Displaying 11 - 18 of 18 entries.

My Spring Vacation – part 3

  • Posted on May 4, 2012 at 8:14 pm

After leaving the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop I drove six hours to West Virginia to see family. I was apprehensive because I had not been there since 1974. Would I be able to find the house where I would be staying? Would I also be able to spend polite and sane time with my children’s father –in his home?

The trip was long and winding but beautiful. I made a decision that since I had changed for the better over the past 38 years so had he. I am on good terms with Carrie, my sister-in-law and her family. I’d already met and liked Georgia, my successor. My adult children liked Emmy. So I figured the visit should go fairly smoothly. All I needed to do was stay away from Orville, the ex. You’ve figured out by now that our parting was not amicable.

When I arrived in Buckhannon I called everyone who was keeping tabs on my journey to let them know I had almost reached my destination. Cell phone reception is non-existent in the mountains. Then I proceeded to head toward my destination with warnings of an impending snow storm echoing through my brain.

Despite excellent directions, I missed my turn off the main road. When it dawned on me that I had driven too far I stopped to ask directions. This was nerve-wracking too. I had out-of-state plates and a sad, lost look on my face. The woman who answered the door took pity on me and told me to drive back to the red and while real estate office and turn right. It worked!

Now I was on the correct road to Carrie’s house. Her directions said to go around a sharp curve and up a hill. After going around at least 35 curves and up that many hills I was feeling nervous. I kept looking at the photo she had sent, all the time driving with my fingers crossed.
There it was, just like the picture. I was there. I headed down the steep, narrow driveway and was greeted warmly before I even climbed out of my car. After unpacking and enjoying a quiet supper, our niece Teresa and her one-year old grandson Caden, stopped by for a visit.

The next morning we all waded through about six inches of wet snow and piled into Carl’s car for the short drive to the next farm where I was once again greeted warmly.

We shared memories and pictures of Dan’s memorial services. Orville, Emmy and I drove down to the pond where they had scattered their portion of Dan’s ashes. Later Emmy and I walked across the snowy meadow to see the memorial tree and flowering shrubs they had planted.

They fed us delicious American and Philippine dishes for lunch and supper. I also met Emmy’s handsome husband David and father-in-law Paul, also called Pappy the Clown. I was happy to welcome these wonderful men to our family.

We were invited for breakfast on Tuesday. Georgia baked home-made bread. I must admit that I ate more than my share. Pappy had promised to make some balloon animals for the great-grandsons. I anticipated one or maybe two shaped balloons for each boy. Not so, I drove home with a big, green lawn bag full of balloons, not just animals but toys as well – and the lovely memory picture board they had made for their memorial service.

Wednesday morning I began the long drive back home to Tidewater Virginia, my ears ringing with invitations to visit again soon. Not knowing what roads were safe I stuck to the Interstate system. The trip took 11 hours. The route over the mountains takes about eight hours. I’ll try that way next time.

By now you’ve figured out that there was no confrontation. Orville was not the “bad guy” of my memories, nor my best pal. He is just Georgia’s husband. I now have another sister and daughter. What a gift!

© by Sharon D. Dillon, May 4, 2012

My spring vacation – Part 2

  • Posted on May 3, 2012 at 8:28 am

After leaving Patty’s house I drove about five hours to the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop at the Dayton Marriott where all the funny people I knew and hoped to meet were gathering. A few I knew from their blog photos, some I recognized by name and the others – well they were a gift in another package.

When I walked through the door EB Heron’s masculine figure lured me to the proper table where Jody gave me my EB princess tiara and my EB’s Harem tee-shirts. I saw other familiar faces such as Wanda, Rose, Bonnie, Joanie, and Barb. For the next four days no one was a stranger.

Everyone was so friendly. Even the key note speakers and instructors treated us lowly “occasional” bloggers like we were just as famous as they. Each of them said that they started where we are and hit the big time, some sooner, some later.

I was impressed and encouraged by Ilene Beckerman who wrote her first book at 60. Her talk gave me hope that even though I’m now classified as “mature,” I still have a chance to be published. Seeing a few other gray heads there was also comforting.

