Posted by: deadmousediaries | July 22, 2014

Where Have All the Teaspoons Gone? – a question from Mitchell Kyd

I-know-where-my-youthWe were finally out of clean cups Wednesday so I did the dishes. I am using the same set of flatware I bought before I got married nearly four decades ago. It was a dainty little Oneida pattern with ivy garland on the burnished handles and now I have a question: where have all the teaspoons gone? Really. I started with 16; I’m down to six. That’s a 62.5 percent casualty rate.

I have a 70-year-old cast iron kitchen sink with no garbage disposal so grinding down the drain is not an option. I never sent real spoons out on picnics or trusted their safe passage in packed lunches. We also never recycled any flatware into trendy wind chimes so — what’s the answer? My mom has been a homemaker for 63 years and she still has all HER teaspoons.

I know where my own youth has gone; I have watched it settle on my hips with only a few blackout years spent in job hell or being caught up in surviving two kids in diapers. I even know where my waistline went. It’s now cowering under my mid-life tattas. But where have my teaspoons gone??? I haven’t a clue.

I raised this question at a formal dinner recently and some new thoughts emerged. The ideas included the sad truth that some spoons just get trashed along with the pudding containers where they scooped their last spoonful. Someone else pointed out that if the dog noses a bowl of cooked oatmeal under the sofa, time leads to a gruel fate as the bowl and spoon become permanently bonded and both are most likely taken directly to the trash to conceal the evidence.

I also remember painting a few faces of former bosses on a teaspoon or two and tossing them into the brine of a pickle jar as I learned from that sassy little character from Lilo and Stitch. But that was a long time ago (and besides, they needed to be punished).

During my search and rescue efforts to find my flatware, I did uncover six other foreign spoons, all unique, that matched nothing in my kitchen. I’m sure their original owners have stopped waiting for the phone to ring by now with a promise of their safe return.

I’ve discussed this mystery with enough people to know this is a universal problem. Now here is my proposal:

1. Take your own home inventory to see what you may be missing from your set.

2. Set aside the invasive species that don’t match your pattern and drop them in a zip lock baggie.

3. Carry this baggie with you at all times.

4. Every time you pass another kitchen sink – at a friend’s house, in the office break room, in the house that’s up for sale, drop a mismatched teaspoon on the counter.

5. When you are all out of mismatched spoons, you can take a break until the next new spoon appears in your kitchen drawer.

I really think this could work. I’m sending this directive to 150 people on my distribution list. If we all find new homes for six mismatched teaspoons and also send this note on to just 50 more friends each, we will be putting 45,906 teaspoons back into circulation. At least one of them might be mine. Please call me if you find it. (And if your face was ever in my pickle jar, I do apologize; I’m over it.)

Posted by: deadmousediaries | July 12, 2014

News from the Path Valley Hotel, Episode #44 – Full Moon Quiz

It’s almost here again- full moon! In fact, July brings us another Supermoon when the proximity of the moon’s center to the center of the Earth will make her appear even larger, brighter and more glorious. She’ll be with us for one night only, July 12, 2014. If you read my June post (Dancing Naked in the Moonlight), you know this is my favorite night of the month. I’m a howler, I admit it, and I’m an enabler when it comes to encouraging others to drop their inhibitions and their skivvies to revel in the moonlight.

The July full moon is also known in folklore as the Thunder Moon, Hay Moon and Buck Moon. That’s  because it falls during a time of increased thunderstorm activity in the Northern Hemisphere, aligns with hay harvest season for farmers and corresponds with the time male deer begin to get their antlers.

The Path Valley Hotel is never at a loss for engaging things to do (i.e. cheap entertainment), so for our Saturday night pleasure,  we’re going to celebrate some ways the moon has insinuated herself into our culture and our memories. Feel free to play along at home! I’m listing 20 moon-related references and giving you the chance to excavate some answers. If you think you have them all correct, send a comment –but please wait until Sunday, July 13th. Don’t spoil the fun for the people who only draw their energy from solar power!


1. What was the name of Karen Valentine’s/Karen Field ‘s boyfriend in all the Gidget movies?

2. Three years before Don Henley and the Eagles released their first album, another U.S. Eagle was making world history. What descriptive phrase was this Eagle also known by?

