Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Sometimes I feel like a relic in the world of blogging—a little like the frumpy chaperone at the high school prom. I am astonished that anyone could be interested in my old-lady stories.

That’s why I was surprised when I was “tagged” on the blog of a much younger, much cooler person. For those of you unfamiliar with blogging terminology, “tagged” is when another blogger mentions you in their blog. Yesterday, I found that Mama Nash (one of my daughter’s friends from high school) tagged me. Yikes! She challenged me and four other bloggers to answer five questions. So here goes nothing.

Question No. 1: What are you having for dinner tonight? Because I don’t have a single clue what I will be having for dinner tonight at 6:55 a.m. when I am writing this, I will change the question to “What have you been having for dinner the past few nights?” And the answer would be that friends have been bringing us dinner. My dad died a week ago, and wonderful friends have provided my out-of-town family-filled household with meals. One brought the all the fixings for hot turkey sandwiches (enough for a dinner plus a couple of lunches). Another group of friends made an entire lasagna dinner, complete with salad, bread, and dessert. Last night, my daughter-in-law whipped up a batch of her famous vegetable chili while I played outside with my grandchildren. In the midst of all the funeral preparations, I was humbled to find out how many wonderful friends we have. It was hard to admit that I was overwhelmed, but I cannot tell you how grateful I was at mealtimes to just go to the refrigerator and pull out a dinner already prepared. Humble, grateful, relieved.

Question No. 2: What is your favorite and least favorite household chore? I love laundry. It is one of the household jobs where you can actually see the results neatly folded or hanging at the end. When I finish doing the laundry, I put away every last sock so that the laundry room is clean as a whistle. At the other end of the spectrum, my least favorite household chore is vacuuming. Tom is a much better vacuum-er than I am, even moving furniture to get every last dust bunny. So I always feel inadequate as I sloppily zoom around the high-traffic areas.

Question No. 3: What's your middle name and is there a story behind it? My middle name is Clare, and I was named after my mother’s only sister, Clara. Thank goodness my mother had a little mercy and dropped the final “a” and replaced it with an “e.” However, that didn’t stop my siblings from calling me “Clarabelle the Clown” (from the Howdy Doody Show) when they wanted to hurt my tiny little underdeveloped feelings.

Are these questions done yet?????

Question No. 4: If you could only use one piece of make-up for a week, what would it be? What do you mean, if I could only use one piece of make-up? One of the most liberating parts of being old is throwing away your makeup bag. There’s nothing worse than wrinkly old ladies with spackling and caulking all over their faces. Give me my tube of N.Y.C. lip gloss (dusty rose) and I’m good to go. (And most days, I even forget to do that.)

Question No. 5: Who is a famous person that you've met or seen up close? Oh, crap. Now I have another item to add to my already-overflowing bucket list of things to do before I die. I’ve seen famous people from across a crowded arena when they were on stage and I was in the audience. I’ve shook hands with some Minnesota politicians, but only when they wanted my vote. But I’ve never shared an elevator with Brad Pitt or sat at the next restaurant table from Steven Spielberg or met Lance Armstrong biking on the Central Lakes Trail. I’ll work on it though. I promise.

So there it is. Absolute proof positive why I’ve never been tagged before. The end.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


This is your conscience speaking:

No matter how busy you are, no matter how many directions your mind is going, no matter what devilish voice inside your head says, "You don't have time today . . . "

Make the time to walk your 2 to 4 miles each and every day.

Those miles will make you sweat a little, smile a little, and inhale a little nice, clean oxygen. It helps the brain synapses fire those motor neurons more efficiently, creating a fire in the brain.

AND it's a good time to forget problems, solve problems, invent new problems, or just plain enjoy the scenery.

2 to 4 a day. Important. Do it. Now.

This is your conscience. Over and out.

Friday, September 24, 2010


When I wrote the blog about paradigm shifts on Monday, two shifts were taking place at the same time.
The most important one, of course, was my father’s death. On Monday, Hospice told us it was just a matter of days—maybe hours—before his struggle would be over. And on Tuesday, he passed away. No matter how prepared we think we are, the loss of a parent pulls the rug right from underneath us. No matter how old, how ill, how much that person is ready to go . . . we’re left lying flat on our backs on the floor with the wind knocked out of us.

The second paradigm shift taking place on Monday had started the week before. My husband Tom—predictable, stable, conservative, fiscally responsible Tom—had made an offer on a lake home. After living in the same house on the same block in the same town with the same woman for 34 years, Tom “rolled the dice,” as he called it, and bid on a lake house. The property was in sad disrepair but was in our modest price range because of a foreclosure/short sale situation.

