Good Pals, Graceful Falls and Furry Friends

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Some experiences only register as adventures when you look back on them. Such is the case for the car trek on which I took two of my dearest friends this past week to a beautiful national park.

Less than a year ago, my visit to Chicago with my college friend, Kay, revealed that she had never looked up at sheer granite walls amidst towering redwood trees, never experienced the mist of a powerful spring waterfall on her face, and never, apparently, had a squirrel enter her living quarters. So before my time with her was over, we made a plan on her next visit to my side of the U.S. to see Yosemite National Park – one of America’s greatest natural wonders. We invited Cheryl, another dear friend from my childhood Kay had met on a previous trip, to join us and we were set to go. Kay and Cheryl arrived within a few days of our road trip, armed with snacks, emergency meds (Cheryl is a nurse practitioner), clothes to layer themselves for changeable spring weather and a good deal of enthusiasm.

Leaving early on a weekday morning, we arrive at the park entrance around 10:30 with the top down on my convertible, ready to take on the sights above us unobstructed. As Kay holds her smart phone up for photos, we pay the meager $10 for this bunch of “senior” ladies to enter the park and find our way to the valley floor, with its concessions, shops, tents, campgrounds, hotels and restaurants. Armed with a confirmation and what I thought was a photo of our lovely hotel, we begin looking for our overnight home away from home.

But first, a bit of recent history. The park’s services had been taken over by another company just months before our trip who, to the chagrin of those of us who have been visiting Yosemite our entire lives, changed the names of places within the park. The Ahwahnee Hotel was renamed the “Majestic Yosemite Hotel” and Curry Village was renamed “Half Dome Village” among other changes. All over the park, canvas tarps with the newly printed names covered the old signs that had been there for at least 50-60 years. We stop to ask a park employee where our magnificent hotel is and she acts puzzled. “There is no big hotel in what used to be Curry Village.” I show her our reservation – a fairly costly room with a full bath, a living area and a fireplace. She says she has never heard of it. I think it’s because of the name changes, but I am wrong; she has never heard of it because it doesn’t exist.

We finally find our way to the newly named Half Dome Village, where there is a registration desk surrounded by bus stops and tiny cabins. The front desk clerk studies our printout. “Wow. You got the best room in the park!” she says with delight. We look at one another and then ask, “Where is the big hotel?” She laughs and says the only big hotel in the park is located in Yosemite Village. Our room is a large log cabin – right there in Half Dome Village. To this day, I have no idea what photo I had pulled up on Google that convinced me we were staying at a resort-like lodge. And I feel in no uncertain terms that I had deluded two of my besties. We proceed to check in, but are told the cabin is being cleaned and we’ll have to re-park the car anyway.

When I find a “lucky” close-in parking space with a curb next to it, I happily display my parking pass on the windshield and eagerly begin to exit the car with my friends, ready to take our luggage to our unusual-sounding cabin. Little do I know that the parking curb beneath my feet is not flat. As I step out, the dome shape under my foot finds me taking a step, rolling my ankle to the outside and falling to the park asphalt. I hear a discernible crunch and the next thing I know (after the pain subsides), a park ranger in a golf cart pulls up, having witnessed my spill first hand.

My embarrassment is surpassed only by my anger over this klutzy move and what it portends for our entire stay at the park. After my friends register the appropriate amount of shock, awe and sympathy over the accident, Ranger Lucy compassionately tells me my fall was a graceful one – almost slow motion in nature. “Can you stand on it?” she asks as she helps me up. I can. “That’s a good sign,” she reassures me. “Let me radio ahead and let the emergency clinic know we’ll need a wheelchair to meet you.” A wheelchair. And I have been at Yosemite for all of 30 minutes. With that, we all pile onto her golf cart and get our first tour of the valley floor. My foot (in shock like the rest of me) rests on the golf cart dash.

After the paperwork and insurance card are exchanged at the clinic and everyone is assured my foot is not broken, we wait for our savior Lucy to reappear to take us back to Half Dome Village. By then my foot is tightly wrapped, I am supplied with an ice pack and my friends have had time to pick up a few snacks before their blood sugar drops precipitously. Lucy gives us a verbal history lesson as she putts along the park byways to our lodgings. As she graciously loads our bags into her cart, I stare at the dastardly rounded concrete strip that caused my calamity and whisper a four-letter word. Then I offer my goodbye to Lucy, but not before thanking profusely for her above-and-beyond level of service and goodwill.

The cabin is not what I would call luxurious, but it’s large, charming, homey and lovely. We dump our stuff all around it and proceed to take a breather after our 3.5 hour drive and my physical drama. Kay sinks into a huge armchair and soon begins having an imaginary conversation in her sleep. Ex-hippie Cheryl flings the cabin doors wide open and goes outside to see if her smart phone can attract enough wifi to communicate with her grown daughters. I lay down on the sofa with my foot higher than my head and soon begin passing out from exhaustion. As we slip into and out of sleep, I begin noticing a scratching sound. Being prone with my leg up, I can’t look around me very well and at first think Cheryl had come back in. I begin to see a small figure near the fireplace moving furtively. A tiny squirrel suddenly overturns a short, empty garbage can. I  wake Kay up by announcing the critter visit. My expressive friend’s eyes grow wide and she begins to freak, as if a horror movie were being filmed before her very eyes.

I hobble to the open door and inform animal-lover Cheryl of our visitor. She quickly gets up and enters the cabin ready to watch the little guy in action. Seeing Kay’s reaction, however, she begins looking for it everywhere just to calm our friend down.  Then Kay announces, “I’m going to the office to get a manager! We need someone who’ll know what to do!” And she is gone. We listen and look everywhere and can’t find a thing. By the time a clerk arrives, our tiny friend has taken flight. Kay is clearly not convinced the creature will not be atop her face with claws fully extended in the middle of the night, so she keeps pointing to places she thinks we had not checked. Finally, she is convinced the scene has ended.

We get ready to head to dinner fully intending to have a few stiff drinks before enjoying a gourmet meal at the hotel that reminds us of the one in the movie The Shining. I was the last to dress, trying on shoes that would no longer fit my fat foot. Outside I heard Kay and Cheryl identifying a squirrel frolicking near the cabin. “There he is!” says Kay, pointing to what she wants to think is the very critter who invaded our luxury accommodations. I stifle my laugh.

