Category Archives: McKenzie James

Str8 Talk


Recently I got a message on an online dating site from an attractive man with the profile name “str8t_rod”.  I thought his meant his hobby was racing street rods.  Not something I’m into, but then I’m not the type of person that thinks couples need to share all the same hobbies, so I emailed him back and we began to chat.  The conversation moved quickly from “How are you doing today?” to “I’d love to caress your sensuous curves and run my hand down …”

I was taken aback but this fast dash to inappropriate sex chat so I went back to review his profile and see if there was something in there that would have clued me in to his real intent.  I’m sure my readers, who are most likely not as dyslexic as I am, and who probably paid more attention in pre-school while being taught phonetics, are already laughing, have easily recognized my mistake.  He wasn’t talking about a “street rod”; he was talking about a “straight rod”!  This is a particularly embarrassing mistake for a woman who’s already written an article about how to read online dating profiles.

Looking back I realize that even if I’d read it correctly I might still have responded thinking he was just a guy name “Rod” who wanted everyone to know he isn’t gay.  Alas, his name is Paul!

Some women may have been shocked by this interchange and put off from online dating altogether but McKenzie is not faint of heart.  I simply laughed and wrote it off as another experience worth blogging about.


The Little Acorn


My Goddaughter called yesterday to tell me she just got her beautiful, long hair cut into a short pixie style.  “Short hair is in now”, she told me with the usual authority of a sixteen year old aware of all the latest cultural conventions.

“Of course it is”, I replied, having just grown mine out from the short cut I’ve worn for years.

As certain as she was about the current fashion trend she was a bit reticent about how it looked on her.  “I’m sure it’s lovely”, I told her, “But if you don’t like it don’t worry.  Like I told you the first time you talked me into getting your hair cut when you were three the beauty of hair is that it always grows back.”

At three she was convinced she wanted the hair dresser to cut her hair short “just like Godmom’s”.  She begged to have it cut.  She told the woman over and over again she was absolutely sure it was what she wanted.  We left the hair salon, the one with chairs shaped like animals and special cartoon videos for the kids to watch so they’ll sit still during their haircut, and the first time she caught site of herself in a shop window she began crying uncontrollably and couldn’t stop, blubbering over and over again, “my hair is gone, my beautiful hair!”.

“I remember Godmom”, she tells me now on the phone.  “You know I wrote that story as part of my autobiography for school.”

“Really?” I replied, always happy to know when the girls have a lasting memory of our time together.

“Yeah, we were supposed to interview someone and ask them about a story from our childhood and I didn’t want to interview anyone so I just pretended I interviewed you and wrote it up.”

Now, as a parent, I knew the correct response to this last comment, and I followed through and told her it was unethical to write something and pretend she’d interviewed someone when she hadn’t.  “Don’t worry”, she replied, “I made you sound cool”.

Inwardly, however, I had to admit I was impressed.  It shows an imagination and writing ability that not everyone is capable of.  I did something very similar my sophomore year in college.  I took a Child Psychology class and my term project was to meet with a child between the ages of three and six several times and write up my observations about our interactions and their play.  Well, I didn’t know any children in that age group back then so I simply made up a five year old and observed her in my mind, writing about how she acted and the things she said.  My project came complete with the child’s simple drawings (which I did myself).  I remember feeling guilty (I still feel a bit guilty relaying it to you now) but I received an “A” on the project, and in the class, and couldn’t help also being pleased with myself.

So, while I’m telling my God Daughter it was inappropriate of her to pretend to interview me for her class I’m actually thinking, “The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree”.  Even though we aren’t blood relations, and share no family connections at all, she sometimes looks and acts a great deal like me. I realize regardless of how misguided her actions may have been my heart is swelling with pride that she takes after me at times.

Unfortunately, although I’m sure she is like me in many ways, including both good and bad traits, it’s usually the rather naughty ones that get noticed.  It’s times like this when her Dad looks at me with a quizzical look and I’m fairly certain he’s asking himself, “Were we wrong to allow our girls to spend so much time with her during their formative years?”


