Echoes Trailer

Saturday, January 30, 2010



Yesterday I went to the supermarket to pick up a few things in anticipation of a winter storm that was supposed to go through this area today. I was wearing a long corduroy skirt with tights underneath and knee length black boots. I also had on a turtleneck sweater and a black leather coat. I had decided on a skirt as opposed to my normal jeans and sweater combination because I had a business appointment prior to going to the supermarket.

I will also mention, before continuing, that my hair is just about waist length and I seldom tie it back or wear it up. I have mentioned this because I was only in the store a few minutes when a man I had never seen before started to talk to me. He was a middle-aged man, dressed meagerly, and the smell of alcohol was so strong around him that it nearly caused me to fall backward. When I responded to him without being overly friendly or attentive he got upset and said, "Are you one of them Holy rollers that think you're better than me? You got that long hair and long skirt but you can't hide behind that church." I was stunned. How did wearing a skirt and having long hair make me anything more than a woman in a skirt?

Before he could say anything else a couple of the store clerks escorted him out of the aisle and a third clerk approached me with an apology for the man's behavior. I wasn't really shaken; I was more or less embarrassed and frustrated. I completed my shopping and headed home.

During the drive home I started to think about stereotypes and how people make assumptions based on appearances or even names. For instance, the name Barbara always seemed to appeal to more people than the name Gertrude. A man with the name Jonathan seemed to have some sort of exotic appeal while a man named Herbert was given very little notice. Many times we talk to people on the telephone and form a mental image of them just by the sound of their voice. I even thought about how many times we think of a particular race when we think of a criminal or someone who will work cheaper than other people. I never realized just how much stereotyping we all do.

That brought me to another thought that I wasn't at all pleased with. Do stereotyping and prejudice walk hand-in-hand? I remember complaining to a friend a few years ago that I felt buxom blondes with sexy personalities often land a job with fewer qualifications than a brunette like myself with what I consider to be average looks and an outgoing yet serious personality. I wish I could smack myself right about now. Until this strange man stereotyped me in a public place I had never realized that I have made outlandish assumptions myself.

A few months ago I tried to talk my Goddaughter into trying contact lenses instead of getting new eye glasses. She told me she preferred the eye glasses because they make her look smarter. I overheard one teenager teasing another teenager in Wal-Mart one day; "You gotta be Jewish! Just look at that big nose!" My neighbor and her daughter were visiting here one afternoon last summer and the mother told her daughter not to think about having a cookie. "You're going to get heavy and people will think you're lazy. All fat people are lazy!" I was shocked to hear that come from her mouth and I immediately called her out on that misinformation but I guess we all tend to define the world as we see it, or as we want to see it.

The truth is that we are all alike no matter how we dress, how we worship, what color our skin is, or our financial stature. Each person is unique, an individual creation, and deserving of their chance to be known for what they are and what they give to the world. I've never said that "all so-and-so's are....." but I have looked at someone and thought that maybe they had bad intentions because of the way they were dressed or the way they spoke.

I can't stop other people from stereotyping. I can't change what other people think. I can change myself, however. I can become more aware of reality and stop painting pictures in my mind with colors that don't exist. I refuse to judge anyone because I'm too mentally lazy to find out what another human being is really about. Blondes don't necessarily have more fun and men with big feet are not necessarily well endowed. I must admit, that last stereotype will be a hard one to give up. I've had fun checking out feet in the shoe store. :)

© Dianna Doles-Petry

Friday, January 29, 2010

Sometimes I Talk Funny

Sometimes I Talk Funny

I was having a telephone conversation today and since it was a business call I was carefully weighing my words before I spoke. “That will not be necessary. One aspect of my intentions is…”

My teenager, sitting at the kitchen table, was looking at me questioningly.

After ending the conversation and placing the telephone back on the receiver, I turned to him and asked, “All right, what’s up?”

“Why do you talk funny when you talk on the phone?” he asked.

“I talk funny?” I asked in a slightly offended tone.

“Yeah, you don’t talk that like around here,” he said. That was the end of our conversation at that moment but I’ve thought about what he said to me all evening. I’ve come to the conclusion that my writing has more of a place in my life than I had imagined.

As a writer, I try to portray the characters I write about accurately. If they are southern, I try to write with a southern dialect. If they are from the Bronx, I try to imitate a New York dialect, or at least my concept of what it sounds like when I hear it. It just never occurred to me that I switch mannerisms in my daily life depending on whom I talk with or who I’m around. Am I not comfortable with who I am, or my roots, or my heritage?

A typical conversation with friends or family might include phrases such as; “If the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise,” or “Just keep your shirt on!” I saw a neighbor this evening that had obviously had too much to drink. I said, “He’s good and tanked up!” Maybe I do talk funny, at least to a teenager who uses much more modern phrases such as; “My bad!” or “Hanging with my buds all up in the crib!” Surely he is not referring to plant buds!

The point is that in honing my writing skills to evoke emotion or paint a mental image with my words, I have merged my everyday life with the business aspect of my writing. I use words to camouflage the real woman I am when I talk to strangers or need to wear my intellect like a well worn winter cap. I think before I speak, I put thought into my reactions, and I am always on guard.

The language I use here at home is spontaneous, honest, and intimate. That is the difference; I am not portraying anything or anyone. I am simply being myself. For example, this conversation took place this evening.

“Nana,” my teenager said, “I sort of made a mess upstairs, but I’m going to clean it up, but it might leave a stain on the carpet.” He stands motionless waiting for my reaction. I turned and headed in the direction of his bedroom with him following me in close pursuit.

Opening his door, I saw a mess that defies any logical explanation or description. “Good grief, Cole, sometimes you can be as dumb as a box of rocks! What in the name of Jezebel did you do in here?”

“Nana, how do you know whether rocks are smart or dumb and who is Jezebel?” The master of subject change thought he had me cornered but he was wrong.

“Every dog has his day, Cole, and one of these days you’ll get your just reward. You’ll have a little boy or little girl that is just as wild as you are. I’m going to enjoy watching you deal with that!” I was jabbering away while trying to figure out what the red puddle in the middle of his carpet was and what I should do with it.

Cole rolled his eyes, “The dog didn’t do it, Nana. I had my Gatorade sitting on this board so I wouldn’t have to get up to get a drink while I played my video game. I didn’t expect a reward for that. I just wanted to beat the darn game before one of the other guys did.” Then, as an afterthought, he added, “And I don’t want any kids until I’m fifty. I need to have some fun before I have to worry about sending somebody to college!”

“Well, how in the heck did the Gatorade end up on the floor? Getting this up is going to be harder than Chinese Algebra!” I was already reaching for paper towels to blot up the excess liquid as we spoke. I didn’t really care how it got onto the floor. It needed to be cleaned up quickly or it would leave a permanent stain.

“The Chinese have a different kind of Algebra?” Cole asked with a quizzical tone. “Anyhow, the cats were running amok in here and one of them jumped up on the board and it flew up on the other end like a see-saw. I tried to catch the Gatorade before it landed but my foot slipped in the salsa and I missed it.” This was just great. There was apparently chunky red stuff mixed in with the liquid red stuff. I’m thinking it could be every mother’s nightmare.

After blotting up all of the liquid I could blot up, I sent Cole downstairs to get the carpet shampooer. He carried it upstairs along with a bottle of carpet cleaner and a can of soda. I mixed a solution of cleaner and pulled the machine in front of Cole so he could use it to clean his carpet. When he turned the machine on, I lifted the corner of the bed to move it to the side. I thought I was making it easier for him but he had stacked food wrappers and snacks beneath the bed and they all came tumbling out onto the wet mess on his floor.

“Boy, it’s going to take you a year of Sundays to get this mess cleaned up. I sure hope you don’t have any important engagements for the next couple of days. I want this whole room cleaned up yesterday!” I was standing there like a drill sergeant training new cadets and feeling like one too.

“Nana, please stop talking about me getting married all the time. I’m not engaged because I’m not getting married!” He was grumbling and using some form of sign language that the shampooer was supposed to understand.

An hour later the carpet was clean, the messes were picked up, and Cole was fixing himself a sandwich and explaining to me that he was going to be rich someday and he would hire a maid to keep his room clean.

