frustrationI know. I know. In the nine years since starting this blog I’ve never been this inconsistent posting. But really, every time I think I’m getting my feet on the ground, life knocks them right out from under me and straight on my @$$ !

A little over five years ago, Mr. Nina lost his job at a hospital in northern Maine where he’d worked for 22 years. No problem. I had really been wanting to move for a very long time. I was tired of living in the willy-wags in the middle of nowhere, where the most excitement came from my weekly trip to Wally-world for grocery shopping and social time (because everyone was shopping)!
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I was listening to yet another famous single woman being interviewed on television today. When asked what she was looking for in a man she replied, “a sense of humor.” Is she kidding? Does she not date men? Does she not have any brothers, nephews, uncles, cousins, or male friends?

Because, in my experience, asking for a man with a sense of humor is like asking for washing machine with a rinse cycle or a new car complete with four tires. Humor comes standard on most male models. I mean really.

And it’s not the kind of humor I get. My teenage son watches Red/Green, The Simpsons, Arrested Development, Family Guy, and a host of other programs and just howls with laughter. Me? I watch them and think meh… amusing, but not… roll on the floor, split a gut, or even gaffaw kind of funny. I’ve never even made it through a whole Three Stooges movie–and I’ve tried. At hubby’s request, I sat next to him trying to laugh at all the slapstick humor. Didn’t happen.

On another occasion hubby and brother-in-law watched the same home video of one of their friends slamming into the camera at his wedding–for hours! They laughed just as hard the 87th time it replayed as they did the first time they saw it. Huh? When I was young I used to sit with my older brother and watch the Road Runner cartoon, just to listen to him laugh. And I giggled at his obvious delight in the coyote’s mishaps. But did I get it? Nope.

Now, just so you don’t think I’m without a funnybone… I do find a lot of things very funny. I love the movie Big. Tom Hanks plays a thirteen year old in an adult body… when he pushes caviar off his tongue at a dinner party… I just crack up–everytime! It’s one of my all time favorite scenes. Or the scene in The Grinch when the sleigh is headed down the mountain and poor Max the dog ends up on the back and the Grinch turns around and the dog waves and shrugs his shoulders… makes me smile just remembering. And don’t even get me started on I Love Lucy, because there isn’t an episode that doesn’t make me laugh out loud.  

So what’s my point? Well, if you had just one wish to make your guy perfect, I just don’t think you should be wasting it on humor. It’s already there. They’re hard wired with it! Romance, kindness, bedroom eyes, need I say more? Pick something from the dessert side of the menu! Why would you ask for more veggies when it already comes with the main course? I’m just saying…

That phrase conjurs a certain image … but it amazes me how in just a short time that image has changed.

I love technology. The devolopement of the Internet has been nothing short of amazing. I’m just awed at how quickly my story can go from a nugget of an idea to a full blown ebook novel that people can buy from all kinds of retailers. What used to take years can now take only as long as it takes me to write the book (if I’m self-publishing).

When I first began writing, I submitted manuscripts and contest entries through the mail, printing and collating them, packaging them and running them to the post office. But emailing them is so much easier. And editing? I never had to go through the process of mailing a full manuscript and receiving it back with red marks I was supposed to fix. To be honest, I can’t even imagine how it used to be done without the ease of computers sending them through cyberspace in the matter of seconds.

That being said I think this wonderful technology has robbed my children and their whole generation of the thrill of letter writing. They don’t know the fun of receiving a handwritten envelope in the mail only to open it up and find pages of words lovingly written, bringing news of home or a loved one far away. And remember when you used to go on vacation and write out postcards and actually mail them? Now it’s wireless internet and digital pictures posted on facebook that are shared with family left at home. It’s just not the same thing.

My love affair for the written word began at an early age. I moved from my very best friend when I was in second grade and for years we wrote to each other. I missed her terribly. When I was a kid I wrote stories and plays that my friends would help me perform. Late in elementary school I got my first diary. I filled that one and started another. I kept this going into early high school. I have no idea what I wrote in them because I wisely destroyed them decades ago. (No, really… it was a good decision. I was a wild child. I didn’t want anyone to know the “real” me. 😉 ) In middle school I found a penpal in Japan and wrote to her for over a year. We exchanged currency because they were so different. We sent each other pictures of ourselves, our homes and our families, allowing each other glimpses of our daily lives.

