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Love Hurts

Mixed Media Collage

Thanks, Thomas Jefferson, I couldn’t agree with you more.  Having recently reached the half century mark, I do believe I have acquired “certain unalienable rights”:

1.  Being able to refer to myself in the third person ( “Megan wants a ham and cheese sandwich.” )

2. Having grandchildren while I still look too young to have grandchildren

3. Tisking at young, inexperienced adults as they attempt to parent their children in the grocery store, mall, or park

4. Sending food back to be reheated/cooked more/re-seasoned/or totally removed from my plate when dining out  (this also includes while being a guest in other people’s homes–hey, I’m dining out, right??) while exclaiming loudly, “What are you trying to do, KILL ME?”

5. Hushing young people in the movie theater

6.  Complaining that the sound is too loud/not loud enough in the movie theater

7. Demanding that the room temperature be raised/lowered while at a movie, club, concert, assembly or another’s home (regardless of whether I’m wearing removable layers or toting a sweater) while exclaiming loudly:  “What are you trying to do, FREEZE ME*?”

8. Receiving pounds of unsolicited mail ftrom AARP each week (though in fact I’ve been receiving mail from them since the ripe old age of 16 )

9. Offering unwanted advice to grocery clerks, nurses, store managers, waiters, cashiers, postal workers, mechanics, bank tellers, and countless other people who couldn’t give a rodent’s rear about my ideas for how to “really make things work better.”

10. Beginning 70% of all my sentences with the words, “Well, when I was your age…”

11.  Beginning the remaining 30% with the words, “You know what you should do…”

12.  Incorporating the following words into my daily conversations:  whippersnapper, rapscallion, missy,  sonny, and young’un

13. Additional peppering of said conversations with outdated “cuss” words, such as: confound it, consarn it, and dagnab it 

* Or in the case of the room being too hot, exclaiming loudly: “What are you trying to do, GIVE ME HEAT STROKE?”

Please consider this a personal invitation to all of you in the “50 and Above” age category to join me in claiming your inalienable rights–especially the right to be a huge pain in the ass from this day forward…

The Other Beanstalk

Next weekend, March 6 and 7, is the premiere  of  “The Other Beanstalk,” a new musical. The story tells of Jack’s adventures as a grown-up–now the sovereign of the Kingdom of Legumbia.

I am so proud and fortunate to have collaborated  on this project  with my daughter, Adelaide Coles  and my father, Warren Murphy.

Here we are, pretending to work…….

 

 

As a child, I had wide feet–very wide feet.  I wore quadruple E.   That’s E-E-E-E.  The school I went to allowed girls   to wear only saddle shoes or Mary Janes. This was very convenient for me  because those were the only shoes they     made wide enough for my feet. I think my parents sent me to that school  so I      wouldn’t get a complex about my feet. I tell you, after 14 straight years of      wearing nothing but saddle shoes and Mary Janes, a girl can get pretty  disgusted with life.

My grandmother used to say, “See, Miggin? (For some reason, pronouncing the long e sound for the first syllable of my name was just a tad too overwhelming for my grandmother–hence–Miggin.) “Miggin, That’s what happens when you don’t wear the slippers Nanny buys for you for Christmas.” (Grandparents always refer to themselves in the third person.) “If you don’t start wearing them slippers pretty soon, you’re gonna have to wear the boxes that the slippers come in.” I had nightmares about this…me, at my senior prom, beautiful dress, long, flowing hair, and these gigantic shoe boxes tied around my feet with barbed wire.

My elementary school years were spent (imprisoned, really) at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Jersey City. From Sister Vincent VanGogh in first grade (FYI–Never trust a woman with a man’s name–except Michael Learned–you can trust John Boy Walton’s mother) who had a propensity for eating glue out of the jar (remember that thick white stuff that smelled like toothpaste?) to Sister George Foreman, who you might imagine packed quite a wallop when wielding her iron ruler or left jab. Toss in the various “lay” teachers–(I discovered early on that “lay” was short for “lazy”) it was an interesting education, to say the least.

For those of you so unfortunate as not to have received a Catholic school education, you may not realize that “our” curriculum differed greatly from “your” curriculum. Whereas you may have taken classes such as: Math, English, Science, History, Phys. Ed, and Geography, our school day consisted of: Phonics and its role in the life of a good Catholic, Religion and its importance as preparation for the afternoon, and Jesus and the true meaning of after-school activities. Oh, and there was also Math. Math in grades 1 through 4 consisted of nuns walking up and down rows of desks, having each student recite the next fact in the addition and subtraction tables from 1-12. If you were so unlucky as to incorrectly guess the answer to your math fact–there were two courses of action: 1. Public Humiliation and Onset of Carpal Tunnel Sundrome by having to go to the chalkboard and writing the math fact correctly 500 times, or 2. Having the shit whacked out of you–usually on the leg (but they did love hitting those bad boys on the backs) with the wooden stick, pointer or whatever other long, wooden object they’d been carrying around during math to scare the crap out of you.