“I just hope you don’t end up eating your own words someday, Cole. You’re not the first young man to declare that you aren’t going to get married and you are going to get rich. A lot of times a fly in the ointment can change everything.” I just smiled at him and watched him devour his triple stacked sandwich.

“What ointment are you talking about? I didn’t hurt myself, I don’t need any ointment. “Do you want a bite of my sandwich?” He was pulling a bag of chocolate chip cookies from a cabinet to go with the few crumbs of sandwich he had left.

“Never mind about the ointment, it’s just an old cliché. You eat your sandwich, Sweetie. A boy your age has a hollow leg and you’ll burn the calories right off.” I smiled at him and was about to leave the room when he replied to me. “Nana, I do not have a hollow leg, you’re thinking of Capt. Jack Sparrow again, aren’t you?”

I guess sometimes I do talk funny!

© Dianna Doles-Petry


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Oh, the Joys of Aging!

Oh, the Joys of Aging!

Warning! If you are male and have not reached the age of maturity required to understand a woman going through “the change of life,” please stop here. Reading the rest of this post could frighten you away from women for the rest of your life.

I’ll start with my mornings. Just five years ago I sprang from my bed each morning like a recruit going through boot camp. I dressed, applied make-up, started breakfast and then jogged in place while it was cooking. I gulped down a couple of cups of coffee and a small bowl of cereal and I was ready to face the day. I was so upbeat and perky that my neighbors thought I was using drugs and asked me about it. “Hey, what kind of drugs are you taking? Do you have any extra? I sure could use some!”

Now I wake up feeling like I have been fighting with Jackie Chan or Chuck Norris all night long. I can barely force myself into the kitchen to start the coffee pot but I know I NEED that caffeine fix to even manage to get myself dressed. Breakfast is something I prepare for others since virtually everything I eat ends up in the land of cellulite buried within my now gravity-challenged body. Before I can consume the first whole cup of coffee I am on my way to the ladies’ room and I make sure to keep the décor in that area simple and bright because I now spend a lot of time there. In fact, one of my dear friends was visiting here not long ago and thought I was hiding a bottle of liquor in the linen pantry of the restroom because I made so many trips in there while during the day. Grief, she would really think something was going on if she saw how many trips I make there during the night!

By midmorning I often feel as if I’ve wandered off into the heat of the Arizona desert. We are in the middle of winter here and I’m wearing sleeveless summer blouses and still sweating from my neck down to my thighs. I am sure the house is far too hot and I even consider turning on the air conditioning until I look over and see my elderly mother shivering, the dogs packed tightly together huddling under the dining room table and I realize that I can see my own breath in the air every time I exhale. Then, as if on cue, I start to feel the chill in the air and announce loudly, “God, the temperature is dropping again! I need to get a sweater and turn that thermostat up.” Is it possible for dogs to clap their little paws together? I’m sure I’ve heard applause a time or two when my hot flashes have passed for a bit.

I’m not sure I should even mention how my skin itches, my thoughts seem fuzzy at times, I am having a hard time with multi-tasking these days, and I’m finding it impossible to get a full night of sleep that allows me to wake up feeling refreshed.

My grandmother warned me about the change of life, or at least, she considered it a warning. She made it sound like racing through the child bearing years was enjoyable and I would want to grieve once the day came when I would not be able to conceive anymore. My grandmother had nine children and I know that the last child, her only son, came just as she was entering the point in her life when cycles become irregular and gray begins to appear in your hair.

I think she had to have been drinking or something. I look into the mirror and I see my mother looking back at me. I take a pill for high blood pressure and another pill for a thyroid condition. I have stiffening joints and sometimes I have to write my age in the palm of my hand with an ink pen before I go to a doctor’s appointment the way I used to write crib notes before a big test in high school. I would never be able to keep up with an infant at this age and I would probably lay the poor little thing down somewhere and forget where I put it.

The truth is; I feel liberated these days. I don’t have any young children at home and I can spend more time exploring my own needs rather than worrying about who needs to be where and who has a school project due. While I am a caretaker to my elderly mother, I am blessed to be able to do this and I’m sure that the long hours I keep doing this are a part of what keeps me tired but it also leaves me feeling fulfilled.

