Natural Causes

I cringe every time I hear a newscaster report that a celebrity or person of note died of natural causes. What the heck are natural causes? Natural causes are what get me out of bed every morning. While I’m getting in motion for the day my lungs breathe and filter air, my heart beats sending my blood throughout my body. I don’t think about doing those things. They just happen . . . they are natural . . . dare I say “natural causes”? Some natural causes seem much more familiar in the morning, such as that urgent message from my bladdar. We all know that message and the older I get, the more urgent the message.


Literature tells us that through meditation and other sacred practices, we can learn to lower our blood pressure and slow down our respiration. If we lower those two things a teensy bit too far, then I suppose we will die of natural causes. However, I have yet to hear that an older person died while doing Bikram yoga which could very well be the ticket to the beyond since Bikram requires a hot room and copious sweating by participants. “The [dearly-departed-celebrity] died yesterday from complications of Bikram yoga. Apparently exercising in a 90-degree room was just too much heat for a 90-year-old body.”

elderly yoga

Personally, I would be much more inclined to die while engaged in Restorative yoga, described here from  Restorative yoga is a delicious way to relax and soothe frayed nerves. Also described as yin yoga, restorative classes use bolsters, blankets, and blocks to prop students into passive poses so the body can experience the benefits of a pose without having to exert any effort. A good restorative class is more rejuvenating than a nap. Studios and gyms often offer them on Friday nights, when just about everyone could use some profound rest.


OM-double-G   A class where I can be draped over a bolster and covered with a blanket for a nap! Why would I, a nearly 72 year-old person ever want to wake from that option? I can hear it now: “Jane Watkins, a 72 year old woman from Lakeland, Florida was discovered dead in mid-pose in the Heavenly Yoga studio. She relaxed so deeply she just refused to wake up.” Wouldn’t that be more interesting than saying that she died in a yoga studio of natural causes.

The odds of my death being report live anywhere are weeny. Only my family would mourn, after laughing themselves silly over the antics of the coroner to straighten me out from that bolster pose onto to a more suitable gurney pose. I have promised to haunt anyone who describes my death as natural causes. I will also haunt anyone who sings or plays I Come to the Garden at my memorial.  I would much prefer The Byrds singing Turn, Turn, Turn, although I’m betting that like many 60’s bands, this band is mostly dead from truly unnatural causes.


So I will hereby offer some potential and approved lines to announce my death:

  1. Jane did NOT die from natural causes; she died from complications of old age.
  2. Jane died from the effects of being overjoyed by the sight of her grandchildren.
  3. Jane died from her widely-know devotion to Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. nb,  please don’t emphasis the word “widely” in the above.
  4. Jane died to allow the ultimate minimizing of her possessions, i.e. You can’t take it with you.
  5. If Bob predeceases me, this might work: Jane passed away to chase after Bob and make sure he was taking good care of himself. At her request, the coffin was filled with Snickers.

Regarding a tombstone, please engrave:

Jane Watkins, She told us she was sick.


If you have read this far, leave me a comment if you wish about your own one-line obit. I may blog a bit more about reasons to change obits. I would first seek your permission and would be tickled to mask your identity with such names as Elmer or Mabel if you want oldies, Chip and Buffy if you’re feeling whimsical, or just plain Bob and Jane , using your own name.

Today I wish for all my kind readers, a happy life just long enough to outlast natural causes.

The Real Jane and Michael Banks

Way back before Julie Andrews was the ingénue cast as Mary Poppins, my mother bought me a Little Golden Book all about that magical governess. The best part, which was a surprise to my mother, was that the children in her care were Jane and Michael Banks. Seriously. I was Jane Banks! I’m sure I scoffed just as any self-respecting five year old would at Mary Poppins, a vanilla-laced imposter. I felt even more peevish about this since my uncle, only one year my senior at a grown-up six years of age, was Michael Banks. If I’d been versed in Shakespeare at the pre-K level, I might have even said to the fictional Mike Banks “I bite my thumb at you, sir.” My Mike was much more daring-do than the Casper Milky Toast entrusted to dear Ms. Poppins. Let’s just say Mary would have had her hands full with the two of us: the REAL Jane and Michael Banks.

In addition to feeling some sense of identity theft by these imposters, I found myself with an additional sense of smug superiority. You see, we didn’t have Mary Poppins. We had something even better. We had Aunt Ruby.

Aunt Ruby was my aunt and Mike’s older sister. When my grandmother, Mike’s mother, died (are you confused yet?) the two youngest boys went to live with their sister Ruby. As a child that seemed like the most natural thing in the world; as an adult, I look back on Ruby with awe. I try to imagine me with my own six year old son taking in two more boys, ages 4 and 6. That’s a tribe! Uncle Wayne ran an automobile repair shop while Aunt Ruby stayed home riding herd on her active threesome. When her son Gary and her little brother Ed went off to school, Aunt Ruby babysat me while she kept tabs on Mike.

