How are you?

“How are you?” he asked.
How much time you got? I mean, I could easily provide a lengthy, challenging, and emotionally charged response, right?
After a brief moment of contemplation and equally quick dismissal, I said,
“I am well. Thanks for asking.
I’m here. I’m not wearing a mask.
I’m outside. It’s not raining.
I’ve got a cold beer. I’m going to hang out with my friends.
I get to hear some live music.”
I paused and leaned conspiratorially into the socially respectful space between us.
“I might even hug someone.”

That was my Saturday night.
The first of its kind since probably October of 2019.
I sat outside in the warm, humid, summer air, drank a cold beer from a sweating bottle, chatted with folks I haven’t visited with in much too long, and listened to some kick-ass live music from members of Hello Dave.

And then, as I was leaving and we were all being grateful for this opportunity, thanking the hosts and the band members, I…hugged someone.

This private event was sponsored by a generous couple in support of The Farm Way, a safe haven for horses and other animals in need.

Posted on The Farm Way Horses Helping Us web page, “From the moment we attempt to join with the horse, we get immediate, honest and observable feedback. Horses do not over think a person’s motives. They simply mirror the behavior given and this often spurs the answers needed to influence personal self-discovery.”

This sentiment spoke to me.

“How are you?” he’d asked.
I didn’t overthink it.

I am well.
It feels good.
However fleeting…

How are you?

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Table of Safety

At my house, we have this thing we call the Table of Safety. Officially, it’s our dining room table, where we sit each morning reading the paper, scrolling the internet, and eating our breakfast. Unofficially, it’s anywhere we need to invoke a sense of respect and privacy during conversation.

It’s sort of a, “No offense, but…”
Or a, “Between you and me…”
An occasional, “This might sound stupid…”
Sometimes an, “Oh my god, can you believe…”
And maybe even, a “What the f–!”

It’s a safe space where ranting is allowed.
Observations occur.
Discussion ensues.
Talking and listening.
Paths are followed, answers are sought.

We get it all out at the Table of Safety.
ALL OF IT. Well, as much as we can.
And then we get on with our day.

I believe speaking out loud is therapeutic. As an author, I often discover solutions to my blocks, tropes, or plot problems by discussing out loud. Yes, I talk to myself. Yes, I talk to others. Sometimes just hearing the words helps put them in perspective. Other times, a suggestion will be made that hits home and clears the lane to understanding. Often, advice offered that is ridiculously far off-base (but sincerely given) can trigger the perfect result! Regardless, it’s important to know that what is said will be accepted. Not judged, not discredited, not denied.

It’s not a stretch to say everyone could use a Table of Safety.
I think that if all people were given the opportunity to share their opinion, assumptions, ideas, suggestions, solutions, etc, in a safe place with no judgement, only genuine respect, maybe they wouldn’t feel the need to take it to the internet. If we all had a place to express our vulnerability and curiosity, we might be more open to others and their differences.

If folks were provided a safe-zone to pursue a line of thinking, they might actually make it all the way to the end of that line. An impulsive diatribe might seek and find a satisfying conclusion. A brilliant retort might be found to be unhelpful and down right unnecessary.

We don’t always agree at the Table of Safety, but that’s one more benefit. To bring another point of view to the table, literally. It’s not about being right. It’s about exploring options through civil discourse. Considering a thought other than your own. I know I am more knowledgeable, empathetic, and patient because of this shared experience.

I think it’s safe to say that we’re all pretty frustrated and bunged up right now. Too often that stress erupts in detrimental ways.

I encourage you to find your own Table of Safety.
In the privacy of your own home, across from someone you love.
Be controversial. Be sympathetic. Play the “what if…” game.
Let it out.
Let it all out. Or, as much as you can.
Then get on with your day.

The TOS is probably not going to solve the world’s problems but it just might expand our way of thinking. And I think that’s a good start.

 

 

 

 

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White Board Worthy

I’ve recently returned from a writers’ retreat and was thinking about what words of writing wisdom I could share with my Monday blog readers . . . but then I realized our highlights are NSFW.

My friends do not, and I am currently not, writing mature themes. Our novels contain very little crude indecent language (L), explicit sexual activity (S), or graphic violence (V). Due to our Young Adult (YA), and mainstream fiction genres, our books are pretty family friendly.

But man, our retreat conversations are like twelve year old boys at a Sailor Convention hosted by George Carlin during a full moon.

