Sunday, December 31, 2006

Your Handy Dandy Party Guidelines

I wrote this list years ago for the Art Conspiracy, when I was contributing a daily rant for their homepage. The following is an updated version.

Everyone will be out partying tonight, thinking deep thoughts about the nature of time, reevaluating the past year, or celebrating the turning of the year in their own unique way. One should follow certain guidelines when making choices about their New Year's Eve activity. I would suggest the following:

New Year's Eve is popularly accepted as a good time for self-examination. It is not, however, recommended that you consume excessive amounts of alcohol before any in-depth navel gazing. You might injure yourself. Sometimes taking stock of your life isn't the best way to spend New Year's. As Minnie Driver's character in Gross Pointe Blank says, "Leave your livestock alone."

The lampshade does not actually look good on your head.

If you go out in public or attend a gathering, there will very likely be poeple with cameras. If you don't want something caught on film, you might want to think twice about doing it at all. There is a particularly incriminating play-by-play series of five photographs circulating amongst my friends from a New Year's several years ago. I am dressed to the nines in a slinky full length black gown and stilettos and the pictures capture me: A) laughing while sitting in one of those odd circular "papasan" chairs, B) falling backwards in the aforementioned chair, feet sticking in the air - clever me, still holding drink aloft, C) tipping the chair forward so as to escape, D) crawling out of the bowl of the chair onto the floor (drink still aloft) and finally, D) on the floor, wagging a finger at the photographer as I declare, "I am not drunk." ...Don't let this happen to you.

Try to avoid illegal activity. It's bad karma to start the year that way and, anyhow, if you can't have fun doing something legal then you aren't very creative.

Despite what you may tell yourself at 2 a.m. - everyone WILL remember that you danced animatedly to YMCA, that you finally told whatsername what you really think of her and that you kissed the guy from accounting. It all seems harmless at the time but - trust me - you had better be prepared to hear about it all next year. Especially if you kiss someone or a lot of someones whom who would not normally be kissing. No one will let you forget that.

Don't flash people unless you are very attractive. It's not nice to ruin someone else's holiday.

Don't take a date whom you are not particularly attached to or haven't been seeing for a long time. You will get stuck with major-holiday-date-syndrome. You have to kiss them at midnight. You are uncomfortably aware that you may not be kissing them on a regular basis for much longer or - worse - you may end up wishing you weren't kissing them at all. Later that year you will have a vague memory of some strange person you may not even say hello to when passing in public. and First dates are right out! This is not the time to find out someone is a boring conversationalist or a bad kisser!

Don't drink and drive. Again, this is a not-ruining-someone-else's-holiday issue.

If you're looking for something different to do I suggest painting REPENT, THE END IS NEAR on both sides of a sandwich board sign and hanging it over your neck. Wear this to the party or event you were planning to attend or - even better - wander aimlessly along the streets downtown amidst the crowds. People love this. For higher impact, wear just the sandwich board.

Do remember to call loved ones. You never know who might be feeling forgottten around the time the ball drops. Have your cell phone handy and fully charged and spread a little love around. Christmas may be the traditional time to tell people you care, but New Year's eve is also an excellent time to tell people that they are special and that they are remembered.

Having the cell-phone on hand, however, is not an option for those who are prone to the drunk dial. If you are a drunk dialer - and you know who you are - leave the cell phone at home or hand it to a trusted friend before you are too fully sloshed to make reasonable choices anout just who needs to hear your mellifluous voice at midnight.

Have fun. Be Safe. Best Wishes for a very happy coming year for everyone!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Year-End Review

2006 has not been a good year. But it has been so mind-bogglingly awful that I have made enormous changes and 2007 is promising to be pretty good. And when I say mind-bogglingly awful I mean like when I am 60 I will still say that THIS was my worst year on memory. THAT bad. Seriously.

So I was perusing The Sheila Variations and saw this questionnaire (which she linked to here and here)and began to try to answer the questions. Big mistake. HUGE. Sadly my answers were wholly depressing.

So I decided I WILL try to answer the questions. I am going to sit down and answer them with my best sense of humor and my eyes set firmly on the silver linings on the horizon. If you, too have had a dreadful year - I recommend trying my approach.

1. Was 2006 a good year for you?

I got my life back. So let's say it was "good for me" but not pleasant. Kind of like high-fiber cereal. Or an enema.

2. What was your favorite moment(s) of the year?

Standing in Times Square.

3. What was your least favorite moment(s) of the year?

There are too many to choose from. Let's just pretend they didn't happen, ok? Better yet, let's write them on pieces of paper and throw them in a hat and include ONE absurd "fake" bad moment and then you can all pull one moment out and try to guess which one is the fake one. Because you'll never guess. It was THAT kind of year.

4. What did you do in 2006 that you'd never done before?

Ahem, Stand in Times Square.

5. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn't. Maybe that's where I went wrong. This New Year will be rife with resolutions. Masses of fantastical goals to live up to.

6. Where were you when 2006 began?

I don't remember (maybe that's a sign that I had great fun).

7. Who were you with?

Next question...

8. Where will you be when 2006 ends?

At a party with a good friend (and if all goes well, maybe I won't remember!)

9. Who will you be with when 2006 ends?

A good friend and some lovely acquaintances.

10. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Well, she is due to at any moment but thus far I do not believe she has. Ask me tomorrow.

11. Did you lose anybody close to you in 2006?

Yes. My grandmother. The most excellent, clever, spirited (ok, ornery) and strong woman I have ever met. I want to be like her. She didn't take any crap from anyone. In fact, it's a shame she wasn't around for the second half of the year because she could have helped tell-off anyone who upset me. She was very good at quietly, cleverly putting people in their place.

