Colored Pens

a checkbook nightmare lady

Monday, July 25, 2016

Today I am grateful for colored pens.  Why?  Because it took four different colors to back-check the problems I had created in our checkbook!  Four!


Also four (4) hours.  Also at least four power outages, which is not that big of a deal if I’m writing because I have a laptop, but I needed to be on line to double check the account against the paper record.  Then the power went out.  Again and again and again and again.  And each time I had to start over and re-boot.  Sometimes not even getting close before it popped out again.


I don’t know what my problem is, but I’m starting to get concerned.  For the last three months I have made some seriously stupid mistakes regarding paying bills and reconciling the checkbook.  I’m beginning to wonder if it has something to do with the surgery I had.  Anesthetic?  I hope so, because then I know it will get better.

I had to call Himself in to help again today.  It’s just too hard to keep my place, looking from computer screen to check register.  What a nightmare.  When we finally found the huge and very stupid mistake. . .in my handwriting (rats). . .I melted down, blubbering in complete hysterics!


“What is WRONG with me?”  I blurbled.  “I usually sit down and reconcile the checkbook in ten minutes with it sometimes being off only by pennies!”  Still blubberbleing.  “These last three months I’ve made mistakes (sob-snorting-here) every time I pay bills and more!”  She’s lost it, folks.  Maybe I just needed a good bawl in light of the political bantering.  I don’t know, but I wasn’t done.  “I must have the Alzheimers!  What if I have the Alzheimers?”  I was such a mess, poor Himself didn’t know if I was laughing or bawling.  Both.  I know how ridiculous I sounded.


Our checkbook ledger looks like an adult coloring book.  Done by a two-year-old.  Very pretty and colorful.  We went back as far as the bank would let us and still aren’t sure why it was still a little off, even after we found two mistakes.  Grrrrrrr.  But I just couldn’t fret over it anymore.  Just couldn’t!  The book doesn’t match the bank on-line, so we went with on-line.  Slash!  Big green mark stating that was the end of the debacle.


Even a half an hour later I still wasn’t done melting down, so Himself says, “Boy, you are really coming unglued, today.”  And he laughed.  I did, too.  I think.  I can’t be sure because I was bawling too hard.

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Marianne Henckel, An Inspirational Teacher

Mrs. Henckle & Me cropped- best-bright

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Today I am grateful for Marianne Henckel, an inspirational teacher, who taught Business English at Sheboygan South High School when I was there back in 1968.  And I just reconnected with her on my last visit to Sheboygan and told her so.  Wow.  What a moment for me.  And I hope her.  Go pee and/or grab a cup ‘o whatever because if you stick with this you will be here awhile.  I thought of breaking it up into several blogs, but decided I wanted the story told from beginning to end, no matter what the length.


While I was visiting with a bunch of former (I won’t call them “old”) classmates on our recent trip, we got to talking about teachers.  It wasn’t all good.  But when we knew them we were bratty teenagers, with a cruelty level only that breed carries.  Someone mentioned the one who snorted; one with big feet; one who’s fly never quite closed; and one. . .or several who we all saw heading for the bars, then and years later. . .with drinking problems.  Now that I’ve raised kids and spent time in schools myself, I understand that bar thing a lot better.


One name that consistently came up, always in a positive way, was Marianne Henckel, a Business English teacher.  I loved Mrs. Henckel.  I did the math and she was 38 in 1968.  I thought she was much older than that.  All of my kids are older than that right now.  Mrs. Henckel was a hoot.  She had twinkling eyes, a quick sense of humor and a sassy attitude.  And she still does.  I’m so glad.


When one of my two boyfriends (gimme a break – it was high school) would hang out in the hallway chatting with me after the bell rang, she would insinuate her four-foot-nothing frame between us, shag him down the hallway, then spin around and usher me into the room by the elbow, with me protesting and her insisting I would learn something today.


And I did.  Every day.  I would beg her to sway from the grammar part of the curriculum and give us something more fun to do.  She would argue vehemently, yet usually acquiesce.  Or did I just think she did?  One day she said, “Class!”  Vertically, but not vocally challenged, she could get our attention very easily.  “Today I want you to design a letterhead for a business.  Be creative.  It doesn’t matter what the business is, except that the design should reflect the business.  Then I want you to write a business letter on this letterhead paper.”  Oh boy.  Finally something fun in school.


