About Me

My photo
Celoron, NY, United States
And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ~Sylvia Plath



By Laura McCollough Moss

You could play me
I would let you
gentle minstrel
strum my soul
I would play you
if you'd let me
not so gently
rock and roll
Love is music
timed in heartbeat
move to rhythms
ages old
Lines and verses
come together
into one 
two spirits mold
You can sing me
I will hear you
your lips are
where I belong
I will sing you
if you listen
your name is
my favorite song



By Laura McCollough Moss

Let's reflect
on blessings
strong, hot coffee
someone waiting
something to wish for
children who go to war



In Closing
By Laura McCollough Moss

She watches me leave
one more retreating figure
Step into her altered reality
dinner time
Will we have pork chops?
he'll be home soon
My slacks wet
so cold
She smiles kindly
pretty teeth
a sweater
Something smells good
 haven't brought my pocketbook
music playing
Is he in town?
hope that
blue dress is clean



By Laura McCollough Moss

Hey tree
I like the way you look
rubber stamped black
against a celophane sky
fine black limbs
big leafy branches below
tiny ones reaching heavenward
You are there
all day
while I am working
swaying in the sun
sheltering birds
looking beautiful
I just want to
lie here
smell the warm
dryer vent
clean clothes tomorrow
All is perfect



Keeping Abreast
By Laura McCollough Moss

first stretch bra
creeps up to your armpit when you
raise your hand
what's everybody looking at?
feeling cocky
go ahead and look,
nursing babies
form meets function
first bra over forty dollars
need the lift
the girls are heading south
all these years attached to
who will you be without them?
you're the woman, Baby
they're just boobs



How About It
By Laura McCollough Moss

I don't know
it's risky
change is
but stagnation is
On the one hand
On the other
Don't you do it-
hang back
fold your petals with the setting sun!
 open wide
in your best colors
and shine



Fully Grown
By Laura McCollough Mos

Three decades
nineteen eighty-one
I'm nineteen
he's twenty four
Your little face
beet red
in the hooded travel suit
The rest of us are sweating
not yet Labor Day
but aren't they supposed to be kept warm?
Somehow you survived our
We can't take credit
just stood by and
watched you
do your thing
proud young 
WOMAN incarnate
so, very
Dr. Kathryn Moss
don't touch that dial....
                 relaxation (yes you!)
to come


pretzelwisdom: peacefuleasywisdom

pretzelwisdom: peacefuleasywisdom: "Let's Go By Laura McCollough Moss Paved roads dirt roads Guernseys road apples Steve Miller Al Wilson Peaches and Herb Singing at the tops..."


Let's Go
By Laura McCollough Moss

Paved roads
dirt roads
road apples
Steve Miller
Al Wilson
Peaches and Herb
Singing at the tops of our lungs
foot out the open window
No concern for the 'do
this is my therapy
Vacant camps
was that a plastic playset
do they believe in that?
I believe in fresh air
those first few plops of rain
clouds of dust behind
 clean free weekend ahead
maybe an ice cream
that'll work



Fifty Sense

By Laura McCollough Moss

I’ll be fifty years old this year. Approaching this milestone has catapulted me into a period of life review and evaluation. I’ve registered to complete my bachelor’s degree on-line; a pursuit I have wrestled with for a long time. Isn’t it a little late? Following a full-time class schedule while maintaining a marriage, pet ownership, empty-nest motherhood and a fitness regimen (a paralyzing concept), I’ll finish at the age of fifty-two. Then what? I’ve managed a fairly successful career with an associate’s degree. At this point, the bachelor’s would be a stepping stone to a master’s or beyond- still more work. Regret taps me on the shoulder. If I was going to choose this path, I should have done so years ago.

The trouble with mature womanhood is that we become so darned rational. Life experience bites us in the backside one too many times, resulting in our greatest disadvantage; wisdom. That’s a good thing, or so I thought. I got into the habit of bestowing my wisdom on anyone who would listen. I’ve become so wise that I can chart my own life and that of any unwitting subject seeking my advice. Not wise enough to understand that the poor soul may need only a listening ear and validation, I launch into an analysis of their drives, weaknesses, and self-concept. The guy’s no good, your kids are over-indulged, and you clearly haven’t resolved your issues with your father. If you don’t feel inadequate when you come to me, you certainly will by the time we’ve finished talking. No need to thank me, I have all the answers. Lately, however, I’ve begun to wonder if the greatest wisdom works in reverse. Consider this phrase: I know better. Do I? How have I come to think so?

The facebook ® status of a young friend reads “I want the fairy-tale ending”. Immediately I’m conjuring up a profound comment that will bring her to her senses. These young women, will they ever learn? I’ve got to help her abandon that starry-eyed naiveté. She needs to know that blind faith and hopefulness will break her heart. That’s when I stop and realize that I am waxing philosophical on a social network! The kid fires off a wistful thought as she leaves a movie theatre, and I’m channeling Dr. Phil. It’s clearly time to get over myself. Anyway, what if she’s got the right idea?

There are a generous handful of reasons why looking into a mirror these days is more painful than it used to be. I see the effects of gravity and, reflected with them, a distasteful, middle-aged sensibility. My ‘big-girl panties’ were hard won, but it is time to shed them in favor of a new style. As I step back from the delusion of omniscience, I feel the dawn of realization. I cannot hope to grow if I allow jaded assumptions and presumed disappointment to get in front of me. This serendipitous gift of youth is just one benefit of a youthful outlook. When we don’t know better, nothing can stop us.

