Saturday, July 18, 2015

Nude Photos of Me ~ And No, They Will Not Be Displayed Here!

When I was 49 I had a professional photographer take nude pictures of me. Yes. Nude, as in I had no clothes on. 

Also, my hair was fairly short so I wasn’t able to hide myself behind luscious locks like Lady Godiva did. Sadly, these days, sixteen years later, even her length hair wouldn’t do the trick. Gravity can be cruel. 

I took those photos because my husband was always saying “You should be in Playboy Magazine!” Naturally, he added, “the women over 40 edition” but that was fine. It was realistic. 

It’s like I advise my son, “Doug, never tell a woman she’s beautiful (unless she is) Tell her she’s pretty. ‘Pretty’ is possible and attainable so it doesn’t sound like a line, even if it is. 

Although past my prime, Jimmy would regularly say, “You’re so sexy!” He must have had an image of me from 1972 stuck in his head. Those were the days when I could still turn heads, not stomachs, in a two-piece bathing suit.

It was exhilarating to sneak off to the Greenwich village for a rendezvous with Marie, a sophisticated french photographer. 

Our first meeting was a consultation. She assured me that these black and white photos would be tasteful enough that I could hang them in our living room. Some would be headless and no one would ever imagine they were of me. (No, I never hung them. I hid them.)

On the day of the shoot I felt like I was cheating. There I was, naked and mugging into the camera, not knowing where to place my hands. Marie draped me with various strips of lace that covered bits of myself but she was never quite able to cover up my self consciousness

Marie moved from behind the camera to outstretch my arms, turn my face towards an imaginary lover or bend my ankle so that I felt as uncomfortable on the outside as I was feeling on the inside. 

Just as I was beginning to feel less vulnerable and I had semi successfully self talked myself to enjoy it, it was over. 

Six weeks later I picked up 10 finished portraits and many 4X6 proofs of a woman desperately attempting to capture herself before she turned the dreaded fifty and fell apart. I signed a waiver stating Marie could use the headless ones in her upcoming book and was on my way. 

Today I did a brave thing. I brought out the box they were stored in and took a peek. Then, I did an even braver thing. I undressed in front of a full length mirror and compared. 

I discovered:

1. I look better in black and white.
2. Sixteen years does make a difference.
3. Happily my eyesight isn't what it used to be either... 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Guilt Can Kill You ~ Then You're BOTH Dead!

Hi All - Hope you like my new site - this blog was published last month in Pathfinders Magazine, an online and print publication, a fantastic magazine for widows/widowers where I am on staff as a humor writer.  Please check in out when you have a moment. 

Widows and widowers are prone to guilt.  We wallow in it like a bubble bath except it's not as relaxing.

"Why am I still here?"  "Why didn't God take me, too?" "Why did I call him an idiot right before his heart attack?" Sure, I meant it, but still…

Is it my fault that my heart continues to beat and I can still enjoy a tasty hamburger deluxe? I pause to dip my well-done fries in the ketchup.  How can I be devouring this with so much gusto knowing that my husband will never again fork fight me for that last little crispy fry? What is wrong with me?

I wash down my self-discust with a bowl of rice pudding. The coffee is pretty good, too. 

Jimmy would want me to keep up my strength I tell myself.  Wait a minute. Could he be orchestrating my food intake knowing that when I'm bloated I don't leave the house? He's keeping me a prisoner!
If this is "looking over me" I'd rather he spread his angel wings and look over someone else.

I tell my one-on-one bereavement counselor how controlling my late husband is to me lately. One blink is the only movement on her stone face. Mean Jean is tough. I describe her to friends, "She must have studied at the 'snap out of it' school for shrinks."

Her lips crack open. "Did you kill your husband?" She raises one eyebrow and then she hides behind her oversized coffee mug. I suspect her coffee is black, no sugar, no nonsense.  She peers at me above the rim and her eyes narrow.  

My first thought is, "I'm not answering without an attorney present." My second thought is, perhaps 
I should stop binge watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. 

I tell her I know where she's going with this and not to lead the witness. Mean Jean tilts her head and waits for me to crack.  She's a professional. She knows I can hold in grief and guilt for just so long. 

My grief and guilt (or GiGi as I like to call them) burst into the room like a tidal wave. "I should have insisted he go to the doctor!" I cry out. And, then, more to myself than to Mean Jean, I mumble, "Why didn't I?" 

MJ explained that guilt is a useless emotion. This is exactly what I needed to hear although I detect a tinge of 'Get over yourself' tone in her voice. I sit up straighter. 

"Listen, Carol, if you want to keep beating yourself up, be my guest. It's good for business." She added a 'ching-ching' register sound. 

At this point,  I was seeing her twice a week and our three month anniversary was approaching.  I noticed that the couch I was sitting on was new. I looked around. So was the carpet. 

For those reading this and wondering why oh why was I seeing her? After all, Mean Jean certainly was a fitting nickname. Here's why ~ she didn't let me wallow.  I know myself. With a softer shrink I might have curled up on a couch and spent the 50 minutes sucking my thumb. I kept going back because every so often she gave me a gem and my breathing was calmer when I left her. 

This day, as I wrestled with feelings of guilt, she blurted out wisdom, a little ditty, that seemed to come out of nowhere, but it made sense to me and it helped me. She had extremely wise ditties. 

She told me that when widows want to re-marry they often go to the cemetery to ask permission. I nodded my head. "I can understand that," I said. 

Mean Jean lifted that one evil eyebrow again sarcastically. "Really?" she said. "It makes  sense to you to ask permission from a dead man?" 

"Well, I figured that…" I stammered. 
"Just for the record, Carol, none of the husbands ever say no."
"So, you're saying…"
"I'm saying our time is up!" She snorted and slapped the arm of her chair. "I'm kidding, kiddo. You should have seen your face?

