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Thursday, December 31, 2009

If It Please the Court...and anyone else...


December 31, 2009


If It Please The Court…

Jury Duty. Doesn’t just seeing those two words in front of you provide a good case of the heebie-jeebies? Along with tax audit, test results, and license renewal. When I received my jury duty notice I felt like an accused defendant, instead of a prospective juror, but I was eager to report for duty…because I had to. The entire process began with my attempt at securing a parking space that didn’t sport spraypainted words like, “County Employee Only” or “Not For You.” At one point I procured what I thought was an extraordinary parking space -- under a tree, lots of room on either side, walking distance to the courthouse. As I utilized my handy automatic doorlock I happened to glance over and notice some writing on the cement block to which I had nicely lined up my front bumper. I am slightly nearsighted so some minor details escape my attention now and again. As I sashayed on over to take a closer look I noticed “jury commissioner” emblazoned on the marker. I moved my car. Immediately. Because I had to.
As I approached the courtroom I was faced with a line longer than the one for tickets to the “Kiss” Farewell Tour (XXIV). Usually, I don’t even wait in line for things I want, let alone jury duty, but I waited…because I had to. As the earth spun on its axis one more entire revolution I stood there. As luck would have it, I was sandwiched between a woman who had stopped by just to let everyone know she wasn’t able to perform her civic duty because she was sick with an extremely contagious case of something and a gentleman who was just darned excited to be there, even though his digestive problems usually kept him from such outings. Then the clock struck anticlimactic as I checked in with a woman who even pronounced my name correctly.
As I settled in for the wait with a new book I applauded myself for my foresight in packing such a wonderful time passer; however, while reading is a good idea in theory, the clerk’s nasty habit of calling out names every ten seconds put a damper on my enjoyment. Then it was time for a twenty-minute break when I scored a rich, frothy latt√©, the only problem being it took me nineteen minutes to get it. The bailiff took one look at my cup of latt√© goodness, shook his head “no” and I gulped down the entire contents in seconds, killing twenty thousand screaming tastebuds in the process. Because I had to.
Next, was the incredibly tedious task of watching the jury selection. The mostly washed masses sat attentively as the judge attempted to determine who was best suited for the job. Now the dance really began, commencing with the most painful question and answer sequence I had witnessed since the one that occurred when my father quizzed my first date about his intentions. This segment might have gone quicker, if not for the judge’s contentious question he asked of a woman with a philosophy degree: “Do you feel you can be a fair and impartial juror?” Hello, and break out the bedrolls. Not so simple when broken down and parsed out by a thinker. This was one complex little situation, at least when viewed from her perspective apparently, and we were forced to live that perspective for a good twenty minutes. I was starting to sweat, my jeans felt tight, and the plot of my book was uninspired. Finally, the judge put the woman out of our misery, telling her that it probably would be best if she took a pass on this particular proceeding. She was dismissed. I heard a collective sigh of relief waft through the courtroom and the air began to circulate again.
The next hour was even more excruciating as one juror after another was excused. I fantasized about hitting one of the attorneys in the back of the head with the wadded up gum wrappers I was accumulating. The real estate lady who everybody in town knew and respected was asked to step down. The zealous older man with whom I had shared line time got to stay. The woman who had proudly proclaimed her marriage to the sheriff barely got the chance to put her purse down when she was excused. As the process dragged on, I began to think that 12 jurors really were too many. I remembered that high school staple of a play, “Twelve Angry Men.” How about “Twelve Angry Men” and one very angry, and hostile middle-aged woman? Couldn’t we be just as efficient with another even number, like, eight? Finally, the last seat sat vacant. We all sat stock still, breathing became labored, if not non-existent. One of us would have to fill that seat and it felt as though it was the electric chair, rather than an opportunity for public service.
I heard a name called. Not a female name. Not me. It was a male name. They didn’t object to him, the way he dressed, what he had for breakfast, or his career choice. I stepped out into the sunshine a free woman. Unlike high school basketball, I was happy not to be chosen, and as I made my way out of the courthouse, I expressed my exhilaration by doing the touchdown dance in front of the bailiff. Because I had to.