A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Fake


I woke up this morning out of a sound sleep with what my mind at 6am believed was a brilliant idea.  In order to force myself into much needed weight loss I thought I’d tell myself I was losing weight in order to fit into my beautiful wedding dress!  Great idea, and if you don’t know me you may not think there is even anything out of the ordinary about the plan.  Those who do know me, however, are probably more than aware that I’m not getting married any time soon.  No wedding date set, no plans under way, in fact no groom in sight!

My thought process goes like this:  if I pretend I’m getting married, and I really want to fit into that dress, then I might be able to fake myself out and actually lose the weight, thereby attracting a man, and once attracted, who knows, we might end up getting married.  See, it’s a simple direct line from my craziness to reality.

Strange, I know, but I try to do things like this to fake myself out all the time.  I make deals with myself: no eating in front of the TV; no eating in that particular chair; you can only have popcorn on weekends; if you don’t eat any sweets this week you can have those new shoes you want; etc.

I know that I’m only affecting the symptoms of my disease, but if 30 years of therapy can’t eliminate the root cause of my emotional eating, I’m willing to fake myself out and simply try to eliminate the symptoms one by one.

The only problem is, I’m a pretty smart cookie, and it’s often really hard to fool me.  Unless you’re a 50-something man who’s a total loser and trying to get me to believe you’ve got it together.  In those instances, I’m apparently a pushover!  The rest of the time, however, my rational mind keeps intruding and saying things like:  “You’re not really getting married.  Go ahead and eat the chocolate cake.  Eat in that chair if you want to.  It’s your chair.  You paid for it.  You can do what you want.”

So, in order to make this wedding dress thing work, I’m going to have to get fairly involved in my delusion.  I’ve begun looking for the perfect dress and telling my friends at work about my upcoming nuptials.  I’ve already received a lovely “We think you’ll make a beautiful bride” card and two women have volunteered to be bridesmaids.  (I’m not certain that good taste allows for bridesmaids at third weddings.  I’ll have to check into it.  I think just the thought of a third wedding would make Miss Manners faint!)

Can this plan work?  I have no idea, but stay tuned for further details and feel free to check out my Bridal Registry at www.target.com.


A Few Good Men


The Marines and I have both been looking for a few good men for some time now.  (Well, actually, they need a few while I honestly only need one.)  When I first began online dating I assumed I would meet a lot of good men and that, among all those good men, there would be one who wasn’t perfect but who suited me perfectly.  What I found instead were droves of men who had attained middle-age with little knowledge of themselves.  Among them were those who seemed completely unaware of their needs, their neurosis, their selfishness, their general lack of social skills, and any part they themselves had played in creating their current circumstances.  Then there were those who I’m sure were not necessarily bad men but who were simply, as my sister would say, “odd”.

You can only go on so many failed coffee dates and then most of us, men and women alike, have to take a break from online dating and focus our energy in other ways in order to maintain our optimism about love, life and the pursuit of happiness.  I took just such a break in the last few months.  Then over the holidays, having a lot of time off work and feeling ready to dance again, I updated my profile and threw it out to the universe with a hopeful sigh.

To my great surprise and joy the outcome was emails and subsequent meetings with several good men.  They are each and every one of them, intelligent, respectful, interesting and self-aware and I am completely enjoying my time getting to know them better.  We’ve shared drinks, meals, movies, and conversations about our life’s journey and our hopes for the future and I imagine we will remain friends regardless of the outcome.  It’s been like a breath of fresh air to someone who’s been dating for way too long.

I suspect that part of the reason it’s working out better for me this time is because I’ve been determined to broaden my own horizons.  I tend to be attracted to and to fall for the tall, dark and handsome types.  The problem with this is that judging a book by its cover has gotten me into repeatedly bad relationships over the years.  This time I promised myself I would place more credence on what each match had to say, how he presented himself, and how he approached me, than in his looks.  Not that any of these men are unattractive, they are simply not my usual 6’2” tall charmers.  So, just as the Marines have adjusted their definition of what it means to be “one of the few” over the years in order to enhance recruitment I’ve found that adjusting my perspective has worked as well.

