entertaining interview who led an incredible life that filled at least two or three books. Then the conversation shifted when I asked him about his love life. He jokingly said, "I run around with a few crazy old women." I laughed, our photographer laughed and even his publicist laughed. Unfortunately, one of the "crazy old women" had a different reaction when she read about it.

The story made the front page, so it received a lot of coverage in our community. What started as a joke from a charming 90-year-old-man was seen as a vicious attack on his lady friend. Her daughter wrote letters saying how this man had ruined her reputation and her life. I decided to act upon receipt of the second letter.

I thought long and hard about my response. She assured me that her mother was a well-educated  pillar of the community that deserved to be treated with the utmost respect. The mother and daughter seemed to be more concerned about being labeled as "crazy" than the fact that there was at least one other woman in the picture. I couldn't say that the man was joking, because that would've only added insult to injury. I also couldn't try to reach the daughter by phone, because I doubted the dispute could be settled in one phone call.

The only logical step was to write a letter from one doting daughter to another. I thought about how protective I was of my mom and commended her for being such a wonderful daughter. Of course, if she only knew that my mom and I battled wits on my blog, she would've never forgiven me.

I tossed and turned all night wondering how the mother and daughter would react. Fortunately,
she sent an email the next morning saying that they appreciated my thoughtful response. They decided to stay clear of this narcissistic nonagenarian, and move on with their lives.

Little did they know the context of our conversation was that his lady friends enjoyed going to the opera and other events and he just wanted to have someone to spontaneously go out for dinner with now and then. I never had the opportunity to explain that in the article, as I was adhering to the word count, and had a difficult time paring down his life story. However, I never professionally wrote that anyone was "crazy" again, as it's no joking matter at any age.

Of course my mom didn't understand what the big deal was, because she loves being spontaneous as long as she has plenty of notice.



Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Mom's Powers of Persuasion

                                                           
   
Welcome to the March edition of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh and all of the talented writers who are always willing to offer their support.
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Positivity, Confidence, Empathy, Active Listening, Conscientiousness, Willingness To Compromise, Comfort With Silence, Authenticity and Flexibility, are "9 Personality Traits of the Most Persuasive People," according to a Feb. 13 article in Inc. Magazine.

When it comes to my mom, we can definitely scratch Compromise and Flexibility off the list. Once when a neighbor in the nursing home dropped by, my mom wouldn't see her, because she didn't have an appointment.

While on the outside my perfectly coiffed mom looks almost docile at first glance, inside lurks the mind of a hunter out to tame even the wildest beast in the habitat. But in her case the habitat is comprised of a temperamental hairdresser, disagreeable tablemates, and over-worked nurse's aides.

My brother is constantly testing my mom's memory by asking her about current events and TV actors. If she stumbles on a name of a character from one of her favorite old movies, he immediately starts to panic. Sadly, he doesn't realize that she has more important things on her mind.

One night after dinner my mom called one of the nurse's aides over to her table. The only thing that I remembered about this woman was that she always looked like she'd rather be anywhere else. But on this particular night not only was this woman smiling, but when my mom asked her to sing, she sang a happy little tune for the whole table.

Later when we were back in the "privacy" of my mom's room: "What's wrong with you? They don't give you any privacy here. There aren't even locks on the doors."

"Mom, that's for your own protection. What if there's an emergency and they need to get into your room quickly?"

"Well, I don't care about that."

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I was dying to know my mom's secret for turning that crabby nurse's aide into a Stepford Wife.

She just looked at me innocently and explained that she had a little talk with her.

Last weekend my husband and I saw the movie Get Out, and the mother in the movie is able to hypnotize her daughter's boyfriend by stirring a spoon in a tea cup. I will no longer drink hot tea with my mom.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

For The Sake of Arguing

                                                           



Welcome to the February edition of  The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit our host Alex J. Cavanaugh, as well as the other talented and supportive writers.
                                                                  
                                                     For The Sake of Arguing

The phone rang just as I was about to leave the house.
Mom: It's raining hard now, so you don't have to take me to physical therapy.
Me: But it was raining earlier.
Mom: Yes, but I'll just cancel my appointment. That way you won't get wet.
Me: You weren't worried about that before. I told you I don't mind. Besides, I made you lunch, and didn't you want to go shopping first?
Mom: Yes, but it's too much trouble going back and forth in the rain.
Me: It's not coming down as hard now, and don't you think you need the therapy to get stronger?
Mom: Well if it's not too much trouble.

Later that afternoon my mom told me that I really should be more patient.