Link to essay that ran on October 24, 2009




Wednesday, December 30, 2009

From Rubenesque to Statuesque "Body Combat" Style - MORE Magazine


From Rubenesque to Statuesque "Body Combat" Style - MORE Magazine


December 30, 2009

Recently, I was thrilled to add MORE magazine (on-line) to my publishing credits when they published one of my essays entitled, "From Rubenesque to Statuesque" which tells a bit about my fitness journey during the course of this last year. (The link for the article appears above.)

Last year, during this same month of December, I was feeling pretty frustrated by both my stress level and my metabolism's inability to adjust for my carbohydrate intake in an aesthetically pleasing way. In short: I was overweight and not looking great. Though I've always been an exercise kind of girl, who enjoys the full complement of work-out classes that are out there, I was getting a real "diminished return" effect from the whole thing, so that set a plan of action into...well...action.

Being the time of year when folks make New Year's resolutions I thought the appropriate placement for this puppy (translation: this article) was right about here, on this date. Last year, I was looking toward a new day when I would feel more energetic and look a bit more like the "Fit Diane" from days of yore. Sure, older, but fit and that's just dandy. As it turns out, if you get your support system in place, quit eating carbohydrates as though they were helpings of youth elixir and take on some new work-outs that ask more of you...you'll get fit. Whooppee! Here's to maintenance of all things going well in our lives!
Cha-cha-cha! (In honor of the zumba classes I so enjoy!)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Humorous Take on Taking Home Economics...Nineteen-Seventies Style!


December 29, 2009


What follows is a humor column that ran in my local paper, The Union, back in September of 2009. Though the intention was to provide a humorous take on my own taking of a Home Economics class back when I was a wee lass in junior high school, a couple of folks seemed to see it as a slam against providing just such a class at all. That was not my line of thinking, but rather my thoughts -- and writing -- had intended to poke fun at my own rather inept attempts at gaining sewing and cooking chops. (We didn't cook chops...well, you get what I mean.) The column ended up serving a dual purpose in writing and perspective. Besides chronicling my Home Economics lessons in a marginally humorous way, I gained the added lesson about perspective and, let's face it, perspective is the lesson that keeps on giving, far beyond any other.


Jump-er Start

I’m convinced that an entire generation of baby boomer women were permanently scarred when they were forced to take “Home Ec” in school. HOME ECONOMICS. Just seeing those words in print reminds me of its unwelcome appearance on my junior high school schedule.
The girls all knew Home Ec was ahead, looming like some sort of rabid wild animal, threatening us on our path to womanhood. We understood that we had to take this class, as surely as the boys understood that they had to take Wood Shop and court the disaster that was the bandsaw. We also courted physical harm with the equally dangerous female version – the double boiler.
This looming disaster of a curriculum was divided into two equally terrifying units – cooking (or “burning” as it should have been more aptly renamed) and sewing. It was the latter that would burn a hole in my emotional psyche as surely as the double boiler burned a hole in my binder full of recipes, but a close second was the first unit -- Cooking.
We were to prepare a myriad of invaluable meal staples, such as hot chocolate made in a – yep, you guessed it – double boiler, long cooking oatmeal and cake, from “scratch,“ and the piece de resistance – biscuits which doubled as paperweights. To nicely compliment the stereotypical stew that was the cooking unit, we were expected to serve our homemade gruel to the football players who would eat anything. Usually. Evidently with the one exception of food fixed by “yours truly.” According to the female training standards of the time – cooking, cleaning, sewing and subservience – I was certainly no catch. On to the second unit which undid me early on, when we utilized “Simplicity” patterns that were anything but, although the goal seemed simple enough.
We were expected to make a ghastly blue serge jumper, complete with buttonholes, piping, stitching and, yes, darts. I knew I was in big trouble right after reading the step one pattern directions which intoned, “a double pointed straight dart is made exactly like a single straight dart, except that you start at the center of the dart and stitch to the tip.” Huh?
My finished monstrosity had two uneven straps, a button bursting off of the shoulder as though it were spring-loaded, and uneven stitching, complete with darts made so puffy by irregular sewing that it appeared as though someone was already wearing the jumper and they had a chest, rendering the darts necessary. It was my fervent desire to make short shrift of the short shift, but there was one problem. In order to pass the class, we were required to model our fabulous creations in a fashion show that would take place during one of our notoriously raucous junior high school assemblies. Sheer bliss.
Fashion Show Day dawned much as any day does when you feel as though you’ll die if it arrives. It dawned. I didn’t die. Physically. I’m not sure what the weather was like, what day of the week it was or how my hair looked. What I can tell you is what I was wearing – my homemade blue serge jumper. That day I made my way through the stage curtains, head held high, and I kept my eye on the prize. The stairs at the end of the runway.
All I had to do was proceed through the curtains, walk approximately five feet upstage, make a turn and then continue what seemed like a mere 17,000 miles to the end of the runway and I’d be home free. No problem.
I began my journey. I even managed to look at the audience and have a bit of fun as I executed a jaunty turn. One turn down and only 16,999 more miles to go. I was almost there, too, when it happened. The jumper began to fall apart right in front of, if not my personal eyes, certainly everyone else’s eyes. I was, literally, coming apart at the seams. I needed to hurry, so I kicked it into high gear. Platform shoes. That’s what tripped me up in the end.
I managed to catch myself before I could show the entire student body my student body, thereby proving that I had heeded my mother’s advice and was wearing clean underwear. I also managed to retain a shred of my dignity, along with the shreds of my dress, by holding on to everything -- the jumper, the stage, this hideous memory.
The rest of the show was comparatively uneventful. As I left the scene of the shortest modeling career in history, my Home Ec teacher, Mrs. Price, buttonholed me by asking if she could keep my jumper as an example for future classes. I never did ask her if it was an example of what they should or shouldn’t do. That was more information than I needed.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Gum is Life...celebrate the moments with sugarless!