I may not be a walking magnet for a man’s attention anymore but I accept my body as a living roadmap of the journeys I’ve traveled and the battles I’ve fought. I’ve accomplished a lot in my fifty-one years of living and I plan to accomplish a lot more before I’m done if God’s willing and the creek doesn’t rise. I still clean up pretty good too, I just have to remember to cover up the wings I now have where my upper arms once resided.

As a younger woman, I planned my entire existence around other people and their needs. I thought every detail of my life should be in order and meet the approval of friends, family, neighbors, and people I’d never met but MIGHT meet sometime in years to come. I wasn’t sure who I really was or what I was supposed to do with my creative energy. Now, I’m not afraid to face a good challenge and I have more self-confidence than I’ve ever had. I’ve learned to slow down because life is not a race. I breathe, I think, I vent when necessary, and most of all, I don’t waste a minute of my life unnecessarily.

Oh, the joys of aging! Who would have thought it?

© Dianna Doles-Petry


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

For the Love of Writing

For the Love of Writing

I was lying on the sofa a few nights ago with that nagging feeling that I hadn't done everything I should do before I allowed myself to be swallowed up in slumber. I listened for a dripping faucet but heard nothing. I tried to remember if I had shut off the coffee pot and knew that it was the last thing I did before leaving the kitchen after washing the dishes after dinner. Then I jerked my head up and looked around the room, not fully awake but not sleepy enough to stay in my comfortable cocoon of blankets of dogs that were keeping me as warm as toast.

He was there in the room with me. He was slipping silently out into the hallway and heading toward my room where my computer was already gratefully sleeping. He was barefoot and his bare chest glistened in the soft light cast off by the hallway night light. He was taking one soft step after another, pausing only long enough to make sure I was following him. I couldn't say anything. All I could do was move toward my keyboard to begin the rapid tap, tap, tapping, of key strokes that would allow me to sleep.

My muse had once again snatched me from the edge of sleep to bring me into another world where my thoughts are allowed to run wild and my dreams are all attainable. I wrote three poems and added an entry to my personal journal before I was able to retire for the night. You see, I am a writer and only another writer could understand how alluring, addictive, and even passionate a muse can be. Only someone with the same passion could understand why I could not sleep until I had written something, anything!

I've been writing for a number of years now and long before that I was a storyteller. At first I only listened to the stories my grandparents told about the way they met and their years together as they tended to a large family. I absorbed the details like a sponge and did the same thing when my mother talked about her life before I existed or my father talked about his years in the Navy and the coal mines. Later, when I was a much older Junior High School student, I learned that I could use some of my family history to make people laugh if I embellished it just a little bit, or maybe a whole lot. I told yarns during lunch break that often spread through the student body and entered the local rumor mill. I entertained the students who rode the same bus I did and it was much later that I found out how good it made some of them feel to be a part of a group doing anything. At that point, a lifelong courtship with words had already begun and has since been a driving force in my life.

I've been blessed to be able to do something I love and make a few pennies from it in the process but the honest truth is that I would write even if I never sold a single piece of writing again. Writing is my escape from the cold winds of reality. It is my passport to visit fantasy and possibility even when responsibility has me firmly planted in place. It is my connection to other people all over the world. The world really is a much smaller place than we perceive it to be and we people everywhere have problems with family, love, pets, parents, the environment, etc. We may take different approaches as we deal with our life experiences but we all have them and we all need to know that we are not the first ones to go through something and we won't be the last ones to go through it either.

Nothing, aside from being a mother, gives me greater pleasure or fulfillment than writing. I write about life experiences that have brought me to my knees in prayer and those that brought me to my knees in laughter. I write about my family and my friends, my thoughts and my choices, and sometimes I even write pure fiction. I write about whatever crosses my mind or whatever I've seen that makes me reconsider my life choices or decisions. I write because it is a need inside of me as strong as the need to eat when I'm hungry or to love and be loved. My writing is as much a part of me as any lover could ever be.

I hope to share with you my daily writings, whatever they might turn out to be. I promise not to jot down my store list because I can't think of anything else but don't be surprised if I sometimes ramble on with the mundane details of my everyday home life. I will make you one more promise as I begin this blogging adventure. I promise that you will never be bored when you stop here to read my posts.


Dianna Doles-Petry