Thursday, December 27, 2007

Relationships in One Paragraph

As with many of my favorite things on the interweb, Sheila started this. Other bloggers have done their own versions - like Megan at From the Archives. I had to pare this down. I've dated a fair bit over the years and I think every one of them added something to the tapestry of my life. Even the unpleasant ones. I loved the idea of these brief windows into what love and loss and relationships have been in a person's life (EDIT: each paragraph represents a different relationship). All you'll really learn about ME from this exercise is that I know nothing about drug use, I'm crazy about Tom Waits and I'm very much in love.

Together, these pieces of my past are a journey that helped bring me to the man I am with today, which is a very good place to be.

He was the first everything. We listened to Robyn Hitchcock and Neil Young. He introduced me to Tom Waits. He taught me that I was beautiful. I thought he was the Ginsberg of my generation, I’m not certain he isn’t. Eventually I realized that I, along with his endless chain of cigarettes, had become a replacement drug, a compulsion for the recovered addict. So I ended it. For him and for me. I thought about him when I saw Waits in concert 15 years later and cried the whole time because it was beautiful and because he wasn’t with me to share it.

I was working the drive-through at my second job at the dry cleaner's. The air was greenish and bright and thick with spring rain. Hearing the bell, I looked up to see a red pickup truck pull in, but it didn't stop until the bed was even with the window. I saw raggedy jeans legs and then he leaned down and looked in at me, one arm bulging with two dozen roses and the other holding an enormous umbrella aloft. I stared, speechless, while he grinned and asked if he could walk me home. My friends didn't understand what I saw in him.

The Stone Temple Pilot’s “Big Empty” was playing on the radio while he drove me home. I wouldn’t let myself cry anymore until he was gone. Bruises showed up the next day. Around my neck, across my shoulders. I never spoke to him again. He was the gentlest man I ever met, until he wasn’t.

We went to see the Violent Femmes in concert and screamed the lyrics into each other’s faces for the whole show. Every day was joyous. I knew he would always be smart and handsome and kind, but I was some kind of goddess to him and the pedestal began to make me dizzy.

The first thing he said to me was, “Yer english shur is good.” but he looked like Matthew McConaughey so I tried not to notice.

I was so naive, I really thought he was just naturally thin and twitchy. Then one day he said he was sorry, but hiding his drug use from me was getting in the way of his habit. I couldn’t compete with Cocaine, but then I really didn’t want to.

I wore my velvet pants and he chased me all over the apartment trying to rub my butt and yelling “FUZZY!” with reckless, childlike glee. He sent me a letter once, written in crayon when he was too drunk to find anything else, telling me he loved me. I got a second letter the next day telling me not to open the first letter. I told him I hadn't.

Until he referred to "when we were dating," I had never called it that. I remember it as knocks on my door at 2am and listening to Bright Eyes and The Get Up Kids on my living room floor and standing on a wooden bridge at night talking about things that must have seemed important at the time but have since faded into a haze of angst and poetry and silly banter. He was younger than I and had a halo of blonde curls and a face like some sort of greek sculpture. Always sad, but he made me laugh. Out loud laugh.

His shirts matched his ties matched his suspenders matched his hankerchief. You could eat off his kitchen floor. One night he told me my half of the Chinese takeout was eight dollars and thirty-two cents. I gave him eight dollars and he hesitated a moment before saying that I could give him the rest of it later. I'm not sure what I was thinking.

My first day there we climbed a mountain. Hiking up the side, we could look out into the mist at the ocean and see peaks jutting into the air, speckling the water with islands. It had been four years apart, four years of recovering from something all-consuming. When I lost my footing on the way back down and began to fall, he rushed forward and caught me. It started again.

We walked into the party and everyone hollered and he did that half-hug, back-smacking thing with three different guys before making a beeline for the fridge to get a beer. Our friends started making bets as to how long he was going to keep his shirt on and I wanted to hide in embarrassment. They were literally laying odds and handing over bills. He always took off his shirt. He was a volunteer fireman and the most unabashedly sweet natured human being. His face lit up like a Christmas tree when he laughed. I have a photograph of him wearing furry white bunny ears on a roadtrip we took to Tampa. He isn’t wearing a shirt.

I had been struggling not to but eventually I couldn’t help it. The tears started rolling down my cheeks and then I was choking back little hiccup sobs while I watched him get quieter and quieter. His face became stiff and cold when he was angry. I tried to explain why I was upset and I talked a mile a minute like I always do and he finally shouted, “SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” without looking at my weepy face. He got mad when I cried but he didn't usually yell, so that stung. There was so much more and so much of it was good, but after five years with him all anyone really needs to know is that my tears made him angry.

I was new in the office and I was going to be his contact at our company, so he called to introduce himself. When he started quizzing me about my qualifications I tried to be polite but eventually couldn't take it anymore. I told him I'd been in the business for a decade, was the art director at my last place of employment and that I was fairly certain there was NOTHING he knew that I didn't. I got off the phone and stormed into my boss' office. I declared that someone else was going to have to work with this client because I had no intention of EVER talking to That Man again. It's been three years since that conversation. I think I'm going to spend the rest of my life with him.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

© Never Bashful with Butter - click the photo to visit her blog!

I'm not EVEN kidding. Since I have recently talked about finger foods and their importance to the holiday, I MUST share this link found via Dave Barry's blog (which tends to ROCK). Never Bashful With Butter created these wacky Bacon Chocolate chip cookies on sort of a dare from her husband and she swears that they are actually very good. So... who's brave enough to try it?

I bet my brother in law would LOVE these. He says bacon is "The King of Meats."

We Now Return You to Your Regularly Scheduled Holiday Cheer

“Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall. We traditionally do this in my family by driving around the parking lot until we see a shopper emerge from the mall, then we follow her, in very much the same spirit as the Three Wise Men, who 2,000 years ago followed a star, week after week, until it led them to a parking space.”
- Dave Barry

I love Dave Barry. In fact, he's just about the only person whose quotes I use on here who isn't a woman. I like him THAT much. Like he's an honorary woman on here. In spite of being almost as much unlike a woman as it's possible to be.

Teen Pregnancy, In General

Excellent holiday topic, RIGHT??

Honestly I have no interest in the Spears family specifically, I just think this is an excellent example of a double standard we have in our society. We would prefer that teenagers, but more specifically GIRLS, do not have sex before they are married or at least legally an adult. But we know it will happen anyway, there is little parents can do to prevent it and in a lot of ways sex between teenagers has become socially acceptable. They don't even bother hiding it anymore (when I was a teenager, you HID the fact that you were having sex. Which I was. You didn't talk to everyone about it, dammit. And you didn't let your ass hang out of your jeans! Or your THONG! And we had to walk ten miles in the snow to get to school! Ok, not really. But you get the point.).

So we know this is happening. So some of them are going to get pregnant. Either they don't take proper precautions or they can't figure out how to put the condom on correctly, I DON'T KNOW (hello? Do schools no longer use the bannana method?). But if unplanned pregnancies can happen to adults, then you KNOW it's going to happen to crazed horny teenagers who are way too hormone addled to think straight.

When my mother was young, these girls would be sent away to "stay with a relative" or - if the family had money - "travel abroad" while they had their babies and were then forced to give them up. OR, if they lived in fear of angry parents, they would try to obtain an illegal abortion and possibly die in the process. I'm glad that we don't have that system of shame and danger any longer. The world is a better place for it. I just don't know how you get teenagers to take pregnancy seriously without it. They are old enough to only be scared by real and horrific consequences, they are also at an age when practical consequences like raising a child are less frightening than more abstract consequences like massive public humiliation. But I think the Fire and Brimstone, hide-the-girl-once-she-starts-"showing" approach is wrong. I just don't know what the alternative is.

There is still a lot of shame associated with abortion. I get that and don't really think that's wholly a bad thing (while maybe a sense of gravity might be more appropriate than actual shame). It's a horrific, ugly thing to have to do. I just personally acknowledge that for some people it is the right choice and I prefer to live in a country where it is legal and therefore REGULATED. But I don't think teenage girls should feel like that is what they have to do. I personally know women who had abortions as teenagers that their parents pushed them into. While that may have been better and easier for their parents, it was not necessarily better for them. One woman in particular is still upset over her loss, and it was 20 years ago. Clearly it was not the right choice for her and she should have had options.

