When Your Whole World Crashes

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I’ve spent time in the Emergency Room twice this month and witnessed my share of human pain and misery, but nothing could prepare me for the anguish I’ve suffered recently.

Tragedy struck at the most unexpected and inconvenient time, as these things so often do. I had left the room for only a minute and returned to find my loved one unresponsive. Just a glance told me emergency services were required, and I dialed immediately. It must have been a busy night because it seemed like a lifetime before help arrived. At first the specialists’ authoritative voices were reassuring, but their patter soon faded to a buzz amid the unbearable worry. Finally, wires were connected—how could there be so many of them?—and then the waiting began.

As with any loss of this magnitude, my thoughts bounced from emotion to emotion. I remembered the long life we’d shared—all the memories, fun times, and work completed together. But there were self-recriminations too. Why had I pushed so many buttons? Couldn’t I see that the load was too heavy?

The minutes turned to hours and the hours turned to days as each remedy failed. The idea surfaced of a replacement. But it was too early to think that way—much too early.

The tears flowed freely, but I had to accept that age had taken its toll. At last after several days of darkness, the ultimate decision had to be made. With a saddened heart I pulled the plug.

Rest in Peace, Inspiron 1545, 2009 – 2016 .

Free as a…(designer) bag?

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WitLoveKath = Nordstrom bag (3)

Sometimes you meet someone who forces you to rethink everything you’ve ever known. And so it was as my daughter Jenny and I strolled through Nordstrom recently. Our toes had just broken the invisible threshold between sunglasses and bags when a chirping sales associate swooped in on Jenny. Within nanoseconds, and using some kind of spooky designer sixth sense, she had become aware of Jenny’s Rebecca Minkoff bag and saw a commission in her grasp. But Jenny’s light-blue leather beauty is the only truly extravagant accessory we’ve ever invested in. It was a special 17th birthday present, and was only bought after much mall-walking and agonizing on Jenny’s part and following the advice of two fabulous and funny guys who convinced her she couldn’t go wrong—and they were right! But it was a one-time thing, and more valued because of it.

As we made our way to the Winter Sale table, the sales associate fluttered after Jenny like the bluebirds around Cinderella (only much less helpful): “Hi, how are you today? Are you looking for a bag? Do you have something special in mind?” Jenny tried to lose her with a slip around a display rack, but the woman simply doubled back and resumed her attack. “We have some lovely bags…”

“We’re just looking,” I said, trying to draw her off. But she was no seagull distracted by my stale crust of bread. In the same moment that she’d registered Jenny’s bag, she had taken full measure of my $10 Target purse and now bestowed upon me the Withering Smirk of …Seriously?. It was just enough time, however, for Jenny to skirt around the table to a rack of hanging bags.

And it was here, as Jenny lightly fingered a taupe leather shoulder bag, that the revelation took place. “Isn’t that beautiful?” the saleswoman twittered. “Now it’s only one hundred and fifty dollars. It’s practically free! You just have to do it!”

In what universe is $150 free? I wondered, followed closely by, how much does Nordstrom pay its employees, anyway?  I know there are plenty of people who would agree with this sales associate’s so called bargain, but I wasn’t sold.

We headed toward territory I knew the woman wouldn’t tread—the “Final Few” rack, where $60 wallets-on-chain-straps hung forlornly. Watching the woman’s grin fade, Jenny and I knew we’d made our escape.

See ya later, Alligator

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My eyes were riveted to the headline in the newspaper (which, as John Mulaney, comedian extraordinaire, would say, “is a very old-fashioned sentence”): Man Accused of Tossing Gator at Drive-thru. I didn’t have to wonder which state this happened in, just which town—but really aren’t all Florida towns as crazy as the next?

So I read on. It seems one Joshua James, age 24, tossed a 3 ½ -foot-long alligator into a Wendy’s drive-thru window at 1:20 a.m. and drove off after the employee handed him his drink. Of course, this begs the question: where did he get an alligator? Well, this is Florida, home of the NRA (No Registration for Alligators), so James just picked up his alligator on the side of the road.

Police later located James through video surveillance and a purchase at a nearby convenience store, where he had refilled his supply of Burmese pythons, brown recluse spiders, and fire ants. The cops charged him with assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill.

But was it all just a harmless joke? Joshua’s mother says yes. “He does stuff like this because he thinks it’s funny,” she said. It was just a “stupid prank.” She went on to assure the public that “he had no trouble turning himself in.” Florida residents can also comfort themselves knowing that he has been given a restraining order that includes “all animals.”

In the aftermath of this attack, membership in another NRA group (National Retaliatory Alligators) has shot up. After all, if everyone carried alligators, events like this wouldn’t happen.