Since I’m basically a beginner even though I’ve written for newspapers and magazines, I stuck to the basic classes:

The Power of Erma – Nancy Berk
Hypnotic Recall Fills the Creative Well – Suzette Martinez Standring
The Six Million Dollar Humor Column: How to write bigger, funnier and faster – Tracy Beckerman
Be Funny, Make Money – Michele (Wojo) Wojciechowski
If You Blog It, They Will Come: How to Blog Your Own Field of Dreams – Nettie Reynolds
Finding the Authority to Write – Kyran Pittman

Each class and keynote speaker gave me knowledge, hope and motivation to keep trying and to push harder to get published. Even the amateur stand-up comics motivated me, that is when I wasn’t laughing too hard to think. If they can do it, so can I — maybe in 2014.

I must give three Huzzahs and a huge thank you to Suzette Martinez Standring. Since my son passed in December my body and soul had been torn into pieces. I was unable to gather myself enough to write. Even ordinary tasks seemed daunting. We were seated in rock hard, lecture hall seats made for skinny students. When Standring announced she was going to lead us in a meditation, I thought, “That will be useless. I’ll never get comfortable enough to meditate.”

After just a few minutes I was off in some other place. My guides showed me a peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread. What kind of motivation is that? I don’t like grape jelly. I don’t like peanut butter and jelly together. And I seldom eat whole wheat bread. Soon we were all back in the room and other students began sharing their insights. I kept my mouth shut. Wouldn’t you?

For the next couple days I pondered this peculiar imagery. On Sunday morning I saw Standring in the lobby as we were all preparing to leave. I worked up the courage to ask for a moment of her time, then asked what she thought it meant. As all good teachers, she threw the question back to me. I told her that the message seemed to tell me I should try new ideas and experiences and new combinations of old ideas and experiences. Just because they didn’t work before, it doesn’t mean they won’t work now. She responded, “That’s exactly what that image means.”

However, the most powerful moment in Standring’s class came when she brought us back to the lecture hall. All my body and soul bits were once again back with me. I was whole again. I didn’t stop smiling for the rest of the workshop. I’m still grinning because I’m whole.

All too soon our time in Dayton was finished. After exchanging hugs, business cards and promised to meet again in 2014, I loaded my luggage and began the six-hour drive to West Virginia where My Spring Vacation – part 3 takes place.

© by Sharon D. Dillon, May 2, 2012

The Dirt Fairy

  • Posted on February 27, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Sometime in the past few days the dirt fairy visited my house. A dirt fairy is a little like Tinkerbell, but instead of visiting Neverland he or she visits good boys and girls when they are not home and fills their planter boxes full of nice rich soil.

What motivates a dirt fairy? This was a mystery to be resolved. But where to start?

The planter box itself was a surprise. When son Dan visited in early December I mentioned that I was considering taking up several bricks from my patio and using them to construct a planter box. The following day Dan purchased the necessary supplies, including stones for drainage, and constructed a lovely 5’ x 2’ x 2’ planter box. My job was to stain the wood to match my deck.

Returning to the fairy mystery, I called Pilot, to whom I had subtly hinted that a load of dirt/compost mix from the county composting site would be nice. Subtle, hah! I just came right out and asked, not once but four or five times. Each time we discussed logistics and came to the same non-conclusion. How does your schedule look next week? Can we do this without scratching the truck?

When asked if he brought the soil, Pilot laughed and said the dirt elves brought it. He continued, “Dan must have contacted the elves and told them to bring the dirt.”

That response made me certain that he made the delivery intending it to be a birthday surprise. I called him sneaky. At that point Pilot pronounced that, seriously, it was not him.

My next guess was that my daughters sneaked the dirt into the box while I wasn’t looking. I called Linda and left a bubbly, grateful message. She organizes the family’s activities by telephone, but didn’t return my call.

Just as I was preparing to telephone her twin, Sarah, my phone tang.
“It was us, Mom” Linda said. “We were planning to surprise you for your birthday. You usually walk around oblivious to what is happening around you; so we thought we could pull it off.”

They know this from experience. One time they changed my kitchen faucets and I didn’t notice until four days later – – after they told me what they had done.

This time I have the satisfaction of knowing that I found a “secret” before they told me where to look. Mom still has it going on upstairs, at least sometimes.

© by Sharon D. Dillon, February 12, 2012

Thank you for being my son

  • Posted on January 6, 2012 at 11:40 am

On December 19th I received the call that every mother dreads and prays never comes. My son Dan, age 45, had a heart attack at work and transitioned soon after arriving at the emergency room.