3. If your neighbors are gathered outside your bedroom window waiting to perform a shiveree, you are probably trying to celebrate what?

4. What slang name is often assigned to members of the Unification Church?

5. Named after a Roman goddess, this looks like a big green butterfly but its correct name is  …?

6. What 80′s romantic comedy starred Cher, Olympia Dukakis and Nicolas Cage?

7. Hit single Radar Love came from what 1973 U.S. album release?

8. What best-selling children’s book features a little fruit bat as the heroine?

9. What U.S. hit single includes the lyrics: “Neath the cover of October skies/And all the leaves on the trees are falling/To the sound of the breezes that blow” ?

11. Grease characters Doody, Putzie and Sonny — as well as Mel Gibson playing William Wallace — found this non-verbal communicator the perfect way to send a message of flagrant disrespect. It’s called…?

10. A 2012 U.S. movie release starring Shai LeBeouf showed how Forrest and the Bondurant brothers made a living –and some history– with what home-based business?

12. According to crooner Dean Martin, what’s amore?

13. She is a sister to Dweezil, Ahmet and Diva Thin Muffin. What is her name?

14. From the American classic sitcom, what was Jackie Gleason’s famous line when he was upset with his wife?

15. What southern treat is made with chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows?

16. What Andy Williams standard was actually launched into Grammy and Academy Award status thanks Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s?

17. What did George Baily pledge to do for Mary as they were walking home from the high school dance in It’s a Wonderful Life?

18. What native American expression is used in storytelling to describe the long passage of time?

19. In the Dennis the Menace movie. poor Mr. Wilson missed what rare occurrence after waiting 40 years for this special event when Dennis interrupted his garden soiree?

20. Beethoven named it Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor. What is its more popular name?

There you go, kids. Have fun. Or not. However you choose to spend your time, remember to look up at the sky and drink in the beautiful full moon on July 12, 2014. . She’ll be waiting for you.

One of the eternal charms of our little Path Valley Hotel is that nearly everything is authentic to a homey retreat in the woods. You could translate that as rustic. You could also say it’s old. We have our share of closet creaks, the patter of rain in places where there shouldn’t be patter and now, a screened-in porch that is more screened-out.

The carpenter bees and the June bugs have already mapped their routes into the porch with the precision of an air traffic controller. But this story is about what got off the porch.

My tiny house cat, the adorable little waif who used to drape herself across my keyboard during every writing assignment, still weighs less than five pounds but now rules the roost in terms of presumptuous bad attitude. She is in fact, the poster cat for cat haters everywhere. She never purrs and never uses her powers for good, only evil.IMAG0465

One of her annoying habits is using her ninja skills to weave her way through the dogs’ legs to finagle her way onto the back porch. I was running late for an appointment on a recent early morning and was, as my daughter often says, all outtta’ nice when the cat slithered out the back door.  Fine! You can just stay outside today, I remember thinking. I pulled out of the driveway while her little cat face was pressed up against the porch screen with a look of incredulity.


My daughter sent a text six hours later: Cat’s goneVisions of coyotes and red fox dining on a rack of little cat ribs put me in high gear when I got home. A sad little meow emanated from somewhere near the porch. There wasn’t any sign of her but the cry was reassuring she hadn’t yet been on the menu.


We couldn’t quite follow the sound; it seemed to come from every direction until one of us decided to look up. There, balanced on the spindly top branches of my hemlock tree sat my little hairball; it was clear she had no intentions of coming down on her own. The afternoon was warm and sunny so we gave up our pathetic entreaties for a while and went inside. Two hours ticked by. I went out with the treat bag, then the tuna can. I had no tricks left. I decided then it was probably best that she didn’t make a racket lest she attract unwanted attention and be turned into owl pellets by morning.


The next day I called my vet thinking she was would tell me that my cat would come down when she got hungry. No such reassurance. It appears that cats do sometimes get themselves into that kind of predicament with no exit strategy whatsoever. She advised me to call the fire department. Really? I thought that only happened in old 60s TV shows and first grade story books.


Here’s what I learned. Fire companies do get calls about this kind of thing often enough that they won’t treat you like a crazy cat lady if you call (at least not while you’re on the phone with them). I had estimated that my cat was 50 feet above ground which it turns out, is too tall for any of the fire company ladders in this end of county.


