Friday, January 29, 2010

The State of the Union

One thing I'm sure we can all agree upon - the man can control the room. I can't remember ever seeing a President so relaxed in the pulpit. And that was the thing of it - he was preaching, and not only to the choir. He had something to say for and about everyone,

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Friends in the Ether

A while ago, Nance commented thusly:


The Blog Universe is a rather nice place...
haven't made so many boon companions since Jazzercise!


That's a statement which can be parsed and responded to in many ways. So, Nance, thanks for the prompt........ here goes:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Winter

Mamacita was writing about snow days and it was discombobulating for a second because I was wearing a short sleeved polo shirt and cotton pajama pants.

Then, I remembered that it was real wintry weather in most of the rest of the country. Of course, it's wintry weather here, too, but here is Tucson, after all.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Commercial Spoke to Him

Watching the less-than-an-offensive-juggernaut that was the faux-Browns vs the used-to-be-Baltimore-Colts on a football saturated weekend, the commercials became a welcome respite from officials reviewing a call.

Still, having watched one network consistently over a few weeks (think March Madness or the Olympics or American Idol if you want to experience the feeling and football analogies leave you cold) we'd been reduced to yelling "Not Again!!" at every commercial break.

TBG owns the remote in our house; even the Cuters cede it to him. As the cameras panned up from the field and the music swelled, his nimble fingers pressed mute and then, amazingly, he didn't minimize the picture to peruse the on-screen guide. He was mesmerized.

Two seconds into a commercial featuring a woman's face turning, the camera doing a slow pan as she is gazing and TBG says "This is a car commercial."

There were no logos on the screen. There were no vrrrooooming noises in the background. There was just a woman's face and then there were numbers and symbols and geometric shapes floating around her face. It was pretty, but a car commercial?????

TBG was totally there with the dark-haired woman with the beautiful eyes. Because, he told me, the symbols were showing calibrations and angles and momentum and all manner of numerical representations of the way it feels when you drive.

"It's an appreciation of the shapes you see in the world before you.
It's the connection between driver and car
when you're efficiently dealing with the road ahead.
"

I love when he tries to draw me into his world. There's a special smile he gets and a look in his eyes that tells me that the words are close-but-no-cigar to the real experience.

Still, it was nice of Acura to try to show it to me.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Respect

Messers 6 and 4 waited excitedly but patiently on the concrete launching pad separating the rows of cars from one another. The fairly-busy-lots-of-the-time entrance lane was blessedly empty as I watched through the wall of windows in the gym's lobby.

Amster caught up with them as Mr. 4 was leaping into his brother, his Globe-bought cowboy boots propelling him to ever greater heights. They each grabbed a hand and skipped across the road and came to the really-heavy-and-hard-to-open door. Mr. 6 struggled mightily, pulling with all his strength, and managed to get it open.Then,to my horror, he slid through the opening he'd created and ran towards Kids' Club.

Big mistake.

First he had to get past me. And I was pissed. Amster is the woman I admire most here in Tucson, and her son had just treated her rudely. This would not stand.

Once all 4 of us were together, I asked the boys if they knew what we were? "A group of ladies and gentlemen" I told them, and we treat each other as such. I was proud of his strength, but Mr. 6 had disrespected his mother, leaving her to her own devices with something that he had already accomplished. And he knew that that accomplishment was not without cost; had the door been opened for him he'd have been at Kids' Club even sooner.

Did he know that the Big Cuter always held doors for me? That got his attention; the Big Cuter owns all those Legos and Construx and dinosaurs that live in my house. He occupies a very special place in their Pantheon of Amazing Humans.

Holding a door told other people that you were a well-mannered person, I went on. It was also an easy way to garner a compliment. I know that compliments are highly potentiated experiences for them, and so did Mr. 6 because, unsurprisingly, he smiled at me (eye contact is another one of my things) and ran off to play. Conversation over. As the Cuters would tell me, "Enough already, MOM!!" With love, but said nonetheless. All that was in the smile.

After our workout, gathering the kids from Kids' Club and our keys from the mini-lockers in the lobby we arrived at those same big front doors. And there was Mr. 4, all 44 pounds of him, pushing with his entire body and opening the door. He couldn't reach the way-over-his-head-handle so his little fingerprints were embedded in the glass as he inched it more and more open. Then he looked under his armpit and said "You can go through now." And we did.

After the hugs and the hair ruffling and the so proud's were sent his way, I began to think about the little losses which add up to the changing world. Nursery Rhymes, for example. The Tales of The Brothers Grimm. Aesop's Fables. And, sadly, manners.

Were they a victim of the women's movement? I gave up my bra early on (admittedly, not a huge issue), but I've always seen feminism as an opening of doors rather than a lessening of requirements. (Both double entendres were intended.) Manners make the world go 'round, after all. Otherwise, we'd all be pushing and shoving out of the elevator, crushing Granny in our wake.

I spent the rest of Saturday and most of Sunday in a funk about the younger generation's ability to recognize that someone else in the world might just possibly be as important as each one of them obviously is ..... and then I watched Pierre Garcon in his post-game interview.

