How is your Life? It’s the Little Things…

Written By: Jackie Weger - Dec• 23•17

Living Our Lives and Making Do

Worldwide and USA events are taking up space in my heart and mind. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have touched me, my family, good friends and many of my writer colleagues. The 8.1 earthquake in Juchitan, Mexico, an area rich in history, did not get a huge amount of coverage, And even if it did, few of us had television, radio, cell phones or Internet services to learn of it. I know of the area only through Frida Kahlo’s dresses, paintings and float designers. I once wrote a book with a float designer as a main character and during interviews was astonished to learn float designers bid on jobs world wide–wherever there is a festival and exotic float parades. Now we’re watching California burn. More homes lost and this week, Christmas week, a horrible high-speed train crash in Washington state.

After I learned everyone in my family and all of my friends and colleagues affected by the hurricanes, floods and fires were  safe, albeit many suffering huge losses of home, cars and businesses, there was nothing for it but to settle down in my small nest and make do.  It dawned on me while sitting in the dark, that I’ve been ‘making do’ my entire life, stretching my $$$ to feed, clothe and shelter my family and later, just me.

Back in the day when I wore mascara, I learned to put the tube in a cup of hot water to get another week’s use of it. There was always another half inch of lipstick in a tube when it got flat. I dug it out and put it in a tiny pot, using a lip brush to finish it off. I recently bought a tub of lipstick at Macy’s and almost swallowed my tongue when the clerk said $26.99. The the dang thing was so soft it broke in half the first time I used it. For years I got by using Maybelline Tangee. 39c at Woolworth Five and Dime.

All of my years of growing up, there was no heat at night. My Dad was fearful of fire, so stove and coal oil heaters were turned off.  Now, my Keeper switches off the breaker to the hot water at night to save $$$. It does, but I have to heat up a cup of water in the microwave to brush my teeth in the morning.

Another thing growing up, when we had tubs instead of showers, we were allowed only two inches of water in the tub.  I think we were saving on the water bill. Now people fill whole swimming pools with the stuff.  I once lived next door to farmers as rich as Midas who drew from their well one gallon of water a day for the entire household, but irrigated their wheat fields with thousands of gallons from the Arkansas River. Go figure.

I felt utterly virtuous when mending clothes and turning worn collars on shirts and patching holes in the knees of my kids jeans. I can still recall the day my husband (when I had one) came home from a new job and said he could wear T-shirts and jeans to work. That put paid to Tide’s “ring-around the collar” commercial–which annoyed me no end–as if we poor folks never bathed. Now, people buy and wear jeans with holes already in the things. They cost more than I spend on groceries in a week. Worse, they’re so fashionable those holey jeans are topped by 368$ cashmere blouses from Nordstrom.

Everything today is about S.E.X. Let me clue you in about sexy. We used to wear skirts with a kick pleat in the back. It gave hint of a fine lacy slip, black, white or red. And we wore garter belts with silk stockings, seam up the back. Pantyhose ruined that entire image and it is almost impossible to find a slip except in Goodwill or a charity shop. Now I never see a woman on the street wearing stockings, or white gloves for church summer, black cotton for winter.  They couldn’t pull on a glove anyway–not over the inch and half fake acrylic nails painted green with sparkles. I’m too old for any of it now. Still, back in the day we were buttoned up to the neck, but that kick pleat worked magic for us. It worked on a man’s imagination, as in what secret delights might yet be revealed? Nobody knew until Elizabeth Taylor showed it all off in the 1958 film Cat On a Hot Tin Roof.

Until I learned about the Internet, Kindles and cable TV, I thought Velcro and fitted sheets were the most fabulous inventions. Now, when I visit my daughter, she’s got a fleet of robots that sweep her floors. The fool things follow me around like a puppy. When did straw brooms go out of fashion? First thing I always did with a new broom was pull out some straws to test if my cakes were done. Kept them in a little glass by the stove. Didn’t you do that?