“It’s funny you’re calling now,” said John of the first volunteer fire company that answered my call. “We were just saying that we have never found a cat skeleton in a tree.” Well, yeah. I’m a country girl. I know why that is and there are three reasons: owls, hawks and eagles.


By Thursday night, we were into a second day of this catastrophe and facing the first major summer storm of the season. When the skies turned dark and the winds began to blow, her little cat calls turned into full blown caterwauling, a strident and genuine cat scream for help. I stood in the pelting rain until I started to shiver, pleading as I watched her swaying in the topmost branches. The rain continued into Friday. 


When I stepped outside Friday morning, I watched a hawk circling my rooftop. I was afraid to call her but she let out a little cry. I don’t know how she survived the night but by Fiday afternoon, she had stopped answering my kitty-kitty calls. I was sick. 


As a last attempt, I called my neighbor, a good friend and a roofer. His wife answered and Clint was instantly on his way with his 35-foot ladder. My 50-feet estimate had been pretty close; his ladder was 15 feet short. By this time, the cat had been in the tree for 48 hours. 


Two hours, five phone calls, two neighbors and two tree services later, Clint had managed to find a guy with a bucket truck who was willing to come up the rutted lane of the Path Valley Hotel on a Friday night to try and rescue my silly, stupid cat. I sent him up the tree with a pillow case.IMAG0450


His bucket towered about the Hotel roof. My neighbors and the rescuer’s wife watched with me from the ground as he plucked that tiny body from the top of the hemlock. He didn’t need the pillow case and I could only hold my breath.  As he approached the ground, he signaled Clint to jump up into the cab of the truck.  A tiny, little fur ball was returned to me, cold and hungry, but not much the worse for her adventure. I cried. (Thank you, Clint, and thank you, Daniel from Barnhart’s Tree Service!)


For the first night after her rescue, she attached herself to me like Velcro, purred all night and even followed me into the bathroom so she could wrap around my ankles. CpcuBy day two, she had bounced back completely, refusing any cat food that was not fresh from the can,  swatting at the dogs and crapping right beside the litter pan. It was good to have her home and safe, if only for those first 24 hours. There will be no skeleton in my hemlock tree for now. Next time? I’m not so sure.


We have no ballroom here at the Path Valley Hotel which is one of the things I love about full moon nights. There is absolutely no place inside to be dancing naked. The lure of summer’s lunar cycle demands that we usher our guests out into the moonlight. It will be the single most cathartic moment of their stay. The ridge-runners and the moon howlers already know the power of this primordial abandon. When that luminescent wafer commands the night sky, her cool white rays wake the sleeping parts of us that even the sun can not penetrate.

It will be easy to identify the first-time full moon dancers; they will waste too much time watching to see who might be watching. Their movements will be guarded, nearly non-existent, as they struggle against their own primeval instincts to leave the world behind and accept pure joy as their entitlement.

The rest of us will have dropped our anxiety and our expectations in the pile with our clothes and will not sacrifice one precious moment. We will open our arms, our eyes, and our throats lest a single drop of moonlight splash to the ground and be wasted.

Ten minutes from the Hotel is the perfect spot for beginners’ moon gazing. We will offer a midnight shuttle service if you’d like a view not framed by our exquisite hardwoods;  it is the elixir we serve our guests who need some transition time to be ready for moon dancing.  Broad,  flat rocks cling to the side of the mountain face there where the earth and sky are sewn together. Something in the spot changes the way you breathe, the thinness of the air, the trailing scent of pines or the pffffffttttt of owl wings beyond your range of sight. Even on the warmest nights, gooseflesh rises as you dangle at the Edge of Everything. Moon howling is delicious there, and your song rolls down the mountainside until it is joined by the other wild things, an a cappella celebration of the night. Stay until morning and revel again in a sunrise hand-painted just for you.

Dancing naked in the moonlight is not about releasing pheromones or drawing in a mate.  It is about peeling back the rusty layers of  the you you used to be. Our Hotel guests are encouraged to step outside and be immersed but it’s a solitary revelation.  If you hear my howl rolling down the mountainside, please don’t try to find me. I will be dancing my own version of the  magic dance,  a wild thing in the moonlight.