12. Who did you miss?

My grandmother... And my youth. But that's a completely different issue.

13. Who was the best new person you met in 2006?


"Oh, hi there! Where have you been?"

14. What was your favorite month of 2006?

Months are highly overrated.

15. Did you travel outside of the US in 2006?

Oh, sure. Rub it in. No, I didn't. But I'm leaving the country very soon.

16. How many different states did you travel to in 2006?

Let's see. I entered a state of confusion. Rage. Self-loathing. Doubt. Euphoria. Oh, and abject terror when I saw that women had begun to wear leggings with EVERYTHING, the occasional stirrup pant (leggings gone terribly wrong) and "formal" shorts. I mean, whatthehell?

Geographically speaking, however, 4 or 5.

17. What would you like to have in 2007 that you lacked in 2006?

A 24 inch waist. oh, oh! and World Peace.

But mostly a 24 inch waist.

18. What date from 2006 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

My birthday. Clever me, I always remember it. Other than that, pretty much forget most dates eventually.

19. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I think I am most pleased with finally auditioning for a part in a play. More than the fact that I got the role. Just that I did it at all.

20. What was your biggest failure?

Well, I couldn't figure out how to get the jam to gel properly when I made blackberry jam... so we're going with that. OK??

21. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I was temporarily insane. For most of the year.

22. What was the best thing you bought?

A ticket to New York. And an ipod shuffle. I had NO idea what I was missing (on either count, actually). I just went to the grocery store and shopped while listening to (yeah, go ahead and laugh) Buffy the Musical on my ipod. Hahahahaha! Priceless.

23. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Mine. I am far stronger than I realized. (doing a little "go me, its my birthday" cheesy dance in honor of said strength)

24. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

The man who would be king - a.k.a. The big icky George W. himself. Not that I expected MORE from him, mind you. He depresses me ANYWAY.

25. Where did most of your money go?

Down the drain.

26. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

The guy who had been harassing my best friend at work was arrested for embezzlement. That was pretty cool... um, Clearly I have issues.

27. Did you drink a lot of alcohol in 2006?

No, but I promise to try harder next year.

28. Did you do a lot of drugs in 2006?

Well, no. But I've got three days left, right?


29. Did you treat somebody badly in 2006?

No. I'm sure there are people I neglected to treat badly.
I'll try to do better next year.

30. Did somebody treat you badly in 2006?

"Badly" really isn't the word I would have chosen.

31. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. happier or sadder?
ii. thinner or fatter?
iii. richer or poorer?

Odd, this. I am happier, thinner and poorer.

32. What do you wish you'd done more of in 2006?

I like Sheila's answer. I wish I'd traveled more and had more sex.

33. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Living my life for other people.

34. Did you fall in love in 2006?

Yes. With this gorgeous woman's tuxedo-style pantsuit. And a pair of 4 inch heeled black boots that just reek of sex. The kind of love that lasts (sigh).

35. What was your favorite TV program(s)?

Grey's Anatomy. I can't help it. Impossibly attractive medical personnel sleeping with each other and having neurotic breakdowns just does it for me.

36. What song will always remind you of 2006?

"Suddenly I See" by KT Tunstall

37. How many concerts did you see in 2006?

Just a few

38. Did you have a favorite concert in 2006?

Tom Waits. I cried. Also one of the best moments of the year.

39. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I try not to discover musicians. They are often messy and need taking care of. Some of them aren't like that, but I've had enough of musicians for one year. For a lifetime, in fact.

40. What was the best book you read?

I can never decide.

41. What was your favorite film of this year?

Little Miss Sunshine

42. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Dinner at a fancy restaurant. The big three-oh.

43. What did you want and get?

A trip to Scotland

44. What did you want and not get?

Answering this question would be an exercize in futility.

45. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Winning the lottery. Curing cancer. Being awarded the Nobel Peace prize for just being me. I don't know.

46. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2006?

Minimalist and logo averse with a 1940's fetish. Cayce Pollard meets Marlene Deitrich.

47. What kept you sane?

My friends. My deep seated and irrational faith that, in the end, I'm still the most fabulous.

48. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

It's a toss up between Gerard Butler and Takeshi Kaneshiro.

49. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2006.

Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line!

Wait, no. That's wasn't me. hmmm. I learned that I have to live for myself and do things my way and let everyone else worry about their own damn lives.

50. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

It was christmas eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me, won't see another one
And then he sang a song
The rare old mountain dew
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you

Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I've got a feeling
This years for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true

They've got cars big as bars
They've got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
It's no place for the old
When you first took my hand
On a cold christmas eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me

You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of new york city
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging,
All the drunks they were singing
We kissed on a corner
Then danced through the night

The boys of the NYPD choir
Were singing Galway Bay
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day

You're a bum
You're a punk
You're an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy christmas your arse
I pray God its our last

I could have been someone
Well so could anyone
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can't make it all alone
I've built my dreams around you

Fairytale of New York, The Pogues

Honestly, I feel better just having found less negative answers for most of those questons! You should have heard the first set that I came up with in my head! Better to start the new year with a positive attitude, right?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

New Year

The end of the year is particularly a new beginning for me because it is not only the start of a new calendar year, but also because my birthday is at the end of the year. Inconveniently surrounded by holiday festivities, it does nonetheless accentuate the sense of a new beginning.

I have mentioned the big life lists? I am working on my list for this year.

1. Visit three foreign countries. (Scotland in the spring will be the first one.)

2. Take a pottery class, begin sculpting again.

3. Fit into some unrealistically smaller size of clothing. You know, the sort of size that leaves people saying, "Oh, dear. Where did she go?" when one turns sideways.

