Archive by Author | Catherine Gullickson

Not Helpful

Years ago, Conrad, my darling four year old, came home from pre-school with a poster he had made with some general rules for behaving.  It was divided in half with “Helpful” on one side and “Not Helpful” on the other.  Some of the “Helpful” list included: “say please” and “keep your hands to yourself”.  Some of the “Not Helpful” items were “shouting”, “not listening to your mom” and “being mad”.  This poster soon became a kind of family motto and catchphrase.  Instead of calling someone a complete idiot for leaving the gas grill on all weekend, asking if you shut the garage door when you’re an hour out on your road trip, (or a good one: What do you mean by “I’ve lost my passport”) we would say “That’s not really HELPFUL right now” in a sharp, mocking tone complete with not so loving hand gestures and eye bulging.

With the family motto in mind, I feel the need to unload all that I deem “Not Helpful” this week…a cleanse so to speak.  I’m going to adapt this idea to express to all of you dear readers, how many things bug the crap out of me on a daily basis. No one in the family believes that I can come up with even one thing that doesn’t irritate me.  I’m going to make a good attempt.

Not Helpful…this week

1.  The dog two doors down the street and its’ owners.  I get the pleasure of hearing that stupid dog bark every night from 8 p.m. to midnight and then again at 6 a.m. on weekends.  Here’s how it goes: LEAFBLOWING BY!!LEAF BLOWING BY!!CAR PASSING !!SPRINKLER ON!!SQUIRREL!!  Each tiny sound requires a barking alert…super great!!


2. The fat smoker guy with the giant thighs who sat next to me on the 2 hour flight home.  Thanks for having a rotten case of B. O. and keeping your legs wide open so that I had to occupy one tiny corner of the seat I paid for.  I had to keep my head in my own armpit to keep from gagging.

3.  The following words and phrases:  Collaborate;  At the end of the day; Basically; Think outside of the box; I could care less;  I’m not going to lie;  Moist; “Are you sure”?;  carbuncle.  I shouldn’t have to elaborate on any of these separately nor together…

4. Being told I have laser-beam-like eyes, I’m quite irritated that I don’t actually have the ability to shoot laser beams from my eyes.  It would come in handy sometimes, and I would probably be less irritated.

5. Having to show my driver’s license to prove my identity before getting a horrible medical test.  Really?  Someone is going to actually defraud the radiology center in order to get injected with radioactive material and get scanned in a tiny, claustrophobic tube for 2 hours?  Really?

I told you it was scary

6.  That reminds me; my driver’s license.  I guess the new style of licensing is not to smile for the picture.  Therefore, I look like a prison matron at a concentration camp.  Perfect for the several times a week I need to use it for I.D. purposes and have to look at it.

7. Any conversation about the weather.  Unless you’re in a tornado or can’t open the front door due to snow build-up, zip it; I couldn’t care less!

Wake me up when you're finished talking about the barometric pressure reading

Helpful…this week

1.  A beer and nachos at the Montages in Deer Valley, Utah with 2 of the best people I know, Kelley and Lisa.  They were quite “Helpful”…and so was the beer and the Montages.

2. My nightly reading session under the covers with my Kindle, flashlight, and this week, the book “Raylan”.  I read until Jeff complains that it’s like the Aurora Borealis are on the ceiling of the bedroom…sigh…that’s so “Not Helpful”…

More soon…lots more…

Up In Smoke

I’ve played tennis most of my life.  It was love at first whack when I started hitting an old tennis ball with a yard sale racquet against the garage door.  Through the years, I improved and progressed.  I reached a point where I had delusional moments of grandeur;  I pictured myself at Wimbledon and the French Open. Oh, the glory!

Ummm, not gonna happen

Those moments didn’t last too long, especially after an embarassing loss to a girl wearing jean cut-offs and dangly Snoopy earrings at the high school state tournament.  That was tough to forget.

Next, a chunky college player, who made me do ALL the running.  That stung a little.

A few years later, the topper, or so I thought; a rout by a woman twenty years older, who never seemed to miss a shot, nor sweat.  Little did I know, the worst was yet to come.

In my 40’s, I happened to land on a great women’s tennis team that progressed through several qualifying tournaments to reach the Nationals.  I hadn’t been this excited about really anything (aside from things like ice cream and a clean garage) in a long time.  I trained hard: lessons, weight lifting, even jogging. I cut back on the wine (a little).  The only problem was the coincidence with my 25th wedding anniversary.  My husband cancelled all of our Napa Valley, romantic weekend, French Laundry reservations and rebooked us into a Holiday Inn, Tucson, Arizona.  Just a tiny bit of pouting; manageable, considering this was a moment of a lifetime for me.

