I pride myself on having a very good eye for color.
A classy love of monochromatic design, an understanding of bright and complimentary colors, and even a finely tuned ability to mix patterns with panache.
I can discriminate between the subtle tone variations – a discriminating palate for the palette, so to speak.
But many years ago I made a ginormous color mistake.
My husband and I bought a house when we got married. It was an 1840 farmhouse, although all the land except for 2 acres had been sold off long ago.
Here we are the day we became homeowners.
We pulled out the overgrown shrubs and planted healthy small shrubs and lots of myrtle. Then we spent the next two years turning over my paycheck to the mason who re-pointed or replaced the entire foundation, 3 feet at a time.
Then finally, finally, we were able to think about painting. I didn’t want a beige house. I wanted a cheerful house.
I wanted a yellow house.
And so I looked at hundreds little cards with paint chips.
I held all those little cards up against the house
And I picked the perfect color for a cheerful house.
It was called “Cheerful.”
The thing is that my ability to visualize color was impaired in putting that little inch and a half against a three-story house.
And cheerful came out a little brighter than we expected.
Sort of like this:
I’ve heard this color called “School Bus Yellow.” We tended to call it “Highlighter Pen Yellow.”
Why, you may wonder, didn’t we just stop once we had 8 feet done, or 20 feet, or one side?
I have no friggin’ idea.
We told ourselves that given some time and exposure to sunlight and air, that the color would “calm down.”
But the paint company guarantees its paint for a reason. It stayed nice and bright for YEARS.
Our neighbors told us that they needed their sunglasses to drive by.
Moth and ladybugs and insects we didn’t recognize stuck themselves to the clapboards.
My brother called and offered to send me some tickets to the opera that he was not going to use. I asked him if he had the address handy and he said,
“I just figured that if I wrote ‘That Yellow House in Plymouth’ – the mailman will know.”
He was probably right.
We held out for five years waiting for the paint to fade. Then we finally gave in and repainted – a light yellow color called something like “Subtle.”
I’d like to say that we missed Cheerful. But in truth we did not. And we were rewarded because when we put the house up for sale, someone eventually bought it.
But I was reminded of it today, when I drove down a road near my current home, and saw that some nice folks have put up a sweet picket fence.
The neighbors must be enjoying it.
I’ve always tried to be considerate of those who are less fortunate than myself.
People are born with different levels of ability, and then there are environmental advantages or disadvantages that affect how well we all understand and perform. And so ordinary activities of daily living can be a challenge for those not as blessed.
And sometimes I forget that, so I have decided to try harder to be more compassionate.
For example, as children, lots of us had a hard time differentiating between right and left. I remember the nuns were very keen that we made the sign of the cross with our right hands, and I used to have to surreptitiously pretend to write in the air, in order to confirm which one exactly was my right hand. This pencil-test was valuable for the Pledge of Allegiance as well. But I’ve realized that some poor souls still have left-right confusion. This results in the inability to recall what side of the car the damn gas tank is on.
And speaking of cars, many people have a lot of important shit on their minds when they drive. They need to concentrate so hard, they may become unaware of visual and audio cues. And that’s why it may take ten miles or so of highway for these overly-burdened folk to switch off their turn signals after changing lanes, despite the click-click-clicking noise or the flashing light on their dashboards.
We make cruel jokes about uncoordinated people being unable to walk and chew gum at the same time. But this is obviously a serious issue for some. We see the sorrowful evidence all the time. And yet there is no fundraising event for these afflicted humans to help them close their mouths when they walk.
Disorientation is a rampant tragedy. I believe someone should invent in-store GPS for the directionally-challenged shopper, who cannot seem to remember in what aisle they found the product that they have since decided they do not really want to buy.
Public bathrooms are a terrible source of confusion for many. It was a sad realization for me that so many women in my own office cannot flush a toilet. Some major part of their education was dismally neglected in their young formative years. I won’t add a photo here…(you’re welcome)… but I will illustrate the enormous bewilderment experienced by many as to what exactly to do with ladies’ room trash.
And finally, I grieve for the persons unable to comprehend spatial relationships. Especially when travelling, these folks are so overwhelmed by the mysterious phenomenon known as Flight that they become totally unaware of trivial things like the size of baggage. In particular, they are no longer aware that their bags are physically larger in length, width, and depth than the compartment intended to hold those bags.
Pray for these people, for as they walk down the narrow airplane aisle they tragically lose all conscious knowledge of the appendages of their body. including – as horrifyingly improbably as it may seem – their forty-pound backpack .