On his way to the Super Bowl, with 11 receptions for 151 yards and 1 touchdown (if you don't follow football, just insert "had a great game"), he was absurdly attired in a white plastic hard hat. There was no AFC CHAMPIONSHIP logo on this hard hat, though it had been earned. There was no team logo nor abstract design or obscure cultural reference. In block capital letters it said Reggie Wayne Construction.

In answer to the first question, instead of tooting his own horn, instead of explaining how he'd been wonderful, he went straight to thanking Reggie Wayne. Thanked the veteran on behalf of all the Indianapolis wide receivers for being unselfish, for teaching, for leading by example, and for being so talented that the defense had to concentrate on stopping him. All of which combined to make the youngsters better.

And then I understood the wording on the hard hat. Pierre Garcon and all the other wide receivers were the results of a building project managed by Reggie Wayne. And they were proud to be a part of that project. They had been given a gift and they were happy to say thank you. And they knew enough to say thank you.

It made me feel a lot better about kids in general.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Staycation in Chicagoland

The Little Cuter and SIR spent the long weekend on a Chicago stay-cation. SIR planned the whole thing; all she had to do was pack. Here's her review of the experience --- my guest post for Friday:

Wednesday & Thursday- Harrahs

HILARIOUS and good times at the casino except it ate all my money. Damn slot machines! I gave up on the slots after I lost $40 and then gained 10 back playing roulette. Ive decided Im no longer intimidated by the tables.... We stuck out like sore thumbs being the only under 60 year olds in the place, but we had a great time nonetheless. I also learned that winning a free dinner buffet might sound like a huge score, but using the coupon after having a few rounds of beers will leave one so uncomfortably bloated that one must retire to the room for an hour and unbutton ones pants whilst groaning. Hint: never eat pizza AND mashed potatoes from one plate.




FridayBulls Game

The NBA is difficult to watch nowadays. The first half is a giant throwaway and feels like youre sitting in a live commercial break. When the game finally ticks down to the final minutes you can see actual talent on the court and things get interesting. This is why it is important to bring a (hidden from the security guards) flask of whiskey to the game it numbs the feeling that youre being ripped off. However, we did end up getting our moneys worth as the game went in to DOUBLE OT!!!! And we got to witness Derrick Roses highest scoring NBA game yet. I kept asking SIR if he thought Rose would score more points this year than his faked score on the SATs. My humor was not appreciated



SaturdayFree night at the Wyndham

Nothing quite compares to having a boy in your life who people throw freebies at it is delightful. I kept telling SIR that I LOVED being the beneficiary of his charms. We got a corner suite at the Wyndham, and a free bottle of champagne and a cheese plate that we ate in pjs on the GIANT fluffy bed while we watched the Saints game. I was basically in heaven.





Then we went to the Signature Room where we had two very overpriced Long Island Iced Teas and cursed our luck at going up there on the ONE foggy night of the year. Couldnt see squat. I took some ironic view pictures though.



We woke up in the morning to our check-out sheet slipped under the door and attached? Two free breakfast buffet tickets!! TWO FREE BUFFETS in one week!

Sunday- Blue Man Group

YOU MUST SEE THIS SHOW. It knocked my socks off. We are totally going next time you are in the city.

Monday- Chinatown (my idea!)

Id never been to Chinatown here in the Chi as Ive heard it was superdupercalifragilistiexpial-idociously lame, but the whole point of the stay-cay was to do things in the city that wed never otherwise make time for. So we went. Took the train and it dropped us off RIGHT there (gotta love the city!) and its true, the town itself is a little sadonly one street.


But it was perfect because SIR is nothing if not a VERY THOROUGH TOURIST. We walked in and out of every shop on the street and bought silly trinkets for a dollar and a Sake set and saw the worlds fanciest Menorah shop (what is a Judaica shop doing in Chinatown? Im not sure. But they felt they had the right to charge $500 for a menorah, so poo on me!).

Then we ate dim sum and split the worlds most delicious Mongolian Beef. We decided that we would declare the day ASIA DAY! and on the way home stopped and bought some sake at Jewel (only in Chicago do they have sake in the grocery store). Then we went home and giggled while we unpacked our goodies and SIR planted the three bamboo stalks he bought and turned our apartment into Asia for the night. We googled how to drink sake and followed all of the traditional heating and pouring techniques until the liquor got the better of us and we gave up.

Seriously, a blast was had by all. I felt like I was off work for a MONTH and was actually looking forward to coming back and getting back in to my routine. The gluttony was a bit out of control with 2 (TWO!!) buffets in one week, so I decided to double the workouts this week and I woke up this morning and drank a cup of DETOXIFICATION tea (thank you, Chinatown!).


(And thank you Little Cuter for this post!)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lunch With G'ma

I've always enjoyed going out to lunch with my mother.

Even during those awful awkward early teen years I was able to be tempted into impersonating a human being for an afternoon with the offer of a shopping trip and lunch at the luncheonette across the street from A&S in Hempstead.

The short version, if you don't want to read the whole article, is that, after some inter-marriage, one brother's family owned Macy's and the other brother's family owned A&S. But, I digress.