December 28, 2009


Gum Is Life
The French say that “bread is life.” I have my own spin on that. “Gum is Life.” It can be a metaphor as it will be with this story. It is basically the same concept, with a few minor adjustments. I have many hobbies; cleaning the shower quarterly, staying limber enough to pull clothes out of the dryer and chewing gum as though I‘m going for some sort of land speed record.
Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my gum chewing and chomp so loudly that I get on my own nerves, but I do love that gum so I forgive myself because I know how many happy hours it has provided me. I’m never without gum and I don‘t waste the many opportunities I have to engage in the chewing of it. It’s more essential than, well, bread. If I’m not carrying my purse I’ve got the essentials in my pocket; lipstick, gum, plastic surgeon’s phone number.
I visited a fine desert city recently -- hang with me here, I’m going to tie this all together – and so I was privy to the full-fledged body search with the wand. I always beep as I go through airport terminals and, while it amuses me to see business people of all types reaching for their cell phones, thinking they’re ringing, I know it’s my jewelry. This time around it wasn’t my jewelry, so they had to call in an expert. Paul the Wand Boy. I swear I saw three people flipping for the task and if I’m not mistaken Paul called heads. Once upon a time, I would have thought this was due to my stunning looks, but as I’ve entered the, “Gee, you look good for your age” years, I assumed it was because it was just going to be hysterically funny to torment me.
Anyway, after a harrowing twenty minutes of being escorted to the baggage check-in because I had fold-up scissors I wasn’t willing to relinquish for obvious reasons (my bangs often grown unevenly overnight), I looked around. I watched two people in wheelchairs who had been randomly selected for a body search, as though life hadn’t dealt them enough of a random blow, saw the cleaning crew’s shift change and witnessed a couple – no lie – shipping a multitude of comforters in an ice chest. I believe there was some offer that I could ride with the scissors in the belly of the plane, but I declined. I believe I’ve seen that offer on a James Bond movie and it means something else. In the end, I was relieved of my scissors and I fairly well ran up the escalator joyous at my release.
Back through the checkpoint went I. All I needed to do now was to get some coffee. I’d been dreaming about coffee since three a.m. No dice though because where I had only suffered through my “one beep” experience, I was now beeping as though my entire wardrobe was made up of boxcutters and scissors. It sounded like a Geiger counter with an electronic chip glitch. I was beeping like a discount microwave. People were clutching their chests, thinking their heart monitors were malfunctioning.
As I stepped over to the right with my new best friend, Paul, and my peeps – the folks in wheelchairs, the executive standing in his stocking feet and the little old lady with an oxygen tank, I assumed a position not unlike that of our lord during tough times, minus that nasty cross business.
I was given instructions which made me feel as though I was playing twister. “Lift up your right foot and put it here. Now your left. Hold it. Balance.” I asked Paul if my underwire bra might be the problem. Nope. That wasn’t it. I won’t even go into how we determined that. Let’s just say phone numbers were exchanged and I’m not proud, but it’s over. I became the floor show of the moment, literally, as I got down on the floor and attempted to clear the wand’s beep zone by limboing, twisting, dropping, and rolling. It became a new stand-up routine as I belted out, “I usually don’t do this on a first flight” and “Call my lawyer, heck, forget it, call my agent. This publicity is priceless. Tell him to bring a camera.”
I was standing barefoot, stripped down naked – which for me means that I had absolutely no jewelry on. Finally, we got down to the stylish little tank top and what was in my jeans pocket. You know what had set off all of that beeping? One thin stick of sugarless gum in its silvery sheath. I unwrapped it and began chewing as I sat down to put my shoes on. Gum is life.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