The rest of our stay there is, of course magnificent, despite the slowdown my bum foot causes and the crowded bus rides that get us places later than anticipated. Yosemite Falls cascades in its powerful glory and Kay is in tourist heaven. Cheryl and I reminisce over past visits to the park but are no less impressed with what we see. We are a motley crew — Cheryl layered in five different patterns of earth mother, Kay decked out in her sensible clothes and coiffed hair, and me with my REI duds and permanently placed baseball cap. A lady stares at the three of us curiously the day we leave, asking where we are all from and clearly expecting us to be aliens. We look at one another and burst out laughing after she walks away.

There is something special about hanging out with old friends – people who knew you in your much younger days. There are no judgments, no preconceived thoughts — just our unvarnished selves, ooohing and aaahing at what we see and loving every second of it. We marvel at nature and ourselves, ending our time together later that week as if we had spent a month in a foreign country. It’s a trip we won’t soon forget. And now that we are Yosemite veterans, we are already planning our next, more involved visit there — one we KNOW will include even more adventures and definitely more laughs.

Folsom: A Town That Finally Became Home

I often smile inwardly as I drive around the town of Folsom, CA. You see, I have had an on-and-off love affair with this little foothills town that often serves as a way station for those driving from the San Francisco Bay Area to the snows and pines of South Lake Tahoe.

The first time I saw Folsom was during the late 1980s, when the drive here was a Sunday afternoon outing during a trip to see my ex-in-laws. It included slow motion tours of lovely homes, the secret wine country that surrounds it, the lake and even a drive past the sign to Folsom State Prison, whose buildings and grounds sit so far back from the local civilization of the surrounding town, you’d know why it had its own zip code.

 

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When my ex-husband and I decided on Folsom as the place we would move to when relocating from the San Diego area, it was no random choice. The San Diego neighborhoods in which we had lived for the first 10 years of our time together were mostly master-planned. Some were gated, and all were well kept. We weren’t unaccustomed to the patchwork quilt of Sacramento’s neighborhoods, so the newer community of Folsom, with its upscale air, appealed most to us as a younger couple. And it didn’t hurt that it had its own majestic lake and rolling hills, either.

But I was a different person in a different relationship, and it was a different time in my life when I first lived here. Our daughter was tiny and there seemed always to be hope that we could start over as a couple and as a family. Sadly, this lovely town couldn’t make up for the re-surfacing of the troubles our marriage had been plagued by no matter what the change of scenery or resolve to start over. The pretty home we ended up in, instead of distracting from the dysfunction of our marriage, became a breeding ground for events that led to its demise. Places around town became associated with drama and bad memories, and our house never truly received the love I could have injected it with had I perceived it as the place my husband and I would grow old together.

In 2002, the year I left my 20-year marriage, my then-seventeen year old daughter and I moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area, my first geographical love in life. I was born in the heart of the City, and once had immigrant grandparents who own a tiny grocery store south of Market Street when the area was vibrant, diverse and not nearly as costly. My memories of childhood there were strong ones that contained my first friend, pink popcorn squares at the nearby city zoo, and foggy days in the middle of summer. The novelty of being back there helped to keep me from constantly mourning the failure of a relationship that was no doubt doomed from the start, but at least resulted in one of the most amazing children on earth.

At the time, I thought of Folsom as a permanent part of my past, even though I visited it often to spend time with my BFF. Over the next 5 years, during a real estate boom like no other, I saw it blossom, grow, and become more diverse. While maintaining its small-town vibe, it became a cosmopolitan burg where people from all walks of life began to recognize its beauty and proximity to the Bay Area, the snow, and the capital. Homes were tripling in value and businesses were establishing themselves here in droves.

Life changed for me as well. Within only a few months of arriving in the Bay Area, I became re-acquainted with a man I had known since before my marriage, but had written off merely as the brother of a close friend – someone who had been a groomsman in my 1982 wedding and shared the same hyphenated ethnic background as mine. A popular San Francisco firefighter, this never-married man had an engaging personality, a love of family, a sweet and unexpected sense of humor and – most of all – an adoration of me that had evidently gone back to 1980, when he first met me and my mother at a San Francisco Greek church festival. I was dumbfounded but delighted to finally receive the companionship and attention I felt I had deserved. Suddenly, life became new again.

Over the next five years, I would lose my last parent and watch as my new love helped to take care of his own ailing mother. Where I lived did not matter, since our relationship revolved around his commitment to his mom. I knew what we had together would take a back seat for a while, but this time in our lives only served to build my admiration for this duty-bound man. We saw one another at odd hours and did what we could to kindle the flame that was rapidly growing between us. About a year after our Big Fat Greek wedding in 2005, his mother went to join his dad. Several months later, we began talking about finally putting down roots and buying a home.

My new husband had been an apartment dweller all his adult life, so becoming a homeowner at last was something he had dreamed of for many years. We began looking in Marin County, where we had rented a home, and found our budget would get us a 2 or 3-story condo with no garage. So we began looking for a home in other parts of the Bay Area. Nothing seemed to work for us after a few months of traipsing in and out of houses for sale. Then my new husband brought up the idea of moving to the more affordable Sacramento area. San Francisco firefighters, who worked only a few days a week due to their 24-hour schedules, often commuted even farther distances to work, and we figured it would only be a few years before my firefighter could retire anyway.

I bristled at going back, but not because I disliked it here. I had, after all, spent two blissful years in Sacramento’s Arden Park as a child, jumping into and out of neighbors’ swimming pools and wearing out the tires on my bicycle before my father moved us to the Midwest, where he was born. My distrust of moving to Folsom was associated with the bad memories that accompanied my last long-term relationship. So I told my new spouse that as long as we did NOT move to Folsom, I was game.

The hunt was on. At first, we looked at homes in towns like Davis, Fair Oaks, and Carmichael, but they were either too land-locked from freeway access or too far from centers of commerce. The most beautiful older neighborhoods of Sacramento were in East Sac, which contained homes that, in our price range, were too small for our needs. The rest of the city contained what I call “spotty” neighborhoods — those where there were enclaves of lovely homes but were plagued by the close proximity of unkempt homes that might even feature sofas out on front porches. After he saw the town of Folsom, however, my husband asked if there would be any way I would reconsider. The bedroom community was not only beautiful, but offered everything we needed: three freeway-friendly on-ramps, recreation, lovely neighborhoods and the small town feel that felt just right to him.

I began to reconsider. If I could detox from the memories of my past life in Folsom, perhaps I could begin to appreciate it in a new and different way. My daughter was now grown and off on her own, my relationship was with a man I knew would stand the test of time, and I could still run into San Francisco for shopping trips, see family and attend events there whenever I wanted. So I told him I would look up listings in Folsom, but should we end up here, he would have to put up with some PTSD for a while.