Gym class was once a month on a Friday afternoon. It featured thirty fat girls, dressed in plaid gym suits hitting each other with a medicine ball–in between bouts of prayer and discussions of “Religion and the Serious Athlete.”

Science and History were No-Nos, due to the fact that the theory of evolution might come up. The school’s “no-frills” sort of education did have its advantages, though. For instance, I was the music program. Starting when I was in third grade, every Friday I went around to all the classes from 1st through 8th grade and taught the kids how to sing. I remember hauling my father’s oversized guitar–too big for me to press down any substantial number of strings to form a chord. It was my first taste of performing and I loved it.

I performed at every school meeting and function. My first professional “gig” was for the school’s PTA. I was eight years old, onstage, in front of a microphone, two hundred people in the audience and I was ready to give it my all. I remembered what my Dad had taught me–“You gotta get their attention-right away. Lead off with something upbeat and catchy.”  I started with, “What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor?” and sequed right into the classic Irish saloon sing-along, “The Wild Rover” (complete with phony Irish accent, I might add.) The final melody line–“Will I play the Wild Rover…No never, no more!” resounded through the hall. I waited for the applause, the standing ovation, the looks of awe and sheer amazement at the talents of this precocious eight year old. I waited. I heard a gasp, a few throat clearings–nothing more. Sister Humphrey Bogart quickly came up onstage and asked the audience to give me a nice round of applause–they did. But, I never quite understood why she needed to ask them to clap. Hey, I was good–in fine voice, my fingers pressed a damned good many strings and though my “How many Irishmen does it take to…” jokes didn’t go over that well, I was pleased with my performance. Soon after, Sister Julius Irving presented me with a thank you gift. It was a book of easy to play songs, titled, “Songs that a Young Catholic Girl Should Learn to Play and Perform, Rather Than The Raunchy Barroom Drinking Songs Her Father Taught Her.” I was a hit from that day on.

Next…All in the Name of Science

Fa La La La La

With the numerous and sweeping changes of 2009 (youngest daughter off to college, dead dog, turning fifty, end of marriage,) my Holidays were interesting.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced in the last year has been loneliness–or rather, being alone. Now I suppose I’m a people person. (I don’t actually like people, I just need to be around them.) But I knew that in order to move forward into the next exciting chapter of my life, I was going to have to get acquainted with being by myself–alone. I was scared, but knew it had to be done.

Rebel that I am, I actually boycotted Christmas this year–no tree, no lights, no figgy pudding, no gifts, no nothing. The last thing I wanted to do was hang ornaments that I’d made or collected during the past twenty five years of my life.

On New Year’s Eve ( before I tell you, I want to remind you that I did this by choice–I had several party invitations–so put away the hanky.) It was my intention to end this current “annus horribilis” alone and begin the New Year on my own as well.

I went down to the local beach at about 11:30–alone, in the pouring rain. I looked out at the ocean, wearing the $18 rain poncho I bought at Busch Gardens (which bore a striking resemblance to a cheap kitchen garbage bag–you know the kind that rips as you try to insert it into the trash can.)

I cracked open a beer and sat on the beach. On paper, I wrote down all the regrets I had for the past year (not too many surprisingly–the biggest one was regarding the placement of my most recent tattoo ) and started a small bonfire. Then I burned all my regrets.

Next I wrote down a few hopes for the coming year, stuffed them inside the beer bottle and flung the bottle out into the water. It was very freeing–symbolic and all that good stuff.

At midnight, I heard no sounds of Auld Lang Syne or party horns or clanging of pots and pans. All was silent, except the ocean and the rain’s sizzling attempts to extinguish my little fire.

As I watched the fireworks explode silently over the houses in the distance, I realized that maybe being alone wasn’t as bad as I had imagined–maybe.

Paperwhite

Like a paperwhite narcissus
I was forced to bloom
The wrong time
A windowsill
Once–
Only once

As a gay friend of mine recently said, “Every woman should have a housewife.” How true. I am fortunate to have not merely a housewife–but a New Jersey Housewife at that.