This may be one of those posts which give TBG a headache - yes, an actual physical pain in his head caused by my inability to follow one train of thought through to completion. I do believe that this has something to do with the female/male brain disconnect, but that is fodder for another post.

Anyway, when I was a very little girl, we used to go to Pasetti's. As I grew up, it became the place that was safe enough for 6th graders to dine without parental supervision. After the kids left home, G'ma and Daddooooo took up the tradition again, Daddooooo ending every meal with a dish of vanilla ice cream - "Just the one scoop" - which he swirled around in the tin dish as he twirled his spoon in an endless circle.

Woolworth's had a lunch counter staffed by people of indeterminate nationality and gender. Every town has a place like that; TBG has his memories of Mawby's (to which I would gladly link you except it has no web presence that I could find), for example. The food wasn't extraordinary, but a 10 year old could get service with a grimace, just like any other patron.

French Fries were a standard order. At the time, my palate was (to be charitable) less than adventurous. A vanilla ice cream sundae (yes, vanilla ice cream and vanilla syrup with whipped cream, nuts and a cherry, of course) was my summer afternoon treat.

G'ma would wax eloquent about lunch counters in her past, but I paid no attention at the time, beyond registering it as borrrrrinnnnnggggg. Stupid stupid child.

Lunch used to cost $2.12, no matter what we ordered. Don't believe me, you who think nothing of spending $2.75 for a cup of coffee? I offer this menu as dispositive proof.

So, this past Tuesday G'ma and I were on our I-bowl-she-watches bi-monthly outing. (Isn't it weird how bi-monthly means both every other month and twice a month? I told you this post would give you whiplash!) Driving down Oracle Road and throwing out suggestions - pizza, Chinese, tuna sandwich, or what about that Bosnian restaurant? "What's Bosnian food?" she asked, paused, and then, proving once again why I love love love having her around as a playmate, she laughed and said "Oh, what the hell, how bad can it be?" as I pulled into the parking lot.

The walls were purple. Not lavender. Not eggplant. Not mauve. Purple. Deep rich vibrant purple. The tables were set with white linen with (of course) purple piping and draped with (naturally) a smaller purple cloth. We were the only people in the dining room.

Now, there's something special about the buzz of a well-filled room. I like to have parties with too many people in too small a space -- not too too small, but just small enough so that you are always bumping into someone new. An empty room - dining or otherwise - is creepy. No buzz. Just those purple walls and the lovely hostess offering us any table we'd like.

D'uh.

Following G'ma's suggestion, I asked our waitress for help with the menu. "Why don't you read it and then ask me questions?" she smiled as she turned and walked away. OK, then.

Homemade chicken vegetable soup with fresh noodles was the only item we were certain about. We expanded our horizons with tzatziki and ajvar. Tzatziki I recognized from Greek Islands, although our waitress (who turned out to be the soup maker, too) assured me that "Bosnian is better because it's made with sour cream instead of yogurt." Ajvar turned out to be a dense puree of tomato, red pepper, eggplant and spices with a tangy sweetness to go with its oatmeal-like consistency. We ate it, but we weren't fans. The biggest surprise was the cevapi. Presented to us as an amuse bouche, the chef smiled as he carried his own plate piled high with them outside to a table in the shade. Ground beef and spices rolled into mini-sausages placed delicately on a triangle of grilled bread, the tzatziki helped it slide right down. And it was good. Really really good.

We've gone from tuna on toast in a booth on Long Island to ajvar and cevapi in the desert southwest and I still like having lunch with my mother.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Something New

Find 8 minutes and 33 seconds and watch this whole thing.



Kseniya Simonova, 24 and gorgeous, won Ukraine's Got Talent. She creates pictures on an illuminated sand table .... which makes no sense at all until you watch her.

After you've watched the video, click here for the annotations. I was perfectly content making up my own story, which was close but not exactly what the explicator explicates. The site identifies the music and translates the (few) words.

The audience is sobbing, the judge is wiping her eyes, and I was a bit flummoxed by their reactions until I read and then thought about what it meant to be in the Ukraine when the Nazi's invaded.

Like you, I bet, my mind went straight to Ilsa telling Rick what the megaphones were blaring as the Germans marched into Paris. But the notes go on to tell us that almost every person in the audience had lost a family member to the Great War and what I thought was religious iconography were historical memorials like the light over the Kennedy tomb in Arlington and then I watched the video again and I cried.

And then I said a little prayer for the boys and girls I know who are or soon will be in harms way.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sports Shorts

Overheard while leaving the gym today: "I don't call him when his team loses."

There are a lot of people who aren't receiving phone calls today.
**
Events have proven me wrong and, much as it pains me to admit that I was in error, I have to say that Brett Favre probably was right to come out of re-retirement and play with the Vikings. He's 40 years and 100 days old when this is posted and he's 1 game away from the Super Bowl. Damn.
*****

Daddooooo was a true Jets fan, ugly green cap and all.




