Raging hormones, aging parents and mouthy teenagers are just a few challenges that five baby boomer women are balancing-sometimes without much luck-as they go about their daily lives in a Philadelphia neighborhood.
Charlotte, once a high-powered art consultant, has been a stay-at-home mom for many years and is now questioning the efficacy of her choice. Kate left the corporate world long ago and immersed herself in her family-but now she's rediscovering her entrepreneurial spirit. Marianna and Ginny are professionals who have become-more often than not-the envy of Charlotte and Kate, whose GPS systems are failing to help them find an on-ramp to worklife. The women come together to help their friend, Mimmi, who thought she had married for life, but has just discovered that her husband is having an affair with a "park-bench bimbo."
The women rely on their walking group to offer support in dealing with many midlife issues, including health concerns, waning libidos, the empty nest, and finding energy for careers, exercise and sex. They reflect on how the "f-word"-feminism-has impacted their lives. These five friends journey through the joys and heartaches that accompany midlife mayhem, and together find companionship, laughter and the comfort of knowing that this is not their mothers' menopause.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.63(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Missed PeriodsA Novel
By Denise Horner Mitnick
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Denise Horner Mitnick
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCharlotte was awakened by the first crack of light that seeped through the plantation shutters in her bedroom. She rolled over to look at the clock but couldn't see the digital numbers because of the clutter on Charles's nightstand. The hum of his snoring machine muffled any noise she would make as she found her way to their bathroom in the filtered dawn light of the bedroom suite. Her outstretched arm felt the footboard's post. Shuffling along to the other end of the king-sized bed, she turned and reached for the armoire that housed the media center. Around the corner would be the open bathroom door. She carefully pulled the heavy door behind her, quietly turned the knob so it didn't make any noise upon shutting, and flipped the light switch. She winced at the reflection of bright lights in the mirror that ran the length of the elongated marble double-vanity. She brushed her teeth, barely running the water above a drip—spit and rinse. She splashed cold water on her face and dabbed it dry with the hand towel she'd placed by her side of the vanity. She ran her fingers through her hair, scowling at the persistent tangles. She'd wait to use one of the downstairs toilets so as to not awaken Charles.
Charlotte turned off the bathroom lights and reversed her path through the dark bedroom like a night stalker. This time she felt her way to the solid wood double doors, which led to the upstairs hall that overlooked the entrance hall on the first floor. She grabbed her silk robe from the chaise lounge in the corner near the doors, where she had deposited it the night before. Charles turned. She halted. The humming machine resumed, and Charlotte made her quiet exit.
"Ah, coffee and quiet," she whispered as she glided down the grand wood-carved staircase to the center hall. The smell of freshly brewed coffee permeated the air, and she followed its aroma, flipping light switches on her path to the kitchen. She made a stop in the center hall powder room, noting the dusty gilded light fixture on her way out. She threw the paper hand towel that was emblazoned with a gold-embossed W for Wentworth in the kitchen trash compactor. She stretched, taking a deep sniff of the coffee.
How sweet of Charles to preset the coffeemaker, she thought, pouring her first cup of the day and taking a long sip. His coffee is so good! Situated to the right of the coffeemaker on the black granite countertop was a small television. She turned it on, adjusting the volume to low and clicking the remote to one of the early newscasts. The news became background noise as she turned to face the work island in the center of the huge kitchen.
The island resembled an old workbench and had been made from rafters of a demolished mid-nineteenth-century barn. The top surface was finished with the same black granite as the rest of the designer kitchen. Big pots and baskets filled the shelf just above the floor level, and drawers just under the granite top housed ladles, knives, and other tools for a serious cook. The island was also home to Charlotte's miniature orchids, which were planted in an antique feeding trough in the center of the island. Charlotte took a few sips of the black coffee and poked her well-manicured finger into the soil. "Perfect! Not too dry, not wet," she said, satisfied she'd figured out just the right amount of watering necessary.
Each morning after checking her orchids, Charlotte would inspect her property. She enjoyed this morning ritual and valued the time as a way to clear her head and prepare for her day. On this morning, she retrieved her periwinkle quilted jacket from the coat closet near the kitchen—the springtime air was nippy at this hour of the morning, and she was still wearing her nightgown and silk robe as she slipped out of the side door after turning the house alarm off.
The sun had not quite fully risen and the moon lingered in the retreating night sky, adding a hint of mystery to her morning meandering. Crocuses were giving way to daffodils, which would soon be followed by forsythia. Charlotte crouched down to inspect what she thought was a small plant peering through a pile of winter debris. She moved some of the decaying leaves and dirt, smiling to find the nascent plant beginning its thrust through the soil. She wiped her dirty hands on the already soiled jacket and continued sipping her now-lukewarm coffee.
As she walked the rear half of her private acre lot, she heard the distant drone of cars on their early commute from Penn Valley into Philadelphia. She sat in an Adirondack chair at the foot of an old maple tree, where she had a view of her favorite gardens. She leaned her head back and scanned the top of the old maple, its pregnant leaf buds awaiting the first hot day to burst into spring. She heard some chirping birds, which were probably looking for worms. Charlotte giggled at the playful scampering of several squirrels that had emerged from their long winter hibernation; one had its cheeks full of nuts.