I have always considered my childhood to be an extraordinarily happy one.
I was wandering around Pinterest and I came upon this:
And, oh my, I realized that I had a very unhappy childhood. Because I wanted a canopy bed so much. I wanted a canopy bed a lot more than I wanted a baby brother.
But did I get a canopy bed?
My parents denied me my fondest, girliest desire. And not only that, as a second choice, I asked at least for white bedroom furniture. And did I get that?
I got bunk beds though. And as a consolation, I got the top bunk, so I could pretend I was the princess and the pea. But is that a canopy bed? No, it is not. Actually the lower bunk is closer to a canopy bed, but my brother was only three, so he was not allowed on the top. (and I was afraid he would pee on me anyway, if he slept up there.)
And a canopy bed is not the only thing denied to me by my very cruel parents.
I wanted a pony.
No. (Second floor apartment)
I wanted a kitten.
No. (To my mother, a kitten was even worse than a horse.)
I wanted ballet lessons.
No. (My mother absolutely refused to spring for the endless expense of costumes that are part of dancing lessons.)
Since I couldn’t have actual dance lessons, I asked for tap shoes.
No. (umm,,, Second floor apartment. It is totally unfair to use that reason twice.)
How about wearing my white patent leather first communion shoes all year round?
No. (Didn’t go with knee socks. Or snow.)
I wanted a Girl Scout uniform that dated sometime after 1947,
No. (Think of this one as ‘vintage’.)
I wanted long curly blond hair.
No. (Barbershop for skimpy-haired Nancy)
I wanted to go to boarding school.
No. (The tuition for Catholic school is plenty, thank you. My parents didn’t say – come to think of it – “We’d miss you.” Hmmm.)
And – almost as much as I wanted a canopy bed, I wanted this:
This is Chatty Cathy. You pulled a string at the back of her neck, and she talked. She TALKED. She said ELEVEN different things. Really original stuff, like “I love you!”
And did I get a Chatty Cathy?
My mother said, “Absolutely not. You can make your dolls say whatever you want. Use your imagination!”
And I’ve been inventing stories and making characters talk ever since.
On second thought,
Thank you, Mom!
This being Election Day, it seems an appropriate day to ask my readers this week for a HUGE favor: (besides voting… please vote!)
This week- (Nov 3 -8) – Goodreads is accepting nominations for its Choice Awards for 2014.
They allow write-in nominations, and the top FIVE vote-getters become official nominees. They combine votes with number of ratings in order to pick the top 5.
One category is:
BEST DEBUT GOODREADS AUTHOR OF 2014
A nomination in that category would mean so much to me, and could significantly boost the success of my novel.
So please, PLEASE, if you read my book and liked it:
1. Go to Goodreads.com and register if you are not already a member. Goodreads is a book review website owned by Amazon.
2. Give “Just What I Always Wanted” a nice rating. The reviews on Amazon have been amazing (thank you), but I could use some additional ratings on Goodreads in order to qualify.
Here’s the link for the Ratings. Goodreads Rating for “Just What I Always Wanted”
3. Then: Go to the this link for Best Debut Goodreads Author of 2014 and write-in:
“Just What I Always Wanted”
NOTE: You have to register with Goodreads in order to be able to write in a vote.. otherwise you get the 15 predetermined nominees, but not the space at the bottom for a write-in. But registering is EASY!!!
It’s a long, long, LONG shot – but Life itself is a long shot – so – why not???
Thank you !!!!
The Guilty Pleasures I recently confessed to are harmless enough… just a lapse of taste rather than judgment.
But we all do some things where our normal good conduct goes slightly awry.
And confession is good for the soul.
So let me confess to some slightly less than perfect behaviors:
Guilt Relief In Thirty Seconds:
We have cats. Cats puke. Sometimes when I walk into a room and see that one of our cats has thrown up, I turn around and give my husband time to find it instead.
My toaster oven does not cook very evenly. When I make toast, one slice is nicely toasted, but not the other. I usually give my husband the other.
When I buy something new, I don’t wear it right away. I put it in a drawer for a couple of weeks. When I finally do wear it, if my husband asks, “Is that new?” – I say “No, I’ve had this for a while.”
I like to write (in my head) during a long drive. When I get a good idea, and I need some alone-time to think it out, I watch for a new BMW, or Ford, or …well, any car, really, and I say to my husband, “What do you think about that model?” And while he goes on and on about cars, I have at least a good half-hour with my thoughts.