4. Write a book. Not a published work. Just something that long. Why do I blog? Because my average writing endeavor is the length of a blog. It's an attention span thing.

5. Simplify my life. i.e. less stuff. Fewer bills/debts. Fewer worries. Fewer irritating people. The people will, no doubt, be the trickiest to dispose of. Does anyone know the trick with acid and a bathtub? I've heard it's effective.

6. Finish reading everything on my "Seriously if you're going to keep thinking you are an intelligent, evolved individual then you must read these books" book list. This would be easier if I stopped adding to the list. At least long enough to allow myself to catch up a bit.

7. Take yoga or learn to meditate or some such thing and become a more centered individual. I'm very scattered. If my thoughts had physical manifestation they would appear as odd little orbs buzzing to and fro about my head and periodically zipping off into oblivion. Makes it very tricky to get anything done.

8. Write a will (I've been meaning to do this for YEARS) and get life insurance. It's very irresponsible to die and leave everyone else to clean up your mess. Not that I intend to die, but from what I remember of my biology classes, it appears to be inevitable that it will happen at some point. That being the case, I'd like to plan the party.

9. Take more risks (...preferably after writing the will and getting life insurance.)

10. Complete a sufficient number of paintings to constitute a reasonable body of work to show in a gallery. And then attempt to do just that.

So there's my list. I'll keep updating it as the year goes on and hopefully cross lots of things off. Except the disposing of irritating people part. Because that would be considered evidence.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Morning After

”No one loves a Christmas tree on Jan. 1. The wonderful soft branches that the family couldn't wait to get inside to smell have turned into rapiers that jab you. The wonderful blinking lights that Daddy arranged by branch and color have knotted themselves hopelessly around crumbling brownery and have to be severed with a bread knife. The stockings that hung by the chimney with care are hanging out of sofa cushions, and they smell like clam dip.

And the angel that everyone fought to put on top of the tree can only be removed with an extension ladder that is in the garage, and no one can remember how to fit it through the door.

Next to the presidency, detrimming a tree has to be the loneliest job in the world. It has fallen to women for centuries and is considered a skill only they can do, like replacing the roll on the toilet tissue spindle, painting baseboards, holding a wet washcloth for a child who is throwing up or taking out a splinter with a needle.”

- Erma Bombeck, from a column published From a column first published January 1, 1987

It's bot as bad as all that, is it? I usually spend the day after Christmas in a kind of warm glow. I can be happy about the season but I can also stop worrying about presents and wrapping and mailing things and whatnot. Plus my house always looks cleaner because all the gifts I purchased and all the wrapping acoutrements and such have left the building.

This year I (gasp!) didn't put up a tree, so I'm not having that ceeping edginess about the tree - you know, where you look at it's lovely glow and sparkly baubles and instead of looking pretty it starts to look like work? Yeah, I skipped that this year. My mother has gotten one of those white wire monstrosoties that is covered in white lights and looks like a shiny tree skeleton - it just folds right up after the holiday. At first this seemed creepy but the day after - when other people are chucking dead trees into their front lawns - it actually starts to seem pretty sensible. And no trees had to die in order to entertain my family this year.

Monday, December 25, 2006

A State of Mind

”Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.”

- Mary Ellen Chase

Sunday, December 24, 2006

”I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the word seemingly most indifferent.”
- Taylor Caldwell

Saturday, December 23, 2006


”Tinsel is really snakes' mirrors.”
- Stephen Wright

Today the dame, clearly having taken leave of her senses, ventures forth into the mad sea of commerce and hair pulling in order to secure last minute gifts.

If I do not blog tomorrow, you will know that I was trampled to death by a vast army of irritable shoppers.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Parties

”Christmas is a time when everybody wants his past forgotten and his present remembered. What I don't like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day.”

- Phyllis Diller

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Give Books

”Do give books - religious or otherwise - for Christmas. They're never fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal.”
- Lenore Hershey

I know I don’t write about them often, but I’m a little obsessed with books. AND they make excellent gifts. My grandmother used to order Folio Society books for me every Christmas. They are beautifully bound volumes. Sometimes she sent classics but also a lot of odd interesting selections - my favorite being a reproduction of a Medieval Bestiary with gorgeous illustrations and bizarre descriptions of animals (including a unicorn and manticore - those monks had some wacky ideas).

The gift of a particularly fine book stays with me longer than any other gift. My parents... or, ahem, Santa - gave me an intricately bound collection of Jane Austen’s work a while back, a favorite gem in my personal library. Years ago, I was thrilled when a boyfriend gave me a copy of the enormous Harlan Ellison 50 year retrospective collection (the fact that he remembered my favorite author was reason for much rejoicing on my part). An old roommate and close friend (the Will to my Grace) gave me a lush 4 inch thick art history tome packed with full color reproductions that will always hold a prized place of my shelf. I think of him every time I pick it up. Most recent is a clever book on knitting ("Domiknitrix: Whip Your Knitting into Shape" - haha!) I just received yesterday in the mail from one of my oldest and dearest friends. Books are absolutely the perfect gift, gifts I keep forever.

I have started collecting late 19th and early 20th century books, particularly anything written by women or for the female reader. I love buying old books - The attention given to the binding, the old illustrated volumes (in which the illustrations have sometimes actually been pasted onto the page by hand), the notes made by some past owner in the margins, the little pieces of paper one finds slipped in between the pages. Each one is a treasure both because affordable old books are usually obscure, out of print works that you might never have otherwise seen and because they each have little bits of their history attached to them, unique unto that particular book.

I sometimes go online and browse the rare book supplier websites. Illustrated first editions for thousands of dollars - things I will never own but can certainly dream of. There are companies that do nothing but compile impressive libraries for those who can afford it - or who are contracted to locate particularly rare or unusual volumes. I find that fascinating.

Not everyone enjoys a good read, but almost everyone who doesn’t will still appreciate a book of humor, a how-to book that relates to some particular interest or a picture book of a favorite destination or subject. And generally people keep books, assuring you that your gift will stay a part of their home for many years to come. A well-chosen book often won’t cost any more than a bottle of cologne or one of those pre-made baskets of scented lotions and whatnot. Pre-packaged toiletry gifts say, “I know you are male or female.” Seriously. That’s about it.

A book can say, “I know and appreciate who you are.”

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Woman’s Christmas Film Wishlist

This time of year, a lot of us rent holiday films to get us into the spirit. 90% of those films center around male characters - it’s not what you first notice about them but go to the holiday display at your local video store and you’ll see what I mean. Tim Allen and Chevy Chase and Michael Keaton and the Grinch are all over the place. Nothing wrong with those movies - but I submit to you MY list for holiday viewing:

White Christmas
Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen
Not only is this confection warm, traditional, packed with familiar tunes and just sentimental enough to get your annual dose of schmaltz - the women match the men for spirit, talent and screen time throughout the film. Bing Crosby was, arguably, the king of old hollywood musicals - but he more than met his match in Rosemary Clooney.

The Family Stone
Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Keaton, Luke Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Dermot Mulroney, Claire Danes, Craig T. Nelson
Because the female lead is successful and still a nice woman who has insecurities and issues. Because all the women in this film are strong and smart. Because Diane Keaton is fabulous. Because it’s a holiday film for adults. Intelligent adults. Because it’s not simple, it’s not just happy and it’s that much better for it. and last but not least... Because Luke Wilson is completely adorable.

The Long Kiss Goodnight
Geena Davis, Samuel L. Jackson,Craig Bierko, Brian Cox
It’s Christmas time and Geena Davis is an amnesiac who has built a life for herself in a sweet sleepy town as a schoolteacher, mother and wife. Then her old life and memories begin to surface and it turns out that she’s really a former spy / assassin of some sort and she bleaches her hair and blows things up and gets to hang out with Samuel Jackson. Cheese? Yes! This movie is a CHEESEFEST! Also great fun and I, for one, like a few non-traditional choices for my holiday viewing. Plus I have this weakness for movies that feature women kicking butt.

Home for the Holidays
Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Geraldine Chaplin, Claire Danes, Dylan McDermott
I think it is impossible that you might NOT know about this film. And it IS a Thanksgiving film. But it’s also a family - a crazy, stress-you-out, embarrassing family - that will make you think of your own crazy relatives and that completely gets the fact that you can love people and want to strangle them at the same time. They aren’t caricatures. They are warm, wonderful, complex characters surrounding one 30-something woman who has made that fateful return home for Thanksgiving. Claudia is at a crossroads in her life and that crystaline moment of taking in a view of one's own life and starting anew is captured so beautifully and with such humor amidst the frenetic family gathering. It’s it an absolute joy and a brilliant piece of filmmaking packed with flawless performances (David Strathairn's cameo is particularly brilliant - funny and heartwrenching all at once).

Love Actually
Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Martin Freeman, Hugh Grant, Laura Linney... ok. everyone is in this movie.
This movie embraces what women have known for years - that love stories aren’t just about romantic love. They are about parents and children, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives and everything in between. Great love stories aren’t just about joy or flirtation; they can also cover loss, longing, yearning, hope and betrayal. Not all loves are meant to work, not all stories have a happy ending. That makes the happy endings that do happen that much more precious. The thing about Hugh Grant being the British Prime Minister is a bit absurd, but the stories are wonderful and subtly intertwined and interspersed with the signs of Christmas going on all around.

And For The Feminist’s Little Ones:

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas
Features the voices of Jim Henson, Frank Oz and Jerry Nelson, among others
Emmet Otter’s mom is raising him by herself and this sweet children’s Christmas flick is all about the bond between mother and son and how the two try to get the best present possible for each other in spite of their financial woes. A great choice for kids which is heavy on the warm Christmas spirit and leaves out the commercialism.

A Charlie Brown Christmas
The Whole Peanuts Gang
I love this movie, although I am not thrilled with the commercial vehicle it has ironically become for TV advertising. All the same, it's not Christmas without Charlie Brown's little tree which has become an icon for the "real" spirit of Christmas. I also love that Charles Schultz was far ahead of other cartoonists in presenting a cast of characters that has just as many girls as boys. This is far too rare in popular comic strips and children’s cartoons. Schultz created widely varied characters including a tomboy (Peppermint Patty), a strong willed but feminine girl (Lucy), girly girly (like Sally) and the shy, bookish girl (Marcy). I love Peanuts for it’s humor and warmth, but also for the fact that it has always represented girls equally.

Please email me or comment on here with your own suggestions!
Also - click on the film name to reach it's page on the Internet Movie Database.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Christians and the Pagans

One of my all-time favorite Christmas songs isn't exactly a Christmas song. It's Dar Williams' "The Christians and the Pagans", a fun, energetic song about family spending the holiday together in spite of their spiritual differences. For me it embodies the best thing about the holiday season - that it is a time when people come together. People of many faiths and of many different cultures have celebrations that center on this time of the year, and the universal theme of the season is a coming together, a celebration of life and a reaffirmation of the love we have for our family and friends. For some interesting insight into the far-reaching tradition of a winter festival or holiday - visit The History of Christmas, hosted by

Listen to the song here (on myspace).

The Christians and the Pagans
by Dar Williams

Amber called her uncle, said "We're up here for the holiday,
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay."
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree,
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three.
He told his niece, "It's Christmas Eve, I know our life is not your style,"
She said, "Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and its been awhile,"

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said,
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses.

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch,
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, "Is it true that you're a witch?"
His mom jumped up and said, "The pies are burning," and she hit the kitchen,
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, "It's true, your cousin's not a Christian,"
"But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere."

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And where does magic come from? I think magic's in the learning,
'Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning.

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, "Really, no, don't bother."
Amber's uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father.
He thought about his brother, how they hadn't spoken in a year,
He thought he'd call him up and say, "It's Christmas and your daughter's here."
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve, saying,
"Can I be a Pagan?" Dad said, "We'll discuss it when they leave."

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old, and
Making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold.

Ivy Baker Priest

”The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning.”
- Ivy Baker Priest

Ivy Baker Priest was born into poverty and grew up to be the first female Secretary of the Treasury. Utah’s history newsletter on Priest: “Ivy Baker Priest (1905-1975) was born to a miner who kept getting injured and a mother who ran a boarding house in Bingham Canyon. She jumped into politics early when, as a girl, she ran errands for a mayoral campaign... As assistant chair of Eisenhower’s national election committee, she got the women out to vote for Ike. In return, he appointed her U.S. Treasurer, and for eight years the signature of this girl from a Utah mining town was on every U.S. bill printed.”

A more comprehensive biography appears on the Utah State History site and can be found here. Odd bit of trivia - Priest was the mother of actress Pat Priest who played Marilyn Munster on the 60’s TV show The Munsters.

”Any woman who has a career and a family automatically develops something in the way of two personalities, like two sides of a dollar bill, each different in design. ... Her problem is to keep one from draining the life from the other.”

- Ivy Baker Priest

Monday, December 18, 2006

Staying Connected

Today I am meeting my mother’s oldest, closest friend. I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but I know they have been friends since they were in their teens or very early twenties. There has always been a photograph of this woman somewhere in our house. I don’t remember my mother talking to her often when I was young, but I do remember her going away once or twice by herself to visit this friend. She has an odd, almost legendary status amongst my siblings (we have been known to tease mom that this woman doesn’t really exist).

I cannot imagine going through life without regular contact with my closest female friends. One friend in particular I have been close to since I was 12 or 13. With the exception of a period in our late teens, we have never gone more than a year without a visit. We have moved near each other and moved away again. We talk a few times a week on the phone. Even when we are in long-term relationships, she is the person I tell everything to. She is the person who knows and remembers it all.

Having other women to talk to keeps me sane. It grounds me. Last night a girlfriend called me up at 3am. Minor personal crisis. Needed someone to listen. Someone to “get it”. Someone to be there. So I was. and I am. Always. She does the same for me. That’s how it’s supposed to work. If I don’t go through a minor crisis over my bathroom scale or bills without talking to one of them, there is NO WAY I would rush a kid to the emergency room or have a stressful parent-teacher conference without speed dialing my support network.

It makes me wonder how it must have been for my mother, to be so busy raising four children that she didn’t often have the time to get away and see her friends or take care of herself. How do you live a lifetime of messy kitchens and scraped knees and calls from the teacher and bottomless piles of laundry while simultaneously getting a master’s degree and having a career... how do you do that without being surrounded by the support of other women?

My mom has other friends. Another mother whose children were friends with us has been a particular source of moral support and camaraderie for her over the years. Maybe mom talked to her women friends more than I saw. Maybe she stole quiet moments in the laundry room on the cordless phone while we ran rampant and I just never knew.

So today I am meeting my mother’s Oldest Friend for the first time. If I have children, I want them to know my friends. They will never labor under the illusion that they are the extent of my world. My friends will share in watching them grow. I will be “Aunt” to their kids (the fun Aunt. The one who shows up with presents and tells wild stories and bails them out of trouble). I feel secure that we won’t stop talking often when they have kids... although I have found that the one friend who has a child and I are covering all sorts of new subject matter these days.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Best, Cutest, Quietest Version of Yourself

“Men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses, women for their strengths.”
- Lois Wyse

It’s true, isn’t it? This is an unpleasant truism for an outspoken woman to swallow. I’m not a quiet, delicate flower. I’m opinionated. I don’t like everyone or care if they like me. I am completely capable of taking care of myself and am fiercely independent. I like to do things my way.

Coming out of a long-term relationship led me to a shocking conclusion: I had turned into a muted version of myself. In an effort to work within the guidelines I perceived, I turned everything down a notch. It reminds me of Meryn Cadell’s “The Sweater”, which satirizes the interaction we fall into as teenagers and the things we think we are supposed to want and supposed to be. On seeing The Boy at school after having confiscated his stinky boy sweater:

”Be calm, look cute
Don't tell him about the dream you had
about the place the two of you would share
when you get older
Just be yourself
The best, cutest, quietest version of yourself
Definitely wear lip gloss”

- Meryn Cadell

Doesn’t that just say it all? “The best, cutest, quietest version of yourself” - in millions of little ways we are led to think that metamorphosis is what is required in order to land a desirable partner. I cannot blame the friend whom I was dating for the past five years. I blame myself. I weeded out the qualities I thought might make me less appealing as a long-term partner, instead of being myself and figuring that the man for me would LIKE opinionated and quirky. The unfiltered me would not have been a perfect match for my ex. If I were not so busy holding down the mute button, I might have figured that out years ago.

Women do ourselves a disservice when we buy into the belief that we are meant to present ourselves as meek. No matter how aware we are of our strength and capability, it is another thing to set aside the feeling that some of our strength should be hidden. Just because you’re an intelligent, independent, life-long feminist doesn’t mean you aren’t susceptible to that trap. It’s that little voice in the back of your head that says, “Oh, crap, he’s walking over here. Ok. Look cute. Smile, but not too much. Do my lips look chapped?” Most of us have that little voice and while it has it’s uses (hey - mine helps me remember to check to make sure I haven’t tucked anything into my pantyhose when leaving the bathroom and to suck a breathmint after lunch and I am greatful), it is sooo easy to let that little voice have some control over what you say or how you act.

Social conditioning to be docile isn’t completely a thing of the past. It’s more subtle, it’s less aggressive and it’s probably not as concious as it is simply left over from years and years of women being raised for the sole purpose of making good housewives (I, incidentally, would make a terrible housewife. It’s a difficult, often thankless job and I am not emotionally equipped for it and I know this.) but it's still an issue. Don't kid yourself. It’s easy to think you’re immune to that type of social conditoning, but then, I certainly thought I was.

Meryn Cadell is a Canadian singer, writer and performance artist. He teaches the writing of song lyrics and libretto at the University of British Columbia. A transsexual man, Cadell first reached public awareness as a female performer in the 90’s. Meryn Cadell’s website and blog

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The “To Do” List

We all make “To Do” lists, right? Ok. Well, 90% of us make them and the rest of you are just weird. I make To Do lists all the time. Most of them just in my head. But I hardly go a day without making a list at some point. They come in levels; Things I must do today. Things I ought to do today. Things I cannot forget to buy at the store. Things I would like to get done this week. Things I want to do with my life...

At least once a week it inevitably spirals out into this rambling train of thought about my goals in life or what I’d like to accomplish in the next ten years or even just particularly ambitious visions about the number of things I can accomplish in a week (see above) . On particularly dull car rides, I find myself making a list of the things I will do for loved ones should I ever win the lottery (a wildly impractical list considering that I do not actually play the lottery.)

I get some joy from these lists. I feel centered when I go through and remind myself just what my goals are - whether those goals are to buy a carton of milk or to see the Galapagos Islands before I die (My Before I Die list is very very very long. What about yours?)

I think the trick is not having an excessive attachment to the whole “crossing off” process. Generally I find the reminder of more use to me than the actual plodding one-after-another accomplishments. I mean, it’s a good feeling to be able to cross things off a list and certainly supplies a feeling of accomplishment... when I KNOW I will be crossing things off I sometimes break each task into smaller components to increase the number of things I can cross off. It’s great fun. But I also just like knowing something is on the list. On the list - to me - means that I will, eventually have done that. And that can be tremendously reassuring.

The big abstract life lists are the best. I go back through old notebooks and discover lists made ten years ago. I love the thrill of finding something I have since accomplished. Lists are on my mind because this is shaping up to be a big list year for me. I’m doing some serious traveling. I’m in a play. I’m at this very moment searching for a new place to live so I can have a studio space for my art. At the end of the year I look forward to going back through old notebooks to see how many things I can cross off. Maybe I should break the list down into many little components so I can enjoy a magnified sense of accomplishment later on (1. Get passport. 2. Pack suitcase. 3. Go on very long plane ride. 4. Spend time in Scotland. 5. Flirt with Scottish men....)

Monday, December 11, 2006

'Tis the Season

... and on another holiday note, the following message appears in kid-style scrawly handwriting inside a greeting card created for an elderly parishoner by a student in my co-worker's sunday school class:

"JegoL Bell's JegoL
Bell's JegoL all the
way oH wute
fun it is to
ride oN a
one hors opiN

Underneath is a big heart filled in with rambling, jagged squiggles. The front of the card is a manger scene and Mary is twice the size of Joseph and they both have big google eyes and wide smiles and the baby between them is tiny and his head is being squished by the bold brown box of a manger drawn all around him.

It is the cutest thing. EVER.

I may be forced to have some semblance of Holiday spirit now.

Over the River and Through the Wood

”Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather's house we go;
the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.”

- Lydia Maria Child

OK. Technically this is a Thanksgiving poem, so I’m late. But I associate it with the Winter Holidays in general. And this is what I learned today:

This very well-known poem was written by a woman, Lydia Maria Child (1802 - 1880). She was one of the first women in America to earn a living writing. She wrote domestic advice books and published a children’s magazine - which is where the poem first appeared. She was an anti-slavery activist and is considered by some to be the first white person to have written a book urging the emancipation of slaves. She actively supported Native American rights and her novel, Hobomok, published in 1824, was noteworthy for it’s sympathetic portrayal of a Native American character. Not surprisingly, Child was also a women’s rights activist - but she considered women’s rights as an issue that could not make progress until after slavery had been abolished. In her day, this woman was considered a radical and her writing was important to the movements in which she was involved.

I find it interesting that this poem is the one piece of Lydia Maria Child's work that has endured in the public awareness (so fully that it has remained popular for well over 150 years). This woman accomplished so much, but she is remembered for an innocent children’s ditty.

Lydia Maria Child was a Unitarian Universalist and a more comprehensive biography of her can be found here at the UU online dictionary. The full text of the poem can be found here.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Accidental Meme

After my post here about the Vanity Fair Proust Questionnaire, Sheila of “The Sheila Variations” picked it up in her blog here. I didn't actually think I was starting a meme. Thus far, however, I have traced it here, here, here, here and here.