I’m on the hunt this week for Happy Fathers. That seems appropriate because Sunday is Happy Fathers Day. I know there are lots of them out there; I’ve seen them. If you’re happy and you know it, I hope you hear from Hallmark.

   One of my favorite memories from my old work routines was pulling up beside a man at a stoplight who was obviously having a great time listening to his radio. His lips were moving but it was the shoulder rolls and head bobbing that were the giveaways that he was having too much fun for phone talk. My first thought was Wow! He’s pretty confident to be singing like no one is watching. Then he turned and looked over his  shoulder to his passenger strapped securely in the car seat.  By the time I got stopped beside them, his toddler was into full-blown baby giggles.
   I love it when those things happen!  Those few seconds of peeping in on a young dad’s life warmed my heart for an entire day. It made me wonder how many of those kinds of  gifts we miss, both as bystanders and as the parents who can grab an ordinary moment and juice it up to be  spectacular.
   I was grocery shopping recently and got caught up in the antics of a young family crossing back into the parking lot. The mom was very pregnant and looked a little frazzled. Dad was pushing the cart with a toddler riding shotgun. This dad was singing, too, only this time it was the same three or four bars of a song that sent the kid into hysterics at the end, every time.  “Again!” the kid would squeal. “One more time?” Dad would question before launching into another animated round. In the short time it took them to cross the parking lot, this dynamic duo managed several volleys of singing followed by absolute delight that even wiped the weary from Mom’s face. It was so amazing, it made me want a toddler again — if only for a second.
   What is it about dads singing that is so endearing? Is it because so many of them can’t carry a tune in a bucket (as my grandfather would say)? Or is it because all the stories of child-rearing refer only to the melodic moms with voices of angels who sing only lullabies in darkened rooms and only at bedtime. Whatever it is, it’s charming.
   When-he-died-a-goodMy husband was not a singer but he was a charmer. He also always had a moustache, and not a small one. Our son was five months old by his first Christmas and Doug used to sing him Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas.  When he got to the line: and kiss her once for me, he would bend down and give our kid a zerbert. I’m not sure zerbert is the technical word for this kid-pleaser but it’s what we called it when you press you lips on your kids cheek or neck and blow air against it. His moustache hairs would ripple in unison like a hundred thousand-leggers auditioning for A Chorus Line. It tickled and our son would giggle twenty times in a row if Doug would do it twenty times. Just like Pavlov’s dog, that little ritual turned into conditioned response. It got to the point that just hearing those words on the radio sent all three of us into spasms.
   I’m pretty sure my dad was a Happy Father, too, at least he always made me feel that way. I have a bizillion joy-filled images of the two of us in my brain (which is pretty amazing considering that for most remembering purposes, my retrieval system seems to be out or order). This is my third Father’s Day without him and sometimes I still forget for a second that I can’t pick up the phone and call him for advice or share something good about my life.
   When he died, a good friend sent me a note quoting a few lines from the TV series Grey’s Anatomy; she was welcoming me to the Dead Dads Club. In that episode, the character Christina tries to comfort George as she says: “There’s a club. the Dead Dads Club, and you’re not in it, until you’re in it. You can try to understand, you can empathize but until you feel that loss..I’m sorry you had to join the club.” Yep, that about sums it up.
   I remember how it felt to pass all those Happy Father’s Day cards that first year as a new member. I also remember how to dodge that section now.
   It may be a tough weekend for all this year’s new members of the Dead Dads Club, my own kids now included. If you’ve become a member too, join me on my mission to catch Happy Fathers in the act. It might give you something new and good to pour into The Big Empty.
   When you see a Happy Father, give your heart permission to sing out like no one’s watching.  Give that dad a smile or word of encouragement; he’ll remember it.  He might also put it on deposit for a day when withdrawals from his Happy Dad account need a little balance.  It’s a pay-it-forward kinda’ thing, a small deposit on the debt we owe dads everywhere.

It’s that time of year when all good children everywhere are beginning to panic about the perfect thing to give Dad for Father’s Day. One thing the perfect thing is not is another slender silk noose he can tie around his neck on Sunday mornings or for a dreaded family gathering. When it comes to buying for dads, the perfect thing is often so obvious it is overlooked.