Following my separation from a husband of nearly 24 years, I spent four months wearing black, covering all the mirrors in my house and avoiding activities like exercise, socializing, applying make-up, and sunlight. (Luckily, I am a teacher at a Quaker school, so avoiding these activities did not make me stand out from my co-workers.) And so, as I always do when faced with crisis or change, I traveled to New Jersey– land of my birth– to visit my sister. This is the sister who sports a third breast (though much smaller than the other two) from having lived so close to the chemical wasteland that is Elizabeth.

As I pulled into her driveway, my sister’s first words to me were–oops I take that back…Her first words AFTER she said, “I better not see him or I’ll f****ing kill him,” were, “Megan, just because you work at a Quaker School doesn‘t mean you have to look like a Quaker.” (No offense intended here to my Quaker friends–I’m inspired by the Quaker philosophy of simplicity–specifically, no makeup and especially no clothes that flatter the human form. Quakers invented the muumuu–though originally it only came in black.) And thus began the New Jersey Housewife Makeover.

Starting from coloring the crown of my head, (ouch) and continuing on to the French pedicure, the entire make-over took three solid days of work–from 8 am when I was forced to lie out in the sun, taking only a 30 minute lunch break to afternoons of shaving*, waxing and dipilitating (debilitating) to early evenings of finding my “color palette” (is puke considered an actual color?) until well past Desperate Housewives reruns.

*A word about Megan and shaving: Now shaving for me has always been an unpleasant task. I am told my family is descended from the “dark Irish” hence our darker complexion and hair color. I am more inclined to believe that based on the amount of body hair I have, I am actually descended from an Irish Wolfhound. Okay, so I hadn’t shaved in a while. Okay, so the fabric of my black stretch pants hadn’t actually come in contact with skin in 120 days–but I hadn’t caught a cold or had the flu either–the furry pelt I sported successfully kept me warm and sniffle-free.

So, after three days filled with tweezing, bleaching, and tanning, my worst night mare began. The “shopping” experience was brutally painful–trying clothes on, taking my shoes off, then putting them back on as we search for the skirt that makes my ass “look so yummy,” dressing room after dressing room…
“No we don’t buy pants here, we have to go to another store for those.”
“I wouldn’t be caught dead in the shoes they have here, but isn’t that the cutest halter top ever?”

AAAHHH, my shopping experiences of the past 4 months had consisted only of trips to 7-11 to buy Ben and Jerry pints–necessary for maximum viewing pleasure of the hit show “The Biggest Loser.”

The make-over was capped off by a visit to a tattoo parlor (but I ask you, really, is any visit to New Jersey complete without one?) For those of you who as yet are unfamiliar with this ancient, sacred ritual of viewing the human form as a canvas and stabbing the skin with a needle injected with dye, let me tell you: it frigging hurts.

At last, I was deemed “ready.” Ready for what, you might be wondering?…Ready to have my photo taken–(other moms know that when you‘re raising a family, you are the official photo TAKER–memory MAKER and probably the last decent picture someone took of you is in your wedding album.) Okay now, I know I said that shopping was my worst nightmare–I lied, having my picture taken is worse. I said shopping was the worst because in terms of sheer woman hours shopping is endless–like labor for your first child. Having your picture taken is more like having a rectal exam–relatively quick, but painful AND embarrassing.

Okay, so my photo was taken in the garden, on the porch, in the mirror, in the house, right side, left side, full face, face up, face down, (As Mitch Hedberg said, “Looking slightly to the left”) behind the garden, on the trampoline–pensive looks, happy, smiling looks, smiling with teeth showing, smiling with no teeth showing, grinning (And since I interpreted grinning as the same as smiling with no teeth showing, “It’s not the same thing at all!! You can imagine how this was going) smirking (“Look like you know a secret.” “Hey fellas, wanna know my secret???? I hate having my frigging picture taken.”) The endless changing of the outfits–my sister called them “poutfits” because I kept complaining every time I was asked to put on a new one.

3,250 photos later, we found two, yes two, I kid you not, that were acceptable. I’m not photogenic–in my next life I’m coming back as a vampire* so I don’t have to deal with this photo crap again. One of the “acceptable photos” was of me, in the garden, with a “knowing smirk.” The other was an ‘inside the house shot, looking left, donning a pensive, yet knowing grin that showed only my bicuspids’.  Awesome!

*Vampires, typically do not photograph or have reflections in a mirror.