This made me think about other ridiculous arguments I've had throughout the years. Shortly after I started driver's ed, my dad suggested that I drive to work. As I was pulling out of the driveway, my mom came home. She hopped in the back seat, while my dad sat by my side. All was calm, until I had to make a left turn without an arrow. My dad was telling me to be assertive and speed up before the light changed, while my mom was telling me to slow down. Instead, I got so nervous that I backed out of the intersection and waited for the next light. Needless to say, neither of my parents volunteered to take me driving again. 

The summer my younger son turned thirteen was during travel baseball season, so we decided to have a little celebration after the game. We ordered pizzas, and brought a cooler filled with soft drinks for the team. Earlier that evening I asked my husband to pick up a few bags of ice for the cooler at McDonald's. He asked me how much it would cost. I told him 99 cents a bag. Then he wanted to know how much other places in the area were charging to make sure that was the best price. I assured him that 99 cents was the best rate in the Chicagoland area, and that if he wanted to miss his son's birthday to scout for 97 cent bags of ice in Wisconsin, I'm sure he would understand. Of course, he still had to make some calls just in case there was a fire sale on ice at the end of July.  It took me a long time to thaw out from that whole experience.

After all these years, my mother still puts her foot on the imaginary passenger side brake whenever I make a left turn. As for my purchasing power, I'm in charge of finding the best deals on cars and the occasional travel destination, but I never go further than my freezer for ice.


*Note: This is a re-post from November 2011.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

IWSG: Goodbye To A Multi-Talented Mother & Daughter

                                                           


Welcome to the first Insecure Writer's Support Group post of 2017. A special thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for continuing to guide us and inspire us. Be sure to visit the rest of the supportive writers.
                                  
                                    Goodbye To A Multi-Talented Mother & Daughter
                                                         
Debbie Reynolds & Carrie Fisher; abctvnews.com


It was the end of an era when Debbie Reynolds died on December 28 one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher. Fisher died from a heart attack while Reynolds died from a stroke. Her son Todd Fisher told 20/20 that his mother's final words were that she wanted to be with her daughter.

Debbie Reynolds planned on becoming a gym teacher until she won a Miss Burbank contest. Though she wasn't a dancer, an MGM talent scout was in the audience which led to her role with Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor in Singing In The Rain. Reynolds married singer Eddie Fisher and they were such close friends with Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Todd that they stood up in their wedding. Before Carrie turned two-years-old, Fisher left her mother for Elizabeth Taylor after her husband Michael Todd was killed in a plane crash.

Reynolds went on to marry two other successful men who later lost their fortunes as well as hers, but like her Academy Award nominated character in The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Reynolds always re-invented herself and never gave up. 

Known as Princess Leia in Star Wars, Carrie Fisher also was a talented writer. She wrote Postcards From The Edge, a witty look at being a patient in a rehab facility for drug and alcohol abuse. Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine played characters based on Fisher and Reynolds in the film version and Fisher explained that she was later diagnosed as manic depressive/bipolar which her mother said she inherited from her father's side of the family. That was one of many lines from Fisher's one-woman play Wishful Drinking that aired on HBO. 

The mother and daughter never lost their sense of humor and though they were estranged for many years, they reconciled and even lived next door to each other. Below are some of Fisher's best lines:

 "My body hasn't aged as well as I have."

 "Everyone drives somebody crazy, I just have a bigger car."

"The only exercise I get lately is running off at the mouth and jumping to conclusions."

After Reynolds wrote her 2013 biography, Unsinkable: A Memoir, she said, "These are my recollections. If you remember things differently, send me your version - but only if it's funnier."

This weekend I watched Wishful Drinking and The Unsinkable Molly Brown for the first time and found myself crying for Fisher and Reynolds. My husband also enjoyed the HBO special as well as the classic movie.

When my mom and I first heard about their deaths she told me how much she loved Debbie Reynolds and how she looked good until the end. She thought she was a wonderful singer, dancer and actress and she knew that she died of a broken heart before it was reported on the news.

I asked my mom if she thought the same thing could ever happen to her and she replied, "Yes, I would definitely die of a broken heart if God forbid anything ever happened to...your brother."

                

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

IWSG: Mrs. Temple's Guide To Having Daughters Will Curl Your Hair



It's hard to believe that this is the last Insecure Writer's Support Group post for 2016. Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for getting us through another year with warmth and wisdom. 

I was hoping to write a classic holiday story, but ended up with a re-post about the mother of a classic child star. Of course, the real star in the story is my mom who isn't the least bit insecure.


                            Mrs. Temple's Guide To Having Daughters Will Curl Your Hair

                                                                  
Shirley Temple; photo courtesy of Michael Jackson World Network

As we were going through her long list of disappointments, my mom mentioned that I never gave her a granddaughter. Though she loves both of her grandsons dearly, she regrets I didn't also have a daughter.

When I tried to explain there was no guarantee my third child would've been a girl, she stopped me in my tracks. "Shirley Temple's mother wanted a little girl, and she knew exactly what to do to have one."