Since I’ve written enough pieces about my bad dating experiences that they have their own category in the archives (https://freethetwins.wordpress.com/category/mckenzie-james/bad-dates/) I thought it only fair that I report here that I’ve found there are still good, single men out there who are looking for relationships with strong, confident, intelligent women.  It’s way too early to tell if one of these men is the match I’ve been looking for but, whether or not one of these new friends turns out to be perfect for me, they have already renewed my faith in men.  What a wonderful way to begin a new year!


Happy New Year!


Another year has begun.  Every day is a fresh canvas, but for most people the beginning of each New Year brings even a stronger sense of renewal.  Once again we all have a chance for a “do over”; another opportunity to “get it right”.

I rarely go out on New Year’s Eve.  It is my least favorite holiday followed closely by Valentine’s Day.  Both holidays are so over- wrought with romantic illusion that it seems to set everyone up for an evening that fails to meet expectations.  So I simply stay at home and ignore the eve.

However, New Year’s Day is another story.  New Year’s Day I like to fill my house with close friends, delicious food and good conversation and this year was no exception.  As I write this I realize that unlike most years at no point did the conversation turn to New Year’s resolutions.  I suspect we’ve all reached an age where we realize that it takes more than an annual declaration to change our ingrained behaviors.  Most people agree that changing old habits, even when we’re strongly motivated, is one of the most difficult of all human processes.

Recently I gave up alcohol.  Not because I have a problem with it but because I tried to make a deal with the universe regarding the health of a loved one and I wanted the powers that be to know I was really serious.  So I decided to give up something I truly enjoy like a good glass of full-bodied, red wine (rather than the Brussels sprouts and raisins I used to give up during Lent as a child).  What I learned about myself during this lengthy abstinence was that although I normally have very little discipline when following rules regarding my diet I had a great deal of discipline when I was doing it for a purpose greater than myself.

As a writer I do a lot of my living inside my brain.  Not that I don’t lead a busy, active life, but I also spend a great deal of time mulling over things I’ve witnessed during the day, contemplating people’s responses to social cues, thinking about life, wondering “what if?”.  This is where many of my ideas for poetry, essays and short stories come from.

I don’t know exactly why but this holiday season I’ve been thinking a lot about hungry children.  I would like to do something to feel I’m helping to alleviate this problem but I’m on a very limited budget.  This led me to consider how much money I spend annually on Diet Coke alone.  I drink Diet Coke the way most people drink coffee in the morning.  It’s where I get my caffeine and I drink several of them each day.  For years I’ve wanted to quit and I’ve tried and failed to give it up many times.

It occurred to me, after my successful abstinence from alcohol, that I might combine these two very different issues and perhaps do something about them both.  I decided I won’t give up Diet Coke for all my usual reasons –because I think it’s unhealthy and most likely contributes to my weight issues—rather I’ll give it up in order to help feed children.  I’ll take the money I save each month from not purchasing Diet Coke and I will send it to an agency that provides food for needy kids.  Hopefully this will be the winning combination that succeeds in meeting two goals.

From what I’ve read it appears to take approximately three months to genuinely change a habit.  So it will be quite a while before I’ll have a proven outcome but I’ll make a note to post and let you all know if I’ve been able to contribute anything toward reducing childhood hunger.

Meanwhile, remember; if you’ve made resolutions and you find yourself slipping be kind to yourselves.  Change is a process, not a decision, and as I said earlier every day is a new beginning.

I wish everyone a happy and productive New Year!


Life is what happens…


When I was very young I was smart;

the smartest one in the class.

Sometimes folks thought I was a little too smart,

a bit of a smart ass.

In my twenties I was restless; new jobs, new men new towns.

I wanted to experience everything, see the world,

and prove I was no longer a child.