But the other option is to have a child when you are yourself a child. That's a difficult road. Some of these girls choose adoption, which I think can be an excellent way to go, but some of them cannot bear to give up their child. That makes sense to me. Were I in those shoes, I don't know if I could do that. How difficult to let go of your child, even if you know it may be best for them. How can you ask that of anyone? It has to be a personal choice.

I know women who look particularly young for their age who find they are given unpleasant looks by strangers when in public with their young children. Because that is the double standard we live with. People look down on the teenage mother who chooses the most difficult road - to keep and raise the child herself. You don't have to BE young to feel that, you just have to LOOK young to know firsthand how poorly people react to it.

We try to teach our children to learn to take responsibility and accept the consequences of their actions.

Then, as a society, we teach teenagers that sex is fun and sells cars and Trojan condoms (or whatever brand has a slick ad right now) are cool and everyone's doing it.

But don't get pregnant.

If you do get pregnant, don't let anyone know.

Hide it, get rid of it, WHATEVER. We, as a society DO NOT want to talk about it. We don't want to know.

If you get rid of it, we REALLY don't want to know about that. If you let it slip that you did THAT, we will hate you for it. For doing what we secretly prefer but forcing us to be AWARE of it.

If you don't hide it or get rid of it, we will treat you differently. We will act like you are beneath us, for the same thing which we would celebrate if you were five years older.... and preferrably married.

We will not acknowledge that you chose to take responsibility and accept the consequences of your actions - like your parents tried to teach you when you were little. Partially because this doesn't fit in with our idea of how the world should be, partially because we're afraid you are contagious and other teenagers wil catch the baby bug and think it is ok.

We will crucify you in order to preserve the sanctity of the teenagers who are not yet pregnant.

We will not acknowledge that this could have happened to any of us when we were 16 or 17 because we were probably having sex at that age, too (we just didn't talk about it so much which, frankly, pisses us off about your generation).

It's a big hypocrisy. It's no win. Once the baby is on the way you have to step back and realize that this girl needs support and the whole world is going to be against her and each and every one of us who smiles reassuringly instead of looking down in judgement is making the world a slightly nicer place (every time you are pleasant to a teenager who is preggers or has babies a fluffy angel kitten gets it's wings, ok?)

Pregnancy is just as hot button an issue as abortion itself, it's just people are more ashamed to admit all the massive issues we have with it. How confused we are about it. Women who want to get pregnant often cannot. Women who don't want to get pregnant often do. You're bad if you get pregnant when you're young or if you're not married, but you're a saint and everyone flutters around you in joyful anticipation if it happens to you when you are older and married. If you do it when you are too old people think you are a freak. If you are too old without ever having done it, people act like something is wrong with you.

Everyone wants to talk about sex and no one wants to talk about unplanned pregnancy. These two topics have more than a little to do with each other so we should probably all start talking about one subject with a little less abandon and the other subject with a little more understanding.

That's all I'm saying.

(Ok. It's out of my system now, I SWEAR.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Spears Pregnancy Media Circus

I'm not going to go on about this, and I rarely address issues in gossip media here at dame. But I'm tired of the hypocrisy.

To be clear, certainly I am saddened that another woman is pregnant before reaching adulthood. It is disturbing that her family allowed her to live with a man who is legally an adult when she is still only 16. I know parents are in a panic as to what they are going to tell their children and I am sympathetic to their discomfort. All over the internet gossip blogs are having a field day. Angry parents are vilifying her for "glamorizing" teen pregnancy. Some people are commending her for making a difficult decision. I think an important point is being missed.

The Spears family have significant rescources. If she had chosen to, young Ms. Spears could have obtained an abortion with complete anonymity. She could have gone on being the popular star of a children's television program and maintained her reputation. A fair number of the same parents who are furious with her for making teen pregnancy seem acceptable would be horrified if she had an abortion. But then, they would never know.

I happen to be Pro-Choice. That does not alter my feeling respect for someone willing to make such a difficult choice. This is unheard of in Hollywood, right? 16 year old television stars do not get pregnant. I think we should be asking ourselves, however, if Ms. Spears is the first particularly young woman in Hollywood to ever have an unplanned pregnancy - or is she simply the first not to choose to take the easy way out?

I don't think this is the first time this has happened. I just think it's the first time I have heard of a young woman in her position putting her personal beliefs ahead of her fame.

EDIT: My friend Larken made a very important point and I wanted to address it - It is difficult to know how accurate these reports are. Although OK magazine was the original source, the information has been confirmed by Nickelodeon via a public statement. If the information IS inaccurate, it is being disseminated by the Spears family. While there has been a lot of negative publicity for Britney, I cannot imagine them conciously countering that with a teen pregnancy scandal. It DOES take the spotlight off of big sis - but that would SERIOUSLY be "taking one for the team."

Based on the information at hand I would have to assume the reports are accurate. If they are not, then Jamie Lynn Spears may be in for a lawsuit from Nickelodeon.

Completely unrelated and irrelevant but I cannot stand that girl's name.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Important Holiday Tradition: Finger Foods

Totally stole this photo from Kraft, but you know what? I use their cheese to make this recipe. ALWAYS. So I think we're even.

Why is it festive to eat food with your fingers? Because people do it at cocktail parties? Because nothing says wild and crazy fun like eschewing silverware? I don't know. But it's TRUE. Finger food = holiday fun

In my family, the particular favorite that just says Oodles of Holiday Joy to us are Sausage Cheese Balls. People have been making these since the invention of Bisquick (a.k.a. "all-purpose baking mix"). Perhaps even before then when housewives everywhere had to use - gasp! - ORDINARY FLOUR (and other stuff). Seriously. The Sausage Cheese ball recipe has been around a LONG time. These "easy party favorites" have been touted in Betty Crocker cookbooks and on the backs of baking mix boxes. Don't make them if you're trying to set up an impressive looking spread because they just aren't pretty. They are ugly, unsophisticated balls of cheesy, spicy joy. My family loves them.

Google Sausage Cheese Balls and you will see 100 variations on the same basic theme insofar as the recipe goes, the main argument being over ratio of cheese to sausage to baking mix.

My Family's Sausage Cheese Balls
are as follows:

1lb. sausage (one of those plastic wrapped logs o' meat)
16 oz. Kraft sharp cheddar cheese (if the recipe is too oily, try switching some of the cheese to the 2% lowfat variety)
2 cups Bisquick or your fave baking mix

(you rocket scientists out there will notice that this is essentially a 1-1-1 ratio. 1lb. = 16 oz. = 2 cups. Yay, MATH!)

Optional additions: chopped onions, French's crispy fried onion thingies or - what I use - a dash of cayenne pepper
If you do not eat pork, you can use Turkey sausage. This recipe is very forgiving in regards to subsitutions, just make sure you have enough whole fat cheese and meat for the recipe to work!

Traditionally recipes tell you to just mix it all together. Don't do that. Mix all the cheese and baking mix (along with any other additions) together as evenly as possible - you're going to need to use your hands, ladies - and THEN work in the sausage. Don't overwork it once the sausage is in, just knead it enough for the sausage fat to spread around a bit and help hold the mixture together. This way, some chunks of sausage stay intact, making the end result much tastier and the cheese and sausage flavors more distinguishable. Personally, I usually cut out a little of the baking mix. I put in 1.5 cups and then add a little of that last half cup later if it seems necessary.

Roll the dough into roughly 1" balls, place on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake at 350º for about 20 minutes or until they are turning golden brown but not actually burning. You may want to let them sit on paper towels for a bit before serving, which is what I do.

For the uninitiated, this is going to sound WIERD. No liquids to make the baking mix stick together? NO. NO additional liquids. Trust me. Once the sausage and cheese begin to cook, they release a lot of oil which bonds the mixture together and provides the "liquid" component of this dough. Sounds awful, but tastes like ooey-gooey heaven.

They are good cold. They are good the next day. My family has always had them for breakast on Christmas day (and Thanksgiving day). My mother makes enough for an army (the recipe as listed above makes A LOT) and then we all snack on them non-stop for days.