It was wonderful.

Children can do that today more easily over the internet or sheesh, on their phones. Communication is not only instanteous, it also seems to be continuously streaming. Heck, let’s face it, we can now have live interactions with anyone anywhere through Skype. But they can’t take that conversation and glue it into scrapbook like I did with the letters from my friend. I saved all of them. My children will be able to read the words of a little girl from Japan, penned by her own hand about her life in a foreign land. That’s hands-on history.

My husband and I began dating when I was a freshman in high school. When I was a junior he went to college 11 hours from home. I didn’t see him for months at a time. But during our separation we wrote. A couple of letters a week. Phone calls were so expensive we agreed to call each other only once a month. The only connection I had with him was our letters. Nothing like today where cellphones and internet keep us a moment away from each other.

But I love those letters. We both saved every single one we wrote to each other. Letters of love that speak of innocent youthful cravings and tiny drawings, some marred with tears I shed while looking at them. We wrote for the two full years he was so far away. He eventually decided to go to school closer to home so our letter writing stopped. But what lovely memories we have saved in those shoeboxes in the top of my closet. I’m not sure how appropriate some of them are, but someday I will sit and pore through them and save those fit for our children to read without blushing. Our words, scripted in our own hand (or hen scratch in the case of Mr. Nina) will remind them how much their parents loved each other.

When I went to college my mother wrote to me once a week. It was my lifeline to home. Every Friday without fail her letter arrived in my mailbox. It became a tradition for me to read it outloud to my roommate and several close friends. It was like having home right there in the dorm and sharing it with those around me. My mother had an incredible talent for painting pictures with words. So my family history is recorded in those letters I saved.

As my children came along I began keeping diaries again. I wrote letters to them on the pages before they were even born. I also kept calendars for them and recorded daily activities. I journaled in baby books (written in first person as if they made the entries), tucking in little mementos like napkins from birthday parties and locks of hair.

It’s all a wonderful written history of who we were and how we got to this point. My children love reading their baby books and the antecdotes I recorded. But in the early 90’s I got a computer. I continued to write letters to my mom, but now they were printed off rather than in my own handwriting. Eventually we got the internet and my emails and phone calls took the place of the letter writing. When my children were in college, I rarely sent them mail, but spoke to them a couple of times a week and texted them nearly every day.

But it’s not the same and I know it.

It makes me sad to lose this wonderful tradition. My children won’t have the words of love and concern we shared through their college years, because let’s face it, I don’t print out their emails and I know they don’t print out mine.

It’s such a sad thing. I guess every new technology comes with its downside.

I can say that I have passed on one tradition to my children. Without fail they sit and write thank you notes for gifts they receive at birthday, Christmas, or graduation. We started it when all they could write was their name. It’s something Beautiful Girl and Baby Girl continue to do and Little Boy Blue does when I niggle him. So they’re not long newsy letters, but at least they’re handwritten.

I’d like to tell you this has inspired me to write a letter, but I’m afraid my own letter writing days are over. I have the ability to type, but writing for any length of time is nearly impossible with my MS. I do however manage to type a letter or two now and again. But every once in awhile, like now, I pine for the days when a letter I sent in the mail meant that in another few days I’d get one back.

So what about you? Do you write letters? How do you feel when you receive a letter (even if it’s just a thank you note or a card)? You know me, I’m curious about stuff like that.

I’m feeling very nostalgic this week after attending the funeral of my dear friends’ mother. Technically the woman is my brother’s mother-in-law. But since he literally married the girl-next-door, this woman was for all intents and purposes, she was the neighborhood mom to all teenagers.

I don’t remember a time in my youth when this family wasn’t part of the landscape of my day-to-day life. My brother spoke eloquently at her funeral about being a young teen and hanging out at the house, raiding the pantry and cleaning the leftovers out of the fridge. Another friend of mine talked about all the crazy times the gang spent at their house. This woman and her husband were married 55 years. There are all kinds of memories that make me smile about this gruff truck driver coming home to his wife and three girls. Despite his prickly exterior I never had any doubt they filled his heart with unconditional love. I was too young to see the difficult times that no doubt clouded their marriage, but still, they were able to weather every storm.