Of course, some of my apprehension is well considered. As I advance my academic education, there will be drama. I’ll surely struggle with assignments and time management. Maybe I’ll cry over deadlines, or pull some all-nighters to get papers done. Maybe broadening my mind will make me restless and dissatisfied with the life I’ve settled into. Maybe everything will get stirred up and messy. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll resurrect my dreams; whatever they are. The idea is frightening to tell the truth. It is also very exciting, as though I can go back in time with all of the enthusiasm and anticipation I once possessed and, thanks to Mother Time, the capacity to fully appreciate them.

Much is made of what we know for sure. We take comfort in our accumulated knowledge and expertise at life. We mistake complacency for self-assurance, when in fact it is a safety net. Letting go of it may mean the difference between contentment and true happiness. I certainly do not know this for sure, but I have nothing to lose by trying. Someone once told me that we are born with our eyes tightly closed, crying, with clenched fists, and that we die with our eyes open, relaxed, and with our palms open. It figures, doesn’t it, that acceptance is our final act.

And so it is settled. I will dust out my cluttered mind and change it. I will uncase my fearful heart and open it. I will face this challenge and any others that come, doing my best to ignore all preconceptions. I will make my children as proud as they have made me. When I falter I’ll turn to them, and they will offer unbiased support and encouragement as only they can. Thankfully, they don’t know any better.



Friday Night
By Laura McCollough Moss

Another hard week
 tired but
make the effort
Hire a sitter
put off the electric bill
Pretty face
too much makeup
teeth not perfect
no money for that
Nothing to wear
borrow a top from a friend
shiny, cheap and tight
clings to the muffin top
over jeans from
before the baby
Old bridesmaid's heels
kill to walk in 
the bar is full
the usual crowd
look for that guy
 with the cute smile
not here tonight
 married anyway
 the rest are slim pickins
jeans low down
 silver studded belts
hats on sideways
not a decent ass in the bunch
strong cologne
don't expect them to buy drinks
not too bright
air-guitar their cue sticks
to the thrumming jukebox
hang around til closing
who will be lonely
enough to take them home.



Family Leave
By Laura McCollough Moss

That's it
don't be restless now
Dial soap
hot water in a plastic basin
squeeze the cloth tight
wrap it around your hand
like a mitt
never forgot that
press the moist, clean-smelling warmth
gently against her face and
hear the grateful sigh
Wipe the eyes carefully
outward from the inside corner
each side of the nose
wet the lips
"I was thinking,"
she rasps
"About the restaurant.
Mike could make up boxed lunches.
He could have specials with
a different sandwich featured every day."
There's a pause while I stare into the cloudy water
tears piercing my eyes
She looks at me
"What's wrong Honey?"
I look at her
really look
we both know her time is fading
"I'm just sad that you won't be there."
I take her hand and clean between the fingers.
There's so little I can do and yet
it is everything.
She doesn't look now
closes her eyes
"I'll be there,"
she says
Picking up the towel
I know
 she will.



Good Grief
By Laura McCollough Moss

the veil is lifted
look up
accept the sun's comfort
Ah, that's what it felt like
it's been so cold 
 so dark
for so long
One day a sliver of joy streams in
with its friend hope
Shedding light
you remember
without tears
laugh again
A far better tribute
to live your life
lay your cautious heart bare
 what was
who's left
 what is and
what's to come.



Just a Feeling I Get
By Laura McCollough Moss

I'd like to quantify
this pain for you
on a scale of one to ten
it's not so much a pain
as an ache
oh, not an ache but a
all down my arms
 across my chest
where someone has been
taken away
never to hold
what kind of remedy
 not a job for
non-steroidal anti-inflammatories
acetaminophen won't touch it
narcotics wouldn't make a dent
I've tried red wine
which when overdone
only helps the tears to flow
 then the ache stops being dull
and my fingers tingle
grasping for
a memory.



How I Spent My Easter Break
By Laura McCollough Moss

Ever the Good Mother
or so I assumed
as I tidied and scrubbed
baked and shopped
careful to select
to convey welcome
attention to preference
and comfort
 making the fatal mistake
of expectation
A misguided effort
to mend
the apparently irreparable
result of my
smothering love
Twenty year old home video
aiming the camera at a
car-seated toddler
whose disinterested gaze out the window
makes the cajoling
"Do you love your Mom?"
over and over
all the more humiliating
This need runs deep
not connected to you
and starting
long before you came along
but you were supposed to fill it
And you've grown to resent me
hate me even, I'm sure
I'm a childish writer
a wannabe intellectual
I don't act my age
I'm delusional
An unsafe, unreliable confidante
bound to leak
in the hunt for affirmation
Setting this down
I think I hate me, too
how could it have gone so wrong
Time to snap
that brittle yardstick
look deep inside and
start over
There's an anger simmering in me now
it's time to learn that comfort can only be found
too staggering a burden to place
on anyone else
So I won't wait here
to be told of my
I won't come begging for the report
I'll be busy
licking my wounds
on a yoga mat
maybe some travel
more conscious writing
Surround myself with other imperfect people
who understand
This whipping post
has closed up shop
and you are free,