During that discussion with classmates about teachers, I mentioned how Mrs. Henckel used to get her hair done at Pranges Salon, where I had worked for 17 years.  It was always good to see her, yet I never told her how important she had been in my teen years.  Why?  I don’t know.  Someone said, “I think she still lives someplace in the county.”  So when I got back to my computer I did a search.  Sure enough.


I called the Assisted Living Facility where she was a resident and spoke with a lovely woman.  “Sure,” she said, in the way only people in Sheboygan say “sure”.  “She’s in independent living, though.  I can’t transfer a call.  She has her own number.”  Oh boy.  I knew that even this nice lady wouldn’t give me her number.  She’d lose her job if she did.


“Could you please get a message to her?” I asked, getting the same extended “sure” back.  “Please tell her that a former student of hers from 1968 is in town for only one more day and would like to see her if at all possible.”  Thinking fast, I gave her my maiden name, Mary Jens.


“Jens?”  she asked.  “Jens?  We have a couple here named Jens.”  Until then I knew my aunt and uncle were in an assisted living facility, but had no clue where.  That’s how I found them.  Talk about kismet.  And gratitude.  “Sure, I’ll give Marianne your number and she can call you back.”  Okay, I thought.  Not great, but probably the best I can hope for.  Will she call?  Who knows?


But she did.  Almost right away.  She had appointments the following morning so she wasn’t sure if we could meet.  She also didn’t remember me, which I expected, so I reminded her of the boyfriends.  Then I took a chance and talked about that letterhead assignment, which I got a firm “A” on.  I had learned at the salon years later that she had used my paper as an example of creativity and an excellent use of natural talent, when describing the lesson to future students.  My paper.  Mine?


She said she would call me the next day, when she returned from her appointment.  We had lunch at our favorite hamburger joint, then headed to the assisted living facility to visit with my aunt and uncle.  They lit up when we saw them in the dining hall and during the later chat, told us how the place was abuzz because we were visiting them and Marianne Henckel.  Very cool.  Can’t keep a secret in Sheboygan.


Except she hadn’t called.  So, pain in the ass that I can be, I called her again. “Yes,” she said, her sweet voice instantly recognizable.  “I just got home.”  We made plans to go to her apartment in about a half an hour, when we had finished visiting the aunt and uncle.


A lovely, white haired lady, probably even a little shorter, opened her door.  “Hi!  Mrs. Henckel!”  I was so excited I almost knocked her over.  “This is my husband, John.”  Introductions over she turned off the TV, showed us to a seat in her living room and let me babble.  “You probably don’t remember me so I printed this picture of what I looked like in high school,” I said, jamming the too-small photo in her face, she peering at it and looking at me, trying to find a resemblance between they young, tight-skinned, perky girl and the older, wrinkly woman plopped on her couch.


With a somewhat bewildered look on her face she said, “When I was going to sleep late last night I got to thinking about an animal on the paper.  A big animal with a compelling eye.”  Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  She remembered.  I was overjoyed.


“It was the profile of an elephant and I used my eye makeup to draw the eye and shade in the elephant.  The company was Mammoth Construction and the body of the letter was written inside the u-shaped curve of the elephants up-turned trunk.  You told me you loved it and gave me an “A” and believe me I didn’t get very many “A’s”.  And you used to come to Pranges Salon and told me how you would use my paper as an example.  Do you remember that?  I think you went to Lauren.”  I think she remembered me during my babble.


“Yes, I did go to Lauren.  For many years,” she said, still smiling sweet encouragement.  I continued.  “Well, Mrs. Henckel, I know it’s been a very long time, but I want you to know that I am now a writer and I have a blog I write on almost daily.”  She smiled.  I told her I had just been at the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference and one several awards for my writing.  She was impressed.  I was overjoyed.  Then I mentioned that I was thinking of writing a memoir and that until the conference I hadn’t realized that you could write several different memoirs.  I always thought you had to start at the beginning of your life and then write until you end.  She said, “But dear, that would be an autobiography then, wouldn’t it?”  Ever the teacher.  We giggled like girls.  I told her of my dread of diagramming sentences and she said, “They don’t even do that anymore.” We giggled again, both grateful for that.


