I believe in ghosts; why don’t they believe in me?

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When the shrill winds are screaming
And the evening is still
Lady Samantha glides over the hills
In a long satin dress that she wears every day
Her home is the hillside, her bed is the grave
Lady Samantha, lyrics by Bernie Taupin
(c) 1968 Dick James Music Limited

 I’ll freely admit that I believe in ghosts.  I love reading ghost stories and visiting haunted places.  I’ve read many of Williamsburg author L.B. Taylor’s ghost books (Ghosts of Williamsburg, Ghosts of Richmond, etc. ) 

 I believe in ghosts, but they don’t seem to believe in me.    Continue reading

The not-so-secret secret to a happy marriage

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The men keep coming and going and going and coming–and always too soon

 

I have to thank my friend Shirley for this.  She told me the secret many years ago, and it has made a difference in my marriage.  It’s really not a secret at all; I had heard this advice before, but somehow when she explained it, it made sense to me. 

Here’s what she said.  Sex is a physical need for men.    The desire builds up and must be released.  So, she advised me, have sex with your husband when he asks.  Even if you don’t feel like it.  That’s it.  That’s all she said.  She didn’t say it was my “wifely duty” or anything like that. 

Now, before I am accused of telling woman to be subservient to men, believe me I’m not.  I’m a card-carrying, Gloria Steinham, Ms. Magazine feminist.  I grew up in the era of burning bras and “I am Woman, hear me roar.”  I’m no doormat.

I’m just saying that sex is a big part of a successful marriage.  It’s not the only thing of course. Having good sex does not guarantee  a good marriage.  If there are other issues, sex won’t fix them.  No, good sex does not guarantee a good marriage, but I’ll bet every happy marriage includes a good sex life.  

But there’s another side to this coin.  Men, if you want your woman to enjoy sex, you have to do it right.  It’s not all about you.  She needs to have a good time.  And that means one thing, and it starts with a “C”.  If you don’t know how to do it, learn.  Google it or buy a book.  Don’t try to learn from porn; they don’t do it right.  Don’t slap the kitty.  If you can learn to keep the kitty purring, your wife will chase you into the bedroom, I promise you.

Why is this so important?  Because men love sex.   As Shirley told me, it’s a physical thing for them.  So,  if you are not having sex with your spouse, someone else probably is. 

I understand that when the kids come along, we get tired and don’t feel like it.  A marriage goes through peaks and valleys in this way.   It doesn’t take very long, however, and if done correctly, both parties feel better afterwards. 

If you think this does not apply to your marriage, then you are wearing blinders.  I can hear the excuses and rationalizations.  No, your marriage is not an exception. 

I had a good friend who pretty much stopped having regular sex with her husband after her daughter was born. (Her daughter is now 20).   She said her husband didn’t mind.  Perhaps he didn’t.  Every Sunday he went to the club to get a steam.

I do not mean to say that I condone adultery; not at all.  I’m just saying that you should not neglect this part of your marriage.

Years ago I worked with a young, attractive blonde woman, who was probably in her twenties at the time.  She had married her high school sweetheart.  She seemed pretty confident that she had a good marriage.  I had no reason to doubt her until she made an off-hand comment that sent a red flag shooting up the flagpole.   

She was talking about her husband’s upcoming birthday and was describing the plans she had made to celebrate.  Then she said:   “Of course, there’s the obligatory birthday sex.”

What?  Obligatory sex?  There’s something wrong in this marriage.  And indeed there was.  He left her for another woman just a couple of years later.  I ran into her ex and his new wife.  He was beaming and she looked at him with the most adoring eyes.  You could tell she thought he hung the moon. (No pun intended.)

If you are not willing to have sex with your spouse, someone else probably is.  And it’s not just the sex—it’s the intimacy that grows from it that’s important too.  Sex brings you closer together, both literally and figuratively. 
 