I was young, I was fearless, and some thought a little wild.

In my thirties I got married and settled down with just one man.

He loved my quick wit, my ready smile and he’d explored a lot too.

We built a life, worked on our careers,

and shared a love I thought was true.

Then when I was forty the girls came along.

My whole identity was engulfed by being a nurturing Godmom.

First the girls needed my care, next my dying brother,

and then my aging Mom.

Now I’m in my fifties and everyone is gone.

My brother died, my husband left me,

the girls are grown, and Mom passed on.

It’s not the life I would have chosen,

when I sit to contemplate and take stock.

But it’s the one I’m living

and there’s no turning back the clock.

It’s true what they say:

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making plans”.

Each decision you make, big or small,

brings you closer to the end.

I hope there’s much more to be lived

but no one really knows.

We simply have to carry on

and continue to enjoy our part in the show.


The Continued Pursuit of Happiness


A couple of weeks ago I spent the weekend shopping with a friend.  Before that, if anyone had asked, I would have said there was zero chance of finding this man in a store unless it was a tackle shop or Home Depot, and I certainly never would have pictured me along for the ride.  However, the man needed one of life’s necessities, at least one of a middle-aged man’s necessities: The Recliner.  Yes we were shopping for a new recliner and flannel sheets. I believe I gave the man sheet-envy talking about my new flannel sheets (see earlier BLOG post “Comfort and Joy” https://freethetwins.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/comfort-joy/).

I have known almost since the first day we met that this is a man with very simple needs.  All this particular man seems to need to be happy is a comfortable chair, a comfortable bed, a big screen TV and enough hot water to provide him with a long, warm shower after work each night.  Just four simple things are all that is needed to make him perfectly content with life.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this since our shopping trip.  My list of what it takes to make me happy and content in life is quite a bit longer.  I keep wondering if the key to my own happiness lies somewhere in this simple tale.

Most middle -aged men I meet seem to be content whether they have a woman in their life or not.   They have their jobs, their hobbies, add a strong cup of coffee in the morning and they’re good to go.  For instance, nothing would change in this particular man’s life if he didn’t know me.  He would sit in his same comfy chair, watch his same television programs, go to his same job, and sleep comfortably and content in his new flannel sheets.

Women, on the other hand, are searching for someone to share life with.  For the women I know, myself included, it’s about who you’re with not so much what you’re doing.  Perhaps it’s because women are raised to be nurturers and spend a great deal of their adult lives taking care of others and making other people’s lives – children, spouses, parents — more comfortable.  Even if we’re not married a large portion of our self-identity is often derived from who we choose to nurture.

Most of us have been used to taking care of the kids and the shopping and the house cleaning and the dry cleaner and the laundry and had little time left for developing hobbies.  When we had free time we spent it catching up with a good friend over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, sharing experiences and learning from each other.  For instance, my friend’s joy was derived from his new chair, while mine came from sharing time with him.

Now that the kids are grown and many of us live alone again perhaps we should take this opportunity to learn from men how to relax and be content alone. Maybe we should learn to put ourselves first, find a hobby that brings us joy, and stop being concerned about how the rest of the world is doing.  We may find it makes us happier, but will it make the world a better place?


Touchstone [tuhch-stohn] – Noun


  1.  A test or criterion for the qualities of a thing.
  2.   A black siliceous stone formerly used to test the purity of gold and silver by the color of the streak produced on it by rubbing it with either metal.

(Source: Dictionary.com Unabridged, Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2011.)

 

My mother died a year and a half ago and this weekend my sister and I thought it was time to go through the personal items that my sister had boxed up from her dresser when she died.  My sister brought the box in from the garage and gave it to me to open. The very first item I pulled out of the box was a simple, tiny, plastic stamp dispenser.  Like myself my mother was an avid writer but her writing took the form of letters.  Living over 2,000 miles away from her most of my adult life I’d gotten hundreds of letters from Mom.  Her letters were always engaging, entertaining and filled with humorous stories and vivid descriptions.