Eventually, she stopped chuckling and leaned forward to gently touch my arm.

"Honey, emotionally healthy widows and widowers do what they want to do. If they want to remarry, they remarry. If they want to buy a foreign car when their spouse only bought American they say, "Hey, I'm the one driving it."!

She continued, "It's a process to get to that, of course, but they know that it's their turn now and they know that life can be fleeting. They know that better than anyone. 

"They look back, they regret, they give themselves and their marriage a report card and in some subjects they acknowledge that they failed. So what? Dwelling and it's first cousin, guilt, don't change a thing. It only keeps us stuck." 

When our session was officially over I went home and got violently ill. It was food poisoning, no doubt from that delicious hamburger deluxe. In the midst of my misery I thought I heard a familiar snicker.  I imagined it was my husband saying, "You have the pleasure, but, look, you also pay the price."

That wiped away my guilt. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Not Everyone Has a Chuckles

Fifty years ago Jimmy strutted into our 8th grade homeroom and announced, “I’m an uncle! I’m an uncle!”
Five years later we were dating. Little Chuckie was a perfect specimen to practice our parenting skills on. He wasn’t fully formed and we weren’t fully invested. Cute, in a puppy sort of way and he was sturdy enough by then that bad things weren’t likely to happen to him on our watch.
We’d take Chuckie and a few years later his sister Susie and our other nephew and niece to amusement parks and on boat rides and back to my tiny apartment in Queens to play board games and let them chase around Herman, my poor pet rabbit until Herman dove into his cage, his eyes begging us to lock him in.
We married, had a daughter and son of our own and because Chuckie looked so much like Jimmy both Jacki and Dougie as babies were easily soothed by him. They snuggled into his pillow top tummy and cooed as this chubby teenager rocked them and sang when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie its amour. 
Chuckie with my granddaughter Sammi 2012
Chuckie and me
 Pizza was not just the subject of the song, but a big event in Chuck’s life, along with White Castle belly bombs and Carvel Ice-cream. Not a tidy sort of guy it was easy to tell what he had for lunch because he was wearing it.
Food and family, possibly in that order, was most important to him until he fell in love with singing. He chose Opera, although he’d say, “Opera chose me.” We’d make fun of how pretentious that was especially coming from a man with marinara sauce on his shirt.
Years passed. Our family fell into calling him Chuckles. It fit. He was funny and loud and silly and he just was a Chuckles. Professionally, he changed his name to Carlo figuring a tenor called Chuckles Pavarotti or even a Chuck Domingo might not be taken seriously.
He married, had a son Jordan, got divorced and traveled the word singing to huge audiences gaining respect from all.
In between gigs when he wasn’t on the West Coast with his son and his Mom, he stayed with us. He literally sang for his supper and he made it too. His specialties were meatballs, lasagna, anything heavy and Italian that could be sopped up with bread.
He was happiest in a casino.  Me and Jimmy too. The three of us  would steal quick trips to Atlantic City and they’d all start the same way. As we got close enough to see the signs for the hotels our hearts would race. “It never gets old” we’d practically squeal to each other.
We’d have barbecues with friends and everyone we knew knew Chuck. Every gather with Chuck was a party.  He began to smoke cigars and wear Fedora hats.
Chuck in his fedora hat
Life was good…until it wasn’t.
In July 2001, his sister Susie died from a rare form of cancer. She left three young daughters, a heartbroken husband and a devastated mother. Chuckie was crushed but he went home to rock and sing to his nieces and help put the pieces of their family together again.

Susie and her oldest daughter Kelsey.

Eventually, he went on tour making friends all over the world. Then, in April, 2006, myworld stopped. Jimmy died. He had just turned 56. Our little granddaughter, Skylar was two.

Jimmy (Grandpa) and Skylar 2005
Chuckie swooped in to stay with me and we became locked together in grief.  My house was his home when he wasn’t away performing. We’d eat muffin tops for breakfast and read our horoscopes out loud. He’d come up with funny little quips that I stole and posted on Facebook as my own. I joked that when he sang in the shower I should open the window and charge admission.
When I ventured out he was my plus one. At home he’d spend endless hours helping me with my computer and then scream at me, “How could you not remember your password?”
Then he’d make me dinner.
He saw Jimmy. I never did. I’d come home and he’d say, “You just missed him.” Then, he’d add, “He doesn’t like the color you painted the kitchen. “ I’d tell him, “That’s because you don’t.’”
He sang Nessun Dorma  at my 60th birthday party and that night my friends and family called him Carlo.
He snuggled with my dog Tony, nicknamed him Tony Baloney and promised me if anything happened to me he would take care of him.

Chuckles and Tony Baloney

We hung out together at the house during Hurricane Sandy even though we were ordered to evacuate.  We figured how bad could it be?  After a houseboat landed in my backyard we took off for our favorite place, Atlantic City and stayed and gambled for six days. We got home just in time for the power to pop on.
After that, I didn’t feel I belonged in the suburbs anymore. As Chuck put it, “It’s like eating leftovers.” Life as a single woman had become easier for me. I sold the house. He got his own place in Manhattan and so did I. Chuckie and I un-clung, if that’s a word, to a healthy emotional dependency, that’s such a thing. I was with Mickey now, my boyfriend, and he and Chuck spent time together playing golf and smoking cigars…a  new civilized chapter.
He was with me and my kids and my grandkids for most holidays, but this Christmas he went to California to be with his Mom and son and nieces. My daughter called him for his lasagna recipe.
Last week, back in New York,  right after the New Year, Chuck had stomach pains and brought himself to the emergency room. He was diagnosed with Pancreatitis. He turned 50 on January 5th and died four days later. He was surrounded by love but only a teeny fraction of the love he gave.
Today I remembered what my granddaughter Skylar used to say. “We’re lucky. Not everyone has a Chuckles.” 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