I immediately fell into despair, but managed to call a dear friend who came immediately and after a huge hug gave me two instructions, “Breathe” and “Exhale.” After forcing me to repeat this exercise a few times we began the difficult tasks ahead of us.

Somehow I managed to call my daughters, do some laundry and pack my suitcase. Early the next morning daughter Sarah and I began a tough three-day drive from Tidewater, Virginia to northern Minnesota where Dan lived and worked. Along the way we collected his girlfriend Linda B. from southern Wisconsin. Daughter Linda had to remain at home to care for her three grandchildren while their parents worked.

Dan’s supervisor helped us do what needed to be done then escorted us to a company-owned villa at a nearby ski resort. What a wonderful way to settle down after three days on the road. The next day we moved into Dan’s rented house trailer and tackled the overwhelming job of sorting through Dan’s boxes and piles. We felt Dan’s comforting presence as we worked. Linda B’s supervisor kept in touch by telephone advising us each step of the way.

We cried, we laughed and took turns collapsing and supporting each other. After each day’s hard work we relaxed by watching a silly movie from Dan’s extensive DVD collection. Mild weather was one of many gifts he gave us. Temperatures stayed in the high teens and low twenties. The heaviest snowfall was only two inches much to the dismay of locals who were anticipating winter sports. When the Minnesotans commented on the mild weather we just smiled because we knew Dan was protecting us.

Even though nearly everything was closed Dec 23-26 for the Christmas holiday we managed to accomplish nearly all our business. Linda B. was able to leave on Dec 29. Sarah and I began our trip home on December 31 and arrived home on January 2. We spent the first night at Linda’s house where we had a brief memorial service in her living room.

Dan’s years with me and his sisters were a gift. I used to say that Dan lived in his own time zone. Even though he was chronically late, that is not quite true. He lived in his own world, one denied many of us. He was my baby, my teacher and at times a royal pain.

When Dan was about 16 months old I was sitting in a chair with my legs resting on a footstool. He untied my shoestrings. I told him to re-tie them. He did. The knot was loose but done correctly.

No one was a stranger to Dan. Much to my chagrin, as a baby he would go to anyone who held out a hand. One time when he was 3 or 4 I was chastised for bringing such a lively, obviously healthy child to the Fort Hood sick call. The nurse didn’t believe he was ill until she took his temperature. That same day he climbed onto a man’s lap and began a conversation. When I told Dan to get down, the man said that Dan was fine and could stay. Once the man went into see the doctor another nurse scolded me for allowing Dan to bother the fort commander. Yikes!

In first grade Dan’s teacher took all his school supplies away from him and put them in the coat closet. She allowed him to retrieve only the item(s) needed for one lesson at a time. This happened after he glued his crayons into a perfect triangle and used his pencil sharpener to reduce his pencils to a pile of shavings then glued both projects to the inside of his desk.

In high school He rebelled by doing whatever would irritate adults. Only in the past few years did I realize that the issue was not him, but that I was trying to force an advanced soul into a “normal” mode.

As a teen he read holy books from all the major religions. As he matured he would get into deep conversations with anyone. Because he was who he was, they listened and responded.

I knew that I was not qualified to be the parent of such a child. His actions and words showed us that he was destined to be much more than an average young man. His vast stores of knowledge astounded us yet his sense of humor kept us giggling for days.

Three years ago he used an impolite word in front of his two-year old great nephew and was soundly chastised by his sisters. Later that day Dan sat with the baby coaching him to say, “Colorful metaphor.”

Over the past few months Dan made a point of contacting family and old friends. His last visit, just days before his transition, were amazing to all of us. Dan made a point of visiting as many of his relatives as he could. He went hunting with his dad and shot his first deer. He was infinitely patient with my questions and requests and built me a planter box.

As soon as we caught our breath from the news, we all realized that Dan knew his time was near. He had survived many situations that could have ended his earthly life, yet he chose this time and said farewell to as many as he could.

Dan’s earthly accomplishments included serving eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps, remaining clean and sober for 24 years, graduating college, building a career as a programmer/analyst and forging his photography skills into a profitable and award-winning hobby. He learned several healing modalities and traveled on spiritual journeys to much of the United States and parts of Canada and Mexico, Peru, Egypt, Tibet, several African countries and several European countries.