It did not take long for us to find a home that served our needs. Values had plummeted by 2007 (unbeknownst to us, they would go down even further before returning to the price we would pay), and suddenly our dollar went a lot further. We chose a home in an established but lovely neighborhood close to the local hospital, retail areas and freeway on-ramps we knew would become important. The home lived mostly on a single level, but had a loft for my parents’ grand piano and a bedroom and bathroom for guests. It was a damn-near perfect choice for us.

Suffice it to say, I have never been happier. I got through my first few weeks back in Folsom by pulling off the road and having a good cry once in a while as sad memories surfaced from my previous existence here. After that, they never entered my consciousness again. I was in an entirely new life, and Folsom suddenly became the beautiful place I had always wanted it to be. After a few years, my husband retired and soon we began putting our money into our home, making it more uniquely ours. Every time we return to here after a trip, we feel as if we are back in our own little slice of heaven.

That was nearly ten years ago. Folsom, in essence, had never truly changed. But I had.

 

 

The Bag From Hell

“Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions” ~ T.S. Eliot

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I once worked in an airline baggage service office for a day. One. Day. And it was a disaster.

Let me take a few steps back and ‘splain a few things. Some airline ground personnel are better than others at the various airport jobs. Back when I worked for Pacific Southwest Airlines (the precursor model to Southwest), we had some agents who were lightening-quick at ticketing, evidenced by how quickly their passenger queues disappeared. Others had smooth, flawless ways of announcing flights and keeping an entire gate area calm and handled, even during a weather or mechanical delay. I prided myself in being one of those folks.

Then there were people who were simply stellar at passenger empathy and loved working independently, away from the crowds, good at problem-solving and adept at soothing what I call “travelers’ angst.” Those were the people who worked at baggage service – a place where every person approaching the service window has a problem.  Unlike our planes with smiles painted on in perpetuity, the only time smiles occur at this office is when passengers were notified their bags were found.

I happened to make a day trade with one such baggage specialist, figuring – how hard could it be? It was the 1970s — LONG before 9/11. There was no TSA and there were no rules about bags being required to accompany their passengers on the same plane. So if you checked in too late and your bag didn’t make the baggage cut-off for the 11 A.M. flight from LAX to SFO, the baggage service agent would encourage passengers to wait for the arrival of the next flight from LAX, usually arriving just an hour later.

Most of the time it worked. People grumbled but retrieved their bags after an hour or so and disappeared. The fateful day I worked baggage service, however, this tactic didn’t work.

A well-dressed woman approached my counter complaining that she waited until the rest of the shuffling crowd had claimed its bags, but hers never made its way down the chute to the carousel. I politely spewed the company line about waiting an hour and she was okay with it at first, subsequently returning every hour for 3 more flight arrivals, but ultimately having no luck.

Then things turned ugly. I kept checking my noisy, archaic teletype machine that notified me when unclaimed luggage appeared at other PSA stations, but nothing contained in its transmissions resembled the bag in question. In between flights, I put up my “back in 30 minutes” sign and took a dinner break. By now this woman was frustrated enough to give up and head to her hotel. But before she left, she informed me that she was furious I had abandoned my efforts for 30 solid minutes. I tried like hell to make nice and assured her we would deliver her bag to the hotel as soon as it was found. She gave me an untrusting look and disappeared.

Toward the end of my shift, I found the bag was sitting in Oakland. I called her to let her know the good news. Then I went too far.

Instead of simply saying “We’re doing the best we can to get you your bag as soon as possible,” I explained the process by which we got lost bags into our hands. Instead of arranging the bag to be delivered via taxi from Oakland, we would reroute it back to LA to be placed on another flight to SFO. It was a case of TMI. I was young, pretty dumb, and WAY too transparent.

Before I closed down my window for the evening, however, I left clear hand-written instructions for the morning agent. The passenger in question was staying at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero, but her room was registered under another name, which I provided in my note. I felt I had offered the next agent enough information to get the bag there safely and securely, then I headed home.

To my surprise and dismay, the morning agent did not heed my instructions. An attempt was made to deliver the bag, it failed, and the bag came back to SFO. It got re-delivered, but by then the passenger was almost ready to return to Los Angeles.

The following week, I was called into my manager’s office. Evidently, a FOUR PAGE letter had been received by him, outlining everything that had gone wrong with this woman’s experience flying PSA, citing me as the central reason for it. The letterhead was on New York Times stationery and the woman was a journalist.

I was asked to sign a union warning citation and suddenly realized that by a comedy of errors and missteps (not all my own, but I took ownership nonetheless), my ass was temporarily grass.

Within the next week, I decided it might be time to leave heavy public contact work for a while and join the guys on the tarmac, tidying up and pushing back planes, throwing luggage into aircraft bellies, wearing red uniforms with our names sewn on them and sporting Redwing work boots.

I must admit — I looked pretty damned good as a ramper.

Pretty Cars, Watershed Realizations and Horse Trading Moments

For as much time I have spent occupying this earth, how did I not see this coming? When my somewhat publicly-known daughter was about to sell her almost-new car in favor of one she would not be recognized in (she mentioned its brand in a book she wrote), I was beside myself with concern that her stunning piece of automotive jewelry would not remain in the family.

Shame on me. I coveted her car. So she gave it to me.

My daughter is an amazingly generous person, but aside from her nostalgia over it being her first luxury car, her main reason for simply handing it over to me was that she wanted me to be safe. I was deeply touched and soon I flew down to her half of California to drive her gorgeous car home like a person who had just won the Lotto.

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For one year I drove a car that did not appear to belong in my Sacramento suburb. Did it make head turns? Absolutely. In fact on several occasions I found people waiting for me in parking lots where the car was parked just to tell me how gorgeous it was. And they were right. Every time I got behind the wheel it felt elegant. It was white, it was sleek, it had curves and it gleamed.

It also felt uncomfortable in ways that had nothing to do with looks or physical comfort. The car was huge – at least as long as many SUVs and a good foot longer than most sedans – and I was accustomed to a very used-but-nimble little 2-seater sports car. I misjudged the distance to curbs. I trembled each time I parked it. And this was despite (and because of) a small TV dash monitor that audibly warned me how close I was to objects, including the Starbucks drive-through window. All this was bearable, however, since I rationalized that I would master it over time. Then the deal changer happened.