Speaking of classic old-time holiday finger foods (drumroll please) this recipe for Holiday Bacon Appetizers appeared on The Pioneer Woman Cooks - source of brilliant artery cloggin' goodness - and I am making these bacon bites along with the sausage cheese balls for some guests this holiday season. They're all going to look at the spread and ask if I'm trying to kill them with premature heart attacks. Then they will eat every sausage and bacon laden bite... And swear undying fealty to me. Just you watch and see.

Friday, December 14, 2007

My Sister is Hilarious

We were just talking about someone we know being pregnant and my sister suddenly blurts out:
"All I know about having babies I learned from ER."

Advice From Someone Who Knows

I know I have previously mentioned having a family member who was severely mentally ill. I also, however, have other family members who struggle with issues like chronic depression, borderline personality disorder and being bipolar (oddly enough, due to my blended family, none of the people dealing with these issues are biologcally related to the family member who was hospitalized and heavily medicated for much of his life due to severe mental illness). Because of my acute awareness of this issue, I wanted to share this post from Dooce.

It absolutely had me in tears, and not because it is in any way sad. It was just wonderful to hear from the perspective of someone on the inside of this situation. It was familiar. I have watched this. My relative who is bipolar went through so much when she was younger and had a long period of just not being the person I knew and loved. She has been on medication now for almost her entire adult life and, while I know she went through some years of struggling with insecurity over "needing" to take it, I think she is at home with it now. She embraces it because she is MORE "her" when she is taking it than when she is not. Proper medication and periodic counseling gave her back to us, and to herself.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Woman Behind the Man in the Red Suit

Mr. and Mrs. Claus, © 2005-2007 Susan Comish Gallery

I would first like to say, that in the course of trying to learn about the origins of Mrs. Claus, I have seen WAY TOO MANY "Deluxe ADULT Mrs. Claus" costumes. Is there an entire section of the population with some wierd fetish I don't know about? Is it really that sexy for a young woman to dress up as a naughty version of what is essentially an iconic, sweet-natured grandmother? Ladies, if you want to dress up all hardcore for the holidays, you don't have to spend $34.95 on a short red tutu and tiny white apron. Save some money. Buy a few yards of 3" thick ribbon at the craft store. Tie a bow around your ass. VOILA! A festive bedroom getup your man is perfectly happy with. Seriously. There's no need to go dragging Mrs. Claus into this.

There were differing reports as to the origins of Mrs. Claus. One account was called "I am Mrs. Claus hear me roar" written by Lisa Bondy for The McGill Tribune. Her assessment boiled down to: "The sad truth is she was created by Thomas Nash in the late 1860s, in a series of illustrations for Harper's magazine, and later embellished by Haddon Sundblom in his billboards for Coca-Cola." The Thomas Nash illustrations DO come up often when searching for Mrs. Claus, but another source was mentioned again and again.

"Mrs. Claus, Santa's wife, was first introduced to the world in 1889 in the book Goody Santa Claus On A Sleigh Ride by the poet Katherine Lee Bates. In this story, Mrs. Claus pleads with Santa to take her along on the annual Christmas Eve sleigh ride to deliver toys to all the good little boys and girls." This account was found at and is corroborated by myriad other online sources.

Bates is best known as the author of America the Beautiful and was apparently the first to feel it was important to put in print the idea of Santa having a wife. There was also a song released in 1956 by George Melachrino, "Mrs. Santa Claus," which helped establish Mrs. Claus and her role in the popular imagination. Today, I am pleased to say, we clearly have reached a point where Mrs. Claus is widely accepted. In spite of any fancy magical abilites he may have due to being the anthropomorphic embodiment of a major holiday, no one would begin to suggest the jolly fat man gets all that work done on his own.

The term goody, by the way, is an out of use "polite term of address for a woman of humble social standing." I looked up the poem and had to share it here. In this version of the story, Mrs. Claus is apparently responsible for tending trees that grow the toys and treats instead of them being built by elves. There are also references to turkeys for Thanksgiving and chickens that lay Easter eggs being her responsibility. So she's a very busy lady. All this makes her "acknowledgement" that stuffing stockings "takes brains" and that she's only fit to hold the reindeer pretty barbed and sarcastic. I'm kind of loving how saucy this version of Mrs. Claus is for a woman in 1889 (particularly considering the last line).

Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh-Ride

By Katharine Lee Bates, Published in 1889

Santa, must I tease in vain, dear? Let me go and hold the reindeer,
While you clamber down the chimneys. Don’t give me that sour smirk!
Why should you have all the glory of the joyous Christmas story,
And poor little Goody Santa Claus have nothing but the work?

It would be so very cozy, you and I, all round and rosy,
Looking like two loving snowballs in our fuzzy Artic furs,
Tucked in warm and snug together, whisking through the winter weather
Where the tinkle of the sleigh-bells is the only sound that stirs.

You just sit here and grow chubby off the goodies in my cubby
From December to December, till your white beard sweeps your knees;
For you must allow, my Goodman, that you’re but a lazy woodman
And rely on me to foster all our fruitful Christmas trees.

While your Saintship waxes holy, year by year, and roly-poly,
Blessed by all the lads and lassies in the limits of the land.
While your toes at home you’re toasting, then poor Goody must go posting
Out to plant and prune and garner, where our fir-tree forests stand.

Oh! But when the toil is sorest how I love our fir-tree forest.
Heart of light and heart of beauty in the Northland cold and dim,
All with gifts and candles laden to delight a boy or maiden,
And its dark-green branches ever murmuring the Christmas hymn.

Yet ask young Jack Frost, our neighbor, who but Goody has the labor,
Feeding roots with milk and honey that the bonbons may be sweet!
Who but Goody knows the reason why the playthings bloom in season
And the ripened toys and trinkets rattle gaily to her feet!

From the time the dollies budded, wiry-boned and saw-dust blooded,
With their waxen eyelids winking when the wind the tree-tops plied,
Have I rested for a minute, until now your pack has in it
All the bright, abundant harvest of the merry Christmastide?

Santa, wouldn’t it be pleasant to surprise me with a present?
And this ride behind the reindeer is the boon your Goody begs;
Think how hard my extra work is, tending the Thanksgiving turkeys
And our flocks of rainbow chickens – those that lay the Easter eggs.

Jump in quick then? That’s my bonny. Hey down derry! Nonny nonny!
While I tie your fur cap closer, I will kiss your ruddy chin.
I’m so pleased I fall to singing, just as sleigh bells take to ringing!
Are the cloud-spun lap robes ready? Tirra-lira! Tuck me in

Off across the starlight Norland, where no plant adorns the moorland
Save the ruby-berried holly and the frolic mistletoe!
Oh, but this is Christmas revel! Off across the frosted level
Where the reindeers’ hoofs strike sparkles from the crispy, crackling snow!

Now we pass through dusky portals to the drowsy land of mortals;
Snow-enfolded, silent cities stretch about us dim and far.
Oh! How sound the world is sleeping, midnight watch no shepherd keeping,
Though an angel-face shines gladly down from every golden star.

Here’s a roof. I’ll hold the reindeer. I suppose this weathervane, Dear,
Some one set here just on purpose for our team to fasten to.
There’s its gilded cock, - the gaby! – wants to crow and tell the baby
We are come. Be careful, Santa! Don’t get smothered in the flue.

Back so soon? No chimney-swallow dives but where his mate can follow.
Bend your cold ear, Sweetheart Santa, down to catch my whisper faint:
Would it be so very shocking if your Goody filled a stocking
Just for once? Oh, dear! Forgive me. Frowns do not become a Saint.

I will peep in at the skylights, where the moon sheds tender twilights
Equally down silken chambers and down attics bare and bleak.
Let me shower with hailstone candies these two dreaming boys – the dandies
In their frilled and fluted nighties, rosy cheek to rosy cheek.

So our sprightly reindeer clamber, with their fairy sleigh of amber,
On from roof to roof, the woven shades of night about us drawn.
On from roof to roof we twinkle, all the silver bells a-tinkle,
Till blooms in yonder blessed East the rose of Christmas dawn.

Now the pack is fairly rifled, and poor Santa’s well nigh stifled;
Yet you would not let your Goody fill a single baby sock;
Yes, I know the task takes brains, Dear. I can only hold the reindeer
And to see me climb down chimney – it would give your nerves a shock.

Santa, don’t pass by that urchin! Shake the pack, and deeply search in
All your pockets. There is always one toy more. I told you so.
Up again? Why, what’s the trouble? On your eyelash winks the bubble
Mortals call a tear, I fancy. Holes in stocking, heel and toe?

Goodman, though your speech is crusty now and then, there’s nothing rusty
In your heart. A child’s least sorrow makes your wet eyes glisten, too;
But I’ll mend that sock so neatly it shall hold your gifts completely.
Take the reins and let me show you what a woman’s wit can do.

Puff! I’m up again, my Deary, flushed a bit and somewhat weary,
With my wedding snow-flake bonnet worse for many a sooty knock;
But be glad you let me wheedle, since, an icicle for needle,
Threaded with the last pale moonbeam, I have darned the laddie’s sock.

Then I tucked a paint-box in it (‘twas no easy task to win it
From the artist of the Autumn leaves) and frost-fruits white and sweet,
With toys your pocket misses – oh! And kisses upon kisses
To cherish safe from evil paths the motherless small feet.

Chirrup! Chirrup! There’s a patter of soft footsteps and a clatter
Of child voices. Speed it, reindeer, up the sparkling Artic Hill!
Merry Christmas, little people! Joy-bells ring in every steeple,
And Goody’s gladdest of the glad. I’ve had my own sweet will.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Being a Better Human

Arthur is my local theater community's resident crackpot old guy. He shows up to any and all auditions that have a male role. He volunteers for set building. If there is a theater holding auditions anywhere in town, you will see him walking down the side of the road in grubby slacks, a disheveled plaid shirt and maybe an old cardigan, his head looking cold with it's sparse covering of wispy white hair as he plods along, determined to attend the audition.

Basically, Arthur is a crazy old man. I don't think he's literally "crazy." I suspect that he has some psychological issues which have been compounded by old age, a difficult personality and many years of lonliness. I do not know his "story." I think he lives in a place downtown that houses low income elderly people. I have never seen him with anyone when he is out walking. He has never mentioned friends or family, but he does not usually talk about himself.

He is not an easy person to talk to or to be around. Arthur communicates in an awkward, stilted manner. His readings are typically a monotone drone interspersed with brief glimspes of warmth. In a show, he has to be watched for backstage directing - he will go up to your lead and tell her she skipped a line. His "directions" are obnoxious and misguided, but closer examination reveals them to be genuinely well intended. There are stories about directors casting him and then having huge problems. You have to provide him with specific and clear directions and appear to be taking his concerns seriously or he becomes mule-like in his refusal to cooperate. It's inconvenient and unprofessional, but it's also community theater. Although Arthur rarely gets cast, there IS a higher level of tolerance than would exist in a professional setting.

This weekend Arthur turned up - two hours late - to an audition I was at. Everyone froze as if a violent escaped mental patient had just wandered in. He has had some sort of surgery on his ear recently so he had bandages on one side of his head which added to his disconcerting appearance. In place of a headshot and resume he handed the director a sheet of paper. When I leaned to the side to catch a glimpse of it, I saw that he had handwritten a resume - covering the entire front and back of a worn page in uneven lines of blue ink.

We were essentially done with the auditions by the time he arrived. The few lingering actors looked around nervously and then rushed the door like rats jumping ship. The director and stage manager stood there uncertain what to do. I could see that if they allowed him to read at all it would be him reading alone on the stage. Arthur was going to be left feeling it was mere formality. Which I am fairly certain it was... But he had walked roughly 2 miles to get there and his intentions were earnest and I hadn't left yet. So I asked the director (who appeared willing to accomodate him, just unsure how do accomplish that) what she would like us to read. We read one of the selections together and when we were done Arthur packed up his things (he always carries a little bundle of papers and a book or two with him) and headed out. He seemed satisfied.

If any other actor had shown up at the last minute, a couple of the young women who were desperately vying for the lead would have leaped at the chance for another read. Another shot to show what they could do. No one wants to help when that last minute actor is Arthur.

We all encounter people like Arthur now and then. Perhaps I would be less inclined to look past Arthur's difficulties if I had not grown up with a close relative who was severely mentally ill. But I know first hand that just because someone behaves oddly or has difficulty communicating does not mean they are a bad person. Functioning in this world is more difficult for the elderly and alone and can be a great deal harder for the mentally ill. But Arthur is still trying. He wants to contribute. He wants to be a part of the community. He doesn't appear to have anyone and he knows how most of the world sees him. He still shows up and shrugs off the whispers and the nervous giggles and he tries.

I wish that when people ran into someone like Arthur, they wouldn't just run the other way. The mentally ill or impaired typically KNOW when they're being dismissed. So many other people have done the same to them. It doesn't take a lot of effort to interact with them in a respectful way. The difficult thing that it requires is overcoming your own fear and awkwardness about interacting with someone who is different and who may have trouble communicating constructively. Most of the time, I think they appreciate just being talked to instead of ignored or overlooked. I know Arthur does.

At first I thought to myself that it was unfortunate that this in no way related to the holiday season which is upon us - and on which I typically focus my posts at this time of year. Then I realized this does relate to the season. Quite sharply, now that I think about it. In this season of giving, what greater gift is there than to give someone a little bit of their dignity back?

Friday, December 07, 2007

It's That Time Again

“In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it 'Christmas' and went to church; the Jews called it 'Hanukka' and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say 'Merry Christmas!' or 'Happy Hanukka!' or (to the atheists) 'Look out for the wall!'”
- Dave Barry

Friday, November 30, 2007

Lack of Blog

My apologies for the lack of blog this week. I ended up needing the week off. After a weekend chock full o' crazy family goodness (which, by Sunday, had me running for the hills. Very nearly literally.) and a week of cooking like a madwoman (Staying up till 3am. No time to see The Guy. Back to the grocery store for something I forgot like TEN times. You see, I semi-volunteered to cater an event for 130 people tonight. On my own. Yes, please - DO call the men in white coats.) - I had nothing in me left with which to write. I couldn't even muster up a quote or ANYTHING. I'm dreaful. Apologies all around.

Tonight I serve cold Artichoke Parmesan dip with Criostini and Spinach Empanadas and Lemon Almond Biscotti and antipasto to a large group of people who, knowing my dumb luck, are probably all allergic to nuts and hate marinated mushrooms and olives and will want to know where the french onion dip is for the veggies on the antipasto platter.

Maybe I'll save myself some trouble and provide a completely-out-of-place dip for the veggies.

So anyway, after the catering I get to spend my weekend with The Guy and Little Man; sleeping in, reading, roasting marshmallows in the fireplace, assisting Little Man with the finer points of our favorite video game, visiting with some friends, making hot cocoa, maybe going to a local park for a walk - in other words, HEAVEN.

Next week I'll, you know, think and stuff like that. And then I'll get back to posting.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Holidays

Christmas has always been a complex holiday for my family.

Mine is a blended family so there are a lot of people involved. There's the tug of war over where and when celebrations will occur. So many people you are-and-aren't related to you who cannot decide if they should send you a present (I always loved how one of my sisters' Grandparents - who is only her Grandparent and in no way blood related to the rest of us - would send her a big gift and send the rest of us kids a tacky generic coloring book every year. Even as a child, I knew this was a wildly miscalculated gesture and VERY funny.) The various step and half kids all looking at each other's piles of gifts and wondering if discrepancies were signs of anything. The kids who had another parent of lesser means going through culture shock when comparing the familiar low-income Christmas to the bountiful middle-class Christmas (that would be me).

It was a wierd time for us. Always. Even on good years. Throw in a birthday right on the cusp of the holiday and, well, it made for a wacky mess of a holiday.

Then there was Thanksgiving.

A holiday I could understand. I mean, not the Pilgrims and Indians thing because A) I'm essentially first generation American and our attachment to that aspect of the holiday was tenuous and B) it always seemed to me like the Indians should have saved themselves a lot of trouble in the long run and let the pilgrims starve. Hindsight, I suppose. But aside from the actual history of the holiday, I understood what it meant to US, to MY family. When you have a large blended family, gathering together makes sense. Taking the time to be thankful for each other, for each and every one of us, makes sense.

