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Amy Lou Jenkins is the award-winning author of Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting

"If you combined the lyricism of Annie Dillard, the vision of Aldo Leopold, and the gentle but tough-minded optimism of Frank McCourt, you might come close to Amy Lou Jenkins.Tom Bissell author of The Father of All Things 

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Featured Author


Laverne Bardy-Pollak

Laverne Bardy-Pollakís column, Laverneís View, appears in 50 Plus Monthly, a regional New Jersey










 newspaper, and was picked up by Senior Wire Syndication. Anthologies that have accepted her work are Chicken Soup for the Grandmaís Soul, Chocolate for a Womanís Courage, Rocking Chair Reader, and Craft of the Modern Writer. Her writing has appeared in Readerís Digest, Mature Living, Northern Horizons, Montage, Womanís Hockey, Big Apple Parentsí Paper, and numerous others publications. Currently, she is compiling a book of her columns and is working on a memoir. She is a member of the National Writersí Union, The International Womenís Writing Guild and Women Reading Aloud.


WATCHING REAL BEAUTY was included in the anthology, Chocolate for a Woman's Courage.


©1997 Laverne Bardy Pollak

I was sitting in a diner, enjoying my solitude and absorbed in thoughts of my father. It was the anniversary of his death and I was missing him.

From the corner of my eye I noticed a magnificent looking couple in a nearby booth. The woman was incredibly beautiful with large, dark, seductive eyes, thick black hair pulled sleekly into a French knot, and an airbrushed complexion. Her movements were fluid. She was poised and composed and appeared to be detached from her surroundings. I watched as she sipped her coffee and I realized that hers were the looks Iíd always wanted.

The man was gorgeous. I stared shamelessly and smiled to myself as I allowed my fantasies to ramble. His skin was tanned, and he had rugged features with a strong cleft chin and clear blue eyes. The cut of his expensive three piece suit accentuated his broad chest and shoulders.

He was reading a newspaper. She was drinking coffee. They never spoke.

I heard myself sigh and tried to pull my thoughts back to where they had been before theyíd been so pleasantly invaded. It was difficult. I was drawn to the two of them and their robot-like movements -- turning his pages, lifting her cup. No speaking. No smiling. No communicating.

My thoughts were further interrupted when the hostess escorted another couple to a booth diagonally in front of mine. They appeared to be frequent patrons of the diner because they joked familiarly with the waitress, who asked if they wanted their "usual."

The man was in his mid sixties. His hair was steel gray and he wore baggy shorts that slung low on his hips, inviting his belly to hang over. He wore a horizontally striped polo shirt and a red billed cap. Black dress shoes and short black socks accentuated his thin, white, bowed legs.

The woman, about fifty five, had short frizzy brown hair with long gray roots. She wore plaid Bermuda shorts, a sleeveless polka dot over-blouse, white sandals with white anklets, and carried a small white patent leather handbag. She had no forearms. Finger-like appendages hung from her elbows.

I tried hard to ignore her deformity but found myself sneaking peeks at her reflection in the window along side me. Distance made their conversation inaudible to me, but their perpetual dialogue, laughter and playful animation revealed the warmth and the depth of their feelings for each other.

I stalled by reordering cups of tea. I was intrigued by the contrast in the appearance and behavior of the two couples.

The beautiful people slid across their booth seats, stood and prepared to leave. I observed that the woman was tall and willowy. The man appeared to be about 6'5" and, in my humble opinion, was a perfect specimen of manhood. The woman walked in front of the man, past the cashier and out the door. He paid the check and followed. They never spoke or so much as acknowledged each otherís presence. They were perfectly sculpted pieces of cold marble.

I was on my third cup of tea by now and feeling uncomfortable about lingering any longer when the second couple stood and prepared to leave. When he reached the womanís side of the table, the man leaned over and whispered something into her ear, causing her to visibly blush and giggle. They embraced. I hid behind my menu and softly cried.

They were walking towards the cashier when the man suddenly turned and came back to his booth. He reached across the seat on which heíd been sitting and came up with his red cap.

My eyes were still moist as I managed a smile and said, "Good thing you remembered it now, instead of after you were on the road."

He grinned broadly and walked over to me. "See this here pin?" he asked with great pride as he pointed to a small brass heart stuck in his cap. "My wife gave it to me over 40 years ago and Iím never without it."