The tournament began with stifling conditions.  Humidity, 100+degrees, lots of wind.  I played my heart out, as did the team. We won one match and lost the next two.  All the matches were closely contested.  Our team was out of the running for a trophy, but we had one match left and we were going to play for pride, damn it!

My husband, Jeff, hadn’t watched any of the play, as he couldn’t be bothered to leave the pool.  He decided to quit being a pouty baby and show up for my last match.

I introduced myself to my opponent, a fit, tiny woman who looked about 30 years old.  Great…a scrambler and young;  this didn’t look good for me. About 45 minutes later, I shook hands with her again.  I was a 6-0, 6-1 loser.  I said to myself, “It’s O.K., not too bad for your age.  At least you made it to Nationals”.  I gathered my things and walked off the court.  Jeff greeted me with a hug and said, “Hey Babe, I’m really glad I left the pool for that.  I thought you should know that the woman you played lit up a cigarette the minute she left the court”.

Tucson, Arizona.

September, 2008.

An ego went up in smoke.

This is apparently how you win matches

Super Seniors

Super Seniors: Then

My parents just left after spending three weeks here.  It’s fitting that it’s pouring rain today, as it reflects our feeling that these two little rays of sunshine have taken their party and gone home.  Fortunately, they left their hostess gift behind: a BoomBlaster Electronic Fart Machine.

Despite the fact that we squeezed eight people into a four bedroom, two bathroom house, they were ever cheerful.  No problem with the noise, too much shared bathroom information and the general jumble of the household.  These super seniors dressed each day prepared for any possibility of activity, from a museum visit, to lunch, to a stroll around the neighborhood. Cocktail hour?  It’s only 3 o’clock?  Why yes, I’ll have one.  Cashmere sweaters: on. Hip jewelry: of course. Full head of styled hair: in place. Dad looked like the Mayor of Palm Springs and Mom channeled the owner of a modern art gallery.

While they were here, Mom knit a complete sweater for herself, while watching a LOT of Real Housewives. Dad, (if he wasn’t golfing with the boys), spent the day reading the paper in the sun by the pool.  He perfected READING the paper.  He had to be ready for dinner conversation with the latest updates in the world, especially the weather. Lots about the weather…everywhere. They both did a bunch of shelf organization. We can’t find anything anymore, but it really looks sharp. They also spent some time plotting the evening victim of the fart machine.  The best one was when they taped it under my husband’s chair. That made for some dazzling dinner conversation.  By the time they left they still hadn’t figured out how to turn on the T.V., and never did manage to answer their cell phones on the first attempt, but by God, they had that fart machine down to a science.

Family dinners were an event, with candles lit and lots of wine.  Conversation was lively, which really means loud, as they are kind of old.  Mom thinks an eye lift would be kind of fun, my Dad can’t understand the “hooligans” of  Occupy Wall Street.  They had lots of opinions about everything; they were rarely asked for, but freely given, often.  Gingrich was a fun target, especially that account at Tiffany’s, and his wife Callista.  We heard about their schedule at home:  coffee group, neighborhood martini parties, wine Fridays, golfing, skiing at 78, because he’s waited a hell of a long time for it to be free, funerals, their part-time jobs, driving three hours to have brunch with friends from 1962.  Apparently, just about any Wednesday is an excuse for a gathering…even the summer solstice is a night out.

Mom and Dad are the kind of people who give you a trophy for just being you.  They tell you that you look great…every day!  They think you do a good job… on everything!  They think you’re the best…all the time!  They seem to marvel at a lot of little stuff that is easy to overlook.  They’re still really excited to see what’s going to happen next, for their family and especially, what’s on the next episode of Masterpiece Theater.  They’re really just a good time, all the time.

Now that they’re gone, the house doesn’t have the same kind of perky atmosphere.  I guess we’re back to the usual, which means Ben doesn’t have to fake being charming anymore and we don’t have as much of an excuse to open the wine on a Tuesday.  The fart machine has been put away.

We hope to get them back here for another visit, I’m waiting for them to let me know when they can fit us in…

Super Seniors: Now

Old Fashion

I’m living my life backwards.  I moved to Los Angeles at 50 and realized fairly quickly that I’m 30 years too late getting here.  I really don’t belong in the land of sun and abundance of exposed flesh. I should have been here hanging on the beach, when I had long, swingy hair, a bikini ready body and smooth, toned skin.  That was sooo 1982. Unfortunately and unavoidably, I now have an abundance of flesh that absolutely should not be exposed.  Really, anybody my age should be keeping it all covered.  I’ve thought on occasion that wearing a burka would be a good fashion choice for me, if it didn’t come with the whole loss of civil rights thing and the religious connotations.  It would be so easy to throw it on and walk out the door with confidence.  I wouldn’t have to think about my saggy elbows, the weird stuff above my knees, the hard evidence that laying out on foil with baby oil, the summer of my senior year in high school, would have long term consequences to my neck.