We have a lot of cooks in our family. And a large number of people to be fed. Thankgiving, no matter what assortment of people were gathering, has always been a circus:

People laughing and chattering and arguing over the best way to make stuffing (it's an issue). The smell of things cooking in the oven and of hot casseroles being brought in the door and of fresh nutmeg and cinnamon being warred over as the pumpkin pie was being made. My mother making sausage cheese balls so we all have something to snack on through the morning as we prepared the meal and set the table... and the other table... and maybe another table (just in case). Cries of dismay when the hardcore home cookin' mom and my cousin the professional caterer both arrive with their "famous" sweet potato casseroles. The Annual Debate over the greatness of Turkey versus the joys of variety (in which the possibility of ham, chicken, duck, goose or oodles of little cornish game hens being prepared the following year is considered. Turkey always wins). My brother gets mad about something and pouts. My little sister eats all the rolls. My older sister and I fight with pickle spears as our swords (yes, even now). My grandmother spends a lot of time trying to identify which grandchild comes from who. My parents get confused and call the kids by the dogs' names and vice-versa. My Aunt gets tired of my Uncle's endless jokes and shrieks his name in that voice that tells you she's going to drag him out by his ear if he doesn't stop soon. The radio is switched back and forth between oldies and christmas songs. My mom wants to watch the National Dog Show and hollers constantly that we, "...have to see this one. It's! OH! Come look at this one! That looks like so-and-so's dog. HURRY! YOU'RE GOING TO MISS THE POMERANIAN. looklooklooklook!"

It's MADNESS. And this gathering is the epitome of what my family is. A crazy, loud, arguing, laughing, neurotic frenzy of people coming together to make something wonderful. We are all so different. We don't always get along. We don't always even like each other. But we all love each other. AND we love to cook and to eat.

On Thanksgiving, my family celebrates in a context I can understand and in a way that suits us. We come together and reaffirm that, although some of us share little or no blood connection, we are TRULY a family. Inextricably. In the most exasperating and wonderful of ways.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. The family, the food, the fact that it's all about gathering and has nothing to do with presents. To me, Thanksgiving is about coming home or creating home. It's about finding the family in your life, whether or not they are related to you, and celebrating that. It's about needing people and creating for people. For me, when Thankgiving is at it's best, it is the most joyous of all times.

In light of my affection, I think the Thanksgiving movie category is much underappreciated, whilst Hollywood churns out crappy Christmas flicks ad nauseum. So I have made a list of my Top Five Thanksgiving film recommendations. Led, of course, by a film I mention FAR too often:

1. Home for the Holidays, 1995

"On the fourth Thursday in November, 84 million American families will gather together... And wonder why."
Everything goes wrong in Claudia Larsen's life on the day she is boarding a plane to return to her childhood home for Thanksgiving. The next 36 hours are spent coping with craziness, trying to understand her family and reevaluating her life. Features: Holly Hunter, Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Gerldine Chaplain. Robert Downey Jr., Dylan McDermott, David Strathairn

Because her family is crazy. And wonderful. And totally familiar to everyone no matter how close or distant your own family is. It is to dysfunctional families what Big Fat Greek Wedding is to huge families. Probably not child appropriate. Very funny. Very life affirming. Very oh-my-god-someone-gets-what-it's-like-to-deal-with-my-family. One of my favorite films of all time.

"Nobody means what they say on Thanksgiving, Mom. You know that. That's what the day's supposed to be all about, right? Torture." - Claudia Larsen (played by Holly Hunter)

2. Pieces of April, 2003

"She's the one in every family."
21-year-old April Burns (Katie Holmes) who lives with her boyfriend Bobby (Derek Luke) in a dilapidated tenement on New York City's Lower East Side. April has never been on good terms with her mother, Joy (Patricia Clarkson), but Bobby convinces her to host her family for Thanksgiving. Features: Katie Holmes, Derek Luke, Oliver Platt, Patricia Clarkson, Alice Drummond, Lillias White, Isiah Whitock, Jr., Sean Hayes. Patricia Clarkson was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as April's mother.

Because sometimes family sucks. Sometimes the people who come through for you are not who you would expect. And that's wonderful. And human. And SO what Thanksgiving is all about as far as I'm concerned. Not child appropriate. Ultimately very positive and life affirming, but takes it's time getting there.

April Burns: "I'm the first pancake."
Evette: "What do you mean?"
Eugene: "She's the one you're supposed to throw out."

"Once, there was this day... this one day when... everyone realized they needed each other." - April Burns (played by Katie Holmes)

3. The House of Yes, 1997

"Enter at your own risk."
The movie is based on the play of the same name, which is written by Wendy MacLeod. Set on Thanksgiving Day 1983, the film involves NYC student Marty Pascal (Josh Hamilton)'s return to his family's suburban Washington D.C. mansion to introduce his fiancée, Lesly (Tori Spelling), to the family—including his mother (Geneviève Bujold), brother Anthony (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), and twin sister Jacqueline (Parker Posey), who prefers to be known as "Jackie-O", due to her obsession with the former first lady. The holiday begins a rapid downward spiral from the moment Jackie-O learns her brother is engaged.

Because nothing says "neurotic holiday" like Parker Posey doing the slo-mo beauty queen Jackie-O wave to an imaginary crowd from her living room couch. Not for the faint of heart. Not appropriate for kids... or most grandparents... or, well, A LOT of people. Not a happy movie, but brilliantly, bitingly funny.

"Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go baste the turkey and hide the kitchen knives." - Mrs. Pascal (played by Geneviève Bujold)

4. Addams Family Values, 1993

A comic Gothic horror-type family tries to rescue their beloved uncle from his gold-digging new love. Featuring: Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, Joan Cusack, Christina Ricci, Carol Kane, Peter MacNicol, Christine Baranski, Nathan Lane, and (everyone's favorite bubble-brain vampire in a far more wholesome role) Mercedes McNab

Because my all-time favorite on film Thanksgiving moment is Wednesday Addams chastising the yuppies for the plight of the Native Americans. Not a Thanksgiving film but has that great Thanksgiving scene. Essentially positive... appropriate for children old enough not to misinterpret the humor.

"We cannot break bread with you. You have taken the land which is rightfully ours. Years from now my people will be forced to live in mobile homes on reservations. Your people will wear cardigans, and drink highballs." - Wednesday Addams (Christina Ricci, in the role she was born to play)

5. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, 1973

Peppermint Patty invites herself and her friends over to Charlie Brown's for Thanksgiving, and with Linus, Snoopy, and Woodstock, he attempts to throw together a Thanksgiving dinner.

Because it's the classic I've watched since I was a child. Perfect for all ages!

Charlie Brown: "I can't cook a Thanksgiving dinner. All I can make is cold cereal and maybe toast."
Linus van Pelt: "That's right. I've seen you make toast."

What other holiday presents you with such an array of wacky options?

On the Big Day, my sister and I are also going to watch Clue. 'Cause it is also about people who are connected to each other coming together for a big meal... just under slightly different circumstances. And, anyway, Tim Curry rocks. And so does Madeline Kahn.

I LOVE Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 16, 2007


... when I'm angry about something and I rant and rave about it... later I look back on my anger and cannot help but picture myself as Max in Where the Wild Things Are. I can see myself stomping and roaring and waving my arms and growling unintelligibly. In footy pajamas. Even when my anger is all justifiable and such. In the back of my head, there's Max.

We're In This Together

Today I received an email from my Aunt. It was one of those standard issue emails that goes on about sisterhood and valuing the women in your life. It was sweet and well-intentioned and, while I may have seen those emails a bazillion times, I was pleased that she thought of me.

Someone on her list responded first to my Aunt, and then apparently thought about it and and decided to send her response back to everyone on the list.

She wrote an enormous paragraph about how, in the 60’s, she bought into the idea of sisterhood and then she learned that she couldn’t depend on other women. She railed against feminism and ranted about how she had been let down by her fellow females. She went on. And on. And on. Bitterness, vitriol and verbal bile just spewing forth. First at my good natured Aunt and then at everyone else who had the misfortune to be on that list.

Now, it’s a shame this woman doesn’t have positive female relationships in her life. But her rant was about women on the whole letting her down. Like she expected complete strangers to help her because of their shared sex - without any evidence that she has treated other women in this fashion. Sometimes women who do not know each other offer each other support, that DOES happen. But that’s NOT what my Aunt’s email was about.