To be totally accurate, Daddooooo's hats all had mesh backs and plain fronts.
The only logos he would wear were "Proud Grandpa" and the NY Jets.
***

Whenever the Jets were playing one of our teams, Daddooooo always had "a nickel bet" with TBG. Sometimes the nickel actually changed hands; mostly it was a ruse for a phone call and a connection. Sure, the Colts and the Bengals may have handed the Jets their playoff berth, but I'm thinking that Daddooooo has a hand in their success as well.
***

SIR's Colts are about the closest I come to having a team this year. I've been rooting for the Saints all season, operating under some mis-guided conviction that my caring about their football team will help the City of New Orleans.

(one of my favorites on my iPod, as long as I'm basically typing my train of thought here.)


****

Did anyone else notice that football's talking faces were going on about the two remaining weeks of football? I guess even moving the largely-and-for-good-reason-mostly-totally-completely-ignored Pro Bowl to the week between the Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl won't give it any respect. Who would want to take the chance of being hurt in a meaningless endeavor? Why not make it photo op only? Do you think they'd play touch?
****

This is always a tough time for my boys, and they certainly seem to be coming on with the end of the season blues. TBG had been able to muster up a modicum of interest in golf on tv over the last few years, but now without Tiger his deprivation will be complete. The PGA can spin it all they want - random viewers like us are gone.
****

Well, we'll watch The Masters for the flora.
*****

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Sat on this Lizard Today

..... which is not a sentence one gets to type every day.

But, there I was, crouching over the gorges I'd dug in the courtyard in an over-enthusiastic attempt to create rainfall collecting berms. Instead of my neighbor's lovely undulations, I had created slot canyons. Gravel (which we use for ground cover and mulch and which can be seen in all its glory underneath my sat-upon friend above) does not adhere to sheer walls. Ugliness existed and I was down there attempting to create beauty.

Timing the pruning of the lantana is a mystery to me. No two authors agree. Out in the courtyard, with lantana to the left of me, lantana to the right, there I was, stuck in the middle with my pruner. (Is anyone else humming a little Steve Miller Band right there?) A controlled experiment presented itself to me. The same plants exist in basically the same environment : close to the reflected heat of the house, sheltered by the courtyard wall, equal access to irrigation and run-off water (should it ever rain again) and sunshine and shade and wind. I decided to prune the northern section and ignore the south forty and see if it makes a difference.

Pruning is the most fun part of gardening..... at least here in the desert where the soil is so unresponsive. My newly-sharpened pruners (is there a better feeling than refreshed tools??) made short shrift of the long tendrils as I squatted on the path. I gathered them up and dumped them in my cart.

Then I sat down to bring the cut a little closer to the center of the plant...... readjusted my position to continue around the circumference...... and voila my flattened friend was revealed!

I didn't scream. I didn't even yelp. I didn't jump up and run. I didn't blaspheme or gesticulate wildly. I apologized.

Yes, the words that came out of my mouth were,"Oh, I'm so sorry!"

I've probably just passed some kind of "now you are a true Tucsonan" test.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Poor Harry Reid

(I can't believe I actually typed that headline.)

Colin Powell, two weeks after refusing to run for President, said in a speech I attended that his race wouldn't have been a problem because he is light skinned and from Jamaica and "so I'm not that scary a black man".

Post-racial? NPR and Pew reported a survey yesterday where most whites saw Obama as mixed race and blacks, to a much greater degree, saw him as black.

Come back in 50 years.... our voting populace will all be a lovely shade of ecru... or burnt sienna..... and "flesh" will not automatically send the brain to white. Well, that's my dream, anyhow.

And then there's Harry Reid. No one has read the as-yet-unpublished book, but his quote has certainly stimulated advance sales. And yet, as Leonard J. Pitts, Jr wrote, he got it right.

We all have our own "ethnic dialect" - whether it's Brooklynese or Ebonics or a Valley Girl's Whatever insouciance - and we bring that dialect out when necessary. For the most part, though, standard English is still standard English and, for now at least, it defines a civilized person. Yes, our country could embrace a person of color who spoke like an educated human being. Pitts is right when he says that Palin and Bush 43 would have been written off before their first campaigns if they had not been white; skin color gave them a window of opportunity that America has yet to demonstrate towards a person of color.

Now that last sentence provoked an interesting train of thought -- can I come up with the name of a popular/powerful/elected official whose skin is darker than mine and whose language skills are worse than average. Andrew Young, Charlie Rangel, Tommy Thompson, Cory Booker, J.C.Watts.... I'm hard pressed to find one.

On American Idol last night, Randy Jackson had to tell a young black singer that he couldn't understand a single sentence the contestant had uttered. "What are you saying, man??" Why this mangling of the English language is considered cool is a mystery to me; I was glad to see that Randy shared my confusion.

I think Senator Reid's problem was that someone quoted him, not that what he said was insulting to the President. In fact, I'm not sure he was really talking about the President at all. I think his quote reveals an honest reading of the American voting public. I'm just glad that this "light skinned ... no Negro dialect" President happens to be Barack Obama.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

An Apology

For some reason, Blogger won't let me fix the fonts in today's main post. It's not my intention to be screaming at you.....

A Window Into Their World

According to Facebook, the girls in my life are doing a lot of smiling these days.