By Laura McCollough Moss

I'm worried
will Spring ever come
will I gain weight
from Easter dinner
will my dogs stay healthy
will the organic detergent
get the clothes as clean as Tide
will these wars ever stop
will I lose my job
will I have to work forever
will gas prices go higher
will I get cancer
like my parents
will we have an earthquake
does my husband still want me
am I looking older
will the Colts have a decent season
will I write anything of substance
will anybody care
will I have grandchildren
will we sell the house
will the business thrive
can Lil Jon win the Apprentice
will facebook cost money
why'd I buy a gas guzzler
flying Southwest in July
is God for real
should I rip up the old carpet
will I get out in my kayak
will the sixteens fit by summer
can I face the anniversary
of my mother's death
can't bear to lose anyone else
yet know I will
what's it feel like to die
what's this rash about
do those sneakers really tone anything
should I have had those two cookies
am I weird
are my kids happy
can their partners stand me
can I live my dreams
do I drink too much coffee
I'm telling you
I'm worried.



All There Is
By Laura McCollough Moss

So this is it,
wake up
show up
digest the insults
endure the ignorance
dodge the bullets
who needs 'em?
Let's see you
put a positive spin
on this development.
Somehow you still try
embrace the challenge
Stay busy
eat shit
and die
 a little
every day.



Kaelynn Grace

For Angelica
By Laura McCollough Moss

On this day
when others
your age
lift too many and sleep til noon,
You rock a golden baby
sing and pray.
So young,
both of you
there's no handbook for motherhood
they say
 could you have prepared for this?
You love her so,
that's all you know.
You absorb, react, respond
do your best to figure it out day by day.
get you through,
you lean on us,
we lean on you.
You shouldn't know this kind of pain,
and hope you never will again
You keep the faith
fight the doubt
and advocate
for your one true love.
There are no words to describe
your courage
This time will pass,
but what you've gained
 will serve you well
all of your life.
you are admired more than you know.



By Laura McCollough Moss

It started today,
out on Lake Gaston
the somber broadcast
A few there,
a few more on land because
Papa likes to think of her beneath a tree
tomorrow all the rest
will go as she wanted
into the Atlantic
off the Carolina coast
and I wonder
where are the lavender toenails?
I hope her arms are in Gaston
she can caress us
while we swim
Her strong proud face
beneath the tree
basking in the sun year-round
Her heart
belongs in the ocean
adrift along the surface,
glinting in the moonlight
drifting toward a lighthouse
With the emptying of that box she is gone
we can't put our hands on her
But she is bigger now,
part of nature
that is the way it should be
Goodbye, Love
Enjoy your travels
your time has come.



He Loved Her
By Laura McCollough Moss

His truck was already parked in the lot when I got to the restaurant; judging by the rain on the windows he'd gotten there well before me. I'd called him from work to check on our plans.
"Let's meet at the Club at five-thirty," I suggested, distractedly checking my email.
He'd heard that one before.
"So you'll be there at what time?"
"Shut up! I'm leaving here within the next half hour."
I wrapped up my day within the hour (yep; he knew) and hurried home to check on things, take the dogs out and fix my hair. As I grabbed my keys and headed out the door, the microwave read '5:28'.
He was sitting at the end of the bar with his Old Granddad and gingerale when I walked in, making a dramatic show of checking his watch. I tossed my purse under the bar and took the stool next to him.
"Five thirty-six," he feigned annoyance. "When I say I'll be somewhere at five-thirty, I'm there by twenty-five after."
"Well Bud, we're not all retired like you. Some of us have responsibilities," I teased, catching the bartender's eye. He set a beer in front of me and took money from the pile in front of my father.
"She mooches off me every Wednesday," Bud declared, grabbing the quarters off the stacked bills and pocketing them. "I like to save these," he told me, again. "It seems you need quarters everywhere you go. The laundromat, to get air in your tires, three to pick up a paper- I get a lot of change when I come here." Great, Dad; great. I took my first crisp, delicious sip.
"What'd you do today?"
He shook his head. "I can't remember. I did a bunch of shit. I went and got my taxes done."
I'd forgotten he had the appointment. "That's right. Were you there long?"
"No, that guy does it really quick. I had everything with me that I needed; I see you're surprised, but I do get things straight once in awhile. He sat down, looked them over, jotted a few things down and said 'that'll be a hundred dollars.' Then I was out of there. He's a good guy."
"How much are you getting back?"
"Two hundred and fifty-four dollars."
"And you had to give him a hundred?" I laughed, and he shrugged his shoulders.
"Yeah, I told him I usually got a kiss when I got screwed. Oh well, I'm glad it's over. I was late with them last year." He looked down and stirred his drink with the little straw. Last year. We were both quiet for a minute or two.
"Poor girl," he stood and put his money away; then he put a hand on the back of my chair.
"Let's eat."
The hostess seated us at a table we'd shared before. The chair across from me, and next to Bud, looked glaringly empty as it had the past ten months. Wednesday was our Happy Hour night; the three of us. Now it was just the two of us, but we kept the tradition alive.
"Look at that woman there," he smiled, watching a couple come into the dining room. "Your mother used to have that look. She'd have that little grin and look around, taking everything in and trying to see if she knew anybody.  I always thought it was so cute when she did that."
Flash- just like that, I was about to cry, but I checked the emotion. I was getting really good at it; acting like all was well when I wanted to bawl my eyes out; for her, for him. She was gone, true enough; and that was hard to take. What turned out to be harder was seeing him alone. Ever the comedian, there was a sadness behind his eyes these days that you had to know him well to see. And although we'd always been close, this shared pain now made us inseparable.
A man strolled by with perfect posture and a masterful comb-over. Bud gave me that 'get him' expression; sitting there with his own low side part. We razzed him about it all the time, but he still looked pretty-damn-good for seventy-five.
We chatted and ate our broiled fish. He sent over half of his home with me.
"I can't eat worth a damn anymore," he sighed, tossing the tip across the table.
We joke about it; I'm almost fifty, but when I'm with my dad, he's the Dad, and he pays.
When Mom was here it was the same way; I would let her cook, serve, and clean up the mess because she was the Mom. No matter how old you get, it's just that way. Your parents are your parents.
Bud caught me glancing at the clock. "Well, let's get out of here. You want to get home to your husband." I had someone waiting for me, and it always made me feel a little guilty.
We made our way slowly out to the coat-check, and got ready to leave. Two couples stood talking in the doorway, blocking the exit. We all did a little shuffle before they noticed us and let us pass.
"We had a name for people like that in the Navy," Bud pulled his zipper up.
"Oh really? What did you call them?" I took the bait.
"Assholes," he chuckled.  That's Bud.
We hugged goodbye and got into our cars.
"Keep in touch," he called.
"I will," I whispered.
I will.