I can’t tell you how shocked I was. I couldn’t have been more shocked if Tom had grown a third eye, pulled his hair back in a gray ponytail, and bought a Harley. He was assertive and aggressive as he went after that property. A new Tom emerged before my eyes—a short, French version of the Incredible Hulk.

Disappointingly, we found out yesterday that we were outbid for the house. Tom couldn’t have known that a group of investors with ready cash offered tens of thousands over the asking price. They saw the house as a financial opportunity, hoping it appreciates in value when the real estate market recovers.

Tom and I would have fixed up the house and made it into a nice place for our kids and grandkids to come and visit. Life isn’t fair sometimes.

BUT . . . Tom gave it a good shot and learned a lot (about realtors and poker faces and behind-the-scenes deals) in the process. I, on the other hand, learned a lot about Tom. A guy can surprise you, even after 37 years.

So there was my second (and less important) paradigm shift. Early this week, there was a lot going on at one time for an old lady to handle, but we’re coming through it just fine. And maybe sitting on the front porch in a rocker knitting afghans isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes a person needs to get the adrenalin flowing.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Our dad passed away on Tuesday afternoon. He was 93 years old and very ill with cancer and Parkinson’s. At the end, his world had become very narrow—a room with Mom at an assisted living facility. He counted on visitors to bring the world to him.

He had always been the man in charge, the guy in control. He’d say “jump,” and his kids would only stop long enough to ask, “Is this high enough, Dad?” But we didn’t jump out of fear. We just wanted him to approve. Even as adults, I think we would all ask ourselves, “What would Dad think of what I’m doing right now?” Even if we grumbled a bit under his eagle eye, we never wanted to disappoint him. We always wanted to live up to his expectations of us.

So a new paradigm: life without father. As ill as he was in his final years, as confined as he was to his wheelchair, he never lost his position of head of the family. Until the day he died, he was the man in charge, the man who set the bar high for himself and those around him, and the father we loved

Monday, September 20, 2010


Four score and a million years ago, back when I was employed, back when I had classrooms full of students held captive at fifty-minute intervals, w-a-a-y back . . . I used to tell my students about paradigm shifts and chaos.

Sometimes I would step up to the board with a blue dry-board marker in my hand and draw this picture for them:
Then, while they yawned broadly, I would define some terms. (I often defined the terms kind of loosely from my own dictionary-according-to-me, but it went sort of like this):

Paradigm: a pattern or a model.

Paradigm shift: a dramatic change in methodology or practice. It often refers to a major change in thinking and planning, which ultimately changes the way projects are implemented.

Chaos: great disorder, confusion, a state in which total control is impossible and chance is supreme.

Chaos Management: creating order out of chaos in order to move to a new paradigm.

Paradigm/Chaos Reassurance: At any given moment, life is completely senseless. But viewed over a period, it seems to reveal itself as an organism existing in time, having a purpose, trending in a certain direction. –Quote by Aldous Huxley

Pretty deep stuff, huh? If you don't understand it, don't worry. My students used to look at me pretty blankly, too.

So what's my point?

Right now I’m in the middle of a paradigm shift. At a time in life when I should be knitting afghans while rocking on the front porch, I’m in chaos up to my eyeballs.

I’m swimming in a sea of disorder. I can hardly wait to wash up on the shore of Paradigm 2 and get back to my NEW boring, humdrum life where everything is neat and predictable. This chaos business is intended for much younger people.

More details will follow . . .

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Late one afternoon earlier this week, I was sitting in my chair doing something really important (like flicking lint off my sweatpants) when Tom walked into the room.

“Wanna do something?” he asked.

“What did you have in mind?” I asked cautiously. We’ve been married long enough to know that sometimes these invitations aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

“Wanna go fishing with me?” he asked. I knew immediately that he had already checked with his usual fishing buddies and none of them could go fishing that evening. I am usually number five or six on his list of fishing partners, but I try not to take it personally.

“Um . . . sure,” I said, summoning up some enthusiasm.

Although I love to be out on the water in a boat, I wish I didn’t actually have to hold a fishing rod to earn the right to be there. I never catch anything except weeds. The biggest thrill I get is when I catch a particularly long lake-bottom hydrilla weed that fights me tooth and nail, all the way to the surface.

But fish? Naw . . . I never catch fish.

The best way to think about going fishing with Tom is to think of it as “date night.”

Tom drives and I ride . . .

