The Mystery of Google, Michael Caine and Me

Somebody said that people who create their own drama deserve their own karma. True enough in my case. I was vain enough to type my own name into that Google search thing. THIS is the image that popped up. It’s of the British film icon Michael Caine. I can sorta, kinda see the resemblance, but come on, Google, he’s 83. Six feet two inches tall. He’s starred in over a hundred movies and is known for his working class cockney accent.

I can’t act, but I can do accents. I have a penchant for accents. (Stop laughing, all you people who don’t value my talent for accents…my family, my friends, Marie Shelton in particular.)

But seriously, Google, what led you to confuse me with Michael Caine?

I bet it was my children. They’re often confused about me. Like last Halloween one of my costumes was of a deranged brain surgeon. I bought the wig and wore the lab coat smeared with brain matter.

As I descended the stairs, my son yelled, “Look everybody, Mom’s Paula Deen!”

Oh, well…

In an attempt to solve the Google mystery, I did a reverse search. I typed in Michael Caine’s name to see if my picture popped up. Nope. Just a zillion pictures of the fine actor.


Anyway, I forgive you, Google. I had no business searching your engine. It’s just that I’m super insecure because I started this blog out of desperation. My literary agent told me I had to if I ever wanted to sell another book. Now I’m having fun meeting people from all across the globe, discovering what we have in common.

That’s it, Google! I know how you confused me with Michael Caine—Michael and I have something in common. You inputted his net worth…75 million dollars. And of course my name shot out because those numbers register with my bank account too. Only not the million part.


Turns out, some mysteries are better left unsolved.

A Wretched But True Poem About Twitter

I write a blog that few eyes see

So someone said, “If you Twitter, you’ll get as many followers as you please.”

Now I’m an old woman whose ears hear mutter

So I asked my grown daughter, “Can you help me to twutter?”

When that didn’t work I put it aside

Until a friend nudged, “Go on, give it another try.

My teenage son knows all about social fodder

So I smiled and said, “Teach your mama to twatter.”

Out through both nostrils spewed the milk he was drinking

“Mom! Shh. What the heck are you thinking?!?”

In time…and with help, I got the account

Am just now discovering  what Twitter’s really about

A chance to stalk Ellen, Oprah even Jay Z

And 140 measly characters to entice anyone to stalk me.

THIS Is What Will Matter Fifty Years From Now

You know it’s getting serious when you’re introduced to the family. That should tell you how I feel about those of you who invest 90 seconds of your day reading my ramblings. To thank you, let me introduce you to my mother’s mother.

But first some wisdom from Maya Angelou: “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I want people to feel welcome in my home. But like me, the house is old and tattered, and in need of serious repairs that I cannot afford at the moment, but I can buy a bucket of paint. So I’m going to re-paint the house and go with my second color choice—brain matter gray. (I’ll pause here and let you create a mental image of that inviting hue.)

I’d really like to paint every room white, install wide white wood planks and white kitchen cabinets. I’d like to buy only white towels and white bed sheets. And whitewash a picnic table big enough to accommodate my entire brood.

Not gonna happen. I can’t go all white because somebody once beat me to it. Grandma Madsen. She had this little country stone cottage with a completely white living room…a room that I was never, not once, permitted to enter. White carpet, couch, curtains, coffee table, pillows and even fake white flowers.

My memory is that her little house sat back from an acre of blooming flowers and grass she mowed herself. Grandma loved to garden and was known for her green thumb and her iron fist.

After she died, I spent a lot of time researching Grandma’s life. What I learned left me awestruck. But while she was alive the woman scared the beejeebers out of me. She was just over five feet tall, and by the time I knew her, she was widowed and had some girth around the waist. To me, she was bitter and mean and her tongue was as sharp as broken glass.

She had grandchildren whom she adored. I wasn’t one of them. She had grandchildren who were allowed to come inside and listen to her latest Charley Pride album. I had to sleep on a cot in the garage and got slapped for putting my ear against the door to hear Kaw-Liga.

Ah, it wasn’t as bad as I make it out. Grandma had wall-to-wall carpeting in her garage. It was essential. It’s where she parked her big pink, tail finned Caddy—the car that announced to the world that she was somebody.

At least thrice a week she’d wedge into her high heels, strap on her mink stole, and drive four minutes “into town,” where she’d become a one-woman Main Street parade.

“Grandma, why is there an old piece of yellow paper taped to your car’s back window?” I once asked, squinting to make out numbers the sun had faded.