A Woman's Rite
By Laura McCollough Moss

Try to understand
it's still fresh you see
this hurt
this pain
that you see in me
feeling guilty
blistering shame at what I've done
I was raised better
wouldn't hurt
But I did
someone who needed me
to survive
 I was more concerned about
the appearance of things
He drove me there but
didn't stay
I was all alone
to face the choice we made
Country hick
I'm sure they thought
don't they teach them
about this there?
Intern came
examined my breasts for the longest time
smirked and pulled
the gown back down
I was that naive
and scared
Sure that I deserved the worst
 they had in store
I called home the night before
We couldn't talk long
 make the boys suspicious
They came for me
no turning back
The older roommate gave a knowing glance
I laid on their gurney
and swallowed my pride
none of them knew what went on inside
After I woke felt sick
threw up yes that's it
you should be miserable
That's when she
placed a cool hand on my forehead
held a basin in front of me
spoke softly
I was confused
how could she treat me this way
did she know?
Today I know she did
she saw
the innocence, the fear
the regret
and still cared for me
That angel nurse
don't think I ever knew her name
but she inspired me
to go on and make the most of my life
I've gone on to touch
soothe and comfort
but I am always atoning that scar
December 17, 1979



The Grateful Un-dead
By Laura McCollough Moss

Good morning
wake to see another day
Let's hear those feet hit the floor
to take dogs out
find clothes
This ordinary routine
do you know how many
face life's explosions and would give
to feel normal
travel that familiar route?
Take this gift
pick up the scattered socks
stop for milk
make your deadlines
kiss those foreheads
Thank your lucky stars.