I smiled approvingly and he returned to the cashier where he paid his check and walked out with his arm over his womanís shoulders.

As my eyes followed them to the parking lot, memories of my father trickled back into my mind and I was struck with thoughts of something he had told me when I was a youngster working beside him in his roadside fruit and vegetable stand. "The sweetest fruits are often the ones with blemishes and imperfections."

I was warmed by thoughts of my fatherís words and realized that while the beautiful people had caught my eye, it was the second couple who had captured my heart.

Chicken Soup for a Grandma's Soul recently accepted BE A GRANDMOTHER?  WHY WOULD I WANT TO? 


©1999 Laverne Bardy Pollak

For years I smiled, tolerantly, as friends rambled on about the virtues of their grandchildren. I bit my lower lip and endured endless reports on their intelligence, their creativity, and their reactions to Big Bird and potty training.

I couldnít relate. I didnít have grandchildren, and that was fine. My life was full and I didnít need grandchildren to feel complete. I wasnít interested in the prospect of changing messy diapers, or comforting cries in the middle of the night. I was past the age of mashing ripe bananas, wiping tiny fingerprints from mirrors and aspirating noses. And, I certainly had better things to do than knit a layette.

Then she came into the world. Shari Lynne. A tiny, velvety pink package, swaddled in a soft white receiving blanket. I could hardly catch my breath. I had given birth to three children of my own, but the wonder of it all seemed magnified and even more extraordinary than it had back then. All I could think was that my baby had had a baby. My son -- my flesh and blood -- had joined with his wife in creating a miracle, and I, in some unobtrusive way, was an important and necessary component.

My heart had never known such fullness. I had a little baby with whom to play and, hopefully, be a positive role model. I wandered, gleefully, through infant and toy departments purchasing baby things because it made me happy. I held innocent people captive and showed them baby pictures.

The depth of my love grew in proportion to her response to me. And before long, I had fallen madly in love with a pint sized human being with her very own mind and personality.

Soon Shari was old enough to join me on outings to pet shops, parks and book stores. I sat her in a high chair in a Chinese restaurant and smiled as she dipped crispy "nu-nuz" into duck sauce and ate wontons with her fingers. We enjoyed ice cream as she held my finger tightly and we walked through malls.

A second grandchild came along; a beautiful boy. And son number two bestowed upon me the privilege of being present during his wifeís agonizing labor, as he wiped her brow and cried. I was further honored by being invited into the hospital nursery just moments after Dylon Jamesí entrance into the world. I observed the nurse as she gently placed him on his back under warm lights and I watched his tiny arms thrashing helplessly as she performed her necessary, but invasive, procedures on his defenseless little body.

I winced and imagined what he must be feeling after the trauma of being pulled from the warmth and security of the womb and laid on a hard surface; vulnerable and robbed of protection, certainty, and dignity.

Distance prevents me from seeing my grandchildren frequently, but when I do it is often in the role of babysitter, with extended quality hours together.

Recently Dylon stayed with me for several days while his parents took a much deserved vacation. We threw a ball, and pushed toy trucks along the floor. We went down sliding boards, sat on swings, built sand castles and crawled through makeshift tunnels. We made circles on the ceiling with flashlights, in a pitch dark room, and played hide and seek behind the armchair, under the bed, and in the closet. I reread stories so often I have them memorized. I removed my coffee table from my living room to make more space for toys and for play.

After heíd been bathed and tucked into bed, I looked around and saw the clutter and disorder. Being a neat-freak by nature, my


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 instinctive reaction was one of emotional discomfort. Suddenly, a change of thinking put everything into perspective. Dylon did not care that Memaís house was disorderly. He wouldnít even remember it. Nor would he someday thank her for her great housekeeping skills. More than likely he would only recall warm feelings of us having a wonderful time together.

For a brief moment my heart ached. I wished that I could have had such insight when my children were growing up. But, back then I thought that being a good wife and mother meant doing everything perfectly; daily dusting and vacuuming, cooking gourmet meals, polishing white Stride Rite baby shoes, combing neat parts and Shirley Temple curls, ironing fresh creases in toddlers overalls -- all things that I now realize were of no real importance.