Now this happened: On a first excursion out of my house after the Houston floods receded, we made a quick trip to Walmart for flags to hang in honor of 9/11. Oh, they have a hair salon. I was an inch away from walking in to get a ‘do’ until I noticed the hair dresser. The girl had green hair, black fingernails, metal in an eyebrow hooked with a tiny silver chain to the top curl of her ear. She was cheerful and had a lovely smile. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t step into the shop. Weary of cooking soup on a tiny propane stove, we stopped in a restaurant for a snack. The waiter had love tattooed on one set of knuckles and hate on another and dragons from wrist into his shirt sleeve. Service was great, food was nice. But, golly…I’m wondering what has happened to the world I grew up and old in?

I cannot bear to watch the talking heads on cable TV. Most of the women have hair hanging in their eyes. So distracting when they’re tossing their

Cooking on a native stove of sand and rocks in a tiny jungle village in Panama. Yep, there are wealthy ex-pats in the country, but I was not one of them. Notice I don’t have an oven to clean. My rent was $20 a month and salt cost 5c in a thumb-sized twist of paper.

head this way and that. Don’t they earn enough to buy a bobby pin?  When television first came into our living rooms, we only saw the heads of the anchors. Now cameras show their hands flying from one side of the screen to another. Distracting beyond measure.

This is called an assassin caterpillar, supposedly only living in South America, but I saw a whole line of the things on my sour orange tree. They are deadly.

Now, I did live off-grid for a few years in a tiny jungle village and spent time on off-islands and traveled on the cheap. Telling you I got along just fine sans TV, running water and electricity and world news. Did not worry at all about terrorists. Just snakes and scorpions and poisonous caterpillars. I saw tattoos on natives that were cultural. I’ve also traveled from London to Paris on the Chunnel. People along the way were dressed well and groomed. I felt a little drab in my slacks and blazer, but not out of place. I also attended a writer’s school in the UK. We dressed for drink’s hour and dinner. Didn’t see a single tattoo. It was coed. There was a bit of tip-toeing to and fro in the halls at night.

I guess I should mention I’ve been gloriously ill for a year and my wings have been clipped. I’m on a tether because my family does not want me to go on an adventure and die on some jungle river or foreign land. That would interrupt their lives no end. I get it.  But I feel as if I’m out of step with the world even though with the Internet the universe is at my fingertips. I’m back to publishing my books indie style and am enjoying it. The $$ is like a little annuity that stretches my Social Security, kind of like feathering my wee nest.

So. How are you faring? Is life treating you right? Is your family okay? Do you buy straw brooms? Wear lipstick or power your nose to keep the shine off? When was the last time you wore a full slip? Or helped your best guy the knot his tie? Am I the only one feeling a little nostalgia as we move into the year 2018?

My most recent release. 99c or read FREE with Kindle Unlimited. “Witty dialog, this is a story told with intelligence and grace.”

Wishing the best life has to offer for you and yours in the coming years. Regards, from Jackie Weger, @2017

P.S. I do have one new modern invention. Even my daughter who owns every kitchen gadget known to man doesn’t own one. A mango parer/slicer. Love it. My nurse picked it up at the H.E.B. a local grocers. You can find them in Walmart. $9.99.

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  1. Traci Hall says:

    I love your stories, Jackie! You make me feel as if I’m going on an adventure with you.

  2. virginia hernandez says:

    Dearest Jackie,
    What a wonderful letter! Yes! I also had a straw broom and used that cake testing trick. Now I use a Swiffer for my little apartment but still crawl around with a sponge to get the floors really clean at least once a month.
    Your life is beautiful, your books are a complete joy to many of us and you are an inspiration! Please take care of yourself.
    My youngest daughter, Amarie, is now a British citizen, lives in a converted barn north of London with the love-of-her-life, Sebastien, and is working on her Master’s degree. They just sent me these terrific links about ‘extinct’ words, for ‘sillytonians’. You might just love this/these. http://news.sky.com/story/linguists-compile-list-of-lost-words-that-need-to-be-brought-back-11036102
    And fro mthe BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-41266000
    I’m still chuckling! Sebastien now calls her his ‘Dowsabel’!
    Warm Memory wishes,