We see sailboats . . .
and kayaks and pontoons . . .

and jet skis and other fishing boats . . .

Tom catches a fish and throws it back. Too small.

And although I do not take a picture of it, I catch a really exceptional weed. I am tempted to keep it and fry it up for a vegetarian dinner entree, but I end up throwing it back, too. ‘Catch and release’ weed program through the DNR. I'm very conservation-y.

Date night. Night crawlers and leeches. Minnows and Trilene fishing line. Sinkers and jigs. It’s what keeps our marriage fresh and exciting.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


If I could revise my genetic makeup in any way, I wish I had been born with at least one iota of home decorating DNA.

Just one polynucleotide. It could even be a really little one. One microscropic nucleotide of style and taste in just one measly polymer in the double helix of life.

I would like to be able to walk into a furniture store or look at paint swatches or carpet samples and know instinctively that this looks good and that looks ridiculous. I watch shows on HGTV, the home and garden channel, where designers snatch bits and pieces from sale shelves and bargain bins, put it all together, wave a magic wand over it, and voila! A house is beautifully transformed.

I watch it, but I just don’t get it. How do they do that?

In a brave attempt to update our house, I recently decided to replace the chandelier in our dining room. Easy, right? Easy for you maybe, with your overabundant decorating polynucleotides . . . your spilling-over-the-top tasteful DNA . . . your inborn, natural ability to know what’s beautiful and what isn’t . . .

I replaced this (before):

With this (after):

Does it look all right? I need some validation here. I need some reassurance. (But please, no comments on the 1970s furniture or the fake flower arrangement. Those have sentimental value and are non-negotiable.)

I want you to know that I consulted at length with a short, dumpy lady wearing a blue vest in the lighting department of Menard’s before I went out on a limb and bought this light fixture. Ethel (as her name tag declared) is now officially my personal interior designer, although she sold me the wrong light bulbs. (They weren’t the dim-able kind.)

In my own defense, I’m really good at vacuuming. I dust regularly. I keep a neat and tidy kitchen. It’s just interior decorating that confuses me. I think it was because I first started keeping house in the 1970s when people thought that orange shag carpet, avocado-green kitchen appliances, and harvest gold flocked wallpaper were cool. It completely warped my natural sense of taste and style, and I’ve been befuddled ever since.

Monday, September 13, 2010


I have always felt like we live in Mayberry R.F.D. Any minute I expect to see Andy Taylor and his little bare-foot boy Opie come walking down my street with their fishin’ poles and a can of worms.

It’s just that kind of a place.

We are not careless, mind you. We lock our doors at night or when we’re away from the house during the day. However, if we’re home, our doors and windows are usually wide open, our garage door is usually up, and the air is usually filled with the sounds of kids and bikes and lawn mowers.

Our house doesn’t have security bars or window alarms or pit bulls or motion lights or home security systems. Anybody with a fingernail file and a roll of duct tape could probably break in and steal our 20-year-old television quicker than you could say “Aunt Bea.”

That’s why it was a little unnerving last week when a neighbor who lives down the street from us stopped to warn us about a local crime spree. A nearby mobile home park has been a hotbed of attention from our local police department. Our neighbor had heard (second hand, but that still counts) that there’s a group of meth addicts living at that mobile home park who have robbed homes in broad daylight—looking for money, tools, electronics, or anything they can sell or pawn to support their meth habit.

I heard they go into garages where the door is left open, our neighbor cautioned.

They might even walk into houses when people are home, looting the inside while the occupants are out in their yards, our neighbor warned.

I’ve heard they are so desperate for drugs that they have become bold and ruthless, our neighbor claimed.

So for a couple of days, I faithfully shut our garage door. I conscientiously locked the doors to our house every time I went in and out. I was constantly on guard for people who looked like meth addicts roaming at large down our maple tree-lined street. I started looking suspiciously at the neighbors; how did I know that they weren’t the meth addicts cleverly disguised as 80-year-old spinster sisters or a retired pastor and his wife?

Everybody’s eyes started looking a little glassy to me.

Two days passed. My house was a fortress.

During those two days, not a single crazed meth addict tried to break into my locked-up-tighter-than-a-drum, claustrophobic house. I felt light headed, breathing the same stale air—twice, three, four times—knowing that each breath of recycled air contained less oxygen than the breath before. I started exhibiting many of the same symptoms as a meth addict myself: anxiety, hallucinations, paranoia (What was that noise? Was someone trying to break in??)