"What did Mrs.Temple do?"

"She went to a doctor who told her if she wanted an adorable little girl who could sing, dance, and be one of the biggest stars in the world, her husband would have to get his tonsils out."

"And did he?"

"Of course he did. Not only was Shirley Temple a huge child star, but she went on to become an ambassador."

I immediately searched the Internet, and found a 1988 excerpt from Shirley Temple Black's autobiography Child Star in People Magazine. The energetic sixty-year-old wrote how her father had a tonsillectomy to "improve his chances of siring a female," after his two older sons were born. Apparently, my mom sat in on a guest speaker highlighting Shirley Temple Black's life.

Later, I asked my husband if he would've had his tonsils removed if we were assured of having a daughter. He reminded me of when he originally went in to have a tonsillectomy in fifth grade. He ended up spending several days in the hospital, and went home without having the procedure. I asked him if his parents visited him at all during that time, why he didn't have the tonsillectomy, and if he even got to have ice-cream? He answered "yes" to the ice-cream question.

I told my mom she could look forward to having granddaughter-in-laws, and great granddaughters. Cheerfully she remarked, "I won't live long enough to have a conversation with my great granddaughters."

Then I started thinking about what my relationships would be like with my future daughters-in-law. I remembered how it took a long time for me to grow on my mother-in-law. Fortunately, she started to like me after she turned ninety.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

IWSG: The Many Faces of Mom


Welcome to the November edition of  The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh and the other talented writers.

                                                           
Who is this woman?
   
The other day my husband came home from meeting a state representative who is running for re-election. My husband said he immediately liked him for his views, but was taken aback when he asked, "What keeps you up at night?"

I started laughing hysterically, because absolutely nothing keeps my husband up at night. He sleeps like a baby, while I toss and turn over the most ridiculous things. For example, the other night I kept thinking what if I die in my sleep and whoever finds me notices that I haven't shaved my legs since last Tuesday?

I also worry about my mom whose Parkinson's disease has been flaring up lately causing her to occasionally see imaginary friends in her room, and has grown considerably weaker. I went to visit her yesterday fearing what I might find.

Surprisingly, I found her laughing it up with the social worker. I almost joined in on the fun until I realized the jokes were at my expense. The social worker had laryngitis, so she was writing the questions on small boards and asked my mom to point to the corresponding multiple choice answers of a) never, b) sometimes, c) half of the time or d) all of the time. After my mom the comedienne answered c) half of the time to one of the questions they both broke into laughter, so I leaned in to hear my mom ask and answer her own question: "How often do you find your daughter annoying?"

She continued to provide zingers throughout the day, and at one point turned the conversation ominous when I dared to say no to one of her demands. "Haven't you figured out by now that once I decide I want something - I always find a way get it?"

Who was this mysterious woman? Then I found a loose earring in her drawer, and decided to put it in one of the compartments of her jewelry organizer. I was aghast at what I'd found - a brand spanking new large pair of sharp scissors. The last time she told me not to visit her unless I brought her scissors, so I showed up with an old pair of safety scissors and she still hasn't forgiven me.

Afterward, I told my brother about the contraband scissors. He said that was nothing compared to what he found in her sleeve the other day when he was searching the closet for her phone. Before I could muster the courage to ask, he told me that it was a kitchen knife. The woman could barely move, yet somehow she either works for the CIA or is a gangbanger.

Good thing the state rep. didn't ask me "What keeps you up at night?"



Wednesday, October 5, 2016

IWSG: Making Deadlines By The Skin of my Teeth


                                                                     



Welcome to the October edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh and the other talented writers.

This month's question is "When do you know your story is ready?

Standard stories have a beginning, middle and an end. That's why I enjoy writing poetry, because often times you can make up the rules as you go along, or at least that's what I tell myself.

In writing stories for a local news website, I know my story is ready when I've told the most important details of the event or evoked emotion in a human interest story - all in about 1,000 words or less.

Once I've submitted a story to the editor after proofreading it several times, a calming affect sweeps over me. All right, sometimes I feel more like a college student cramming to complete a final paper on the night before graduation.

After I completed my latest story, I decided to drive over to my mom's for a relaxing visit.

Mom: Let me see your teeth.

Horrible Daughter: Why do I have food stuck in them?

Mom: Just smile for me.

(Horrible Daughter obliges.)

Mom: Well, they could be whiter. You could still smile, but they should be whiter.

Then it hit me. I was one day off in my story. I thought the event was October 10th, but it was really October 9th.

I texted my editor at once, and fortunately the story had not been published yet. I raced home and made the correction. Talk about making a deadline by the skin of my teeth.

Now, I'm off to a dentist to correct my other problem, but I know something else will come up, and I'll never ever really be ready.