You Can’t Escape the Bilious, Slimy Underside of the Black Rubber Thing

scent-clipart-toonvectors-11636-140Ever have a bad smell in your house for which you can’t blame a spouse or a pet? A putrid odor was in my kitchen. I checked the garbage. Nope. I checked the pantry. Nada. I check the garbage disposal. Aha! So I did what other 1960s Home Ec trained women do—poured bleach down into the disposal. To no avail. The odor I named Stinky still emanated from the drain. I poured a half cup of bleach and then a cup of vinegar into the disposal. As I watched the reactive foam bubble and heard the sizzle of the chemical reaction, I said aloud, “Farewell, Stinky.”

But Stinky stubbornly remained. I’ve had houseguests who would have fled if I had treated them so badly. Why was Stinky still hanging around? I did the next best thing–I  called the smartest friend I knew—retired physician, scrupulous house keeper, and master of much knowledge. She asked, “Have you cleaned under the rubber gasket of your disposal? You know, the black rubber thing?” I used baking soda and vinegar, I answered. “Not enough,” she said. “You have to use Clorox Wipes and clean off the stuff that the disposal throws up. It’s pretty gunky.”

“Throws up” and “gunky” should have been clues to what the task involved. Alas, I was naïve. I confidently got out the Clorox Wipes, tore off one dainty towelette, and thrust my ungloved hand and the trusty Stinky buster into the disposal. Within a nanosecond, I felt the slimy, greasy, pasty, oily, nasty, abhorrent residue from many months of pulverizing food into a liquified cocktail of nastiness. Within the second nanosecond, the feel of slime on my fingers registered in my brain as a cue for vomiting. The queasiness escalated when I pulled out the blackened glop-covered wipe. Homemaker guilt crushed me—this was my fault. But I had to prevail against Stinky!  I quelled dry heaves, and after twenty or so wipes and ten or so paper towels, the glop and Stinky were gone.

The experience with Stinky and his demise made me think about other slimy undersides in our lives that need attention. And getting rid of them frees us from stench that makes us miserable. We have to face the slimy underside of problems. Have a toxic relationship? Use a mental Clorox Wipe to get rid of the slime-ball. Trying to lose weight but can’t? Peer into the underside of your eating. Maybe more of what’s on your plate should go down the drain (yes, THAT drain). Stinky can be those things we are afraid to look at, and he’s a stubborn bastard. But once we see what’s there, we can take control and wipe away the slimy residue that fouls up our lives. No longer am I afraid of the underside of the black rubber thing in my disposal. I’m smart enough to look once in a while so Stinky cannot, will not, take up residence again. Mostly importantly, I’m armed, and ready, for other germ-laden or emotional Stinkys.

Clip art from clipart 

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My New Friend

It had been an irritating afternoon that turned quickly into a depressing darkening dusk. No one wanted to play Mahjong, the “drive thru associate” at McDonalds gave me the wrong order, the crabby clerk at the grocery drummed her fingers as I dug through my purse for change. As I pulled up to my garage I saw a package sitting on my doorstep, the porch light highlighting the edges of the cardboard box. The blue PRIME moniker announced its Amazon source. Hooray! It was a robot vacuum I had ordered a few days before.  After unloading the groceries I took the package inside and opened the box. There was another box, and packing tape securely sealed each possible entry into the second package like an impenetrable fortress. Tomorrow. I retreated to the softness of my bed and the warmth of my dog who nestled beside me.

The next morning, I tore into the box. Visions of dog fur being effortlessly sucked up motivated me to conquer the grip the tape held on the carton. I broke a nail ripping cardboard flaps trapped beneath that tenacious packing tape. No mind—a few careful nibbles from my teeth smoothed the edges. Freed at last, the vacuum, the charger, and directions sat on my dining table. It had to charge for four hours. Four hours?!

Finally the blue indicator light was steady, telling me the vacuum was ready to sweep and gather debris from the floors my dog had littered with his fur, floors I had swept crumbs onto as I ate dinner on the sofa, floors I hadn’t (ahem) vacuumed as much as I should have. I pushed the blue button. It came alive! Did Dr. Frankenstein feel such excitement? The machine I named Sucks2BU whirred its motor, backed out of its dock and began twirling its side brushes. Go! Go! Go!

I watched, mesmerized by the patient, plodding circular disk cruising in right angles (some angles more obtuse than others) around my house. Sucks2BU doggedly set in a direction until it encountered the TV stand. It backed up, turned a few degrees, headed in the new direction until it ran into the sofa. I was in love.

