Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Perfect Picnic...

My Mom is 93 years old. I'm sure she'd hate me telling her age to the world, but she should be proud to have successfully reached that age.

Aging isn't for the weak and timid, and Mom's never been either of these!

She's one of the many reasons I'm so happy to be back in my home state of New Jersey. I try to see her at least once a week and preferably twice. The clock is ticking and I'm making the most of it.

The other day I had to take her to an emergency visit to her retina specialist. Although Mom is in good general health, her eyes are failing rather rapidly and this time she had a rupture in her right eye. She woke up seeing mostly brown, black, orange and red!

So, I left work early to take her to her appointment far out in western Jersey. I left earlier than I needed to because it was a beautiful day (and also because Mom was REALLY upset) and I thought, "I'm going to make this day nice for Mom. We'll have a picnic out in the countryside!"

I quickly made the plans in my head:

  • Pick up sandwiches at the great deli by my friend Patty's house out in Budd Lake, N.J.
  • Pack two beach chairs.
  • Pick up Mom's favorite beer. (Hey! We're Irish! We don't pack Snapple...)

The perfect picnic beverage....

As I drove, I pictured the scene - Mom and I by the lakeside... sipping our Yuengling's... and enjoying our time together...

I've said it before... my plans always give God a big chuckle...

I picked up Mom at her "Adult Community" and headed right out - very excited to make the day special (and take her mind off the doctor's visit!)

Half an hour later I was in the deli ordering our picnic meal. A lovely Asian couple owns the place. There goes my stereotype prejudice of delis either being Italian or Jewish in order to be good! (Note to self - work on being more open minded...)

Since the deli is right across the street from Budd Lake, I looked at it out the window and asked the owner, "Where can my mother and I picnic along the lake?"

"Oh," he replied. "Budd Lake is private! You need to pay to go in."

Really? 

Only in Jersey...

Budd Lake - my perfect picnic plan...

"Plan B Mom," I said as I got in the car.  I actually DID have a "Plan B." I wasn't a Girl Scout for nothing!

I headed for a fishery I knew was just a couple of miles away. Mom and Dad had taken us there when we were kids. This would be even BETTER than stupid Budd Lake!

Thank God for GPS. The place was in the middle of NO-where! "How did Dad ever find this place without a GPS, Mom?" I complained. "Your father could find anything," she smugly replied.

So, driving down some teeny street and peering ahead at some wooded area I spotted a man on the corner. A man in an orange vest standing next to some kind of road equipment.

He came to the car, to my mother's window, and I asked how to get to the fishery.

"Oh, you gals aren't going to the fishery," he smiled and said. "We just started paving the road an hour and a half ago."

Really?

The road has been DIRT for about a hundred years and TODAY - our SPECIAL day - they decide to pave it?!!

I could hear God chuckling somewhere out there...

God's plan...

He saw my stricken face, winked and told me a "secret way" I could get to the fishery parking lot. We couldn't actually go in, it was closed for the construction, but we could "at least sit in the parking lot near it."

"We have to get to the doctor's soon, Karen!" Mom cried. (Yeah Mom... in three hours and the doctor is about a mile from the fishery...) She then added, "And I'm HOT!"

My old Volvo's air conditioning broke last year. We haven't gotten around to fixing it since this summer's been cool. Cool until TODAY, that is... (God is really wearing on my last nerve...)

Well, the construction guy's "secret way" through Centenary College didn't work because of a closed gate barring our way.

"I HAVE to get out of this car!" Mom yelled.

Aaargh! I pulled into a "Professor's Only" parking lot and parked under some trees on the far side. "This is it!" I yelled back. "I'll get the chairs."

A perfect picnic spot...

So, I set us up next to the car in a shaded spot on the asphalt. (We couldn't go on the lawn - too lumpy - and Mom can't see the lumps).

I shoved a turkey-on-whole wheat at her and sat down. Damn! The Yuengling's were sitting in her fridge back home...

Sipping on some warm bottled water I found on the floor of the Volvo, I finally collapsed in the folding chair and tried to enjoy the breeze and view of three pine trees near the curb.

