When is ‘now’ over so ‘later’ can start?




Imagine yourself as a dog who had suddenly developed the ability to verbalize . . . or a baby that could immediately acquire an adult vocabulary to have his or her demands met instantly. I used to do those “what-ifs” on a regular basis.

As a former newspaper editor and writer of a weekly personal column, to change things up a bit I would occasionally have a guest/ghost writer. Sometimes it was my infant son and other times it was our family pets. Later, someone I trained penned a personal column full of snarky comments from our office cat. It was wildly popular. We even created a Facebook page for this cat and built an ad campaign around finding Boots the Newscat at area businesses, buried in a clothing rack or some other inconspicuous place that cats might lurk.

So today’s writing challenge is right up my alley. Here’s a sample of writing from another person’s viewpoint (my infant son at the time) in response to the challenge, http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/writing-challenge-shoes/


It’s about time Mom let me take over her column again. I was about to demand equal time when she got lazy and let me have at the computer. It’s now my turn to give a kid’s point of view about all these complaints you’ve been hearing.

In the first place, parents are pretty dumb. And they don’t know how smart we are. As an active 15-month-old, I’ve been learning the greatest tricks. Tricks like climbing. I climb up on the couch and dive head-first into the playpen, and for some strange reason, my mom is always sucking in her breath. She’s going to give herself a chronic case of the hiccups.

She and Dad think it’s pretty neat when I learn these tricks. They just don’t want me to know that. Like the time I climbed up on the stool and then onto the bathroom counter and sat in the sink and ate soap. They thought it was so neat, they took my picture. But then they made me get down and haven’t let me get up there again.

That sink stopper is one of the neatest toys to put in  your mouth. But Mom about throws up when she catches me doing that. She always says something like, “People spit in that sink you little idiot!” I wonder if I could call the hotline for verbal child abuse.

They laughed a lot at me the day I learned to take my jacket to them and push it at them to let them know I wanted outside. But do you think that works? They just laugh or try to ignore me and say, “Not now.” I’d like to know when “now” is over and “later” starts.

The few times they do let me out of prison, I go bananas. There’s so much to look at–birds, dogs, cars and trees. And there’s lots on the ground to taste. But all of a sudden, Mom is saying bad things about what she’ll do to the next dog she catches in our yard.

The thing I like the most about outside is this great, hard place that you can run on. But Mom says I need to learn just what “street” means and that it’s off limits to little kids. But I think she’s probably going to have to build a fence in our yard to keep me away from it. Then I’ll have a new trick to learn in seeing if I can climb over or under that! 


Fear of flying: No longer able to run through airports



One of my favorite blogs, Life in the Boomer Lane, had a popular post about the author flying in cramped seats from Seattle to Chicago, sandwiched in between two football fans, one of whom was invading her space dramatically. It made me realize how long it’s been since my husband and I have flown. 

Fourteen years ago, I wrote a similar piece for my weekly newspaper, remarking about the many changes that were affecting air travel. Can you believe that cell phones and laptops were just then coming into vogue?! Here’s a reprint of that piece:

When Mad Mother and Lemonade Man took to the friendly skies of American (faulty tail sections and all) on Feb. 4, 2000, we’d both been strangers to air travel for about six or seven years. A lot has changed in that time.

The biggest change has been in the number of electronic gadgets in evidence. And it’s not that the cell phones and laptop computers were all that necessary on a Saturday morning. Most of the users were showing off.

As we picked up our bags at the St. Petersburg, FL airport, one guy was talking to his bookie. Earlier, at our layover in Dallas, a plump mother with a cell phone attached to her like a child on a retractable cord, was giving her family a play-by-play: They’ve just called us for boarding . . . I’m now boarding the plane . . . I’m now picking up my Bistro bag snack . . . I’m now looking for seat 24C . . .

The guy across the aisle on our flight to Florida got out his laptop immediately and said it’s what he does now instead of reading a book. Helps the flight time go faster and he doesn’t so much mind that he’s scrunched in a narrow seat for two hours (those seats do seem to have gotten narrower in six years).

Me? I waited to use my laptop until we got to our condo, then used it to help put out three pages of this week’s newspaper from Florida, thus ruining one day that was supposed to have been spent in the sun. But what the heck? It was just as warm in Missouri as in Florida anyway.

On the return trip, we did invest in a low-tech device that has now become a necessity for air travel. Got us one of those carts with wheels to put carry-on luggage on. If you’ve never tried to run from gate 14 in Terminal A of the Dallas airport to gate 39 in Terminal C in only 15 minutes, you haven’t lived. We almost died, actually, on the trip down.

It may be a long time before we fly again, but you can bet the laptop will be riding on that new little cart next time, instead of hanging off the shoulders of someone who got too old to run through airports.

We’ve only flown once since 9/11 and the dramatic changes that ensued after then and were appalled at having to remove our shoes, be frisked and “wanded” into indignity and then made to throw away the bottled water we had just purchased outside the gate. Thus we’ve totally missed the whole body scans.