After I parked the car the first night upon reaching a recent road trip destination, one of the tires went flat. Normally I would not be terrified about needing a new tire. But these high performance car tires each cost as much as a round trip business class ticket to JFK. I breathed a sigh of relief when I found the tire was not really damaged and could be easily repaired, but in my mind I began to do a “pile on.” Reasons to not keep this car added up: the high cost of regular maintenance, my inability to get used to maneuvering the car in small spaces, the cost of insurance, the price tag on brakes and all the other things that can happen to a car that is no longer covered by a warranty – something that would happen in another 10,000 miles – and I began to understand that despite my penchant to LOOK as if I were a moneyed person, I am simply not in my daughter’s league. I would always be a big phony in a car I had never earned except for having given birth to a successful kid.

After discussing this with her, she was gracious and acknowledged my reasoning, thank God. And soon I began looking around for another car. I missed running around in a convertible, but this time I decided to hunt for one that had a rear seat and was a bit larger than my last one to honor my daughter’s wish for more safety. So I called my old mechanic who specialized in the brand of car I liked. He told me about the models he considered the most reliable and I took it from there.

The hunt begins …

Before you judge me for being a woman unversed in judging good car flesh, let me give you some background. I grew up with brothers, had a hustler of an ex-husband that taught me everything I needed to know about cars and had long ago learned how to buy a pre-owned vehicle. I look for flawless cars 3 – 6 years old. This means NO dings, NO prior accidents, a pristine interior, new car smell, all service records, one owner, ridiculously low mileage for its age, and newer tires and brakes. I am willing to pay high Blue Book, Edmunds or Car Guru pricing for something that has had an anal-retentive owner who – believe it or not — cares where the car ends up. I know the feeling because that is the kind of car owner I am. The looks people give me as I sit on an upturned paint bucket detailing my car wheels on my own driveway is enough to know I am not like most chick car owners.

Finding that perfect used car, however, takes patience and fortitude. I scour only warm weather states for just the color, condition, make and model I want. It’s like looking for that perfect dress in that perfect color for the occasion. Having driven a car that was clearly a head-spinner, however, I was hooked. I knew I must wear my next car with pride because I kind of got used to the attention. My bad.

After a week or so of searching locally, I found one on Craigslist that appealed to me in — of all places — Las Vegas, a destination we were just about to visit in honor of our ten-year wedding anniversary. How fortuitous! According to the articulate way it was described (yes, this matters to me…) it ticked off every box I mentioned and then some. But his price was high, even according to the figure various car-judging web sites that indicate what cars in “excellent” condition should command. So the dance began.

At first, I wrote the owner one of those anonymous Craigslist notes. In it, after some banter back and forth, I told him the high watermark price I would be willing to pay if the car was everything he represented. It made allowances for the extras he said were of value, but it did not reach the price he was asking. He said he was out of town, would be returning in a few days from the east coast, but did not address my potential offer. Still, he remained in communication. We agreed that I would try to see the car the evening we arrived in Las Vegas.

As it turned out, we arrived later than anticipated. To be polite, I texted the car owner that we would not make it there until the next day; if he already had a solid buyer, do not wait for me. I followed that with a frown-y face so he would know I would be sad that the car might escape my capture. The seller told me how many people had seen it and how many people wanted to see it, but said he wanted to offer me first right of refusal since I had come so far to see it. To me, anyway, that meant NO one had brought up the dollar figure I had. Then he told me someone else was coming to see it after I did. That’s when I had to (tactfully) state my terms: I would not be strung out all week while he entertained other offers on the car. If my offer was not accepted on the spot, he could kiss it goodbye. After some time went by and dots on our texts continued to flash, he agreed and said he wanted his gorgeous little car to go to a good home. I was 90% there. Communication is, to me anyway, everything.

When I go to see a used car from a private party, I always judge the car by the neighborhood in which it resides. His house was stunning.The moment the car owner opened his garage door, I noticed that this vehicle occupied space on a perfectly epoxy’d garage floor capable of being graced with knife, fork, and a folded cloth napkin. I barely had to walk around the car once to see it was everything I wanted. We struck our deal and did the bureaucratic paperwork we had to in order to bring an out-of-state car into California. And the next day (after some hearty winnings at the craps table that paid for our entire anniversary trip) we caravanned home. As I drove my new friend home, I reveled in being able to see the front of my vehicle, how nimbly it handled and how its smaller size suited my tastes and driving capacities.

Why am I telling you all this? Perhaps it’s because I like to share stories of lessons I’ve learned as well as convince myself I am still pretty good at buying used cars. All I know is that each time I stare at my new beauty in my garage, all is suddenly well with the world.

The Waiting Game

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It’s a first for me, this idea of drumming my fingers as I wait for word from big time publishers about my book idea.

Having found my calling in midlife, for the past 18 years I have delighted in seeing my byline in newspapers, being the co-author of someone else’s book, or being mentioned as “editor” when I basically wrote a book for someone else using their ideas but my words. I’ve paid my dues writing online and print columns for consumers and produced many a blog – a solitary but rewarding exercise in keeping my writing muscles toned. While I did produce my own coming-of-age memoir eBook about 5+ years ago, I have never been at the mercy of book editors in a position to expose my writing to the universe. So here’s an abridged version of the story, pretty much from the beginning:

Being the mother of an only child, I figured I’d have it easy. As we listened to frenzied and sometimes manic stories of parents who were juggling several kids at once, my then-husband and I were ultimately okay with the idea that even if we never planned on having a sibling-less child, one would be enough in the big scheme of things.

Then our daughter was born. And the child was ready to take over the world.

After my having collected countless parenting books, conducted trial and error experiments meant to help her make sense of the world around her, put up with repeatedly tense parent-teacher conferences and fidgeted in the overstuffed chairs of five or six therapists, my daughter was as fully formed as I could get her despite a number of misgivings about having taught her everything she truly needed to know by kindergarten. By age 18 she was ready to take on adulthood armed with the gifts, moxy and determination God gave her — all with the memory of having had a mother who scored off the anxiety charts and had developed analyzing skills on steroids. I let go and let her find out just how the rest of the world would cope with the limit-testing she subjected me to for much of my motherhood. It was painful, it was scary and it was necessary – for both of us.

Before her 30th birthday, however, my daughter took it upon herself to tell her own story – in a book that instantly hit the New York Times Best Seller list and stayed there for 18 weeks. While it received rave reviews from young women like her and a host of people in other demographics, some commenters blatantly referred to her as a “parenting failure” — despite her meteoric rise to success — because of the colorful, non-mainstream experiences she admitted to putting herself through to find her reality. To say that didn’t pierce through me would be dishonest. Through it all, I would smile and tell people asking me about her, “Oh, yeah. Someday I will tell my side of things.” I figured that would take place by the time my baby girl had brought up babies of her own so that we could write that book together.