RE: What does it mean to have a "good" body?


December 27, 2009


Pop culture and the media provide a great tandem impetus to check-out your belief systems, if nothing else. How do you feel about the whole "being famous for being famous" style of coverage and what, exactly, are we promoting with respect to young women and their own belief systems about themselves? This all got me thinking and, let's face it, everything gets me thinking, about myself and what I really think is a "good" body. Thus, what follows is a newly published (today) by The Union essay on just this topic and it's aptly titled, "The Good Body."
A good body. As a female in American society I’m only too aware of the term and the discrepancy between the concept and its reality. When I was a teenager a “good body” was much more important than a good mind and, in fact, it was the highest compliment that could be paid. While guys strove for a six-pack abdominal region and tight rearend, girls were to be small in stature, though shapely and symmetrical in all measurements. You know – natural looking.
The importance of the good body concept diminished as the years gained momentum until I hit my forties. But it wasn’t age that brought it back to the forefront of my awareness, but rather a challenge. A big, scary, mysterious health challenge. Oh, I’ve had health scares in my life before. It doesn’t seem as though you get to be over thirty without having some sort of medical history to talk about. I’ve been diagnosed with a brain tumor which turned out to be benign, experienced a high risk pregnancy that threatened both my daughter’s and my own life and my immune system has crashed more times than Windows NT, but I have always prevailed, known exactly what I was dealing with and relied upon my body to heal. And it did. Until my introduction to a controversial condition known as lyme disease.
Controversial because tests are unreliable, the medical community is often skeptical and the patients frequently remain untreated because of lack of awareness. The illness began as lyme disease so often does -- with a tick bite -- in my case, two tick bites because I’m an overachiever. I had no evidence of a bullseye rash whatsoever. I joked at the time, “At least I don’t see legs,” not knowing in my ignorance that it’s those small neophyte ticks that are really the beastliest of them all. It would be another three months before I would collapse entirely, landing in the emergency room and experiencing my health insurance and all of its many options.
As with any disease in its beginning “diagnosis” phase it’s a time to question everything; the symptoms, the treatment, the future. Lyme patients are often told they are simply “stressed out,” wanting attention and it’s nothing a Xanax won’t cure. The only problem is simply saying “you’re not sick,” doesn’t make it so. I was forced to acknowledge my illness and the woman who had previously challenged her body every chance she could, relying upon its innate ability to accomplish the seemingly impossible, was forced to watch this same body fail her as it refused to take direction or even small suggestions.
As I traipsed from doctor to doctor, watching my hand shake with intention tremors, hanging on to surfaces in order to accomplish simple tasks, sleeping the days away, struggling to grasp a cohesive thought, I couldn’t believe my body was letting me down. How could it not fight this? It had fought everything else I had ever thrown at it. I trudged around my local public library amassing books on the topic of lyme disease, accessed every on-line lyme disease website and contacted a lyme disease support group whose members empathetically validated my struggles. It was only after taking all of these steps that I began to gain an understanding of what disease is really like and how to heal. I needed to rely upon my body. My good body.
Through the trauma of my illness I gained an understanding like no other. It would be months before I was able to drag myself up onto a treadmill, death gripping the apparatus so tightly my knuckles turned white as I chanted my mantra, “This is good for my body. This is good for my body,“ appearing to all the world as though I were riding a bucking bronco. But I persevered. I wouldn’t give up. Because it was just me and this body. We were in this together.
I discovered what a good body I have, although it sure doesn’t look like what you would think. It’ll never grace one page of a “Victoria’s Secret” catalog. This good body is often overweight, pasty looking and symmetrically off. But it’s a good body like no other. My body has rallied through a disease that has taken me to the depths of despondency, stopping off at the contemplation of my mortality. And yet, there’s that body. Every morning. Every day. Willing to give it another go. Willing to submit to aggressive treatments. Willing to sustain a rigorous regimen of mega antibiotics. Willing to submit to daily exercise, though a trip to the grocery store constituted an aerobic feat. Willing to heal in the face of an illness that often does not grant that opportunity.
As I sit here and contemplate the rest of my life, my health, my purpose, I have a new love. Added to my passionate love for my supportive family is my new love of my body. It possesses a seemingly limitless ability to sustain me even when I don’t know how to give clear cues. What is a good body, really? We don’t need the media to tell us. We don’t need a lover to tell us. We don’t need a plastic surgeon to tell us. Our body will tell us. Just take a look in a full-length mirror. That’s exactly what a good body looks like.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Had I But Known..a poem about a remembered friend


