April Fools

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Flash Fiction

APRIL FOOLS

     Today, crisp cool air mingles with a blazing sun as I leave my minuscule apartment on Lexington Ave. The weather has been dreary. This morning is glorious.

     I pull my long chestnut hair into a no-nonsense ponytail, walk and think about the other woman . Damn, I am better looking, appear tall for my height and young for my years.

     Around noon, I stop for lunch at a typical outdoor New York café; the tables are round and small; the metal chairs look uncomfortable, but are not once I sit.

     A waiter fills my water glass, and announces he is my server. The menu choices are unexpectedly appealing; fennel quiche, garlic soup, and more.

     I take time ordering.

     The man on my left, glances my way. His look lingers but reveals nothing, and leaves me questioning if I know him? The feeling we have met and cannot remember where, accompanies the exchange. His thick blond hair is sun streaked and he looks familiar, a little like a friend, Sam.

      Groomed brows frame his eyes. Carefully pressed gray slacks, and a wrinkle-free dress shirt complete his polished look, but I do not know him.

        I sit back to wait for my meal and people watch. New Yorker’s are something, a biker babe dressed in leather, pushes a doggie stroller. The dog wears goggles and rests his paws on the bar celebrity style. I laugh.

       The street is increasingly active as people walk and talk loud.  

        The waiter brings my order and the man who looks like Sam stares in my direction again, his eyes search everywhere. As the tables fill up, the man gives a knowing nod my way, and almost smiles. Although he is facing me, it is hard to tell if he is looking at me, or not.

     I refrain from turning my head to look behind hearing a couple seat themselves. They create quite a stir dragging empty chairs across the concrete and arranging shopping bags. I realize the man who looks like Sam is studying them.

     “Mind your own business,” says a voice in my head.  

     When the waiter takes my empty plate, I order a Cappuccino and the ‘Chocolate – Chocolate’ cake, and listen to the newly seated couple’s angry banter.

     The woman protests, “I didn’t make you come here, Victor, you agreed it was a favorite of ours.”

     “Eve, you’re the one who loved the menu, thought the food so nouveau or something?”

      Her voice rises. “You loved the zucchini mushroom quiche, and what about the gazpacho soup? You raved, said it was the best you’d ever had!”

     His reply is slow and deliberate. “No, you weren’t listening; I said the quiche was good if you like quiche. And the soup ‘the best’ Gestapo! I was being sarcastic.”

     He leaves the table saying, “I’ll be in the men’s room.”  

     I am  stunned.  His voice sounds like Victor’s? My Victor? 

     Look-A-Like Sam rushes to fill Victor’s empty seat, firing off questions that leave no room for a response. “What’s going on? You said you would be at here 12 o’clock, alone. Why did Victor come? Drama? Eve, you thrive on drama. I’ve had enough.”

      Now, I turn my head to see and watch. Coyly, Eve removes her Hollywood style sunglasses, checks her diamond wristwatch, leans forward, and whispers, “Oh, my, it is past noon, isn’t it. Victor’s golf was cancelled.”

    Playing with her blouse buttons she continues, “When he learned I was coming to the city, he said, he would come.”

     Shaking her head, she  continues, her eyes misty. “I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t persuade him otherwise. You know I’m married.”

     Look-A- like Sam laughs, “Do you think I’m a fool, Eve? There are other restaurants in this town! Why bring him here? There won’t be a next time.”

     He takes a twenty-dollar bill from his wallet, presses it in a nearby waiter’s hand, and leaves abruptly.

     Eve shouts after him, “Next time answer your cell, damn it!” As she tosses her hair back and adjusts her sun glasses.

     The husband returns. A tan complements his brown eyes, perfect Roman nose, and romantic lips. Approaching the table, his aloof expression becomes surprise, as our eyes meet.

     Victor sits down across from his wife, tucks in a cloth napkin and questions, “Who was that? You seem upset. Is everything alright?”

     Eve clears her throat, forces a smile, and explains, “Someone who goes to my gym. It’s nothing. I’m tired, and sorry. Sorry we had words.” She reaches across the table to take her husband’s hand, “Can we forget it?”

     Eve appears confident and why not? She is not his other woman.

     I linger to finish my ‘Chocolate-Chocolate’ cake, lick the remains of a raspberry garnish from the fork, and pay the bill.

   Stopping at the couple’s table when leaving, I say, “Victor, What a surprise to see you here . . . with . . . your wife? And move into the passing crowd.

. . . .  just saying

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Ridiculousness

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Aging & Attitude

Ridiculous, this is ridiculous; I am telling myself, stressed about baking chocolate chips cookies.

