Tag Archives: writing

Toasty Bit #5


This Toasty Bit comes from a blossoming writer named Laura Cataldi. She recently graduated from college with honors and is pursuing her master’s degree in the fall. Laura has faced more mountains in her young life than many of us combined. Kudos to you, Laura and thank you for your toasty bit of writing! -JK

One of my favorite quotes that floats around the internet goes something like this:

“Tell someone you love them today, because life is short, but SHOUT it at them in German, because life is also terrifying and confusing.”

While good for a laugh, I’ve come to realize that this quote also accurately sums up my experiences as a twenty-something. Perhaps one of the most frustrating and confusing things about being in my twenties has been the constant pressure to have my life figured out. Like everyone else, I was supposed to graduate high school knowing, without a doubt, what I wanted to do with my life. Advice from adults, however, was maddeningly contradictory. “Follow your dreams!” they said. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life!” Then the realists stepped in. “Gotta pay your bills. Flipping burgers will help you do that. A Liberal Arts degree probably won’t.” (Whoops.)

So, in the spirit of takin’ care of business, I started working at grocery stores or in other retail settings, just to make ends meet while I clawed my way to a degree that I wasn’t even certain I wanted, all the while being bombarded with more expectations. I was supposed to be building my credit. I was supposed to budget my minimum wage paychecks into paying rent, utilities, and food and have enough left over to save up for a downpayment on my first house. Perhaps it was just the bludgeon that is my personal anxieties, but I felt like the more people around me succeeded, the less I was doing to successfully adult. Because that’s what it’s all about: adulting. You’ve seen the memes. “Cried but did the thing anyway.” “When I was sixteen, I wanted my freedom. Now I’m twenty-six, and I want my mom to make my doctor’s appointments and buy me groceries for my birthday.” Being a young adult today is both terrifying and confusing. I’m hoping that hitting the big 3-0 will bring about the miraculous truths of life, because so far they’ve eluded me, and unlike everything else, I can’t purchase a clue from Amazon.

“Youth is wasted on the young,” they say. I’m inclined to agree, but that’s only because nobody ever told me how to make the most of this time. Some of my peers have it figured out, but as for me, I’m still trying to figure out a healthy balance. Should I pick up extra shifts, or binge-watch more Netflix? A successful adult would pick Option A. I, however, am only three seasons into Grey’s Anatomy, so….

Laura Cataldi

Looks Schmooks

Old lady

This is the anti, anti-feminism dilemma: When is it ok to put no effort into your look? This story, only slightly altered for dramatic effect, is about one such experience. Recently I made the conscious decision to leave my home in a relaxed state of presentation. That’s a fancy way of saying I was kind of sorry slob.  By the time I got to my destination, sweat and fatigue factored in to the delivery.

At my insistence, we dined in a nice establishment. It took only a minute to realize there was a familiar face already seated in the restaurant, someone who puts considerable time and effort into her aesthetic. Across the table from her sat an equally impressive individual. With cat-like reflexes, I dodged and slithered my way to the bathroom unseen, concerned for the first time that day about what my look might say about me.

The mirror did not disappoint. By this point in the morning, my already beleaguered hair was at a red-level of distress. I took a little water and tried re-styling, only to find a curious sculpture of sweat and hair products forming in the mirror in front of me. I pinched my cheeks, willing them to stand at attention.  There was no way to hide the eye bags or the lack of make-up either. The free-and-easy, I can-look-as-I-please attitude of earlier that morning was replaced by sheer panic.

As I left the bathroom, resigned to the fact that I would have to sit under the table until she was gone and enjoy my salad at eye level, fate intervened. She was waiting to use the very same bathroom I had just defiled with my failed hair and face treatment.

“Well hello!” she said, annoyingly cheery.

“Sorry,” I said as I scurried by.  I felt like I needed to go and take a sympathy shower for her. I ate my meal in self-induced humiliation, occasionally trying in vain to flip that one piece of hair out of my face.

It wasn’t until I got home and showered thoroughly that I realized the source of my shame. I had gone out many times before with, let’s call it “an earthy” look.  The real issue is that age has taken away my  ability to cheat. If I want a certain look that says, “this was entirely effortless,” I need to spend some time making myself that way.

That’s when I realized it wasn’t about looks, it was about time. Do I want to spend extra time to look the way she does? Sometimes. Do I want to look like I just climbed Mt. Everest in yesterday’s clothes? Sometimes. I will make my peace with appearing in public in both states. All salad (and chocolate) will be consumed above chair level from now on.

Bend Schmend


When you are two or even ten, bending over to pick up whatever is on the floor is something done without thought or regret. Sometimes it includes an eye roll because of the inconvenience involved. I mean, bending, really. As we make our way through the twenties It might take too much effort and into the thirties and beyond, that’s a lot further down than I remembered, things on the floor begin to take on a different meaning. That rogue bite of last night’s lasagna is much more than an eyesore or a statement of modern art on your sock.