She probably wrote a letter to each person in her address book once a month.  So for years she had bought stamps in rolls of a hundred and used her stamp dispenser daily.  That stamp dispenser was such a tiny thing, yet such an enormous part of who my mother was that simply touching it brought tears to my eyes immediately.

I began crying, my sister began crying, and my sister’s little two year old granddaughter began slapping her grandmother on the leg because she thought Grandma had made Aunt McKenzie cry.  It was quite a scene which ended with us laughing at the baby girl and explaining to her that we were crying about our Mommy and that Grandma hadn’t hurt Aunt McKenzie.  We then put the box away to try again another time.

My mother was my touchstone.  She was my mirror to my place in the world. Being Lois’ youngest daughter — the attractive, successful happily married one who lived on the East Coast — was an enormous part of my identity.  She not only took pride in who I had become but reminded me always of where I came from.  With my mother’s passing I felt not only her loss, but without my tether to the past and my touchstone to reflect the purity of my beliefs, I lost a bit of my identity for a while as well.

Mom was a strong and independent woman who rarely asked anyone for help.  She survived a fractured skull in her twenties when she was hit by a car while on her bike.  Until the day she died she had slight hearing loss in one ear and dizziness when she turned her head to a certain angle from that accident.  She survived the loss of an infant child, WWII, the great depression, poverty, the loss of a spouse, raising six children alone, the death of her youngest child before his fortieth birthday, a dog attack, and at eighty was hit by a truck while out walking.  The doctors and physical therapists told us that no one else her age and in her condition would have walked again.  It was her sheer stubbornness that brought on her recovery and ability to walk again six months later.  She did all of these things, and others too numerous to mention, and carried on with a joy that brought tears to your eyes.

The one strong belief that my mother had that she passed on to me was that every day is a fresh start and a chance for renewed hope.  No matter how bad things get I realize that the very next morning I could wake up to a day that brings me infinite joy.  So it was with this belief that I put one foot in front of the other each day after my Mom’s death until the pain subsided and I was able to tether myself to my place in the world again.

I hope that one day very soon my sister and I can attempt to sort through Mom’s personal belongings once again.  Next time we’ll better prepare ourselves for the bittersweet memories we’re sure to experience and perhaps, without a toddler there, we’ll allow ourselves as many tears as we need to get through it and finish the job.

Reprinted below is the speech that I wrote for my mother’s 80th birthday celebration and gave again at her funeral.

My Mom was born on November 10th and shared her birthday with the United States Marine Corps.  These two events may seem to be unrelated to some, but not to those of us who know both the Marine Corps and Mom well.  Let me enumerate just a few of the characteristics they have in common.

 Courage – Whether attacked by the poverty of her early youth, distance between loved ones, government red tape, or the common hardships of everyday life, Mom always faced her enemies with courage and taught her children to do the same.

 Loyalty – Lord knows, each of us children tested the limits of our Mother’s loyalty and love and found it remained limitless and unwavering.

Honor – Mom’s honesty and integrity were beyond questions.  In fact, I’m sure there are those of us who wished at times that she had been a little less “honest’ since she tended to  “call ‘em as she saw ‘em”.  Her straight forward approach and homegrown advice usually hit the mark.

 Endurance – No matter how many times circumstances conspired to knock her down, she pulled herself up and never lost hope that things would get better.  In fact, it was because of her singular determination that many things in our lives WERE changed for the better.  Even getting hit by a truck couldn’t keep that woman down.  After her recovery, she continued to volunteer at St. Alice Parish and McKenzie Willamette Nursing Home.

 Strength – You can’t tell me that raising the flag at Iwo Jima was more difficult than raising six children to maturity (especially these particular children!).  As far as we’re concerned Mom deserves a monument in her honor as well.

 Through her 88 years she maintained a nobility of character that made us proud to call her Mom.  We’re proud today to celebrate her life.  She was a great mother, a great grandmother (in both senses of the term) and a friend to many.