Sometimes we forget the value of the positive and close relationships we have with other women. We get wrapped up in dealing with husbands or boyfriends (who are in some cases wonderful partners and some cases horrible mistakes), with co-workers, with difficult family members, with people who do not support us or whose relationship with us is transitory. But if you are lucky enough to have a close relationship with even one female relative or a lifelong girlfriend who you can depend on - then that is a treasure. And it is important to stop and look at that and value it and remember not to take it for granted.

And while we're on the subject - I am SO SICK of hearing women say, “I really don’t like women. I don't meet women I like being around.” If that is the case, then you are not looking hard enough. We often fall into the trap of feeling as if we are simply competitors. There are only so many jobs that are going to go to women, only so many men to go around, only one woman can be the prettiest woman in the room - and yes, some women get wrapped up in that too much.

You cannot depend on strangers to support you, male or female. But you CAN form relationships with members of your own sex. WAKE UP! If you feel like “other women aren’t like me” then you haven’t been paying attention! We are as widely varied as can be. More so than men on the whole, because we get less flak for embracing both our feminine and masculine inclinations than men do. (Yes, people give a masculine woman a hard time and there are certainly cases of violence against transsexual men - men who were born with the bodies of women - and I do not wish to belittle that in any way. It is very serious. I am just saying that if you ask any transsexual woman to talk to you about her experiences you will learn a lot about the greater level of freedom that society affords people who are born with female “parts” to explore their options.)

I hate the word tomboy. I am sick of the word tomboy. Women use this word to say, “Look, I am more like men than women. I am proud to show how much closer I am to them than I am to you.” Oh, bite me. Do you have any idea how many women say they were a tomboy? Straight women, lesbians, skirt wearers, jeans women, tough women, soft women - it makes no difference. Like 90% say they were a tomboy. Which is to say that as a child you identified easily with boys, you liked to run around outside, maybe you fished for tadpoles or thought bugs were neat. Some boys played with dolls and pretended to clean house and explored play in nurturing roles. It’s part of being a child. It’s not a male or female thing. It’s a human thing. It doesn’t make you different. Get over it.

I play video games. I love science fiction movies. I am not afraid of spiders. I like to climb trees. I am not alone in this and I am not a tomboy. I am a woman. Plain and simple.

There was a time in my life when I said that I could not connect with women - that I was male centric. I took pride in this as thought it made me interesting and different. I thought all other women were stupid and “girly” or - excuse the word - evil, competitive bitches. Then I realized that a lot of women think this. It’s like this moronic rite of passage that huge numbers of us reject our femininity and connection to other members of our sex because we don’t realize that part of us can live side by side with our more traditionally masculine attributes and interests. Women backstab each other sometimes. Guess what? So do men. I feel sorry for any woman who does not realize the value of her relationships with other women and I feel sorry for women as a group that we have one less woman who wants that closeness to us.

In a perfect world, women would all be supportive of each other. Big shocker - we don’t live in a perfect world. But try going out your front door in the morning and looking at other women - women of other races than your own, women who are straight and gay, transsexual women, old women, young girls, women of different socio-economic circumstances - and interact with them while realizing that we have a common thread. Try looking at them as fellow members of a long line of women instead of competition. They understand things about you that no man ever will. There is a connection between women, even women who are strangers. Not all of us stop to feel it or are willing to feel it but, like it or not, it’s there. A common history of repression, of having once been considered property instead of peers. A common debt to the women and men who fought for us to have the right to work, to own property, to have a say in our government... to have any say at all. A common history of victimization and violence but also a common history of strength, of persistence, of shared knowledge, a common history of being nurturers and creators. You cannot depend on all women embracing this but you CAN make an effort to be aware of it yourself.

There’s a lot of good there. There is value in these connections. It's not about a movement or an issue or making a stand, it's your birthright. It's part of who we are and has the potential to enrich our lives. I am SICK TO DEATH of watching women refuse to see this.

My Aunt sent out a friendly reminder to the women in her life that she is there, that she values them, that we are connected. How pitiful that one of those women was too bitter to see it for what it was - a gift.

And now I'm going to go punch a wall.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Shelley Winters

Life Magazine, 1949

“I think on-stage nudity is disgusting, shameful and damaging to all things American. But if I were 22 with a great body, it would be artistic, tasteful, patriotic and a progressive religious experience.”
- Shelley Winters

The two-time Academy Award winning actress was a fair bit larger in her later years but had an excellent sense of humor about her physique.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Right Now

I am in my office on my day off because I needed to get a few things done. All the lights are off in the building because I am the only one here so it is not noticeable that anyone is in. Our building is a single story with a reasonably sized parking lot just outside my window and a healthy speckling of mature trees all over the grounds.

Right Now, as I type, there is a scrawny slip of a teenage boy in our parking lot. He has black hair that is cropped close on the sides and back and little longer on top. He's wearing a dark hoodie and skinny indie-boy blue jeans and had been standing just outside my window on his cell phone for 10 minutes now. The parking lot is covered in acorns and he is stepping on them and doing this sort of goofy unconcious dance as he squooshes acorns under his chunky sneakers. He swivels his hips as he twists to pop another acorn and then hops a bit to the next large gathering of them on the ground. It looks like someone doing the Twist in slow motion who has never actually seen the Twist and is reading instructions from a book.

Now he's hung up the phone... but the acorns, they call to him. They make a really satisfying crackle under your feet. I've noticed this whenever I walk to my car across the lot. And there are SO MANY of them left. I don't know if he is waiting for someone of if he is passing time by parking in our lot because he is in a fight with a parents or meeting a girlfriend nearby after a bit, but right now he is still doing this wonky dance right outside my window. Clearly, he has no idea he is being watched.

It's such a strange sensation to watch someone when they think they are alone. They will do things and move in an unselfconcious way that you almost never get to see otherwise. This pale little scene-boy probably affects a certain personality in front of his peers, in front of his parents, in front of other people. But right now he is not a cool 17 year old. Right now he is a kid popping acorns in front of my window with a simple, childlike joy.

Hop-twist, hop hop, twist and shift. A little content smile on his face while he concentrates on the acorns and their cheerful little pops.

Friday, November 09, 2007


I always find it fascinating when my favorite bloggers share some of the unusual keyword searches that have led people to their internetz "door."

Mine are usually pretty obvious connections. As soon as I see the keywords, I know what post brought them here. The most consistent are female world leaders and Vanity Fair Proust questionnaire. Others can be more unusual, while I am still clear as to how someone was led here by them; Proust state of mind, hit man for the burger king ad (hello? there's a hit man in a Burger King ad? where? when?), graphic pap smear, when you have lost it all, movie quote he must practice on melons or something, sashweight murder, the names of many artists I have posted about on here and, hilariously, stanley tucci haircut.

The one I am really really super confused and disturbed by, however, is position yourself to see women peeing.

I have never written about pee. I am completely flummoxed as to A) why that search brought someone to me and B) ohmydearlord why is someone searching THAT string of words? Is it a search for advice or tips on this activity? Were they hoping for photos? WHAT?

Of course, now anyone who searches that string of words is comin' straight to my door.

And I say to them: BAAAAAAD interweb user! Don't bother poor women who are trying to relieve themselves in peace! And don't come here again!

Icky icky yuck yuck ew!

Some really strange stuff happens on the web.

I See Here That You Don't Have Any Children

A while ago I injured my lower back. I spent a week on my couch propping up various limbs with pillows, trying in vain to find ANY position that wasn’t excrutiatingly painful and waiting in doctor’s offices in hopes of a solution, a miracle or maybe even just a good night’s sleep in the near future. I went through the same questions again and again. I don't remember injuring my back. I haven't done any heavy lifting. My chair at work IS ergonomic. I don't just sit, I stand up and walk around the office periodically. I have NO IDEA what is wrong with me. My regular physician told me to try different sleeping positions. Seriously. Like “Oh, you wake up crying at 3am because you are in so much pain that you want someone to sever your spine and get it over with? Hmmm. Trying sleeping on your other side.”