I’m not sure why this is so, but everything seems so much more exotic at someone else’s house. Aunt Ruby was no exception. She had the largest houseplants I’d ever seen. I’m not sure now what species or phylum they belonged to, but her living room looked like a sofa and coffee table located in an equatorial jungle. Her front yard grew elephant ears whose leaves Mike and I wore like hats. We would prance our leaf-bedecked bodies around the huge yard which in actuality was barely bigger than a postage stamp. Never once did we get reprimanded for picking the leaves off the elephant ears or picking flowers for Ruby to put in a jelly jar in the window sill.

Aunt Ruby had an inside-dog. That alone seemed miraculous to the five-year-old me whose dog Peppy, acquired after much begging and crying, was relegated to the outdoors. Tuffy was as fierce as he was flatulent. When Aunt Ruby exclaimed “Tuffy!” with that certain tone in her voice, we knew that a greenish foul fog was about to enter our nostrils. We quickly joined in that game, screaming “Tuffy!” every time that unimaginable, distinct odor presented itself. The exclamation was followed by gales of uninhibited laughter. Then I would look at Mike and he at me with even more laughter ensuing. We would laugh until we fell on the floor rolling with glee.

Our favorite pastime was pushing the couch out from the wall, removing the seat pillows and building a fort. We would hide behind our upholstered fort peeking out occasionally to look for cowboys, cavalrymen, and Indians. This was long-before Indians were Native Americans or even First Nation people. We dodged many a bullet and arrow with corduroy couch cushions. We told ghost stories to each other of the five-year-old variety about spiders, bloody wounds, and monsters. We weren’t sure what monsters looked like but we were sure they existed. We hatched many a plot for the afternoon’s play behind that couch and occasionally fell asleep snuggled together, giggling and whispering.

Aunt Ruby was famous for her banana pudding, heaping with golden brown meringue. This dessert is an art form in the Great Smoky Mountains where she was born and raised. She learned her cooking skills at her mother’s side in a dirt-floored cabin at the base of Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi. In addition to banana pudding, she learned to craft biscuits, grits, ham hocks and beans, and other southern fare using no measurements other than the discriminating eyeball. When asked how to cook one of her dishes, the recipe would contain measurements like a little dab of butter, a small scoop of sugar, a mound of flour, a handful of grits and so forth. When she died on a crisp fall day in 1983 she took those recipes with her.

Even though we were surrounded with a spread that could sit proudly on a table in Southern Living magazine, our favorite food was Aunt Ruby’s mustard sandwich. I’m almost positive that this was something Mike invented and to this day I salivate at the thought of it. This delicacy consisted of two pieces of white Wonder Bread with a thick layer of mustard within. That’s it. Yup. We took a plate of mustard sandwiches behind the living room fort and winced with every delicious bite. When I requested this dish at home, my mother looked at me with unabashed shock and denied me that treat proclaiming the total lack of protein. I loved my mother and I understand this today; I also remember the joy of having an aunt that never-ever gave me any looks that didn’t have a smile incorporated into them.

When we were older, Mike and I spent hot, humid summer days riding our bikes around the neighborhood. My bike spokes were sexy, bedecked with my mother’s donated plastic pop-beads. Mike attached Uncle Wayne’s playing cards (with naked ladies on them) to our bike spokes with Aunt Ruby’s clothespins “borrowed” right out of the handy bag hanging on the backyard line. We would ride as fast as our legs could pump a one-speed bike, wind blowing our red hair, all the way to the railroad tracks. Once there we would wait for a train to come, all the while Mike demonstrating his superior trainspotting abilities by putting his hand on the rail to feel for vibrations and even putting his ear to the rail for a more discriminating guess. (As a parent and grandparent I shudder at the thought of these escapades.) When we knew the train was close by, we would carefully place a penny or two on the rails for the train to flatten. When the man in the caboose gave a parting wave, we would rush to the tracks and pick up the paper thin pennies, still nearly too hot to hold.

One day, while lounging near the tracks, a ‘53 Chevrolet convertible bursting at the seams with teenagers drove up to the tracks and stopped at the crossing. Observing us standing with our bikes, pennies in hand, one of them shouted, “I’d rather be dead than red on the head!” They all laughed and sped off, spitting gravel and humiliation in our paths. That was the last time we ever put a penny on the tracks; that was the first time I realized that children weren’t the only mean people in our world.

Our other summer adventures seem so Pleasantville today that I can hardly imagine they happened, but I suppose this was the joy of living in the fifties . . . the “happy days.” A tiny store existed smack in the middle of a neighborhood, Robinson’s Market, a precursor of today’s convenience store. I can’t imagine how anyone could make a living with this store. I suppose it catered to those last minute emergencies like milk, eggs, butter, flour, sugar, and so forth. A tiny produce section ran down the side of the store and a small dairy cooler hummed in the back. Just a small section of shelves held canned goods. But the thing that called us to Robinson’s Market, which we always just called “The Little Store,” was the candy counter, the centerpiece in the front of the store. The cash register perched on a tiny counter was positioned next to this curved glass display case, full of penny candy. We would buzz to the little store, playing cards rattling against our bike spokes. We clutched our meager funds, pennies and nickels, in our fists while we bought the usual: those little wax bottles with syrup inside . . . paper dotz . . . candy lips . . . and the forbidden candy cigarettes with that sinister glow on the end. I often wonder how much wax and calculator paper we ingested in the name of penny candy!

