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Writing: learning, bite by bite

Posted by Kathy on Apr 9, 2018 in Uncategorized

I just returned from the well-loved Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Ohio, where I learned so many things about what I should be doing. I did not see playing Senior Bingo and watching Hallmark romances on the list. See, those things are  fun until you have to wear the figurative cone of shame, which in this case means finding that pile of very important contacts, connections, and writing tips a year from now under a pile of stuff marked “”THIS WEEK!!!!!” in bold, purple Sharpie.

I’m tired. Tired from traveling, tired from learning, tired from laughing. I had a cumulative four and a half hours sleep over a period of three days. That’s not true. It was more like five. I did lose some sleep because when I laugh so much, something inside me says I should stay up and write and watch lots of TV sitcoms so the humor area of my brain (located very, very close to the chocolate area) can pull in all the funny it can hold and not spill out.

Here’s my plan for this, based on the workshop:

Day 1: Get up early, make a to-do list that includes all things writing-related, about thirty of them, some of which should take, oh , maybe a year. Get car fixed, eat spaghetti, walk, have just one piece of chocolate (with caramel) (that’s dark chocolate) (in case you want to try this weekly plan), and read a really great novel I brought with me to EBWW but had no time to read because of that whole learning thing.

Day 2: Update my blog, wash hair, have cake for lunch, try to write, take a nap, rewrite this list to ease into re-entry (see part about brain contents disappearing.) Postpone daily exercise by a day.

Day 3: Have therapy, remember the “I can write” mantra of the conference, examine if I really want to keep writing as opposed to the equally fulfilling prospect of day trips to casinos, have lots of coffee, and WRITE. Danish pastry? Yes, please. Evening: sleepwalk.

Day 4: Look over notes from last year’s “Columnists” conference in June, put them on top of this year’s “Erma” conference pile, make soup, decide how many times one should may properly use quotation marks in a day of “writing” (to paraphrase an old TV laxative commercial and talking about prunes: “Are two enough? Six too many?”), have tea and a croissant. WRITE, for God’s sake. Update the blog that didn’t get updated two days ago because we all know it didn’t happen.

Day 5: Have pizza and a small (less than the height of a refrigerator) ice cream sundae to reward self. Because it’s the weekend. THE WEEKEND, PEOPLE! TIME OFF! After that, I will definitely get back to writing.

 

 

 
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The New Valentine’s Me

Posted by Kathy on Feb 13, 2018 in Thoughts from ME

Remember the good old days when Valentine’s Day was wonderful?

Me, neither.

Seems it’s so often filled with angst instead of love and romance.

If you’re in love, it can be a great day to celebrate your relationship by going out together and investing lots of cash on your loved one in hopes that the evening may or may not return on your investment. And by that, I mean finding out if she or he will share the chocolate with you.

If you’re not in love, or not with the one you love, there is the danger of cynicism or random feelings of wanting to punch something, and by that, I mean the Valentine’s card display at your local pharmacy. Please don’t do that, because it’s unbecoming to be on all fours cleaning up a mess of cards and muttering, “Damn those medication side effects.”

By now, I either have your attention or you are deleting pictures from your phone because your storage is full. Which brings me to my point of this Valentine’s Day message of love. See, I’m getting older, and when it turned 2018, I made a very quiet promise to myself that I would let the real me out. The unabridged version, the version you may not like. I may end up with fewer friends. But I think I will feel better about myself. To that end, and for today, I have a few words.

If you really love someone, you will never, ever send them, on “Messenger”, one of those cartoons or photos or videos that people send around at holidays and other times when they see something inspiring, which usually follows large amounts of caffeine consumption. If you love someone, you will never, ever send the video of that 5-year-old who sings like the next Beverly Sills. You won’t even send the cool one of the hands passing a glowing ball of light to each other. And you especially will not send a picture of Valentine’s roses.

Why?

Because I, like millions of people around the world, get the “Your storage is almost full” message on my phone quite regularly. And I just spent an hour deleting, one by one, a bunch of these things from Messenger to free up enough space to take my own pictures, get apps for things I need or want, and so on.

Not to be mean or ungrateful, but STOP IT. Not to be unkind, but STOP IT. Not to be bossy, but STOPPPPPP ITTTTT. For everyone’s sake, STOP IT. Also, some of them may be insidiously harmful in other ways (viruses or hacking.)