Finally, in desperation, I met with a doctor at the local emergency clinic - after another sleepless night and waking to find I needed to walk in a funky hunched position like the hermit crab lady in the Labyrinth. He poked and prodded at my spine, had me lie down on the table and pulled and twisted my feet and finally announced that it was nothing serious. I had a lower back injury that - he said in a puzzled tone - is, "...actually most common in mothers. But I see here that you don't have children."


The moral of the story? Just because a 7 year old is adorable and lays his head on your shoulder like the sweetest, most angelic creature ever to walk the earth DOES NOT mean you should keep picking him up every time you hug him.

I am learning a lot of things these days that no one ever mentioned to me about being around children. My back is much improved.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Crazy People Make Everything Better

I am a designer and the company I work for is essentially a printer. We do a lot of things, make a lot of things, print a lot of things. On a daily basis, I not only talk to standard issue end-user type customers but also vendors and brokers and companies that rely on us to produce the items they will then resell.

The representative for one such company has to call my office on a fairly regular basis and is clearly determined not to let the office doldrums get to her. We'll call her Sue.

My phone rings. A wobbly little old lady voice on the other end wants to know if we print on flexible materials like rubber or plastic. Ever mindful of providing good customer service, I start to ask specifics, trying to figure out if I have a vendor who could help this sweet little old lady. She finally sighs and says, in this trembly little voice, "Well, I GUESS it would be printing on latex. We want to have novelty condoms made. Can you do that?"

It's Sue.

She has been an angry male customer fussing about an obscene misspelling on "his" business card. She has used thick exaggerated country accents and absurdly poor French accents. She has started to place false orders on several occasions before I realized it was her. She has sung limericks to me. She has refused to discuss business until I go along with her new knock-knock joke. She has simply started to moo when she hears it's me picking up the phone.

Today I answered the phone and just heard chewing.

"Hi, Sue. What can I do for you?"

This always gives her a giggle. When I know it's her.

It might sound irritating or insane but I thank my lucky stars for Sue. She doesn't take anything too seriously. She doesn't have a fit about deadlines because she doesn't see the sense in acting like that (reasoning that yelling doesn't actually make anything happen faster). And she never uses the same joke twice. They aren't all brilliant, but she always thinks of something I haven't heard before.

My favorite customer is this 40-ish, no-frills, tough broad, mother of two smacking gum on the other end of my phone line. In her own way, she's more sane than anyone else who calls me all day.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Dorothy Thompson

“Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good; that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there is always tomorrow.”
- Dorothy Thompson

Friday, November 02, 2007

I Can't Do This

Do you know what I mean?

That feeling?

That There-Is-Just-Too-Much-I-Can't-Handle-It feeling?

I think that we are all supposed to be born with or taught certain coping mechanisms, and that a few of mine must have been left out. Because everyone else seems to be able to manage just fine. 90% of the time I truck along and I manage. And then there are days like today.

When I do all the math and see that I am just managing to pay my bills BY THE SKIN OF MY TEETH. When I make a mental list of what I have to get done tonight before I sleep and see that there is a 6 hour discrepancy between the amount of time I HAVE and the amount of time I NEED. When my ex's bill collectors call me for the 20th time regarding the loan he is defaulting on that I foolishly co-signed with him because I was temporarily BRAIN DEAD four years ago. When loved ones in my family are having problems that I am not at liberty to discuss but that are causing me great worry. When I find out I am NOT getting my far overdue and very richly deserved raise because business is down and the company lost a lot of money last month. When I try to remember who I haven't returned calls and emails to and finally register that almost everyone I know is on that list. And most of all, most amazingly and spectacularly horrific of all - when I realize that I stood up a close friend for lunch today.

Simply. Didn't. Show. Up.

I have never done that to anyone in my entire life. Not once. It is not a sign that this person is not important to me. He absolutely is tremendously important (and just so you know my concern is genuine - he doesn't know about or read my blog and will not be a witness to this self-flagellation) and I am just so overwhelmed with stress and crises and the recent changes in my life that I simply did not register that I had any plans for lunch today.

On days like today, I just worry that I am somehow missing some ability that everyone else in the world has. Because everyone I see driving down the road and shopping in the grocery store and walking into my office seems to be alright. They walk around all calm and collected as if THEIR bills are paid and THEIR house is clean and THEY have returned all their messages. What is the secret? How is it that no one ever seems to look like I am at-this-very-moment feeling?

Ironically, people often tell me how together I am. How I seem to have things figured out. And the truth is that I am faking it. Faking it well sometimes, but still doing what I feel is essentially faking it.

I often feel less calm than I look. And the matching accessories? Yeah, they're a struggle. My house isn't always clean, it's just usually clean if someone other than ME is going to be IN it. Talking about finances and haggling over the bill is poor form so, no - I don't usually mention how hard it's been to get my finances in order since the ex flew the coop. I always happily pony up an even split on the bill at dinner with a healthy tip because that is what one does. One does not undertip the server who is also trying to make ends meet. Lately one ALSO does not go out to eat often... but, hey, them's the breaks...

So now I am making plans with some of my neglected friends. I just told my boss in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS how difficult it is going to be to go without a raise for much longer. I am on my way home to clean everything inside my house within an inch of it's life. Even the bunnies are getting a bath. They're going to hate it. The place is going to shine like the top of the freaking Chrystler building.

And my brilliant, wonderful, angelic stood-up friend called. To say not to worry. That he's glad other people forget things like this because he does it all the time. That he isn't angry at all. That he can't understand what I'm saying because I have weepy voice. That I really should stop crying because it's not such a big deal and he's fine, really he is.

I feel a little better. Later I will feel much better. I will get back to the business of acting like this is easy until someday, perhaps it magically does become easy. Or easier. Because I'm not so foolish as to think I will one day wake up with the magic ability to locate the earrings that match my dress without a little digging. Or that someday housework will get simpler and more fun. Or that I'm going to win the lottery anytime soon (paticularly because I don't play).

Alright. I can do this now.

For a minute there I couldn't. But now I think I can.

I may play a videogame for half an hour before I start cleaning, though.
Just for spite.

Edit: I really am fine. Like I said here, the past year has been a crazy journey but life is really much better now. I have less money but more friends, a much more complicated life but someone wonderful to share it with. I still have those days, though. I suspect it has something to do with my being human and all.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Guy


This is
Liza’s Fault

I started writing these things down a while ago, and wasn't sure if they added up to an entry. Then Liza responded to a post I wrote about holding back my mushy relationship gushing by saying, "I always enjoy hearing about the fun relationship stuff... Feel free to share." So this is her fault. ;) (edit: ahem. Liza gets CREDIT for making me feel it is okay to share this stuff. So yay her for helping unleash my warm fuzzies on the interweb.

I am also posting this now because a couple of days ago I celebrated my 6 month anniversary with The Guy. It’s not a very long time, but hey - 6 months and he still thinks I'm great. Go figure.

The little pros and cons of a man become almost irrelevant once you get past a certain point. He gets into your bloodstream and you wake thinking of him and you find he is suddenly familiar in that way that allows you to fall asleep with your head on his chest. Instead of whys and why nots the details just become who he is to you. The further along my relationship with The Guy goes, and the more impossible any thought of turning back becomes, the more I find myself contemplating the details. As if I can examine them more closely, now that I am hooked and they are in that sense immaterial. I find myself chronicling them, as if to remind myself years from now how the pieces of him came together for me.

He has these crinkly laugh lines in the corners of his eyes that just GET me. Right there in my gut. Some part of me stands still when he laughs or smiles widely; this wide, genuine smile with bright white, very slightly crooked teeth and starry, squinty eyes.

He does accents, really sharp accents. It’s silly but the accuracy of the accent is strange and striking and he’ll just burst into one out of the blue, as if he’s always been Scots or Irish or Russian and I just never noticed before because I haven’t been paying attention.

He asks about my artwork, sometimes feverishly curious, but has never expressed an opinion about the paintings on my wall. He knows they are mine - he has at some point made an offhand comment that indicated this - but he has never expressed an opinion about them (this may just mean they are quite awful... but then I cannot imagine why he wants to see MORE).

He is worshipful of knowledge, knowledge for the sheer useless existence of it. Not the application of it, or specific knowledge, but just knowing things in a general sense. You get the impression that he must have been one of those children who tried to read the encyclopedia cover to cover.