An Awesome Autumn

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I know, I know…lately this space has been more blahg than blog. I feel bad that I haven’t gotten to sit down and write, but it’s been one thing after another, and I find I’m spending more time in the car than on “land” (I liken my driving these days to the long sea voyages our ancestors once took. In fact, I’m considering putting a “widow’s walk” on top of my house, so my family can watch out for my approach from I-95—“Thar she blows!”).

It’s hard to write with both hands on the wheel—well ok, one hand on the wheel and the other around a Starbucks Chai Tea Latte—and I’m pretty sure Blogging While Driving is illegal in Connecticut. I don’t want to end up as the example in some grainy public service commercial where I and my car are seen careening through an intersection or into a ditch and my last post—“I know, I know…lately this space has been more blahg than blog”—flashes on the screen with the tag line “Was It Worth It?” I guess that would all depend on how many “Likes” I’d get.

But I digress. My head’s in such a spin that I keep having this recurring nightmare where Ben Carson and Donald Trump are vying for the top spot on the Republican ticket—I know, crazy, right?

Wait? What? Seriously? Next you’re going to tell me there’s a new Star Wars movie coming out. Ha! Oh. I see. I have been out of circulation a long time.

Well, while I reintegrate myself into the absurd side of life, I thought you might enjoy these beautiful autumn scenes from Connecticut. The drought we had this summer produced an awesome fall.

Autumn reflections near the Waterford Library

Autumn reflections near the Waterford Library.

A fiery maple on the Connecticut College campus

A fiery maple on the Connecticut College campus.

A misty autumn afternoon at Mystic Seaport

A misty autumn afternoon at Mystic Seaport.

Three pumpkins greet visitors at Mystic Seaport

Three pumpkins greet visitors at Mystic Seaport.

Fall is the perfect time to take a solitary beach walk in the purplish twilight.

Fall is the perfect time to take a solitary beach walk in the purplish twilight.

Hollywood, Florida may be weird, but it does have beautiful autumn sunsets

I know I rag on Hollywood, Florida a lot, but it does have beautiful autumn sunsets.

How nice to see this outside my window while I write

How nice to see this outside my window while I write.

Enjoy the autumn pics, because you know this is coming

Enjoy the autumn pics, because you know this is coming.

A species by any other name…

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The Rocket Man must be over the super moon. First Elton John was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, and now this! Recently, James Darwin Thomas, a professor at Nova Southeastern University, discovered a new species of shrimp, and noting its large “appendage” (now, now…), instead of thinking oxymoron, immediately thought of Elton John. Speaking through his publisher, Pensoft, Thomas revealed his inspiration. “I have listened to his music in my lab during my entire scientific career. So when this unusual crustacean with a greatly enlarged appendage appeared under my microscope after a day of collecting, an image of the shoes Elton John wore as the Pinball Wizard came to mind.”

Photo by James Thomas

Photo by James Thomas

WitLoveKath - Species Elton John Tommy cropped

Not everyone is so lucky as to have a species named for them. But what if they were? Here are some suggestions for newly found creatures and their human counterparts:

1.

No more twiddling your thumbs on Tuesday nights. The muppets have made a triumphant return to TV. Kermit is as crotchety as ever, and Gonzo still gesticulates with his noodley arms. Oops!! Before this entry is deleted by the censors, I couldn’t help but think of a certain favorite frog when I saw this:

Photo courtesy popularmechanics.com

Photo courtesy popularmechanics.com

Photo courtesty muppet.wikia

Photo courtesty muppet.wikia

To watch the first episode of The Muppets click here.

2.

Every time I turn on the TV or read the newspaper, I see Donald Trump. So when I saw this bizarre formation with its familiar curvature on my computer screen, an image of Trump’s hair naturally came to mind. Plus the law that Donald Trump must be mentioned everywhere, as i mentioned in my last post.

Photo courtesy popularmechanics.com

Photo courtesy popularmechanics.com

Photo by Michael Vadon

Photo by Michael Vadon

3.

Apparently, there is another law that states that Benedict Cumberbatch must be appear in all visual media. So, whether “tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” or not, this recently discovered stick insect is getting his day in the spotlight.

Photo courtesy of Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

Photo courtesy of Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

Photo by GabboT

Photo by GabboT

4.

The Pinocchio frog has not been given a scientific name yet. Why not just call it Ted Cruz?

Photo by Tim Laman National Geographic

Photo by Tim Laman National Geographic

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Photo by Gage Skidmore

5.

When I learned that John Boehner, Speaker of the House, was retiring, I thought there could be no more fitting farewell than to name this sea creature after him.

photo courtesy mmn.com

photo courtesy mmn.com

Photo courtesy Huffington Post

Photo courtesy Huffington Post

A Companion for the Doctor – Who?