If you really, really love someone, or even might like them, you will call them, visit them, send a handwritten note (WHAT?!?!?), email, text, or message them with your own real words. Yes, real words. Like the kind we used to make up. Before pre-fab messages were born. Those really were the good old days, the days of awkwardly saying, from the heart, “I’m interested in getting to know you” or the famed “I love you.”

So please – skip the pictures that we’ve all seen a thousand times. RESIST the temptation to send that picture of a bouquet of flowers to everyone on your Messenger list.

JUST. STOP. IT.

Any questions?

PS – I love you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 
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Family Vacation: Be Careful Where You Step

Posted by Kathy on Jan 1, 2018 in Uncategorized

It’s winter. You’re freezing. Grab a hot cup of tea and a cookie. Here’s a little story for you. It’s free. There’ll be time enough later to suffer the winter challenges. (Click link below for full story)

Relax. (And hurry up about it)

 
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Seriously – just for a moment

Posted by Kathy on Nov 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

The Thanksgiving leftovers are just about gone, converted to sandwiches and soup, innovative snacks involving biscuits and desserts, without concern for normal mealtimes or format. That’s fine with me, as it never made sense to me that we usually ascribe certain foods to set meals.

Now – we move along toward the December holidays! This year, I make my usual promise to keep things simple. I envision a simple tree with just a few plainly wrapped packages. In my fantasy, I even see them tied with string instead of the fancy colorful ribbons. The reality is I’ve already started lists for family and close friends, and my kids have already started asking me what I want.

But for today, I will keep it simple. An ice cream outing with family, maybe do some writing, maybe read the book I recently bought by a local mystery writer…and because our national attention span is something like seven seconds, I’ll keep this message simple: Enjoy what you have, share what you can, keep the simple holiday fantasies going and give in to materialism only when it feels important.

 
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The case of being forever not young

Posted by Kathy on Nov 16, 2017 in Uncategorized
Reposted from “Lightly Roasted” – My Generation Magazine – link below for full column)
Relax. (And hurry up about it) by Kathy Eliscu
I remember those lazy days…sitting around a farmhouse table, playing board games with family, kids splashing in a kiddie pool, adults laughing, sipping cold drinks

Last summer, my niece Kathy, her toddler, and my daughter Sally, a preschool teacher, planned a trip from NYC to visit me in Maine—the baby’s first vacation. My niece is a Broadway performer who deserves “Mother of the Year” for educating her toddler in the arts. I mean, the child already says “shuffle” and actually does that tap step. In perfect rhythm.

To continue (reposted from My Generation Maine):

Relax. (And hurry up about it)

 

 

 
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Never a Cop When You’re Trying To Ignore Something

Posted by Kathy on Sep 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

Burdened: A dark tale of a driver and a bird

 
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Why I Am My Own Best Date and Other Ways To Save Money

Posted by Kathy on Sep 1, 2017 in Thoughts from ME

Yeah. I tried online dating. I was gonna try it for a month, but for another six bucks or so, they said I could have three months. That three months was the longest two years of my life…

“I’m on an over-50 dating site. When I log in, I see photos of gorgeous 40-somethings, false advertising at its prettiest. No leg veins there. No saggy man-pecs. Only thing missing is the “Just Kidding” sign.

Back in the day, we met people the good old-fashioned way—in bars. Most singles now, even boomers, rely on dating sites. I recently wrote about dipping my dating toes into the sea of eligible men. And I use that term as loosely as the skin hanging off my various body parts. I ended up quitting a free site. But like peeking at an accident, I can’t stay away, so I subscribed to a different one. The results this time? Not great.

I want to talk to the women first. Because, men? You know there are 3,000 women for every one of you. So go watch sports for a few minutes.

Ladies, you’ve learned by now that if a nice older man becomes divorced or widowed, you have exactly four minutes to snag him. Three, if you live in Northern Maine (population factor, plus—cousins.)”

For more of my amazingly pathetic entree into the boomer dating world, read the whole story at: http://mygenerationmaine.com/2017/08/02/love-at-first-site/

Love at first site?