Occasionally Mike and I would take our bikes and go to another location, Dodd’s Bakery, located in the Englewood shopping district, just blocks west of the Temple complex. Of course back then it was just the Auditorium and Englewood was a bustling shopping district serviced by a trolley line. Dodd’s Bakery was on the corner. It too had a large glass case full of cookies and confections. But these were out of our budget. How could we spend ten cents on a cookie when a dime would buy all those little wax bottles and paper dotz? So we just stood out on the sidewalk, noses pressed to the glass, looking inside. Eventually Mr. Dodd would see us and he would leave his position within the store and walk out to the sidewalk. I always thought he was a rather imposing character: tall and thin (how?) with angular features, gray hair, peeping out of a white paper hat, and a frown on his face. He always wore a white tee-shirt, white pants, and a white flour-crusted apron. He would look appraisingly at us and then say, “Well, would ya like a cookie?” We would nod, too fearful to speak up. He would retreat back into the bakery and bring us each a sugar cookie wrapped in baker’s paper. We would thank him as he went back inside and eat the cookie right there, on the spot. After all, how can you eat a cookie while holding handlebars?

After we brushed the sugar cookie crumbs off of our clothes, we would amble down the sidewalk a couple of doors to Land’s Barber Shop. Again we pressed our noses to the glass and watched Mr. Land cutting hair. He was fascinating to watch, not so much for his haircutting but how he maneuvered around the chair. He had one shoe with a very high built-up sole. Even though he still had a bit of limp, it was impressive to watch how gracefully he worked the room. I wish I had at least once told him how much we admired him. He probably thought we considered him a bit of a freak show; actually he seemed like a superhero to us.

When we felt especially lazy, we just found a shady spot to sit and while away the days. We sat under the privacy of willow trees. We scoured the neighborhood for honey locust tree pods. We would take the hard brown seeds out of the pod and rub them furiously on the sidewalk and then touch our skin to feel the heat. We would pick milkweed and eat it, assuming that since it had the word “milk” surely it was edible. We made fantastic leis of clover to wrap around our necks and ankles. We stood together in the long wait for the ice cream truck which we called “the popsicle man.”

We found baby birds and put them in a shoebox with grass. They always died in spite of our ministrations and childlike prayers. We caught grasshoppers and worms and poured salt on slugs. We observed anthills and spiders building webs to catch tasty insects for lunch. We ate our picnic lunch under shade trees drinking Kool-Aid out of colorful aluminum glasses that dripped sweat in the summer heat. And best of all, we sat all day watching the crew tear up our road, grade it, steamroll it and then put down shiny sticky tar covered with small white gravel that clicked and clunked for days when my parents went out in the car.

When the hazy, muggy days gave way to the violet hues of twilight, we joined the neighborhood kids in the long strip of back yards that joined together without the benefit of fencing. We played Red Light Green Light, Mother May I? and kicked the can, running as fast as our bicycle-tired legs would take us, hiding in bushes and around the corners of the detached garages that perched like dominoes every couple-hundred feet. Breathless, we would wait for our turn to be caught or to gather the courage to break for it and run pell-mell for “home” and the joy of kicking that old tin can.

When no organized games were in process, we would chase fireflies which we always called “lightening bugs.” We would place them gently in a Miracle Whip jar with grass on the bottom. Mike, who was always good with tools, would punch holes in the jar lid using a hammer and screw driver. I would go to sleep that night with the flashes of fireflies lighting up my room. I remember one special time when Mike smeared the flashing part of the bug’s abdomen on my ring finger. The bug died and the remnants did not flash, but rather emitted a steady emerald glow. Mike said, “There, Janie. Now you have a ring like Queen Elizabeth.” I was thrilled. We knew nothing of bioluminescence; to us, they were enchanted. It all sounds too idyllic and indeed it was.

I’m sure this is more than enough tales from the fort of the real Jane and Michael Banks for the reader to understand how enchanting our childhoods were in those lazy days. I look back today with joy and some wistfulness because my sweet playmate, the real Michael Banks, was put to rest in September of 2015 at age 69. His body, riddled with leukemia and diabetes and powered with a weak diseased heart—like those baby birds—finally gave up the fight. Never once did he say a harsh word to me; never once did he lose his temper in front of me; never once did that smile leave his face. He was really and truly supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I will love him always and cherish memories of the years we shared as children as well as the few and far between times during our adult years.

If only I could crawl behind the sofa one more time to share a mustard sandwich with Michael Banks. If only . . . .

Grandsons of Anarchy

Sometimes I mull over a topic for a long spell before putting it to print. At other times, things just arrive as a gift, something that just begs to be told or shared. Usually, in my particular life, it is things of humor. Such was the following picture.

Grandsons of Anarchy?

My dear grand, Jordan, wants me to keep every ring from every cupcake that he enjoys at my house. My daughter says that only a grandmother would harbor such things, but I do have a spot in a utility drawer where I drop these little plastic rings. Last weekend, when he discovered that I had all these rings, he just HAD to put them all on. That’s when the laugh caught me: he looked like a member of the Sons of Anarchy!