You Can Bring Your Dog to the City, but he’ll Still Pee on Your Rug

Tony Baloney
It’s been almost a year since I sold my house on Long Island and moved into Manhattan. Besides rescuing my Morkie, Tony Baloney, about eight years ago, it was the best decision I’ve made since my husband passed in 2006.
Everything is new and bright and clean ~ that’s inside my apartment. Outside is hectic, noisy and gritty. What’s not to love?
Tony had a little bit of an adjustment period. Okay…it’s ongoing. I don’t take him for walks. I take him for pulls. The concept of lifting his leg on concrete is usually met with, “Mom, you may not have noticed, but I already did it on the rug. Where’s my treat?”
In the chilling frost of last winter I happily discovered a three foot rectangular patch of ‘sort of grass’ surrounded by a twelve-inch high wrought iron fence. A park! And, right around the corner from our building!   I placed Tony inside this area and bingo ~ we were both relieved!
Before you could say, “Good boy, let me scoop that up” I was harshly reprimanded by a lovely gentleman wearing a snorkel, Dick Tracy like trench coat, shorts (or no pants – hard to say) and one red sock and one yellow sock.
It was unclear what he held in his hand until he put the bullhorn to his mouth to yell, “ATTENTION STUPID LADY!  THAT FENCE IS TO KEEP DOGS OUT!”
‘Oh’ I thought. That actually makes sense. Maybe I am a stupid ladyStill, I was smart enough to grab Tony, tuck him under my arm and walk quickly away before he sniffed this guys red sock and used his crazy bony leg as a fire hydrant.
Our park!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

At This Stage of the Game

Two years ago I bought the washer and dryer pictured above.  Of course,  they weren’t sold with the laundry in them.
I announced to friends, “This is probably the last washer and dryer I will ever buy!” I didn’t say it to be morbid.  I read the warranty and I did the math.
Those younger than me scoffed at that, but anyone my age or older, paused – probably to watch the highlights of their life pass before them and then they made a few cheery statements of their own.
“If I buy my next car and keep it until it conks – that may be my final car – maybe one more.  If I lease for 36 months that works out to four more cars.  That feels better – although, before I know it my kids or the cops will probably take away my license and tell me it’s for my own good.
“I no longer check off ‘3 years’ for subscriptions.  It’s not a bargain if you’re dead.”
“Last house.  It’s condo living for us. And, of course, no steps. This means I will never again say “Let’s go upstairs.”  Oh, no…
When I ‘celebrated’ turning sssixty I realized something startling.  I may be too old for certain things but there is nothing that I’m too young for.  Oh, my…
Have a nice day, fellow baby boomers.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Magic Number Six

Son-granddaughter-daughter and some stranger’s back

It came as a real surprise to me that so many of you wrote to ask about our family trip to Puerto Rico.  I was touched as I read your e-mails, but I stopped at 674. I have better things to do with my time, you know!
Below are a some questions/answers that I hand picked to share here.  While I appreciate your interest, I chose not to print the ones – that frankly – looked like they were written by a chimpanzee.  One was actually signed, Love, Zippy.
No offense, but now that I’m aware of the reading level of the people attracted to this blog I will attempt to dumb down my entries.  I honestly didn’t think that was possible.
Q & A  (Questions and Answers)
“On your trip to Puerto Rico did you end up going zip ling?”
NO – but we did go to a classy restaurant that zip lines the orders…
“I read that you hate to get wet, but did you go in the water, anyway?”
YES – and I left my spray tan in the pool – Walked in bronzed – came out white – a victim of chlorine poisoning…beware!
“Any provocative photos of you in a bathing suit you can post?
YES, very sexy…please check in daily– will post them sooooon…
“Did you bring home any souvenirs?”
YES – Cigars for my nephew – they had beetles in them.  He smoked them, anyway.  Now he’s addicted to beetles.
“Did you win in the casino?”
What is your definition of ‘win?’
Well, that’s all on the trip folks.  In all seriousness, along with discovering that San Juan has some steep hills and it’s a bad idea to wear sandals to town, year six for my family and me turned out to be the magic number for being comfortable on vacation together without expecting Jimmy to be around each corner.
I guess you could say we turned a corner.  It feels good – more than good – it feels great!   Wishing you the same on your journey…

Monday, March 05, 2012


Some may say having a puppet show with your toes is a waste of time

I leaned closer to the mirror and smiled.  My teeth are so big.  Is that chocolate?  When did I have chocolate? I’d better brush again… That will keep me from eating. It will also keep me from writing. Why do I keep stopping like this?
I got up from my computer and brought the 7X mirror back into my bathroom.  I hate writing. No I don’t – yes I do, not really…It’s just right now I can’t concentrate thinking I should floss.  No one would argue against flossing.  It’s healthy and not very strenuous.  Gum disease could kill me… Being dead won’t get me anywhere.
Some writers get lost in thought.  I get lost in a stray eyebrow hair. What the f&*# is wrong with me?  I know I left my tweezers right here.  Is that something a cleaning lady would steal? I think my hands are dry.  Oh, now the hand cream is making my fingers slip off the keyboard.  I’d better wait for it to soak in.  Maybe I’ll take Tony for a walk. Forget it. It’s raining.  
But, I can’t sit all day. I’ll get secretaries spread. Wow.  I wonder if the kids would know that old expression.  The other day they forgot George when I asked them if they could name all four Beatles. I’m sorry I asked. 
I’m going to Google ‘secretaries spread’ and send it to them. Why would I do that? They won’t care. I don’t even care. 
Okay…I’d better get back to this piece – It’s been rolling around in my head for a while.  Time to write it… What’s the point of having an idea if I don’t write it?  I need a deadline.  I need an incentive…like the house will burn down if I don’t have this finished by Friday.  That’s a good one.  Unless I’m giving myself a whammy.  
Uh-oh. I’d better check the batteries in the smoke detectors.  This has to be the reason I thought of that for a deadline consequence.  What a horrible way to go.  If there was a fire I wouldn’t be worrying about chocolate on my teeth. That’s for sure. 
How do you test fire alarms?  How do I know they’ll go off?  Tony would smell the smoke and wake me up, like Lassie or Rin-Tin-Tin…wow…haven’t thought of Rin-Tin-Tin in years.  I like German Shepards.  Wouldn’t want one though.  We used to call them gas station doggies.
Oh…I wonder if I’ll have time to stop for gas later…maybe I should go now while I have the time.  What am I talking about?  I don’t have the time.  I’m procrastinating again.  I don’t deserve to be successful.  It’s five after two and I wrote four sentences.  Why did I bother waking up early? 
I’d better check my e-mail.  And, just a quick zip into Facebook. Oh, no.  Davy Jones died!  I loved him.  He was so adorable. Weird that I was just thinking about the Beatles.  Only 66.  He still lived 10 years more than Jimmy. If I knew I was going to die at 66 what would I do differently? Oh..that’s a good blog.  But I just don’t seem to have time to write it. 
How do people finish book after book?  I’ll bet they never floss. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Adventure Kills Grandmother