What makes a forty-nine-year-old woman feel the need to join a Polar Swim? Having done no formal study, I would assert that no less than 98% of adults think it is nuts. I feel reasonably confident making this assertion because in the weeks preceeding the event, whenever I try to recruit plungers they invariably decline; adding "You're nuts!"
Due to the popularity of reality television, I am taking a gamble that readers will take voyeuristic pleasure in my first-hand account of the experience. A raw, un-edited version that can be relayed only by a seasoned veteran of three years in the sport.
I'm sure your first thought and most overwhelming concern when you consider jumping into a frozen lake is the obvious; could you tolerate the cold? We'll get to that, but I assure you that for middle-aged women, the bracing water ranks toward the bottom of priority in terms of preparation.
Swimming involves the donning of minimalistic apparel. Any attempt at modesty- as in wearing a full-coverage track suit- is not going to work. The more you have on, the more there is to get heavy and wet; thereby padding your odds of drowning or freezing.
No, Ladies, you have to bite the proverbial bullet and put on a bathing suit. I have tried to make cover-up gestures in prior years in the form of tank tops, t-shirts and nylon shorts. It seemed only fair to the innocent spectators, but who was I kidding? Wet clothing of any construction or design clings to every lump and bump for dear life; I have the video to prove it. Besides, we all know that the shivering, well-bundled on-lookers aren't there for support. They are standing by to see flabby, plucked-poultry-looking weekend warriors make fools of themselves. Of course there are young, fit, unreasonably tanned participants, but they don't reap nearly the viewing satisfaction.
That said, a woman-of-a-certain-age still wants to put her best foot forward. Did I mention the videos?
First thing in the morning, I wake up and check my phone. "WTF have you looked outside?" is the text waiting from my friend and polar partner. This prompts me to get up and look outside at the debris left by the howling winds that blew through the night. It's snowing, which is aptly polar. My resolve briefly wavers before I feel a stab to my street cred. I've boasted to anyone who would listen, for weeks, about my intent to repeat this nuttiness. I can't back out now. This feeling is confirmed when I text Denise about my apprehension. "Why should logic enter into this now?" is her message. We do this dance annually; pep-talking back and forth until we meet in our water shoes, ready to go.
More texts ensue; is there a rule of etiquette on this? How many texts can you lob between you before you should get on the phone and talk it out?
This vital communication centers around general grooming and hygiene. I'm frantically giving myself a pedicure; why, I can't be sure since I wear my trusty Keens. I think it has something to do with a dark fantasy in the back of my mind; that I'll succumb to a heart attack, and they will haul my lifeless body from the icy water, hurriedly pulling off the shoes in order to, I don't know, initiate some kind of pedal resuscitation and exclaim, "Sheesh! Lookit those nasty toenails!"
Next comes cleansing, depilitarization and moisturizing. Suffice it to say that after several months of a North American winter, a gal can let herself go. There's the leg shaving to contend with (to the knee only. I'm jumping in the lake; not getting married!) before addressing the bikini line. Yes, I will go there. This is reality journalism after all. How to put this delicately... why do they primly refer to these devices as 'trimmers' when the situation calls for something with 2-cycle oil and a pull cord? Cellulite is one thing. Cellulite in combination with a 'bat-wing' is out of the question. Just one more source of embarrassment should it appear in said video or, worse yet, to the aforementioned rescuers.
Once everything has been tamed and slathered with lotion, there's nothing left to do but grit my teeth and put on the suit. It's a nice one, smartly shaded in darkening degrees toward the bottom in order to make the belly and hips 'disappear'. They lie; you still know they're there, but they do look better. Some adjustment to get the 'girls' at the preferred height. For those not in the know, the bustline should assume a position halfway between the shoulders and the navel (a fact that I was dismayed to re-read, having forgotten the precise details and feeling that mine fell satisfactorily halfway between shoulder and hip). I steel myself and check the mirror, making a stern attempt to remain objective. Yes I'm chubby but the suit is cute, I'm enthusiastic, and I'm a good person with a clean bikini line. I pull on yoga pants- no need for anyone to get the full picture until it is absolutely necessary. Then I go downstairs and blow-dry my hair, going the extra mile and lifting the roots with pomade to achieve a pleasing height at the crown. I whip up some coffee and whole-grain toast. An athlete has to fuel the machine, after all.
After that, I have only to put on my pink robe, earrings and glasses.
Let the games begin!
My husband corrals the dogs, gathers appropriate foul-weather gear, and grabs the camera. With that, we are off to Mayville, NY, the site of the Winter Ice Festival. We stop and pick up my father on the way. He hasn't missed one of these jumps yet (see 'spectators' above). My mom, who was present for the first two, died in May. She remains with us in spirit, and is literally taking part since I'm wearing her swimsuit. One thing is certain; she would not want us to miss this.
A crowd waits at the Lakeview Tavern. We laugh, shout, flash one another and chug a beer before walking over to the place where we will take the plunge. The pathway to the lake is frozen, rutted and icy. The wind has not stopped its howling. As we make our way toward the area cut out of the ice, maybe fifty yards from the shore, a flock of unrecognizable people in hats, scarves, puffy coats, gloves and boots assemble to watch. The mood is convivial, with cheers and words of encouragement. "Good luck!", "You rock!", "You're nuts!!" It is freezing cold. There are already a handful of young, fit, unreasonably tanned boys and girls emerging from the water; gasping and swearing. There are three men in full rescue gear standing in the water. "Who's next?" one calls. Denise looks at me; there's no turning back now. I peel off the yoga pants and drape them around the neck of a friendly woman standing next to me. Last year we threw things on the ice, and they got wet, so no more of that. I pull off the robe, stashing my glasses in the pocket,  and she extends an arm, having established herself as my valet. One thing you learn at forty-nine, despite all of the unfortunate things that can happen over a lifetime, people are wonderful. I'm sure she checked out my cellulite, but she was kind.
Denise and I step to the edge, holding hands. I look for my husband and spot him across the waterhole, at an optimal photographic distance. Where's my dad? Not sure, but he must be somewhere near. A guy standing in the water gives us our instructions.
"Be careful, there's a rail in here. We're standing on it." They're about three feet in front of us. An eight-foot metal ladder stands in the water to the left with two or three rungs visible above the surface. The crowd is lively, with cold, wet, laughing post-plungers all around, and more waiting behind us. I look once more at the black, swirling water before going for it. Denise and I tandem-jump and the water hits us like a million icy needles. I've heard it described this way countless times and wish I could come up with a more artful description, but that is exactly what it feels like. Any thoughts of taking a few strokes to clown around are dashed; I can barely breathe! Of the three years, this was by far the coldest. I move forward to give one of the men a spontaneous hug- there is jubilance in meeting this challenge- and he says "Get to the ladder", knowing, I'm sure, that these are not the conditions to linger for even a few seconds. I've lost all track of Denise; at this point it's survival on my mind as I bolt up the ladder and onto the slushy, slippery ice. My wonderful valet helps me into my robe and hands me my pants, saying "You did great!" I'm aware of Denise behind me. She did not have benefit of the ladder and was thus pulled out onto the ice by event volunteers, sustaining bruising and bleeding abrasions to both knees. Badges of honor, we decide.
I must say, once you've been in that water, the outside air does not feel as bad. My feet never get cold in the Keens. This year, though, I get an 'ice cream headache' in my forehead for a few minutes, my ears are on the verge of frostbite, and I touch my hair to find it frozen stiff. Remember the scene in Titanic, when Rose and Jack are waiting in the Atlantic to be rescued? That's how it feels. I pull gloves from the robe pocket and turn up the collar. We should head in but we are having too much fun watching the remaining jumpers. One guy who had not planned on taking the plunge before he arrived wears boxer-briefs and black loafers. Everywhere there are crazy people in tropical swim trunks, underwear, bare feet, bikinis, with and without shirts; you name it, swept up by the fun. I am sure some of those bundled-up spectators wish they had done it, although they protest. Denise has been given a cup of coffee by a friend and offers me a delicious sip. We did it! Again! Street cred intact!
There's a lot of picture and video-taking that we won't remember but will turn up on facebook and you tube over the next few months. We will look at them in horror, unable to believe we did that, wearing that.
 I look at it this way; the unfortunate people of this world are the ones who allow their perception of their appearance to stop them from enjoying life. I look like I do and everyone knows it. Does it really make a difference? It has taken me half a century to realize that it does not. I've adopted the same opinion regarding others; checking any deeply-ingrained criticisms or judgments that spring to my mind. To coin the song, everybody's beautiful in their own way. After observing good grooming and hygiene, which is nothing but self-love and good manners, we owe it to ourselves to let it go and have a good time.
We walk back to the Lakeview and change into dry clothes, emerging from the bathroom to cheers and laughter. Then we drink, have lunch, and re-live the plunge with the other patrons. There are more pictures.
It is an awesome day.
Can't wait til next year!