But time waits for no mom. Because of my now-married daughter’s encouragement (she swears her experience will probably be NOTHING like mine, and I think she’s right) and everyone around me telling me a book about challenging children was sorely needed out there, I mustered the courage to write an inquiry letter to the same literary agency that represented my precocious child. They read it, sounded excited about it and asked for a formal book proposal. Then they said my idea was so good they wanted to run with it and began pitching it to the big book boys and girls in New York and elsewhere. Today, my proposal is in the hands of dozens of editors being read, mulled over, included in meetings and evaluated for its marketability and potential for success in the now very exclusive world of traditional book publishing. And the waiting game has begun.

One thing you must understand: just getting this far with a book idea has been on my proverbial bucket list for some time, even if it goes no further. At least I could someday say, with a wistful look in my eye, that I made it to “also-ran” status in the daunting world of non-vanity-press-published authors. But I have to ask myself — what if it actually happens? My OMG moment would mean being in Writer’s Digest heaven over the idea of telling the stories of people like me and many others who survived to tell the tales of their amazing-but-off-the-wall children – kids who possess seeds of greatness that can blossom into the world’s future business owners, entrepreneurs, ideamakers and rocket scientists. And even if they don’t become famous, that oddball/crazy-kid that used to drive you nuts can apply his or her well-used blinders and delightful strangeness to find a new watermark in the world – as long as you keep on keepin’ on as their loving, supportive parent.

As this story unfolds, unlike many writers who keep things under wraps, wondering if talking about a book just might jinx it, I want to take you along for the ride – through my disappointments, my learning experiences and if nothing else, to tell the ending to this waiting-for-Godot story. Please know that as I write this, just by the act of reading it you are holding my hand, saying “There, there, Dena. Everything will turn out fine”… And I thank you for that. Because the waiting is driving me to drink.

20/20 Hindsight Advice for Mothers-of-the-Bride

Moms often wait what seems like forever for their baby girls to get married. I was never sure mine would go the conventional route nor have a traditional wedding but in the end, she surprised me. Truth be told, this is a life event mothers with daughters think about a LOT from the time their girls are small.

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My daughter’s elegant and somewhat elaborate wedding was amazing; a stunning visual display of the love and excitement she and her husband-to-be shared for this life-changing rite of passage.

It would be impossible, however, to avoid every pitfall the intricacies any wedding can produce, especially for the MOB. So for those moms out there who want a heads-up on how to improve upon my recent experiences, I offer the following advice:

(1) Don’t question your daughter’s taste for wedding details. It has nothing to do with you. Moms tend to project how they want to see things when their daughters marry and often use the excuse (especially if they are paying for any of it) that their daughters should just go along. Just remember, no matter how off-the-charts her ideas about her own wedding are, the day is not about YOU. And it’s not about guests who will be there on YOUR behalf. It’s about the beginning of your daughter’s new life. Practice lots of nodding, smiling and repeating “if it’s what you want” –ing. Answer questions honestly when asked, but don’t be insulted if she does not implement your idea, take your advice, or observe the things you deem important. If you take that approach, you won’t look back with regrets about fighting over details that will not really matter years from now.

(2) If you are asked to say a few words at one or more of the wedding events, prepare it in advance but commit much of it to memory. The words you use and the comfort with which you say them can mean the difference between a memorable toast/speech and one where you are fumbling with a piece of paper using your iPhone light to see it while holding a microphone in the other hand. Tell sweet stories, speak lovingly to the family that is about to merge with your own and remember that everything you say and do here can and will be used for future reference. She will hang on every word.

(3) Don’t use a self-tanner you’ve never tested out before. I was mortified when a product that said it “dried quickly” left hug marks on people’s clothes and I had to hightail it back to my AirBnb apartment to wash it all off. I was livid.

(4) Realize that your daughter is in panic mode most of the time. If the photographer tells you to pretend to pull back her blusher to give her a kiss for a photo, ask her if she is ready for it and don’t be hurt if she flinches. She is thinking about her makeup, the expression on her face and whether you might get self-tanner on her crisp, white veil.

(5) Don’t stress over a wedding gift. It is often family heirlooms and keepsakes your daughter will value at a time like this. A food processor from her registry list simply does not measure up.

(6) Bring more than one pair of shoes and arm yourself with pain relievers. You will be on your feet a LOT.

(7) Make a list of people with whom you’ll want to have your photo taken throughout the day/event. I did not do this and the evening went by without even smart phone photos taken with my dearest friends and relatives. It’s a homework assignment you will want to complete before cutting loose on the dance floor.

(8) If you’re getting ready (hair, makeup, etc.) with your daughter and her bridesmaids in anticipation of her putting on her wedding gown, bring a pretty robe to wear. Chances are, they will all be in satin robes that match. Having mom in her yoga clothes as photographers snap “getting ready” photos just doesn’t cut it. And bring a REAL handkerchief. There will be lots of happy tears.

(9) Make it a point to dance with your daughter. I didn’t and I cry now when I think about it. Both of you may be so busy with guests that you forget to do a number of things that will someday feel like important small gestures on her wedding day.

(10) Realize that this day (hopefully) comes but once and that you must concentrate on savoring every moment as it happens. Don’t let the social whirlwind rob you of that. Be gracious. Be happy. Remember that the wedding will be perfectly imperfect no matter how meticulously it was planned.

A Mother’s Day Tale: Sewing Notions

Perhaps it really wasn’t necessary to clandestinely whisk away Mom’s sewing basket into my car during a visit to my parents’ house; I suppose I was afraid to ask my father if I could take it with me, for fear he’d turn me down. It seemed as though everything that had belonged to my mother was now sacred to him. images

And after all, I had my own sewing basket—an efficient plastic see-through box with a removable tray that Mom had bought for me years ago. But (I weakly reasoned) my sewing basket didn’t contain the right color thread to hem dad’s trousers. A pretty lame excuse. After all, how long does it take to run to the grocery store for a spool of khaki-colored thread? Even now that she’s gone, I am amazed at the reliance those she left behind have on Mom for the simplest of tasks. And so it was, in relative anonymity (with a sweater draped over it), Mom’s sewing basket was spirited away.

Upon my return home, I found myself struggling for a while with the reasoning behind this bizarre act. As I approached another anniversary without Mom, I was faced daily with the feeling that I was not someone’s “little girl” any more. A constant ray of unconditional love in all our lives, Mom brought a quality of grace, innocence, domesticity and maternal “religion” difficult to match by any woman, least of all me. Missing from our lives for several years now, we are still dumbfounded by her disappearance due to a weak heart. Perhaps the sewing basket was a reminder of the multitude of small tasks she performed for her family, helping to bring her back in some intangible way.