Why isn't she screaming?

My grown son, daughter and eight-year-old granddaughter and me are off to Puerto Rico tomorrow.  We’re going this week because it’s President’s week. My daughter felt it was necessary to travel on the most expensive and ridiculously crowded week so that Skylar doesn’t miss four freakin’ days of 2nd grade.
I raised my hand once, just once to object but quickly put it down to say, “You’re teaching your daughter good values, honey. Way to go!” I choked on my lie and made the reservation.
Choosing my battles is my battle plan.  Better still, there will be no battles.  My motto for this trip is just the opposite of Nancy Reagan’s … Just say YES!’  Spa treatments? Why not?  Life back home is a war zone – please check off that little box that explains how rocks lined up on your back relieves your unbearable stress, kids.
We absolutely need to reserve a pool pavilion and a beach cabana so no one stubs a toe racing down to get four chaises together. YES!  Are we spoiled? YES!
Their father always did things abbondanza (Italian for abundance) and who am I to break with tradition?  Enough has been broken in this family.  We simply cannot carry on without room service!
I’m not a beach and sand and pool and lounge type person.  I’m more of a “Let’s go into town for ice-cream” and hopefully stumble on to a street performer to cheer on and throw some sheckles into his hat.  Later we can look at the photos we took with him and have no clue who he was or where we were.
Isn’t that more fun than laying on a outside couch in a bathing suit that shows off publicly what I’ve been in recent times even covering up privately? It also beats going in the water.  Still, because her face makes me melt I promised my granddaughter that I would splash around in the pool with her and do relay races.  And, if she tilts her head and twinkles at me in the way that only she can, I may even venture into ocean with her.
I will abandon my fear of getting my hair wet. YES!  Love conquers trepidation! (note to self: make blow-out appts in advance)
But, the same family that needs to make top shelf dinner reservations also apparently craves adventure!  I am not talking about me…the rest of ‘those people” My idea of an adventure is forcing myself to double down at a blackjack table when I have worked hard to bring my pile of chips to a height that hurts.
My daughter has investigated an off site excursion that she is convinced “Afterwards, you’ll be so glad you did it!”  No I won’t.  I already know that I do not need a van to pick me up at sunrise to take me to a remote area where I must sign a waver promising not to sue if my leg falls off while jogging through the jungle. I do not need to hike across a rickety bridge a million miles up – closer to God than I hope to be for a while to a series of 5 (FIVE!) zip lines – ending with ‘a pleasant box lunch.’
Jacki, my daughter, my first-born and the reason my hair is not a little thicker has decided that we need this experience.  She must have forgotten the vacation in Chitiniza, Mexico years ago when we climbed a pyramid, a small pyramid and as I watched in awe young children skip down it I was convinced I would have to be rescued by helicopter because I was petrified to shimmy down.
“The brochure says it’s for ages 6-68, See, Mom…You’re not too old!”  Yup, she forgot.
I am not declaring this an official foreshadowing – all I’m saying is that it has…
a. ‘What was I thinking?’ all over it.
b.“Oh, my, Mrs. Scibelli, in the 25 years we’ve been in business this has neverhappened!” feel to it.
c. And, I can easily imagine in a tearfully delivered eulogy,  “Mom was a good sport.”
The best I can hope for is when Jacki calls for a reservation they will tell her “Sorry, it’s all sold out. It’s President’s Week you know!” Check this out if you think I am a wuss and exaggerating!  Would YOU do this?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine’s Day from Another Dimension