On day No. 3, I furtively lifted the drawn shades on my kitchen window and peeked outside. That’s when I noticed that the rest of the neighborhood looked like it always did: kids, bikes, dogs, lawnmowers, flowers, birds, open garage doors, Sheriff Andy and Opie going fishing. The usual.

Not a single meth addict in sight.

So I unlocked my doors. I pulled back the curtains and raised the shades as far as they would go. I opened my windows and let the cool September air blow through my house. And I felt safer and happier than I had in days.

Friday, September 10, 2010


When I wrote a story about Phyllis and the vacuum cleaner, I had two requests (granted they were from my two daughters) for more Phyllis stories. So here is the story of my sister-in-law Phyllis and the disappearing earring.

Tom’s 82-year-old sister Phyllis just loves to get dressed up. Now when I get dressed up, I usually put on my multi-purpose black pants and a shirt with some kind of a black-and-white Rorschach ink blot pattern. That’s my idea of dressed up.

But when Phyllis gets dressed up, Katy bar the door! (For anyone under the age of 60, “Katy bar the door” means “watch out—get ready for trouble.”) Phyllis knows how to put together an outfit that includes dazzling colors, low-cut necklines, sparkles, sequins, dangly earrings, clunky bracelets, strappy sandals, spiky hair, and general pizzazz. If I wore the same outfit, it would look like a Halloween costume. When Phyllis wears it, she looks an 82-year-old Cleopatra getting ready for a night out on the Nile.

At a family wedding several years ago, Phyllis was dressed to kill. She was classy and dazzling, her earrings a four-inch dangle of polished metal. At the reception, she sat at a tableful of family—eating, laughing, and telling stories.

All of a sudden there was a frantic public clamor. One of Phyllis's four-inch dangly earrings had disappeared.

Relatives crawled around on the floor under the table, searching for the missing jewelry. Phyllis looked under her chair, in her purse, on the table, inside her napkin. But the earring was gone—seemingly vanished into thin air. She was distraught. The missing earring threw off the entire effect of her haute couture.

A little later, my daughter-in-law tactfully suggested one more place Aunt Phil could look. Aha! There it was! Somehow the earring had slid off her ear, plunged into the low-cut neckline of her wedding outfit, and ended up lodged in the depths of her senior-citizen bosom.

Phyllis is not one to hide her light under a bushel basket. Soon everyone at her table knew that the lost had been found. With only a small bit of encouragement, she would even show them where it had been found. And somehow, eventually nearly everyone at the wedding reception had heard the earring story.

That might have been the end of the tale. However . . .

Last March, we were in Arizona, sitting around the table eating dinner with several family members. Aunt Phyllis was at the head of the table, calmly eating her dessert, when suddenly a small piece of chocolate cake dropped off her fork. She stopped cold, her fork suspended in midair. She searched her lap. She examined the front of her shirt for tell-tale chocolate smudges. She shook her napkin.

Then in a flash of déjà vu, she remembered her previous experience, and her hand disappeared into the low-cut front of her blouse. When her hand re-emerged, she was triumphantly holding the piece of chocolate between her thumb and her pointer finger. “Oh!” she exclaimed happily. “Here it is!” She popped the chocolate cake into her mouth.

The “five-second rule” evidently applies not only to food on the floor but also to food in your cleavage. Thank goodness we have our family matriarch, Aunt Phil, to pass down the rules of jewelry retrieval and fine dining to the next generation.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


A couple of my best memories from the summer of 2010 will be my two Mississippi River voyages on the U.S.S. Pontoon with Cap’n Tiny at the helm.

In the real world, Cap’n Tiny is a guy named Larry, a retired City of Minneapolis civil engineer, and my brother-in-law. But once he steps foot on the U.S.S. Pontoon and heads out on the Mississippi River, he becomes Cap’n Tiny, fearless navigator and river explorer. He knows every river landmark, every below-the-water danger, every rip rap rock on the shoreline, every flock of ducks. Cap’n Tiny knows who illegally landscapes the river bank or lops off tree branches and throws them into the river current (usually because they end up snagged on somebody’s dock down river).

And like every good river captain, he knows exactly where to pull into shore to find the good bathrooms.

He’s even trained my sister to be an efficient first-mate. “Aye, aye, Cap’n Tiny,” she calls as she pulls in the pontoon bumpers and unhooks the rope that tethers us to the dock, pushing us out into the river. “Avast and shiver me timbers, Cap’n sir, we’re ready to set sail.”

Well maybe my sister doesn’t exactly say “Aye, aye, Cap’n Tiny” and the rest of that salty sailor talk, but I’m sure she’s thinking it.