Really! Chocolate chip cookies! Have you eaten a home-baked chocolate chip cookie that was not delicious?

I am on a mission to bake my grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies and disappointed with the results.

Granny B’s cookies were more like a brownie, square in size , not chewy or gooey, just the right amount of crunch. As you can tell from the picture; not flat or crispy.

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The struggle for perfection is ridiculous, absolutely positively ridiculous.

My children, who I will be bringing them to, remember the cookies, but not the way I remember them; a special treat that accompanied a special woman wherever she went.

Remember special treats for special days. Some of us even enjoyed weekly special treats.

Ours was eating pizza in front of the television on Friday night. Pizza was tomato paste on English muffins with American cheese criss-crossed on the top. The television show was Seventy-Seven Sunset Strip. We snapped our fingers and mouthed the words to the signature song. Then mesmerized by Kooky combing his hair, and prayed he would lend me his comb.

No really, I am being ridiculous. The cookies I baked are practically almost exactly like hers.

I never watched her bake them, but asked for the recipe once. Her response was she followed the recipe on the back of Toll House package but added one teaspoon more water. In later years I pondered and pondered how an insignificant addition to a cookie recipe could produce nirvana , then recalled Granny B baked with Crisco.

Remember the movie, “The Help,” when Minny says to Celia, “The greatest invention since they put mayonnaise in a jar. You have a squeaky door hinge, Crisco. Bags under your eyes, gum in your hair, Crisco”?

I examined the Crisco can, and sure enough, when substituting Crisco for butter add one teaspoon  water.

Now the recipe is just right. Well not exactly, the taste is delicious. That is not the problem.  

The problem? The cookies are too thick and a tad too light in color.  

I get it, I am being ridiculous.

I have tried a 9 by 13 pan, too thick, and 15 by 10, too thin. One is too small; the other too big. It is possible a 9.5 by 14 pan will be just right. Unless I am being ridiculous.

. . . . just saying

The Silent Sound of Snow – Happiness Series

I really miss snow.

Family and friends remark, “Easy to say from Florida.”

They may be right; nevertheless, beautiful winter scenes created by the recent blizzard bring me happiness and serenity.

I found myself reciting Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by Woods on Snowy Evening.”

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Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

Poem by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Frost found words to express a feeling so special it has ownership. Not his, but one to be shared.

The line, the only other sound’s the sweep of easy wind and downy flake, sparked my poem;

 

Sounds of Snow

     by Claudiajustsaying

The sound of snow after falling
A quiet stillness penetrating crisp air
Listen intensely for snare drums not there

The howl of the wind mimics French horns
Stop in soft snow tracks
An acoustical silence alone

An absence of flurry
Close your eyes
Hear the gentle whispers of nature singing

Remember that sound after snow falling  . . . never there

. . . . just saying

The Short Straw Fix/ The Happiness Series

 

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The Short Straw Fix

I am smiling at least three times a day, complimenting others and hunting for opportunities to do a random act of kindness. All the same, I find myself still leaning on the horn when cutoff driving, grumbling if Mr. Wonderful corrects me, and ranting about short tubing in spray bottles.

You know how it goes, starts slowly with minor annoyance, a near empty spray bottle that sprays air instead of cleaner. I shake the bottle, hear the swishing sound of liquid, and then pump the spray to no avail.

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 Mr. Wonderful says, “It’s not empty, try tilting the bottle,”and takes the spray bottle from my hand.

Taking it back, unscrewing the sprayer, and putting my eye to the hole, I say, “I see liquid in the bottom.”

Now this is when the ranting starts. “Why do they do this? You don’t need to be a rocket scientists to know the tubing is too short. How much would it cost to make it a quarter inch longer? Everything is all about corporate profits, forget about customer stress and convenience. A person could have a heart attack trying to get it to spray and thinking about toxins.”

“Claudia, you paid a dollar for it at the dollar store, let it go, there aren’t any big profits. It’s probably a minuscule amount, throw it out and forget about it.”

I answer. “It’s wasteful! What’s wrong with these people? Haven’t they heard about global warming? We could reuse the plastic bottle if the spray worked right. I’m sure it’s more than a minuscule amount.” And grab a measuring cup from the cabinet to measure the exact amount. The liquid pours to the quarter cup line.

In a high pitched voice I say, “See more than you think,” feeling stressed.

Then a quest for happiness returns and I see Shawn Achor’s face and recall something he said in his Ted Lecture.

“Happy people view stress as a challenge.”

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Bang

Adopting an I’ll show you attitude, I grab a colored straw, unscrew the top and attach the straw to the tubing.

It is not perfect but it works better than ranting.