The ever-sexy Jax Teller (played by Charlie Hunnam) wearing those rings! (Not off cupcakes I’ll betcha.)

I sent the picture to his mother, entitled GRANDONS OF ANARCHY. As seems to be our pattern these days, we find something of interest on Netflix and just grab hold. We have become a family of binge-watchers. First it was Dexter, then it was West Wing and now we have been knee deep in Sons of Anarchy. It is such a delicious blend of crime and family, plus a lot of sexy-time. Sort of like The Sopranos on motorcycles. The actor who plays “Tigger,” Kim Coates, was asked to describe the series in 30 seconds. He said something like, “Hug, shoot, drink, make love, hug, shoot, drink, make love . . . .“ Well, you get the picture. If you have watched the series you will understand the allure of riding a motorcycle at 90 miles an hour and having the connection of a deep family relationship with others. Yet the series is a painful one to watch since it seems to me to be all about the unraveling of the family and the SAMCRO legacy. (SAMCRO is the acronym for Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original.)

The SAMCRO gang in all their glory.

Also, like the Sopranos, you find yourself liking the characters, while at the same time reminding yourself regularly that they are hooligans.  Okay. They are more than hooligans and thugs . . . they are murderous criminals with a penchant for revenge. They have created a unique family that sticks together and supports each other, usually in supportive ways often lacking in real family relationships.

Perhaps looking at a definition of the word “anarchy” will be helpful. Try this on for size:

a state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of authority

What grandchild wouldn’t want to ignore authority? And what grandparent finds himself or herself relinquishing much of the power that s/he asserted as a parent? Deep down inside we know that the same rules of order should apply to grandchildren, we find ourselves thinking that it is OK to spoil and surrender to our grandkids and let mom and/or dad fix things. (This we think with a snicker bordering on an out-and-out buh-wah-ha-ha.)

There's this . . .
There’s this . . .
 . . . and this . . .
. . . and this . . .
. . . and This!
. . . and This!

Although my grandson is not a murderous criminal—unless a spider or beetle is in the hood—he does have a well-defined moral compass. In fact, I have teasingly called him “MC” to his mother, for Moral Compass of course. If I blurt anything stronger than a shucks or dog gone it, he is quick to say, “OOOOHHHH! Gigi, that’s a bad word!” Because he is so unusually intelligent (as are all grandchildren), he doesn’t follow this with “You can’t say that word.” He follows with this: “If you can say that, then I can say that too!” Oh whoopee. Please don’t tell mommy! (“Guess what Gigi said today?”)

If you have watched this series, you might feel creeped out or just downright offended that I would or could compare my dear little grand to “the Sons.” But there are some definite similarities beyond the crime and Mayhem. Jordan loves his mommy at least as much as Jax Teller loved his. Jordan’s mommy, however, is a much kinder and much-much less conniving version of motherhood. Like Jax, Jordan feels somewhat entitled. To what? To everything! The world is his oyster . . . or at least the toy aisle at Target is such. He has a well-honed need for revenge. If you don’t believe this, just eat the last cupcake and see the madness and mayhem that result. He loves tattoos . . . fortunately his wash off at the end of the day.

The obligatory tattoo
The obligatory tattoo
Not my granson, thank goodness. The littlest hood? Check out the chest hair on that tee!
Not my granson, thank goodness. The littlest hood? Check out the chest hair on that tee!
So maybe the real lesson here is to guide and direct, teach and redirect, love and discipline, reward and accept these grands so they will grow up to be doctors, lawyers, merchants and chiefs . . . rather than sons of anarchy who prefer lawlessness and revenge to peace and justice. May our generation of grandchildren lead us all into the peaceful kingdom. Amen and amen.

My Tee Shirts Are Zen!

Who could have dreamed this? Someone has found yet another way to organize one’s clothes. I’ve read all those sage admonitions for years. You know the ones . . . the advice for clearing out the closet. There is this one: take out anything that you haven’t worn in a year and give away. There is this handy little system for identifying the offenders: On January 1, turn all your hangers backwards. Then, as each item is used, return it with the hanger facing the “usual” way . . . at the end of the year, just sweep up everything with a backwards hanger and cast them away, like yesterday’s garbage.

I must admit, I have distaste for that method. Who knows when I might suddenly want (need?) something that flew out the door on December 31. Besides, I can think of much better things to do on December 31 and January 1 than declutter my closet.

Bob and Jane’s preferred activity on December 31 into January 1

However, since confession is good for the soul (who said that?), I must come clean that my closet is overcrowded. I do hang things by color and type, but hanging them involves an nimble squeeze play. It is not for want of rod space. I have a good amount of hanging room. My theory is this: clothes will mate and reproduce until that space is full, giving birth to extra shirts, jeans, tees, slacks and the occasional dress. So what gives that is new under the sun?

Marie Kondo, undaunted by a client’s closet

Ms. Marie Kondo, an organizing expert from Japan, is taking the closet by storm. Her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, arrives this month in the United States and is already a best seller in her native Japan and Europe. Rather than espousing a philosophy of 1) do you need it? 2) have you worn it in a year? 3) does it fit? 4) does it flatter? She has a unique perspective on the process of winnowing the burgeoning closet. Does it give you joy?