Listen to this thread between two sisters:

I am just happy to live in a world where the people I care about can be themselves. No matter what that means. Also, a world where there are so many kinds of pie.
status update Yesterday

you better not be eating pie without me.
Yesterday at 5:34pm

You remember the baker lady from the Beth El craft fair? She did the desserts this Shabbat. Had those AWESOME pecan pie squares. Worth eating even if I can't help thinking of that horse.
Yesterday at 5:40pm

meh, i don't count pecan pie as real pie :)
Yesterday at 10:14pm

I have this tooth . . .
Yesterday at 10:15pm

hurl.
Yesterday at 10:16pm

****

There are many questions one might ask: What horse? What tooth? And what was it about the combination of the two that made one want to hurl? But the facts were less important to me than the laughter I could hear in my heart as they reprised family history in shorthand. I'm left to wonder what the people she loves were doing, and what it has to do with pie.

Inquiring aunts want to know.

And then there's this one:

You know those days when you know you shouldn't have gotten out of bed to face the world? Well... I had that exact OPPOSITE day today. YIPPEE SKIPPY joy and love and squeals and hugs to all!

*****

If that doesn't put a smile on your face then you really need to start reading some Dr. Seuss and exercise your grinning musculature. She's just sharing the happiness in her life, and then she's sending it our way. No one asks her what's making her smile; her comments are all of the "good for you" variety.


In one day I got a smile and a warm fuzzy feeling through the ether. It wasn't their intention, I'm sure, and they didn't know (til now) that they'd been with me that day, but it happened to tweak my soul and I wanted to share it with you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Watching TV While Cooking Dinner

Cooking's not my thing. Never has been. Probably never will be. It's not that I mind it, it's that I'm not very good at it. The Little Cuter says that the thought is the father of the deed and that it's all in my attitude. TBG says I ought to slow down and pay attention and take my time -- not behaviors usually considered when those I love think about me.

In order to stay interested, I need music on the radio and a glass of something in my hand. Preferably a refillable something. I can watch the sunset out the window and dance around the kitchen and pretend that I'm having fun. I don't let myself reflect on the fact that I'd rather be sitting on the patio furniture, reading the WSJ's Weekend Journal, which is winking provocatively at me from the newspaper basket. I need distractions. When 92.9 goes to a commercial, I turn to the big tv where TBG is watching the national news.

It's frightening. There's a brief report on a tremendous earthquake in Haiti, a snippet on the financial 9/11 commission which begins tomorrow, and then they hit the real story: Leno and Conan. Personal interviews, clips from the shows, commentators with furrowed brows prognosticating.... c'mon people...... if anyone cared about Jay Leno they'd be watching him whenever he showed up on the screen.

There was more in depth analysis of this non-story than there was of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission's mission. The reporter did make me smile, though, when he described the members of the Commission as people who would actually be able to understand the answers they were given. Yes, as the inter-web is screeching, the Commission members have ties to Wall Street. Who else in the world is going to understand what is being discussed? Joe the Plumber? Sarah Palin? The reporter was making the obvious point - no sense in having this Commission if the panel can't understand what's being said.

I just don't like it being an unusual occurrence is all. I think it's kind of brave of NBC to say it out loud.

Went outside to check on the gas grill (I do so love living here ... winter is over, if the warming of the afternoon breeze is any indication.... and it is....) and came back inside to Mark McGwire being insincere. It's not an apology if you don't own up to the underlying offense. Saying you're sorry but you really truly weren't doing anything wrong because you were just trying to be healthy isn't saying you're sorry. It's hoping that people won't read beyond the headlines announcing that you'd admitted steroid use. It's assuming that everyone else buys into your delusion (a great word I heard several times this afternoon). Saying that you called the Maris family to apologize and then saying that the steroids had nothing to do with your 70 home run season is bordering on sociopathy. There's an obvious disconnect between what he wants (Hall of Fame, re-integration into the baseball family, redemption), what needs to happen (telling the truth) and what he is capable of doing.

Honestly, does anyone believe this?

Finally, there's the dead Iranian physicist. The camera had a great time with body bags and ambulances and then the reporter began to speculate. For those of us who were unable to follow his words, there they were, up on the screen in multi-colored squares. His idea was that perhaps the United States killed him, or perhaps Israel killed him, or perhaps Iran killed him for collaborating with the U.S. or perhaps Iran killed him because he sold information to Israel. Huh?

I was really glad to go out and watch the chicken cook.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It Had to Happen

The house is really empty now. I told TBG that we had to get some more stuff out right away and he looked at me as if I'd grown another head and wondered why in the world I thought there was something wrong with the simplicity that was our un-decorated home.

I am suffering from Decoration Deprivation. Though TBG volunteered, unsolicited, that the tree was beautiful and that I should feel free to leave it up as long as I pleased, the consensus seems to be that after Epiphany (I don't know what that is, but it seems to be important) your Christmas pillows are no longer adorable. Rather, they begin to speak to your need for clutter and your inability to clean up after yourself.

So, I began to dismantle the house.


This counter in the kitchen isn't used for anything (a design flaw to be rectified in my dreams).
I figured the stuff I stashed there could live there for a looooong time.