Everyone Loves Me!


I have been told I have a charming personality.  I suspect it’s partly just the personality I was born with and partly from being a middle child in a large family.  I’m basically a happy person. I get a kick out of life and find my fellow inmates on this planet fascinating.  I have made friends easily through my adult life.  I also tend to be very loyal so a lot of my closest friends I’ve known for over twenty years, some since childhood.

I remember sharing my angst over moving to New York City for a job a few years ago with my sister.  “What am I doing? I don’t know a soul in New York?  How will I meet people?”  My sister laughed and said, “You’ll make friends everywhere you go the way you always have.”

And, of course, she was right.  If I go to a new hairdresser, within a few visits we’re best of friends and meeting for drinks and dinner.  When I change jobs my new staff is usually happy I’m there and I make friends among my colleagues without difficulty.  In fact, at a recent job, my boss actually told me one of my fellow directors was jealous because staff liked me so well so quickly.  I just seem to be able to sense the type of support that each person needs to flourish and am somehow able to bring out their best.  I can prompt people to try and succeed at things they didn’t think they could do previously.

I put others at ease.  I laugh at all the everyday occurrences that make some people angry and frustrated and I get others to laugh along with me.  I’m the one that gets the party going.  I coax those who wouldn’t normally dance out on to the dance floor.  I laugh at myself. I use humor as an ice breaker and I’m often the one who helps others to relax and begin to enjoy each other’s company.

I’ve been told I’m adorable, fun, funny, charming, even enchanting.  (Okay, that last one may have been my Mom!)   Everybody loves me: my neighbors love me, the plumber loves me, babies love me, the cable guy loves me, my friends’ husbands and boyfriends love me, my friends’ kids love me, my nieces and nephews love me.

So what I don’t understand is this:  How is it that if everyone I meet loves me I can’t find just one, single man who loves me too?  I only need one man to find me enchanting — not an entire world.  Just one, single, stable, honest man who thinks I’m as special as everyone else does.  I only need one man to share my everyday life, my joys and sorrows, my laughter and tears.

Even at my ripe old age I’m still hopeful that this man exists somewhere and one day we’ll meet.  We’ll connect and he’ll see in me all the good that others do and eventually he’ll look across the room at me the way my girlfriend’s husband still looks at her after 35 years of marriage and say, “I’m a damn lucky man.”  And I’ll be across the room smiling back knowing I’m the one who’s truly lucky.


Happy Holidays!


 

I got a” Happy Holiday” greeting the other night

from a man I used to date.

He’d dumped me hard more than one time.

So why be nice now?   Isn’t it a bit too late?

I thought I wasn’t angry any more.

I thought I’d moved on and could feel no more pain.

But his holiday wishes put an edge on me

and they seemed particularly lame.

I wish for him several things

but none of them have to do with holidays or joy.

I wish he’d suffer at least as much as me.

I wish someone would treat him like he’s their toy.

I hope someday he realizes the mistake he’s made.

But it’s too late to change his fate.

I hope he forever wants what he can’t have.

I hope he tries but never has another date.

I hope his clothes never fit right again.

I hope his face breaks out in hives.

I hope he grows hair where men never should.

I hope he learns to hate being alive.

I hope his car breaks down every day.

I hope his bank account gets emptied out.

I hope his penis remains forever limp.

I hope his ankles swell up with gout.

I hope no one will be his friend;

that men walk away and women run.

I hope his misery never ends.

I hope he never again has any fun.

I hope his balls swell up and fall right off.

I hope the doctor can’t stop his cough.

I hope dogs and cats chase him wherever he goes.

I hope he grows numerous warts upon his nose.

I hope every day for him is worse than the last.

Meanwhile I hope I’m having a blast!

I hope he learns from his mistakes

no matter how long on earth it takes.

More than all this I wish for me

that I had never really cared.

I wish I hadn’t let him get into my heart.

I wish my pain had all been spared.


%d bloggers like this: