Tag Archives: storyteller

Grit Is the Word

(Dedicated to KLT)

Do you know what I’ve discovered?  I should be writing about Valentine’s Day but I just can’t do it!  I’ve got nothing against Valentine’s Day and less against romance.  (If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I think I’ve made it pretty clear what type of relationship I have with my husband [“White and Wonderful,” a.k.a. “WW”] , and that our reoccurring theme song—even after thirty-two years of marriage—is “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye.)  It’s just that this once a year shot at force-feeding romance down our throats sort of leaves me cold.  I’m much more of a “show your love to me all year long through random acts of kindness routinely administered” kind of gal. 

So I’ll leave V-Day in the capable hands of more accomplished bloggers than I and move onto something near and dear to my heart:  TRUE GRIT!

“Research shows it’s not enough to be smart.  To get where you want to go in life, you’ll need determination, stamina, and grit.”—Lisa van Gemert (MENSA Bulletin)

The remake of “True Grit” by the Coen brothers is one of my all-time favorite movies because it deals with the fortitude and perseverance—the grit—that it takes to accomplish a seemingly impossible goal.  Grit becomes a character, in and of itself, in the movie, and it pulls the viewer into an intense journey that is both perilous and triumphant, and not without cost.

I am not a stranger to “grit” myself.  It has been my companion all my life and rode on the train that I took out of the Cleveland ghetto through the hallowed halls of my higher education and prosperous life.  I understand true grit, but I’ve never liked itIt is way too hard to acquire, and if one lives long enough, it always returns and beckons one to revisit it at another time, in another place, during another journey.


Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about grit because I’m trying to become a writer at sixty three years old, and I’m hitting some hurdles in the callous dog-eat-dog world of literary agents and publishers.  Nothing worth having comes easily—I know that—but haven’t I already paid my dues to the god of true grit in my hard-knock life?  As I pondered the definition of “grit” over and over in my mind (“perseverance and passion for long-term goals”), I thought of what it would be like to form a panel of two or three women who seem to be oozing with “grit” and ask them questions that would help me stay the course in my new adventure.

So I put about fifty names of “women with true grit who have authored at least one book” in a bowl and promised myself I’d have an imaginary discussion with the first three names that I pulled out—dead or alive—no matter how disparate.

Harriet Tubman/Google Image (public domain)

Ellen DeGeneres/Google Image

Maya Angelou/Google Image/AP Photo

ELT:  Good evening ladies.  It was so good of you to accept my invitation—especially you Mrs. Tubman. It is such an honor to meet you, and I hope heaven is treating you well.  Ellen, so good to see you—can I tell you that I love, love, love your talk show, and I think you were the bomb in Finding Nemo.   You made that movie! Dr. Angelou, you have been one of my idols for years.  I was so jealous that Oprah asked you to be her mentor before I could get a word in edgewise.  But I’m over that now because I learned from you not to be a hater.  I know you wouldn’t want me to hold a grudge against my girl Oprah.

Ladies, I’d like to present my readers with a short bio about each of you before we start our question and answer session, if that’s okay with you.

Harriet Tubman was a slave from Dorchester, Maryland who escaped the brutality of her masters by fleeing to the North as a young woman but not before being routinely beaten and hit by a heavy metal weight in the head which caused disabling seizures and headaches all of her life.  Upon arriving in Philadelphia, she hired herself out as a domestic and with the money she saved made twenty rescue trips to the South—freeing hundreds of slaves without losing one of them.   Known as “Moses” to slaves near and far, she became a prominent conductor of the Underground Railroad, an outspoken abolitionist, an advocate of women’s rights, and a scout and spy for the Union army.  Mrs. Tubman wrote her autobiography with Sarah Hopkins Bradford in 1868 which was entitled Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman.

Ellen DeGeneres is an Emmy-winning talk show host, comedienne, author, host of the Grammy, primetime Emmy, and Oscar awards.  Ms. DeGeneres has written three books entitled The Funny Thing Is, My Point and I do Have One, Seriously. . .I’m Kidding.

Maya Angelou, who was mute for eight years after a brutal childhood rape and living under systemic racism, grew up to become a celebrated poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist,  producer, and director.  Dr. Angelou has received over 30 honorary degrees and written over 20 books.  She has served on two presidential committees, was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2000, the Lincoln Medal in 2008, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.  Dr. Angelou is best known for the book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and her Pulitzer Prize nomination of her book of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie.

ELT:  Well, on that note ladies, let us begin!

How would you tell someone how to find their “calling” or their “path” in life—what they were meant to be?

Ellen:  Find out who you are and be that person. That’s what your soul was put on this Earth to be. Find that truth, live that truth and everything else will come.  Never follow anyone else’s path, unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path; then, by all means, you should follow that path.

ELT:  All of you broke new ground as women and human beings when there were no road signs to direct you.  When did you find out that you were special?

Ellen:  I was doing stand-up at a restaurant and there was a chalkboard on the street out front. It said, ”Soup of the Day: Cream of Asparagus. Ellen DeGeneres.”

Harriet Tubman:  I had reasoned this out in my mind; there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death.  If I could not have one, I would have the other—for no man should take me alive.

ELT:  What was your greatest accomplishment?

Harriet Tubman:  I freed thousands of slaves, and could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves.

ELT:  How would you define success?

Maya Angelou:  Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it. . . . You can only become truly accomplished at something you love.  Don’t make money your goal.  Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”

ELT:  Did you ever fail and how did you deal with rejection?

Ellen:  I’m on the patch right now. Where it releases small dosages of approval until I no longer crave it, and then I’m gonna rip it off.

Maya Angelou:  You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I’ll rise!

ELT:  What advice can you give my readers about not giving up no matter how difficult the journey?

Harriet Tubman:  If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.

ELT:  Did you ever get angry with yourself about your choices or your life in general?

Ellen:  Sometimes when I am driving I get so angry at inconsiderate drivers that I want to scream at them.  But then I remember how insignificant that is, and I thank God that I have a car, and my health, and gas.  (That was phrased wrong—normally you wouldn’t say, thank God I have gas.)

Maya Angelou:  I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself.  But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself.  It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes—it is inevitable.  But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all.  So you say to people who you think you may have injured, “I’m sorry,” and then you say to yourself, “I’m sorry.”

ELT:  Has anything about your life ever really frightened you?

Ellen:  My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty.  She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.

ELT:  Ellen, recently, a defamation group, calling themselves a “family values group” by the name of One Million Moms, tried to bully JC Penney into dropping you as a spokesperson because you’re a lesbian.   Didn’t that frighten you?  Would you explain what happened and how you dealt with that type of hate?

Ellen:  They wanted to get me fired, and I’m proud and happy to say that JC Penney stuck by their decision to make me their spokesperson, which is great news for me because I also need some new crew socks.

I usually don’t talk about stuff like this . . . but I really want to thank everyone who is supporting me.  And if you don’t know me very well. . . I want to be clear.  Here are the values that I stand for. I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values. That’s what I stand for.

ELT:  Crew socks?  Ellen, you’re too funny—even in the midst of haters trying to sabotage what you’ve rightly earned.

Ellen:  I’m glad I’m funny. I’m glad I make people happy, because that’s very important. But I’m most proud to be known as a kind person…Because kindness spreads, and the world is a little nicer out there.

(All words uttered from the mouths of my panel are exact quotes said by them at some point in time and utilized in this imaginary discussion for the illustration of “true grit.”)


I am discovering that there are human beacons in the past and present that illuminate our encumbered pathways to the fulfillment of our dreams.  They show us by example how to “get over.”  We just need to stop, listen, learn, and never, ever, ever, ever give up!


Fred Astaire/Google Image

At Fred Astaire’s first screen test, he received this verdict from studio executives: “Can’t act, can’t sing. Balding.  Can dance a little.”

Fred Astaire was an “American film and Broadway stage dancer, choreographer, singer, and actor.  His stage and subsequent film career spanned a total of 76 years, during which he made 31 musical films.  He was named the fifth Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute.  (Wikipedia)

Astaire’s immensely popular dancing style appeared relaxed, light, effortless, and largely improvised.  In reality, he was a hard-working perfectionist who tirelessly rehearsed routines for hours on end. (


Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on February 10, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Yo’ Momma Don’t Have to Know!

Do you know what I’ve discoveredMost of the current groups of parents who are rearing children from the age of zero to eighteen are missing the boat and the point, and they don’t even know it.  That’s because, in our country, it takes more effort and education to get a driver’s license, buy a house, or become an American citizen than it does to get pregnant and have a child.  A child “gettin’ over” on his or her parents today could be the leader of a great country in the future or the head of a terrorist organization tomorrow and how a parent handles the situation might affect the outcome.  When I see a defiant, two-year-old stubbornly stomping her foot while screaming loudly enough to bring the dead back to life, and the mother tearfully negotiating with her potential
terrorist with “listen, Honey, if you’ll just stop screaming, Mommy will buy you a present when we’re finished,” I’m
torn between slapping the parent upside her head for being such a spineless idiot, or letting her in on a little secret about childrearing.

The Secret:  These delightful little bundles of joy that we can’t help but fall in love with when they are born have a hidden agenda and an insatiable thirst to take over the world.  You, Mommy, are their first conquest!

I’ve discovered that all children enter stage right or left in Earth’s comedy/drama with two weapons in their arsenal for taking their parents hostage:

  • an irrevocable certificate guaranteeing children “free will” from their creator
  • an underground handbook entitled: “Yo’ Momma Don’t Have to Know” (YMDHTK) by The Devil, otherwise known as the knowledge of good and evil

The day I learned about the YMDHTK Handbook, I was almost ten years into the process of rearing children and had managed to appear omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent to both my children.  In other words, I scared the shit out of them.  I was ghetto mom dressed up in Christian suburban clothing married to their white father, but they knew not to mess with me.  (Let’s just say, no kid ever threw a hissy fit on me in the mall on my
watch.)  I was also naïve as hell because I thought children were vacant little sponges just waiting to absorb all of my wonderful wisdom and knowledge while I formed them into mini-mes.

After school one day a little roly-poly boy around the age of ten, who I suspect had been studying the YMKDTK Handbook since he was born, introduced my older daughter (Boo) to the concept that perhaps her parents weren’t as smart as we had led her to believe.  When he invited her to play hooky from school and she responded that she could never do that because her mother would kill her, roly-poly boy promptly informed Boo:  “Yo Momma don’t have to know!”  As it is with every child when they discover that information can be withheld from their godlike parents, this was a revelation to Boo.  My daughter came home and shared her newfound knowledge with her little sister, Baby-girl, and before I knew it, I was queen of a kingdom that was under siege.


A mother’s curse:  I should have seen the revelation of the YMDHTK Handbook coming when I caught the urchins in their first bald-faced lie.  Do you know that child psychologists say that children tell their first lie between the ages of three and five?  God help us!  Did you also know that Wikipedia has twenty-one categories for lying, including such obscurities as the Butler Lie (Question from the police: “Who killed the maid?” Answer from the murderer:  “The butler did it!”), and the Jocuse Lie (“I caught a fish that was forty-feet long with just my homemade fishing rod and dental floss!”).  Ask a two year old holding a red crayon who it was that wrote on your freshly painted White Linen #42 walls with red crayon, and they will triumphantly announce:  “Me
did!”  Ask a three to five year old who did the dastardly deed and they will say (without blinking an eye):  “The
butler did it!” 

Although I haven’t been able to get ahold of that YMDHTK Handbook to corroborate my suspicions, I think there must be several chapters devoted to lying and how to “get over” on one’s parents at the earliest age possible.  The first time I caught one of my kids in a hands down, blatant, bare-faced lie (Wikipedia lie # 3) was the day I took them on an errand with me to someone’s office and there was a bowl of grape Jolly Ranchers sitting on the secretary’s desk.  Baby-girl, whose “raison d’etre” was candy at that age, had been grounded from eating any candy for a couple of weeks because of some infraction she had committed (probably eating too much
candy).  She was about five years old at the time and she still thought I walked on water.  As we drove home from our errand, both Boo and Baby-girl were in the backseat, and as I began to ask them about their day
at school, I noticed only Boo was answering.

“Hey, Baby-girl, what’s going on back there?  Did the cat get your tongue?”

“Nuffling,” said my younger daughter, who sounded like someone had stuffed her mouth with

“Baby, what do you have in your mouth?” I asked, trying not to take my eyes off the road.

“Nuffling (slurp); absonutely nuffling, Momma (sluuuuurp),” said my younger daughter.

Mooooom, how come the car smells like a grape soda bath?” asked Boo, the enforcer (according to that great sage, Bill Cosby, the oldest child is always “the enforcer” and the youngest “the squealer” when it comes to helping parents unearth lies).  “And how come Baby-girl has grape blood pouring out the corners of her mouth like a vampire, Mom?”

When I pulled over to the side of the road to investigate, Baby-girl was still denying she had anything in her mouth as I pried it open and made her spit out what looked like twenty grape Jolly Ranchers (some still in their plastic wrappings).  How she managed to grab so many Jolly Ranchers from the office candy dish and when she managed to unwrap and stuff them into her mouth I will never know.  All I know is that it took me several days to get the stain off her little vanilla cheeks and it never came out of her white blouse – evidence of a bare-faced lie of a five-year-old gone awry.