Another time,  I was talking to a different friend.  She had been married a long time.  She was telling me about her recent vacation and how great it was.  And then she said:
“X was bugging me so I had sex first thing to get it out of the way so I could enjoy myself.” 

Another red flag.  A couple of years later I ran into her after not having seen her for about a year.  She told me she was divorced.  She said her husband just up and served her with divorce papers right out of the blue.

“Were you surprised?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.

I wasn’t.   And sure enough, he had another woman waiting in the wings.

This is all just my opinion, mind you.  I’m not an expert on marriage.  But I do know a thing or two about happiness, if you get my drift.

 

Watch out, Weird Al Yankovich

Luther left us first light Friday morning
Little Dan and Becky waved goodbye
They’re gonna have to share the weight together
Idle hands will see a good farm slowly die
chorus:
Gone to Shiloh for the Union
Shoulder to shoulder, side by side
Gone to Shiloh, hope springs eternal
When flags and bullets start to fly
April’s come and the air smells fresh with rain
They watched his shadow fade around the bend
He’s headed for a different kind of thunder
And the stunned surprise in the eyes of dying men
chorus:
Gone to Shiloh for the Union
Shoulder to shoulder, side by side
Gone to Shiloh, time passes slowly
When flags and bullets start to fly
The old black rooster sang him down that dirt road
His step seemed bold, his manner fancy-free
I pray we see him alive and well in the fall here
Than that God-forsaken place in Tennessee
chorus:
Gone to Shiloh for the Union
Shoulder to shoulder, side by side
Gone to Shiloh, men stand united
When flags and bullets start to fly
After all of this
If we should prevail
Heaven help the South
When Sherman comes their way
Gone to Shiloh, lyrics by Bernie Taupin
(c) 2010 Mercury Records

 Obviously, I like to write.   It’s cathartic and it amuses me.   I got this wild idea recently to write song parodies.  Don’t ask me why.  I can only say it amuses me.
    Unfortunately, I can’t sing anymore and I don’t play any musical instruments an more, so I can only post the lyrics.  You’ll have to add the music yourself in your head.  If anyone out there wants to record them, let me know.  I’ll handle getting the appropriate copyright licenses.
    The first one I’m going to share with you is, unfortunately, not from a popular song.  It’s from the album (do we still call them albums?) The Union, by Elton John (who else?) and Leon Russell.  If you were born before 1970  you’ll probably remember him.  He liked to wear top hats back then.  He’s about 70 now and lives in Nashville.  Elton John is a big fan.  Apparently a couple of years ago, Elton was listening to Leon and decided to do an album with him. That’s Leon on the right.



  
     The original song is called “Gone to Shiloh”. It’s a lugubrious song about a soldier who leaves Tennessee to fight for the Union.  Not for the Confederacy, but for the North.  
    Tennessee had split loyalties at the start of the “War of Northern Aggression” (the Civil War to anyone living anywhere but the South.)   The landowners in the western part of the state, many of whom owned slaves, wanted to secede.   Many of the folks living in the mountains wanted to stay with the Union.  Tennessee as a state eventually sided with the Confederates, but some people who lived in the mountains did fight for the Union.  Hence the song.
      I discovered an unusual connection with this particular song.   The first time I heard it, I was in a car travelling to the Smokies to do a section hike on the A.T.   This section of the A.T. runs back and forth across the Tennessee and North Carolina borders.
     While we were hiking one day, we came across a small gravesite.  The AT guide explained that the graves belonged to several soldiers who lived in the area and went to fight for the Union.  On a trip back home during the war, they were ambushed by Confederate sympathizers and killed.  The event is called the Shelton Laurel Massacre. The soldiers in this gravesite were actually from North Carolina, not Tennessee.  Like Tennessee, some people living in the mountains of western North Carolina sided with the Union.