The Jump



Love You Long Time
By Laura McCollough Moss

We're not kids
it's just another day really
Hallmark holiday
gone commercial
I'd kill you if you
spent money
out of obligation.
What's real love anyway?
Not construction paper hearts
with doilies on top
or the latest jewelry craze.
It's getting up with babies
making homemade soup
bringing home new boots when the old ones
crack and let the water in.
 We don't have to jump
through adolescent hoops
to know what we have here.
would it have killed you
to pick up a dollar card
and a candy bar?
I mean really.
What are you doing out there?
So this is what it's like
to sit in the living room
and smell something cooking.
Here you come with a plate
of noodles with the chicken
shaped perfectly on top.
"I can give you more but I didn't want to spoil the heart."
God I'm lucky
You've always known just what I needed
And I cry
Oh, Honey,
You shouldn't have.



My Son
By Laura McCollough Moss

Can I tell you
to trust your heart
When you are battling doubt
and struggling with faith?
Can I ask you
to put that faith in me
When I model
a flawed foundation?
Can I help you
to learn and grow
When what I taught
may have dimmed your light?
The questions start early and
are not easily answered.
How dare I be disappointed
when I've left you
I believe you hold the answers,
 have all along
And if you search
just a little while longer
They will rise to the surface,
mend the longing in your soul and
 free your wounded spirit.
My wise and wonderful boy
then you can tell me,
Ask me,
help me,
With mine.




By Laura McCollough Moss

I started to cry on the I-190
Just before the dreaded exit
"What's the matter, Honey?" she asked,
"Don't do this, Laura."
The number 6 off-ramp loomed
and threatened.
"I'm going to be fine."
Where did it come from
the strength, the calm?
Try to put yourself in her place,
Lying expectantly in your backless gown
and paper hat,
Terry gripper socks on your feet.
The pre-op IV flowing in but they tell you
they can't give you anything 'good' yet.
The waiting, waiting, waiting
"Why don't you guys go have your lunch?
I'll be fine here. There's no
reason for you to hang around."
And we left her there
glad to be spared the going-away party.
Shedding tears at the ATM,
morose over the day's special.
Eight-and-one-half hours they worked
She had plainly expressed her disapproval of
 such an aggressive procedure.
"If you can't get it all, I want you to close me up."
They forgot
or hoped against hope
or took advantage of the teaching opportunity
Whatever the reason it got ugly but they did their best.
She was a ten-day girl.
Ten days at Roswell,
Ten days at Rehab. and a little while in between before
Ten days of Hospice.
She's gone now
And I'm preparing to trade the Freestyle.
Her chariot of fire.
She was there in the passenger seat,
Lamb to lion
and I didn't know it would be so hard to
let it go.
"She wouldn't keep the old thing,"
Daddy Mike consoles me and I have to laugh.
That's the point.