Of course, it was all so overwhelming –the idea that I would ever have to face any segment of my life without her. Although common sense dictates that we will eventually lose our parents to old age or illness, no one in my family could even imagine the thought of Mom’s just not being there any more. My natural instinct at the time was to capture as many memories and details or her life on paper as I could from my singular, daughterly perspective. So, within the first few months following her death, I spent hours burning up the keys of my computer. The laser printer churned out my work of memorial to the earthly angel we called Mom, while I proceeded to purge, express, celebrate, and create her legacy. I reasoned that somewhere in these pages, my daughter (her only grandchild) and my daughter’s daughter may someday understand the stock of women from whence they came.

As noble as it may sound, however, I have today discovered that it will never be printed words or flowery expressions of memory that will provide a meaningful link to Mom’s existence. It will be the simple items she left behind that will remind us of her love for us.

Safely sheltered in the darkness of the closet of the spare bedroom at my parents’ home, the sewing basket’s ostensible need, created by my father’s simple request to hem some trousers, left me both flattered and honored with the transference of maternal duty from mother to daughter. My mother had been the person upon which Pop had relied for such domestic chores for fifty years. Since her passing, I tried to clean and straighten their home when visiting, attempting to sound and act practical and mature, while the overwhelming presence of my mother wafted from each room full of knick-knacks and specially placed furniture.

Discussions of Mom lessened as my family tried to cope while healing time passed. Today, many of us wouldn’t think twice about paying a fee to a department store or dry cleaner’s alterations department to hem a pair of trousers. My life was so busy at the time—full of two parent paychecks, soccer practices, and those much-needed fast food meals when we rationalized that our schedules leave us no time to shop, cook, or clean. Even though many of us “Baby Boomers” were spawned from a generation of stay-at-home moms who learned early on to express their love for their families by domestic doting, I doubt that I will ever possess the simple dedication to wifely and motherly duties exemplified by my mother and women like her.

As I carefully opened the blue wicker basket, its crevices seasoned with dust from years of service, I am first impressed by its orderliness. Under the calico patterned and pin-cushioned lid, a plastic tray sits atop its cache of contents, the crackled edges lovingly mended with duct tape. The usual sewing scissors and seam rippers lay untouched since Mom’s departure, and it suddenly occurred to me that some of these items are the very ones I used as a teenager during my sewing classes, at a time when “Home Economics” was required of junior high school girls. I am amazed now that I actually made clothes for myself at one time. Admiring handmade clothing sewn by teenagers—or even adults, for that matter— seems nowadays an activity relegated to state fairs, where these creations are displayed for throngs of city dwellers. We are fascinated by this dying art and awed by the time, concentration, and planning it must take to accomplish a fully completed handmade article, let alone the skill required to make garments appear “store-bought.”

Touching these elementary sewing implements somehow transported me to that awkward age. Mom was always there to compliment and mildly critique my handiwork. I could never determine whether her flattery on the speed with which I threw together an A-line skirt was merely an attempt to make me feel good about myself, or a prediction on how long it would take for my hastily-sewn clothes to fall apart. My creations were never made with the attention to detail and time it took for Mom to turn out her own masterpieces. Her seams were always straighter, her garments fit the wearer better, and the unmatched concentration she displayed seemed to result in a thing of beauty every time. Mom’s pat answer to my queries of why this was so was always the same. “It’s because it was made with so much love,” she would say, her eyes glistening. Of course, the depth of this statement was lost on a 14 year old, to be left unappreciated until I was a mother in my own right. More and more, I find myself wanting to echo lessons such as this to my own daughter, as she rushes through tasks at home with reckless abandon.

I search further into the basket’s depths. A box originally made for straight pins efficiently holds a collection of buttons gleaned from years of discarded dress shirts worn by the men in my family. An unopened supply of safety pins, price tag still attached, sits next to an almost depleted card of Velcro fasteners, a vague comment on the progress of human ingenuity. Various sewing machine screwdrivers and zipper attachments are hidden among thimbles and small boxes of machine needles.

As I lift up the tray to reveal a recess of valuable sewing notions, my nostrils are filled with the faint fragrance of mothballs, an aroma that instantly causes me to remember my immigrant grandmother’s apartment. I’d swear I hadn’t smelled that since I was a child, and now it was here to validate another grandmother’s existence. As I peer into the brightly lined basket, an entire collection of colored threads dares me to choose from its assortment. Naturally, the perfect color spool of cotton for repairing Pop’s trousers is contained there. Beneath it lies a thrifty little plastic bag with its zippered and closed top, boasting another collection of salvaged buttons. This time, however, the buttons are still attached to scraps of fabric, as if Mom’s time had become more precious to her in later years.

At the very bottom of the basket are two items that have no real reason to be there except for sheer sentimentality. Mom hadn’t used these items in years, but both looked as if they might have been brand new. One was an army-issued sewing box; a palm-sized cloth-covered container of army uniform-colored threads and buttons my dad must have carried with him during his years in the service. Mom had married Dad at the tender age of eighteen, the first boy she had ever been allowed to date. The pictures we have of our parents at the altar reveal my father in full World War II regalia. I’ll never forget my mother’s stories of how she blushingly presented her dashing lieutenant to her array of bobby-soxed girl friends. Little did she know at that time that she was on the threshold of life full of children, hard work and the kind of fulfillment she later claimed was made possible only through her faith in God and those she loved.

The remaining item was mine, and mine alone. A red velvet pincushion I had stuffed and made when I was six or seven (with the help of someone else’s mother to surprise my own) lay there, reminding me that I was indeed someone’s little girl. Its heart-shaped softness and white-tulle edges stared up at me, and Mom’s smile appeared in my mind. I could almost hear her, “overdoing” it with unmitigated praise of my creation, making me feel almost “icky” inside for presenting her with such a mundane gift on Valentine’s Day.

It has become important to me to try to carry on this legacy of love and service to others I inherited through the stories hidden for a while in Mom’s sewing basket. In an odd way, I think she must have known I would discover each and every item there, but I doubt she would have predicted that I would attach so much meaning to each one. Secretively slipping a simple sewing basket into my possession now seems to make more sense.

Sometimes it is the little, perhaps at first unnoticed, articles of daily family life which give us the most strength in times of confusion and despair. Through my newly-found connection to the treasure within Mom’s sewing basket, I can better understand my role as my mother’s daughter. And perhaps, if I try hard to carry on Mom’s legacy of giving and caring, my daughter may someday ask how I accomplish the things I do in our busy lives, and I can respond with, “…because it’s done with so much love.”