I never figured out how to water this kissing ball from Auntie M and family,
and it's dropping pieces of greenery on the ground with alarming frequency.
Off it comes...... maybe it will do better outdoors?




I spent much too much time arranging these guys.
They began to form little conversational groupings.
And that was when I knew that I was out-of-control.

I stopped watering the tree. I scheduled the cleaning ladies for Monday morning at 10; I was hiking at 8:30. I do much better with a deadline. Everything had to be boxed and off the inside floors before I went to sleep on Sunday night. I was only a few days past the commit-me-now deadline. There was play-off football on the tube (does anyone under 30 even know why tv is called the tube?). Life was good.

Boring football games make for good background noise while un-decorating. Soon, my tree was bare naked and I had this:


and this:

which needed to be wrapped and padded and placed in boxes for storage.


There's nothing sadder than piles of lights.




We've got double doors but they still weren't wide enough.
The broom or the power vac... that is the question.


By 10 o'clock Sunday night it was all put away....
Maybe not on the shelves or anywhere near the closet....
But at least it's all in boxes.

Which is more than I can say for Thanksgiving:


Monday, January 11, 2010

What Does Old Look Like?

Ronni Bennett is the proprietor of Time Goes By, a blog for people who aren't interested in organic baby food recipes any more. She wrote about her frustration with the cultural perception of aging. Youth preservation and ill health seem to cover it all. Where, she wonders, are the visuals of those of us who are aging without surgery, triathlons and a pre-occupation with our medical conditions. She got me thinking about G'ma.

My mother - known here as G'ma - sleeps in late, has her breakfast brought to her on a tray, reclines on her couch, ignores the activities available to her in the pod-castle she now calls home, and always has a smile on her face. When asked if she'd like some more excitement in her life her reply is always the same: "It's taken me 86 years to figure this out - leave me alone!"

It's that understanding of the way life is (walker and pills and all) and the acceptance of what is possible that is so striking to me about her behavior. This woman who never watched day-time television is now content to spend her days as a twice-baked-couch-potato, snuggled under her Horace Mann blanket (some gifts from grandchildren are just perfect) with her old friends from Law and Order to keep her company. It's not possible for her to follow the plot-line of the novels she used to enjoy, so she's found predictable and watchable television to take its place. She's not wallowing in her loss; she's found a way to make her life work for her.

Knowing that she is safe and secure (though I need to remind her of that from time to time) she revels in the things which interest her and ignores those which don't. And she's not that interested in her aches and pains, nor in listening to those of others. She watches and judges the world around her, and if that world is more circumscribed than it used to be, well..... that's just the way it is. Her life is more restricted, but I've never seen her as content as she is now.

Her pod-castle wants to use us in a tv ad; we've laughed that it will have to be filmed on her couch or in her bed. Yet she is the resident they choose to highlight. She is neither decrepit nor a gym rat. She's just old.

Perhaps the visuals are changing just a little, Ronni.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Trying To Help

Dr. deA asked me about a volunteer opportunity in Marin this morning. Let's just call it the VO for now, because I like the organization and I don't mean to besmirch its reputation in this post. But certain aspects of the process pricked my conscience and my ego and my sense of fair play and reminded me that memories are often less prickly than the actual events.

Huh?

Seems that Dr. deA has had a house guest for the last two weeks. A nice guy, with lots of common interests to be shared with the Dr. and his Mrs....... but he's been there for two weeks and enough is enough already. With his customary "Hey, kiddo...." the doctor welcomed me into the embrace of his space. It's a palpable feeling of comfort and security and brains and kindness rolled into a nice looking face under a well-worn hat. Believe me, it's a very good place to be.

Could I give him some information on the VO? Was it worth pursuing? Did I have a contact? Would they take his friend tomorrow and get him out of his hair....no that's not fair, he's a nice guy and has experienced lots of losses recently it's just that 2 weeks is 2 weeks and Dr. deA is about done.

The answers were simple: sure, absolutely, definitely and then I got stuck. Because the VO is like the most exclusive sorority on the snootiest Greek campus in the world. No joke. Strangers share experiences of being shut out year after year after year. Interviews are stressful encounters and dressed for with infinite care; there's a need to strike a balance between fashion-plate and genuine hard working volunteer, and the fear of over-compensating in one direction or the other has been known to reduce otherwise normal women to a state of catatonia.

They took me even though I didn't know anybody; when asked how I got in I just smiled and said "my reputation must have preceded me" ... but I had no idea what that meant. I was a little embarrassed to have been accepted..... was I worthy?

Once I was a part of the group, I saw that there was nothing really special about any one of the members. They bore no resemblance to the scary girls from high school. They were warm and inclusive and smart and dedicated and I liked almost every one of them.

So, to answer Dr. deA's question, I have a lot of contacts. I was a valued member of the organization and I miss its work and its membership almost every day. It met all of my needs and asked no more than I was willing to give. It is housed in a beautiful and convenient and happiness-inducing setting. I know a lot of people and could call on them for assistance without fear of overstepping our friendship.

And that's when it hit me. Here was a person recommended by someone with impeccable taste. This person has nothing but time and is desperate to fill it with meaningful work. Monetary reward is not a consideration; he wants his time and his heart to be filled. The VO would take care of that nicely...... and it's not immediately available to him.