The above sins are not even original sins. I first blogged these imperfections three years ago. But I felt the need to purge myself again. And to fill up another post.
And finally, let me confess that I wasn’t even quite honest about my Guilty Pleasures. Yes I love cheap drugstore makeup. And I tend to go a little overboard. But I may have misled you on the quantity. Because I posted this photo of my makeup shelves:
But I feel bad now, because I was a little dishonest when I took this photo. I have a tad more makeup than this. So here’s the real photo.
All done, thank you. I feel better.
Time to give away 2 signed copies of “Just What I Always Wanted!”
Let’s make this giveaway in honor of Carlos, the story’s strange little dog. Comment with the name of your pet – real or imaginary – and at the end of the day, I will draw 2 names to win books!
PS -The Kindle promotion from a few week’s ago was a great success, so with a lot of hope and a tiny bit of trepidation, I’m asking for reviews on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Reviews are incredibly important to a book’s success!
Several years ago when I first joined Facebook (maybe the word ‘joined’ isn’t quite right – how about ‘was sucked into’?), I thought that I was supposed to post interesting ideas and clever, intriguing thoughts. I didn’t know that all you had to do was post a iPhone photo of your dinner.
But life is so much easier now that I know. Sometimes I even post an iPhone photo of myself eating dinner.
Yes, Facebook is a piece of cake. (or souffle in the above case.)
But I was looking back to my early, earnest days, and I found a list I had drawn up.
My Guilty Pleasures.
Everyone has them. Stuff you secretly love, but your impeccable good taste makes you ashamed to admit to.
Here’s my list (slightly updated where I have new embarrassing affections):
1. Movie: “French Kiss” – corny and implausible, but oh, the setting. And I love the terrible casting of Kevin Kline as a charming French thief. He certainly charmed me.
And let’s add some runners-up here too: “Pretty Woman” (because I believe in Cinderfuckinrella) and “Against All Odds” (because Jeff Bridges looked like this)
2. TV Show: Back then, I said “Dancing With The Stars.” But I’ve rather lost interest lately. Well, to be honest, it’s because we really don’t watch anymore; my husband is boycotting, since the firing of Brooke Burke, who he would marry in a split second, if he wasn’t already married to a spectacular person (but he’d think about it). So now, I would have to choose “Say Yes To The Dress.” Where else can you see a bride-to-be try on a skintight strapless sequined mermaid gown in blush pink that reveals her many tattoos, while her mother says, “You look so classy!”?
3. Book: Yes, I am now reading the Pulitzer Prize winning, “The Goldfinch,” but in all the past ten years, the book that I read without stopping for things like eating and sleeping was “The Da Vinci Code.” I admit it.
4. Food: Hot Dogs. Horrible food; horrible for you. Always loved them; always will.
5. Snack: Potato Chips. Not only do they go with hot dogs. They go with everything. But I don’t buy potato chips anymore. Because I can eat the jumbo sized bag all by myself. But my mother buys me chips, and I eat them at her house. She obviously loves me.
6. Money Waster: Drug store makeup. Sure, I have expensive makeup and imported face creams. My favorite lipstick cost $24 a pop at Sephora. But that doesn’t stop me from trying NYC lipstick off the rack at Walgreens for $2.99. Every week. My bathroom cabinet looks like this:
7. Time Waster. My original guilty pleasure was online Mah Jongg. But I’ve come so far. I’ve been through Candy Crush and Pet Rescue, and still managed to write a novel. How I don’t know. Well, actually I do know. I hadn’t yet discovered La Belle Lucie. Or Polyvore. Or Pinterest. Or Twitter.
8. Song: What makes me smile when it comes on the radio? “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies. It’s not even a real band, for God’s sake; it’s a cartoon, for crying out loud. and I love it.
I’m so ashamed.
I’m not much of a worrier.
I’m a basically optimistic person, and I tend to believe that everything will work out okay. And it usually does.
And when it doesn’t, I mostly take it in stride, and wait for life to get better again. And it usually does.
Of course, there is the Big Stuff that everyone worries about – at least a little. I’m no exception – I worry sometimes about the Big Stuff – about death, and illness, and whether my family and friends are happy.
But I also have a few unimportant Little Stuffs that I can’t seem to stop fretting about.
Like oversleeping on an important day.