I always knew if I had any chance of meeting a boy, it would happen in winter. Not to be conceited, but I look prettier when it's cold out. During the summer, you know, the sweat, the greasy hair, the shiny face. In the winter, my skin dries out and looks really nice. My hair is bouncy and fresh, and I can wear sweaters and boots and hats, which makes anyone cute.
I remember it was January ninth and I skipped school. Fredericks was having some kind of Chemistry encounter, and it was too soon after winter break to get into anything that elaborate as far as I was concerned. I texted Lexi to see if she wanted to hang out, but she was on academic probation for missing too many days first semester. She was doomed to suffer through acid/ base titration hell.
I left the house at seven-thirty because my Mom was running late, again, so I had to play it like a normal day. Then of course she had to bitch about what I was wearing and send me back upstairs to change. I mean, what's so obscene about a miniskirt if you wear tights under it? I came back down in skinny jeans with holes in them and the tights still on. Little purple kneecaps. She shook her head but let it go, standing there in her poop-colored Worthington suit. At least she was having a decent hair day was all I could say. I let her give me lunch money before I took off.
Seriously, does anybody shovel their freaking sidewalks anymore? Walking on the side of the street slushed up my new UGGs, my jeans were splattered by the cars going by, and I was feeling totally annoyed.
I heard someone say "Watch it!" and this guy pushing a snow blower practically ran me over. He was a kid, maybe eighteen. He had on a rad trapper hat, and his cheeks were red. His nose was running a little, but Mr. Toro was babe-alicious, and he was checking me out
"Sorry about that," he said.
I read his name on the Ridgeway Panthers letter jacket.
"Hi Luke," I smiled; glad I'd taken a few extra minutes with the flatiron.
"How did you know my… Ohhh," he laughed. "You're pretty smart!"
I put my hands in my pockets so I wouldn't twist my hair.
"Oh, yeah, I'm a genius!" Lame!
Luke wiped his nose on his glove. "What's your name?"
"Like the part of the eye?"
"Like the flower. I know, right? My parents thought it was cool; 'Retro'". I made quotation marks with my fingers.
He kicked the snow blower, knocking the snow off his boots. "I think it's nice."
Ohmigod was he kidding me? "Thanks."
We stood there staring at each other.
Luke looked at my backpack. "You go to South?"
"Yeah, not today though. I was on my way to Perks."
"Skipping school?" he said, like he couldn't believe it. "I'm a freshman at RCC. We're still on break for another week-and-a-half. I just came over to clear out my grandpa's driveway."
"That sucks. Did your parents make you do it?"
"What? No... He can't drive anymore and he lets me use his car. I like to help him out." Was he blushing?
"Man, I don't know anyone as nice as you! I rag about doing dishes for my mom."
"My mom has MS, so I do dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, lots of stuff."
Yeah, I felt like a total ass. He turned around and started pushing the snow blower to the garage.
"Hey!" I hollered, "Want to go to Perks?"
He held up his finger for me to wait while he ran inside the house. Ten minutes later he was back. The first thing I noticed was that he had taken off the snow pants, and he looked slammin' in his jeans.
The second thing came along behind a walker. Luke stopped and waited while a really old man tottered down the sidewalk.
"Iris, this is my grandpa, Sid Sherman. Grandpa, this is Iris. She asked us to go for coffee."
Did I? What would I say to him? "Hi," I gave him a little smile.
"Good morning, young lady,"
Sid let go of his walker and bowed. Then he took my hand and kissed it. I know it sounds pervy but it was kind of cute. He had his hair all slicked back and he smelled good; like aftershave.
"I hope you don't mind my tagging along."
He pulled a sweet fedora out of the walker bag and put it on, running his fingers around the rim, and held his arm out to me.
"Shall we? Luke can pull the car out for us."
Luke pulled on the heavy garage door and there was this huge light blue Caddy inside. You know the ones with the big hood ornament and the fins? He got in and drove it out and the thing looked, seriously, like, half-a-football field long. Sid opened the front passenger door and I tried to get in.
"Sorry Iris," he said, "but the Old Guy has to ride shotgun. I can't bend my legs enough to sit in back."
This was not going the way I wanted it to! Luke made a 'sorry' face at me, and I helped Sid get in the front seat. He told me how to fold up his walker, and I put it in the back and got in.
When we got to Perks, Luke pulled the car in front of the door, and Sid and I got out and waited. There was no lot, so he had to parallel park across the street. Between the size of the Caddy and the snow, it was a nightmare. Sid stood on the sidewalk yelling directions.
"Cut it left, Lukie! That's it, now straighten it out. HOLD IT, you're gonna hit that rice burner!"
After Luke parked perfectly, we went inside. He pulled Sid's coat off and hung it on the rack; then he grabbed another hanger and held his hand out for mine. Such manners! I was impressed.
That's when he pulled off the trapper hat and I saw his hair.
"It's weird, I know," he kind of rubbed his hand over it. "My mom cuts it, and she can't do it like she used to, but I hate to say anything."
"She also doesn't realize you're not four years old. Dude, sometimes you have to be honest even if it hurts. You look like that kid on the paint can!"
"You tell him, Iris," Sid laughed. "He won't listen to me. I offer all the time to take him to my barber."
I looked him over. "Not sure that's the answer Sid, with all due respect."
"I ain't had any complaints," he winked at me. Yes, he did.
We sat down with our coffees; black for Sid, cream and sugar for Luke, and skinny mocha latte for me.
"That's not coffee you know," Sid blew on his before taking a sip.
"Leave her alone, Grandpa." Luke smiled and looked through his choppy bangs at me.