I know that there's a need to keep things small enough to manage them well, and that the volunteer hours expended to train (the training's the best part) the participants goes up exponentially with the addition of more trainees but the guy is willing to work for free for cryin' out loud! He needs the companionship and the mental stimulation that's part and parcel of the VO experience. How can an organization turn him away?

I'd have liked to have told him that there was a process to be followed, and that if he weren't accepted into the first class, he would, within a few years, be included. But no, this is not the scenario. Instead, people apply, interview and receive rejections year after year after year. It's not a glamorous board we're talking about. There are no television appearances nor ball gowns to be worn to fabulous celebratory dinners. And yet prospective volunteers, able volunteers, eager and intelligent and enthusiastic volunteers are turned away, with no hope that the future will hold a brighter ending.

Isn't that just wrong? Shouldn't there be a way to include those who want to share in the hard work of making the planet a better place? When a person genuinely wants to be a part of an organization and join in the good work that they do shouldn't that opportunity be available to her?

Last January I signed up to wrap Christmas presents for kids in foster care when December rolled around. On the appointed date, I drove to the location and found that the paid staff had done the work and we volunteers were no longer needed. In fact, we were kind of in the way since the movers were there and could we just shove over and continue this conversation in the.......... I left, feeling heartsick. I was aggravated because my time had been wasted but it was more than that. I wanted to do good. I had been prepared to do good. I was looking forward to that happy space in my heart that is only accessible when I'm having fun while helping out..... and it was nowhere to be found. And I was furious that, because my time was unpaid, it was so under-valued that no one had thought to send an email and preempt my cross-town trek.

The care and feeding of volunteers -- there's a knack to it that some organizations do almost unconsciously and that others need real help with.

I wish I had a better answer for Dr. deA's friend. I sent an email off to my-friend-the-former-president recommending his guest and I told him the basics of what I've written here. And we both sighed. We know these things could be done better; we just don't have the power to make the world work the way we know it should.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Resolution Update

I'm enjoying the fruits of this New Year's Resolution , which, for those of you who are averse to clicking back and seeing the actual post, revolves around an Abe Lincoln quote on happiness.

First and foremost, I've enjoyed having Mr. Lincoln hanging around my life. He was a pragmatist with a sense of humor and the tall man's inner confidence that I've always found attractive. I don't care how over-blown the stories are - I will carry the image of the young boy reading by the firelight forever close to my heart. Long after my bedtime, I would lie with my feet on my pillows and my head at the foot of my bed to catch the light from the hallway through the half-opened door. I read and re-read Shirley Temple's Book of Washington Irving's Tales that way, and I still shiver when I remember the illustrations of Ichabod Crane and the headless horseman in that pale, reflected light. Then and now, I thought of Abe, reading by pale, reflected light. Silly or not, it's true.

Knowing that Coach Wooden is paying attention keeps me on the path of righteousness, and since righteousness in this instance equates to happiness it's not so much nagging as being asked to join in a smile. And that is a good thing.

So, instead of grimacing at the dishes in the sink I opened a brand new scrubbing pad and squeezed out an extra dollop of bubbly lime enhanced detergent just for fun. At bowling, I loosened up and stopped worrying if G'ma was having a good time just watching (she has to be responsible for her own happiness if I have to be responsible for mine, after all) and I won the first game with a 136.... my own 2nd best personal record. The substitute pilates teacher on Sunday morning was not one of my favorites so I picked up my mat and went home to read in the sunshine; it was a much better use of that hour.

That's my first lesson from the resolution: tiny steps over minor obstacles.

I'm noticing how easily I slip into aggravation over those little bumps in the road. Since I am now as happy as I'll allow myself to be I'm finding that I have to give myself permission to change emotional directions.

Once upon a time, the first month we lived in Marin, I made a friend while sitting in the last row of the first PTA meeting of the year. We were both Jewish-girls-from-New-York with delightful sons and questions about the value of this particular public school's education. We bonded over the strange and wonderful Californians and the marvel that was their kayak on the lagoon outside her garden gate. Beneath the grapefruit tree. One lovely block from the town park, with its gazebo and basketball court. Where the 4th graders could ride their bikes - without parental supervision - on the multi-use path down to the bay and the views of the Golden Gate Bridge. How could it be this perfect? She lasted until he graduated from high school, and then she high-tailed it back to Manhattan. Her parting comment? "Life is too easy here. There are no edges. I need edges."

I understood her. Still do. My challenge with this resolution is to round off the unnecessary edges while staying sharp.

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Will Google Make Us Smart or Stupid?

(This is an expanded version of the answer I gave to the survey.)
***************************************************************************

The Big Cuter was born in 1983. He thinks he is 2 years behind those who were "first" to be "raised on the computer".... computer natives according to the Pew Internet Predictions survey. He has never had a teacher whose classroom experience in elementary school or high school included computers. There was no body of knowledge shared by those in pedagogy on the appropriate use of the medium - including search.