The Shelton Gravesite just off the Appalachian Trail

When we saw the gravesite, it was surrounded by a low white fence, and the graves were decorated with flags.  The site is located near a fire road, which makes it accessible.   Someone cares for this site very much.
     With that serious and tragic background, we get to the song and the parody.  It seemed to me that a serious song called for a light-hearted parody to brighten the mood.  Hence, “Gone to Shiloh for the Union” became “Gone to Macy’s for the Weekend.”   Here’s a link to youtube if you want to watch Elton and Leon perform the song: Gone to Shiloh

<!–[if gte vml 1]>

GONE TO MACY’S

 

Marcie left them whining in the morning

Gerald and the two kids waved goodbye

They’re gonna have to make their lunch together

Grubby hands will see a clean wall quickly dyed

Gone to Macy’s for the weekend

Looking for bargains in the right size

Gone to Macy’s, deals she is seeking

When sales and coupons start to fly

 

The weekend’s come and the sale has just begun

They watched her Tahoe speed out toward the sun

She’s headed for a different kind of playdate

And her credit card will melt when she is done

 

Gone to Macy’s for the weekend

Looking for bargains in the right size

Gone to Macy’s, time passes quickly

When sales and coupons start to fly

 

The silver sneakers eyed her with suspicion

Their steps were slow, their faces rather droll

They can’t wait for this friggin’ sale to be over

A quiet mall is how they like to roll

 

Gone to Macy’s for the weekend

Looking for bargains in the right size

Gone to Macy’s, the parking deck gets busy

When sales and coupons start to fly

 

After all of this

If she hits the sales

Heaven help the mall

When Marcie sees percale

 

© 2014 Renata Manzo

<![endif]–><!–[if gte vml 1]>

GONE TO SHILOH

 

Luther left us first light Friday morning

Little Dan and Becky waved goodbye

They’re gonna have to share the weight together

Idle hands will see a good farm slowly die

chorus:

 

Gone to Shiloh for the Union

Shoulder to shoulder, side by side

Gone to Shiloh, hope springs eternal

When flags and bullets start to fly

April’s come and the air smells fresh with rain

They watched his shadow fade around the bend

He’s headed for a different kind of thunder

And the stunned surprise in the eyes of dying men

 

Gone to Shiloh for the Union

Shoulder to shoulder, side by side

Gone to Shiloh, time passes slowly

When flags and bullets start to fly

The old black rooster sang him down that dirt road

His step seemed bold, his manner fancy-free

I pray we see him alive and well in the fall here

Than that God-forsaken place in Tennessee

 

Gone to Shiloh for the Union

Shoulder to shoulder, side by side

Gone to Shiloh, men stand united

When flags and bullets start to fly

 

After all of this

If we should prevail

Heaven help the South

When Sherman comes their way

 

© 2010 Mercury Records Limited

<![endif]–>Gone to Macy’s

Marcie left them whining in the morning
Jordan and the two kids waved goodbye
They’re gonna have to make their lunch together
Grubby hands will see a clean wall quickly dye

Gone to Macy’s for the weekend
Looking for bargains, in the right size
Gone to Macy’s, hope springs eternal
When sales and coupons start to fly.

The weekend’s come and the sale has just begun
They watched her Tahoe head out toward the sun
She’s headed for a different type of playdate
And her credit card will melt when she is done.

Gone to Macy’s for the weekend
Looking for bargains, in the right size
Gone to Macy’s, the parking deck is busy
When sales and coupons start to fly

The silver sneakers eyed her with suspicision
Their steps were slow, their faces rather droll
They can’t wait for the friggin’ sale to be over
A quiet mall is how they like to roll

Gone to Macy’s for the weekend
looking for bargains, in the right size
Gone to Macy’s, time passes quickly
When sales and coupons start to fly.

After all of this
If she shops the sales
Heaven help the mall
When Marcie sees percale

(c) 2014 Renata Manzo

 

A pilot, a cemetery and a three-legged dog

I’m in Woodbridge, Virginia for a few days, visiting my niece, who is a Navy pilot.  She just moved here and knows no one. Plus, with the winter hanging on, there’s not much opportunity to meet the neighbors, even though she owns two dogs.  Walking the dogs is a great way to meet new people.

