m wood pen

i like to draw


 here we go again. with my two oldest children settled into their college world, the caboose has pulled up to the station and i’m caught a bit unawares.

last night was college night at the high school, and my youngest set off, friend in tow, to scour the eager college admissions reps for information.  like a mini-convention, these crazy kids filled a great big bags with attractive brochures and free pens.  ah, if only the decision was that easy. like a good little offspring, she visited my cute alma mater, and had a captivating chat with the rep….my heart fluttering a bit, wondering….is she at all intrigued?

i’d be lying if i said it wouldn’t be cool to have one of my children spend their college years where i had such an idyllic time ages ago, and still carouse a few times a year.

but, since it’s not about me, i will just sit back and see what sort of a list she comes up with.

i know for a fact that my car will be headed south this june: nashville and the south in general, with it’s pulled pork, country music and easy ways pulls my gal. dotting a map, i’ll have her choose a few schools to loop through as we gaily road trip from one academic playground to the next, ready to peek into worlds unknown, which at some point, might become a part of her story.

if i had it all to do over again, what would i have chosen?

back in the ice age, my list was small, the internet was a jetson-like fantasy, and my worldliness was nil.  zip. de nada. de rien.

i’m sure i’d have done what i did, nestle into a little mini-world of an iowa hilltop, still stretching my wobbly legs, still not quite ready for the big, scary grown up life that was just around the corner…one shaky step after another, i cautiously inched towards that thing called ‘adulthood’ with trepidation and absolutely no compass whatsoever!

i play that game every now and then: the ‘what if’ mind-confusing path evoked in robert frost’s well known poem, “the road not taken”.  the game hurts, makes me almost crazy, as once i’ve gone back a bit in my very own jagged timeline, i alternately veer off at a specific point, ages ago, and imagine where that path would have taken me.  it’s a tempting one to play, initially. it always is. but then i get all clogged up for one reason or another, look back at the real life that i’ve actually lived, and figure: it’s all for the best that i did what i did, so that i could say at this point, i know what i know and am grateful for it.

regardless, the game itself conjures up all that was or could have been, and i understand, with a thunderous clap, that we really do only have one life to live, only one gut to listen to, one chance to taste and experience each glorious step in the road.

my kids are way more ‘with it’ than i was at this age, probably a combination of a nonstop gust of information, experience and awareness that didn’t seem to be on the menu in the 60s and 70s, and also the luck of the draw: their dna and sensibilities have filled them with a high-frequency antenna that just ‘gets’ more than i ever hoped to at a similar age.

it’s a fascination thing: watching life anew from this vantage point.

the plot thickens as each of my tots stretches forward well into their own stories, and i am riveted. the best movie around is the one you star, or co-star, in, yourself.

stay tuned: it’s sure to be a happy ride.


when i was growing up, i had a love-hate relationship with saturdays. no school, sleep in, laze around, watch tv, plan a sleepover: you name it.  it was the first day of the two day ‘good times’, and, being a fan of relaxation from an early age, it was made for me.

however there was the issue of my dad, giving my mom a break, a house in the country, and plenty of chores. the saturday drill: wake up to find a list as long as one page of a yellow legal pad filled out with everything that had to happen that day.  when the chores were done, you could play, free to be. so, nix the sleeping-in plan first of all. with a bit of math, you’d divide the 20-30 items (both indoors and out) by 5 (total number of wood kids….) or 6 (if some poor sap spent the night on friday and was silly enough to be here when the chore list appeared), and then check off the ones that you wanted. the reason to get up early?


to avoid things like: hauling huge branches, mucking the horse stalls, planting trees, or cleaning the toilets.  the smart ones got to the list in a hurry, checked off: waxing the slate floor, dusting the living room furniture, driving around on the tractor, organizing the pot cabinet. my high school brother, who turns 54 this very day, was a bit of a night owl and was always the last one out of bed in the morning.  we all know what this means!