That’s one of the differences between men and women. What does he want? Try the direct route and ask him! For women, gifting is a competitive sport and we enjoy the thrill of the game more than the thing itself. For example, we hint and don’t ask. By hinting at what we want and not asking outright, we test our men’s skills of perception. There is magical value we assign to sorting that out that equates to an indicator of the true depth of a man’s love for us. (This is a complex formula known only to women and will never be revealed to anyone of the opposite sex.)

This roundabout approach is frustrating for men. When they want something, we get the name of the dealer, the model number and a full report on all the specs. The importance of this concept for Fathers Day is, unless he has actually asked for a new bowling ball, grill or lawn mower, that isn’t what he wants. Another contradiction between the sexes is the repair and replacement pact. For women, having a broken item attended to without being asked is a good thing. Don’t do that for Dad as a gift. Don’t repair the hinges on a squeaky shop door or replace the broken window without asking. Those things represent the opportunity to earn a a great sense of satisfaction at a later date. Who would deprive a loved one that, especially on Fathers Day? Unlike washing dishes or running a vacuum, most things dads do stay done for quite a while so waiting to fix it allows him the extended pleasure of the anticipation of getting around to it.

He also probably does not want a new pair of jeans or work boots just when the other ones are getting broken in properly and show signs of wear in all the right places. (We call that state of being as loved up at our house.) Buying your dad or your spouse clothing because you would like to see him throw away the old stuff is just plain selfish and it should not be the underlying motivation for honoring dad on Fathers Day. As a corollary to this rule, don’t buy him a new putter simply because you think it will improve his attitude about his golf game.

The same rule applies to buying him new after shave. A wee bottle of something pricey from a department store most likely says: (1) I think you need to spend a little more time on personal grooming or (2) I like the way this smells better than what you do or do not use currently. I know from experience that some of the best dad smells can never be found at the fragrance counter. Sawdust and Hoppe’s gun oil are two great examples. If your dad smells like buck lore, maybe he’d like some items connected to what causes these scents to stick to him in the first place. Ditto for gasoline; if he often smells like gas, go with it. Chances are you already know he’s a tinkerer or a gear-head who would love more pieces-parts for his big boy toys.

So what does work as a perfect thank-you-Dad gift on Fathers Day? How about a new universal remote to manage all the new electronics from the command post in front of the TV? Or if your budget is tight, try creating a whole deck of get-out-of-jail-free cards that he can play as needed. These come in handy if he has missed an important event or eaten the potato salad that was meant for the family picnic. He can also use one if he accidentally set the inside cat loose to make her big break for the outside.

If your creativity still fails you, consider tickets to a baseball game where he can sit along the first base line to hear the crack of the bat. He might even catch a fly ball before it bounces off a windshield. As an accessory item, include a new ball cap and pair of shades to make it a complete gift package. Nothing says I love you as much as a clever disguise that allows a dad to avoid being recognized by his vigilant spouse –or his cardiologist –as he enjoys what he might really want for Fathers Day: no-fuss entertainment, guilt-free guy time and a few bacon cheeseburgers washed down with cold brews!

Posted by: deadmousediaries | May 29, 2014

Have Cheese Dome; Will Travel – a career shift for Mitchell Kyd?

Nothing makes a woman feel more powerful than putting on her big girls pants and removing a creepy crawly from her environs with a calm hand and cool demeanor. Whether the object of attention has a tail, looks like it’s all tail or simply has more than the acceptable number of appendages, when you stand alone to face your fears and choose to catch and release the invader rather than flee until it finds a new hiding place, you are Queen of the Universe (QU).

When you have done this repeatedly, have perfected your technique and start doing it for friends, you are entitled to flash your Queen of the Universe badge and parlay it as you please. In my case, it earned me 200 bucks.

I’m very grateful to the nearly 1,000 people who are now following my blog because YOU, all of you, feed my soul. You also reinforce the mantra I preach daily: our stories are important. Many of my stories have a point or involve some poignant reflection and I love it when I hear from someone who connects with that. I also love hearing from people who’ve had a chuckle, belly laugh or just plain snorted out loud from an account of my adventures. Life is short; laugh like you’re wearing Depends.