“Have you any idea how many kids it takes to turn off one light in the kitchen?


  It takes one to say, ‘What light?’ and two
more to say, “I didn’t turn it on.’”

Erma Bombeck


A father’s blind side:  Fathers are even more clueless to this grand conspiracy of free will/YMDHTK philosophy, especially when it comes to girls.  I think there must be some type of magic spell in the book that girls can make and sprinkle into the eyes of their daddies from their first encounter in the delivery room, because little girls can pull the wool over their fathers’ eyes for a very, very long time.

I first noticed this phenomenon one day when our girls were five and four.  I left the babies with my husband (WW) while I went down to a recording studio to do a couple of voice overs for some radio commercials.  When I left, Boo had two braids and puffy, curly bangs; Baby-girl had two puff balls the size of Ping-Pong balls
(mini-pigtails) and a smaller set of puffy, curly bangs.  When I returned approximately four hours later, all three of them were in the garage.  WW was working on the lawn mower and the girls were riding their tricycles in and out of the double garage and cycling around their dad as if he were a traffic circle.  The minute I laid eyes on them, I was completely horrified.  WW glanced up at my apoplectic gesturing and gave me one of those
puzzled looks that only husbands can do when they can’t figure out what the hell you’re getting so upset about.


“Nothing happened to their hair,” said WW.  They were in the house playing dolls and dress up while I was paying bills, and then when I moved out into the garage to repair the lawn mower, they came outside with me to ride their bikes.  They have been perfect little angels, haven’t you girls?”

“Yes, Daddy,” said the Barbers of Seville in perfect, innocent unison.

Part of playing with their dolls during dress-up must have been a trip to the barber shop when WW wasn’t looking, because one of Boo’s braids and half her bangs were gone.  One of Baby-girl’s puff-ball pigtails was missing and she had a little close-cropped Afro where the ball of hair had been.  Where her bangs used to be was a layer of peach fuzz. Once I pointed out the missing hair on the lopsided twins, WW saw it, but he swears to this day that he has no idea when the urchins set up their barber shop and when they performed the great scalping act on each other.  Daddy pixie dust!


I am sure there must be endless instructions to kids on how to get over on their parents in the YMDHTK Handbook, if I could just find a copy to peruse.  But until I do, I’ll just have to guess at what it must contain.  I know there must be a section on learning how to argue like a first rate lawyer, because after years of me wishing they could form intelligent sentences and carry on a conversation when they were little, they soon got to a place where they could argue a bear out of his coat of fur in the middle of winter.  There were times in their teens when all I wanted to do was fly away and return to a time when all they did was coo.

Taking on the world:  It is a revelation when concepts or people start getting on your children’s nerves when you thought they lived in a sweet world of simplicity where they loved anyone who loved them.  It makes me wonder if there is a chapter in the YMDHTK Handbook that gives lessons in childhood cynicism.  I’ll never forget when Baby-girl watched Kermit the Frog on TV.  She was only five when the 20th anniversary celebration of the song, “Bein’ Green” was being heralded as a great Sesame Street treatment about race.  One day when Baby-girl and I were having a little “mommy and me” cuddling time after morning kindergarten, Kermit started singing, “It’s not easy being green…” about the ordinariness of being green and how all the other colors of the spectrum had a better go of it in the world.  About halfway through the song, I heard my biracial baby utter a huge sigh and mumble a bitter lament as she absent-mindedly twirled her baby doll’s hair:  “Seriously, Frog?  You must
be kidding me…it isn’t easy being light brown, either!”

When all is said and done:  I am discovering that a person can have all kinds of ideas about how they think children should be raised, but until you are actually a parent, none of it is worth the paper it is written on.  A person can have ten kids and each kid will be different from the other requiring a more nuanced skill set from the parents for each one.  And then there’s that teeny-weeny empowerment thing called “free will.”  When it comes to raising kids, free will is a bitch!   Because of it, the worst of parents can sometimes produce a president, and the best of parents can sometimes produce a felon.  It’s really quite a mystery, but it would help all parents if we could just locate that goddamn “Yo’ Momma Don’t  Have to Know” Handbook.  To the grandmothers across the world, if you’ve found this handbook, let me know!

“Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children, and no theories.”  John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (1647-1680)||Poet

All text and photos by Eleanor and John Tomczyk copyrighted © 2011 except where otherwise noted.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on September 29, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Alien Probe

Do you know what I’ve discovered?  When children become young adults, they become cognoscente of their parents’ mortality and turn into little nags.  Baby-girl (my younger daughter) has been on my case for the last year or so to get a colonoscopy and “everything else you need to stay alive.”  Baby-girl says I need to get extensively poked and prodded “so that you’ll be around to be a proper grandmother!”  Lecture, lecture, lecture — nag, nag, nag!  Which was really sweet at first, but the nagging had begun to get on my nerves.  I mean, I AM A GROWN woman, after allWhat I do with my body is my business.  Sheesh!  Anyway, I made a mental note to come back and haunt her ass when she’s in her late 50’s about all the things she probably won’t be keeping up with because maintenance of everything in our lives, from flossing to car repair, is overwhelming.

I finally acquiesced to getting the damn test, just to shut Baby-girl up.  I had no idea what I was getting into.   Some sadist who interned under Satan himself is the inventor of the colonoscopy turbo-charged preparation, the snake-like apparatus with its searchlight, camera, and blowtorch to burn off polyps, and the jet-propelled gaseous aftermath.

I should have gotten this procedure done when I turned fifty, but I didn’t just want any ol’ doctor poking around in my ass.  I was looking for a Dr. Welby type – the kind of gentle, sweet doctor that only Hollywood can produce. For the most part, I don’t like doctors because the ones I’ve encountered through the years tend to be arrogant and dismissive of my opinions and concerns as a woman about what is really happening inside my body.  I’ve been rolling around in this sack of flesh for sixty-three years; I should have some type of informed clue as to what I might be experiencing.

So as in everything in my life, I tried to establish as much control over the colonoscopy process as I could.  I researched and interviewed as many doctors as I could find within my insurance network.  One was too cold, one was too hot, but none were just right.  Finally, I came across a woman online who seemed perfect.  She had outstanding reviews, great bedside manner, and specialized in women’s health issues.  If someone had to look up my ass besides my husband, I’d much rather it be a woman.  But when I got to the colonoscopy office the following week, they pulled a bait-and-switch on me.

“We tried to give you a call about Dr. Smith’s new schedule, but we were unable to reach you,” said the rather curt receptionist.  “But don’t worry; we’ll make sure that you get treated by our senior physician who has done hundreds of these procedures.  You’ll be in very capable hands.  In the meantime, why don’t you have a seat and read through our brochure:  ‘What to expect from your first colonoscopy’”!