Finally ‘Getting” It About Diet and Exercise

At first it was just about me. I wanted to lose a few dress sizes by my daughter’s wedding next summer for purely vain reasons, having carried around extra pounds for years now – all cleverly hidden by long sweaters and thigh-length jackets. Once I began looking at how getting myself into shape benefits those I love, however, I began to see my how it affected much more than the one writing this.

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Even though I have been lucky so far not experiencing any challenging illnesses or conditions, simple issues surrounding one’s health/weight can come as a sudden wake-up call, especially when blood work reveals unhealthy numbers for cholesterol, vitamin and thyroid health. My lab readouts were a bit disconcerting, forcing me to think long and hard about just how long and how badly I wanted to be around. Suddenly not taking care of me seemed to be a selfish act, prompting me to think about how my lack of self-care might affect the people around me.

I had to ask myself why I would consciously doom my loving partner in life to years and perhaps decades without me. Sure, he might find a suitable partner again, but I know in my heart he would be devastated for a good, long time if I took the dirt nap sooner rather than later. Even sadder to me, however, was the idea of denying future grandchildren the memory my reading them bedtime stories until they are old enough to roll their eyes over it, or being embarrassed by their “yiayia’s” screams at soccer games and sobs at their milestone events.

When I began to think of all the laughter and good times I would miss by checking out early just to avoid doing anything about my “weight” situation, it made me realize that taking care of myself is so much more than leaving butter off popcorn or passing up key lime pie at a dinner party. In the end, staying faithful to a regimen designed to reach your size/weight goals isn’t even about the goals themselves. It’s about the journey one takes to get there – one laden with life-altering realizations along the way. Here are a few I have been hit with through the first few weeks on my own path to better health:

• Drinking water is as important as breathing air. All those Facebook posters and slogans about what water does for you can’t be wrong. After all, I don’t think anyone gets rich over pushing water. There’s no money in it. My skin has improved; my hair is healthier, and everything that aids in my digestion is suddenly having a party.

• Exercise once a day gives you energy after it initially zaps it; I had no idea I could be so productive so late in the day. I actually have to tell myself to slow down so I can get drowsy enough to go to sleep.

• Sugar cravings can disappear in just a few days when protein becomes your friend. It’s weird.

• I am beginning to find that I have wasted precious mornings for decades. Finding ways to sleep until the last moment only robbed me of life-affirming walks in the fresh air that now jump-start my day. Besides, it feels great to brag to my trainer about having done it.

• Being aware of diet and exercise takes being in the moment to an entirely new level. You begin to live consciously, thinking about every morsel that enters your body and using muscles that have atrophied. Your body screams at you at first, asking you why it took you so frickin’ long to pay attention, but after awhile you look forward to seeing the changes that are taking place.

• The feeling of accomplishment of completing a successful day and sticking to your personal commitment to do this is like giving yourself a gift.

• I am kicking myself for not doing this sooner.

A Girlfriend Tale

From birth to age 7 while living on a foggy San Francisco street out by the beach, I had a best friend. A darling pink-cheeked girl named Cheryl lived next door. We were only six months apart in age and we were inseparable. We played, we hugged, we walked back and forth to school together and we watched the Mickey Mouse Club on TV every day after we got home. By the time emcee Jimmy Dodd ended the show spelling Mickey’s name with, “Y? Because we LIKE you!” — we were clearly convinced we could jump into the TV set and join the Mouseketeers, wear cool crewneck sweaters with our name emblazoned across them and sing and dance the way they did.

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It was the 1950s and our cookie-cutter row houses were brand new, many of them purchased using the GI bill for around $7,000 each. Dads worked, moms stayed home living very frugally, and kids walked to the nearest public school. TV sets were filled with tubes and only one car graced the garage of each house. From time to time, our mothers would dress us up in crinkly, frilly dresses and put patent leather shoes and ruffled socks on our feet. We looked like Chatty Cathy dolls as they snapped pictures of us. All that was missing was a pull-string on the backs of our necks.

In my mind, one’s first friend in life occupies a very special part of a child’s psyche. The first person who stands eye-to-eye, shares her popcorn square while standing by the bear exhibit at the local zoo and walks hand-in-hand with you up and down the block teaches you things no other person in life can. Tolerance. Fair play. Compassion. Sharing. That book written long ago about how all the basics one ever learns were taught to us in kindergarten was WAY ahead of its time.

Cheryl was at my house a lot, but I had no idea life in her home was any different from mine. In fact, I would not find out until more than 50 years later, when we miraculously found one another once again on Facebook and started doing some “girl time” to catch up after having endured failed marriages, brought up children, and finally found fulfilling careers. During those formative years living on a block filled with every ethnic group conceivable, we attended birthday parties, watched our brothers have fights on the sand dunes with dog-do, smashed coins on the streetcar tracks that ran in front of our houses and realized the warmest, sunniest days were in the dead of a San Francisco winter.

Suddenly (as everything seems to a 7-year old) my dad got transferred with his job to a city 100 miles away. We were to move to a lush suburb of Sacramento full of golf-green-like yards, swimming pools and fruit trees, the likes of which I had never seen. I just didn’t know it yet.

As we stood clinging to one another in a long goodbye, Cheryl and I cried. I remember crying because she was crying. I had no idea how moving away would change my life, but crying seemed appropriate when saying goodbye to someone you couldn’t remember having ever lived without. Cheryl, however, knew how my leaving would change her existence, even at such a young age. Our house had evidently been her safe haven from a domineering, moody, often angry mom and a father who felt helpless to change things as he fought his own demons. I would learn that our lives went on to take entirely different paths – mine springing from an almost stiflingly close family that still managed to show encouragement and support, while hers would become one of sheer survival. I learned that Cheryl felt she had no “home base” and soon began to live by her wits, marrying for the first time at a very young age just to escape.

Upon the occasion of her father’s 90th birthday party at her sizable property in the heart of a North Bay town, Cheryl and I stood in her large yard while others milled about. We gazed at one another’s faces as if we were two little girls saying hello after having been torn apart at childhood (which we were). It was then that an inexplicable feeling surfaced neither one of us could explain. Embracing our beginnings in life brought us to an entirely new place. Now in our 60s, we realized how there must be a reason why we had connected not only as children, but also as adults some 50+ years later. We made a pact to go someplace special together and celebrate our reunion and even named a date as we stared into our smart phones.