Really? Does it give me joy? I’m suddenly acutely aware of all the clothes hanging in my closet. They look suddenly drab and well, joyless. Her technique involves taking down each item, holding it in your hands, thanking it for its tireless service to you, and then deciding what I will term “the joy factor.” She writes, “Don’t just open up your closet and decide after a cursory glance that everything in it gives you a thrill. You must take each outfit in your hand.”

“Does it spark joy?” This seems unnecessarily effusive for my tee shirts and worn-to-comfort jeans. Although I can say that my Broncos tees do spark joy in me, especially the Bronco-orange Peyton Manning tee. But what about all those other back-up clothes? Shirts with a teensy hole here and a subtle rip there.  Joyless, by gosh! Gone! But, not without my caress and whisper of thanks for the hard work provided (to say the least of the coverage). Truthfully, I am projecting since I have not yet gone into the dreaded realm of the walk-in closet and performed the inspecting, sorting and discarding that remains to be done.

However . . .  and this is a big HOWEVER . . . as a skeptic I decided to put at least one of Ms. Kondo’s suggestions into practice. After all, how do I know that she is not just a phony-baloney lady who has figured out how to write today’s best seller? As a born and bred Missourian, I claim my birthright from The Show Me State. So, I tried her technique for tee-shirts. Rather than folding them flat, she suggests folding them into a long rectangle, folding that rectangle over into an even skinnier rectangle, folding that in half and then rolling the shirt up. I have long been a practitioner of rolling my clothes to put in suitcases after I discovered that this procedure results in the traveler arriving with clothes that are very minimally wrinkled or not wrinkled at all. I just never dreamed of passing this along to my dresser drawers.

I took out all the solid colored tees in the drawer and proceeded to roll them up, Kondo-style. (Do not confuse this with Gangnam-style, also popularized by an Asian personality but involving considerably more athleticism than folding tee shirts).


I was astonished by two things. First, I could see every color of shirt without lifting up the stacks. Second, I could actually get another four or five shirts in the drawer (which probably would sound like fingernails on a chalkboard to Ms. Kondo).

Behold the before and after:

Kondo 2
Ruffled stacks as I search for a color
Kondo 1
Tee shirts before
Kondo 3
After! Shocking! Space for more and more . . .

Another factor to consider is that when I pulled a shirt from deep within the pile, it would toss the entire drawer in disarray. And of course the point in all this is to become more Zen by ridding our lives of disarray. She states, “When we take our clothes in our hands and fold them neatly, we are, I believe, transmitting energy, which has a positive effect on our clothes.” No wonder I have felt so glum for the past couple of years. My clothes have been feeling miserable. I had no idea. And this pain that I have inflicted on my clothes is not limited to those overstuffed drawers.

There is the sad comment about socks. This is the icing on the clothing cake. Kondo’s theory involves gently laying socks in the drawer to await their next call to duty. Her notion is that they have worked extra hard for you and when they are in the drawer they are “on holiday.” So wadding them up in balls and tossing them into the drawer is merely your rude slight to the fact that they have literally and figuratively walked a mile in your shoes. At least. So why put them into contortions on their much deserved vaca from your smelly feet.

Socks 001
My sad, miserable, mistreated sockis

When it comes to the closet, one should hang everything that begs to hang, arranging from left to right, with dark clothes leading the pack. Similar things should hang side-by-side . . . or else more unhappy clothes!  She goes on to say, “Clothes, like people, can relax more freely when in the company of others who are very similar in type and therefore organizing them by category helps them feel more comfortable and secure.” Having not yet attempted to release my closeted clothes from their current prison, I can only wonder about their lack of security. It will be hard to sleep tonight knowing that my clothes are frightened and yearning for the company of like comrades.

This blog is a “To Be Continued” effort, since I will take on the challenge to purge my closet. I may even find myself rejoicing Gangnam-style when I have released all that pent up and crowded joy that hangs in my walk-in. So go roll your tee shirts . . . and report back! Lives can be changed. Peace and calm can prevail. Clothes can finally rest in much-anticipated secure comfort. Oh! And don’t forget to thank them.

You know you want to do this . . . .




That’s this blog. It is enough to curl your toes. Fry your brain. Crimp your resolve. Its roots go deep into our psyches . . . and it ends with . . . well, it ends with split ends. Yes, dear reader. This is about home permanents.

Who on earth invented these? And why-oh-why did they ever call them permanents? Any woman who has ever suffered through these will tell you that home perms are actually “home temps.” Enough said. Every woman was deluded into thinking that she could achieve beauty shop results with this box of chemicals. What we dreamed about and the reality of the “do” is nicely illustrated below.

Better yet, which twin is Lily Tomlin’s mother?