Now that his generation is moving into the professional workforce, siring children and living daily with electronic search capabilities, that situation will change. I couldn't encourage my children with any specificity in a medium I didn't understand. My grandchildren (god willing!) will be blessed with parents who've grown up with an understanding of the technology and its capabilities.

There will be no stupid questions - answers will be available and facts, once they are universally accessible, will become less important than what is done with them. Just as the calculator and the smart cash register obviated the need for learning to multiply or subtract, the Google-ization of the world will make information a much less valuable commodity.

If everyone has something, the way to win (and humans do want to win) is to use it better. If everyone with the power to wield a wrench can follow directions - immediately accessible and free directions - then plumbers might have to start showing up on time. If you don't have to spend time gaining access to the facts, you can devote your energies to using those facts in a more productive fashion.

I don't see this as the start of the apocalypse. I see it as the dawn of a new and very different age. Just imagine what Lewis and Clark could've done with a GPS........

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Things That Are Making Me Smile Right Now

  • Wondering if Boise State can win on a green field.
  • The smell of lamb chops on the grill...... and wearing shorts while I'm inhaling the aroma... and it's January.
  • Reading a new Sharon McCone story all afternoon, knowing that the bills are paid and the box of "to do" items has been reviewed. Making myself happy as a resolution seems to involve dealing with my marked propensity toward procrastination and sloth.
  • The two of us finishing an entire Baskin Robbins chocolate chip ice cream pie birthday cake in one very happy ninety minute period and then wondering: can a pie be a cake?
  • Watching Aaron's face as he describes power walking with his daughter while pushing his son's son-in-his- stroller up and down the long dirt driveway on their ranch in the Mendocino hills. The man has made lemonade and limoncello and lemon Italian Ices and Hawaiian lemon shaved ice out of what could have been a very big box of lemons.
  • Discovering the wonderfulness that is Ukrainian Bread from Sunflower Market. Who knew such a thing existed? Not I, and I'm friends with a Ukrainian. I know about the Easter Eggs.... but the seedy-nutty-cakey bread is a new thing for me.
  • The terrible cheese-iness that is The Bachelor. It's skin-crawlingly awful and yet we come back to it, season after season.
  • Seeing that the color of the field doesn't make a difference as WinstonVenable, Boise State (via Marin) outside linebacker makes an interception that gives the Broncos the national championship, at least as far as TBG, the Big Cuter and I are concerned.

That was going to be the last point, balancing nicely the first one. But then I saw the bedazzled football-shaped trophy given to Boise State by the Fiesta Bowl people and I was smiling again so I had to share.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Living Life On-Line

I found the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project's 2009 Predictions Survey on Time Goes By and found myself waxing eloquent while making predictions on issues I know nothing about. Nor did I have any notion if what I was saying was true. But it was fun to rant and rave in someone else's venue... and the instructions said that they'd take you more seriously if you started the screed with your name.

THAT gave me cause for pause. Was I me myself going to be answering the questions or would Ashleigh weigh in? Because this felt somewhat less public than the Burrow, and because it seemed scholarly and worldly, A/B took a back seat and I was on my way..... though with the question of identity firmly lodged in my brain.

Will Google make us stupid? I giggle now when I think of it. It's a great question. It's also not an easy one, and I wanted to get it right. The pressure was on.

From "how will we think" the survey moved on to "what will community look like?". Anyone who's reading this or writing one of these can guess my answer to that one - we are so much more connected by instant access to each other over the ether that friendships stay kindled and new alliances and relationships and interactions and intersections are happening all the time. The outlines of the community may look different than they did a decade or two ago, but real bonds are formed and a sense of togetherness (my own personal definition of community) certainly exists.

The question about sharing information as one ages brought me right back to identity and anonymity and community. The Big Cuter was and is his Everquest avatar as his avatar reflects the real person typing on the keyboard. In the game he was a guild leader at 16. I have a hard time believing that the other players would have elected him in person, since he was among the youngest members of the guild. Yet, in his on-line persona, he was cajoled and coaxed and convinced to take the leadership role. And he did it well. His on-line relationships were every bit as fulfilling as were his real life friendships. His actual identity protected, he was involved in a community which allowed him to flourish in ways real life couldn't offer. At the time, my mantra was "the game is bad dumb stupid and evil and should not be played." Over the years, as I became more acclimated to the ether, my views have changed.

This evening I told TBG that I have had an on-line friend for several months. A Wordscraper friend. We always have at least 2 games going, and though he regularly beats me I'm never humiliated and sometimes I even win a few in a row. I know nothing about him beyond his nice family profile photo, and he has even less information to be gleaned from mine. I don't believe that we've exchanged 12 words in the chat box, and most of those were me saying "ouch". Yet we are certainly Wordscraper friends. There's never a doubt that a rematch will be accepted. I rely on his presence; I'd be disappointed were he to disappear. He's a person who would not could not never would have been in my circle were it not for the community of game players I discovered on Facebook. We are in each other's daily lives, but we are not of each other's lives. We don't know each other ..... or do we?

It's a conundrum.

(Click on the link - there it is again, in case you don't want to scroll up to the first iteration - and let them know what you think. It's a provocative way to spend an hour or so.)

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