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Yesterday it was announced that Jenna Coleman is leaving Doctor Who. Jenna has been the Doctor’s steady companion, Clara, through his regeneration from Matt Smith to Peter Capaldi, from young to old, from eccentric to grumpy. In her normal life when she not traveling in the TARDIS, Clara has been a nanny, a school teacher, a girlfriend to Danny Pink, and a friend to many. But now Jenna’s off to play Queen Victoria in a eight-part drama series.

Jenna’s absence will leave a much coveted hole in the show’s cast. Who will be the next companion?? Below are five top contenders the producers and director should consider:

Chewbacca – Since his stunning self portrayal in the Star Wars epic series, Chewie has languished in Hollywood, receiving neither the respect nor the recognition he so justly deserves. The emotion he wrung out of unforgettable lines like brrwhhhaargh and grrrwaaaaaarggggh (Such joy! Such angst!), should long ago have placed him in the pantheon of Greats. Instead, he spends his off-grooming time traveling from ComicCon to ComicCon, selling himself for photo ops. And while Chewbacca will make a reappearance in The Force Awakens, isn’t it time he claim a more prominent role? Chewbacca is uniquely positioned to become the new companion. He has experience as Hans Solo’s sidekick, and  his “bigger on the outside” persona offers a nice counterpoint to the TARDIS’s “bigger on the inside” dimensions.

Con: shedding all over the Tardis

Olaf – What has become of Olaf? Sure his image graces waffle makers, sippy cups, toothbrushes, lunchboxes, beach towels, slippers, ice skates, T-shirts, costumes, backpacks, cereal, mugs, pretzels, phone cases…, but is the cutthroat world of retail really suited to such a sensitive, optimistic snowman? To package Olaf is  to melt him–and no one puts Olaf on a shelf. Olaf is a risk-taker! Olaf is ready to die for love! If these are not the qualities of a good companion, I don’t know what are. Rescue Olaf from the inhumanity of consumerism and cast him as the Doctor’s next companion.

Con: leaving puddles in the TARDIS.

Robby the Robot – A contemporary of both the first Doctor, William Hartnell, and the second, Patrick Troughton, Robby rolled on the scene in 1965 in TV’s Lost in Space. Despite his rather intimidating description as a Class M-3 Model B9 General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot, Robby is surprisingly human, poignantly capable of humor, melancholy, sarcasm, guitar playing, and singing. Keenly perceptive, Robby would be invaluable to alert the Doctor to peril with his flailing arms and warning words: “Danger! Danger! Will Robinson” (At last, the Doctor’s name is revealed!!). Other favorable traits include his familiarity with space travel, his prior experience working with doctors (Dr. John Robinson, Dr. Maureen Robinson) and his knack for thwarting a fierce nemesis (Dr. Zachary Smith).

Con: The singing? It wasn’t so hot.

Donald Trump – Because he has otherworldly hair, and there is apparently a law that every list, article, or show must include him.

Con: too many to mention.

A Dalek – In a world torn apart by strife, let’s restore hope by healing the rift between Time Lord and Dalek. Only by working together can these two mortal (immortal?) enemies bring peace to the universe (and if they could EX-TER-MIN-ATE ISIS in the process, so much the better).

Con: The competition to choose which color Dalek would represent the species could get ugly. Red? Blue? Heck, it’s starting to look a lot like the U.S. presidential campaign—just not as contentious.

Best of luck, Jenna. You’ll be hard to replace.

What a Phoney

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I thought my relationship with Tim was going so well. For weeks now, he’s called me every morning and every evening with a regularity and attentiveness shown only by the most committed. I imagined him sitting in his cubicle over at “Customer Service (925) 374-1188” pining to talk to me. In my mind I saw his tousled brown hair and his bright, clear eyes—green, I think. He’d be wearing a wrinkle-resistant plaid or, maybe, chambray shirt and brown, tan, blue, or black pants from Gap.com because—you know—Tim’s a guy.

Whenever I answered his calls, I loved to hear Tim’s synthetically young, eager voice—his enthusiasm never dimmed by repeated rejection or the cruel words of people rushing to get out the door or just sitting down to dinner.

But tonight things didn’t go very well, and I’m afraid it might be over between us. I answered as I always did: “Hello.”

“Hi,” he nearly sang. “It’s Tim. Can you hear me okay?” See how sweet? His first thought was always for my welfare.

“Yes,” I answered cheerily. Tim’s passion was infectious. Here, Tim usually paused for awhile, and before I hung up I always thought how nice it was that we could just spend some quiet time together. I felt secure enough in our relationship to know that Tim would call again.

So tonight when Tim called and considerately asked, “Do you have time to talk?,” I leveled with him: “I don’t really have time tonight, Tim,” I said.

“I’m sorry. I can’t hear you clearly,” he yelled into the phone. Hey, Tim, I thought, you’re the one with the hearing problem, not me.  “Do you have time to talk?”