Then I shared how her name had come up as someone who influenced me with pure and honest encouragement. . .and humor, whenever I had done motivational speaking, in Asia, or the United States,.  “No matter what I had planned to speak on, somewhere in the course of my talk your name would pop up.”


Of course, I bawled.  I could tell she didn’t know what to do with me.  I didn’t know what to do with me, either, because until that moment I hadn’t realize how 100% true my words were.  Whenever the voices of doubt plague me, I see her diminutive stature and big smile, telling me I am completely capable.


Himself took a few pictures and we made our exit after about a half an hour.  “Tell me, Mrs. Henckel,” I said, walking to the door.  By now she must have thought I was interviewing her for a magazine article, “Do you have any children?”  This is always a topic people love to discuss and I was stalling.  “No,” she answered.  “We were never able to have children.”  The pain of that was still slightly visible in her eyes and I wanted to cut my tongue out.  “But you had hundreds of kids.  And you still have me!”  And I believe that is true for a lot of teachers. Hundreds.  Thousands, whom they have influenced.


My hand was on the doorknob when she said, “I was born in 1930.”  I teased her that she was going to make me do the math and her eyes twinkled and the giggle reappeared.  “I’m a twin.  My sister and I are very close to the same age.”  She loved that one.  So did I.


Thank you, Marianne Henckel, my favorite teacher from 48 years ago, for continuing to be an inspiration in my life.  You are still the same. . .on the inside. . .where it counts.  But I am. . .once again. . .forever changed.

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Ruby, the Grand-cat

Himself brushing Ruby

This is her true color.

Ruby 020

Where’s. . . Ruby!

Ruby CU

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Today I am grateful for Ruby, our grand-cat who is staying with us for a few weeks, while her mom & dad and their baby vacation at the shore.  Although we have owned plenty of cats, we have never watched one before.  Mostly we get dogs, who never leave your side, beg by drooling on the rug when you’re eating and chase around all over the place like it’s their bound duty.  Not cats.


Himself spent half of her first day here, wandering through the house with a flashlight, looking for her.  Note:  You cannot find a cat if they do not want to be found.  Ever.  Get that?  Never, ever.  Still, like the great white hunter, he padded around poking that light under hutches and chairs and beds.  When he sat down she appeared like one of his magic tricks.  Game over.  So he brushed her and she sashayed her butt in front of him like a true slut.  I swear he brushed off enough fur to make two new cats.


Most cat people I know have great “trees” for them to climb in the house.  I felt bad that Ruby didn’t have anything like that here, until I watched her leap from the back of the chair to the top of the TV unit, then poke her head in every piece of pottery and float to the apex of the decorative chest, where she promptly curled up and had a nice long nap.  Gotta love cats.  Where there is a will there is a way.  And she’s been up there again and again so it wasn’t a fluke or terrible mistake.  Funny thing is they claim she’s clumsy.  Apparently not at Grandma’s.


As bad as Himself is with the flashlight, that’s me with the camera.  I took 56 pictures and got maybe 10 that were passable and 6 I felt were pretty good.  Most were a blur of gray.  It’s going to be a lot of fun to have Ruby around.  When we can find her!

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Surprise Heartprint

Friday, July 22, 2016

Today I am grateful for a surprise heartprint.  I have many things I want to write about. One in particular is still germinating in my head, writing itself, yet not ready to be typed in.  Others are bouncing around like Bingo balls at the American Legion.  But not yet.


I am weary, so I’ll wait.  Why weary?  Did you catch any of the news about Nice, France and now Munich, Germany, not to mention countless other places of violence or terror in our country and abroad?  Did you punish yourself, like I did, by watching the Republican National Convention?  I’m surprised we are not all in a coma trying to recover from the screaming, vitriolic  anger that assaults us every day.  I feel like a misbehaving child who is being screamed at by dad and each time dad starts another tirade, the kid says, “Yeh, but dad, I didn’t. . .it wasn’t that way. . .I don’t believe. . .but what about. . .?. . .” but dad doesn’t listen.  Instead he just screams louder, spitting vile hatred that serves no one.  Especially me.  Or you.