Sid chuckled. "I'm just a big tease. I don't mean any harm. Once you two drop me off, you can do whatever you like."
I liked the sound of that!
He picked his hat up from the seat beside him and put it on.
"I guess that means we're leaving," Luke followed him to the door and helped him into his coat. He looked back at me.
"Are you coming?"
I crawled out of the booth and caught up with them.
We dropped Sid off at Off-Track Betting in the plaza. Luke got the walker out and took him inside.
When he got back in the Caddy, he fastened his seatbelt.
"I don’t have to pick him back up until four. Do you want to do something?”
I had to ask. “Sid gambles? No way!”
“Yes way,” Luke said. “He actually won this car on a bet.”
“Honestly? You’re kidding, right?”
“Nope, I wish I was. He’s lost a lot more than he’s won, but he’ll never stop. It used to drive my Grandma crazy. She died a couple years ago.” He looked sad and uncomfortable talking about it, so I didn’t ask any more questions. He revved up the engine. “Anyway, do you know where you want to go?”
I didn't even have to think about it.
"Pine Hills."
"The mall? What're we gonna do there?"
I gave him my mysterious look.
“You'll see..."
Fifteen minutes later I was spinning around in an empty barber chair while Luke got his hair cut. He looked at me in the mirror as a girl named Wanda transformed him into a certified hottie.
Wanda stood back and admired her work. Luke leaned toward the mirror and frowned.
"I look like that kid singer."
"Exactly!" I said, feeling very happy with the result.
"All the young guys are getting that cut," Wanda reassured him. "It looks good on you."
Our compliments were working. Luke kept looking at himself, and I could tell he liked it.
He reached in his back pocket for his wallet at the register.
Wanda rang it up. "That’s twenty-four for today, Hon."
Luke paid her and we went out into the mall.
"You should have tipped her."
"Are you kidding? I'm a poor student! I'm lucky I could pay at all. That was an unexpected expense."
"Well, it was a good investment!" I ran my hand through his hair and he blushed, again.
"Stop it!" he laughed. "How'm I gonna face my mom?"
"Is she home? Let's go show her," I dared him.
He shrugged and I dragged him toward the car, trying not to get peeved by all the girls making eyes at him. Get your own Dutch-boy and make him over, I wanted to say.
Luke lived across town in the not-so-good section. He turned into the driveway of a sad little house and we parked under a carport full of leaves and litter. The Caddy looked totally out of place in the neighborhood. I got out and closed my door before I noticed that Luke was still sitting in the driver's seat. I went over to his side and he rolled down his window.
"Iris, I'm not sure this is such a good idea. My mom is... well... not like other people."
"Whose is?" I wondered what could be so weird about his mom; I mean, weren't they all a little whacko?
"C'mon, it's no big deal."
Luke unlocked the back door and a little dog came at us yapping his brains out.
"This is Chico," he said, picking up the chubby brown Chihuahua. He let the dog lick his face and put him down.
The place was kind of dark and stuffy and cold. There was a drainer full of clean dishes next to the kitchen sink.
"You really do the dishes, don't you?"
"Every night," Luke said, looking nervously around. "Mom! You home?"
"I'm in the sunroom, Lucas," a woman’s voice said.
I followed Luke through the messy living room to a doorway that had one of those bead curtains. He pulled it apart and I saw a small woman with light brown hair down to her waist, sitting on a pillow in the middle of the floor with her eyes closed. The smell was different in there. I'd gone to enough concerts in City Park to know why; she was smoking weed! The joint burned away in an ashtray in front of her. Luke tapped her on the shoulder.
"Mom, I brought someone home to meet you."
She opened her eyes and waved away the smoke so she could see me.
"Hi, Sweetheart!" She tried not to act completely blitzed, which she was. "What's your name?"
"This is Iris, Mom," Luke answered for me. "We met this morning over at Grandpa's. Iris, this is my mother, Dawn."
Dawn spread her arms out wide. "Iris! What a fabulous name and you’re so pretty! Please don't get the wrong impression of me, Darling. I suffer from Multiple Sclerosis and use medical marijuana. It really helps me.”
Luke picked up a medicine bottle and opened it.
“There’s only four left. We just picked these up yesterday, Mom.”
Dawn rubbed the sides of her forehead. “It’s been a bad day, Lucas. Don’t get on my case please.” She pointed at me and almost fell over. “We don’t need to talk about this in front of your friend.”
Luke left the room and I followed him back to the kitchen. He opened the fridge and pushed stuff around, and then he closed it again.
“I don’t have much to offer you, sorry.”
I was starving, but I could tell he felt embarrassed, so I said “that’s okay”.
“Well I’m really hungry,” he opened a cupboard door and looked inside. He started pulling things down.
“Tuna noodle it is!”
I sat at the vintage red kitchen table and watched him while he cooked. He was shaking a bag of noodles into boiling water when Dawn walked in.
“Honey, I would have made you something,” she tried to hug Luke and he gently shook her off.
“That’s okay. I’ve got it under control.” He was stirring tuna, mushroom soup and peas together in another pan. The guy clearly knew what he was doing.
Dawn grabbed a box of crackers.
“Leave some of those here,” Luke said. “I need to crunch them up on top.”
She handed him a handful and one fell on the floor. Chico scarfed it up, and Dawn gave him another one.
“That’s a good boy!” She scratched him between the ears and went to watch TV.
Chico stuck around hoping for more dropped food.
Luke brought me a bowl of tuna noodle, and sat down with his across from me.
“Looks good!” I lied. It looked like throw-up, but it actually tasted okay. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. It turns out better with potato chips on top, but you have to use what you’ve got, right?”
Dawn stood in the doorway, looking shocked.
“Lucas, your hair! You got it cut?!”
We cracked up!
He was even cuter when he laughed.