I needed a change of venue, and so did Billy, I’m sure, so I came up on Tuesday to keep her company for a few days.  Tuesday we had yet another snow storm, but I-95 was clean and dry.

Woodbridge is located 20 miles south of Washington D.C. and is growing.  Growing is an understatement.  Exploding is more like it.  Once I left the interstate, I saw miles and miles of houses in new and nearly-new subdivisions.  Woodbridge, located in Prince William County, is a popular bedroom community for D.C, to say the least.

Wikipedia calls Woodbridge a “census-designated place” (CDP), which means that it’s not an incorporated city or town, but has a dense population so it is “designated” solely for purposes of counting people. I had never heard of a CDP before.

Most of the neighborhoods I passed appeared to be built on old farms.  I say this because I saw very few native trees in the subdivisions. Usually builders leave a few trees standing when they clear the land.  Here, instead of old trees, every house sported one or two saplings in the yard.

The houses looked lonely in the waning afternoon sun as I arrived.  When I rang the doorbell, it sounded like hounds had been unleashed from hell.  The sidelight windows were covered with blinds, but I could hear dogs banging against them.  I heard not one dog barking, but three.  And there was a bird screeching as well. It was a comical sound to me.

Well, I thought, Mel doesn’t have to worry about being burglarized!

Turns out Mel only has two dogs, not three.  The third dog I heard was from next door.  And only one of them was throwing itself against the front windows!

She has two dogs, both quintessential mutts. Both are short-haired and medium sized.  The female has white fur with black spots on her legs, neck and belly, a sign that there’s some Dalmatian mixed in there somewhere.  The male is mostly black.  Even though they are not related, they both have brown spots above their eyes that look like eyebrows.

This morning I walked them around the neighborhood. There was not a soul about.  No commuter traffic, no service vehicles, nothing.  Certainly no one else out walking–it was 34 degrees with a harsh wind blowing.  Yet the dogs, even though both are short-haired, didn’t seem to mind in the least.  I think it’s true that mutts are hardy; these two certainly were.

We walked to the tot-lot and in the middle I saw something unusual.  A cemetery surrounded by a black metal fence.  A very old cemetery.  I could see less than a dozen headstones.  Most of them were so worn I could not make out the inscriptions.  The ones I could read dated back to the mid-1800’s– pre-Civil War.  The names were mostly the same–a family cemetery.  This confirmed my suspicion that this used to be a farm.  There was a sign outside the fence that read “Maddox Scott Cemetery.”

When I returned to the house I did some digging.  I hit paydirt almost immediately when I found a website with a list of cemeteries in Prince William County.  According to the website, there are more than 400 of them.

The description for the Maddox Scott cemetery said it contained 33 graves, but only eight with headstones.  The dates on the headstones ranged from 1826 to 1857.  The oldest person in the cemetery was 83, which was old for that time.  The youngest was 29.

Personally, I think its pretty cool to have a cemetery right in the subdivision.  I wonder, though, if all the residents feel the same way.  It reminded me a little of the movie Poltergeist.

And the three-legged dog?  His name is Foster.  Before Mel and her husband rescued him, he had been attacked by a gang of dogs and when he managed to escape, he was hit by a car. Yet you cannot tell he is missing a leg when you look at him from the front.  He stands with perfect balance.  He has a little hitch in his step when he walks, but when he runs, there’s not difference.

He, like his friend Shandy (the one who charged the blinds), is a sweetheart.  After we walked this morning, they both snuggled against me while I watched T.V.

Oh, and Shandy talks.  I just heard her.