I guess it’s about time I posted my own answers, although I know you will enjoy answering the questions far more than finding out what I have to say about them. I admit, however, that I have enjoyed reading other people's answers.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being without worry, having unlimited time and resources

What is your greatest fear?

That I will not be loved

What historical figure do you most identify with?

Molly Brown

Which living person do you most admire?

Tom Waits

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?


What trait do you most deplore in others?


What is your greatest extravagance?


On what occasion do you lie?

to prevent unecessary suffering

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

That I’m not a size 4

What is your favorite journey?

Hiking up a mountain on Mount Desert Island in Maine. The juxtaposition of the mountains against the ocean is breathtaking.

Any flight that takes me somewhere new or much loved. I enjoy the anticipation one feels traveling somewhere in the air, eager to arrive and explore a new city. I have always liked airports.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?


Which living person do you most despise?

the current US president and his administration
(rote, but true)

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?


What is your greatest regret?

the time I have lost

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

It isn’t over yet, so I can't say for certain.

When and where were you happiest?

The first things that come to mind:

10 or 11 at night, Winter of 1993, walking outside in thick fresh snow with my little sister while the whole world seemed still and magical. Our two sets of footprints stretched out behind us and the moon glowed off the snow so everything was lit with a hazy half-light and we felt like the only two people in the world.

September 2000, in a hotel room in Boston, watching someone sleep.

Which talent would you most like to have?

a facility with languages

What is your current state of mind?


If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would be more driven and have greater faith in myself.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?


If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what would it be?

the universe has a sense of humor - I would probably be a man

If you could choose what or who to come back as, what would it be?

a bird

What do your consider your greatest achievement?

the distance I have come from where I began

What is your most treasured possession?

my grandmother’s engagement ring

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

abject poverty

What is your most marked characteristic?

my red hair, the manner in which I speak

What is the quality you most like in a man?

lack of pretention
firm belief that I am absolutely wonderful

What is the quality you most admire in a woman?


What do you most value in your friends?

loyalty and willingness to be there ("It's the friends you can call up at 4am that matter." - Marlene Dietrich)

Who are your favourite writers?

Harlan Ellison, Rita Mae Brown (earlier work), Terry Pratchett, Tom Robbins, Jane Austen, Octavia Butler, E.F. Benson

Who is your favourite hero of fiction?

Michael Valentine Smith

Who are your heroes in real life?

Katherine Hepburn

What are your favourite names?

Grace, Anton, Roarke, Gabriel

What is it that you most dislike?


How would you like to die?

No, thank you.

What is your motto?

Live fully so that you have no regret.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Breasts. Boobies. Or, as my friend Sean calls them, “Woo-Hoos”

“Whoever thought up the word "Mammogram"? Every time I hear it, I think I'm supposed to put my breast in an envelope and send it to someone.”
- Jan King

If you are anything like me, you aren’t feeling your boobs often enough. I know I’m supposed to give myself a self-exam once a month, but the closest I usually come to that is when I push and prod them to make sure they are appearing to their best advantage in my demi-cup bra.

It is a serious matter, however, and we should all be giving ourselves self-exams (all straight men will probably be amazed we don’t mess with our breasts all that much but I guess they just don’t hold the same level of fascination for us) and women over 40 should be getting annual mammograms. Early detection is the best possible way of ensuring survival and no one thinks it will happen to them. Like all disasters, Breast Cancer is something that you think “happens to other people”... right up until the moment that it happens to you or someone you love.

I’m younger than the recommended age, but I’ve had a mammogram once. In spite of having some frame of reference, when I hear the word “Mammogram”, I picture someone in a large breast costume doing a tap dance and singing a little ditty at my front door. I assure you that the actual mammogram process is far less frightening than having a singing boob at your front door.

Go here for an FAQ about Breast Cancer, and here for instructions on giving yourself a self-exam (I think it would be much more entertaining and user-friendly if they called it “How to feel yourself up.”) There have also been attempts by anti-abortion groups to link breast cancer to abortion. If you’ve heard that and want to get more information, I recommend reading this.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Scarf

A colleague of Audrey Hepburn’s is quoted as saying that when she was young she owned “one skirt, one blouse, one pair of shoes, and a beret, but she had fourteen scarves” and that she wore those scarves so cleverly that she always looked chic.

Some women just know how to wear a scarf. My mother was like that when she was younger. She always looks glamorous in old photographs and when I was a child she had a drawer that was filled entirely with scarves. She knew what to do with them, how to wear them to brighten an outfit or draw attention to her face. So I have always associated scarves with women who really understand style, with a certain level of sophistication.

I wear scarves, but not memorably. More often than my peers perhaps, and not only in winter (practical, wooly winter scarves don’t count). I have a drawer filled with diaphanous squares of fabric and long slender rectangles of silk. I find I am so uncertain how to best wear them that most of them stay in the drawer, much loved but never seen.

When I was young, my mother made me walk up and down the hall with an encyclopedia on my head. She bought me books about table manners for formal dining. She even taught me that a lady should select one perfume and wear it her entire life as it becomes her signature scent. These things are more remarkable considering that I come from a background where... well, let’s just say that during my childhood I was never required to identify one fork from another. My mother just had an idea of what a lady should be, and wanted very much for me to be one. As a result, I have excellent posture and have been wearing the same perfume for almost two decades - since I was first old enough to wear perfume. She managed, however, to skip the lesson about wearing scarves.