I grabbed the remote to Sucks2BU, held it, pondered its possible commands. What would it do on its own? I looked up and saw that my mini robot had left the carpeted living room and soldiered into the tiled kitchen. It can do that? On its own? It bumped against the dishwasher, pivoted, headed towards the refrigerator. The darn thing went under the refrigerator and backed out. Sucks2BU was miraculous! It was independent of me, but doing for me. I had a new friend.

Like all friendships, there comes a time when even the smartest and most determined friend needs help. Poor Sucks2BU got trapped between the legs of a chair. It had stopped, its little motor had ceased humming. It sat patiently like an upturned turtle waiting for rescue. I felt maternal as I pulled its circular body away from the metal legs and set it in the open so it could continue its work. I pressed the blue button of battle. It headed out of the living room, down the hall, and into a bedroom. Its whirring was comforting like hearing the fan of a well-oiled furnace on a wintery night. It left me to do what it was designed to do, and yet I knew it would return.

I left for a meeting (did I really wave and say goodbye to both the dog and Sucks2BU?) When I returned Sucks2BU had docked, its blue button flashing I’m tired, I’m tired, its container filled with dust and debris and DOG HAIR. I tenderly emptied the canister and brushed fine dust particles from the filter. Yes, we have a symbiotic relationship, Sucks2BU and I. Sucks2BU cleans, and I clean Sucks2BU. Works for people too. A friendship worth keeping.

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Bootcamp for Nana

K at birdbathI recently witnessed the activities of spring break guests at my small Arizona villa. Six adults, three children, and two dogs frolicked in the southwest sunshine and in my house. They slept in every available bed, ate a lot of food, and contributed to a continuous pile of laundry. Need I say I slept on the sofa? Everyone pitched in, yet loving chaos prevailed. The first inkling that the week was going to be challenging was the small voice coming from another room, “Nana, do you have any glue?”

I wouldn’t have traded the experience for all the geriatric vitamins  in Arizona. Since this was my first all inclusive family gathering since I downsized to my retirement abode, I wasn’t prepared. By the end of the week, I was bone tired. And the house was, shall we say, in disarray.  Next time I will be ready before the darlins arrive–thus, the creation of BOOTCAMP FOR NANA. Specifics below.

  1. START EARLY. You think you and your house are in shape, but you must face the truth. You and your house need intensive preparation.
  2. ENDURANCE. Begin by working your way up to eight hours of standing. Stand in line at the BMV. Waiting to get your driver’s license renewed will take about an hour. Next try a line at Nordstrom while waiting for the doors to open for their annual shoe sale. You’ll also find out whether your current shoes are comfortable enough after being on your feet for several hours. Finally, go to a museum and walk through every exhibit. DO NOT SIT.
  3. LIFT WEIGHTS. A one-year-old child weighs about twenty pounds. A four-year old weighs about thirty-eight pounds. The one-year-old will feel about thirty-eight  pounds when you’re swinging her around to the tune of “Fly through air with the greatest of ease.” The four-year-old’s weight triples as she lands on top of you whilst resting on the sofa.
  4. EASE BACK INTO ENDLESS COOKING. Start by having friends for dinner once a week. Increase by one meal each week until you can, without fainting, cook a family pleasing meal seven days in a row.
  5. SERVICE YOUR WASHING MACHINE, DRYER, AND DISHWASHER.  The hum of washing motors and swishing water will be constant. The first day will fool you. The towels are clean and hung for use, and your guests arrive wearing clean clothes.
  6. PUT AWAY VALUABLES. Nothing spoils a visit than grandparents and parents yelling, “Don’t touch.’
  7. PURCHASE GLUE AND TAPE. The earlier quote, “Nana, do you have some glue?” says it all. Well, there is the occasional “Nana, the dog is eating your book,” or a muttered “Oops.”
  8. ENCOURAGE THEM TO TAKE THE CAR TO EXPLORE THE AREA. This is when you can put up your feet so the swelling in your ankles subsides.
  9. TEST LOCKS ON BATHROOM DOORS. When Nana wants to take a shower, she wants to take a shower without an audience.
  10. YIELD THE HOUSE. Grandmothers of the world can’t avoid the disarray. The kids are more important. So what if they repurpose the bird bath to wash stones and pine cones? And celebrate the evidence of fun that you will occasionally find long after everyone is gone…such as some shoes that were used as fairy boats.