 
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Lightly Roasted ~ My GenerationMagazine

Posted by Kathy on Jul 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

Although summer means fun, in the world of Eliscu, it’s never that easy.

To prepare for a carefree summer, I take a brief post-birthday jaunt to NYC to visit my daughter Sally. For the first time ever, I’m staying with her, even though she has a cat and I have allergies. Whatever.

I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but I’m spending the weekend living inside a litter box.

First clue that things aren’t going well: Exactly seven minutes after I arrive at her sweet little typically-NY-tiny, just-vacuumed apartment in Brooklyn, my eyeballs turn the color of Satan’s pitchfork. My eyelids and the general condition of my sinuses? Reminiscent of the flu epidemic of 1918.

“Sal, there’s a lot of cat hair in the bathroom,” I wheeze out to her. “And the litter box is in the tub.”

She whisks in, moving it temporarily outside the bathroom.

“There’s still some kitty litter in the tub,” I add.

“It’s OK,” she says. “It’s organic.”

Her cat Layla, by all accounts, cares little for anyone’s feelings, and despite my sneezing and wheezing, chooses to blatantly ignore me. Instead, she continues to pose in any number of sexy positions, which would delight all but the most callous of visitors. I am not amused.

The next day, once we’re out and about, we eat, walk everywhere, go to a Broadway show, I laugh, cumulatively, more than I have in months. My symptoms calm down. Later, Sally gives me her bedroom, supposedly free of cat hair and dander. But each day, though I’m a sergeant guarding the bedroom door, that frisky, sassy cat finds just the one second when I open it to bolt in and hide under the bed.

“Layla? Treat!” Sally calls from the living room, Layla (or Sally) falling for it every time, and she (Layla, not Sally) leaving behind her a trail of allergens for me to inhale.

I get through that night with extra antihistamines, reminding myself that most of the next day we will be out. I’m saving money on a hotel, a result of my father’s insane frugal influence. Thanks a lot, Dad.

The next morning, in the pint-size bathroom, my expensive, special-thread dental floss flies out of my cosmetic bag, crashing onto the floor into pieces, the floss spool unraveling in a glorious pirouette over a few fragments of kitty litter and, I’m certain, thousands—no, millions—of microscopic feline fecal germs and God knows what. I’ve taken microbiology. Left up to my overactive imagination, I am, I’m sure, en route to a big ol’ case of bubonic plague.

“$@#&!!!” I shout. For good measure, I scoop up what’s left of the floss container and place it—OK, throw—into the sink and curse some more.

You may wonder why I don’t look up nearby hotels immediately. I’m wondering the same thing when Sally suggests “real New York pizza” for lunch. I lose track of my hissy fit long enough to get dressed, using last night’s nightie to step on, as if that will protect me from more sneezes.

Cheapness factor aside, I am already physically miserable. Now it’s becoming a survival challenge.

We have an amazing day in NYC and get back to the apartment in time to see Layla imitating Marlene Dietrich.

The next morning, I ask Sally if the stray kitty litter pieces in the tub bother her.

“That’s why I have the squeegee! Just run the shower a minute, then turn it off, and squeegee out the tub first,” she explains.

“That’s DISGUSTING!!” somehow slips out. Too late I realize it’s … too late.

Sally looks at me. In a moment I’ll forever remember, she looks directly at me (I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so she might have been rolling her eyes upward) and speaks calmly.

“Mom,” she says. “I don’t tell you how to manage your house.”

Things go much better after that. We go to a Weight Watchers meeting together and giggle over her “bravo” sticker, admire handsome young men in cafes, shop. The day after, she lugs my unruly luggage during the trek through Brooklyn and the crowded Penn Station.

On the train ride home to Maine, my eyelids are settling down. I’m dreaming about my spacious, clean farmhouse. Planning summer day trips. Thinking that next time I visit Sally, I’ll put us up at a hotel. Amazed at how I made it through Layla Boot Camp.

I hear a beep. It’s a text from Sally.

“I cried when you left. Please stay here again—someday. After all, Layla won’t be around forever.”

Wha???

Oh, dammit. That kid really knows how to work it.

I hear some hotels take cats, too.