My third grandchild arrived four months ago. I donít really know him yet. Steven Wayne just lies in his crib, or sits propped up in his car seat looking like a bobble-head doll and Humpty Dumpty rolled into one. Compliant, affable, trusting, helpless, he is totally at the mercy of those who love him and knock themselves out to meet his needs. And all they ask for in return, is a smile and an occasional burp.

For a brief moment I concerned myself over whether I had enough love left to give this precious bundle. But then he looked directly into my eyes and grinned from ear to ear and my concerns vanished.

I like to think that grandchildren are our childrenís way of thanking us.


SURVIVING THE SINGLES SCENE, and the above two essays, are each from my column, Laverne's View, in 50 PLUS MONTHLY.  You may view 13 of my essays/columns by going to , and then clicking on to ESSAYS.



©2002 Laverne Bardy-Pollak

After 23 years of marriage I returned to the dating scene and realized that nothing had changed. The men were older, but still motivated by the same primal urges, and forty years and three children later, I was still trying to preserve my virginity.

In my quest to meet men Iíve been to singleís dances, placed my bio in an Online dating service and taken out ads in the Personals; all things I swore Iíd never resort to; and although I listed intelligence, a sense of humor and sensitivity as qualities Iím seeking in a man, Iíve discovered that what I actually want is good looks and chemistry -- a distressing reality that has caused me to face my shallowness and lose total respect for myself.

Iíve learned that all older men think they are handsome. They look in the mirror and see the same high school football star that graduated fifty years earlier. Baldness, fat, and hair sprouting from their ears go unnoticed or are viewed as enhancements.

Older women, on the other hand, cower in front of the mirror with only one eye open, barely able to stomach what they see. They spend thousands of dollars a year on makeup, hair dressers, personal trainers, black wardrobes and undergarments that restrict all natural jiggling, then return to the mirror where they now see a well dressed, beautifully coiffed, fat, ugly woman.

I met Freddy Online. He was anxious to take it to the next level on our second date but I managed to fight him off. On our fourth date I prepared dinner, after which we watched a video. As we sat there, his one arm resting on the back of the couch behind my head, he leaned over and kissed me. While our lips locked his free hand began its downward journey from my face to my neck to my shoulders. Anticipating my usual resistance, he hesitated, and when I offered none he boldly slid his hand down a little farther. This time I was prepared.

"What the hell is this?" Freddy asked as he pulled out a piece of folded paper.

"I donít know," I answered, coyly. "What does it say?"

He unfolded the paper. "It says, This is as far as you go, Buster."

He broke into a slow smile that turned into an embarrassed laugh and didnít make his move again for a solid ten minutes.

Next I tried a Singles Dance. I love dancing so I rarely refuse anyone who asks me. Big mistake.

Herbie wore a baggy black suit with slacks that were too short, revealing brown penny loafers and white sport socks. His neck swam in the collar of a shirt that was several sizes too large; his tie was too short and he spoke in rapid, long, sentences without pauses.

"Hi, youíre pretty, my name is Herbie, Iíve been fired, but Iím doing telemarketing as a temp with Kelly Girls now, I like your black stockings, I canít wear black socks," and he lifted his leg to show me his white cotton ones, "because I have a fungus, would you let me take you to dinner sometime?"

Obviously, Herbie had not yet completed his Dale Carnegie course.

Dennis was a chemical engineer -- quite intelligent, but the wide gap between his front teeth caused him to whistle and spit, and although his jaw moved up and down when he spoke, the expression on his face never changed, reminding me of Mortimer Snerd.

"I enjoy dancing with you, Laverne," he said. "May I call you?

"Please donít take this personally, Dennis, but Iím not ready to date yet since my divorce."

"Iím sorry. How long has it been?"

"Barely 20 years."

".........................................Oh, I understand. Will you call me when youíre ready?"


Alan had the subtlety of a 42nd Street hooker. He made no secret of his intentions. "Iíd like to rub your thighs, your back and everything in between," was the charismatic way he phrased it, and it was at that moment that I discovered my ability to fly.

Despite all of my negative experiences I shall continue my quest for an intelligent, humorous, sensitive (good looking) man, because at this moment my social life revolves entirely around people with breasts Iím ready for a candle lit dinner with an Adamís Apple.

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