I’ve alluded more than once to my mother’s proclivity for the Miss Toni permanents that she forced upon me during my grade school years. THE formative years, I might add. No wonder. This explains a lot about my growing up into an unsure woman, always paranoid about my looks. Too fat, too freckled, too toothy, too red-haired, too brown-eyed all the way to not enough eyelashes, not enough neck, not enough boobs (the early years anyway), not enough, not enough, not enough. And I lay it all at the altar of the dreaded, punitive Miss Toni. In researching for this blog, I discovered that I have mistakenly called this “Miss Toni” when it was actually a “Tonette” perm . . . which was a kid’s version of the adult “Toni” perm. It sat on the shelf next to the Party Curl and the Richard Hudnet (a cousin to Richard Wingnut).


Tonette sounds French, oui? Or perhaps like a member of a backup group for the Shirelles. French, my eye! If anything, I felt tribal in an African-sort of way. And speaking of international issues, another finding during my research phase is the realization that this trend was not limited to the United States. Behold the product from the Land Down Under!


Curly Pet? Really? And I thought Tonette was demeaning. My mother, who actually had a diploma from beauty school, deserves my forgiveness. After all, she was only trying to get me to look more like Shirley Temple. I think the only term that could describe my transformation into a Shirley Temple look-alike could be epic failure. The Terri Lee doll that was so popular in the Fifties had a mop of curls and could get a new perm right alongside her “mommy.” Of course I had a Terri Lee. I suppose this was also intended to make the child feel more inclined to “lean in” to the permanent (thank you, Sheryl Sandberg, although this is probably nowhere in your best-seller). But the perms persisted.

How much did mom pay that boy to be in that picture with all those Terri Lee dolls?

Hope dies hard in the hearts of mothers who are hoping to mold their unlikely daughters into beauty queens. One advantage: I am easily spotted in all my grade school pictures. I was usually one of the tallest kids in class AND I had that mop of hair. [Yes, Mother. Wherever you are, I forgive you. Sort of.]


In addition to the hair, my mother bought clothes for me called “Chubbies” and “Chubbettes,” another a la Francaise attempt to put glitter on a turd. (Phrase I’m borrowing from my daughter since it truly describes this like nothing else I can dream up.) This would be another entire blog.

Chubettes                  Chubbies

Truthfully, I’m not sure how I can even hold my mother mildly accountable when I perpetuated the torture by giving my daughter a home perm right before Junior Camp at Romoca (campground located in Palmer Lake, Colorado). She was angry and humiliated, with good reason. Her head was the size of a regulation basketball with all that fluff flying out from the roots. She reluctantly went to camp, knowing she would be the target of a number of jokes, many of those revolving around disparaging comments regarding the Fiji Islands. She was even more distressed when she discovered that the president of our church (Wallace B. Smith) would be paying a visit to the camp. Stacy still claims to be scarred from this entire debacle.

1989, The Summer of Her Discontent. Pictured with her sleek-haired cousins, Amy and Tyler
Stacy’s First Permanent (and my nomination for 1983 Mommie Dearest)

One final note. I seem to be an equal opportunity family member. “Back in the day” when Bob and I were newly married, everyone-but-everyone wanted an Afro hair-do. Bob and I were no exception to that cultural nuance and both succumbed to the chemical home perms to achieve the look. A canny friend (who was herself a beautician) gave Bob a perm and thoughtfully (tee-hee) took his picture which she presented in a sweet little frame. She gave me a perm as well.

You know this is a beautician’s house by the handy broom. Thanks, Sue Cox!

If the family that perms together stays together has merit, then we are the poster children. After forty years, I believe I can state with some certainty that Bob and I are permanent, like peanut butter and jelly, England and the Beatles, love and kisses, and of course, glamour and Tonette. Sigh. Those WERE the good old days, huh sweetheart?

Foo Manchu and his favorite squeeze

Doppelgängers:  A Matter of National Security?

First, I offer this disclaimer. By putting “national security” in the title of this blog, I wonder briefly if this will land me and my blog on the Homeland Security Watch List. The thought of someone watching me seems quite titillating, especially if that person looks like James Bond (Sean Connery, of course—the one true Bond) or Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. Truthfully, at my advanced age I would be honored if the current Sean Connery was stalking me. Let’s face it. Like a fine wine, he has aged well. Not that I have much experience with aged wine. Or fine wine, for that matter. (Mental note: take up wine tasting as a retirement hobby.)

Sean . . . then
Sean . . . now!

If the CIA or FBI takes an interest in watching me, we are truly in trouble as a nation. So, what is my concern about doppelgängers? I must admit that I had not heard the term “doppelgänger” until I saw an episode based on them on How I Met Your Mother.

Here is a Websterian-style definition of doppelgänger:

an apparition or double of a living person.

Sometimes we refer to this as an evil twin or body double or alter ego. I really like the word doppelgänger because it is a long verbose word (see my blog on June 1, 2014, Words, Sweet Words) AND it has that sexy ä in the middle. In the plot lines of How I Met Your Mother, over the years the five main characters had all spied doppelgängers of each other . . . at least of four of the five. Barney remained elusive and when they did feel they found his doppelgänger, it was always Barney, disguised in a new attempt to seduce women.

Lily, Marshall, Ted, Robin and Barney . . . How we miss them!