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Thank you Gini…lots of kind comments and I’m gonna hit all of those links. This is what I adore about writing and the Internet, we are always reaching out, sharing and meeting new wonderful people. Oh, a Swiffer! My Keeper loves his Swiffer…he uses the excuse he’s out of those pads to make a beer run. What a real romantic tale, living in a refurbished barn with the love of one’s life. Doesn’t get any better than that. Sending you hugs…Jackie

      P.S. I’ll bet we could not get away with using Betrump – To deceive, cheat, elude, slip from…I love the list.

      • Great list! I’m British and hadn’t heard one of those words before. Jackie’s right – betrump would be SO pertinent right now but would we get away with it…?

        Jackie – a fascinating view into your life.

  3. Donna Fasano (@DonnaFaz) says:

    You’ve led an amazing, adventurous life, Jackie! Life is good here on the eastern seashore of the US. I have a warm, soft bed to sleep in, food to eat, the love of my life by my side. So many people don’t have those things, so I can’t complain. Oh… I wish you would post a picture of that mango parer. We eat mango nearly every morning here!

  4. Amy Vansant says:

    Glad you made it through the storm – it’s good to have you back!

  5. Mary Smith says:

    Wonderful post, Jackie. So full of interesting items. I have to warn you tattoos and piercings in all kinds of strange places have caught up in the UK now. I’d love to read more of your jungle stories.

  6. You’re an inspiration to us.

  7. Love your letter, Jackie. Nope, never did the straw broom cake thing, but memories of things past compared with things present is something I do more often as the world changes so much.
    That UK Writers School – was it the one at Swanwick, Derbyshire? I went to their Summer School /writers conference at The Hayes Conference Centre – more than 40 years ago. A great experience. I understand it is still going.
    This woman is still untatooed and unpierced too, and expect to stay that way. I guess it’s a generation thing though no one in the family has done it yet.
    Keep up with the memories – they’re precious.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Bronwyn: Yes! It was the Writer’s School at Swanwick, Derbyshire. Did you notice the writer’s paring off? They were lovers for that week and had been for all of the years they attended the School. Amazing people. I loved every one of them. One woman insisted I go home with her so, I did. We stayed in touch until she died. She was writing a satire about a mouse who lived at 10 Downing Street, but had an extended mouse family in Buckingham Palace. It was so funny.

      I met Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip when I was fourteen, but that’s a whole other story. I’m not tattooed either. I don’t like needles. Plus those things cost hundreds up to 1000’s of $. Not exactly a great investment for one’s retirement.

  8. Julie Frayn says:

    I’m glad you’ve come through the hurricane intact. Your stories always make me smile.

    I use toothpicks for cake testing (my mother taught me that). And I am tattooed :). Just 4 small ones, only 2 that the world can see if they look hard enough, and hoping for another. But never on the face or the knuckles. I need to be able to cover them if necessary. And nothing icky… 😉 xo to you.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Hey, Julie Frayn! You are brave to sit still for a tattoo. Toothpicks have their uses. They were handy for spearing cheese cubes for brunch or a gathering. But, golly, I’m from the South and it was never good manners to pick one’s teeth at the table. Just NEVER. I once had a son-in-law who came to my table shirtless. Ewww. I just told him, flat out, “I don’t like looking at nipples over fried chicken and mashed potatoes.” I learned by Southern osmosis that a man never answers the front door shirtless. However, it was just fine for a Mommy to throw on a bathrobe over p.j.’s to wait on the porch until a school bus picked up the kids or to drive the kids to school when raining made walking out of the question. Both of those customs I grew up with have fallen by the wayside, I think…except at my humble abode. My Keeper always throws on a shirt to answer the door.