Some two months later we embraced one another once again, this time in the lobby of a posh hotel in California’s Napa Valley. We talked. And we talked. We ate, we drank wine and we talked some more, falling asleep at 3 am as our voices gave out. And as we bounced our five decades of life off one another, we realized we had both come to some important realizations in tandem but with different consequences. Cheryl, now an accomplished nurse practitioner and fighter for the downtrodden, had become a cause for good in hundreds of people’s lives. I had become a writer and public speaker in mid-life, hoping to inspire people as well. We had brought up daughters using the wisdom God gave us, the lessons our mistakes had pounded into us, and whatever our parents had both taught and failed to teach us and they had all turned out okay.

Because Cheryl had not enjoyed the support I had throughout life, however, every struggle had been hard-fought. Despite having endured homelessness and choosing a succession of abusive partners, she put herself through nursing school and then graduate school entirely on her own. She received no recognition for all this from the people closest to her, yet it did not deter her from growing within her chosen career and fighting for the causes she held dear. While Cheryl was a shining example of how to overcome the cruelest of obstacles in life, however, she doubted herself at every turn as a mother. In an effort to make life easier on her three daughters, she doted on them, bailing them out and making excuses for their slow ascent into full adulthood. She took care of their pets, invited and encouraged them to live with her or close by and almost like a broken record, repeated excuses to me as to why they had not progressed as quickly as she had hoped. She vehemently fought the idea that her children would ever have to struggle; she wanted to provide them the safety net she had never had in life. But these young women had not lived as Cheryl had. They had enjoyed the unconditional love and support she had never experienced. What Cheryl had not realized, then, was that instead of helping them, she was unwittingly standing in the way of their finding their own answers and being able to look back on their own accomplishments.

In some ways, Cheryl and I were similar in our approach to parenting. I had only one child, but stayed too long in an unfulfilling and drama-filled marriage. I got caught up in giving my daughter all the privileges and freedom my very strict, ethnic and cloistered upbringing had not afforded me as well as to trying to make up for her often judgmental father. To top that off, as brilliant and skilled as my only child was, she was a toughie. From a very young age, she was easily bored and despite being able to pull off decent grades, she lost interest in school long before high school graduation. After resorting to home schooling her to procure her diploma, I watched as she flew the coop around the time I finally left her father. It was painful to watch her even at a distance, as she decided against college and wandered from job to job, taking big risks along the way. But I was always there for her no matter what the shock value, whispering prayers asking for her safekeeping. What I noticed is that when my own life finally found purpose and meaning once again, she seemed to come back to center. Eventually she moved close by and not long after that, she started up her own online business, which supports her to this day.

As Cheryl and I opened up like flower petals to one another during our time in the wine country’s idyllic surroundings, we took what the other said to heart, like long-separated sisters who desperately wanted to make up for lost time. Despite my life having not been as brutally challenging as hers, I was able to give her my own very forthright perspective and opinion about how one of the greatest gifts mothers can give their grown daughters is to grab hold of their own lives and become examples of balance and self-actualization. She told me that she had discussed these things with other friends over the years, but that no one perspective had affected her the way mine had. Or perhaps it was just timing. Because the abiding respect she had already developed regarding her connection to me caused her to do some serious soul searching. When last we spoke, she informed me that she had already begun to take steps to pull back from her maternal helicoptering, perhaps to the chagrin of her daughters, who never saw it coming.

My new/old friend is now making plans to travel to Europe with my husband and I next summer and we are giddily scheming to get together as often as feasible from now on. She hopes it is not too late to change course with her precious daughters at this point, taking a few steps back and permitting them to navigate life on their own, but she is willing to face the consequences of her decisions and hope for the best because her very sanity and survival depends on it.

I have never discounted why people both enter and re-enter one another’s lives nor the impact they can have on one another no matter how old or young they are. While some prefer to leave the past in the past, I have always looked for meaning in any encounter.

From birth to age 7 while living on a foggy San Francisco street out by the beach, I had a best friend. And if I am lucky, we will still be laughing in our old age, talking about our days walking hand-in-hand to elementary school and sharing popcorn squares at the zoo on a chilly San Francisco summer day.

Someone’s Here: Our Own Personal Poltergeist

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When we saw the home seven years ago, it was everything we needed and held the potential for everything we wanted in a home in which we planned to stay for the duration: great floor plan, lived mostly on one level, tall ceilings and enough common and separate spaces for my husband and I to enjoy life as a fairly newly-wed couple. The real estate agent who sold us the place was the daughter-in-law of the former owner who, coincidentally, had died on the premises. By California law, Realtors must disclose this information within three years of it happening — just in case it affects the decision of a potential buyer. Sure enough, the buyer before us for the home terminated his interest the moment he found out. We loved the home enough to proceed, however because for my husband and I, none of this scared us.

We had experienced the loss of all our parents by this point, having lost the last one just a few months before moving in. Death was just part of the equation in our minds, and the fact that someone’s life ended in this home was not a concern. Truth is, it fascinates me to hear about unsettled spirits – poor souls who just can’t seem to move on to another plane after leaving their bodies. None of the more credible “haunting” stories I’ve heard resulted in anything more than a bit of a scare, and in many cases, people living in homes where things go bump in the night (or daytime) just live with the phenomenon of someone else hanging around.

Such is the case with a lady I will call “Hilda”, since that is the name of the woman who met her demise from a fall in the master bedroom and was evidently not discovered until it was too late. The house had been adapted in many places for a wheelchair, with handles in the master shower, lots of wide corridors and enough room to maneuver the chair around the kitchen area and Hilda had evidently gotten around pretty well under the circumstances.

Hilda began making her presence known just a few months after we moved in. A door at the other end of the house from where I was sitting opened and slammed shut. No one else was home, no windows were open and there seemed to be no provocation for this happening. It happened a few more times, prompting me to tell my husband about it, after which we decided it was Hilda just saying hello.

The most unlikely events occurred with electronics, however. On more than three occasions, either our TV or audio has turned on for no reason after both had clearly been switched off by one of us.

It happened again this morning. I had gone into the kitchen/family room area to feed the dog and let him out, as usual, and all was quiet. Heading to my office to get a jump on the day I clicked into my favorite social media web sites and checked email. Then I heard what sounded like TV dialogue. Poking my head into the master, where my husband still slept, I found all was quiet. Then I revisited the family room and, sure enough, the TV audio had been switched on. Unlike the scenes in movies, where none of the remote controls stop the transmission, however, ours always works.

Was Hilda trying to get the morning news? Nah. I think she was just messin’ with us again. So I switched it off, looked around, said, “Oh hi, Hilda!” and went about my day. Who knows? Maybe the old girl sticks around because she knows she isn’t all that unwelcome. But I hope she finds her way someday, because we aren’t going anywhere any time soon.