"Had I But Known" is a poem written about a friend of mine who left this plane of existence far, far too soon, two years ago. We worked together in television, but both moved away with our respective families in the ensuing years. Lo and behold, we discovered that we had moved to the same community and our families bonded. The friendship is one I treasured, and I still treasure, as well as the continuing best friend relationship our daughters still enjoy with each other.


Recently a new on-line poetry magazine called, "Eye on Life--Poetry Unlocked" launched and along with it was the launching and first run of "Had I But Known" which follows.

Had I But Known


Had I but known it was the last time I’d see you
I’d have arranged a coffee time big and bold on the calendar
Marking the event as a singular and tangible reality

Had I but known that your future would be a short trip down the timeline
I’d have asked you to tell me more about your past, and I’d have listened raptly
Imprinting every fact, every event, honoring your matchless journey

Had I but known how significant that last trivial conversation really was
I’d have recorded every word, every nuance, every implied punctuation mark
For later review during bittersweet times of reflection and painful consideration

Had I but known that I would have more that I wanted to hear from you,
That I had more I wanted to say to you about our shared history,
I’d have cautioned you, bargained with fate, searched for a profound statement
That would have told everything, but changed nothing.
Had I But Known.












Friday, December 25, 2009

'Tis Not Just Seasonal...A Chance to Encounter


December 25, 2009




I bought a homeless man a cup of coffee today and that is an opening line that will not be accompanied with my usual one-two punch, snappy repartee. It happened spontaneously, unexpectedly, and from the heart.
I was performing a normal task, picking up four items for a hundred bucks, when I noticed a youngish guy sitting on the bench, right near the store’s entrance. He was friendly and, normally, maybe like most of us, I’m too busy or afraid of too-close engagement with a mental health patient to interact. But today, well, today this young man began with a line that really brought out the maternal instinct in me. He told me he was cold, followed by saying he was sleeping in the woods with his dog. Being a mom to the second power and an adopter of pound critters, he had me at, “I’m cold.” His basic need for warmth wasn’t fulfilled and that really stopped me. Cold.
I chatted with him a bit, he expressed his hope for better circumstances and I went about my now not-so-merry way to get everything my family wanted to eat. I was not cold. I was not hungry. I was not destitute and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve slept in the woods, voluntarily, “for fun” as the rest of us like to think of camping. What I was, was humbled. Mightily.
As he sat in front of the store, benefitting from the heat that would cascade out the sliding doors every time they opened, I was struck by this man’s humanity and dignity. When walking out with everything I needed to fulfill the creature comforts of my family I witnessed the store clerk asking him if she could access the announcement board behind him, which would necessitate him moving and he politely, and even energetically, acquiesced. It was so touching. There was just a certain character about him that influenced me in taking the time to notice. Amongst his difficulties he was something we used to call a gentleman.
My instinct took over, pushing me into action. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t overanalyze it. I didn’t wonder what I should do. I just turned and trucked on over to the coffee shop to get him a cup of coffee with all the cream and sugar a man and his dog could want. Regardless of your faith base, or none at all, as I handed him his coffee he said reading the bible provided him with comfort, specifically, Proverbs.