Kathy Eliscu, a retired RN, received a National Society of Newspaper Columnists Humor award in 2012 for her Maine Women magazine column. She is the author of “Not Even Dark Chocolate Can Fix This Mess,” a humor novel. She blogs at www.kathyeliscu.com and lives in Westbrook.

 
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A clean home? Eh. It’s overrated

Posted by Kathy on May 26, 2017 in Uncategorized

Between the years 1972 and 1987, I gave birth three times, a la natural childbirth. It takes a bit of crazy and a lot of determination to do so, especially since I was extremely young the first time (I am teenager, hear me roar.) And every once in a while, that determination, combined with several strong cups of coffee, rears its stubborn head.

Yesterday, in anticipation of company arriving for the Memorial Day weekend, I took out my tiny but mighty Sears “Magic Blue.” For you kids, it is not a street drug. It’s a vacuum. But it would be a cool name for a band, no?

I changed the bag (mind you, it had worked perfectly a few days earlier) and plugged it in. Whoosh went that familiar sound. But there was just one problem. It didn’t suck. And that sucked. I changed the bag again, thinking it was a torn paper problem. Nothing.

After examining the situation, I came up with this: nothing.

A phone call to Sears to see if it was still under warrantee left me with the following information: I had purchased the little guy in 2004, and the warrantee had expired in 2009. I paid $99 for that sucker new (when it was a sucker) and something like $8 a year for the coverage, a bargain by any standard.

Here’s the thing. With a neck injury back in 2000-something, I can’t do the lifting, lugging, stretching, pulling, and pro-basketball like I used to. OK. Never mind the pro-ball part. But the thought of losing my light-weight Magic Blue was more than I could bear.

I drove to Sears and hunted down an older man named something like Lennie. Every Sears store has a Lennie – a man who has been in vacuums as long as I’ve been having those natural births. After receiving the bad news from Lennie that Sears no longer makes Magic Blue (yes, we paused in mourning together) I looked at a similar small model.

“It has no bag,” I said.

“I know,” he said.

Another pause. A sniff. The shake of two heads. That’s another good band name, BTW.

Later that night, after taking myself to what turned out to be a really awful movie and gravely disappointing popcorn, I went to Target, where a young woman had assured me over the phone that they had “TONS of vacuums.”

Through a pounding rain I went, into the store soaked, to view, well, nothing like Magic Blue. Not even close. And by the way, unless cleaning houses for a living, why would anyone, ever, spend hundreds of dollars on a vacuum? I mean, that’s a lot of new shoes, friends.

A passerby, hearing my sob story (yeah, I was teary-eyed by then, as only one can be for a beloved oldie-but-goodie appliance that also happened to be such a pretty blue color), whispered the name of a local repair shop.

Did I mention that Sears was going to charge $160 to fix Magic?

A call to the local concern showed that for $10, Blue could be diagnosed. If able to undergo surgery, it would be around $60. Not too bad.

But before I put him in the hands of a stranger and leave him for a week with people and other vacs he doesn’t know, I’m going to sit down, take him into my arms, and check him over myself. 

If I can go through three births on my own, drug free, I can do this.

I will relax, examine, fidget, breathe, change position and pant…and if needed, if all looks hopeless and overwhelming, I will open the window…and – also a good band name – PUSH. 

 

 
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Musings on Disgusting Persons

Posted by Kathy on Mar 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

Spring: the time of year when you should come to my house and clean. No, really. When you own a farmhouse in the country just minutes from mountains, ocean, lakes, city life, everyone comes to visit.

While I was away spending time with family in the south and preventing the usual case of inoperable chapped skin, someone I know needed to use my house for a day or two. No problem, I said. No problem, that is, until an hour ago when I had cause to go into the upstairs bathroom, and it made me wonder – just how many stray hairs can one shed upon completion of a simple shower? It was as though a herd of buffalo had come in during molting season (and no, I have no idea if such a thing exists, I’m just guessing), then had danced about in some wild mating ritual, and promptly left to go have a smoke.

Another time, years ago, I had another guest stay while I was away. I came back to what can only be described as a re-enactment of “Animal House.” I don’t think I’m being picky when I say that if you use my stove, do not cook the meat directly on the burner.

So that’s it. Anyone who wants to visit this summer? I have one requirement:

Find a hotel room.

 

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