Proverbs 17:6   Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.


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The N.R.A. I Knew and Want Back


Given the events in Parkland, Florida, I’m reposting this opinion piece on the NRA and their role in preventing responsible gun ownership and regulation.

Sadly, it’s time to make ANOTHER plea to citizens to help break the hold the NRA has on politicians. First, I’m sharing a letter to the editor that I sent to the South Florida Sun Sentinel and the Tucson Daily Star. Second, is the post I wrote on December 24, 2014. Congress, do what is good for the people, don’t respond to what the NRA is doing for you!

February 19, 2018:

To the Editor: Young students like Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Alex Wind, and Jaclyn Corin of Parkland, Florida, WILL make change. These are teenagers who have seen enough, intellectually know what needs to be done, and have to the energy and moral strength to pull it off. They are not beholden to the NRA for anything. They are fed up with the inaction of their elders. They are determined to take charge of their lives and their futures. Youth helped us get out of the Vietnam War, and yes, history shows that it was a politically motivated war not for the people of Vietnam or the United States, but for the military-industrial machines. Sound familiar? We have a new machine: the NRA, and I say God Bless to these young people who have the courage and foresight to say, “No more BS.”

December 24, 2014

I’ve been playing a lot of Solitaire to avoid writing this post, but a presence within me is tapping, no…pounding, on my conscience to speak up. I write this so that another voice is added to what I hope is the building thunder of a call to action. Enough is enough. We do not need assault rifles and high capacity clips for civilian use, and we shouldn’t allow unlicensed persons to sell arms, especially at gun shows. Neither of these opinions reflects a threat to a sane interpretation of the Second Amendment.

I am not against guns or against gun rights. I still have several N.R.A. badges and medals I earned in camps I attended as a child and teenager; my parents, my brother, my husband and many friends have or have had guns for sport. My brother used to be a police officer and he had weapons for serious uses, which he had occasion to draw but never had to fire. I am a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, so I am no stranger to the passion and purpose of establishing and defending a nation.

The slaughter of innocent children and their teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, is the latest in the assault on undeserving citizens in our country by mentally ill men brandishing assault weapons. They join the list of other victims in theaters, malls, colleges, as well as on the streets of our cities, held hostage by rampant crime made more likely because of easy access to assault weapons. The N.R.A. would have you believe that more weapons are needed, as in arming teachers to protect our schools. Columbine High School had armed officers, and that assault was not stopped. At the shooting of Gabriel Giffords, Joe Zamudio put his hand on the butt of his gun when he heard the shots, but as he got to the scene, Loughner had been tackled and was on the ground. Zamudio jumped on top of Loughner to make sure he would not get away (New York Daily News, 24 Dec 2012). These are just a few of the incidents where guards or concealed carrying citizens could not stop attacks by  gunmen yielding assault weapons.

The N.R.A. used to be an organization that promoted gun safety and marksmanship, but that all changed in the 1977 when Harlan Carter was elected executive Vice-President of the N.R.A.. With his guidance, the N.R.A. stopped being an organization of hunters and marksmen and began its climb to a powerful lobby that zealously defends its no compromise interpretation of the Second Amendment. It is big business.

So, I looked up the Second Amendment. It reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected to service in a militiaand for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. That’s OK.

The N.R.A., however, sees any gun regulation as a threat to Second Amendment rights. Wait a minute. We have freedom of speech, but we can’t libel a person. We have the right of assembly, but we can’t club people in the crowd who disagree with us.

It is the blind, self-serving N.R.A. to which Americans must rise against. There is, for instance, a loophole that allows unlicensed sellers to sell arms to people without conducting background checks. These unlicensed sellers are prominent at gun shows and help arm criminals and “bad guys” (Wayne LaPierre’s term-LaPierre is the current Executive Vice President of the N.R.A.). A Google search on the “Gun Show Loophole” yields multiple studies that reveal the connection between unlicensed sales of guns and crime.

If you are a member of the N.R.A., help take back the organization’s reputation for responsible gun ownership. President George HW Bush resigned his lifetime N.R.A. membership in 1995 when LaPierre called federal agents “jack-booted thugs” after the Oklahoma City bombing. (See the full text of Bush’s letter at )

Refuse to listen to Wayne LaPierre’s fear mongering about threats to the Second Amendment. Informed citizens can and should be skeptical about issues, but healthy skepticism leads to research and fact-finding. It is the N.R.A.’s resolute rejection of any gun control that is so alarming.