I have an inordinate fear of missing something important by oversleeping. The night before a big event, I wake up every hour and look at the clock. Which of course makes me extremely sleepy by dawn, which in turn increases the chances that I actually will oversleep. At my previous job, I had to get up at 4:30 once a week to get into New York for meetings. I barely slept at all – worrying that if I fell asleep I wouldn’t hear the alarm. Or that there would be a power failure and the alarm wouldn’t go off. Or that I’d read the time wrong. Sometimes I’d look at the clock, and then put on my glasses and look at the clock again. Well, not really sometimes. All the time. Repeatedly.
I actually did oversleep once on the day of a big meeting – (but not a NY meeting, thank goodness… I only had to get to my regular office nine miles away.) But my boss didn’t like me, and I was very afraid that missing that meeting would result in a horrible end to my career. And so I did a shameful thing. I called the office and told her that my husband looked pale and shaky, and that I thought he might be having a heart attack, and that I needed to hang back a bit and make sure he was okay. And then I got ready as quickly as possible (but not like without my makeup or anything – come on now), and then when I finally did arrive for work I said to my boss, “He’s fine; I just got scared for a minute.” I just didn’t say that what scared me was HER.
But anyway, that was not an honorable thing to do. And I’ve never done that since. So I don’t sleep before anything important. I just look at the clock instead.
Then there’s Parking.
As I have mentioned once or twice (or nine times), I am a very good driver. But I am a terrible parker. I cannot get into or out of a tight parking space. And forget parallel-parking. I actually have nightmares that I am backing out of a tight spot and my foot hits the gas instead of the brake and I go zooming out backwards into a dozen cars behind me. This dream makes my heart pound. And makes me even more stressed when I actually do have to un-park.
I worry every time I drive anywhere that when I get there, I will not find a place to park. I sometimes call ahead when I am going someplace new and ask where I can park the car when I get there.
Years ago, my husband was out of town, and I decided I would drive to the new outlet shopping center. It was a beautiful Saturday, and the outlet had just opened, and after driving for an hour, I arrived to an overcrowded crazy-busy chaos. I drove up and down the aisles and couldn’t find a parking place. I began to feel sweaty and short of breath. I turned around and drove an hour home.
I worry before a party that I will have a pimple. This was maybe a legitimate (though tiny) worry when I was sixteen. But now I am sixty-three. I think maybe it is time to relax about my complexion.
And Poison Ivy.
I am very fearful of poison ivy. I actually have a good reason for that fear. But still. I am a gardener. It may be an overreaction to run screaming from a shiny leaf.
Worms in my food.
When I was about eight years old, my family was paying a Sunday visit to my great-aunts. On the corner of their street, there was an ancient drug store. And my sweet old aunties gave me a dollar to go and buy some candy. I bought 5 candy bars (and had change, by the way) – one for each of us kids and one for my mother. (because I loved her and because I was a suck-up). My mother’s candy was a Planters Peanut Bar.
And she took a big bite without paying much attention. And then she looked at the piece she had in her hand and it had a worm in it. She was so grossed out. I was so grossed out.
And so for the last fifty-five years, I tend to over-inspect my food.
After the humorous but mortifying story of shopping for my brother’s jock strap, I thought I would post a nice memory of my brother’s companionship. It comes at the end of this meandering trip down memory lane, so stroll on with me for 800 words or so.
My brother was in high school when I was in college. Actually he was in grammar school AND high school when I was in college, since I liked college and stayed there as long as possible. And by as long as possible, I mean until my parents insisted I wrap it up. So I reluctantly graduated. You needed 120 credits to graduate. I had 148.
During the decade or so that I was in college, I worked summers and semester breaks at The Phone Company. Yeah, the old Ma Bell. As Lily Tomlin said,
“We’re the Phone Company. We don’t care. We don’t have to.”
And Ma Bell was one strict Mama. Skirts and pantyhose, no slacks, no snacking, no chatting, and you had to ask to use the bathroom. And no air conditioning. And the pay sucked too. But it was easy, and my sisters worked through college for even suckier pay inspecting springs in a sweltering dirty factory. So I was actually lucky. And I knew it.
It was the end of an era at Ma Bell. Pre-computers, Directory Assistance meant sitting at a station with humongous phone books for every city in Connecticut. You heaved those big hinged books and looked up phone numbers – all day long – wearing a big Ernestine headset that made your head ache in four places. You’d look up number after number, and then you’d look at the clock and three minutes had gone by. 477 to go.