      Here’s funny about tattoos. I went to Bike Week in Daytona one year. Bikers and tattoos go together. But the pseudo bikers, lawyers, doctors, CEOs and bankers hauled their machines in U-hauls and flat beds to park on Main Street and ride in the parades. They wore wife-beaters and were tattooed up the Kazoo. It rained hard and their tattoos melted or faded entirely. Fake alpha males!

      • Julie Frayn says:

        hahaha. You crack me up. My dad wouldn’t let my brother at the table without a shirt. and no hats! But otherwise, dad would be shirtless all summer long… And no, no tooth picking at the table. They were only for cake testing. And, as you said, spearing a cheese cube or ten.

        My tats (CFO here) are real. I have some fake ones if I want to put them on for fun, but those are the kind I’d never make permanent. They are profanity tats. I’m good with profanity spewing from my mouth but I’ve no plans to permanently ink it onto my body! I reserve that for important things, like representations of my kids and me (bears, princesses, birds).

  9. laurieboris says:

    Inspiring. And I’m so glad you made it through safely. Yep, another toothpick-tester here. Although I don’t remember the last time I made a cake.

  10. So pleased to hear you’re safe, Jackie. Fabulously interesting post as always. I never used straw to check cakes, but never too late to start. I fancy one of those clean your floors things though, that would do me just fine 🙂

  11. Jackie, I love this type of post and only you know how to get them right. You make every day things sound so enthralling. Never used a straw broom but you bet I’ll get one now 😛 I’ve always saved the remnants of cosmetics too. I do it religiously for creams and lotions as they can be expensive here in Greece. I keep the small tins from hand cream and put the remnants from my face creams in them when I can’t squeeze any out from the tubes. Slice the tube open with a kitchen knife and it’s amazing how much you’d be throwing away otherwise!

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Frossie–we are sisters! I keep scissors on my bathroom counter to cut the bottoms off of plastic tubes of all things from toothpaste to lotions. I was born during the Great Depression and the adage Waste Not–Want Not has served me well. Family members make fun of me for doing it. I don’t care. I do it anyway. I once had a neighbor who hooked kitchen rugs out of the plastic, waxed bags sliced bread comes in. I bought one from her for $2 and the thing lasted for fifteen years. Clever lady! Before there was such a thing and a rage for vitamin supplements, my Auntie Frank washed and dried egg shells and crushed them to a fine powder. Added it to cornbread and biscuits to keep her teeth and bones strong. Natural calcium.

  12. Mimi Barbour says:

    Thanks for this post, Jackie It was so interesting. I remember my mom using a piece of straw from her broom to check a cake too – of course that’s after she rinsed it off LOL!

  13. Hey Jackie – I enjoyed your post.

    The only new kitchen gadget I’m interested in getting soon is a spiralizer to make “pasta” from zucchini and squash.

  14. P. C. Zick says:

    Challenging times require the most ingenious methods. It shows your strength when you come through adversity intact. And you, dear Jackie, are one superb specimen! Here’s to a speedy recovery and cleanup. As for me and mine, we all survived with little damage after a harrowing few days of worry. It helped when I turned off the talking heads on cable TV. They were worse than for my blood pressure.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Patricia! Boy! Do I hear you about the talking heads on cable. Annoying beyond measure. I keep the sound muted and use closed caption…ZAP! I switch to my recording and watch a bit of The African Queen. I know who is talking and I know that actors–few of which I know in the 21st Century. That always put things in perspective for me in my wee corner of the universe.

  15. dalefurse says:

    I’m so happy you came through the hurricane okay. Love the letter and thank you for making me smile. Ha, if I was young, I would definitely go for the crazy hair colours.

    Your lucky daughter. I would really like those robot cleaners. And while I have grown up with mango trees, I have never had a mango parer. Tried to google it but only mango paper came up, darn.

  16. Alexa Dare says:

    I so love the nostalgia! Thank you for sharing and prompting me to reflect on remember when… I still crave actual sugar fudge and peanut butter roll candy made the way they were “back then”! Ah, those were the days.

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