. . . . just saying

P.S. I had to trim the straw.

*Mr. Wonderful is my husband

Kayaking and The Speed of Thinking

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 The Not Getting Younger Series

Kayaking and Speed of Thinking

I was unfamiliar with the term speed of thinking until recently. I knew about the speed of lightning and speed-reading but not speed of thinking, and since I am not getting any younger, it grabbed my attention.

All my other body parts are slowing. Unpackaging a sinus tablet can be a lengthy process, and if invited to lunch, might decline if I have a doctor’s appointment the same day. Therefore, it makes sense that thinking be included in the group of what takes longer. After all, when asked the name of the actor in “The Bridges of Madison County,” you know the one who was in that movie about the French chef; I might respond Meryl Streep immediately . . . or the next day. Whether this is a short- term or long-term memory loss is debatable because I have been a Meryl Streep fan forever and instantly recalled her name when the movie, “It’s Complicated” was talked about recently.

Regardless, working memory is the phrase that feels comfortable to me. Although retired I want to keep some part of my brain working.

Minds Refined discusses basic facts of memory and aging, and defines four areas of cognition:

  • Attention (concentration)
  • Working memory (retention)
  • Long-term memory (recollection)
  • Information processing speed (quickness)

Evidently, these skills peak and start to decline early in life. Maridel Reyes says, “Once we hit our late twenties, the aging process begins and we begin losing neurons—the cells that make up the brain and nervous system. By our sixties, our brains have literally begun to shrink. Though these brain changes may sound a bit scary, the process is natural and it happens to everyone.”

“Sound a bit scary and natural!” Obviously, Maridel Reyes is younger than fifty, and has no clue. It does not feel natural to forget where you parked the car. Ask any Baby Boomer. 

However, she does present a good case for understanding that although I told Mr. Wonderful, my husband of forty-three years, I was playing Bunco with Claire on Tuesday; he forgot and purchased a Groupon Coupon to Kayak with Jimmy and Joanne. Then added insult to injury, saying he could not remember our conversation. I was thinking divorce. But apparently it is understandable, our brains are shrinking. So I applied her model to the event.

  • Attention . . . It was “The Masters” weekend. 
  • Working Memory . . . He’s never played Bunco.   
  • Long-term memory . . . He remembers playing Pinochle. 
  • Information processing speed . . . After viewing the offer “FOUR HOUR GUIDED KAYAK TRIP FOR TWO $35 ONE HOUR LEFT,” he hit buy now immediately. 

The good news is, although the aging process cannot be stopped; it can be slowed. We know that a healthy active lifestyle is important. “The key is attention. Attention is the gateway to memory. Memory is not automatic; if it were, our heads would be filled with all kinds of useless information. Rather, good memory takes effort and that effort is best applied by paying attention to what you want to remember.”

I can you hear my mother saying, “PAY ATTENTION! PAY ATTENTION!” As I inform Mr. Wonderful, I’m playing Bunco on Tuesday.

 

. . . . Just Saying

The Not Getting Younger Series/Understanding Nothing

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Understanding Nothing

      The local newspaper, “The News Journal,” informs readers of the number of days left in the year and quotes a notable person on a daily basis. I usually start my day reviewing these tidbits of information. Somehow, the number of days to the year’s end surprises me. Although I should know without checking, since I always look the day before. The quotes vary from familiar and meaningful to humorous and ridiculous.

     On a recent Wednesday, when there were 247 days left in the year, the quote  was by Edward Dahlberg. Initially I was amused and thought he made sense, then perplexed but eventually annoyed.

     Since I am not getting any younger and easily confused, I gave it more thought and made a list of the possibilities.

“It takes a long time to understand nothing.”
By Edward Dahlberg

      • You forgot what you thought you knew, and now understood nothing
      • You never knew enough to understand nothing
      • You are now old enough to understand nothing

     Who was this man giving me a headache? I went online feeling stupid, and searched for an explanation. There was none, but learned Dahlberg, who is frequently quoted, was an accomplished author during the early nineteen hundreds. His words were too obscure to others.

     Getting no satisfaction I turned to the dictionary for a tangible meaning of nothing. Evidently nothing can be a noun, something that is nonexistent or a verb, as in a trivial action. Perhaps I needed more time to think about nothing and went back to doing the laundry. 

     I went to sleep that night ruminating about understanding the absence of meaning in everything.

     On the “246 day left in the year” I awoke smitten with myself, and feeling smarter than Mr. Dahlberg. However, because I was still not getting younger, made a list of other interpretations of the quote, “It takes a long time to understand nothing.”