For those of us who are not members of the N.R.A., help weaken the stranglehold that the N.R.A. has on any progress for sane, responsible gun control while honoring the Second Amendment appropriately for the 21st century. I am sending this blog posting to my senator, representatives, and my President. Each voice can promote even a little bit towards “peace on Earth and good will towards men.”

Resources you might want to check out:

Brady Campaign

Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

James E. Atwood, America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose

Mayors Against Illegal Guns

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What, Me Worry?

Anyone who is a boomer will remember the iconic picture of the fictional Alfred E. what-me-worry
Neuman– big ears, tooth gap, and the vacant look of someone who doesn’t think about much of anything. Although we imitated his “What, me worry” mantra and laughed, worrying is no laughing matter. Some are blessed to not have the worry gene. I, for one, have a great big worry gene. In fact, my DNA sequence has a large bulge where the worry gene resides.

Still, today’s sermon by  Jim Toole at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church encouraged me to ponder what it means to “let go, and let God.” His story of Moses’ mother entrusting her son to God’s mercy provoked an image for me…standing at the edge of the river, barely able to hold the heavy worries in my hands. Would I have enough trust to put my burden in a basket and sent it down the river under God’s protection?

The following is an entry in my art journal, a dialog I imagined having with God.  I am trusting you, dear reader, to accept my amateur art.

IMG_3800 2

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Bridge of Spies: Critiquing the Film and Reviewing the History

Movie Poster "Bridge of Spies"When I first volunteered to “do something on the film Bridge of Spies” for the July meeting of the Cold War Symposium, I knew a film critique would be fun to do, and my audience would learn new information on how to watch a movie. But the military part? I had zero military experience other than watching movies like “Saving Private Ryan” and “We Were Soldiers,” or reading books like Tim O’Brian’s classical work of American Literature, “The Things They Carry.” Family dinners where fathers, uncles, cousins, and brothers expounded on their military stories had added to my meager knowledge. But for the history part of July’s discussion, I would have to draw on experiences from the audience—those that had ‘been there.’

First the film review. Bridge of Spies (2015) takes place during the Cold War. James B. Donovan, played by Tom Hanks, is recruited to defend a Soviet spy (Rudoph Abel, played by Mark Rylance. Hanks is able to avoid the death penalty for his client, but then he helps the CIA arrange an exchange of Abel for Francis Gary Powers, an American U2 spy plane pilot.

The film opens in silence with Rudolph Abel painting a self-portrait.  The scene is designed to introduce a theme of the film—how we see ourselves, what we hide from others—and is patterned after Norman Rockwell’s Triple Self Portrait. Donovan is the center of the film as a man for whom ethics prevailed. In an attempt to save Abel from the death penalty, Donovan gives the argument that Abel might be a good bargaining chip later on. And he was, of course, when he was traded for Gary Powers. One of the most powerful scenes is when Donovan refuses to violate attorney-client privilege and to give information on Abel to an FBI agent. “We don’t have a rule book here,” says the agent. Donovan comes back with, “What makes us Americans is we do have a rule book, and it’s called the Constitution.” Their back and forth dialogue on constitutional rights versus security issues gives the viewer plenty to ponder.

Critiques give the film high ratings for historical accuracy in spite of staging oversights like the appearance of satellite dishes on the rooftops in New York. Three former U2 pilots who were in the audience gave a tolerant thumbs-up on directorial decisions that helped the storyline or narrative tension in the film. Col. Retired George Freese, Lt. Col. Retired Jack Stebe, and Brig Gen Retired David Patton (all residents of SaddleBrooke) spoke to their experiences, as much as they could, as U2 pilots. Bill Lay, also of SaddleBrooke and attending the symposium, was the officer in charge at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin 1961-63. He was present at the exchange of Abel and Powers. No, Abel and Powers did not shake hands at the exchange, as the movie portrayed.

If you would like to read Donovan’s own account, pick up Strangers on a Bridge (Scribner,1964; reissued August 2015), 25-26.

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Create Your Own Light

darkness_edited-2On a very dark day of my soul, I created a very dark page in my art journal. Swirls of black and blue filled the center of the image. My sadness and anger traveled through the brush with broad sweeping strokes onto the page. Then I lost control. Reacting, not planning, I dipped my brush into an aqua blue, then some white, then some yellow. I dove into the painting and felt hope emerging from the light in the center. The anger and frustration that I wrestled with that day couldn’t survive in the light of the sun.