I was pissed.  After all I’d done to keep this procedure as tightly controlled as possible, my first criterion had slipped away:  a female doctor of my choosing.  I felt like I was drowning and began to get a panic attack.  As I read all the instructions about how to prepare my ass-arena for the upcoming event, I started to flip out as I noticed the sheath of papers listing the potential side effects while absolving the colonoscopy center of all culpability.

  • Bleeding and puncture of the colon
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Allergic skin reaction
  • Dehydration
  • Damage to the colon or rectum — including a
    perforation, which is a tear in the lining of the rectum or colon
  • Allergic reaction to the medication
  • Serious infection
  • Heart or lung problems, possibly including
    irregular heart rhythms or lung or heart failure
  • Loss of life
  • Other rare or improbable events

What the fuck – “other rare or improbable events”?!  I couldn’t breathe; I was getting dizzy, and I needed some air.  As I got up and fled through the lobby door, praying that I wouldn’t faint, I crashed into none other than. . . George Clooney.  My papers signing my life away to the ass clinic went flying to the north and south, my purse and glasses went off to the west and east.  But I didn’t care.  I was having a Casablanca moment:  “Of all the colon joints in all the towns in all the world, George Clooney had walked into mine.”

“Good morning, Dr. Fitzgerald,” said the nurse with a lilting tone that hadn’t been there when she greeted me.  “This is Mrs. Tomczyk.  You’ll be doing her colonoscopy instead of Dr. Smith.”

As “Dr. Mc-damn-he’s-so-fine” apologized for running into me and helped me up from the floor, the first thing I thought was “well now, who needs a damn woman doctor, anyway.”  The next thing I thought was:  “Oh no, George Clooney’s going to come face to face with my fat ass!”

George Clooney sent me back home with instructions complicated enough to build a rocket ship.  I had to start preparing for the test seven days before the procedure.  Iron and herbal supplements had to be stopped and nothing with seeds could be consumed.  I had heard that in the past the solution one drank to clear one’s colon looked like sludge and tasted like vomit.  But “Dr. Mc-damn-he’s-so-fine” assured me that the medication and procedure had much improved.  All the meds it would take would be a mixture of laxatives, OsmoPrep pills, and small soda-pop bottles of some clear, fizzy liquid that tasted like sea water.  When the doctor gave me a list of the items I was required to drink right up to the night before, I was beginning to think that my friends, who had told me how hard it was going to be, had all been a bunch of wussies.  I partied down with gallons of apple and white grape juice, tea, lemon Jell-O, lime Kool-Aid and all the soda I could drink while I dreamt about how to drape my ass so that it looked more “Rubenesque” in front of George Clooney.

I knew not to go into my office the day before the procedure, but I figured that working from home would be a piece of cake.  Exactly two hours to the minute that I took the first pills and drank the sea-water solution, I was on the phone with my boss when I heard the beginning of the Jaws theme song gurgling up from my stomach:  “daaa-dunt!”

“What was that noise?” asked my way-too-inquisitive boss.

“What noise?  I didn’t hear anything,” I lied as the sound got louder and more intense: “DAAA-DUNT…DAAA-DUNT… DAA-DUNT, DAA-DUNT, DAA-DUNT, DAA-DUNT. . .!

“Crap, I’ve got to go, Boss!” I said as I fled to the bathroom with the full strains of the Jaws theme song drowning out my cries of “Oh, nooooooooooo!”

I really can’t explain what happened to me for the rest of that day and night.  Let’s just say, I didn’t know that my ass had the ability to become jet-propelled, whirling my body around the exhaust fan like an escaped balloon, while everything I’d eaten since kindergarten came turbo-charging out of my behind.  Let’s also say, certain parts of my house should have been condemned after this prep session.  Twenty minutes later, I was on the phone with my husband (WW) telling him that he might need to get a hotel room that night for his own protection.   He had just said to me:  “Don’t worry Honey, this too shall pass,” (laughing at his own joke), when he heard me start to scream.

“Oh shit!” I cried.

“What?  What happened?  Are you okay?” asked my husband.

“NO, I’M NOT OKAY,” I screamed.  I trusted a fart and the carpet will never be the same!”

Bright and early the next day WW and I left our traumatized house and set off for the colonoscopy center.  The place was like a scene on a sitcom set.  All the doctors and nurses do at this center is probe behinds and I’ve never seen a happier bunch.  Considering what they have to stare at all day, these people were down-right giddy.

I wish I could tell you about the procedure, but it was over before I knew it, and I didn’t feel a thing.  They gave me the anesthesia that killed Michael Jackson, and I went to sleep in an instant and woke up 45 minutes later feeling more rested than I had in years (Michael, my man, I get it now!).  Apparently, they also blew air into my colon to expand it so that the scope could move throughout the area unobstructed, which had caused my stomach to blow up like a balloon.  But I wasn’t aware of any of this happening.  One minute I was out like a light, and the next minute George Clooney was calling my name.

“Eleanor. . .Eleanor, you can wake up now,” said my dreamy ass-doctor.

“Well, hellloooo, George,” I said in my most sexy voice while stretching like a cat.

“Mrs. Tomcyk, everything went very well.  Although I did find three polyps which I burnt off, and I’ll be sending them to the lab to be biopsied.  You might experience a bit of spotting and a slight bit of cramping today, but you should be back to normal by tomorrow.  I’m almost sure the polyps are benign, but we can’t be too careful.”

At the mention of the word, “polyps,” I almost had a heart attack and realized for the first time that this procedure hadn’t been an option.  Baby-girl had been right!

“I LOVE YOU, GEORGE CLOONEY,” I passionately cried as my heart over-flowed with gratitude; at which point a fart as loud as a freight train exploded from my ass.  Dr. Mc-damn-you’re-so-fine smiled as he gave me that knowing look of “this is just what we’ve all been waiting for.”  George Clooney then disappeared behind the curtain and into another patient’s life as if he’d been a dream.

My husband (WW) helped me get dressed and escorted me down the hall to the car as I gave off two farts for every three steps as my stomach began to shrink back to normal.   WW and I keeled over with gales of laughter as we drove home hilariously singing Mel Brook’s 30-year-old punch line to the tune of “Old McDonald Had a Farm”:  “Never, ever trust a fart, E, I, E, I, O!”

The biopsy came back today, and all is well in “the land of the indignities.”  As I began to fall asleep happy and content that I had passed my first colonoscopy test, I realized it wasn’t as bad as I had expected.  As WW and I chuckled about my George Clooney experience, I could have sworn that I heard the voices of Walton’s Mountain emanating from my nether regions as it nestled around my “clean, cancer-free colon”:  “Good night Tushey. Good night Colon. Good night Muffin. Good night Colon. Good night Gluten-free Intestines. Good night Colon. Good night Thunderous Thighs.  Good night Colon. Good night Jelly-Belly. Good night colon. Good night Fluffy-Butt. . .Good night Colon!