Why Laughter is almost as good as an Orgasm

I have to keep this blog PG rated, so I’ll try to describe this as delicately as I can.  You know how an orgasm feels like a release of energy that courses through your body?   And how it releases stress?  Don’t you always feel better afterwards?  I know I do.  This has been the silver lining for Billy, if you know what I mean.

The same goes for a good belly laugh.  I always feel better afterwards.  An article in today’s Wall Street Journal claims that humor increases intelligence, creativity and stress tolerance.  “It’s Funny How Humor Actually Works.”   Ok, I’ll buy that but I don’t need to dissect humor like that.  I just need to laugh. 

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a smiler and I love to laugh.  I love all kinds of humor– from sophisticated to sophomoric. I love droll British humor and slapstick.  Any movie with Steve Buscemi in a comedy role will have me hooked. The Wedding Singer?  Hysterical.  Some of my favorite comedies include Local Hero, Napolean Dynamite and Airheads.   Oh, and What’s Up Doc.  It was Madeline Kahn’s movie debut.  She was brilliant. 

When I’m feeling blue I don’t look for raindrops or roses.  I look for a movie with lots of laughs.  No apocalyptic dramas for me.  Hunger Games?  No thanks.  I’d rather watch even a lame comedy like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, although if you watch the unrated and uncut version its much funnier.  But really, a little Russell Brand goes a long way.  

Sheldon Cooper and his merry band of nerds, on the other hand, never gets tiresome to me.  Perhaps its because I see much of myself in Amy Farrah Fowler. 

My sense of humor may not be the same as yours, but it doesn’t need to be.  Whatever makes you laugh makes you laugh.  It doesn’t matter.  Just find it and watch it. You’ll feel better, I promise.

Hi. I’m Art Buchwald and I just died.

I used to love to read Art Buchwald when I was a kid.  He was a political humorist for the Washington Post.  He was like Will Rogers before him and Dave Barry afterwards.  His column was funny and fun to read.  He won two Pulitzer Prizes for Outstanding Commentary.  He also wrote an astounding number of books–44 according to Wikipedia.

He was also famous for being in hospice care for over a year!  Hospice care is supposed to be end of life care; typically people last a few days or weeks.  But Buchwald went in and out of hospice for over a year.   Every time he went into hospice he would get better.  Talk about having the last laugh.

What makes this all the more amazing is the Buchwald suffered from depression.  You would think that someone with depression would want to die. But this was not the case with Buchwald.

He wrote about it in an article in 1999.  Celebrity Meltdowns   As usual, he wrote about it with humor:  “One of my major fears during my depression [in 1963]  was that I would lose my sense of humor and wind up in advertising.”  (This was before Mad Men, obviously, because advertising looked like a lot of fun in the 1960’s as long as you were a white male.)

Buchwald’s message was this:  “You do get over depression.  More important, you are a better person for having had one . . . You become more sensitive and kind.  In my case it was so.”

The article goes on to discuss other famous people who suffered from depression, including Sigmund Freud, Marilyn Monroe, Ted Turner, Greg Louganis, Alanis Morissette, and Abraham Lincoln. 

Wow– such brilliant (in most cases) company.  These people were (and are) creative and successful.  However, the article also claims that “history shows that brilliance often goes hand in hand with mental illness.”  Lucky me.  I guess I can’t have one without the other.

Ok, I’ll take brilliance and creativity with a side of Welbutrin, please.  I can live with this.  And I mean just that– I can live with this.

Thank you everyone for all the positive comments on this blog and on my FB page. They help me more than you know.

Please no naked men in the men’s locker room

Billy showed me this comment card on our way out of the Y yesterday:

Someone else must have written the “OLD MEN DON’T KNOW BETTER.”   For some reason, this comment really ticked Billy off.  I didn’t understand why until we got into the car.  As we were driving home, Billy said:  “I shave naked in the locker room.” 

I understand now.  Billy is obviously one of the “excessive number of men” referenced in the comment.  Billy is not, of course, the one drying his hair.  He has no hair to dry.