“So people can see how much I paid,” she said with a nostril flare. “Ain’t many women who can afford a five thousand dollar Caddy.”

Rewind. Six decades before I was a kid, Grandma was born in Copenhagen. To an unwed mother. In a Catholic convent in a country where over ninety percent of Danes were Lutheran. If half the stories about her childhood are true, she had a hellish upbringing. At twelve, her stepfather put her on a ship and sailed her solo all the way to America where she found refuge working for a woman who ran, what we’d call today, an “escort service.”

Grandma learned the power of money early on. Groucho Marx, a contemporary of hers, said, “While money can’t buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.”

Grandma did a lot of things to earn a lot of money, but the images I have of her sitting alone in her all-white room or parading down Main Street behind the wheel of her big ol’ Cadillac, are pictures of misery.

I’m grateful that later on, when I was in college and able to visit her on weekends, Grandma and I grew closer, so close she asked me to give her eulogy.

As for that white couch that I was never allowed to sit on…it’s in my garage holding Christmas decoration bins. One day, when I have the money, I’ll get it recovered. But not in white. Not a good color for my g-babies who see white as a welcome canvas to paint with things they excrete from their own bodies.

Besides, life’s not about furniture, is it? It’s about feelings. What matters is how we make people feel when they are around us, right?

Ha. Time to cut the bull. What really matters is that how we make our families, our friends, all those people we claim to love, feel..will determine what they write about us—fifty years from now.

I Bow To You

For any single parent who could use a boost today.

Don't Call Me Dumb

There is no calling in the world that can compare to parenthood. That includes all of you who love a child and protect and provide for that child. This is a snapshot of my daughter, Taylor, and her daughter, Adelaide. Fortunately, Mark is a wonderful husband and father to them. But that’s not how it is for nearly 14 million parents in the U.S. who are raising 22 million children. It’s been a decade since I became a single mother, so I’ve been thinking about you, the fathers and mothers out there who go it alone. This is my very feeble attempt to pay tribute to you. I hope you’ll forgive my lack of poetic talent and feel the sentiment and share it if you love someone who might benefit from a little bow.

If you have no arms

To hold your crying child but your own arms

And no…

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Why I Sin On Sundays

This is the month I focus on gratitude and this is a picture I took some weeks back at Saint Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. Good-humored locals call it “Touch Down Jesus,” — you can see why.

Speaking of Jesus, I’ve got a confession to make. Sundays are the hardest day of the week for me. It shouldn’t be that way. Sundays are for worship, family time and rest. Right? They’re for rejuvenation and spiritual replenishment.

I must do Sundays all wrong because I drag out of church feeling degraded and depleted—spiritually slapped, which of course leads me to feel like smacking my whole family upside the head. And by the end of my “day of rest” I’m worn to the core. I need the other six work days just to recover.

I don’t think that’s how God set Sundays up. I think I’ve messed it all up.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week.”

That’s a lovely sentiment, but for me it feels like that clasp is a scale that weighs my “volume of the week” and finds it pitifully wanting.

So…I did some examination and realized that one of my Sabbath problems is my consistent breaking of the ninth commandment. I blatantly bear false witness on Sunday.

“How are you doing, Toni?” someone asks.

Blood rushes to my frontal cortex where my brain comes up with, “Great. Terrific. Superb.”

Lies. Lies. Lies.

I have great moments. I have terrific times. Once in awhile I feel superb. But I’m not doing great, terrific or superb. Right now, today, I’m all wound up in the metamorphic stage of life when I’m more pupa than butterfly. While I’m not the slug I once was, I’m still cocooned in a mess of my own making, doing everything I can to unravel myself to freedom and flight.

Soon enough, I’ll emerge and be a new creature. But not yet. Not by Sunday. So I’ve decided to tell the truth from now on when someone is kind enough to inquire how I’m doing.

No, I won’t say, “s&**#y” because that’s not true either. Not even close. And no one wants to hear anything beyond, “Fine. Thanks for asking.” While people want to be courteous and caring, they seldom really want to hear the gritty answer to that question.

From now on though, Imma gonna tell the truth in one word: BLESSED.

“I’m blessed.”

Blessed. Because that’s what I am. I am blessed beyond measure. Blessed when I don’t deserve to be blessed. Blessed with the chance to change. Blessed with friends and family to help me. And blessed to be a blessing.

So there. One word helps me tell the truth. It changes my attitude. It increases my capacity for gratitude. And while it may not be a complete six-point touchdown, I suspect Jesus will be happy to deem it at least a field goal and give me a couple of points for sincerity and effort, don’t ya think?



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