She pulled the blue jacket tighter around her neck and shivered from the morning chill. Picking up her damp silk robe, she started toward the side door. She had just closed the gate to the rear yard when a truck pulled into the driveway, with its headlights shining directly into her eyes.
"Darn it, the driveway gate was left open!" she said aloud, turning quickly to retreat into the rear yard. She ran along the flagstone path, gathering up her long robe in her arm, revealing her long, lean legs. She stumbled up the large stone steps that framed a garden on either side of the rear terrace—clogs were not made for running—and pounded on the glass French doors.
"Charles! Charles!" She could hear men's voices and the rattling of what sounded like a ladder being moved. "I think the painters are here!" she yelled. She tried the handle, knowing the door was most likely still locked from the night before. She saw Charles's salt-and-pepper hair through the window. "Hurry," she reprimanded as she pounded on the door for effect.
"What's all the fuss, Charlotte?" he asked as he unlocked the door and let her in. "It's only the painters, here to do some touch-up from the winter storm damage. You can't be this panicked over the painters, can you?" He kissed her on her head as she looked around to see where the painters had erected their ladder. "They're starting in the front. That's where most of the peeling is," he reassured her, sensing her discomfort.
"Oh, my goodness, I was so startled! And look at me! I'm in my pajamas, I have no makeup on, and I'm wearing this ridiculous get-up," she said, out of breath. "Did you forget to close the driveway gate again, Charles? Gosh, you know how I relish my privacy. I hate when people just enter the property without being buzzed in."
Charles rolled his eyes and began his morning espresso ritual, which included grinding fresh beans. The volume on the television had been adjusted to accommodate the espresso machine.
"Do you mind if I turn this off?" Charlotte asked. With his back to her, focusing on his espresso production, he didn't answer. "Charles," she raised her voice over the cacophony. "Are you watching this?" Still, he didn't answer. She turned it off, and the grinding came to a halt.
"I was watching that," he said. "Why'd you turn it off?" Charles moved to turn the television on again. The bottom rungs of the painters' ladder were visible through the dining room window. Charlotte moved quickly to close the door joining the two rooms. It swung back and forth a few times until it settled into place, not quite aligned with the door jam.
"Do you think we could talk instead of having that thing on?" Charlotte asked in an annoyed tone. "Isn't it enough that I sleep listening to your snoring machine humming, and all day long I hear your fax machine, phones, and e-mail reminders? I mean, really, do you think we could actually just visit over our coffees one morning? Like this morning? And possibly with no noise?"
Charles ignored her as he examined the thin layer of foam at the top of his cup of espresso.
"Charles, I am talking to you! You are so arrogant! I have no idea how you function or why people take to you. You must not treat everyone else like you treat me. I guess I have to pretend I'm a real estate deal. You know, it's not funny how I tell people you wouldn't notice me even if I set myself on fire!"
Charles took a sip from his espresso and sighed as he looked up at her. "The television was on when I came downstairs, like every morning. I turned it up so I could hear it while I made my espresso, like every morning." He took another sip from the tiny cup. "I make a damn good espresso." He sighed again and then said, "Charlotte, please stop with the setting-yourself-on-fire comment. It's really getting old. Why are you in such a crappy mood today? What could I have possibly done in the twenty-two minutes I've been awake?" he asked, glancing at the wall clock.
"You just don't get it, do you? I was outside, having my quiet time—peace and quiet. And then I was startled because, despite what you think you said, you didn't tell me the painters were coming, or I wouldn't have been outside in my pajamas. And what the heck are they doing here at seven o'clock in the morning?"
"They are working hard, and I'd hardly call that"—he pointed to her silk robe—"pajamas." He used his finger to wipe the inside of the espresso cup, then licked his finger.
"Stop that!" yelled Charlotte. "You are so uncouth. How can you maintain such a successful business when you behave this way? Do you lick your cup when you go out with your investors?" She took a deep breath. "Gosh, Charles, you really got my morning off to a chaotic start! You know, you could at least have said you're sorry."
"For what? What should I say I'm sorry about? You need to calm down," said Charles.
Their sixteen-year-old daughter, Betsy, came bouncing into the kitchen. "God, you guys. Can we have one morning when you're not fighting?" she whined.
"We aren't fighting," said Charles. "Your mother is yelling at me again. That's not fighting."
Charlotte ignored his comment and instead turned her attention to Betsy. "Nice outfit," she said sarcastically. "Where is all the new stuff I bought you for your birthday?"
"This is it, Mom. You did buy me this. What's wrong? I don't get it. You buy me the stuff. We fight when you buy it, but you buy it anyway. What? So you can pick on me? I mean, if you don't want me to dress in hippie clothes, then why do you buy them for me?" She opened the kitchen drawer to take out a power bar.