I’ve posted several stories about my critter encounters in this space and am happy to report that Chicken Soup for the Soul publishers liked Itsy, Bitsy Spider enough to include it in their newest edition: Home Sweet Home. I’m also happy to say that for the fifth time, I’m doing a book signing to help raise funds for a local non-profit I support.

From 9:00 a.m. to Noon on Saturday, May 31st, I will be signing copies of Home Sweet Home at the Ft. Loudon Library, 210 Mullen Street, as a fundraiser for the library. Chicken Soup for the Soul publishers offer non-profits a fabulous discount purchase program and I have underwritten the cost of 20 books for this event which means every dollar collected Saturday goes directly the library. To make it good for you, too, the books will be available for just $10, not the retail price of $14.95. Better yet, if you visit, you’ll get to meet the inspiration for this particular story – if you choose.

After removing my itsy, bitsy spider on two previous occasions and releasing him outside, he made one too many appearances on my shower curtain; he now lives in a terrarium. Whether he likes it or not, he’s coming with me to the book signing. He’s been dining on pet store crickets since his incarceration and has already gone through “ecdysis” once, (the molting of his exoskeleton) which my pet care manager daughter says is a very good sign that he’s healthy and stress-free. Well, whoop de frickin’ do. My stress has also been greatly reduced now that I always know where he is.

I’ve finally accepted how beneficial spiders are and I am no longer a squasher. Thanks to years of careful tutelage from my son, I have honed my own spidernapping skills and consider myself somewhat of an expert. If you ask, I’ll be happy to share my tried and true technique for safely removing this kind of threat with a cheese dome and follow-through flourish of a paper plate. The real challenge is snatching a spider from a soft surface like a bed pillow– but you can do it and become somebody’s hero.

The gun-slingers of the Old West were in high demand as deterrents and even exterminators to help control the “undesirable element” of emerging America. Their ads read: Have gun, will travel. I’m thinking that in the 21st century, there might be a market for a woman with my particular skills and QU certification. Watch for my ad appearing soon: Have cheese dome; will travel.

Posted by: deadmousediaries | April 24, 2014

The Groundhog and the Gratitude Penny -an update from Mitchell Kyd

 I believe most of us would like to know that we’ve touched other people is some kind of positive way. Life is short and it’s nice to know that something you said or did might get remembered. As a writer, I think I’m doing something important by keeping others’ stories alive and if, in the process, somebody chooses to remember me for that, well that’s good, too.
   For all the slice of life vignettes I’ve shared here and in my blog, for all the everyday heroes’ praises I’ve sung or family characters I’ve celebrated, I could never have imagined that it might be a groundhog that would bring me some notoriety. Yes, a groundhog.
    On January 31, 2014, I posted my little story Let Sleeping Groundhogs Lie on my blog. I was rudely awakened February 2nd, Groundhog Dog, by the blip of my cell phone alerting me to a new email message, 273 of them in fact. The alerts came in all day, and for weeks following that, each one notifying me that another new reader had found my story and was now following my blog. I discovered later that my blog host WordPress had promoted that particular story to all their bloggers in their Freshly Pressed section. I had suddenly caught the attention of some omnipotent editor in cyberspace and had received the blogging world’s version of a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Very nice!
    At last count, I’ve picked up 702 new followers from across the globe as a result and I get one or two more new ones every day. They now represent 80 countries. The list is staggering:  Germany, Egypt, Slovakia, Argentina, Trinidad, Japan, Netherlands, Iceland, Greece, Peru, Israel, Kenya, Luxembourg, Singapore, Greece. India, Brazil… I think Punxsutawney Phil would be mighty proud to know his fame is building because it is surely the intrigue of his lore and not my writing that has caused such an international stir.
    It’s been nearly 40 years since I’ve had a world geography course and as I look at the names of countries these new readers represent, I’ve had to do a little Googling more than once. Do you know where the Isle of Man is located? How about Republic of Seychelles, Mauritius or Brunei Darussalam? Yeah, me neither. My ancient studies of the world didn’t cover those but I did find them on the map and know a little more about them now. I also know someone there now knows something about Phil.
    There’s no doubt that Internet has compressed the world. As social media out-shouts traditional news sources, we now connect through channels that are conveniently pocket-sized and battery-powered. Facebook describes their connections in terms of friends; in the blogging world, we talk about our connections as our community. My blogging community has become surprisingly important to me.
    Two weeks after the groundhog story started making its rounds, I had to come to terms with a completely impossible writing task, my husband’s obituary. What can you say in the width of a newspaper column that reflects someone’s entire lifetime or even encompasses 36 years of a relationship?
    Friends and family continue to circle around us, holding us close, siphoning away a bit of our sadness at times and filling up the empty places at other moments. Our son told those who had gathered at our Celebration of Life service that if anyone truly wanted to honor his dad, they should continue to tell his stories. I plan to do that. We also asked friends to carry forth the ritual of the Gratitude Penny.