I don’t know what got him there and I’ll leave the addressing of these more politically-charged issues to columnists and pundits better equipped than I to address them. What matters most is that he was there and I noticed; that we all notice, negating the concept of invisibility. It’s important why he’s there, only inasmuch as we address him as an individual story, free of judgment. As human beings we are capable of unifying around similarities, dividing over differences.
We talked about hope for the possibility that things will get better. He had on mittens, I observed, and that made me happy. He told me he loved coffee and I told him I was so glad, swallowing my emotions in the face of this average-appearing interchange. To me, it was anything but average and I feel differently than I did before that day. It made me realize that I should do more because I can.
The tears didn’t unleash until I sat down to tell you about this experience, but they’re not the sad kind, so much as the kind that express gratitude for a humbling exchange. In this season and, really, all others, we are so often filled with the need to let others know what we’re about. We forget to listen to the stories of those aged relatives who tell us the same ones, year after year, and we don’t sit down, patiently, and listen for the umpteenth time as our children detail the many toys they sure hope Santa will bring. Here’s the greatest gift, really. Noticing. Listening. Okay, I know that’s two gifts. How about listening to what someone else is about? Their wishes. Their motivations. Their back story.
The lesson is that human beings are so filled with hope and possibility that even amongst meaningless chatter about pop culture nonsense, political posturing and attitudes of entitlement; we can still know that connecting to another human being is a cherished part of any season.
So, now I’ll issue my challenge to you, that the next twenty-nine days reflect simple acts of giving – by you. There is a website that tells the story of a young woman who, when diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, was told to quit feeling sorry for herself and immediately engage in 29 days of giving. Her goal “is to create a worldwide revival of the giving spirit in the world” and the website is:
http://www.29gifts.org/, if you’re interested. There’s even a book out now.
The kindnesses are simple and, most often, not monetary at all. Anything you can offer up spur-of-the-moment works; scraping the ice off of someone else’s car, feeding a stranger’s meter, parting with something you no longer use, or just calling up someone and providing them with the gift of listening.
‘Tis the season for humanity – all year long.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Greetings from Ms. Write on Her Maiden Vogage Into Blog World!

Greetings from Ms. Write during this, my maiden vogage into BlogWorld!

I'm glad you kept reading, even though you saw that dreaded exclamation mark, which is usually the hallmark of an insufferably energetic scribner. I'll try to use those puppies judiciously.

I've been writing since I learned what cursive meant and I plan on continuing for as long as the vowels and consonants cooperate and form marginally amusing, mostly understandable sentences. I am a humor columnist, comedienne, teacher, published author, and former broadcast journalist so, in short, it would appear that perhaps I'm unable to keep a job?!

Writing is how I make sense of the world and this most auspicious of occasions -- Christmas Eve of 2009 -- marks a wedge of time during which I've been offered an opportunity to reflect upon the things I love to do...ergo the writing of a blog. Sometimes we don't exactly get to plan how these reflective times are presented to us and that seems to be the case with me. (Don't you just love a good mystery?) Just suffice it to say that the end product, the opportunity to have a thought or three, is not a bad thing. Not at all.

During the course of writing this blog I'll be sharing all of those tidbits you thought you could live without, like 2,010 ways to save money or "live on the cheap," pithy asides, as well as my writings related to living life on life's terms.

I hope you'll join me on this journey where I discover something...perhaps my long-lost metabolism...perhaps my sanity...perhaps my giddy belief that home is where the writing is. {:-)

Website: www.dianedeanepps.com