now that i’m a grown up, i find that i’ve flipped inside-out in the way i embrace saturdays.  especially in the glorious springtime!  up early, savor that coffee on my deck as i make my very own chore list.  my three kids, when here (darn that issue of college life anyway, i could use a strong hauler right about now), know what this list means.  they’ve heard the lore, they’ve begged to be excused, feigned sprains and illness: all the tricks that my siblings and i all tried, and failed at, back in the 60s and 70s.

i love chores.

you won’t find me lunching out or shopping on a sunny day, the horror and the waste.  rather, you’ll see me pulling the old poles out of the vegetable garden, sketching a new scape for the front ‘wild and casual and natural’ garden, and pulling out the pine sol for a nice fresh bit of floor mopping. the reward?  loving the tradition that my parents instigated: love where you live, tend to your life, use some elbow grease and then, at the end of the day, freshly showered and ready for a relaxing evening: sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

nothing like it.


 m wood cafefor years, i owned-designed-ran a prominent notecard company, one of those little “cottage industries” that are a dime a dozen nowadays.

stacks and stacks, thousands of offset print inventory bedecked with my whimsical little illustrations stood at the ready in the high basement of my renovated farmhouse in the village.  boxes and boxes of envelopes, packing tape galore, stacks of pens and order forms, shipping cartons, a wrapping center, and an innovative device called a “cd player” to offer musical entertainment.  all just a few short steps downstairs from my kitchen.  what a buzzing, humming hive of fun!

neighbors, typically destitute single moms like me, walked over after dropping their children off at school, creating my little enclave of busy bees chatting, answering phones, packing orders, personalizing invitations, packing and shipping orders.

and colluding.

birds of a feather and all that, we single moms did stick together.  i’m sure you’ve all heard of a phone tree: that set up designed to relay vital school information such as a snow day or church on fire to alert parents of a change in their children’s schedule.  nowadays, it’s text and twitter and group email blasts, totally convenient but yep, a bit impersonal.

well, our little collective of gals, scraping dollars together to get enough food at the market to feed the brood, had our own inventive phone tree.

this involved the water man, from the village.  sure enough, that bill was due like clockwork, was it once a month or once a quarter?  i have no clue from this safe distance of time, but back in those days, the phone would ring with vigor: the water man from the village is coming down north avenue to shut off the water!  you could almost hear the devilish, foreboding musical theme song to his shark-like arrival.

of course, none of us had paid our bills.  times were tough, a budget was a challenge to meet, the children constantly needed new shoes (those darned feet kept growing!), food and shelter.  sorry, water man, but he was last on our lists of people who got paid!

so, this was the tip off: once that truck was spotted over by the library, making it’s evil way to stop at the naughty houses who were filled with negligent paupers, turning off their water supply, the phones would start ringing.  house by house, here he crept.

with the alert coming ahead of time, this was the job: throw off your icky yucky baggy sweat shirt and jammie bottoms, clasp on a push up bra, wear some tight jeans and a dangerously low-cut top, dab on some lovely alluring fragrance to cover the smell of bacon or pinesol, slip on a pair of heels and some fresh lipstick.  then, casually and in a state of calm, saunter out on the front sidewalk to pick flowers or tend to the mailbox….don’t let them know you’ve seen them coming!

sure enough, as the poor fellow would pull up and be greeted by yet another sexy lonely housewife, his knees and his resolve would weaken, he’d hear your brief little sad story, climb back into his truck, granting you leave for one more week, just enough time to gather the thirty two dollars required to cover the months’ worth of water. batting your eyelashes in deep gratitude, with a hint of a really big thank you in some realm of his imagination, off he’d drive, leaving you without shutting off your water supply.  victory!

yes, we girls do have to stick together, don’t we?

these days, i work solo, having moved beyond my notecard realm to something more independant, varied and challenging.  i love it, i do, in my country hideout, the one with it’s own well: a comforting security after those crazy days in town.

do i miss the collective village of like-minded sleuthing women down the block?  yes, at times i do, but i’m still just a text away from pulling them back into my cozy orbit, and now, too, and always, flooded with hilarious memories of those early fun ever-so-challenging days behind me.

indeed, it does take a village.  and then some.

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