Two best colonoscopy jokes I’ve discovered to date:

If your hand doesn’t fit, you must quit.

Hey, now I know how a Muppet feels.


Author’s note:  This was a funny story (hopefully) about a necessary procedure which is not a laughing matter. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the US. I finally “got over myself” and took my chubby ass in for the C-test when two women I knew in their forties died suddenly and prematurely from colon cancer. That made Baby-girl hysterical, by the way.  Had the disease been caught in its early stage, they would probably be alive today.  If you are over 50 and haven’t had a colonoscopy, please don’t wait:

All text and photos by Eleanor and John Tomczyk copyright © 2011 except where otherwise noted

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on September 23, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Sneaky Snake’s Blog

Do you know what I’ve discovered?  The entire world is blogging.  It seems everybody has an opinion about something, and the Internet is awash with his or her viewpoints.  I don’t care what you think or how you think about it, someone will have already put those concepts into a blog before you have even formed the thoughts.  The blogs are from all types of people, with every type of proclivity, in every country on the globe, and in every language that is printable.  Still, even knowing all that, I was stunned to run across the blog site of The Devil the other day.  There it was in plain sight on a popular blog site having been “freshly pressed” (featured as the “best” of some 350,000 bloggers).  I’ve got to tell you that that was a real pisser (my blog hasn’t even been freshly pressed), because the blogger had stolen some of my pictures and an assortment of people were DISCUSSING MY LIFE (as if I need that kind of attention from an evil entity) in his comments section.  I know this is impossible to believe which is why I’ve cut and pasted The Devil’s entire blog post below (comments and all).



HOME                  ABOUT  ME

CHURNIN’ AND BURNIN’! by Lucifer S. Snake

(Tags: Dr. Evil, sarcasm, control issues, inappropriate behavior, anger issues, chaos, mayhem)

Hey, Homies – how’s it hangin’?  It’s been a while since I’ve been able to post anything on my blog.  I’ve been roaming the Earth trying to seduce people into walking on the wild side with me.  Doing a pretty good job if I do say so myself.  My business card which is in its gazillionth printing reads:  The original Dr. Evil — creator of murder, chaos, and mayhem.

I got back into town last night and bust out some digits to make a booty call to some of my shorties.  Then I sent a text to Saddam and Osama bin Laden to meet me in the inner circle at my new club, Hades 54.  It started off being a “good, good night” until that “has-been” trio (Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini) snuck in past the bouncer.  (They are sooooo yesterday!)  They came by my private area actin’ all dope and shit — like they just knew if they hung around long enough, I’d invite them to join my exclusive inner circle.  Anyway, I could have ignored those blowhards, but when that low-life Johnnie Cochran showed up (still wearing the skanky O.J. glove) and started boasting about how “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” it was just too much to handle on my jet-lagged ass.  So I left my shorties to party on without me and went home to watch a movie by myself.

I was excited to see that Netflix had sent me The Adjustment Bureau, directed by George Nolfi.  I’ve been waiting for it to come out on DVD.  But it wasn’t what I expected.  First of all, it was a “sci-fi romance” which just makes me wants to barf.  I wanted me some “sci-fi,” only!   Then on top of the romance I think they snuck some Calvinism into it.  Nothing makes me sicker than the discussion of whether God gave people free will or if they are predestined to follow a certain plan, blah, blah, blah.  And don’t even get me started on this “soul mate” shit!  I AM THE GREAT ADJUSTER AND THE ULTIMATE SPOILER, and I have a dungeon full of records of fucked up relationships caused by my single-handed inspiration of lies, betrayal, racism, adultery, selfishness, rejection, abuse, and murder against that stomach turner:  love.  Anyway, dear reader, I know you’ll agree with me when you see this movie – it’s a bunch of shit.  Since everything’s been a disappointment tonight.  I think I’ll turn in so that I’ll have plenty of strength tomorrow to plan another land war in the Middle East.

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marieantoinette says (5 minutes ago):  Hey Boo!  How U doin’?  Sorry we didn’t get a chance to do The Devil’s Slide tonight.  I reeaally love that dance.  Anyhooo, I just wanted to tell you that I liked your post, but I kind of disagree with you.  Now, wait a minute…wait a minute…don’t get mad at me or nothin’, Boo — I mean there are lots and lots of couples that you’ve tried to mess with or “adjust” their destinies with each other, and they did great in spite of you.  That’s all I’m sayin’.

sneakysnake’s response (5.2 minutes ago): WTF, woman — what do you know?

Yahweh says: (6 minutes ago): Marie’s right, you know.  You don’t get the last word — you never do and you never will.  You’re a spoiler of destinies, but if couples make the choice to push back, they can make it. Love wins — it always does.

sneakysnake’s response (10 minutes ago):  Who asked you?  Get the hell off my blog!

Yahweh says (12 minutes ago):  Why don’t you try and make me, Lucy?

sneakysnake’s response (20 minutes ago):  This isn’t faaaiiir; this is my domain.  What did you do to my “delete comment” button?  Did you override it again?  This is my blog, and I don’t want you commenting on it.  And I told you before: never, ever call me Lucy.  I HATE THAT NAME!

Yahweh says (21 minutes ago):  Why don’t you want my comments, Lucy?  Are you afraid you’ll be proven wrong?  Why don’t you stand behind your convictions, Luuuuuuccccy?   I think Marie has a point.  What about the Lovings (Richard and Mildred)?  Remember how you got some of your racist’s peeps to adjust the marriage law in the United States by adding miscegenation laws so that no white person could marry a person of color?

marieantoinette says (22 minutes ago):  Ooo-oo-oo, I remember them, Pumpkin!  He was white and she was black (with a little bit of Rappahannock Indian blood). They were high school sweethearts (isn’t that precious).  They tried to get married in the State of Virginia but the law forbade them.  So they fled to Washington, DC which didn’t have miscegenation laws, and they got married in 1958.  BUUUUUT, when they returned to their home in Virginia, the sheriff waited until they were asleep, burst into their bedroom, and drug them off to jail for breaking the law. They had to move out of Virginia or face going to jail for a long, long time. 

sneakysnake’s response (25 minutes ago):  SHUT UP, MARIE!