Jamaica High School Prom 1968

It would have been nice to write about a new valentine here, but just ‘nice’…not necessary – not for 2012, anyway.  Who knows who and what next year will bring and I’m looking forward to the surprise of it all. 
 So by posting the article below that was published years ago I’m not dwelling in the past. Not at all.  This is a mix of being a little sentimental and a lot lazy.  It’s here – it’s written – obviously timely and it was good enough to be published by Newsday.   I know all the commas are in the right place because a professional editor there made sure of it.  Bloggers don’t have that luxury.  
The date it appeared in Newsday is Saturday, February 11, 1995.  Valentine’s Day also  fell on a Tuesday that year – just like today.   In those days I wrote about Jimmy as Frankie.
 The headline Newsday chose was lame – so here it begins…
By the eighth grade, I still hadn’t received one single valentine and I was beginning to feel unattractive.  I blamed my mother because Dr. Joyce Brothers said I could.  I also blamed Miss Trevor, my gym teacher.  She wouldn’t let me roll up the baggy legs of my gym suit when we ran around the track in front of the boys. Miss Trevor wouldn’t let the other girls, either, but, I felt I needed an edge. She could have worked with me.
By ninth grade, my love life picked up. I got two valentines. One was from Steven Markowitz.  He made me nervous.  During fire drills, we’d all line up in the hall laughing, joking and saying  fun stuff  like, “I smell smoke.” Steven would stand alone, facing the wall.  He seemed to be having a conversation.
I told him I couldn’t date him because I was against the war.  He nodded like that made sense and went back to talking to the wall.
My other valentine was from someone I’ll call Linda.  I took it to mean a best friend thing and we were friends for years. Then in our senior year in high school, she asked me to the prom. I took it to mean she wanted to double with me and my date.
After she went away to college, Linda wrote to say she had found Sylvia, the love of her life and she never wanted to see me again. She told me I was “homophobic.”  I took it to mean she thought I was a wimp, because I was afraid to leave home and go away to college.
So, between, Steven, the wall watcher, and Linda, I hadn’t had much luck with valentines.  That is, until I met Frankie…
We weren’t even 18, but, I knew I would marry him the second I saw him playing “My Girl” on the kazoo for Maryanne.  (Maryanne was his nine year old cousin)
He noticed me too and tried to impress me. He told me that the kazoo was “documented” to be the most difficult of all the  instruments.  He demonstrated how to improvise with a comb and a tissue in case you forgot your kazoo. Maryanne was in love with Frankie, too, but, luckily, she outgrew it.
Besides his musical talent, I knew Frankie was for me because he said the most ridiculous things in a matter of fact way.  Once, when I lost my class ring, he told me not to bother looking for it, because it had obviously gone into another dimension. He said to give it 24 hours and it would turn up. It did.
When our first Valentine’s Day rolled around, he bought me a giant Hershey’s kiss. After we were married a few years, he bought me that same kiss – and ate the entire thing himself.
After the kids came along, the romance of Valentine’s Day was reduced to helping them make their lopsided valentines.  Dollies stuck to red construction paper by wads of Elmers, stayed on the refrigerator until July when they disintegrated.
For a few years in a row, my specialty for Valentine’s dinner was a heart-shaped meatloaf.  My family finally vetoed it, along with my regular-shaped meatloaf.
Last year, Frankie told me it was too snowy to go out and get me a card or flowers, so he filled a vase with water and left it on the kitchen table with a note, “Isn’t it the thought that counts?”
This year our daughter, Jacki, is 18 and has her own valentine. Frankie offered to teach Doug, our 14-year-old son to play the kazoo. He told him a kazoo player always gets the girl.
We talk about the future.  According to Frankie, future Valentine Days might be spent in another dimension and we’ll be able to step right into it. Could be, we’d see a real Cupid target practicing with a laser bow and arrow.  Hey, who knows…maybe, that’s what Steven Markowitz was staring at.
As Jimmy Durante would say – 
“Happy Valentine’s Day, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are…” 

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Book Report: “Going Solo” by Eric Klinenberg

I learned in Mr. Klinenberg’s latest book Going Solo:The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone hot off The Penguin Press presses, that in 1950, the year I was born, only 22% of American adults were single.
Today, that percentage is 50% and in real numbers, it translates to 31 million people.  I wondered if they’re lonely, but who has the time to interview 31 million people?  The author conducted 300 interviews which is far less ambitious but the publisher probably gave him a deadline.
Eric Klinenberg also tells us that approximately one out of every seven adults live alone.  This statistic does not include many of my married friends who envy me and wish they lived alone.
For the right price, I will name names.  Wait, so sorry about that. I’m not here to blackmail anyone or talk about the advantages and disadvantages of sharing a house with no one.  I just want to let you know about this fascinating book so that maybe people will stop giving me that “poor widow you” look when I tell them I live by myself with my dog.
According to Going Solo, I am part of a fast growing trend like shoulder pads was in the ‘80’s.  Living alone takes some getting used to, but it is a Godsend for those who only have one bathroom.
I brought up God here because for those who live by themselves and believe that God is always with them – I’m thinking they do in fact, have a roommate.  Unfortunately, you can’t split the rent with God or ask him/her to take out the garbage.
The same could be said for lots of deadbeats, not that I’m calling God a deadbeat, although, he/she has let us down these past few hundred years what with the wars and starving children and incurable diseases and all.
On the other hand, we must give him/her kudos for his/her discovery of the Brazilian Hair Straightening treatment.  There you go. It all evens out in the wash.
Please take a moment from your busy day, zip over to Amazon, and check out Going Solo.  I was able to read the entire book in two sittings mainly because I live alone and had no one yelling to me,
“Can you get me a glass of ice water?”
“I’m looking at the bill from Bloomingdales.  You’re kidding me, right?”
“I noticed a little dent on the car.  Do you know anything about that?”
“Ouch. I think I got a splinter. Is this a splinter? Owwwww!”
“I can’t find my glasses.  Let me borrow yours for a sec…”
“What happened to my nail clipper?”
“After dinner let’s take a ride to visit my mother, okay?”
“When are you coming to bed?”