My adventure was deemed a success. I now was the proud owner of blondish, reddish hair with lowlights and highlights (Why both lowlights AND highlights? Couldn’t we just do lowlights and then my regular color would step up and “act” as the highlights? Or else could my hair be reinterpreted as a lowlight counter to applied highlights? Folks, I’m a simple caveman here, help me out. ) My hair was teased up so high it touched the interior roof of my car. I had nail tips (Press On!) with French manicure, matching toes (I did say “stop” when my toenails were next up for nail tips.) A form-fitting outfit that was so tight, I had to unclip my seatbelt any time I wanted to inhale. Now, please do not think me ungrateful. My New Jersey Housewife worked tirelessly for three days to help me attain the status of “okay to be seen in public.” As I loaded my car with the many boxes and bags filled with clothes, cosmetics, razors, shoes and faux tanners, I was also given a special parting gift– a handbook of “rules” for living well in the next chapter of my life: I’ll spare you all the rules, but here are the top three:

1. Imagine that if you leave your house without applying a full face of make-up, you will spontaneously combust (though in NJ speak– it really read “…you will f****in’ blow the f*** up.”

2. Imagine that if you leave your house wearing sneakers, sweat pants or any other item of clothing that includes an elastic waistband, you will … “f***in’ blow the f*** up.”

3. Imagine that if you leave your house without having plucked, shaved or waxed all hair that falls outside “the lady lines” (these were lines my sister had drawn on my body using permanent marker–outlining my bikini, underarm, moustache, and legs–including upper thigh areas) “you will…” Well, you get the idea.

I was on my way…

…Next up…Match.justshootmeplease or “Rejected by the Guy in the Beanie” or “Just How Many is a Few Extra Pounds?”

11:25PM Thursday, November 12th, 2009

In just 35 minutes, I will turn fifty years old. (I can hear comedian Molly Shannon shouting: “and I can punch and kick and stretch…”)

I imagine at the stroke of this midnight, I will, as my grandmother before me, instantly begin referring to myself in the third person. (Give that ashtray to Nanny…Nanny don’t like cashews…Megan is turning 50 tonight…Toss that Coors Light to Megan.)

To borrow from Queen Elizabeth, this my friends, has been an “Annus Horribilis.” When the Queen spoke this phrase in 1992, she was referring to the many troubles and embarrassments the royal family had suffered during the course of that year: separations, divorces, tell-all biographies, the devastating fire at Windsor Palace (with repairs costing to the tune of $40 million pounds ) and smaller incidents like Fergie poking men in the butt with her umbrella. Yes, it was a “horrible year.” Yeah well, Your Highness, Megan feels your pain.

This year, my husband and I separated just shy of our 24th wedding anniversary. (Little known fact: The 24th anniversary is traditionally known as the “Paprika Anniversary,” so named back in the early 20th century when after two dozen years of preparing meals, most housewives were ready to purchase their second can of paprika.)

During the first days following the separation, I was afraid to sleep alone at night. (Years of watching “Forensics Files” and “Crime Scene Investigators” had left me terrified of being bludgeoned to death with a ball peen hammer by a sinister vagabond-turned-handyman roaming the streets at night looking for part-time work.) So, I stayed awake nights and slept during the day. This worked well for me, though I don’t know that the principal appreciated me curled up on the classroom floor each day while my second grade students worked “independently.”

I was also afraid to eat alone. (I had watched an episode of “Sex and The City” in which Miranda was choking on Chinese food and was all alone and couldn’t call for help. She ended up having to do the Heimlich on herself. Oops, sorry, can’t say Heimlich anymore… So, she ended up having to do “abdominal thrusts” on herself.) I had two solutions: the first was to pack up my food and eat in my car while parked at Wal-Mart (reasoning: somebody’s bound to see me if I started choking.) The second was to call my very patient and understanding sister in New Jersey:

“Hi. I’m going to eat now.”
“Oh good, Megan. What are you going to eat?”
“I was thinking of some soup with a ham sandwich.”
“Great, Megan. How long do you think it’ll take?”
“I don’t know, maybe 15 minutes to eat the soup and another 5 to eat the sandwich.”
“Okay, if I don’t hear back from you in twenty minutes to let me know that you have not choked on your soup or your ham sandwich, I will call 911 for you.”
“Promise?”
“Promise.”

Three minutes until midnight…It’s almost Megan’s birthday!

Hope in Silver

hopeinsilver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Piece published in Somerset Studio Magazine 2009.
The text is from Emily Dickinson’s poem:
Hope is the thing with feathers…that perches in the soul and never stops at all

Tangerine in Motion

Recent Work

Collage on Mat BoardTangerine in Motion

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