Yahweh says (25 minutes ago):  And didn’t Mildred push back after a while (she always was a feisty little thing) and petition the US Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy, to revoke that law?  If I remember correctly the ACLU carried the challenge all the way to the Supreme Court, and in 1967 the miscegenation laws were struck down across the country.  I believe June 12th is known as “Loving Day” to this day to celebrate mixed marriages.

sneakysnake’s response (30 minutes ago):  Just shoot me now with this saccharine shit.  You know good and well that you stacked the deck by giving them the last name of “Loving!”  Their name was a PR man’s wet dream given the circumstances.  Anyway, I kept the hatred going so that the law still remained in force for thirty more years.  South Carolina didn’t drop its law from the books until 1998 and Alabama didn’t drop its law until the year 2000.  I’m sure that screwed up a lot of destinies.  Not to mention that most of your “churches” supported the law and went to great lengths to uphold it – so what do you have to say about that, Mr. Holier-Than-Thou?

Yahweh says (35 minutes ago):  Admittedly, it wasn’t the Christian Church’s finest hour, and it broke my heart.  When the Church should have been a leader in breaking down barriers by marrying different races who desired to do so, it let the culture intimidate my law of love.

sneakysnake’s response (36 minutes ago):  Aha!  Finally, you’re admitting your peeps have been wrong  about something.  Anyway, I don’t care about those stupid Lovings, because I managed to strike a hateful blow against them in the end:  He died in a car accident in 1975 that left Mildred blind in one eye; she died in 2008 after having been a widow for 33 years.

Yahweh says (46 minutes ago):  You’ll never learn will you:  it’s not the quantity of time spent together, but it’s the quality of the love shared in the time given.

sneakysnake’s response (47 minutes ago):  HISSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

Yahweh says (50 minutes ago):  You never know the complete story about anything on Earth, Lucy, which is why you always get tripped up.  There is always a hidden magic that defies logic. The Lovings’ life and actions paved the way for two babies born in 1948 and 1952 who were destined to marry each other in spite of your interference.  Remember the little girl called “Pipsqueak” who became a singer and writer and the little boy she would someday call “White and Wonderful” (WW) who would become the love of her life?  I found their pictures when they were children — one was born in the Mid-West and the other was born in New England.  Remember them?

marieantoinette says (55 minutes ago):  Oh, aren’t they adorable?  I remember you telling me about them Sneaky, baby.  I’ve always secretly loved that story.  She was black and grew up in an orphanage and multiple foster homes, thinking she would never amount to nothin’.  He was white, but he was a direct descendent of Governor Bradford of the Mayflower (with the papers to prove it, no less).  He always thought at the very least he’d grow up to be a lawyer and at the most he’d be president of the United States.  But then Sneaky, darlin’, you said you threw all sorts of life-altering crap their way as they were growing up, trying to make sure their paths never crossed.  Didn’t you tell me that they once passed each other on the campus where the boy went to college, but they didn’t notice each other?

sneakysnake’s response (60 minutes ago):  Bitch, you are so going to be toast when I catch up with you.  Now, shut the fuck up!

Yahweh says (60.2 minutes ago):  No need to take your frustrations out on Marie.  I’m the one you’re angry at.  Problem is your arms are too short to box with me and you know it.

Marie, there is more to the story.  Your boyfriend knew these two were destined to be together – he could smell it on them.  So he tampered with the boy’s law school acceptances (who graduates Magna Cum Laude from one of the best high schools in the nation and doesn’t get into even the bottom choice of law schools that he’s chosen?). The girl got a fellowship to the graduate school next door where the boy graduated (this is when they should have met), but the funding fell through at the last minute to attend that particular program.  Disillusioned and disappointed, the boy took some entry level job as a DJ in Virginia, and the girl went off to NYC to pursue a career as a singer, not knowing what else to do.  At that point, it seemed as if their paths would never cross.  In fact, they both made very poor choices that summer that almost derailed their destinies forever.

aynrand says (65 minutes ago):  Hello there, Ayn here!  Okay, I’ve had it with this bullshit!  I’ve been following the comments all along, and I wasn’t going to say anything because you know I can’t stand “you know who.”  But everyone keeps missing the point:  the Negro girl and the white boy do meet because “someone” interfered!  The playing field was leveled because “someone” influenced some altruistic do-gooder to give the girl a scholarship to a liberal arts school.  The boy would have never even come near the girl if she had not been his equal educationally because he prided himself on being an intellectual.  Natural selection was supposed to run its course to weed her out and it didn’t.  I, for one, am pissed!  If you had read any of my books, Atlas Shrugged or Fountainhead, you would know that certain groups are born to be on the bottom and should stay there.

Yahweh says (67 minutes ago):  Well, well, well Ayn, what hole in Hell did you climb out of?  I see you’re still trying to hawk your tale that greed and selfishness against the poor and disenfranchised is a morally superior choice.  Tell me; didn’t your self-centeredness and hatred for the weak and poor leave you bitter, angry, and alone in your old age with nothing but a shell of your philosophies to keep you warm?

aynrand says (70 minutes ago):  COMMENT DELETED BY BLOG ADMINISTRATOR (some words are too inflammatory even for Sneaky Snake’s blog).

marieantoinette says (75 minutes ago):  Poookiee – sweetie; are you okay?  I looked up the girl and the boy on the cosmic Internet, and it looks like you did deliver several juicy devastating destiny-altering blows to them both.  The girl left NYC to join a commune in NY State a year after she graduated college.  The boy was actually told to transfer to that same area of the country for his new job but refused to do so. They really almost missed connecting.  You did good, babe!

sneakysnake’s response (80 minutes ago):  BUT THEY DIDN’T MISS CONNECTING, BITCH!  Could you be more of an idiot, Marie?  Did you see the part where they both have a “religious experience” and go searching for truth throughout the land?  Of all the communes and ashrams around the world, what are the odds the two of them would end up in the same one at the same time?  Huh?  I know why:  HIM!!!

friedrichwilhelmnietzsche says (85 minutes ago): Hey Dude, Fred Nietzsche here!  Congrats on being “freshly pressed!”  Way to go!  I just wanted to state the obvious:  stop bantering with the Yahweh commenter – he doesn’t exist!  You’re getting all worked up over nothing.  Can you see him?  No!  Now move on!

Yahweh says (90 minute ago):  LOL!  Nietzsche, you kill me – not! 

marieantoinette says (92 minutes ago):  Awwww, Pookie look at the wedding picture I found of the boy and girl on Google.  I know pictures like this one aren’t supposed to affect me, but I just can’t help myself.

sneakysnake’s response (95 minutes ago):  Marie, are you crying?  Oh, for Satan’s sake!  You have gotten on my every last nerve tonight.  Don’t you have a beheading to attend or something?  For your information, I did throw a few roadblocks in their way after they “fell in love.”  His mother was totally against the marriage – she even refused to submit the girl’s engagement picture to the local newspaper so as not to embarrass the family. 