"What's that noise?" I thought. Looking to Mom's right I could see roofers on one of the college's roofs. Great... I didn't say a thing. Mom can't hear well anyway...

Gazing through the pines I saw swarms of dust kicking up. The construction trucks were rumbling past us about 50 feet away!

Lovely...

"What's that smell?" I asked Mom through the dirt in my teeth.

"Tar," she replied.

"Well, it can't get any worse!" we laughed...

A few minutes later I glanced at her and said, "Mom, you have a fly on your arm."

"That's not a fly," she mumbled through a mouthful of turkey. "It's a bee."

Damn! It wasn't ONE bee. I saw at least three around her arm!

I HATE bees! I'm highly allergic!

One of my biggest phobias!

Picturing an emergency visit to the hospital, I jumped up and ran.

"Oh, God! I'm leaving my Mother stranded!" I ran back to her and started swatting them with my sandwich wrapper. They came after me and I ran again. "Oh, God! I'm a HORRIBLE daughter!" I ran back and swatted.

This went on a couple more times. I could hear the roofers laughing from afar...

Finally my Mom was standing, clutching her sandwich remains as bees swarmed it. "Throw the sandwich Mom!" I screamed. She just stood there looking at the soggy piece of bread. "Throw the sandwich!!!"

NEVER say these words to a Depression-era Baby...

Grudgingly... finally... she raised BOTH arms and tossed the remnant onto the curb. The bees went for it and I pushed her into the car. The VERY hot car.

"Let's get to the doctor's office," she said. "At least it'll be cool THERE."

"But, Mom the appointment isn't for at least another couple of hours," I cried.

And, that's where we ended up.

But, boy we've been laughing about that day ever since. Maybe God does have good plans...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Road of Life

My last post got me to thinking about "The Road of Life."

You know "The Road." We read about it in Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken." We use terms like, "Well, that was a bump in the road," for when life gets a little tough. We talk about, "He's on Easy Street," or we take a trip "Down Memory Lane."

Life really is a Road Trip!

I just wasn't given a map though...

Some people are given maps at an early age. It directs them right from the hospital where they're born, onto a highway ramp, onto the interstate for a couple of miles (not far...) and directly to a certain destination. And there they stay. Their parents, grandparents, (and even further back), know this place well. They know all the people, the best restaurants, parking, local events... Heck, their ancestors even built a lot of the foundations and buildings!

That's some people. And, here's one of their maps:


I did have some sense of direction when I was young. I knew, like all my older sisters, that I was going to go to college. So, for my first 21 years, I focused on school. That was my goal, my destination, my path... my road.

But, after college? I was told, "You can do whatever you want!"

Here was my map:

(Drawn, by me, on the back of my Rutgers diploma
I received in Communications/Journalism...)

I didn't have a clue! All my friends from Rutgers already had their jobs lined up three months BEFORE we graduated. Me? I spent the entire summer after graduation in my friend Jeff's parents' "Rec Room" watching MTV...

(You remember "Rec Rooms"? They're now called "Family Rooms" ever since the 90's McMansions building craze.)

I did internships in college to get a feel for what I wanted to do. I worked in the research department of WNEW-TV (now FOX-TV). I didn't like the screaming, crying, and firing atmosphere going on in the news room. I actually had a news director SCREAM in my face - literally six inches from my nose - for several minutes until someone told him I was "just an intern." He then screamed, "THEN WHY THE HELL AM I TALKING TO HER!!!!" and stormed away.

Then, shortly after my lost summer, my friend from R.U., Alice, got me an interview at Woman's Day Magazine. (I worked with her at the Rutgers newspaper - The Daily Targum - as a cartoonist). So, I got my first paying job in their art department as the Art Director's assistant.


I paid all the art department's bills. I really didn't know what I was doing. When they told me on the interview I'd be "doing invoices" I said, "Ok." Then I went home and asked my mother what an "invoice" was...