• Understanding nothing is pointless
• There is nothing to understand
• Move on quickly once you understand nothing

. . . . just saying

PS: Another Dahlberg quote: “Every decision you make is a mistake”

The Wonder of Kindness

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The Wonder of Kindness

I have been mumbling and grumbling about the sorry state of affairs the world is in. You know what I am talking about; Bill Cosby, NFL domestic abuse policy, Ferguson Mo., Republican idiotic-mess, and the final slip into insanity, Isis; who think nothing of cutting off heads.

What is wrong with these people? It is overwhelming and leaves me no energy for a decent rant. I worry too, that I am adapting an older person’s perspective; the world is coming to an end or a Chicken Little belief that the sky is falling.

Then I heard about “Wonder,” a book my ten-year old granddaughter is reading, that is so good she could not put it down, and read while walking home from the school bus stop. So I got the book, thinking we would start a Nana & Alexandria book club. “Wonder,” by R.J. Palacio, is a New York Times Best Seller and there was a wait for the book at my Library.

Book Summary: Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman, who was born with extreme facial abnormalities and was not expected to survive, goes from being home-schooled to entering fifth grade at a private middle school in Manhattan, which entails enduring the taunting and fear of his classmates as he struggles to be seen as just another student.

In this book, the heroes are kindness, courage, friendship, and character; the message about leadership and solving life problems. I could not but it down either.

The book even has a happy ending, when Mr. Tushman, the principal, gives the middle school address and quotes J.M. Barrie from book, “The Little White Bird.”

“Shall we make a new rule of life . . . always try to be a little kinder than necessary?”

Although I always make an effort to not be rude, and treat others the way I want to be treated, have forgotten to be kind and rarely, kinder than necessary.

The icing on the cake is when the Henry Word Beecher Medal is awarded to August Pullman. Mr.Tushman quotes Beecher defining greatness.

“Greatness, lies not in being strong, but in the right using of strength. . . He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts.”

Auggie gets a standing ovation as he accepts the medal. It is a feel good moment for the reader and food for thought, what is kindness?

Kindness is a step beyond polite. Kindness is compassion, consideration, benevolence, goodwill, cordial, gentle, generous, decent, charitableness, sympathy, sweetness, towards others. Kindness is a wonder.

Thank you to author R.J. Palacio for giving us hope.

. . . just saying

R.J. Palacio Web site

Summary & Characters “Wonder” 

An Irish Hand-Me Down

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Aging & Attitude

 Daily Prompt Clothes and toys, recipes and jokes, advice and prejudice: we all have to handle all sorts of hand-me-downs every day. Tell us about some of the meaningful hand-me-downs in your life

 

 An Irish Hand-Me Down

Smiles tell the story of joy and happiness in this Baptism picture. My Uncle is holding our six week old son, and my seventy-five year old grandmother, Gertrude, is clutching her purse. Judith Andrea, my sister and baby’s Godmother, is behind them.

It is the best picture I can find of the dress.

My mother, Patricia DeSalvo Boylhart and her sister, Carol DeSalvo Connolly were Christened in it, as well as seven siblings and myself. My son was the first of many grandchildren and great-grandchildren to wear the hand me down.

There is history in this dress.

Still in our possession, it was handmade by my mother’s mother, Mary Ellen Doherty DeSalvo. The fabric is  Batiste (Fine Cotton) and  Irish lace,  that her mother; Myra O’Rourke Doherty, brought from Ireland.
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The bodice is hand embroidered, and the seams French to prevent fraying and unraveling. My memory says it is similar to the pictures below.

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The mock neckline has no collar and the back is open to allow dressing over the infants head. Numerous round mother of pearl buttons sewn along the passage await to be fastened by silk thread eye loops. I recall a decision to leave the top buttons unfastened, hoping my son would not cry. The dress is sheer, and a full-length slip underneath  necessary to hide cloth diapers and mandatory plastic rubber pants of early times. It is a delicate dress and has always been hand washed, rolled in a towel, and then laid out to air-dry.

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Katherine Boylhart Ferreira, my sister Abigail’s daughter, was the last child to be christened in the dress in 2006.

I am traveling North soon and hopefully can take a picture of the actual dress that is more than a hand me down.

. . . just saying

 

 

 

The End of Summer

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The End of Summer

In Florida, the hot summer days never cease. The temperature does not drop; the leaves fade; never glory in red, yellow, and orange changes. The median temperature, eighty-eight, in June, July and August varies only one degree in September, but the days grow shorter.

The end of summer is an event in my mind, attended by memories and strong scents; long idle days accompanied by the excitement of new beginnings, school.