At some point in self- dialogue, the negotiations begin. Obviously, this mystery piece of plastic doesn’t belong to the refrigerator door or my phone, so it’s fine where it is. There is no three-second rule with crackers.  The denial stage: Nope, didn’t see it. It only hurts when I walk directly on top of it. Jam? That’s only the current stage of fruit. Wine stage comes next.  And the inevitable state of acceptance: It looks just fine where it is.

What makes this even worse realizing it isn’t just a matter of laziness or age, it’s both. The bending over sound, the one that started for some at age twenty, has gone from a squeak of protest to a full-on, unmistakable Umph or for the hardcore, Groonnk.

There is only one workable solution: develop a great, subtle kick. Sharp and to the side, at a moment when others are least expecting it. Send your floor item to someone else’s space, where it becomes their problem. Let them Groonnk  as you watch in fake disgust. Try it out and let me know how it goes. Just don’t kick it to my side.

Name Schmame


Surely you can’t be serious!

I am serious and don’t call me Shirley.

For some people, remembering a name comes easy. It can be six months or six years and your name is still sharp in their memory, along with your favorite cake and the medical history of your entire extended family. For others, like me, remembering a name can become an art form.

Several years ago we left The Known and struck out on a new adventure to another state. Mentally, I stayed in my hometown for several years to come. The things I ate, clothes I bought, and especially the the labels I used were all intrinsically connected the past, whether they were in actuality or not.

It should come as no surprise that I began referring to new people by the names of the old. Kind of like the old coffee commercial, where a voice whispers, “we’ve secretly replaced the regular Crud brand coffee with our Bowel Bounty beans. Let’s see if the customers notice.”

“Hello, my name is Jean.”

“Hi, Jean, nice to meet you.”

Jean looks like Sandra, who used to work at the deli. Therefore, Jean the dog groomer is, for all self-serving intents and purposes, Sandra. I may or may not refer to her dog grooming abilities the next time we meet, when she will squint her eyes and respond, “I’m allergic to dogs. And don’t call me Sandra.”

Now that I’ve expanded my name game to include professions, things have become even more awkward.   I really like visiting with “Eddy,” The Guy Who Looks Like He Should Be A Jockey.

You can understand why it has taken me many years to build friendships.


Toasty Bits


Toasty Bits

Once a month, this blog will include a toasty little bit of writing. Like toasty bits of…well…toast, these will be short little croutons of writing to add crunch to your day.  This may include guest writers from all genres, information for writers, excerpts from my upcoming novels and maybe just something writing-adjacent. It is my passion and I want to share it with others. If you want to pick up a copy of my novella, The Something That Happened in Pepperville, please click here

This week, Toasty Bits begins with…

The masterful voice of Maya Angelou. While not all writing posts will focus on aging, her poetry sums it up the best:

On Aging – Poem by Maya Angelou

When you see me sitting quietly,
Like a sack left on the shelf,
Don’t think I need your chattering.
I’m listening to myself.
Hold! Stop! Don’t pity me!
Hold! Stop your sympathy!
Understanding if you got it,
Otherwise, I’ll do without it!
When my bones are stiff and aching,
And my feet won’t climb the stair,
I will only ask one favor:
Don’t bring me no rocking chair.
When you see me walking, stumbling,
Don’t study and get it wrong.
‘Cause tired don’t mean lazy
And every goodbye ain’t gone.
I’m the same person I was back then,
A little less hair, a little less chin,
A lot fewer lungs and much less wind.
But ain’t I lucky I can still breathe in.

Maya Angelou



Your First Schma’am

Your First Schma’am.

There is an unwritten rule in the world of non-aging: never address the elephant in the room. Things work so much better when we all pretend we are the same age. That is why so many of us remember that first, monumental moment. It was at the makeup counter, grocery store or the worst possible location: when you were trying on clothes.

You walked in the door of your local department store, just like any other day, thinking you were still a “Miss.” You went over and perused the same racks you always do, maybe finding a pleasant surprise when you found that they added lycra to your favorite brand and you’ve suddenly become a size smaller. Happy to pay the extra ten dollars, because it’s a size smaller, for Pete’s sake, you walk up to the counter and offer your credit card.

“That’ll be $49.50. MA’AM.” It’s not the fact that you just paid that much for a t-shirt that already has a pinhole and a questionable stain that really gets you. Because it’s a size smaller, for Pete’s sake! It’s the fact that someone has acknowledged, publicly, that you are no longer under 25. How. Dare. They. Your previously soaring spirit hits the floor with a thud.

You will have to find a way to leave this place unnoticed, in case someone else heard and catches on that you are, in fact, past the “Miss” age and have entered into the matronly phase of “Ma’am” without so much as a kindly pat on the head.

After you slink out to your car (thankfully unseen by other MA’AM producing contacts) you swallow your pride and realize it might work out. There are some advantages to leaving Misshood. Aren’t there? Does anyone named called “Ma’am” ever get carded when buying drinks with x-rated names? Would a “Miss” be able to ask for help carrying groceries to her car, just because she felt like it? You might be able to return to your regularly shopping haunts after all. Until someone asks if you need the AARP discount, then all bets are off.

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