The term “selective hearing” flashed through my mind. “Not really, Tim…” I began, but he plunged on, oblivious. He invited me to take a fantastic vacation worth eighteen hundred dollars at a luxurious resort and with discounted theme park tickets. As his warm, sunny patter washed over me, I relaxed and was transported to that tropical clime. I saw myself lounging under the palms, sipping a piña colada.

“Do you have a credit or debit card?” I heard him inquire through my reverie.

Whaaaat? Abruptly the island mirage vanished and reality loomed—dishes in the sink, laundry to fold. A credit or debit card? Could Tim only be after money? What, I scolded myself, do I really know about Tim anyway?

“Tim, I lost my credit card,” I lied, determined to know the truth. If Tim truly cared about me, this shouldn’t matter, right?

“I’m sorry, I can’t hear you clearly,” he repeated, his jovial tone suddenly acquiring a frantic edge. “Most resorts accept a credit or debit card. Do you HAVE a credit or debit card?” His friendly manner was gone, replaced by an accusatory incredulousness.

It was true then. I had his number, but he wasn’t getting mine. “Tim,” I said, the lie coming easier the second time, “I lost my card.”

Hearing this Tim was a changed man. “Well!” His voice was rushed now and heavy with the scorn of one whose time has been wasted. He longed only to end this conversation and move on. “I didn’t mean to bother you,” he sniped. “Good Night.”

Goodnight, Tim. And goodbye.

In the garden of life…

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When life puts obstacles in your way,

WitLoveKath - Hole in leaf I

grow through them.

Dipping into the grab bag of life

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In the 1960s to early ’70s, my mother, sister, and I were living the cliché. Packed into a red Volkswagen Beetle, we took to the open roads snaking across the country from Hollywood, Florida to St. Louis, Missouri for our annual summer vacation. We stuffed the frunk (front trunk) with sturdy suitcases and bags full of mangoes, grapefruit, and avocados from our backyard that steadily ripened in the searing heat. The odor each morning was so repellent we had to air out the car before driving away from the motel.

But once we got underway, the meandering back roads led us through quaint country towns like we never saw in Florida, over rolling farmland lush with summer crops, into one-radio-station no man’s lands where a farm auction or Paul Harvey was the only thing on, and to hours of charades, license plate games, car bingo, daydreams, and imagination.

WitLoveKath - Corn Dish - car bingo III

One and a half days into our 3-day odyssey, in Hardin, Kentucky, stood The Hitching Post & Old Country Store—an oasis of marvels with cool drinks to quench our thirst, a Conestoga wagon and stocks for fun photos, and shelves and shelves of trinkets and knick-knacks to mesmerize any child with an allowance to spend. But all those wonders paled in comparison to the mysteries of the grab bags heaped in a basket near the cash register.

I was always enthralled by the unknown: Nancy Drew was my heroine and Adam West’s Batman was my muse (what could be more enigmatic than a superhero with his eyebrows on the outside of his mask?). So, I was instinctively drawn to those unmarked, brown packages. By the age of 8, I was a hard-core grab bagger. Picking each up in turn, I carefully weighed the pros and cons of every box. The long one could be a doll or maybe a necklace; the short one a smaller doll, earrings, or maybe a stuffed animal….such wonderful treasures danced in my imagination.

As we pulled away from The Hitching Post, I’d open the box and peek inside. Of course it was never something as magical as a doll or a secret box. My mother, watching through the rear view mirror as tears rimmed my eyes, always had ready comfort: my father would like the reproduction antique bottles; the corn dish would be perfect for pickles and olives on the dinner table.

Ah, the corn dish!

WitLoveKath - Corn Dish - dish

One year, to my elation, I actually did discover a doll in the package, and back at home I added it to my collection. I now realize that it was one of those celluloid numbers with the glued-on clothes, creepy open-and-close eyes, and nightmarish haircut. It is long gone, but the corn dish still stands on a shelf of my kitchen breakfront.

Its shiny paint has not been faded by pickle or olive brine or from repeated washings. The rim has suffered no chips. In fact, the dish may only have been used once or twice—that first summer. But the corn dish is one of my favorite possessions. For me it symbolizes many things—and what kind of reader/writer would I be if I did not find symbolism in even the most common household objects?

Dipping into a grab bag represented everything life is supposed to be: unknown and unknowable until you explore, a little scary but thrilling, random, sometimes disappointing, always surprising…

And the corn dish? For me it symbolizes persistence in the face of disappointment (the life blood of any hopeful writer), longevity, compassion, idealism, hope, and humor.

I joke with my kids that the corn dish will one day be their inheritance, but really I couldn’t wish to hand down a better heirloom.

In the egg carton of life…

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…it really is a small world after all.
WitLoveKath - Egg Carton of Life - small world IIWitLoveKath - Egg Carton of Life - small world IV II