My brother has been married to his wife going on 29 years. We even have pictures of them, complete with minister (my younger brother), wedding dress, bridesmaids and groomsmen in their backyard getting married … long before they were even officially teenagers. I’ve watched these two go through some wonderful times and some very hard times. And what I’ve come to know is that loving someone for a looong time isn’t always easy and definitely not always pretty.

Thirty-seven years ago this fall I began dating my husband.

We’ve raised three babies to young adulthood. Gutted and remodeled two homes. Buried eight grandparents and a father. Persevered through three major job losses, four family divorces and a sibling’s affair. Survived the diagnosis of a life-altering chronic disease. And lived in the middle of nowhere for over twenty years. And currently counseling a child to get herself and our grandson out of a terrible living situation. Yeah, romance isn’t the happy-ever-after-ride-into-the-sunset the romance novels seem to tout for their heroes and heroines. Romance in real lives is smiling despite the fact you never managed to squeak in a shower and saying “I love you, you’re beautiful” even though there are dirty dishes in the sink, laundry piled on the bed and baby puke on your pants.

Through all the hardships of daily life I still believe in soul mates and forever loves. In my immediate family we have 5 couples who have been married nearly 30 years. 2 nearly 20. And now another generation begins the journey into marital romance with 4 weddings in the coming year.

I’ve been blessed with one of those marriages that romance novels promise. How could I not be a hopeless romantic at heart? There are no flowers on my counter or diamonds dripping from ears, but there’s a guy sitting in the chair next to me as I work tirelessly at my computer who laughs at my corny jokes, doesn’t roll his eyes (too much) at my lack of geographical acuity, holds me when I cry and is willing to discuss (with a straight face) whether vampire assassins make worthy romance heroes. And just being with him makes me feel romantic.

There are many moments in our lives together that hold a special place in my heart. Moments that bring a tear to my eye when I talk about them. Moments when we were first dating. Moments when our babies were growing up. Moments of quiet when it was just the two of us away from the noise of the world. All of them hold a certain kind of romance that makes me smile when I think of them.

This week I watched a man openly weep as he said goodbye to a woman who no doubt was the other half of his soul. I listened to his daughters talk about their parents’ love with a lump in their throat and a tear in their eye. And it just brought home a stark reminder that no matter how hard life gets, it’s important to cherish my marriage. I can only hope when it’s all said and done that my children will have all those wonderful memories of their parents.

There are stories in every marriage that get told over and over again. This is one of those classics that Mr. Nina and I still laugh about … well, he laughs and I give him the hairy wife-eye! Anyway, this happened four years ago this weekend and I just thought it was worth sharing again. Enjoy …

Okay, so Baby Girl goes off to work, Little Boy Blue hops on the bus for a basketball game and DH asks… wait for it… “wanna go snowmobiling?” Not what I was expecting, but heck, we just got another foot of snow, it’s above 10 degrees F and the sun is shining. I figure what the heck. We’ve gone around and around about how much I enjoy staying on the trails and if he could please follow the map, I might enjoy myself.

Sure. Sure. No Problem.

First… (and this is where I should have jumped off the sled, thrown down my gloves, and stamped back into the house… obviously I didn’t) First, he’d like to swing over to a buddy’s camp and check out what he’s up to.

“Is it waaay off the beaten path?” He can see I’m ready to bolt. I’m not really interested in breaking new trails in the middle of the northern Maine woods–again.

He laughs. “Now honey. Would I do that to you after our last ride?” At which point he jumps on the sled, sending us hurtling into our next adventure. 

My first inkling that something had gone wrong was our trip down a very long road a couple towns over. Now, the police are pretty lenient here. You can cross the road, you can even travel a short distance on a road to get to the trail, but the law clearly states a sled may not use the road as a throughway. Fifteen minutes at 50 mph (you do the math) and we’re still on a major road, I’m thinking something’s wrong. But hey, if the cops stop us… it’s his license and being lost in civilization works for me.

