Word Nerds

Four or five years ago a small group of friends discovered a common interest – writing – and formed a weekly writing group. The only other thing we had in common was the love of bacon. Crispy bacon. The kind of bacon that lays absolutely flat on the plate with no bubby gristle eyes staring up. What’s that got to do with writing? Not much except we found the perfect bacon at a little place called Café Linger; a place that also had a table big enough to hold us four women and our laptops and Ticonderoga pencils and other tools of the trade, and they didn’t care if we stayed all morning.

The first thing we had to do was pick a name for our club. Oh, we came up with some good ones, but most of them couldn’t be spoken aloud in fine company. “Word Nerds” seemed safe and appropriate. All four of us love words:  their origin, their meaning, their use. We set rules at first.  Be on time, limit chat time to 30 minutes, share the chocolate chip cookie.

Since the beginning we have bent the rules on occasion. We allow time to discuss personal crises, gripes, plots of our favorite streaming series and naturally, books. If discussion gets out of control the boss will reign us all back in. Thank goodness we have someone who can do that without offense. And we appreciate being directed back to our stated task.

Two of the women have published work. One (I’ll call her Ms. X) is working on a mystery that she better finish before I lose my marbles. I have even saved a space on my bookshelf for her book in progress. Frankly, she was not happy with the space I saved – between a WWII epic and a book by right wing political commentator Bill O’Reilly “Who Killed…” book (kidding!!). Ms. X has been excused from bacon in the last couple of years. After a fight with cancer she has gone vegan. In my mind there is no such thing as vegan bacon. She doesn’t even seem to miss it – which I completely do not understand. Have to say she looks good without consuming bacon. Has the skin of 30 year old. I hate her.

Another woman (Ms Y) has a blog that is geared toward women 60+. Even though I’m in the ++ stage, “Be Brave Lose the Beige” always strikes a chord with me and, unfortunately, often finds me as a bad example of something or other. Friend Y has written a book that will be published/released (also called “Be Brave Lose the Beige) next Spring. Get in line now to buy it because it’s gonna be a best seller. You should see the cover – amazing colors. And the author photo on the back flap is worth the price of the book. I didn’t even know Annie Leibowitz was in town. I have not yet been asked to write a blurb, so there’s that.

Friend Z has the best giggle of the gang. Every meeting it is my goal to make her laugh out loud. She is a deep thinker who asks probing questions and writes poems that are of the moment and from the heart. I think she is the spiritual soul of the group. Ms. Z values connections and reminds us to be thoughtful and caring and loving. I have a long way to go but I appreciate the hippie vibes she sends out.

I entered this group cautiously because what I do is write an occasional blog when I feel particularly moved by something. In my mind I have a NYT-length list of subjects I’d like to write about. Lately I’ve taken an interest in creating mixed media abstract art in a journal. Mostly I like to go to Sam Flax and buy stuff.  Do you know how many cool markers there are out there?!  And paints? Neon paint – I love it!!  Even with my latest fetish, my friends still let me attend Word Nerds. Actually, they can’t let me leave.  I know too much.

Saturday Mornings at the Bagel Place

Three besties meet about once a month at our favorite Einsteins Bagel Co. to debrief and share our joys, sorrows and frustrations. Usually, these gatherings happen when one of us has a crisis and needs support. Once we start describing our frustration or crisis the conversation evolves into quiet weeping or hysterical, spit-flying laughter. Or both. Today was one of those “both” days.

Friend A’s husband is in serious medical trouble which led to two ER visits, several doctor visits and a lot of hassle – still unresolved.  We figured the best way to fix that is to lay all the facts on the table and have three untrained, non-medical, Google-fired women to come up with a solution. The “situation” is a catheter that’s been in place for over a week. Yes, that kind of catheter. For various reasons, they are unable to find anyone to remove the device. Turns out a little Google search has all the info one needs to remove a catheter. The planning begins. Ten minutes into the technical discussion we realize this is a really poor idea. We read that there could be a balloon up there on the inside end of the tube.  How about Friend A pops the balloon (with a hypodermic needle – which we all have lying about, right?) and yanks the tube out. Nah. We’re thinking Friend A’s husband would have to be knocked unconscious with a cast iron frying pan to accomplish this rescue. The eventual decision is to spend the rest of Saturday in a chilly ER in hopes a trained professional can help.

The natural segue to that health problem led to Friend B’s fever blister.  Of course, when a friend sits down for breakfast with an obvious fever blister no one wants to bring it up. Perhaps it’s NOT a fever blister. Maybe she attempted to tweeze out a wild hair near her lip. Maybe she gnawed her lip in anxiety about her head shot for her book cover. Maybe it actually IS herpes and who wants to even whisper that word in Einstein’s where the tables are close enough for any germ to hop aboard. Resolved when Friend B brings up the fever blister on her own when she expresses gratitude to the head shot photographer who is a Photoshop genius. Whew.

Friend C (who could that be?) texted A and B last night showing a photo of her sad face as she pulled away from saying goodbye to oldest granddaughter who is headed to college the next day.  Why am I more emotional than her mother?!  When we dropped her mother off at college I sobbed hysterically all the way home. I mean gasping, hiccupping, out loud ugly crying.  With both daughters, actually.  My husband swears the second one was worse. I have blocked most of the memory, but know it was about the $20 spending money I meant to give her before leaving town and forgot.

So now I am one step removed from the separation and here I am — a mess again.  This is where group problem solving is a big help.  Any major progression in the life of a grandchild means we are another step closer to …. you know.  I’m a healthy 77 year old who is upright, oriented as to time and place (mostly), and hope to live many more years.  But the years are measured in events that I can’t control. 

First the AARP card at 50. Fifty?! Really, that’s practically a teenager. Then the Social Security and retirement money starts rolling in. Right. Doesn’t matter how much you planned there is never enough. Then the body parts start to scream their presence. I never heard of an SI joint until mine started telling me it’s precise location. Daily. I’m waiting to discover which part wants to add to my knowledge next. From watching my friends’ experiences I suspect it’s a knee or hip.  You just aren’t a cool 70+ year old unless you’ve had a knee, hip or shoulder replaced.  Oh, and cataract surgery.

Here’s another thing. We really do want to adapt to change, but it’s hard.  Take recycling. One friend went to visit an extreme eco-conscious family member in, where else, Seattle!  The recycling scheme in this house involves many bins for collecting specific items:  food scraps, bottles, plastic, paper.  Even one bin just for paper receipts.  Separate from the regular paper bin.  Friend got so nervous that she would mess up that she collected all her personal trash in a bag and kept it in her suitcase to carry home. Imagine that TSA agent inspecting her luggage.

Oh. And one last story that came up today. The accidental boob shot. .Getting out of the shower Friend Anonymous went to grab her phone, touched the wrong button which simultaneously took a photo of her boob and sent it to her cleaning lady. There is no way to explain that to a non-English speaking person. This was our loudest laugh of the morning and the perfect time to go our separate ways and collect stories for the next time. 

The point is, when we share our stories and embarrassing moments, it lightens us.  We leave these Saturday get-togethers  breathing a little easier.  Feeling not so damn stupid. Or at least feeling we have comrades-in-stupid.