We laugh A LOT
because
WE ARE FRICKIN* HILARIOUS.
*edited for general audiences

There was a time or two that we jotted our best lines on a white board and took pics for posterity. Viewing later, out of context, they’re merely funny because. Which, is okay, I mean, anything that brings a smile to your face and a chuckle to your throat is good, right?

But in the moment, HOLY MOLY . . .
well, I guess you had to be there.

It’s so good to be there.

We haven’t remembered to bring a white board in ages, but we still reference a spontaneous hilarity as being “white board worthy”.

For the record, we did get a lot of reading, writing, and editing accomplished on this retreat. But mostly, and I swear, this has never been more important than it is right now, we caught up on a lot of sharing, socializing, and, of course, laughing.

Sanity for the win.
You can put it on the board, YES!

NOT MY WHITE BOARD! Credit: reddit DAT_CANKLE/

Credit: Matt Surelee

NOT MY WHITE BOARD! Credit: Matt Surelee

NOT MY WHITE BOARD! Credit: Matt Surelee

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This is my 443rd week of posts!

I came across an old blog post the other day and it inspired me to update it. It’s from January 28, 2013 and titled MaryFranniversary. It celebrates a FULL year, 52 weeks, of Monday blogs.

I was pretty proud of myself for having completed that many posts.

I realize it’s the end of June which marks no special “maryfranniversary” or big number, (like 500–it could happen!) but I thought it was fun to revisit and wanted to share. With everything that’s been going on lately, a friendly little flashback might be welcome.

Here, for your reading pleasure, complete with updated commentary in parentheses and in blue, is that post:

Cel-e-brate Good Times, C’mon!

It’s my third week of the In Print ABC Blogging Challenge, but you could begin today!
(you could do an Alphabet inspired blog series, but In Print is no more)

I’m happy to tell you that C is for Celebrate! This blog marks my 52nd, an entire year of weekly blog posts.

Print

In that year I have covered a variety of subjects, from me to me.
(Dang, I wish I could put emoticons in these posts!)
(you can TOTALLY add emoticons, 🙂 I just didn’t know how!)
In those blogs I’ve shared things like my post card story,
(OMG, please go read about the post card story! click on the highlighted words)
the superlative nature of Wednesdays, plans for my after party,
(The After Party is another of my favorite posts! again, click on the highlighted words to open the new page)
my word nerdery, how I felt about the Batman movie (ugh) and my love of Diet Coke and Doritos.
Fifty-two weeks!
Hey Frito Lay, where’s my sponsorship?
(I have not received any sponsorships, but I have received surprise gifts from readers!)

I’ve enjoyed blogging more than I thought I would.
(YA THINK?! 443 weeks of posts!)
Anyone who’s read the very first post knows I came upon this by accident. Digitally challenged though I may be, I believe I’ve covered some interesting topics over the last fifty-plus weeks. (But how could I go wrong with me? Oh man, I bet you’re all waiting with baited breath for M week!)
(I do feel like I’ve expanded my sphere of subjects, although, I guess, there is no getting away from that they’re all about me in some way…)

I like that I wing it. Usually I wait until Monday morning, after Dave has left and the dogs have been tended,
(we have a totally different corgi crew now! 😦 sad face for the ones I’m missing, 🙂 for the new crew)
to sit down at the computer and let the thoughts fly. Probably not the most professional of ways to put my writing out there, but I wanted the blogs to be natural, untethered and unedited. I think it’s been good practice for me to write them this way. Yes, there are many that, when I reread them, I cringe,
(OMG, yes)
but that’s part of the learning curve. I’m trying to become a better writer through practice and habit.
(The ABC Blogging Challenge has given me much more opportunity to pre-think my blog subjects…, now I’m always considering things like P is for Practice, yeah, that’d be a good subject… what week is P?)
(I went with P is for Perspective)

I’m actually kind of proud of myself for making it to week fifty-two.
I have a frenetic creative nature; dedication and perseverance are often upstaged by distraction. To quote a common meme, Squirrel!

At first I worried that I wouldn’t be able to come up with subject matter week after week,
(HA!)
but aha! That’s where the frenetic creative nature comes in handy. As it turns out, coming up with ideas has not been a problem. Of course, I also worried that posting weekly would be a challenge for me. Other than brushing my teeth twice a day and my sacred Wednesdays, I rarely do anything regularly. I have missed a few Monday mornings, but overall, I’d say I could mark a passing grade in the consistency column.
(yes, I have done quite well with continued consistency)

Thank you for your eyes and encouragement (two potential E’s!).
(I went with Empty Nest)
I could do this without you, but it wouldn’t be nearly as rewarding.
(thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!)
I look forward to continuing my MaryFranSays blog, and I hope you will continue to check it out.
(thank you for still checking it out)

P.S. A celebratory shout-out to my C-friend whose birthday I will be acknowledging shortly at brunch over eggs and Grey Goose. Post the damn blog so we can party!
(HA! funny thing is, another C-friend has a birthday this week! unfortunately, no celebratory brunch…hopefully soon)

(as long as we’re flashing back…)

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DeKalb Weird

Some of you are probably thinking, about time, right?
And others are like, what?