Why I didn’t ask him to turn around at that point is beyond me. I knew, I mean, I knew nothing good was going come of this. Finally he turns off the road into the woods. I’m not freaked yet, he’s not going through fresh powder, at least one sled has come this way. Besides I’ve been to this guy’s camp… it’s nice… lots of well groomed trails. But then the trees close in on us. The sled’s wobbling here and there, but I’m not panicked. DH has assured me he can control the sled. I worry too much.

But then we’re really dragged off the trail. He compensates, only to be pulled the other way. I’m not panicking, he’s only dumped me once. (Off a snowbank in front of people coming out of church… but hey we managed that unscathed.) So as the sled continues to bounce from side to side I keep thinking he’s going to pull out of it.


Next thing I know I’m being dragged off the sled as it catapults forward on its side. My foot is caught under the sled and for a moment I worry about refracturing my pelvis. But then all is still. DH hits the kill switch and tells me to get up! Now! Did I mention I have MS? Even under the best conditions nothing about my body moves fast. So he hauls my butt up and out of the brook we and the machine are laying in. A brook! The song “Islands in the Stream” took on a whole new meaning at that point.

Now, trust me when I tell you that gurgling mountain brooks are only pretty in the summer or on video tape. Seeing water running through the engine of the only thing transporting you out of the middle of hell nowhere is a little frightening even for the hardiest souls. Undaunted, DH manages to get all three of us at least out of the water. But now there is a brook and a 3 foot drop between the sled and the trail.

This is so not looking good.

“How far from the camp are we?” I ask, realizing there is no way I can walk.

“Between 1 and 4 miles.”

“You’re not leaving me here alone.”

“If you think I’m dragging your cute butt down this trail, you’re sadly mistaken. I can go faster alone.”

“At least leave me the cell phone.” I say, knowing there are no towers and it probably wouldn’t work anyway, but it might give me some comfort.   

“I didn’t bring it. Really. It won’t be long. Sit here in the trail. You’ll be fine.” And he turns and walks away.

Have you heard silence? Because snow is an insulator and it swallows all sound. There’s an eerie stillness in the middle of nowhere.

This quiet allows my vivid imagination to conjur up all sorts of wild stories. Not the least of which is the lead anchor of the local news cast reporting on the corpse of local author found frozen to the seat of her snowmobile mired in mud. 

So I sit and wait. Trying to remember all the stages of hypothermia. No, I’m not shivering, yes my fingers still move. And I wait some more wondering if I should start walking. (Mind you, I can barely get myself standing from this sitting position in the snow… but perhaps I should just give it a try.)

Then I hear another sled. And there they are, my knight in shining armor… and the @$$hole of a husband that told me we’d go for an uneventful ride.

Lots of lifting and maneuvering of a 650 pound snowmobile and some digging with a shovel and they had the machine back on the trail. I chose to ride with my knight and left DH to find his own way back to the camp.

I’m going to admit right here that I’m horrible with history. I remembered enough of it in high school to do well on the tests and promptly forgot it. As an adult I regret not seeing the value of understanding my country’s history. But eh, what does a 16 year old know about a 50 year old woman’s regrets? LOL!

But Pearl Harbor Day has become a personal experience for me that has touched my heart. Ten years ago today, I was in Hawaii visiting Mr. Nina’s great uncle. Though the man wasn’t in Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack, his boat was the first to arrive in the harbor. I can’t imagine the horrors he saw that day. He doesn’t talk about it.

But the morning of December 7, 1991, he pulled a ballcap out of a box in the hall and reverently placed it on his head. It was embroidered with the name of his ship. He wore it only one day a year. We bundled into his car and parked with all of the other visitors and stood in the very long line with the general public at the Pearl Harbor Memorial. Uncle Caesar didn’t think he was anyone special. But as sailors walked by, they stopped and saluted him. Every. Single. One. At one point someone offered to escort him (and his guests) into the VIP area, but he refused. That section was for the real survivors of that day he said.

We sat through the memorial with the rest of the general public. And though I don’t remember the details, I do remember realizing how history was coming to life for me and how moved I was by the number of lives sacrificed that day. We went from there to a small pavilion where plaques for each of the ships and their crews were displayed. Uncle Caesar walked from stone to stone, standing at each for long quiet minutes. I was so moved by the respect the general public offered these men who very obviously were doing the same. I was in tears watching all of this unfold.