   If you missed the related story I posted on my husband’s birthday in March, this is how it goes. Some people pick up lost pennies and make a wish. Not us. For many years, our family has picked up found pennies and expressed gratitude for something in our lives. My husband would often fill extra moments at restaurants, malls, etc.–usually while waiting on me – by walking through the parking lot looking for pennies. He nearly always found one. Our daughter often “plants” pennies in odd places for others to find as her own way to pay-it-forward.

    In honor of Doug’s memory, I shared a version of this story at his Celebration of Life  service and also on my blog. I asked that friends hold a coin in their hands while expressing gratitude for something in their lives they appreciate before giving it a toss for another treasure hunter to find. I wanted us all to be intentional in thinking of him for a moment and create a reason to smile. I asked friends to let me know where they tossed their pennies and what they appreciate.

    The stories came rolling in. Gratitude pennies have been deliberately dropped at handicapped parking spaces, libraries, chapels, gas stations and convenience stores, Friends reported they are grateful for their families, their health, happy memories, and also the ability to let go of the past. A teacher even gave pennies to the students in her human development class and asked them to be part of this request. And oddly, friends tell me they are now finding pennies everywhere.

   Thanks to my globe-trotting groundhog, our little ritual has been picked up in places outside the U.S., too.  A woman in France wrote with a promise to drop a 20-cent piece in the carpark of the supermarket in Vire, Normandy, in gratitude for her husband having survived his surgeries. A Peace Corps volunteer in Moldova dropped a five bani piece in appreciation for her family and for our friendships. Visitors in Morocco left a half dirham piece on the steps of a school.

If you find a penny in your travels soon, maybe it was a friend of ours who left it there for you. If you don’t find one, toss one. You never know when someone else might need a reason to pause a minute and be grateful.

   I would love to hear your gratitude penny tales . Comment here and I will continue to share our stories.

Posted by: deadmousediaries | March 31, 2014

The Invisible Woman – a rant from Mitchell Kyd

What a load of crap! A whole group of angst-filled women flew into the personal space of my Jeep as I was driving home last night simply to tell me that a $49 jar of face cream had rescued them from being  invisible. They weren’t the XX  chromosome complements to Wells’  Invisible Man, mind you, and it wasn’t grease paint they had purchased. They were doing a radio spot for the latest lifesaver to be tossed by the beauty industry to middle-aged women everywhere.

Their tortured vignettes all recounted how men had stopped looking at them admiringly, that strangers now looked right past them, and that the physical signs of aging in their appearance had rendered them invisible. How sad! Invisible? Really? What image do we hold of ourselves that allows us to believe that simply because our faces reflect the stories of our lives, we are invisible? Lucky for them, they had been assured they could mask their authentic selves and appear on a stranger’s radar for a paltry $49  (plus shipping and handling, of course).

I was raised by a mom who always said that she loved her gray hair. “I earned every one them,” she still jokes.  I agree. And I view all my little creases and laugh lines the same way; the face I see in the mirror is like the well-worn pages of a well-loved book, a best-seller of which I am the  author.

Women shine from the inside out and our light only grows more glorious with age. Sure, it’s wonderful to have great packaging but that doesn’t diminish all the great stuff that’ s inside. Why is it such a struggle to appreciate that?

“We think in our youth that are bodies are identified with ourselves and have the same interests,” said British writer Rebecca West, “and later realize they are heartless companions who have been accidentally  yoked to us.”