We did not mind summer heat on Long Island. We lived in a Levitt house and felt lucky to have a community pool, which we walked to daily, for 9AM swimming lessons. Learning to swim was a safety issue. The instructor taught the sidestroke saying, “Imagine picking an apple from a tree, put it in your opposite hand, and then reach for another apple,” which we practiced lying on the cement. Once in the pool, a magic scissor kick produced a glide through the water.

 Next, we learned the Australian crawl, holding on pool side. We blew bubbles, our face in the water, we then turn our mouth to the side and gasped for air. The breathing technique was essential  to mastering the crawl, or freestyle as it is known today.

At Lunch time we walked home to eat sandwiches of peanut butter & jelly, or baloney on Wonder bread. Occasionally, lunch was a tuna fish sandwich or tomato soup. After a rest, sitting on the living room couch in the dark, we walked backed to the pool for open swim.

Mornings off from swimming lessons, I met my friend, Vicki Love, under the Weeping Willow tree in her yard. We played Gin Rummy until lunch.

As I grew older, the summer felt shorter although the calendar said the number of days for summer vacation stayed the same.

Even though summer ended, school was beginning.

I loved school, the smell of pencil shavings, blackboard dust, leather school bags, and white shoe polish.

 My leather school bag was a birthday gift from my grandmother, not a hand-me down. Brand clean with an adjustable lock flap that expanded effortlessly when the bag was very full. The frame kept the bag open while I search inside for homework or an eraser.

Florida’s summer does not come to an end. The leaves do not change, although, the nights are slightly cooler and the days shorter. The end of summer is an event in my mind. 

 

. . . just saying

 

Wrinkles & Prunes

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A writing prompt from WordPress:

You wake up one day and realize you’re ten years older than you were the previous night. Beyond the initial shock, how does this development change your life plans?

Wrinkles and Prunes

May Dillard wakes to the sound of a bird chirp coming from her smart phone. A birthday text message appears from her daughter, Melissa, saying, “Happy 76th! You’re the Best.” May is surprised by the time, 9AM, and cannot remember the last time she slept this late. She stretches, flutters her feet to get blood circulating, and thinks, I’m not seventy-six, although I feel ten years older this morning. I am sixty-six.

In the bathroom, she lets the hot water run cold while she brushes her teeth, then washes and cleanses her face once the water is warm. The mirror reflects a ten year older version of her. The famous quote, “Old age is not for wimps!” ping-pongs in her mind. She says aloud, “I’m sixty-six today. I was born November 1st, 1948. Today is November 1st 2014, I’m sixty-six.”

Yesterday’s newspaper touted the benefits of coffee and May brews a pot. Anticipating the aroma, she walks to the front door and retrieves today’s newspaper. She removes the plastic sleeve and spreads the paper open on the kitchen table. The headline, “School Board Candidate Borrows Answers” is bold. Evidently, a member had copied and pasted information from Wikipedia onto their application form,and the media considers it cheating.

The date on the newspaper is November 1, 2024.

She had gone to sleep in 2014.

May retrieves a pair of  eyeglasses from her handbag to check the year. It reads 2024 clearly; aging her ten years. She searches the recycling bin and finds a paper dated October 31, 2024, but no story on the benefits of coffee. She recalls the article’s title, “Coffee’s surprising perks,” and the writers visit to the annual Convention of the Hawaii Coffee Association in the year 2014.

It is possible she slipped off the toilet and hit her head last night, as Hillary Clinton did in 2011 or could not remember due to a stroke or amnesia.

The phone rings, really it is a whistle to announce a call. She answers. Her sister Judy sings Happy Birthday. Then says, “God how did we get so old, in four years you’ll be eighty. We’ll have to do something special, like climb Mt. Everest, LOL.”

They chat freely, Judy doing most of the talking and May pretending to be ten years older than she believes. Later, the family gathers to celebrate and May blows out the chunky seven and six numbered candles that decorated an ice cream cake.

That evening she fears sleep, afraid she will wake another ten years older.

Well, she would still be alive. If life expectancy was eighty-one, she had five more good years. She was going to make the best of them.

There would be some changes..

Saturday morning May is packing when her daughter arrives. 

Melissa asks, “Mom, what are you doing?”

May struggles to an upright position and straightens her back and shoulders with a smile, “I’m going on the road. Do you need a vacuum? In five years I won’t be vacuuming.”

“Mom what are you talking about?”

“I making some changes, selling the house, traveling to all the places I haven’t been to. If you don’t want the vacuum I’ll donate it. How about a Crock Pot? They’re real convenient for one pot meals. On second thought I think I’ll take that with me.”

                                      . . . just saying