We didn’t go out to the memorial. The line was too long and Uncle Caesar and his wife had been out many times. Instead, he drove us to the military base nearby. We drove around looking at the buildings that still stand as a memorial to the attack. Broken windows, scarred brick walls, destruction everywhere. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like on that day. We did stop at one of the lesser known ships that is still in the harbor and spend time there. Uncle Caesar would not talk about that day. He didn’t share what happened when he arrived in the harbor. But I felt it in his solemnity.

I am grateful we got to share this day with a sailor who was actually there. I feel blessed I got live history on that day. Uncle Caesar is still alive and living in Hawaii. His health is not good and though he is not at the memorial today, I have no doubt he is spending time remembering.

I love summer. I know, it’s too hot and sticky, but it’s not all those layers of clothing and heavy boots and … shoveling. I hate shoveling. LOL! Mr. Nina and I have found a wonderful spot in our new home state. Beavertail State Park. We’ve gotten in the habit of grabbing a picnic dinner and heading over there to sit in the grass and enjoy the sunset and last night … the moonrise.

I grew up on the ocean in Maine, but for the last 22 years lived on the Canadian border. Beautiful–yes. Ocean–no. So being near the water where the gentle rhythm of the waves steadies my heart and the tangy aroma of sea salt mixes with the wild rose and juniper, filling my lungs with pure heaven.

Ah, I am complete again. Here are just a few of the pictures we’ve taken over the last couple of weeks…

I’m not telling you all something you don’t know … men and women are NOT the same! I really believe it’s God’s way to entertain himself. Because we do not travel through this life dancing to the same beat.

Toilet seat up or down? Socks rolled in a ball or folded neatly? Iron for perfection or straight out of the dryer? Action movie or romantic comedy? Wrestle with the kids or read them a book before bed? Talk it out or ignore the problem? Clean as you go or use every pot in the kitchen and overfill the dishwasher? Clean the dust or use it for love notes? Watch one show or flip continuously so you don’t miss anything?

Those are just some of the things Mr. Nina and I deal with. (And I’m not going to tell you which side of those I sit on.) ROFLMBO! Anyway, you get the point I’m trying to make.

I never realized how different our household was while my two daughters lived at home. The first year my youngest daughter headed off to college, leaving only my son and Mr. Nina to work the remote (because I’m always on my computer) all of a sudden the television programming changed. All kinds of motors and sports shows I had never watched became part of nightly programming. And it wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy Top Gear,Legend of the Seeker and Sports Center (okay, not sports center, but Top Gear rocks). It was like a smuck upside the head at how my men had been quietly shifted into an ancillary room to watch their guy programming.

With our new move we have new cable programs available to us including Discovery. I have become addicted to American Chopper (mostly because I’m totally in love with Paul Jr’s dimples *sigh*). I reward myself with an episode or two during lunch or while I’m working on marketing stuff. Mr. Nina laughed so hard when he turned the channel late one night and I was checking out one of the choppers and said “wow, I like the lines of that one”. He laughed himself silly. It never occurred to him that I would enjoy that show.

Now let me tell you what Discovery Channel has figured out that many sports programs are imitating. They pull the female audience in with relationships. I’m drawn more to the push and pull of the brothers and their dad than the actual technical aspects of building a bike. They’ve pushed it further by having the family build bikes for worthwhile charities, showing the family meeting the needy children. Of course it pulls at the female heartstrings. Great marketing for getting both genders to watch.

Sports programs are hoping to capture the reluctant female of the house by sharing stories of the quarterback’s comeback season from a serious injury or the story of a streetwise kid whose mother kept pushing them toward sports and save them from the gangs. Women are more likely to watch a game when they care about the athletes. (Please don’t give me a hard time if you’re a woman who LOVES the game. I know there are a lot of you out there. I’m just talking about the marketing expertise of these program directors. LOL!) Women are just wired differently, they react with their hearts rather than their heads.

Writing both sides of the gender coin can be a challenge. I know I’ve totally screwed up conversations between two guys when I wanted it to be all about the emotions. WRONG! Guys talk in short sentences around an issues. They’re about solving the problem and moving on. Women work on the emotional level. And both genders use their bodies to communicate. love getting into the head of my characters and having them play off each other.