In these post-retirement days we talk about planning a trip that includes air travel but all we can think about is cabins full of recycled, germ-laden air and cramped seats. It’s enough to make us stay at home.


Zero to Hero Day 3: Lamenting the loss of china cabinets



People don’t use china cabinets anymore.

Now in the scope of crucial world issues, that ranks right up there with things like the disappearance of front porches.

This only came to mind when I was putting away the china tea cups Monday night after Sunday’s season premier of Downton Abbey.

My glass-fronted oak furniture holds a treasure trove of historic items . . . things that mean something to no one but me.

On the bottom shelf is the leaded glass scotch decanter with matching glasses that could be used successfully as a murder weapon. For years it held a good measure of Dewars, until I decided that it was probably so full of lead poisoning that it would be unwise to consume and threw it out. Still, the collection sparkles and reminds me of my husband. It was pre-marital property. Before he developed diabetes, he used it for teaching my son bar tending skills. These days he avoids anything that doesn’t mix with his medicine.

The old china cabinet also holds a photo plate of the farmhouse my father was born in. That’s on top of a set of eight clear glass hostess plates with little raised circles for the cups that match. This collection is from the June Cleaver days when women had other housewives over for coffee and finger sandwiches. I may have used them once, pre-motherhood, for someone’s baby shower. They just sit inside the cabinet collecting dust.

Then there is an entire collection of Johann Haviland china that used to get cleaned off and used for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It came from the grocery store–a plate or server at a time–with the purchase of $25 in food, until voila, service for eight! That is, until some of the pieces didn’t get packed properly and broke in our last move. Like an idiot, I actually got on ebay and ordered a replacement gravy boat. Every woman needs a gravy boat, you know. Remember gravy?

The rest of the three sections on top of this monster that required two grunting men to move includes little odds and ends that came from a lifetime of collecting and inheriting. This piece has unique slats in the middle to slide in wine glasses, which tinkle sweetly against each other when some Big Foot stomps by.

The bottom cabinet is where our old liquor hides, along with tablecloths, leftover china and silver-plate so tarnished it would lead to an illness if used without polishing.

So, there you have it . . . a ginormous thing that required us to find a house with a formal dining room in order to keep. Similar to the requirement for a master bedroom big enough to accommodate a king size solid oak pier unit with dresser and wardrobe.

Before retirement, I could not understand why our son and his wife did not have, or even want, a china cabinet. Their wedding china (white and black polka dots) all fits nicely in their kitchen cabinets. And the thought of collecting any items like the miniatures that reside in my old printer’s drawer, or the resin dolls that have their own glass front curio cabinet for a home, would make those kids nauseous.

Lately my husband and I have been discussing moving to Florida or downsizing to a patio home. That leads to questions of whether to move the china cabinet and all its contents, or just leave it for our son and an estate sale.

That piece of furniture is probably a has-been and may need to be sawed in half and repurposed as an entertainment center. But it’s a symbol of a disappearing lifestyle and might bring a small fortune in an antique store in a few decades, so we’ll probably just hang onto it and its contents.


Zero to Hero Day 1: My blog title says it all



New Tricks for Old Dogs summarizes what the heck I’m doing here . . . a longtime print publisher in the gray old world of newspapers, trying to muddle through a new-world way of communicating and keeping in writing shape.

I retired in October after 30+ years as a small town weekly newspaper editor and publisher. I was extremely fortunate to have an audience for my writing all those years, while being unfortunate to ever have an editor. Being a one-woman show for the length of one career makes me pretty unemployable for a second one. I know, since I’ve tried.

Companies looking for writers and editors these days want young, slim, hungry folks who are “team players” and instinctively know how to be project managers and troubleshoot hardware and software problems, along with knowing how to use InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Excel and PowerPoint in their sleep.

Resigned to try to enjoy my retirement by continuing a one-woman show, here I am blogging. And trying to finish a memoir that includes a collection of the humor columns written as the editor/publisher. Also trying to start a business of helping other authors get their work in shape for electronic or print publishing.

This blog is aimed at helping other baby boomers navigate the treacherous waters of retirement and repurposing ourselves. We have a lot of wisdom and experience to share, at least with each other, even if Generation XYZers are not yet ready for it.

I do keep a daily journal, a spiritual one, and realized through my morning musings that we are given blessings and talents so we can share them. This blog is one way of doing that.

In retirement, we can easily succumb to being isolated. Our work-world circle of acquaintances–employees, clients and related friends–are no longer available. If this blog is successful, by the end of 2014, I will have built a new circle of acquaintances online. If successful, someone will start liking this thing and posting comments.

The idea of writing a blog never appealed to me before retirement. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to read the thing. But now I view it as a continuation of my newspaper column with a more focused audience of other bloggers and some of my Facebook and twitter friends.