Sigh. A woman can dream...

The problem with living here is a culture of trying really hard to look 21, whether you’re 14 or 50 plus; it’s just not attractive on either end of the spectrum.   I’ve seen my share of teenage wanna-be Playboy Playmates, women my age in clothing that looks like they’re in a Mexican telenovela, and older men in rapper style shorts with a calf tattoo of Donald Duck.

This is apparently a thing

There are way too many opportunities to expose body parts here in the Southland, whether they deserve exposure or not.  Too much TMI.  You merely have to point out what has happened to that Smiley face tattoo on the shoulder of the woman in front of you to your teenager.  Life lesson about tattoos on sagging skin: check.

I’m talking to you Too Tight Yoga Pants. Just say no Tiny Tank Top.  I’m tired of looking at you Muffin Top Thong.  I like to think that I’m a decent example of how to dress in an age appropriate manner.I don’t want to look at it and I want to spare others the view too. Neck to toe coverage, usually in black.  Sometimes I’ll go with navy blue, if I’m feeling perky.  Loose, unbelted, flowy…perfect.   I’m just going to go with my sparkling personality, and wear good jewelry, as it’s all I’ve got left.  That, and a hope that someday I’ll be back in the northwest, with a legitimate reason to cover up (because it’s cold) in head-to-toe polar fleece….ahhh, the height of  fashion.

I would say something to her mother, but she's probably wearing the same thing

Old Parents

We had a baby on my husband’s 40th birthday.  Awww, so cute, right?  Not exactly.  How did that happen?  Well, the usual, plus wine.  There’s a good reason that it’s tough to get and be pregnant when you’re old,  you just shouldn’t do it!  Here are just a few of the many reasons why old parenting doesn’t work very well:
-If you have to use a calculator to figure out how old you’ll be at his high school graduation…probably not a good plan
-When you get mistaken for being his grandmother at the middle school fundraiser…not cool
-When you drop him off at school in your mini-van and Mom jeans and the other Moms are wearing long blonde ponytails, daisy dukes and Uggs…ego hit, aka, sobbing in the car on the way home
-When you go to bed before he does…poor household management
-When he gets in trouble, you take a privilege away and then forget what you took away…he counts on it (and of course, fails to remind you)
-When you have to keep a Pez container of Advil just so you can be ready to throw the football with him…pathetic
-When you have no idea what he’s doing on the computer because he’s so savvy with it and he knows it…hello, dinousaur
-When even he knows not to even go there…aka..ask to be taken to Disneyland…he doesn’t want to be seen on “It’s a Small World” with you
-When he pats you on top of the head and calls you “Tiny Mom” because he’s 2 inches taller than you…you’ve lost all your powers
-When you’re accused by your other kids of giving him more then they ever got…guilty, but just this once
Why is this true?  Because I’m just too tired to say no anymore.  I’m worn out, I don’t have the energy to helicopter and hover and micro-manage.  What he does at 13 doesn’t really go on his permanent record  (I’m kind of counting on that).  He knows that he’s loved and all that, don’t worry about him.  My only concern as he gets older, is that he will discover that he can do pretty much whatever he wants any night after 8 p.m.(if he hasn’t already), because I’ll be asleep.  Fingers crossed…

Dear Ben

Dear Ben,

You’ve asked me to anchor the “senior” section of your blog.  I’m flattered, but having a little trouble with the whole “senior” thing, as I’m not so sure that’s a category I really want to be in.  Nevertheless, I will attempt your request.  I want a catchy title, what do you think of these:


Is 50 the New 35?  No, Not Really…

Older, Yet No Wiser…

Oops, I AARPed!

What Happened To My Face?

Wrinkles…Not Cool

Say What?

What I Think; Whether You Like It or Not…

Because I Said So…

Senior Moments

God, I’m Old…

I’ve Fallen and I’m Not Sure I Want To Get Up

Just a Minute While I Put My Glasses On…

Where’s My Senior Discount?

Shrinkage…and Other Thoughts

O.M.G. it’s hard to be O.L.D.

Thoughts from Beyond

I Don’t Need an Excuse to Drink on a Tuesday Anymore

Old News

Driving Slow in the Fast Lane

Opinions: I Will Give Them…Often

Let me know what you think…not that it really matters…