Here’s what I wrote underneath the image I created:

In the darkness, turn to the light. If there is no light, create some. Dig deep in your soul for a glimmer of hope that can grow into an ember, then a flame, then a lamp–fed by hope and determination.

Odd. The darkness lifted.



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Make the Bed


Recent stuscreen-shot-2017-01-13-at-9-32-50-amdies show that people who make their beds sleep better at night. But on rebellious days, when I decide NOT to make my bed, I feel powerful, in charge, not to be controlled by the voices in my head. Until I feel guilty. And that happens pretty quickly.

In my small house, I can see the bedroom from almost every vantage point. The disheveled sheets, the shams on the floor, the bedspread lazily crumpled, all point their cottony and judgmental fingers at me. What? Are you really going to leave us like this?! You use us, then get dressed and walk away as if we meant nothing to you?

I last about an hour, or two.

The voices in my head remind me of world order. Morning comes before noon, life occurs before death, if you don’t eat you’ll get hungry, if you smile at people they will most likely smile back, a made bed shows that the owner is prepared for the day.

It’ll just take a second, I tell myself. I straighten the sheets and blankets, pull up the bedspread, make sure the edges are level on both sides, place and plump the pillows.  All’s right again with the world.

Now, about the ironing hanging on the back of the laundry room door, out of sight, beckoning me with wrinkled collars and creased hems. Not a problem…until I have run out of no-press clothes.

But I sleep very well.





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Row, Row, Row Your Boat!

There is a Chinese proverb that says “When the student is willing, the teacher appears.” Teachers, in the form of little angels, appear from nowhere, giving us direction when we don’t realize we need direction. And at the exact time when we are willing to learn what it is we need to learn. And we may not even know we are willing.

This is what happened to me today when I saw a video on Facebook, that hog of time that occaScreen Shot 2016-08-05 at 9.03.38 AMsionally yields a three minute eureka. This is a video from Prince Ea. Never heard of him before. But what a prize. The person who originally posted this gem of heavenly advice was an angel who made Prince Ea my teacher. I want to share with you. Namaste.

The Shocking Meaning of Row, Row, Row Your Boat

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50th High School Reunions and Other Lessons

class photo

Photo from 45th Reunion

Short of losing thirty pounds and having whole body plastic surgery, I was ready for my 50th High School Reunion. My Tucson friends said, “They are on the same aging journey as you. You’ll have a great time. People will be glad to see you. ”

Yes, people were genuinely glad to see me as I was to see them, but little do they know the gifts they gave me beyond the ego satisfying greetings. My former classmates brought their LIVES with them–disappointments, losses, gains, loves, travels, plans. There was an intimacy from those discussions that was devoid of the need to please, impress or judge. My thirty pounds became moot. I reveled in the opportunities to listen and to be heard.

It was from the listening that I learned so much. I overhead one conversation in which a classmate was apologizing for some long ago hurt, and the apology was graciously accepted, the healing evident in the words that followed. My admiration for both parties increased a hundredfold, and I wondered who needed to hear me say “I’m sorry” to help heal an old wound.

I saw the class “jocks” rally around a former teammate now in a wheelchair. No slaps on the back or brief “good to see you” greetings. The guys sat and stayed with him, talked with him, and listened to his somewhat garbled speech. Their effort to make time for a buddy who couldn’t reciprocate reminded me of how handicaps in other people  can evoke a reminder of our fallibilities and an urge to run away. Those guys didn’t. They didn’t leave him behind.

There was genuine joy in everyone to be able to BE there. Every reunion has an increasing list of those who have passed on, and we all say from time to time “every day is a gift.” But at the reunion there was a whole ballroom of people saying with big smiles and hearty hugs, “Isn’t great we’ve made it here for another gathering?” The sentiment was contagious and joyful, not a doomsday forecast.

I also enjoyed watching how differently men greeted each other as opposed to how the women responded to each other. Women: armed outstretched, in high pitched voices , “It’s sooooo good to see you.” Men: smile, punch on the shoulder, “Still driving that shit bag of a car?” and other affectionate insults. My lesson: it’s true-men are from Mars.

To my classmates of ’65: Thank you for being there. Thank you for sharing YOU. And thank you for contributing to my life’s journey.

With love,


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