Tuesday, July 31, 2012


This is a story about the impulse to stray. This is a story about infidelity and guilt feelings. It’s not about marital infidelity; it’s not about romantic relationships at all. Yet it’s a kind of infidelity that every woman has committed—or thought about committing—at some time in her life.

          This is a story about cheating on someone you’ve been loyal to for years. You see this person regularly. You sit in his or her chair. He or she stands behind you or beside you, giving you full attention for a half-hour or an hour every time.

You tell him things about your life, and he listens while his hands massage your scalp, slip through your hair, clip, cut, curl. It is an intimate relationship you have with him; very few people know as much about you as he does. You tell him about what you’re going through with your mother, and he sympathizes, having lost his own mother a few years ago. You talk about politics, about your vacations, about your dogs, his and yours. He knows where you live. You’re not much of a talker; you’re a private person, and sometimes it’s difficult for you to keep talking about yourself, yet you do, partly because he expects you to; it’s the culture of the place.

At the end of your meetings you look into the mirror and there you are—a new woman. And you pay him. Cheaper than a therapist; more expensive, maybe, than a bartender; and your hair looks great. How many long-term relationships work so well?

          Except that one time there’s a little doubt, a little restlessness stirring in you. You feel like you want a change.

          It’s past mid-July. My hair is wild with rapid summer growth and humidity. I”ve reached the point of emergency: I can’t stand it anymore. Two months ago Frank did my color and cut, but it’s time for another one. And the guilt-inducing thoughts come creeping in. I wasn’t as happy with the cut he gave me last time. He didn’t make it short enough. It didn’t fall into the nice style it usually does when he cuts it.

I have a rare day off, and I need to go shopping—July is almost over and I still haven’t bought any new summer clothes. If I go to the mall, I can get a haircut there and shop afterward. Frank’s shop is just a couple of blocks from my house, but I’d have to make an appointment, and by the time I got in and out it might be too late to go shopping. So I decide.

          The J. C. Penney salon does a nice job, and I feel much better. I have lunch and manage to pick up a few things I needed—shorts, a few tank tops. It was a good trip. But now I begin to have second thoughts. What if I run into Frank on the street? Will he look at me and say, “Your hair hasn’t grown much”? Will he not say anything but think I’ve left him for someone else?

It’s an odd situation. How much loyalty does a woman owe her hairdresser? I tell myself I’m just one of his customers, it’s business, I have the right to have my hair done anywhere I want to. But it doesn’t feel that way. I’m picturing myself skulking around the neighborhood like an adulteress, crossing the street if I see him, darting into doorways like a character in an old film noir. I know I’ll return to him, but for now, I feel like a traitor.

Maybe I should start wearing a hat when I go out.

Have you ever “broken up”—even temporarily—with your hairdresser? How did you do it?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fabulous Blog ribbon!

Sandra, at A WriterWeaves a Tale, has kindly passed on this ribbon to me--thanks so much, Sandra!

According to the rules, I need to reveal five “fabulous moments” in my life, mention five things I love, and list five things I hate, then pass on the award to five more deserving bloggers. Here goes:

Five fabulous moments in my life:

-getting my first permanent job out of college with a scholarly publisher

-the night I became engaged

-my wedding day

-my first publication, a poem, in a literary magazine

-the day I left my job to start my own freelancing business

Five  things I love:

 (just a few off the top of my head. These are things, not people and pets, which go without saying)

-Books, books, books!


-Watching DVDs of old television shows from the 50s and 60s (e.g. Dick van Dyke, Alfred Hitchcock Presents)

-Bright, vivid colors, especially blues and greens, and especially blue and green together

-Green salads with fruit! cranberries, strawberries, mandarin oranges…yum!

 Five  things I hate:

-My mother’s dementia. The existence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in the world.


-Creepy crawly things (no, I will never live in the South, in spite of my next item)

-Being cold

-People who complain about others trying to force religious beliefs on them while trying to force their own nonbelief on others

Five deserving bloggers:

-My Writing Corner    http://amywritesnet.blogspot.com/

-How to Laugh at Alzheimer’s   http://laughatalzheimers.blogspot.com/

-Full Mind, Empty House  www.emptyhousefullmind.com

-Quig Land    www.quigland.com/


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Happy Adoption Day!