How do you find reading/writing men and women in your books? Do you enjoy one point of view over the other?

So the “big” game is being played this weekend. And you know what? I don’t care. I mean, I’d like to … but I just don’t.

Mr. Nina and I won’t even be in the same house on Sunday, so it’s highly unlikely it will even be playing on my television. Well, maybe in the background so I can watch the commercials. But the game … meh. Not so much. Watching sports on television is torture to me. It doesn’t hold my attention. I just don’t care enough who scores or whether the left tackle takes out the quarterback in the second quarter.

The powers that be have figured out that woman want to care about the players. They want to know the rough road the tight end (and to my dismay this has nothing to do with the sexy backside of a player) traveled to get to this day. Producers put together packages prior to the game with interviews of Sunday school teacher’s and doctors that will hopefully make a connection between the players and the viewers. Doesn’t work for me. That’s not to say I’m cold-hearted, I feel for the player, it just doesn’t translate to me cheering them on to a win.

But you know, I’d like to. I’d like to feel the passion I see in others when there’s an interception or a missed field goal. I have family members who hug pillows against their chests and cover their eyes on a big play as if it were the pivotal scene in a horror movie. Being the logical scientist that I am I asked them to explain to me how they developed this passion. Why do they care so much? I mean this isn’t life or death hanging in the balance. It’s a football game.

I don’t get it. But seriously, I’d like to feel that fever. How about you? Do you enjoy football or any other sport with a passion? Because I’m trying to figure out how to find that passion.

When I was a kid my mother sat at her desk several mornings a week and penned letters to my grandmothers. She probably had several other friends that she also corresponded with on a regular basis. When she was bent over her pad of paper, we knew not to disturb her unless there were bones. blood or vomit involved. That was Mom’s time.

So it’s no wonder that I grew up writing. I kept diaries from third or fourth grade right up through high school. I also had pen pals. One in Japan and my best friend that I left in the old neighborhood in second grade. I loved writing letters.

When Mr. Nina headed off to college I wrote him every day and sent the letters a couple of times a week. But it wasn’t one sided. Mr. Nina wrote to me a couple of times a week as well. Long letters filled with love and college pranks only guys can pull, kept me part of his life. When I went off to college my mom added me to her letter writing list and I got a letter once a week. I treasured those letters. They came every Thursday or Friday and I would read them out loud to my roommate. I told Mom years later how much they meant to me and it took her completely off guard. I think she’d be even more surprised if she knew I saved every letter she sent me.

Yep, packed away in shoeboxes are the letters from Mr. Nina and my mother. I haven’t read them in years, but since we’re moving soon I have no doubt I’ll pull them out and read through some of them again. I have no idea what my kids will do with these letters, but I just can’t part with them.

And I bet you’re wondering what precipitated this blog. Well, with Mr. Nina being several states away we’ve begun writing again. Not letters so much, but cards and little notes. Skype has made the newsy-letters not as important. When a note arrived from him the other day my heart actually skipped a beat. Just seeing my name written in his unreadable chicken scratch made me sigh. It brought me back to those many years ago when I went through the mail with great anticiaption.

And that’s what makes me so sad. My children text their boy/girlfriends several times a day. They have facebook to keep them in touch with family back home while they’re at college. And it’s good … I guess. But they’ll never know the thrill of waiting for a lover’s letter in the mail. The thought that they were thinking of you even when you weren’t with them. The romance of reading words that perhaps they’re too nervous to say aloud. *sigh* It’s just so … Cyrano De Bergarac.

The closest my children have come to writing letters are the thank you notes I’ve insisted they write to relatives after birthdays and Christmas. Now that they’re young adults they’ve developed the habit and do it without prompting from me. Their grandparents are especially enjoying it. It just makes me sad that that’s the only taste of this wonderful tradition they may ever know.

I’ve heard letter writing is making a come back. I don’t know if that’s true. I tend to think my children’s generation with the advent of cellphones and texting will lose the art of letter writing and it will go the way of other extinct animals only to be seen in museums and history books. And that would be just so sad.

So what about you? Are you a letter writer? Do you have a stash of special letters that you’re unwilling to part with? Because you know me, I’m just wondering if I’m the only one in the world with a apecial shoebox in her closet.