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;

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.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

IWSG: Should Women Shy Away From Self-Deprecating Humor?


It's time for another edition of  the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh and the other talented writers.

The other day I ran into an old classmate that I hadn't seen in years. We went all through school together, and though his hair had turned salt and pepper, I immediately recognized him. He reminded me that we were Facebook friends, and offered up suggestions for my blog.

Though he thought it had "potential," he felt I needed to "ease up" on my self-deprecating humor. 

 "Men like confident women," he said. "We don't want to hear about your flaws. It doesn't reflect well on you or your family. Take pride in your accomplishments, and stop going for the cheap laughs." 

Then he smiled when he asked, "I'm glad your mom still has a great sense of humor. Does she still wear those tight leather pants?" 

For once I was tongue-tied. Though part of me was flattered he actually read my blog,  I was shocked he had found it offensive, and creeped out that he still had a thing for my mom. It was high time I put him in his place.

"Many female comedy legends are known for their self-deprecating humor. Look at Joan Rivers, Carol Burnett, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler. Even Lucille Ball was at her best when she was stomping on grapes, or shoving chocolates down her uniform at the chocolate factory. Comedy isn't always sexy, yet many of these women are very attractive. I know I'll never be in their league, but you know what I mean."

He stared at me for a minute before asking, "Remember you mom's leopard couch? They sure don't make couches like that anymore. Didn't she have a matching robe too?"

I almost dropped my vanilla chai latte. "I don't remember inviting you over. When were you ever in our house?"

"Your brother asked Donny and me to come over after baseball practice one day."

Donny? Then it all came back to me. He and Donny were in a group of boys who traumatized me in grammar school. When he wasn't calling me names, he was busy shoving me on the playground. He was the ringleader in a group of kids who picked on everything from my buck teeth to my clown shoes. 

Funny how someone who spent years deflating my ego found my self-deprecating humor unbecoming. 

*Note: This is a repost from November 4, 2014.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sharp Wit Cuts Deep


Welcome to another edition of Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit Alex, and all of the talented bloggers who are always willing to lend support. Below is a story that hints at where my insecurities all began.

                                                           Sharp Wit Cuts Deep

I'm used to hurling insults, and clever cut-ups. Yes, I am talking about my mother again, and this cutting edge story is not for the squeamish. It all began in July when my mom announced once again that I'm a "horrible daughter." I'm hoping that this story will unite other horrible daughters, but realize that this is wishful thinking, as no one has committed a more heinous act than I.

My mom and I used to have weekly outings to the beauty shop. When I began working last year, her caregiver started accompanying her for long, leisurely afternoons of billowing blow driers and near death by hairspray asphyxiation.

Now my mom doesn't have to travel farther than the second floor of her building for weekly comb-outs and blow- drys. Remarkably, during her five month stay only one stylist has quit.

Mom: She doesn't know from teasing.

Horrible Daughter: No one likes to be teased, especially about their work.

Mom: I'm talking about teasing hair. You know with a comb. Will you please try to keep up!

Her beautician for over 20 years is an expert at teasing and roughing, so she set the bar very high. The second floor stylist hasn't quite earned her trust yet, so my mom has decided to take matters into her own hands.

Mom: Bring me a pair of scissors.

Horrible Daughter: Why do you need scissors?

Mom: I don't have time for all of these questions. Dinner's in three hours. Just bring scissors, or don't bother to come.

Visions danced through my head of all the terrible things my mom could do with scissors, because she has Parkinson's Disease, and her hand shakes. She could cut her finger, or drop the scissors on the floor and step on it while she's scooting around in the wheelchair. Another scenario involved unknowingly dropping it on the bed and bleeding to death in her sleep. So I hatched a plan.

On my next visit, instead of greeting me with, "Hello my precious daughter," the first words out my mom's mouth were, "Did you bring me the scissors?"

I smiled and handed her my boys' safety scissors with curved edges from 1992. They looked brand spanking new. My mom was not happy.

The subject of scissors didn't come up again until about a month later when she asked me to get something out of her nightstand drawer. I discovered a larger pair of contraband scissors with squared off edges for cutting bandages.

Horrible Daughter: Where did you get these?

Mom: The nurse gave them to me.

Horrible Daughter: No she didn't. You stole them.

Mom: I did not steal them. She left them in my room.

Fortunately, there was no sign of a shiv under her bed.

Recently, my mom brought up the scissors again when she decided that the stylist couldn't be trusted, and she was going to give herself a haircut.

It was a beautiful Saturday, so my husband and I took my mom for a long walk to a shopping center about a mile away. She loves to shop, and even found a cute top with a gift card from her grandsons. After dinner, we walked back to her room.  Then she said, "Did you bring me the scissors?" When I replied, "No," she didn't take it well.

Mom: It's the only thing I asked you to do.

Horrible Daughter: You can't give yourself a haircut. You could poke your eye out.

Mom: I'll be fine. I never complain about anything. It's the one thing that would make me happy...

I started to gather her clothes from the hamper to take home to wash.

Mom: Don't wash my clothes. Don't ever do anything for me again.

She said goodbye to my husband, and not one word to me.

A few days later our cousins went to visit my mom, and they offered to bring her anything she wanted. They suggested bringing cookies, candy, anything at all. My mom didn't want to be a bother, but she thought she was low on Kleenex, as she was down to four boxes. Hence, they brought her some emergency Kleenex.

Then I asked why she didn't tell them she needed scissors, and she replied, "You know I should have. I forgot all about it."