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

My Smart Phone is Smarter than Me

There I was in my beauty salon where I spend so much time I should not only look a whole lot better, but they ought to name a sink after me when I realized I forgot to make a dinner reservation for later that evening.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that my young hairdresser Danielle, was stunned to see me dial 411 for the restaurant’s number.
If she wasn’t concerned about smearing my fresh manicure she might have roughly swiped my phone from my highly polished fingers.  Instead, she just stared at me in disbelief, shook her head and scolded me.
“You have a smart phone, Carol.  No one calls 411 anymore!”
Apparently, a 20-something cannot compute that I am a woman of a certain age who to remember how to reboot my computer I have to sing-song
I now understand why my grandmother continually hummed.  She was attempting to secure a place in her head for her shopping list:  BUTTER-EGGS AND BREAD, BUTTER-EGGS AND BREAD.  I guess we were too poor to afford a pencil.
A month ago, I traded up for the latest phone, the iphone 4S and I tell everyone I justgot it.  Danielle knew better, though, just like my kids who say, “Mom, we know why you put on a foreign accent when you ask for directions in the neighborhood.”
Okay, so after I back out of my driveway I get confused.  Is that a crime?
Back to my phone ~ My friend Bob told me that the 4S stands for “For Steve” (Jobs) I retold this to many people and it seems I am the only one who fell for that. Bob’s version was sweeter, though, so I chose to continue to disregard the truth, as I often do when my shrink forces me to recreate my childhood.  Then I read Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography about Steve Jobs and discovered that he was anything, but sweet.
Sweet or sour, there’s no denying that he changed the world and and just to prove that he changed me too and I was not totally smart phone stupid, I sent a text to Danielle who was standing next to me.
“Hey, watch this.  It may not be second nature to me yet to google a restaurant, but Siri, the new 4S feature is my new best friend.”
“Really?” she said out loud. (how old fashioned can you be!)  “Let me hear you ask it a question. Do you want to know where the closest Starbucks is?”
“I can do better than that,” I said.  “If I say ‘Good-night’ she will say good-night back.’  (This was also from Bob whose credibility was already shaky at best) Was he pulling my leg, again?  I tried it out the night before without anyone around to poke fun at me.  I pressed the little button on the phone to reveal a small microphone and up popped ‘What can I help you with?’
Yes, I felt ridiculous, but I said “Good-night” to her and sure enough, Siri, my little robot friend inside the phone answered “Good-Night.”  Now, I was hooked and I wished her Good-Night over and over again.  Once she actually answered “Good-Night to you too” and I somehow felt a little closer to her.  Why not? I take her with me wherever I go, don’t I?
“Here goes,” I said to Danielle.  Her arms were crossed.
I pressed the button. The microphone appeared and with confidence I said,
Siri responded, “It is 2:14 in the afternoon.”

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hey, Mom – It Snowed Last Night!

I love waking up to snow. It’s like a big event occurred while I was in a coma.  Now, I’m conscious and perhaps I’ve missed a season. Maybe, I’d better check the date on that newspaper that’s wrapped in orange plastic half buried in the driveway.
Trudging out to retrieve it is invigorating and as I shake the icy dandruff off the paper and look down at my footsteps making a fresh impression, I feel patriotic, like I’m walking on the moon about to plant a flag.
That image falls away fast as I notice Tony, my Morkie, a breed with very short legs up to wherever a dog’s knees are in white stuff that will soon be yellow stuff.  The romance of this morning is fading even before I’ve had my coffee. Thanks a lot Tony!
In the short time it takes to reach my front door again it’s starting to rain and it’s a warm rain that will melt everything by noon.  What a wimpy storm this is!
I think about how crowded it was yesterday in the supermarket, people swarming to stock up because surely they’ll starve without ‘supplies’ while they’re stuck in the house for 4 hours.
Most of these neighbors could walk to the stores, if necessary.  Reaching civilization is only a matter of being in decent shape and owning a coat.
But, wait…My refrigerator is looking pretty barren. I turned away from those long lines of panic yesterday, superior, refusing to join them.
Now, they are all enjoying their lazy Sunday and I have nothing in the house for lunch.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

“I Can’t Complain”

January 2011
Lately in response to my just to be polite, “How are you?” I hear “I can’t complain.” Then they add, “What’s the point?  Who will listen, anyway?” baiting me to lie and jump in with “No, no…I’ll listen. I care.”
did care a smidge before they were being snarky.  Now I don’t care at all.  Unless they tell me they’ve lost a limb, I’m thinking, leave me alone.  My mind is back on what’s really important to me…me.
They surprise even themselves when it works, that they actually have an audience so they pause to make something up and you know they had nothing because their complaint is always inconsequential like about the weather.
“Ugh” they begin – and such weariness fakes you out again – so much so that you prepare to leap from your chair to hug them.  Perhaps they did lose a limb.  They are wearing long sleeves.  “I can’t believe how cold it’s been” is their follow through.
“First of all,” I say much too aggressively, “It’s January. It’s New York. And, actually it’s it’s been unseasonably warm and sunny.  Last year at this time, we had 100 snowstorms already.”
“Once it dips below 50 degrees I get a chill,”  this one says. “Ira wants to move to Boca, but I told him “No way, too many complainers down there.”

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Flying Solo

Chocolate Pizza at Max Brenner NYC

The idea of dating again has crept into my consciousness possibly spurred on by a friend who lovingly said, “You’re not getting any younger you know.”
For decades, I was married and I defined myself that way.  Now, almost six years later I am seriously single and most of the time I like being free and breezy.  After my husband died I actually did have a bbbfriend for a year –and then – oh, who knows why, the pull to connect just evaporated.
Now it’s back and I’m afraid it may be a bad notion just like my judgement to polish off the above pictured chocolate pizza was several days ago.
I constantly talk about relationships without being in one.  Maybe I ought to either stop talking and start being.
I was a guest on a radio show recently with the brilliant Dr. Jane Greer and in response to “Did you feel guilty after your husband died?” I answered, “Why would I?  I didn’t kill him.” We laughed until she responsibly acknowledged that other widows do feel guilty.
Cornered, I confessed that what I did feel guilty about was that I might have been kinder to Jimmy throughout our marriage. I might have tried to control my PMS by electric shock, learned to make lasagna and I could have made him happy if I attempted to understand why football isn’t just a bunch of guys in a huddle and then before you know it they’re all in a pile.
As I said this on air, it occurred to me that a new relationship might require my full attention. Semi-attention is only semi-acceptable after the ring is a little scruffy.
Dr. Greer and I talked about how common it is to review our marriage after a loss of a spouse by death or divorce.  All the ‘what if’s’ waif through our heads until we convince ourselves that we were actually the perfect one.
Denial.  It’s the only way to live…especially when we are the last spouse standing with no body to contradict us with the facts.  Right Jane?
Jane wouldn’t confirm this, of course, although I think she was amused because she assumed that I was kidding. I was not.  In an effort to be a helpful and warm, she volunteered the professional equivocate of  “Don’t beat yourself up about it” by emphasizing how difficult intimate relationships are.
“Couples often hate each other sometimes 25 times a day” she said. “If it’s not one thing it’s another” she said sounding much like the wonderful Gilda Radner (“It’s Always Something”)
Dr. Greer confessed later that she low-balled with 25 not to scare anyone off.
I think she scared me, though.  I may continue to fly solo for a while.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Memories in a Box