A quick refresher–whenever I travel, I try to keep track of things that I experience that are new and/or different for me. You know, anything that causes me to say, “Hmm, well that’s weird.”

I’ve published “weird” lists for Ireland (twice), Austin, and our trek to Boston. And since I can’t travel right now, I thought I’d put my own town to the weird test.

Obviously, Pringle single serve vending machines and Pokemon sock torches are ‘normal’ in Ireland.

As are bat bridges and city buses that avoid the Capital in Austin. And, of course, walking your cat through the park in Boston and locking your bike seat to a tree.

Today, I compile a list for my own DeKalb. That’s dee-kal b. Not dee-kahb. And, for the record, it’s capital D, little e, capital K, little a-l-b. And, we’re in DeKalb County, Illinois, not the one in Georgia.

A couple of quick Fun Facts:
* DeKalb is known as “Barb City” thanks to barbed wire barons Joseph Glidden and Isaac Ellwood.
* Super model Cindy Crawford was born and raised in DeKalb.
* Northern Illinois University is in DeKalb.

It’s harder than you’d think to find “weird” stuff where you live. I mean, when I travel, I’m comparing my regional offerings and expectations to those places, which is how I decide what counts as “weird”.

But, here goes
a couple of WEIRD things
I’ve seen in DeKalb lately…

The woman STANDING at the drive thru window of our bank. (Where Cindy Crawford’s mother used to work.) I realize the inside of the bank is closed, but her car was parked where the next car in line would have been. So, she drove to the lane but then walked to the window? Kinda weird.

The shopping cart full of bagged (and I assume, paid for) items left behind my car in the store parking lot. I perused the lot for its owner, saw no one, moved it aside, unloaded my groceries into my trunk, put my cart in the corral, and then stood and looked around for a person missing a cart. I saw no one!

There are real groceries in there! Who abandons their cart behind someones car? I have theories…but its weird, right?

Okay, this next one–
was the inspiration for this list.
Because I dumped out the bag and thought, What the heck? But then my NEXT thought was, “Hmm, well that’s weird.”

We went to the Burger King drive thru for breakfast. Picked up a couple of bacon croissants, a couple of sausage biscuits, and a bunch of their tasty hashbrown rounds.
And, as a bonus, we received–

A TON OF GRAPE JAM PACKETS.
Maybe that’s NOT weird for you.
Maybe you always get a handful of jelly to go with your egg, cheese, and meat breakfast sandwiches. Maybe you dip your tots in grape pectin preserves.
I don’t judge.
I do, however, get BK breakfasts occasionally and have NEVER before been provided with half a bag of jam.

So, yeah, I thought it was weird.
And blog post inspiring.

I hope the ‘weird’ in your life is equally entertaining.
Do share!

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Change is good, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I came across this photo the other day and decided it was particularly timely.  Taken on my sixth birthday in October, 1972, it’s my friends and I posing for a photo in our party best.

I love this picture.
Today, this picture makes me sad.

This is a photo from my birthday party.
These are my friends.
Not the entire class.
Not even all of the girls from my class.
These are my friends.
Hand-picked, personally invited, included to share in the cake and ice cream, games and prizes, present opening and picture sitting. Because they were my friends and birthdays are important.

My grandson turns six on Wednesday.
There will be no friends at his party.
No hand-picked–nor the whole class–friends to share in cake and ice cream, games and prizes, present opening and picture sitting.

Of all the things that have changed in the last fifty years or so, who would have thought NO FRIENDS at a birthday party would be one of them?

I love this picture.
Today, this picture makes me sad.

This is me with my cousin-brother on the day of my high school graduation, May 1984. There were almost 300 students in my graduating class.
The ceremony was held at the high school in the auditorium with rows of chairs and parents in the bleacher seats.
We had speeches, photo projections, and music.
We crossed the stage, accepted our diploma, and shook the many congratulatory hands because graduations are important.

Several of my friends’ have kids and grandkids graduating high school or college this year.
There will be no ceremonies.
No crossing the stage, accepting a diploma, nor shaking the many congratulatory hands.