The first one onto the pontoon is always Lucy, the half German shepherd/half Chow mix dog they rescued from the animal shelter. Lucy dislikes the water but loves the pontoon. I suppose it would have been better if Cap’n Tiny had a parrot to perch on his shoulder; but given a little encouragement, I’m sure Lucy would be happy to climb up there and squawk a little pirate talk. She’s a dog who wants to please.

Cap’n Tiny and his wannabe parrot, Lucy

After everyone is boarded, dogs and people, off we go, down the Mississippi, to chase river pirates and keep the muddy waters of the Mississippi safe for other Minnesotans.

Then again, maybe we just float along the river, enjoying a beautiful September day, the blue sky, the moderate temperatures, the changing colors of the leaves—in the safe hands of Cap’n Tiny, master of the mighty Mississippi.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


About 35 years ago, Tom and I decided to put our “starter home” up for sale and look for a permanent home. A starter home, for those of you who haven’t been at that stage, is the piece-of-poop little house a couple buys when they first get married. They’re tired of dumping money into rent, so they figure that a little starter house is better than nothing.

They usually don’t love the house all that much. It’s usually w-a-a-a-y too small for more than two rather thin people, located in a neighborhood where drive-by shootings are the norm. The furniture is a combination of college-day leftovers, duct-taped rejects from relatives, and scavenged wrecks found the night before large-item curbside pickup day.

So 34 years ago, Tom and I sold our starter home and bought the house we would raise our family in. And here we’ve lived since 1976—lots of bedrooms and bathrooms, a big yard, close to Tom’s and my workplaces, lots of neighborhood kids, and a short five-minute drive from all the schools our kids attended. It was the perfect house to raise a family.

Perfect. Except for one thing.

In a state where there are 11,842 lakes . . . in a county containing 141 lakes . . . in a community where there are a dozen lakes within fifteen minutes of our house . . . amidst all this water, we live on dry land.

Those lake homes were always just out of our financial reach. We were never quite comfortable sticking our necks out quite that far and getting into that much house debt. So we stayed where we were, in our safe, comfortable, finally-paid-for home.

Enter the Financial Crisis/Real Estate Recession of 2008-10. We got the bug all over again. In this state of 11,842 lakes, there must be one little lake house, one modest cabin, that we could afford to buy. Surely in this real estate climate of foreclosures and short sales, there must be one seller who would be interested in pricing a lake home reasonably enough for two conservative retirees to afford without pushing them to the edge of a financial precipice.

There’s also another problem: I love every single lake home I ever see. Every. Single. One. I’ve never met a lake home I don’t like.

Steep bank? (No problem! I will be able to run up and down those 483 stairs to the lake far into my 90s.)

Only one bedroom with a flowered curtain for the doorway? (Pshaw! Bunk beds! Pull-out couches! Futons! Tents!)

No indoor plumbing? (I’ve used an outhouse before! I can carry water from the lake! I can chop a hole in the ice for a weekly bath in the wintertime! )

I love this lake home--it just needs a little paint!

Holes in the roof? (Skylights, my good people, think of them as skylights!)

Boat dock is missing boards? (Leaping! I’ve always been good at leaping! Even across open spans of water, I can leap.)

A pot of geraniums on the front porch would make this lake home perfect!

Then there’s Tom. He’s never met a single lake home in our modest price range that he likes.

Two dandelion on the lawn? (Yikes, weed problems! It will cost us thousands to get the weeds under control!)

Scratch on the refrigerator door? (The appliances will need to be replaced! If you replace the refrigerator, it will be just a matter of time before the stove will need to go and the dishwasher will need to be junked!)

Dated carpet on the family room floor? (Oh, my gosh! This place is a money pit! First the carpet, then we’ll need to paint—and then it will be windows and woodwork and shingles and siding . . . !!!!)

We have an appointment this afternoon to see a house out on Lake Ida. It’s our favorite lake—clean, quiet, good fishing, beautiful. It’s a house that’s been for sale for over a year. It was owned by an older couple who are probably giving it up because they can no longer physically care for the property. From pictures on the realty website, I can tell it’s dated—dark paneling, lots of crocheted afghans and rocking chairs, flowered 1983 wallpaper, harvest gold bathroom fixtures. The owners have probably never watched an episode of “House Hunters” on HGTV in their lives.

I know I’m going to love it. Unconditionally and irrationally.

I also know Tom will find a thousand things wrong with it.