Yahweh says (100 minutes ago):  And what choice did her man make in response to The Mother’s ignorance?  He stood against his mother and all the other haters and announced to them:  “You’re either with me or against me, but I’m marrying this woman.  She’s my African queen, and wherever she goes, I go.”  The girl even wavered at one point and tried to run away and hook up with a man from Bermuda just because he was the same race as her (I’m sure you had something to do with that temptation, Lucy).  But in the end, the girl chose the boy because she knew he was the man she had been looking for all her life.  So what are you planning on telliing your blog audience, Lucy?  Was it free will that brought the little black girl and the little white boy together, or were they destined to be soul mates in spite of all the obstacles?

marieantoinette says (120 minutes):  Sweetie, are you going to answer him?  Cause if you aren’t I want to show your readers the picture I found of the couple ten years into their marriage.  Look at that beautiful family, Pookie!  (I personally think mixed couples always have the prettiest babies.)  Anyhoo, I’ve been doin’ some more research on the Web, and our couple married four years after that marriage law was struck down by the Supreme Court, BUT it was still being enacted in a lot of southern states.  It says here that they celebrated their 33rd anniversary this year on the same weekend in June that the Lovings so courageously made a way for mixed marriages to become legal.  Oh well, looks like you can’t win ‘em all Sneaky-bear.

sneakysnake’s response (122 minutes):  HISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! GET OUT!  I HATE YOU — I HATE YOU ALL!

I am discovering that there is really no magic formula to finding the right man or woman to travel this sometimes very scary journey on Earth with.  I wish I knew a formula because then I could bottle it, sell it, and become a very wealthy woman, while at the same time eradicating a lot of pain, including in the lives of my own children.  I’ve met people who were perfect for each other and they met randomly, or got “assigned” to marry by their parents in third world countries, or met online, or got set up on blind dates.  All of it works and none of it can work.  And that’s the point.  I’m discovering that love is a choice (not just an emotion), and how we connect to that love is a mystery.  I personally don’t believe in love at first sight.  I think we are “in lust” at first sight, unable to keep out of each other’s drawers.  But I do believe that every time a couple overcomes some obstacle or pain and they “choose” to care for and cherish each other in the midst of the mayhem instead of running away or pushing each other away, they grow deeper in love. In the midst of the worst temptation, hardship, or disappointment when a couple says, “I choose you (over everything and everyone else), no matter what the  cost – I CHOOSE YOU!Then love rules – love wins!

“Most people live life on the path we set for them, too afraid to explore any other.  But once in a while people like you come along who knock down all the obstacles we put in your way.  People who realize free will is a gift you’ll never know how to use until you fight for it. . . .”  From the movie: The Adjustment Bureau (written and directed by George Nolfi), loosely based on the short story “Adjustment Team.”

All text and photos by Eleanor and John Tomczyk © 2011 except where otherwise noted

Photo of Mildred and Richard Loving, newspaper archives 1967

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on September 16, 2011 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , ,

To Whom It May Concern: I Want a Do Over

Do you know what I’ve discovered?   Life is a hop, skip, and a jump into eternity: one day you’re nineteen and the next day you’re in your sixties trying to figure out just who the hell is staring back at you from the mirror.  I didn’t actually realize that my life was zipping by on a high-speed train until I ran into a middle-aged father with his thirteen-year-old daughter the other day, and he introduced me as his former third-grade teacher.

The speed with which my life is careening toward the great unknown really became evident when my husband (WW) and I kidnapped my mentor (MM) from her assisted living community and took her on a road trip.  We had planned the trip for a year making sure everything we did on our excursion would enhance her well-being, including the blanket, house shoes, and beverage of choice we’d set up in the back of the mini-van.  WW and I even arrived a day before the advent of the trip to spend time in my mentor’s assisted living community to check it out, make sure things were still kosher, and take her and her girlfriends out for a night on the town (6:00 – 8:00 p.m.)

MM and I met when I was sixteen and she was thirty-six, but now I’m sixty-three and she’s eighty-three.  I’m minus a uterus, my nerves are completely shattered, and all my bodily elasticity has disappeared. She is blind in one eye, partially deaf in both ears, and sporting a twelve-inch scar from open-heart surgery that almost killed her. Our week-long vacation together was filled with stories and laughter of how we met and where life had taken us.  But during our trip I became mildly depressed at seeing this once vibrant woman, who had tirelessly “pushed me” out of a life of uneducated drudgery, barely able to get in and out of a car, or read a menu without a 13x magnifying glass, or get through the day without a nap.  The only thing left is her brilliant memory and even it is beginning to show signs of wear.

“What do you miss the most, MM?” I asked as I was helping her get ready for her spa appointment at a posh resort we had checked into.

“Oh, driving, reading, travel, gourmet dining, bending down and being able to get back up — just about everything” she said with a slight chuckle.  “It seems as if with one wave of a wand, I lost what I like to refer to as the ‘I used to’s.’   It wasn’t that long ago that I walked the streets of Africa, woke up to an earthquake in Japan, cruised the Mediterranean, led tours through the Hawaiian Islands, sampled the excellent cuisine of Toronto, and snapped pictures of the glaciers in Alaska from my cruise ship.”

“Oh God, I don’t know what I fear most:  the inability to read anymore or the inability to travel to experience other people and cultures.  Actually, that’s not true.  I fear it all! Oddly enough, I don’t fear dying; I fear the process.  Let me drop dead, right here, right now at your feet, and I’ll be good to go!”

“Well, I think most people feel the way you do.  But old age creeps up on you so fast that the only thing you have time to do is ‘cry uncle,’ take a deep breath, and eliminate the words ‘used to’ out of your vocabulary.  I ‘used to’ do so-and-so will break your heart.  Consequently, you have to substitute the words, ‘instead of.’
Instead of traveling the world, I’ll visit my neighbors every evening in various parts of the building who are shut-ins, and we’ll reminisce about our travels as we munch on the delicious ‘fruit from around the world’ that you
send me every month,” my mentor said as she laughed at the absurdity of it all.

“Kill me now,” I moaned as I finished helping her put on her spa sandals.

“Honey, nothing about living is easy, and getting old could be the worst of the journey,” my mentor said as she patted my cheek.  “I have discovered that life can be something we constantly look back on with regret or courageously look forward to with lowered expectations, unafraid of the changes that are inevitable.”