Devil Dog - 1977

When my granddaughter was born in 2004 I joined the baby paparazzi.  I captured every imaginable expression Skylar made and once she started to smile, my camera seemed to deliriously snap away on it’s own.
Back then, the latest batch in my memory card would send me flying upstairs to crank out the photos on the brand new grandparent edition of the Canon printer.  Then, after an impatient drying time I would practically leap downstairs to show Jimmy.  He was thrilled and confused – I was never a ‘baby person.’  I guess, I hadn’t fallen in love with one yet.  Often he would look at my face flushed with affection for Sky and he’d say, “What have you done with my wife?”
Fast forward to now and I still take photos practically every time Sky and I are together – but this website is not The Grandma Show.  Shortly after it was live I intended to fill in the ‘photos’ section to highlight myself as an author and speaker and also show bits of my life.  Because POOR WIDOW ME is so personal, I assumed that that a reader would want to see a glimpse of the ‘players’ I write about.  I know I would.  I hope you do.
This forced me to go through my life in pictures.  I put it off until today.  It’s easier for me to go forward than backwards.  Just ask my shrink.  Plus, most of the pictures from the early 70′s and decades following are in the basement haphazardly thrown into big cardboard boxes.  On a full moon or some weird star alignment, I had put together an album or two, but mostly I’d be diving.
Many photos in frames are strewed throughout the house and because they have sat in their place for so long, they don’t jump out at me anymore.  They’re like a coffee pot always there on the kitchen counter.  Needing contenders for this web site, I methodically viewed each one, choice photos to begin with, took some out of their frame and lined them up as if they were competing in a beauty pageant.
And, then there were the photos from Jimmy’s wake.  Boy was I lucky that my kids had selected so many pictures of their Dad at various times of his life and had taped them on oak tag under plastic for the funeral parlor to frame for viewing.  Those were still in tact and I went through them…with a magnifying glass and a glass of Cabernet.
We were so ridiculously young; in many, we were even younger than our kids are today.  I saw the parade of my hairstyles that my son Doug says he is going to dig out and display at my wake.  I guess, it’s good to have a project and something to look forward to when your mother dies.
The clothing styles were silly, like costumes from an 80′s movie and some were costumes from Halloween parties – some at our house – In the background was the wall we painted neon yellow thinking it was cool and there was the organ that I mentioned in an earlier blog entry – the one that just couldn’t play ‘Old Lang Syne.’
One year I dressed up as a dog and Jimmy went as a Devil.  We sent our ‘Devil Dog’ picture (in the costume pictured above…but a different photo) to Drakes Cakes hoping they would use us in a commercial or at least send us some Devil Dogs. We never heard from them.
There were hundreds of photos of the kids at various ages, that recorded the normal Kodak milestone moments.  When parents say “it goes so fast” it’s because it goes so fast.
In many shots I was still wearing shorts.  I don’t remember my legs looking that good. Those days are over, but as I sat on the floor telling myself I really have to stop this reunion, I noted that I still look pretty good, not old yet…until I struggled to get up.
I stared at pictures of my friend’s son Joey, some as a little boy and in others he was teenager.  Just two days ago, he became a father.  When I congratulated him yesterday, I still called him Joe-Joe.
I braced myself each time I came across a little booklet of black and white photos knowing they were from the 1950’s, my childhood.  I threw them back in the box and out of my head.  We all heal and deal differently, right?
Many pictures were of old friends, some had died and others I had lost touch with.  We seemed to be laughing hysterically about something in every one.  And, practically everyone had a cigarette in his or her hand.
In some photos, I am the only one alive.  I sat and pointed, dead, dead, dead, dead, me. Family members – out-laws -who I no longer speak to looked happy, having fun with us at a barbecue or celebrating a holiday.  There it was – proof that we used to like each other and in some cases love each other.  Where did that go?  Where did theygo?
There was Fanny, my mother-in-law, now almost 94, young, animated and clear eyed and strong.  With each picture of Jimmy I checked the date and calculated how much longer he was going to live.  I’m not sure why I did that.
Couples who later divorced gave nothing away in these old photos.  They seemed devoted and loving.
Sometimes Jimmy and I smiled for the camera, a knee jerk reaction to a “Say Cheese” even though we were in the middle of a fight.  Of course, usually when we didn’t want to talk or touch or we were trying to find a creative way to say “I’m sorry” – there were no photos.   People don’t take a pictures during the miserable times unless it’s these days and you’re on a reality show.
The camera isn’t rolling when you’re fighting or crying as you put your dog to sleep or just eating a normal dinner and telling a wacky story about your day.  No one takes a picture of you making love – unless you’re Kim Kardashian.
So, I’m discovering that photos don’t really tell our story at all.  They jar our memory, but still it’s incomplete.  Even so, I’ll be filling up the ‘photo’ section on this web site soon.
I guess these snapshots to viewers will be similar to the ones that most of us post on Facebook hoping someone will care enough to notice that we still exist, that we’re not only a memory in a box.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Fresh Starts