"That's not enough for breakfast, Betsy. Don't you have a calculus test this morning? You need protein," Charlotte said in a concerned voice.
"This is protein," Betsy said, shaking the power bar at Charlotte. "God, I can't even choose the right breakfast. Is there anything I do that's right by you? You know what? Don't answer that because I don't care." Then, walking toward the center hall, she yelled loudly, "Dad! We're going to be late! Let's go!"
"Betsy, I wish you'd tuck that shirt into the skirt. It just looks so sloppy, and the cami isn't outerwear. I bought it for you to wear under lightweight blouses, not as a top. I'm not negotiating. Button the blouse, at the very least. And where are your shoes? Sneakers are for jeans or sports, not skirts."
"Stop it, Mom! Just stop it! Why can't you be like Emily Wilmet's mom? She doesn't constantly pick on Emily, and she even let her pierce her nose. Her mom is a doctor, too. She actually does something all day besides think up ways to torture her kids."
"Well, I'm sorry you think all I do is think of ways to torture you and your brothers."
"Not your beloved Elliot or James," Betsy said. "Just me. You just like to torture me, probably because I'm the only one besides Dad who's still at home."
Charlotte continued, "Well, whoever you think I set out to torture from all my boredom, I actually have a lot going on. I serve on the board of the Art Museum, I manage the administrative part of Daddy's business, I help out my friend who happens to be our senator, and I run our lives, yours included. Laundry, gardening, bills, travel, college stuff, holiday planning—all of it is my deal!"
"Puh-lease! You have people for your people," said Betsy, "like those guys out there today. And, by the way, how about a heads-up when freaky-looking old men are going to be peering through my window first thing in the morning!" Betsy threw away the power bar wrapper and stepped into the center hall, "Dad! Let's go."
Charlotte took two steps toward her. "I didn't schedule the painters."
Betsy rolled her eyes.
"Quiet down, Betsy. I'm coming," Charles said firmly as he adjusted his tie.
"Dad, we are always late. I'm never going to get parking privileges if I'm late every day."
"You'll be fine. You are not late every day," answered Charles. "And besides, whoever said anything about taking the car to school once you get your license?" He went to make a second cup of espresso.
"Charles, you don't have time," said Charlotte. Betsy started toward the garage, where she would assume the relished role of every sixteen- year-old: driver. Charlotte called after her, "I'll be picking you up in the Suburban after school, so no driving home today. I have an appointment, and I need my car."
Betsy turned and scowled. "That car is a gas-guzzler and you shouldn't be driving it. Why don't you get rid of the damn thing?" She looked out the side door to be sure the painters' truck wasn't blocking the garage.
Charles shoved a piece of a power bar in his mouth and shrugged at Betsy's comment. He grabbed his jacket and Betsy's backpack, which she'd left on the floor in her enthusiasm to drive.
"I'm with Betsy on this one," said Charles, "but not for the same reasons. I just don't think your car suits your image." He kissed Charlotte on the head. "Someone with thoroughbred legs like yours ought to be swinging them out of a sleek sedan like a Jag or a Mercedes. Not a clunky Suburban." She frowned. "I mean it, Charlotte. Pearls, blazers, and button-down collars don't jibe with a Suburban. Nor do pressed khakis, for that matter," he added. "You have so much power in that conservative, sleek look of yours." He came back for a quick kiss. "God, you are one gorgeous woman!"
"I don't want power in my looks. I want power in my brain and my actions," she said as he juggled the backpack and his briefcase while trying to finish eating the power bar.
"Think about it—the whole image thing," he suggested, making his way to the garage.
"I have nothing that implies 'thoroughbred' in me," she insisted. "I'm a simple girl from the country."
He laughed, putting down his briefcase to look for his keys. "Yeah, real simple—that's what comes to mind when people think of you! I'm taking you for some test drives. Then you'll be convinced."
Betsy honked the horn. "Dad, let's go!"
"Does she have the motor running with the garage door closed?" yelled Charlotte as she hurried down the hallway to see for herself.
"I'll handle this," said Charles firmly. "You need to stop picking on her, Charlotte. She's sixteen, and she's not like our sons. Let go of some of this petty stuff!" The door slipped out of his cluttered hands, and it shut in her face.
"That's not petty!" she yelled through the door, locking it from the inside. She heard the garage door open. She looked down at the morning paper, which the painters or Charles had left on the side door stoop. She opened the door, quickly grabbing the paper. The front page photo was an image of her college friend Jennifer Holmes Bartlett. The caption read "Senator Visiting Philly Neighborhoods Today."
Excerpted from Missed Periods by Denise Horner Mitnick Copyright © 2011 by Denise Horner Mitnick. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The reviewer who says this is a book for preteens is mistaken! This is a book for women balancing work and family -- it is the story of four over-forty friends who come together to help a mutual friend in crisis. The story is a poignant yet, laugh-out-loud funny tale of midlife --- enjoy the ride and fasten your seat-belts, girlfriends!
I think thay thos selection is a great topic for pre-teens arond ages ten to seventeen Nikkol Garcia