But, I liked what the other people in the art department were doing - layout design! I didn't want to go back to college to get an art degree (especially since my parents wouldn't pay for it...) so I did what any normal 23 year old would do. I packed a suitcase, grabbed my Snoopy phone and moved to L.A.

Really.

I didn't know anyone. I didn't have a job. I'd been there ONCE for a week. But, I always had a dream of going there (I LOVED The Beach Boys and all the 60's surfer movies)...

I still miss Annette...

I landed a job hand-painting clothes in Venice Beach. I got paid PER piece. The first day I painted two shirts. The next day I did three or four. That's ONE DOLLAR a shirt. At the end of that week the store's accountant came back to where I was painting and told me, "Honey, you're going to starve." By the end of the first month I was painting about 50 a day!

But, the store's owner was a whacko (go figure... a whacko in L.A.!) and the job only lasted about seven months. By the end of the year I was broke. I sold my "vintage" orange VW Bug, packed up Snoopy and moved back to Jersey.

To La La Land and back. 

So, I was back in Jersey, living in my sister's spare bedroom in the basement and wondering, "Where am I?" And, more importantly, "Where am I going?"

There were so many roads to choose...

And I still didn't have a map.

Monday, July 28, 2014

To Blog, or Not To Blog

That really is the question I ask myself every day.

It really is.

I haven't "blogged" in a couple of weeks though.  Why?

It's not that I haven't had any thoughts lately. My head is FULL of thoughts.  Thoughts that need to come out.  That's why I write. It frees my mind. Makes room for more thoughts...

And, it's fun.

But, since the last blog I just felt... off. Every day I'd ask myself, "What should I write about?"

Work? Nah. My neighbors, cats, Mom?... I couldn't think of a topic I was really interested enough in to write even two words about.

But this morning I woke up and thought, "Gee, I'll write about blogging." I actually laid there in bed for ten or so minutes thinking about the topic. You see, writing does require SOME thought...

And then, I thought, "Well really, why HAVEN'T I blogged lately? I mean REALLY?" And I thought of my last blog.

It really got me down... really.

Why? It was a cute post about my pets. Oh yeah, my pets. My furry babies...

Barry and I don't have children. Oh, we planned on it. But, as "they" say, God smiles at your plans... He downright guffaws at mine!

We got our dog Murphy first. I researched the perfect dog to get for a family. One that's "kid friendly." In other words, a Lab. Murphy was so great, we got TWO Labs. Our Sam.

Sam and Murphy. Murphy and Sam... Like P&J or Lewis and Martin. A real team.

We even bought our first house specifically for kids... three bedrooms and two and a half baths (I HATED sharing a bathroom with my sisters when we were growing up). We picked the neighborhood (Fair Haven, N.J.) with the best school system. We built the picket fence to keep the dogs (and future children) safe (and to make the house look even cuter). We bought the Volvo wagon with tons of room to accommodate 170 pounds worth of fur and room for two cars seats to boot.

Prettiest house on the block...
I loved Fair Haven. I call it the perfect "Trick or Treat" neighborhood. Friendly people and small enough yards that you can really fill a bag up quick with candy in a short distance.

Fair... Fair Haven

And our dogs were the hit of the Fair Haven. Really were. We were "that house in the neighborhood" all the ten year olds wanted to play at (remember that house from your childhood?  There was always one and, for awhile, our's was it!) Our yard was full of laughter and activity as the kids would kick a soccer ball around with Murphy the "goal keeper." I bought pretzels and Tostitos and stocked the fridge with juice boxes. That lasted about a year or so... and then the kids moved on to other interests.

The yard got quiet again.

And life went on... with no children...

And, as fur babies do... Murphy and Sam were gone too. And the yard was really quiet.

And then Barry and I were gone from that sweet, quiet, house of dreams...  First up to Massachusetts (where I thought we'd live the rest of our days. I SWEAR I give God a hoot!) and now back to N.J.

And now I blog.

Oh, I do other things too... but, I do love writing.

I exercise my writing muscles... and now I realize, sometimes those muscles get sore... especially the ones around the heart.

You see... my writings ARE me. Even when I just "blahg, blahg, blahg..."