Pablo Picasso proclaimed there are only two kinds of women, goddesses and doormats. I’m guessing if you need face cream to ward off  invisibility, you can’t see yourself as a goddess.

I can’t track down who coined this distillation of how women view themselves but I love the quote:  “Women will never rule the world until they can walk down the hall naked with a bald head and beer gut and think they’re beautiful.” Amen, sister.

This rant might seem like a huge contradiction from a woman who dyes her hair purple but I assure you it’s right on track. When you’ve been purple on the inside for a very long time and it finally makes an outward appearance, that’s a good sign to the universe that you refuse to be invisible.

I say make the most of your assets and do whatever makes you feel best but don’t ever diminish who you really are by relying on your body to convey that.

“We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented fabulous,” asks contemporary writer and spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson. And then she asks: “But who are you NOT to be?”

Do we really need new  face cream to save us from invisibility? Let’s hope not.


Never trust an arachnid to keep a promise. After rescuing and safely removing my itsy, bitsy Volkswagen-sized spider back in July, who do I find hanging out alongside the bathtub today? He’s baaaccckkkkk! How did that happen?  We had quite a chat about him NOT making a second appearance when he first surfaced in PVH News Episode #5. I thought I had made my expectations clear.

I know it was the same spider; he had a little dimple above the second joint in his third left leg so don’t start thinking I have a whole herd or spiders running amok here. Lucky for us both, he fell for the ole’ glass cheese dome trick again or he would  be wrestling dust bunnies in the bottom of my vacuum cleaner bag by now. To my credit, I performed this removal all on my own this time and deposited him on the other side of the driveway. If he shows up again, my pet-store manager daughter says he’s going into a terrarium. Sometimes you have just have to go with the flow.

Although I know my repeat visitor is a wood spider, I’ve been doing a little research this summer after watching a friend recover from the bite from a brown recluse. Not pretty. Not easy. Not fast. One of the defining characteristics of the recluse is that it has only six eyes, not eight. And the famed black widow has a red hourglass marking — on her stomach.  I don’t know about you but if I encounter a new spider on the block, I’m not going to stoop down to see how many eyes are gazing into mine nor am I going to ask her to roll over so I can check for any suspicious markings on her undercarriage. File that kind of scientific info under “not helpful” –unless of course you are a squasher and just want to make sure once the deed is a fait accompli.

In addition to the fact that most of us don’t know how to identify the venomous spider species from the harmless ones, I’ve decided that another reason spiders are so damn creepy is that there are so many scary words to describe what they do. For instance, my beta fish swim, flutter, fan and glide. My cat purrs, pounces, plays and poops. All of that sounds pretty safe and ordinary. But what do spiders do? They dangle, scurry, entrap, lurk, entangle and inject. That’s the stuff that nightmares are made of — as well as CSI episodes.

I m happy to report that my creepy-crawly tolerance level has been greatly expanded thanks to this summer’s little adventure but I wasn’t always this open-minded.  My husband and I visited friends for a cookout over the weekend and in the midst of a lovely late-night conversation, an errant katydid landed on a young woman sitting next to me. To say she freaked is an understatement. It brought back memories.

I can remember one early fall day in third grade when we were sent to the fourth grade classroom to watch a film strip. (Yes. A film strip. Definitely not a movie or even a film which was the vernacular of the day.)  The third graders were instructed to sit on the desk tops. There was no such thing as air conditioning in schools in those days so all the windows were wide open. In the middle of the big event, a grasshopper flew in and plopped down in my lap. There I was surrounded by teachers and  “big kids” but alone in my absolute terror. I was paralyzed by the fear he would hop again and touch my arm or heaven help us, my face. And as kids back then, we all knew that grasshoppers spit tobacco juice so I sat motionless to ensure he wouldn’t do such a disgusting thing on my dress that would be a reminder all day long of those agonizing moments I had been held hostage by a bug.

In some weird kind of way, I’m grateful for the snakes and spiders I’ve encountered in my life and especially this year on my stay-cation.  They have made for great stories. I like being reminded that ordinary moments accumulate to make extraordinary memories and what is a tale weaver without memories worth retelling? MK

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