Yes, I am weary.  So imagine my joy this morning, when I stepped into the hall, heading to the kitchen to make my tea.   The sun was at just the right angle, bouncing off of a heart shaped mirror, splashing the reflection on a wall that never, ever sees sun.  I felt much needed joy.  Small.  Peaceful. Simple.  Unexpected, quiet, joy.


I am grateful for the silence of the surprise heartprint.   For me.  And you.


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Jack-a-Lope for President

Jack-a-lope CU

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Today I am grateful for the Jack-a-Lope who hung on the wall of the cabin we recently stayed in. And I am nominating him as a write-in candidate for President of the United States.  Finally a solution you can live with.  You’re welcome.

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Kathryn Craft

book on computer

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Today I am grateful that Kathryn Craft has a story to tell. . .and she is a fantastic writer.  Good combination!  Her latest novel, “The Far End of Happy” should be a film. . .and I’ll bet money it will be!


I always tremble a little when I begin a book by a new author and Kathryn was no exception.  Will she leave me flat, lumbering over page after page to just get through it until I want to stick a fork in my eye and put it back on the shelf?  Or will she give me the gift of being swept along in an interesting story?  Will she present me with unbelievable people, who I wouldn’t care about and cannot imagine knowing?   Or will she develop characters I feel strongly about, either loving them; being angry with them; or finding them so interesting that I’m already head-casting the actors for the movie?  Will she grab me fast and make me want to forget about everything else I have to do, forcing me to turn the page when I don’t have time to read more?  She will.


In “The Far End of Happy”, Kathryn Craft does all of those things and more.  She quickly gives me the, who, what, where, when and why of the story.  I find that chilling since the novel is based on a real event from her own life.  As a writer myself, I know how risky that can be.  The line between fact and fiction has to blur or it isn’t a novel, it’s a memoir.  But where do you end?  Where does your character begin?  Not only you, but what about all of the other players in your drama?  Families have fallen apart from less exposure.  How do you balance the facts and still remain true to the story?


She knows how.  Because some stories need to be told.  This is one of them.  Kathryn braves the topics of alcoholism, violence, mental illness, weapon hoarding, suicide, and family dynamics laced with secrets.  But there is hope, too, all packed in one novel.  The time-of-day chapters add a ticking-clock feeling into the story that smacks of urgency and gets the heart pumping harder with each chapter.  She offers just enough backstory on the key players to keep you turning like pages like it was a flip-book.


Sometimes when I am reading I feel so connected to a line that I dog ear the corner, wishing I had written it.  My copy of Kathryn’s book looks like a puppy kennel.   One of my favorite lines is, “. . .it was hard for Ronnie to look him in the eye, with their chaos splashed all over him.”  That, my friends, is great writing.  It tells me everything I need to know in one small sentence.  And there are a million of them.


Don’t miss reading this book.  Order it for your entire book club.  Order it for Christmas.  And when everyone you know has read it, then sit down with someone you love and have that hard conversation.   You’ll know which one.

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Sock Drawer of Himself

sock drawer 001 (2)

Monday, July 18, 2016

Today I am grateful for the sock drawer of Himself.  I made a commitment to myself to watch both the Republican and Democratic Conventions.  It’s important to know what you want and probably more important to know what you don’t want.  How can I do that if I am not informed?


But I am totally sick of politics and everything about it.  I get so angry hearing lies.  I get angry seeing people who I can’t respect for one second claim they are speaking for me.  I get angry when people push racism, speak out of both sides of their mouths and promote war.  On either side.


It became pretty clear when I started watching the Republican National Convention tonight that I would not be able to do so without throwing something at the TV.  We all gotta do what we gotta do and handle it in our own way.


So I had Himself get me his sock drawer.  What?  Have you got a bottle of booze on your lap?  Same thing, less calories. Besides, it’s better than breaking the TV.  Oh relax!  I let him take the first shot before he went off to watch the Phillies!  I’ll let you know if I run out of socks, or he comes to get some for the baseball game.

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