My father-in-law, Charlie used to say that New Year’s Eve is for amateurs. People who rarely go out during the year “doll themselves up” to let loose. “What’s all the fuss about?” he would shrug. “It’s just another day.”
Each December 31, we would quote him, and obviously, I still do, but I love New Year’s Eve so, of course, we’d do something fun to celebrate.  Jimmy was enthusiastic, too.  He would say, “I always get the last word, “Yes, dear.”
For me, it’s not just New Years that’s exciting. I even get a tiny surge as I turn the calendar to a new month. Starting fresh with a clean slate is wide open to possibilities.  And, Mondays, also – most dread Mondays.  Not me.
Of course, I don’t have a 9-5 workweek.  I don’t wrestle with that kind of stress.  I’ve heard that the most common day for a heart attack that kills you is Monday at 9 AM.  This is why I chill out Monday mornings and stay in my pajamas as long as possible.
Over the years, our New Year’s Eves varied and like everyone’s lives, some were memorable and others not.  Still, wherever we were for that launch of the new year, it was always a thrill to countdown from ten to zero and sing along to Auld Lang Syne.
We even bought an inexpensive organ one year and I practiced for weeks to learn how to play that song.  I finally sort of got it but it would have taken an awful lot of notes for any one to guess it on “Name that Tune.”  That stupid organ must have been broken.
There was nothing ho-hum about New Year’s Eve 1980.  I went into labor with my son and he was born on New Year’s Day.
Two years later, my father-in-law died on December 29th and ironically the family spent New Year’s Eve at his wake.  It certainly wasn’t “just another day.”
The world didn’t end and computers didn’t even crash as 1999 ticked to 2000 and, of course, everyone’s got a ‘where were you when’ story. Mine isn’t worth more than a  mention. We were on the Las Vegas strip feeling that scary Times Square squash from the crowd.
Fast forward to 2005, our last New Year’s Eve together.  We went to Atlantic City with with another couple.  Since it was the day before our son’s 25th birthday I asked him, “Doug, do you want what’s in the envelope or half my winnings?”
He hesitated because he knows that nine out of ten trips I lose.  Still, he grinned and said, “I’m going to go with ‘The Mouse.” (He calls me ‘Mouse.’)  He obviously inherited his parent’s degenerate gambling gene.  BUT – late in the afternoon of New Year’s Eve day when the others were napping I won $2700 in some silly slot machine that called my name.
The years keep passing, the calendar keeps flipping, and, yes, I have had some good times, even a meaningful one on a New Year’s Eve since then.
Next week I have no plans and that is fine with me. After mid-night, it will still be January 1st -  another fresh start.
Happy 2012 everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rain Woman

All my life I’ve been an idiot savant with dates. For some ridiculous reason if I hear your birthday once, I never forget it.
Some call me Rain Woman, although Dustin Hoffman’s bit with the toothpicks is out of my league.  I’m merely a single threat.  I do dates – nothing else.
Not long ago I ran into a family I hadn’t seen in years.  I had been fairly close to the wife, husband and their three kids.  I rattled off each of their birthdays — because I could.  One by one, they backed away.
My memory for dates doesn’t have a pecking order.  It can’t distinguish between people I love and a cab driver who possibly looking for a bigger tip announces, “Lady, today is my birthday!”
My 7th grade homeroom teacher, Miss Fine was born on February 9th.  I can’t get that out of my head.  I worry that data about a teacher long dead is using up space in my brain that I might put to better use.  In 1963 I resented Miss Fine for failing me in French all three marking periods and now I blame her every time I wander row after row in a parking lot searching for my car.
Just this past Sunday I was at a holiday party talking with my nephew’s live-in girlfriend.  I’d met her twice and if someone had a gun to my head I couldn’t tell him if her name was Alicia or Elise.
As I stammered with her name she was obviously put off until I said – “Okay, okay – I may not remember your name but know that your birthday is March 2nd.
She gasped.  I think I really impressed Alicia…or Elise.
I may not be able to fill in “Dear____” on her birthday card, but at least she’ll get it on time.
Trade-offs.  Life seems to be a series of trade-offs.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Is Writing Obituaries a Dead Art?

I read the obituaries every morning.  Unlike the news which is depressing – these half page mini biographies are entertaining – if you read between the lines.  After all, it takes a skilled writer to transform an ordinary life to an extraordinary one.
My fascination with and appreciation of obituaries began when a million years ago I worked side by side with ‘Sandi Beach’ at a small Long Island radio station.  How small was it?   Fiddling with the radio, I couldn’t get a clear signal for the station until I was in their parking lot.
The phones rarely lit up with callers and when they did we would panic certain that the building was on fire.
Anyway, at the time I had a column in the Fire Island Tide and the paper and the station I believe were owned by the same people.  Sandi was dying (literally) and they brought me in to be a familiar voice when she left the building (literally again)
Sandi was so boring I actually thought she was kidding.  I cringed each time she read the ‘doings’ on Fire Island and ended with ‘be there or be square.’
I put on a pleasant expression because I’m a sensitive person aware that she probably wasn’t thrilled to see me sitting beside her just waiting for her to keel over and catch her headphones.
Her obituary in Newsday was glowing.  Without making stuff up, the writer wove a story of this woman’s life that could have been compared to Eleanor freakin’ Roosevelt.
I was aghast (odd word, but accurate) and I remember saying to my husband, Jimmy,
“If I died today, even with my minuscule accomplishments in the right hands my obituary would read like a life I wish I had led.”
Together we decided to save the clipping to call on that writer “when our time comes.”
And, then, when Jimmy did die, I was incapable of posting anything but a ‘notice’ – the hard facts, born, died and survived by.  I regret I didn’t give him a Sandi Beach send-off so I tell myself that for Jimmy there wasn’t a need to boost his life in the newspaper because he was extraordinary.
But, there is still time for ME!  Here I am getting older and a new year is just weeks away. New beginnings bring to mind endings and that I may need a little help for my life story. So, now each morning as I read the obituaries I’m going to make a note of who puffs up the dead person best.
Is this similar to financial planning?