Of all the things that have changed in the last thirty-six years or so, who would have thought NO CEREMONY for a graduation would be one of them?

Things have been altered on so many levels these last few months. We will be discovering the depths of these modifications for a very long time.

I know, things change.

And I know they will be good again. I guess I just feel sad for the youth caught in the midst of the unpredictable; the shifts we didn’t see coming. I have no doubt that the six year olds and graduates of today will be influential and adaptive.

They will make the best of it.
I guess I should, too.

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I’m Melting

A shout out to MY PEEPS! To the ladies in that mature stage of life between puberty and death.

Fair Warning: This post is not for the young, physically squeamish, or well, guys, I guess. Although the latter might learn a thing or two. Just sayin’.

Been kinda warm and summery around these parts lately with above average temps.
Suffice it to say, IT IS HOT. And when you suffer from internal flare-ups, the last thing you need is external heat.

For those of you women not there yet, those of you cruising gently across the landscape of menopause*, or those of you of the male persuasion still with me, I want you to imagine your absolute worst, most horrifyingly embarrassing moment. Now, channel all of that tightness, discomfort, unease and intense rising flush to your face. Then quadruple it throughout your entire body. And I mean all of it. Places you might think were immune but are NOT.

I AM ON FIRE.
My forearms are damp.
There is a stream in my cleavage.
The tops of my knees are sweating.
Surely, my head must be steaming.
How am I not dehydrated?

AND, if all that wasn’t bad enough, I’m finding that the hot flashes are spoiling things I love. So, in the style of David Letterman‘s Late Show TOP TEN LIST, I present my top ten list of things that menopausal hot flashes are ruining for me:

10. Blankets

9. Soup

8. Bonfires

7. The hot tub

6. Hugs

5. Summer

4. Snuggling

3. Sleep

2. Coffee

and THE NUMBER ONE THING that hot flashes are wrecking for me…

1. Sex

You were probably reading along, thinking it was funny, no big deal, all stuff you could live without–
Yeah, it sucks when ooh baby you’re so hot takes on a whole new not flirty and totally unsexy meaning.

Do NOT think for a moment that I don’t still do those things. I mean, I don’t flash ALL the time. THANK GOODNESS. And really, who could live without…coffee? LOL.

Getting older is not for the weak.
But it is important to keep a sense of humor.
And a fan on the night stand.

*A little bit, I hate you. But mostly I’m just very jealous.

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This is a test. This is only a test.

I’m struggling with words this morning.
My predictably regular Monday morning thoughts are randomly escaping me.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this disconnectedness.

Chaos: When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.

I do believe we are all in this together.
What hurts one, hurts all.

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Honor and Respect

It’s been a rough many weeks of sheltering in place.
This date marks the SEVENTY-SIXTH day for those of us in Illinois.
Just another day.
Maybe a Monday?
Who knows?!
It hardly seems like a holiday.

For the record: IT IS MONDAY, MAY 25th, 2020
MEMORIAL DAY.

Our restrictions soften officially May 29th, but I’m pretty sure there will be some rule breaking today.
GOOD.
We need it.

People are restless, frustrated, bored, lonely, angry, and scared.
Those emotions do not contribute to happy, cooperative, friendly folks.

A wee bit of socializing on a beautiful late spring day will fill our vessels immensely.
In honor of those men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military, we will come together in remembrance with respect and celebration.
We will fill our cups.
And our souls.
We will toast in gratitude.
Cups raised high to the sacrifices made by courageous people.
And to our personal prosperity, whatever that means to us.

And tomorrow, may we recognize it’s Tuesday with a refreshed sense of purpose.
Grateful to those who sacrifice in their own ways daily.

 

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Doing my part.

As you probably know, I’ve been working on the sequel to A Stranger’s Child for almost two years now. It’s been slow going…a false start (that part will be book three), personal stuff, and the unexpected deaths of friends and family (2019 was a rough year) all contributed to slowing my momentum.

Now, with this damn virus, I’ve never had MORE time and LESS motivation.

But then I got a text from a good friend that put things in perspective for me–
“Can’t they stop publishing books for a while and give me a chance to catch up??”
And I thought, YES! I CAN DO THAT!

So you see, my delinquency is just me doing my part to make your life easier.
Please, continue reading.
I will take my time.*
You are welcome.

Book One, in case you haven’t read it yet.  Available through Amazon and Kindle.

*By the time you are ready, this sequel is going to be amazing.
Win-win.

 

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