“Why don’t you put on your underwear before you shave?” I asked.

“Because I get out of the shower, shave, put on my deodorant and then bet dressed.”

I get it.  It’s his routine.  He shaves naked at home too, but I don’t mind.   Billy is not about to change his routine because of some prude in the locker room.

Speaking of routines, I have settled into one also.  Billy and I go to the Y almost every day.  I feel good while I’m working out and for a couple of hours afterward, but then the endorphins drain away and I go back to feeling depressed and anxious.  I’ve been eating a lot of Tums lately for the anxiety.  I get chest pains when I’m anxious.

We have only had one viewing for our house.  One.  I guess it’s because of the snow.

My mother has found a new apartment and is marginally speaking to us again.

I’m looking for a new job, but it has to be on my terms– less stress.  Finding a new job is proving to be more difficult than I thought it would be.  I’d like to combine several part time jobs into a full time job:  some teaching, some free lance writing, and some legal work.  My therapist keeps saying I have a lot of options, but I wonder.

Perhaps I could get a job at the Y as an attendant in the men’s locker room.  

A 41-inch Bust and a Cup of Coffee


Yesterday’s blog was quite intense, so I want to follow it up with something more positive.  Today’s theme is that something good can come from a bad situation.
My parents unwittingly taught me three important lessons.  I decided I would never, ever let a man control me like my dad controlled my mom.  Ironically, I married a man who would never think to do the things my dad did.  But I didn’t know that when I was 12.  At age 12, I decided to become a lawyer, mainly because I figured it would give me the financial security I needed.  I would always be able to earn a good living and take care of myself.   I learned to be self-sufficient and resourceful.
My parents remarried when I was 17.   (He had another wife in between, but that’s a different saga.)  My father convinced my mother that he had changed, and he did, for a while.  My mother brought her car back with her.  This car meant freedom to her, and she was possessive of it.  Nevertheless, he convinced her to sell it and he bought her a Mercedes station wagon.  My dad made me sew all my own clothes to save money, but he drove a Mercedes from 1967 until the day he died.
He owned another Mercedes when they got the wagon, but his was older and a stick shift.  He liked the wagon better so he often took it and left my mother with his car.  Problem was my mother did not know how to drive a stick shift.   For some reason, she convinced herself that she could not learn.
“Get out there and teach yourself how to drive the car,” I would say.  “And if you crash it trying to learn, it will be his fault.  Or I’ll show you how.  Or go to a driving school to learn.”
But she would not.  Apparently she would rather curse the darkness than light a single candle.
From this I learned not to set limits on yourself and not to throw roadblocks in your own way.
I remember having lunch with a girlfriend who had three small children but she really wanted to go back to work.  Not for the money, but for herself.
“What’s stopping you?” I asked.
Well, there was child care expenses, and she could only work part time, and she probably couldn’t make enough money,  blah blah, blah.  Sheput those roadblocks there.  If you want to do something, find a way to do it.
The third lesson I learned was not to let anything get in the way of my dream.   I had no money to pay for law school.   My dad had promised to pay for it, but of course he didn’t.  So I worked for a year to save some money, took out student loans and got a part time job during school.
When I first started law school, my then-boyfriend, now husband, asked me if I thought I would finish.
What a stupid question, I thought.  It never occurred to me that I might not finish.   I answered, “Why would I start something if I didn’t think I could finish it?”
I’m really not that different from anyone else.  I may be smarter than the average person, but intelligence alone is not enough.  I think the difference between success and failure boils down to one thing:  perseverance.
As Newt Gingrich once said:  “Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”  I’m not crazy about Gingrich, but this quote makes a lot of sense.
I like Jayne Mansfield’s take on perseverance even better:  “A 41-inch bust and a lot of perseverance will get you more than a cup of coffee – a lot more.”
And you know what:  perseverance is going to get me through this dark tunnel.
Coming up:  Grease Monkey