Although the entire idea of doppelgängers seems like a game, it has been taken quite seriously over the years . . . many years, actually. The word doppelgänger is borrowed from the German language consisting of two nouns Doppel (double) and Gänger (walker or goer). The application by English-speakers of this German word to the paranormal dates to a best-selling book on paranormal phenomena, Catherine Crowe’s The Night-Side of Nature (1848), which helped make the German word well-known. However the concept itself, of alter egos and double spirits, has appeared in the folklore, myths, religious concepts, and traditions of many cultures throughout human history. Usually this has been in a sinister form . . . often foreboding of disaster for the person. So, there you have my concern for our national security after noticing the following particularly striking doppelgänger.

Below is a picture of Mike Morrell. He is a past deputy director of the CIA and has been acting director twice before he retired “to spend more time with his family.”

Mike Morrell . . . serious as the CIA
Mike Morell with his Geoge McFly smile

Oh sure, Mike! We all know who your family is . . . The McFlys! You can’t fool me. I hereby expose your little ruse by posting this picture of George McFly.

George McFly, no CIA worries here

“Seriously? You think I’m CIA?” [snort-snort]
Realizing that the apple rarely falls too far from the tree, let’s assume that Mike Morrell is actually Marty McFly, George’s son (played by Michael J. Fox in the Back to the Future movies). Nice try . . . with the matchy-matchy initials . . . MM. Mike Morrell/Marty McFly. Exposed. BAM!

Shortly after discovering this, I was acutely aware of the uncanny resemblance of my former boss, Linda Booth, to Lily Tomlin. When I tuned in to see the Kennedy Center Honors, I thought, “Holy Cow! Linda Booth is getting the medal tonight!” But alas, it turned out to be Lily Tomlin. Or is it? (I hear a sinister dum-dum-dum . . . . ) If you know Linda, you know what a great multi-tasker she is and how well she handles volumes of work. Could she really be sustaining an acting career on the side? You decide . . . .

Lily . . . wearing clothes that look just like WWLW (What Would Linda Wear!)
Linda Booth . . . Linda/Lily . . . There’s that matchy-matchy initial thing again.

If this is, in fact, one and the same person, who is wearing the wig??

Then there is the wonderful, sweet and talented Sara Tubbesing. I met Sara over ten years ago and was stunned by her resemblance to Susan Sarandon. (I must point out that like Mike and Marty, Linda and Lily, Sara’s maiden name was Shedd, thus promoting that eerie use of double initials . . . SS for Sara Shedd/Susan Sarandon. Perhaps she is hiding her fame with that Tubbesing initial T. Hmmm.) Sara is an educator, a musician (sing, Sara, sing!), and fabulously funny. Up to the time I met Sara, I had a bias against Susan Sarandon, thinking she was snobby and full of herself. After I met Sara, I dearly loved Susan Sarandon. I’m sure she can sing like Sara and she just HAS to be nice. Well, maybe not as nice as Sara . . . but let’s just say that the lines blur at times.

The terminally adorable Sara Tubbesing
Sara wannabe, Susan Sarandon

Last but not least in my discovery of the unnerving coincidence of look-alikes in my daily walk, this is perhaps the most disconcerting. One day, as I sat in my office looking out on the World Plaza (see blog on May 13, 2014, Missing Dexter, for a view from my window), I saw my son, Scott, walking toward the building. He was about a half-block away, but I saw him clearly! My heart soared! He was living in Colorado (still does), so how could he be here? Obviously he had secretly come to town and was surprising me. The closer he came to the building, the louder and happier my heart pounded. When he got about 15-feet from my window I realized that it was actually John Chatburn. The nerve! Impersonating my son like that. And John is such a nice guy. In fact, here is how nice John rolls: when I asked permission to use his likeness on this blog he wrote, “Glad I could bring you good thoughts about Scott without even realizing it.” [Scott, take note. You better be nice if you are running around impersonating John Chatburn. Love, Mom.]

CHIW 008 (2011) John Chatburn
The Kindly and Dashing John Chatburn. (If only I could have given Scott that chin!)
My second born (sorry, fuzzy pic)

Quick test: Scott or John? Correct answers can win you a free subscription to this blog. Oh. Really? It’s already free?

Scott Watkins or John Chatburn? Only their mothers know for sure. Oh yes, and their wives.

I suppose some of you who are reading this may have, at some time in your lives, been identified as someone else, thus tipping you off to your possible doppelgängers. Twice I have been accosted in elevators by people thinking I was a nurse they knew (Doppelgänger Rosemary Simkins, RN in Denver and Doppelgänger Anne Welch, RN in Independence MO). Rather than finding this disturbing in a bump-in-the-night kind of way, I felt flattered and suddenly wistful that I wasn’t a nurse. Oh well. Do I have a current doppelgänger? Do you?? Listen to the words of a cast member from How I Met Your Mother for some comforting words about YOUR own personal look-alike:

We’ve all been searching for the five doppelgängers, right? Well eventually, over time, we all become our own doppelgängers. These completely different people who just happen to look like us. Five years ago? That girl was pretty great. But doppelgänger Robin? She’s amazing.

Amen to all you amazing friends out there!

Julianne or Jane?? So difficult!!!
Jane or Julianne? Very confusing.