We may never agree on a lake home. Somewhere in between our two extremes is a happy-medium reality. And maybe, just maybe, the house we live in right now IS our dream home and we don't even know it. Just because we've been married for 37 years doesn't mean our dreams are identical.

Saturday, September 04, 2010


When my newest grandson Tommy was baptized in August, we all trooped to St. Andrew of the Apostle Church in Chandler, Arizona, for Sunday morning services.

It’s very rare that I ponder . . . and contemplate . . . and mull over . . . a sermon topic for weeks after the sermon has been delivered. In fact, most of the time I couldn’t pass the “what-was-the-sermon-about?” test taken five minutes after the sermon ends. But that day, maybe because of the specialness of Tommy’s baptism day, I did remember the message.

The pastor said, “When you pray, don’t tell God your problem and then outline to Him how you would like your problem solved. Just tell Him your problem—and then stop. S-T-O-P. Stop.” He went on to give the example of someone who had lost a job and prayed, “Dear God, I lost my job. Please send me a bucketful of money and dump it in my lap.” Or how about, “Dear God, I am worried about my son. Please make his bad-influence friends disappear off the face of the earth and give him a scholarship to Harvard.”

I'm just so full of ideas about how to solve my own problems. I just lack the wherewithal (i.e., the magic wand and pixie dust) to solve them myself. So I like to sit back and place my order to God about how I would like things taken care of—kind of like the drive-up window at Burger King. (“And I’ll have fries with that.”)

The pastor assured us that it is okay to mention our problems to God. In fact, he encouraged it. But then we need to STOP! God's plan does not necessarily involve a short-term bucketful of money or a scholarship to Harvard—or even fries.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this wrong: “Please, God, my dad is really ill and frail, so would you please . . .” (fill in the blank with my very specific directions, which vary from day to day, but usually involve turning water into wine and walking on water).

And then when my insightful directions are not followed, I get all disappointed and annoyed. What good does it do to pray when He doesn’t do what I ask? After all, who knows better than I do how to fix the world or solve my own problems?

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been carrying this sermon around in my head. Who knows, maybe it will sink in to my control-freak brain and someday I will just automatically share my problem and STOP. His will be done.

Maybe I’m not too old and set in my ways to learn to let go and let someone else take charge for a change.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


Last year, I went around for weeks with two lines of Lady Gaga’s song “Poker Face” stuck in my head.

“P-p-p-poker face, Mum, mum, mum, mah, p-p-poker face, mum mum mum,” I’d sing. It was just one of those tunes stuck in my head, even if I only knew a couple of lines.

I had no clue what I was singing.

Then one day, I googled the lyrics. Sheesh. Holy cow. Sheesh.

I stopped singing “Poker Face.”

But now I have a new Lady Gaga song in my head, “Bad Romance.” Again, I can only understand about two lines of the lyrics. And since I am not a participant in a bad romance (thank you, Tom), I started substituting the only thing that had gone wrong in my life lately: my hair.

After going to the same hairdresser for the past eleventy-nine years, she went a little wacko on me. ‘Plain and simple,’ I always tell her. ‘Nothing fancy. Make my hair look like it belongs on a retired schoolteacher.’

She had tactfully labeled my hairstyle a “classic bob” during one visit, and I clung to that term. “Classic bob.” That was me. I liked the sound of it. I’m definitely a classic bob kind of woman.

And then, at my appointment in August, my hairdresser must have been inhaling too many peroxide fumes or slugging henna shots because she tried to go designer on me. Murmuring soothingly about layering and shaping, she cut my hair into little angles and corners and weird isometric tiers. It certainly didn’t help that this past August was the hottest and most humid August in the history of Minnesota summers. All those little hair angles and tress schmangles just frizzed up into shrubbery.

Sometimes when I get home from walking my two to four miles on a humid day, I glance at myself in the mirror and shriek in horror. I look like an extra in a scene from Night of the Walking Dead.

Don’t misunderstand me. I know full well that if the worst thing happening to me right now is a bad haircut, I am a lucky girl. Lucky, lucky, lucky. But I still find myself with that Lady Gaga tune rolling around in my head:

Rah rah ah-ah-ah!
Ro mah ro-mah-mah
Gaga Ooh-la-la!
Caught in a bad hairrrr-cut . . .

Before I start singing this at the top of my lungs in public places, I’d better google the rest of the lyrics. I have an uneasy feeling that Lady Gaga is talking smack again in this song, and it isn’t the type of song a classic-bob sort of lady wants to be singing, even if she does have a bad haircut.