Two years (and a few days) ago my husband said to me, “Now we can get a dog.”

Just to back up a little: I love dogs. We almost always had one while I was growing up and through my young adulthood. My husband grew up in an apartment in New York City and never had a pet larger than a salamander. I had been wanting a dog since we bought our house in 1996. He kept telling me, “In a few years.” Those years kept going by.

Two years ago we had my mother living with us; we had bought a multifamily house so we could all move in together. I was her primary caregiver as her dementia progressed. It was a very stressful, emotional time. I think my husband knew that and thought that having a dog would be a stress-reliever and give me something to be happy about.

And yet when he said this I was a little reluctant. I’d gotten used to living without a dog, and I loved the freedom we had to travel anywhere on short or long notice or to spend an entire day out. But this wasn’t an offer I was willing to refuse. Besides, with my mother to care for, we weren’t able to travel anyway, and I had no idea how long this situation would last.

So the next day I was on the Internet, checking out adoptables. I’ve always had mixed breeds and loved them, and I wanted my next dog to be a “pound puppy.”

This is where I saw Honey. She was featured on the site for the RI SPCA. A cute picture of her little wrinkled head, with a bandana around her neck, captured me right away. She was about the size I wanted. She was female, which I also wanted.  “A shy Shar-Pei terrier mix,” the profile said. Okay, she’s shy. So am I. It sounded like we’d be good for each other.

 plus border terrier

equals Honey

That Saturday we walked into the SPCA office. I held out the printout to the desk receptionist. “We’re interested in this dog,” I said.

“Oh, Honey,” she said in a tone of sympathy. “She’s been here a long time.”

Oh oh. “Why?” I asked with some trepidation.

The receptionist seemed a bit taken aback, as if thinking maybe she shouldn’t have said that, but she went on. “Well, she’s not the friendliest dog--doesn’t really show well…”.

Now I was beginning to worry. But the receptionist was already on the phone to the kennel area. “She’s here,” she told us. “She just got back from her walk.”

We headed back to the kennels. She was in the third one from the left. I saw her little curled tail and my heart went out. We approached the cage gently. Instead of rushing to greet us eagerly like the other dogs, Honey hung back. She walked around her cage, through the door to the run, back in again. Obviously nervous. Once she came up to the front of the cage as if to take our measure, but made no attempt to make friends.

Nevertheless, something told me she needed us. Later we found out that she had come into the shelter with her sister, who had been adopted a while earlier (she was friendlier) and that Honey herself had been adopted out but brought back because she was aggressive with children. Well, we didn’t have children, so we didn’t have to worry about that. Still, those weren’t things I was happy to hear.

On Wednesday, July 7, my husband’s day off, we went to pick her up. We had visited a pet store two nights before and bought supplies, including a crate (which I never liked the idea of but most people advise you to have) and a book called “The Adopted Dog Bible.” I was getting excited.

We took her out of the shelter on a leash, and the first thing she did was try to run after a squirrel. The second thing was dumping a load of s**t on the lawn, sending my husband back to get a bag. But she jumped right into the car and seemed fine on the way home. At home, we kept her out in the yard for a while. She sat. We sat. We petted her, stroked her, tried to make her feel comfortable. She didn’t move, didn’t try to get to know us, didn’t look at us.

After my husband went back to work the next day, I had one of my worst days ever. I cried. I was sure we had taken on too much. I was stretched so thin with my responsibility for my mother, I just didn’t know if I could handle another one. I didn’t know if I had the love to give her. We had set up the crate in my office to try to train Honey to it. She refused to go in. We put treats inside, but she wouldn’t go near it. The burden of trying to train this standoffish, timid dog seemed to be too much. I considered taking her back, all the while thinking, how can I do that to the poor little thing?