My Champagne Life

My Champagne Life
My Champagne Life

I’m sure that title has some of you wondering . . . did Jane win the lottery? Has she given up Cokes for champagne? Is she now surrounded with luxury during the sunset years of her life?

Of course not.  No lottery winnings (you have to play to win). No champagne or Cokes (too many calories in both). No luxury items now that my beautiful T-Bird with the removable hard top bit the dust on a guardrail (or two) on Interstate 4 (see blogpost “A Thing of Beauty”). But I did have one of those AHA moments this morning. AND, as appropriate as it may sound, this is not referring to the American Heart Association.

This morning after watching the news, I was navigating getting up out of my couch. “You know you’re old when” buying a couch takes on significance when the only suitable ones are double recliners. Some mornings it just takes all the strength I can muster to kick that footrest back in to place. This morning’s callisthenic resulted in me tossing my coffee cup up into the air as I sat up. As is so often the case, my cup was only half-full . . . and lukewarm at that. The awkward part of this entire fiasco was the moment when I poured most of the coffee down my leg and into my shoe. This occurred just prior to my release of the cup for its airborne arabesque. I delicately stepped out of my shoes and sloshed to the kitchen for paper towels and sponge to provide damage control. When I returned to the scene of the accident, my dog (known for his keen ability to chew holes in the middle of my washcloths) was happily sipping coffee out of my shoe.

Jack playing dead after being caught with evidence stolen right off the bars in the shower stall.
Sipping coffee from a shoe. No wonder they are called Easy Spirit. Real spirits would be drunk from a stiletto.

That was the moment of the aha. AHA! While some people drink champagne out of their best stilettos, my champagne life consists of lukewarm coffee being consumed out of an old stinky sneaker. The aha was the realization that this could be a metaphor for my entire life . . . no champagne and dancing shoes, just lukewarm coffee and sensible shoes.

My dear friend, Ken McLaughlin likes to mention my penchant for stiletto shoes (especially those in metallic or animal print finish). I’m afraid he would be stunned to see my sad collection of acceptable shoes. The stilettos have marched out the door to thrift shops to make room for flats and shoes with respectable arch support. I admit that I have kept a pair or two of my dancing shoes to just look at, hold, caress and dream about. Some things are just so hard to part with . . . and on the rare occasion that I dress up enough that I have squeezed myself back into pantyhose, I do take down these shoes and verify (once again) that they probably aren’t such a great idea. In these moments I find myself thinking, “Seriously? I wore these once? AND walked?” I feel like I’m on a pair of circus stilts, wobbling from my closet to my boudoir. And it only takes a step or two to remind me that my brain thinks I’m 18 and sexy while my body knows I’m 68 and  . . . . well, still sexy. But that’s another blog. (In the retirement world, Fifty Shades of Grey is referring to the hair on our heads.)

But I digress. So what about a champagne life? After spending 24,868 days on this planet, I think I may have formed some opinions about celebrity, wealth and the champagne life. OK. Granted a great deal of those nearly 25,000 days was spent in diapers, elementary school, and trying to “find myself” in The Sixties . . . still. I must have at least 15,000 viable days of wisdom. I find it impertinent to belabor the problems of being rich, famous, legendary, and imbibing from a slipper since I have no experience in that particular arena. I do, however, have the powers of observation. Christina Onassis, the richest woman in the world (at the time . . . Oprah was still young), was reported to have taken her own life which was worth $250,000,000 at the time. That’s lot of zeroes. Like Christina, responders found Whitney Houston in a bathtub, dead from reported drug overdose. She probably wasn’t worth $250MM, but she had much admired talent and fame.  And then there was Princess Diana.

Christina O.
Princess Di

I’ll bet all three of these ladies drank champagne from slippers as well as Barccarat and Waterford crystal glasses. A pair of these glasses sells for more than I would be able (or willing) to pay for an entire set of dishes. Were these women happy? Not so much. Ages at death were 36 (Diana), 38 (Christina) and 48 (Whitney). So sad and tragic! And this is not just an American tragedy, but a global tragedy [Whitney was American, Christina was Greek and Diana, British (and royalty, yet)].

So here I am at 68 years, having outlived some of the rich and famous. So if their lives were a tragedy and I’m in the opposite pendulum swing from them, does that make my life a comedy? Please cast your vote in the comments section of this blog. I will hint that I often feel like an aging Lucy Ricardo, but that is usually right after I’ve colored my hair. And I am consort to a comedian named Bob and all my children are hilariously funny, including my grand. So, perhaps by association I, too, am comedic.

Jordan the Ham
Gigi, Ham the Elder

While I await your votes on my champagne life, I will make a toast to my mutt who has the savior faire to drink from my sneakers and still look well-bred. Perhaps that’s because his breed (Lakeland Terrier) goes for about $1,000 these days. So, I may not drive a Bentley, live in Beverly Hills, or wear Manolo Blahniks . . . but I do have a high-class dog with that certain je ne sais quoi that allows someone to ask one grand for His Furriness.  Just ask him, if you can drag him away from his own champagne life of drinking from my shoe and chewing holes in linens.

Oh well. If I can’t walk in them, perhaps I can drink out of them.