I wrap them about my head or neck and fiddle around with the ends or drape them over my shoulders and 9 times out of 10 I leave the house sans scarf (this is because 9 times out of 10 I end up looking like a swami in a turban or a mental patient who thinks she is wearing a superhero cape). On those rare occasions that I get it “right” and it looks presentable, I leave the house with a lighter step. It's funny how the things we learn as a child stick with us so. On days that I wear a scarf I feel I am somehow a bit closer to being the lady I was raised to be.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tallulah Bankhead

To learn more about Tallulah Bankhead’s career, click on any of the photographs or the links under the quotes - each one links to a website or biography.

(On seeing a former lover for the first time in years)

“I thought I told you to wait in the car.”
- Tallulah Bankhead

This charismatic, “whiskey-voiced” woman had such a distinctive, forceful personality that, almost 40 years after her death, her personality is still what she is best remembered for. Her family (Her father was the Speaker of the House, William Brockman Bankhead.) tried to raise her to be more restrained by sending her to various private schools - including a convent school - but the effort failed. At 15 she convinced her family to let her move to New York to pursue acting. She became an actress on screen and on stage (where she garnered greater critical acclaim than in her films, with the notable exception of her work in Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat). While she found fame as an actress, she was just as well known for being bold, promiscuous and having a sharp wit. Always partying, she used drugs but wasn’t known to drink very much alcohol until later in life. She was also openly bisexual, quipping that, “My father warned me about men and booze... but he never said anything about women and cocaine.”

“If I had my life to live again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner.”
- Tallulah Bankhead

I’m not saying I endorse her lifestyle. Heaven knows it got her into enough trouble - in 1933 she almost died during an emergency hysterectomy for an advanced case of gonorrhea - but the experience showed no sign of slowing her down. Her behavior, which has been referred to as self-destructive, nonetheless appears to have been rooted in her powerful ego and a voracious lust for life.

While it wouldn’t be healthy to model one’s self after Tallulah Bankhead, the lingering fascination with her makes perfect sense. She was beautiful. She was witty and very outspoken. She didn’t ask permission. She didn’t care what anyone thought of her. She may have been something of a hedonist, but she lived life fully. Most people could benefit from just a little bit of her wild spirit.

“Nobody can be exactly like me.
Sometimes even I have trouble doing it.”
- Tallulah Bankhead

Monday, December 04, 2006

What Will They Think of Next?

I have no particular explanation for it, but I find myself saying that fairly often considering that I am not a cute doddering little old lady marveling at the technology created by clever young people. During my entire lifetime new technologies and new variations of every product have been released on a regular basis. I still stop and look at Kleenex “with lotion” or the gadget my neighbor has that pulls their garden hose whip-snap back into a circular coiled contraption and remark upon how clever people are to think of these things. I guess I just appreciate intelligent design and find the slow alteration of every mundane item we touch into a more useful, less work intensive version of it’s original self fascinating (Incidentally I also find it creepy because someday we’re going to live like the Jetsons and show our kids drawings of trees - but that’s a subject for a different post).

In spite of our marvelous advances, buns are still packaged in sets of 8 and hot dogs are still packaged in sets of 10 so it’s not like EVERYTHING is benefitting from intelligent design.

This weekend, for my unseasonably early "Spring Cleaning", I needed packing tape to put together the many many boxes I was packing off to the thrift shop. So I went looking through the tape options at the grocery store. That there are at least two dozen options is odd enough as it is. But what really threw me for a loop was this: Noiseless Packing Tape.

Is it just me? Is this not weird? No one needs packing tape to be noiseless as they pull it from the roll for any kind of legitimate reason. I mean, I suppose if one is packing in the middle of the night while someone is sleeping and trying to get out of the house quickly without waking them... but I think in those circumstances one just packs a suitcase. And maybe mace.

I can only think of nefarious uses for noiseless packing tape.

I picture animated conversations between persons planning bank heists discussing the benefits of noiseless tape for binding wrists together instead of the old-fashioned kind. I can just imagine a kidnapper happening upon the noiseless tape in the school supplies section and thinking, “Finally, a tape designed for MY needs!” Of course, I have a vivid imagination and watch too much Law and Order: Criminal Intent (I know television rots my brain, but I love Vincent D’Onofrio. I can’t help myself.) There are probably plenty of uses for noiseless packing tape that don’t involve hostages or ransom notes constructed with torn out letters from a magazine.

I just can’t think of any.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Spring Cleaning

It almost never happens in the spring for me, but that's how I think of it. Every so often I absolutely MUST clean out my home. It starts slowly and then gradually rages out of control as I rummage about in my house delighting in every discovery of something I do not need and therefore may get rid of.

It's more of a mental and emotional excersize. What am I willing to let go of? What have I learned that I don't need? How have my priorities shifted since the last Spring Cleaning? Who am I really and, as that person, would I wear this dress?

You know, the important questions in life.

I am on the verge of a "Spring Cleaning" (which ironically so rarely involves me actually scrubbing anything. I hate scrubbing things.) I have arranged for some boxes and already know which things are going first. I have checked to see what hours the local women's shelter thrift shop accepts donations. There's probably something wrong with me that the idea of getting rid of any material possesions that I can bear to part with makes me incredibly happy, but it just does. I think it's the sessation that I carry the weight of my material possessions with me in life, and that they are what ties me to the ground. The fewer things I own, the more free I feel.

Earlier this year a friend of mine sold everything she owned - literally opened up her three bedroom home and sold everything but some boxes of keepsakes and some sentimental things - and then sold her home and moved to another coutry with just a few suitcases in tow. I watched her progress with envy and glee as everything slowly disappeared from her home. Maybe I felt crowded as a child, or perhaps I was traumatized by a particularly scray home redecorating program - I have no idea. I just know that on Monday I will step more lightly, immersed in the illusion that my ties to the ground have been eased.