Thank you for being my son, Dan. I cry because I didn’t honor who you were. Semper Fi!

© by Sharon D. Dillon, January 6, 2012

A new word

  • Posted on December 8, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Today, I learned a new word, one that I’m sure will never fade from memory or lose its significance to the English speaking world. What word is that, you ask, and how did I learn it?

Last week I purchased a package of Trader Joe’s Sweet Potato Pie Bites to share with my writing group this afternoon. Opening the box to prepare the desserts and finding them in a molded to fit, flexible plastic tray, I read the baking instructions which followed the usual format with one exception. Next to “bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes” was this sentence in large, red letters. That means pay attention, so I prepared myself for significant information.

The information was, indeed, significant; I could bake the bites in their own container. However, the sentence was astounding.

It didn’t say to place tray on solid baking dish, which is obvious to anyone watching the tray flop side to side as I removed it from its secure cardboard box and cut away the cellophane.
It said, “Tray is ovenable.”

I’m guessing that means I can bake the bites in the tray without it melting or catching fire. Good news, of course.

However, as a writer I’m accustomed to learning new words from reading excellent literature, paging through a thesaurus or chatting with a teenager. Pastry boxes have never been my primary source for increasing my vocabulary prowess. Today I learned a valuable lesson. Be prepared to learn something new anywhere, anytime, even on pastry boxes.

Now I’m wracking my brain trying to decide where I can use this word to impress my friends and family. Do I tell my daughters that the holiday turkey is ovenable? Can I ask my friends if their new cookie sheet is ovenable?

That word just doesn’t want to settle into my aged brain. What shall I do?
Oh, I know. Back in the day, we told each other to take a long walk off a short pier or go to stick their head into an oven. Now I can say, “Your head is ovenable,” and let them worry about the meaning.

© by Sharon D. Dillon, December 8, 2011

Coffee virgin – no more

  • Posted on October 27, 2011 at 7:05 pm

You probably won’t believe this but until a week ago (at age 65) I never drank a cup of coffee. True, I swear. My adult children will verify this.

Caffeine is another story, but still rare. Over the past five years I’ve occasionally indulged in a Java Chip Smoothie and in July a friend convinced me to try a cup of English Toffee Cappuccino. I loved it. Earlier this month I ordered a Starbucks pumpkin latte. What a jolt! I asked what was in it and was told, pumpkin flavoring, milk and two shots of espresso. OMG! After my blood pressure returned to normal I decided that if I could survive a double shot I could survive a cup of coffee. Added to this conviction were recent news articles about light coffee consumption being good for our health. Being tired of hunting for an alternative when only coffee was offered was another incentive.

So begins this tale.

As a child I tasted my mother’s coffee and decided it was foul and never took another sip. When I was a young wife my husband, who always made his own coffee, was caught in a scheduling conflict. It was his turn to fix coffee for our Sunday School class. He gave me detailed instructions about preparing a 40 cup urn. I followed them to the letter. Later our classmates asked me very kindly to never prepare coffee again. If my husband couldn’t do it, I was to call for a substitute. Husband, upon hearing this news, said “Leave my coffee pot alone!”

Many years later Husband#2, after being warned about my coffee making history, agreed to prepare his own. However, one day he was not feeling well and asked me to fix a pot. I whined that I didn’t know how and reminded him of my coffee making history. He gave me confidence building pep talk and detailed instructions. I followed each detail precisely and proudly served him a cup. His response, “Don’t ever touch my coffee pot again!”

More recently the main person to drink coffee at my house was my mother. I bought her a four-cup pot (actually makes two small mugs) and a small can each of regular and decaf. During her visits she’d arise each morning, make a pot of regular coffee and enjoy every warming sip. When that was gone she would make a pot of decaf to last the rest of the day. After she returned home I dutifully cleaned the pot with white vinegar and stored it in the cupboard.

From time to time Son visited and complained that it took three pots to fill his giant commuter mug. I’m not sure how he made his coffee but Daughters #1 and 2 could not tolerate it. However, Son-in-law#1’s father was grateful for “good” coffee.

All this brings me down to my new non-virgin status. Last week Friend and Sweetie were scheduled to visit. Knowing nothing about brands I asked another friend to purchase the coffee. Realizing that I didn’t know how they drank it, I went to buy creamer. Oh no, there were choices!