Yet this is how she won me over: I had put a treat in the crate and laid another one on my desktop. I left the room for a few minutes. When I came back, the treat in the crate was gone, and so was the one on my desk. I laughed. Then I knew she had spirit. I knelt down and hugged her. “I think you just saved your life,” I told her.

Honey isn’t an easy dog. Her Shar-Pei temperament makes her reserved, possessive, and wary of children and strangers, but also very loyal and a good watchdog. The border terrier in her sends her hightailing off after squirrels and sniffing at everything she passes but makes her devilishly cute. We don’t know what her past experiences were that contributed to her personality. It took her a long time to learn to be playful and affectionate with us. But we’ve seen a difference in her in two years. She is not as reactive as she was when we got her. She seems to be tolerating other dogs better. And now she will jump up on the couch with us and let us cuddle her. She loves playing with stuffed toys and having her belly rubbed. She rests her chin on my thigh when she’s begging for something to eat. I mean, who can resist that? And she is very smart.

And now I am so glad we have her. She's family, and we love her, and we know she loves us. She’s our baby. And today is her second Adoption Day. A day that calls for a bath and a dinner out at a restaurant with sidewalk tables. Happy Adoption Day to my Honey-pie!

A Meaningful Possession

My latest entry for Sandra's Writing Workshop Hop . Another scene from my WIP.

It was the schoolteacher that most broke my heart.

            I held her gently in my hand, the delicate figure with her prim, placid face. The porcelain was hard and cool and smooth under my fingertips, the texture as soothing as a long-held note from a clarinet. She stood with her weight on one foot so that one hip under a slim skirt was higher than the other. In one hand she held an open book, spread like bird's wings, and in the other a pointer; her delicately painted eyes fixed on the book through narrow glasses, her dark hair rolled neatly behind her head.

            She was my mother's favorite.

            They'd bought it on their honeymoon, laughing at how it resembled her: Lorraine Brouillard Theriault, elementary-school teacher, stern yet gentle, devoted to learning and to her students, always with a book in her hand. My mother jokingly protested that she'd never worn her hair in a bun; but she never denied that that graceful porcelain lady could have been her spiritual twin.

I remember my cousin Delphine telling me how my mother had teased her, telling her she had been the model for it. She hadn’t teased me that way; my nature was too serious. I either would have believed her completely or not at all.

My mother was always so careful with her schoolteacher. As a child I had coveted it. I wanted to hold her, play with her. But my mother would never let me. Once she let me sit on the couch, and she put the figurine into my small hands—“be very careful, Claire”—and I gazed at it in wonder, turning it very slowly, letting my fingertips enjoy the silky smoothness of the porcelain, its coolness on my palm.

That day, the day she let me hold the figurine, I was five. She said to me, “When you’re sixteen, if you still want this, I’ll give it to you for your birthday.”

The promise should have made me happy. Instead I said, “That’s such a long time away.”

“Good things are worth waiting for,” she said. She stood up and put the figurine back, then sat down next to me again. “I want to tell you something, Claire.”

She took my hand and held it against her belly. My mother’s belly was round, rounder than it used to be, though I couldn’t see it now because she’d started wearing loose blouses that looked like tents. “You’re going to have a baby brother or sister.”

I took this in as thoughtfully as possible for a five-year-old. Then I said, “Can I still have the teacher lady, even if I have a brother or sister?”

My mother laughed and hugged me. “Promise,” she said.

My sixteenth birthday came and went. My mother never mentioned the figurine, and I never asked. It seemed to belong to a different life. The promise, like everything else that came before Toby, was severed with his death.

            I would have to start getting rid of most of my mother's things, but this one I would keep. It represented her to me. What kind of symbol would exemplify my life?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

I'm featured!

I'm very pleased to be featured on Sandra's Writing Workshop Hop with my fiction piece, A Certain Shade of Blue, taken from the first chapter of my novel in progress. (And if my fellow bloggers raise enough clamor for more of the story, maybe I'll get an offer from a publisher--LOL!) Just kidding. At any rate, Sandra has encouraged me to go back into my long-dormant files and start working again on my second draft. Sandra, I appreciate it very much. Any more creative-writing bloggers want to join the Hop?