As I briefly imagined myself six-feet below the ground, I had an internal “hissy fit,” and I decided that acquiescing to old age is a bunch of shit!  I didn’t tell my mentor this, but I’m aligned with the poet, Dylan Thomas, “I will not go quietly into that good night!”  No disrespect to MM (I love her as if she were my own mother), but I hate what getting old represents, and the thought of it makes me want to puke. When I looked around the assisted living center (AL) where my mentor lives, she seemed to be one of the lucky ones.  MM is enthusiastic about life, mentally astute and alert, and the words “adult diapers” are not in her vocabulary.  There were some residents who made me want to cry because their minds and their bodily functions were on the fritz  — some days they remembered who you were, some days they didn’t — like a flickering light bulb that is about to go dead but has a few days of life left in it.  I agree with Truman Capote:  “Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.”  I figure I’ve got about fifteen more years before I get to the climax of my third act,
and what if I’m more like the unlucky ones and less like my mentor?

While I sat in the lounge waiting for MM to finish her massage so that I could help her get dressed, I began to fret over my “third act.” Maybe if I drew up a list of “deal breakers” for my old age that I could put into place while I was still coherent, it might make my twilight years more pleasant.

Eleanor’s Old Age Manifesto (currently open-ended)

I vow to give the lion’s share of my money to the first one of my kids who will (on a weekly basis) come and pluck the “white” hairs (currently growing like weeds) out of my chubby “chocolate” chin when I can no longer see well enough to do so myself.  Apparently, chin hair is one of the first signs that a woman is entering the third act of her life.

  • What I noticed in the AL center: The men were more clean-shaven than the women.  Once proud, Chanel-wearing, school teachers, nurses, secretaries, and politicians had more hair on their chins than on their heads (not exactly, but you get the point). Their attitudes seemed to be, “if I can’t see the 12-inch hairs forming corn-rolls on my lady-chin than maybe you can’t either.”  (Where in the hell were the tweezer brigades:  their daughters, nieces, daughters-in-law, and their gay fashionista sons?)

I vow to invent a filter within the next fifteen years that I can put in my mouth like a retainer that will block any untoward words that can potentially spurt out.  My mouth is a terror now; I can’t imagine what I’ll be like at eighty-three with a “who gives a shit” attitude about life.

  • What I noticed at the AL center:  Old people say and do the darndest things.  As I passed by one old codger sitting in a wheelchair, I greeted him with an enthusiasm I didn’t feel, and he greeted me with a misplaced gusto that had nothing to do with me or that circumstance:  “Kick her in the ass, Mabel — kick her good and hard!”  And then he broke into a 1910 song by Friedman and Whitson: “Let me call you sweetheart, I’m in love with you….”  (Apparently, he does this routine with all the ladies.)  Then when I turned the corner down a random hallway and began to pass a Fred Astaire look-alike, he  gave me the sweetest smile as he tipped his hat and loudly announced:  “FIRE IN THE HOLE!  Best dive for cover,” as a sewer-like odor enveloped my nostrils and almost caused me to faint. (On the other hand, maybe it would be liberating to be as free as the Fred Astaire dude who didn’t break his gait as he waltzed on down the hallway.  He simply dropped a malodorous bomb like “Pepé Le Pew” and whistled a happy tune as if he didn’t have a care in the world.)

I vow to be a gourmet diner until the day I die.   Good food and wine are gifts from God.  I should know since I grew up eating government cheese and powdered eggs.  I think I’ll start a national club for assisted living/nursing home residents while I’m mentally astute: “The Amuse Bouche Club.”  The campaign slogan will be:  “Amuse my palette, you SOB’s – just because I’m old doesn’t mean my taste buds are dead”! 

  • What I noticed at the AL center:  The food in the center had been stripped of all taste. They used no salt, no seasonings, no oil, and no imagination (as if getting old meant losing one’s ability to enjoy food as art or letting go of all culinary creativity), causing the reigning food question from the residents to be: “what the hell is this?”  Most of the people put up with it, but a small contingent led by my mentor were beginning to mutiny.

I vow to travel until the day I die.  However, I realize that my kids may die before me (heaven forbid!) and won’t be able to do what I did for my mentor, so I’m thinking about starting a National Service Plan as part of the Social Security Program:  Travel made easy/a government project.  I’ll fight to close corporate tax loopholes and propose that part of those taxes be used to provide one week per year of free corporate jet travel (with door-to-door limo service) for all AL center and nursing home residents to any destination of their choice.  (For those who think this is socialism, your grandma can opt out.)  In fact, I think I’ll name my governmental projects after those two outstanding champions of the poor and vulnerable: “ARRFH — Ayn Rand Repents from Hell” and “GBFLHS — Glenn Beck Finally Learns How to Share.”

  • What I noticed at the AL center:  Once one is no longer able to drive or navigate public or group transportation, one is pretty much confined to the square footage of AL facilities unless family members step into the gap.  If your family doesn’t give a shit or they are all deceased, you are screwed.  I could have sworn I saw some of the same people in the same chairs at the same tables they were in the previous year.  One old dude was asleep at the dining table when I entered and was still asleep in the same spot three hours later when I passed him.

I vow to kick to the curb any ideologies and individuals whose preconceived ideas and prejudices try to stifle my intellectual and spiritual growth (I vow to never stop being curious).

  • What I noticed at the AL center: The people who stopped being curious about life or who were dogmatic and spiteful in their youth seemed to shrivel up and become mean-spirited and disengaged in their twilight years when they most needed to be patient, gracious, and loving in a group living situation with different races, genders, and religions.  There is one old lady who comes to dinner every night, never speaks a word to her table mates, and reads a book all through dinner.  When her table mates confronted her about her anti-social behavior, she simply said, “Oh?” and went back to reading her book.  Ironically, she is not one of the members of my mentor’s book club.

I vow to become more and more like my mentor who seems to be grace personified in old age and whose service to the foster kids she helped, as well as the ailing peers she serves, makes us want to give back to her in any way we can so that her “third act” ends gracefully and with dignity.


I’m discovering as I lie writhing in pain from my first Zumba exercise yesterday, I can say anything I want, but when and how I age is completely out of my control.  I mean I can exercise more, eat better, floss more diligently, but there is all sorts of shit out there that can bring you down before you even know it.  Maybe our declining years don’t have as much to do with our individual needs, as it does with the community connected to us.  Maybe it is God’s way of saying, if I didn’t make you vulnerable in some part of your lives, you wouldn’t need each other; it is in the serving of the needy that one sees the face of God (“. . .what you do for the least of them, you do for me,” Jesus said).  It’s been a week and I’m discovering that kidnapping my mentor, taking her on a vacation — something she thought she’d never do again — was an act of service that did as much for me as it did for her.  I did see the face of God in her (love, patience, peace, grace, kindness), and she saw that her time and energy had not been wasted on me.

“In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of
disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.”
Edith Wharton US novelist (1862 – 1937)

All text and photos by Eleanor and John Tomczyk © 2011

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Posted by on September 9, 2011 in Uncategorized


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