In a panic I called Daughter#1 for advice. She suggested a flavor. I bought it then drove to the airport to retrieve my friends. While driving home I explained that I had a pot, coffee and creamer and hoped that they were satisfactory. The next morning when Friend made coffee I asked if she’d pour me a half-cup. I added flavored creamer and took a sip. Not bad but not good either. I added a teaspoon of sugar and was happy. The next day she asked if I wanted some coffee in my cream and sugar. Before leaving she showed me how to make what most would call “weak” coffee. It worked this time. So began my career as a ½-cup-a-day coffee drinker.

I know, some of you are laughing and still consider me coffee virgin. Son will get a big laugh when he arrives next month for a short visit and learns about my new habit. That’s okay. We all have to start somewhere. BTW, I wrote down the coffee brand and creamer flavor

Meet you at the coffee bar.

© by Sharon D. Dillon, October 27, 2011

It’s all perspective

  • Posted on September 27, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Recently I had a political “discussion” with a friend. He was adamant in his opinions and I was firm in mine. For two days afterward I fumed over the thought that he was so pig-headed that he couldn’t see my point of view. After all, I offered well-reasoned talking points and knew that my opinions were correct. We both held firm to our opinions and nothing was solved, except a retreat from the topic.

Then it hit me like a 2×4 across the face. I was just as pig-headed as he was. This took me down Memory Lane to a job held in my distant past. My supervisor was somewhat of a nutcase, but she was kind hearted and provided occasional glimpses of wisdom. One of those was perspective.

Her examples included:
You’re pig-headed. I’m determined.
You’re ugly. My face has character.
You’re stingy. I’m thrifty.
You’re sloppy. I’m casual.
You’re lazy. I’m relaxed.
You’re old. I’m mature.
As you can see, this list could go on and on. Please feel free to add to it.

© by Sharon D. Dillon, September 27, 2011

I Love my Doctor

  • Posted on September 22, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Like most of us, I have a love-hate relationship with my doctor, well more of a like-dislike relationship. She’s a kind, caring woman with a good sense of humor and a real concern for her patients.

I like her when she tells me my weight, blood pressure and cholesterol numbers are good.

I don’t like her so much when she tells me to undress and put on a paper gown and the room temperature is about 55 degrees. The like-scale goes down even more when she tells the nurse to take various measurements that involve encasing my upper arm in a vice-grip, otherwise known as a blood pressure cuff, or to take blood samples by finger pricks or drawing larger amounts with a needle.
I like my doctor even less when she hands me a cup and tells me to go fill it. The disconcerting gymnastics involved are exacerbated by a nurse standing outside the door calling, “Just relax and let it flow.”

When she tells me to go to the imaging center and get a test innocently called a mammogram, I actively despise my physician. This involves standing in an even colder room partially covered with a tissue thin cotton gown and exposing body parts, one at a time, to be lifted, shifted and shaped to fit a plastic vise that flattens each body part to the thickness of a pancake. Standing on tiptoe and holding my breath while said squashing takes place adds to the discomfort. The rating on my like-dislike scale takes another plunge when the radiologist cheerfully chirps, “Let’s do that one again. It was a little blurry.”

Occasionally, my doctor kindly reminds me it’s time to go for a colonoscopy. I’ll not go into detail here. Suffice it to say, I’m still having nightmares from the last one.

However, a day comes when all this dislike turns to love. This happened recently when I told my doctor that I was beginning to grow old-lady toe nails and could no longer clip them easily. I said I was going to have to go buy a pair of those clippers that look like wire snips. After a quick check to assure the nails were fungus free, she smiled and said, “Get a pedicure. They’ll cut your nails for you.” My worried look began to change, at first slightly, then became a full-fledge grin. A pedicure! On doctor’s orders!

Saturday evening a friend drove me to a local nail salon where a young woman asked me to sit in a massage chair and immersed my feet in warm, bubbling water. After a few minutes of this delight she began to massage my lower legs and feet. Soon she was removing calluses and trimming nails with enthusiasm. She ended by painting my toe nails a shimmering copper color and putting my feet under an ultra violet light to dry the polish. What a treat! Less costly and more fun than a trip to a podiatrist. My doctor is really a wonderful woman! I love her! Oh, my friend? She’s still smiling too.

Now, my question is: How can I persuade my doctor to prescribe a full day-spa treatment?

© by Sharon D. Dillon, September 22, 2011