But Long Distance was more interesting. And a dying skill that I was probably one of the last people in the universe to learn. An old World War II era switchboard with the ancient frayed cords and plugs – half of which didn’t work – so you had to learn which switches functioned and which had died years ago. Some people though never learned that. We had one old lady who, when she couldn’t hear the customer, would lean closer to the little holes – like the customer was in there somewhere. And you sat up on high stools and placed person-to-person calls and collect calls, and calls from pay phones where you had to listen to the dimes and nickels drop and the customer was calling his Mamere in Canada where the phone number was “2”. (The whole phone number. Two.)
I was a hippie back then in the early seventies. And I was kind of the token liberal at the Phone Company. Sometimes I think they found me quaint and humorous, like a harmless little raccoon that you find on your porch. In my novel, I described a dress that my protagonist buys for her newly acquired daughter – a purple tee-shirt dress with a yellow lightning bolt down the front. Well, I had that dress. And one day a guy came in from corporate headquarters to interview employees for the company newsletter, and I was wearing the purple and lightning bolt dress and my wire-rimmed John Lennon glasses, and so guess who he interviewed.
“What would you do if you were the President?” he asked.
“I’d stop the war right now,” I said. (Of course.)
“I meant the president of the COMPANY,” he explained with a smirk.
“Oh, then I think I would buy better pencils,” I said with my own smirk.
The worst part of my job was the hours. The year-round employees got the best shifts, which was only fair, but that left me most days with 2:00 – 10:00 PM. Not exactly conducive to a college girl’s love life. Good thing I didn’t have one.
But the best thing about the job was my teenage brother.
I was not allowed to get personal phone calls. But he would call at least once a week around 9:45. He’d just dial (yup, dial phones back then) zero for the operator, and whoever answered, he’d ask them to give me a message. And he was so sweet and the message so family-oriented, that the message always got delivered to me, rules or not. Someone would pass me a note, or even the supervisor would come up to me and say,
“Your little brother called. He wanted to remind you that you are supposed to pick up your aunt on the way home from work.”
“Oh, thanks, I had completely forgotten,” I’d say in my ditziest hippie-voice. No one wanted to see my poor aunt get stranded late at night.
But by “aunt,” my brother meant “pizza.” He had called Main Street Pizza, right near the phone company, and there was a medium pizza with peppers and meatballs waiting for me at 10:00 PM.
And I’d pick up my “aunt” after work and my brother and I would share a late-night pizza in front of the TV after my parents had gone to bed.
It was really good pizza and really good company.
In honor of my brother’s birthday, here’s a old post from 2011 – since how better to honor a sibling’s birthday than with the most embarrassing anecdote ever:
HOW TO EMBARRASS A TEENAGER
I don’t have kids of my own, and perhaps it takes a hell of a lot more these days to make a kid blush, but here’s the most cringe-worthy event of my teenage life (apologies to my sweet – and very manly – little brother):
I must have been about sixteen. I was on my way downtown for a little shopping. Yes, we had a downtown. No malls yet. And it was certainly a “little” shopping because I never had much more than two dollars in my pocket at any time during those years.
My little brother was about to start Little League.
My mother, always a lady, asked me to do her a big favor.
“Your brother needs something in order to play baseball. Stop in at the men’s store and buy …” she lowered her voice to a whisper, although we were alone in the kitchen…”an athletic supporter.”
I begged her not to make me do it, even a good size bribe didn’t make me feel any better, but my brother needed it for the next day, and I couldn’t make her change her mind.
So I reluctantly dragged myself to the unfamiliar store. Since they didn’t sell girly things, music, or snacks, I had rarely entered that dreary place.
I looked around. I didn’t see anything that looked like what my mother had described. I figured it came in a little box, like a Playtex bra, and I thought maybe even Playtex would be a good name for a jockstrap. But they weren’t anywhere.
I had to ask the salesman. I put on my nonchalant face.
“Excuse me,” I said to the tall gray-haired man in the ugly sportscoat. “My brother needs…” and I dropped my voice discreetly like my mother had done,… an athletic supporter.”
“Sure,” he said, and he went to a stack of drawers behind the counter. “What size?”
And I said: “I don’t know. He’s only ten. How big could he be?”
And just to make sure my humiliation was complete, I even demonstrated with a lovely little gesture!
And the tears began to flow. HIS, not mine. The old guy was crying and choking and quivering pretty much from head to toe…
As he was falling to the floor, he explained: “WAIST SIZE!”