He points out things that he feels will be useful to me and that he (often incorrectly) assumes I do not know. It makes me want to bonk him with a frying pan in a Wyle E. Coyote sort of way. But then he'll tell me something I actually didn't know and I realize I'd rather he tell me these things for the benefit I get on the occasions when I do learn something new.

He's kind natured. Far more than I am. It's probably the most noticable difference between our personalities.

He loves absurd humor the way I do and loves the book Good Omens but has somehow never read any other Terry Pratchett which just seems counterintuitive to me (since writing this he has started reading Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. It is a wonderful feeling to be sitting next to someone while they are reading a book you love and have them laugh out loud and then have to stop and tell you what it is that made them laugh because they want to share how good it is with you.)

He dances with me when we’re just talking. We’ll be standing in the kitchen or hallway talking about something and he’ll take my hand and spin me out and pull me in toward him and just start dancing with me to no music at all while we talk.

He often uses the phrase "when we're old and gray" and when I point this out to him he says, "Sometimes you just know."

He makes perfect pancakes. They’re surreal, each one is exactly the same size and they are perfect circles and they are always just the right golden color and even though they are made from a mix - MY pancakes from a mix never look like THAT. It’s like he has special magic pancake powers. I, who cook so often and typically with much success, am in awe of his pancake skills.

A lot of the truly thoughtful things he does are things I would never think of. He buys me a new tube of toothpaste because he noticed I was running low and he happened to be at the store ANYWAY so he figured he’d get some. He was putting rain-ex on his windshield and goes ahead and does my windshield, too, while he’s at it. If he notices that something needs to be fixed, he fixes it. He’s that kind of guy. I never dated that kind of guy before.

We think alike. He’s crazy forgetful like I am and, like me, has the attention span of a chihuahua on crack. This works out because, being the same way, I know how to work with that.

He forgot our three month anniversary. Which I realize isn’t even a “real” anniversary. But I remembered and had a gift waiting when he arrived empty handed... so THEN, two days later he showed up at my house with a bottle of wine and bags upon bags of groceries and rich red roses and proceeded to roast an entire chicken and steam veggies and make some fantabulous cheese sauce with Gruyére and Mozarella and some sort of herb and pepper Gouda. He poured me a glass of wine and brought me slices of baguette with bits of the cheeses to try and I stood there in the doorway to my kitchen thinking, “Where on earth did this man come from?”

If we go to bed late we typically end up lying awake for a while, chattering goofily to each other. We call each other dumb nick-names and talk in silly accents and goose each other and laugh until we cannot breathe.

Never before have I felt so at home as I do when he and I are laughing like fools and making no sense but understanding each other perfectly all the same.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


from Life Magazine, 1949

I find it fascinating to see that the reader is reassured that this hemline won't be reaching the "revolutionary" lengths that were apparently en vogue in 1930 and 1947. In spite of the headline that this is the U.S. hemline rising, the length is incredibly demure by today's standards. The style is timeless. You could walk down the street in one of those suits today without much fanfare, in part because modern designers have learned to borrow so heavily from the past. I love the shoes and hats! Being an hourglass shape myself, I gravitate to the 40's silhouette. That Hattie Carnegie number would suit me to a T.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How Do You KNOW?

photo by Andreas Reh, purchased at istockphoto

Several people in my life have reached important turning points with their spouse or significant other over the past few months. At varying places in their lives and relationships, the question they all seem to have in common is - How do you KNOW? How do you know you are with the right person? How do you know that this man is your true love ("Wuv, Twooo wuv..."), the Westley to your Buttercup, and that this is IT?

My father and I had a talk about this a few weeks ago. The Guy and I have become fairly serious. I think my father is nervous. He has been married more than once and knows it doesn't always work out. He wants me to be happy, but is naturally worried. (Which I think is a big part of parenting. Right up there with teaching us to use the big person potty and share our toys and keeping us from breaking too many limbs at one time. We grow older and these things just shift. They hope we will learn to take care of ourselves, be good to other people and not get our hearts broken too badly.)

When I was younger, my father told me that he never wanted me to depend on a man. He wanted me to take care of myself, to always land on my feet. There have been many divorces in our family, as well as some unhappy marriages that lasted. Perhaps this awareness prompted him to raise me to be cautious and self-sufficient.

Standing in his driveway the other day, my father listened to me explain where things stood with my new beau. What I saw happening here. He listened; my father who has had his heart broken, who was left by a woman he pledged to stay with for the rest of his life, and who has now been married to the same woman for over two decades and with her has been though both better and worse. I stood talking hopefully about my future to this man who saw my last long term relationship crumble and watched me go through the ensuing depression and struggle to pick up the pieces.

With this pained expression on his face he said, "I wish I had some great words of wisdom, some way to guide you. But I don't."

I understand his concern, but I told him this - I think everyone hopes for an answer. We all want a silver bullet. People who aren't married hope the people they know who ARE married can tell them The Secret. How you KNOW? How you can be CERTAIN? But he's off the hook because I don't think it's like that.

Everyone would like to think that when you meet THE person they will glow with a halo of light and you will hear music in the air and then you will KNOW - that there will be signs (wouldn't it be freaky as hell if that actually happened?). You probably should listen to your gut... but then I think all you can do is make the best CHOICE that you can. Don't get married unless you love them, but just being crazy about them isn't enough. Choose someone who you like as well as love. Choose someone who is just as willing to put in the effort as you are. Choose someone you have a lot in common with so when you're 80 you still have something to talk about. My grandmother always said to choose someone who makes you laugh, that nothing else will get you through hard times the way that laughter will. And even the most loving couples have doubts and/or times when they want to bonk their partner over the head with a frying pan a'la Wile E. Coyote. That's to be expected.

You make a commitment and spend the rest of your life making it work. I realize there are no guarantees except perhaps that life won't be perfect no matter who you are with. I can live with that. But I imagine it's better if you're in it with the right partner.

Frogs don't turn into princes. So you choose carefully. After that all you can do is give it your all. Single or married or whatever, the lucky ones are the ones who find their home - the life and the places and the people that fit them and increase their happiness.

Funnily enough I learned a lot of this from watching my father. I think he has more wisdom to share than he knows.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Trek Earth

photo © Maciek Duczynski
Maciek Duczynski's gallery includes photographs of Italy, Sweden, Poland, Iceland and Croatia... I find his photographs of Norway particularly striking and unusually beautiful.

New favorite website. Trek Earth has gallery upon gallery of photographs taken all over the world by what appear to be both amateur and professional photographers. While you can certainly search Google or Flickr for images of these same places, the difference is that these photographs have been uploaded for the specific purpose of sharing the travel experience. Typically the images are of high quality (and often quite breathtaking), while a Google or Flickr search will result in a hodgepodge of good, bad and occasionally quite ugly. The photographs are organized by country, region, and city or town. You can look up any place on earth. The city where my mother grew up in Australia - which I had seen few photos of before, the place where my friend lives in Scotland, the small town in the Southern United States that I call home - They are all there. Places I have been. Places I have dreamed of visiting. I am completely thrilled with this treasure chest of gorgeous images. Pick a place, search on Trek Earth, and spend a few minutes transported.

photo © Tom Hill
This street in Edinburgh is very near where my friend lives and, to my mind, does a good job of capturing the feel of walking those streets.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Prerequisites for Executing Women

I found this article in the September 5th, 1949 issue of Life magazine.

The text of the article reads:

‘Lonely Hearts’ murderess will be the
seventh woman electrocuted in Sing Sing Prison

In a Bronx courtroom last week Justice Ferdinand Pecora, with shaking voice, pronounced the death sentence upon two stolid defendants who seemed less affected by it than he did. Then hefty Martha Julie Beck, 29, and Raymond M. Fernandez, 34, her ‘Latin lover,’ were hustled off to Sing Sing Prison to die for the murder of an Albany widow they had met through a mail-order ‘lonely hearts’ club. When Martha Beck’s sentence, now set for the week of Oct. 10, is carried out she will follow in the footsteps of seven other unglamorous women who have gone to the electric chair in New York state, six of them at Sing Sing. The six (left): Mrs. Martha Place, who killed her stepdaughter (executed 1899); Mrs. Ruth Snyder, convicted with Henry Judd Gray in the sashweight slaying of her husband (1928); Mrs. Anna Antonio, who plotted her husband’s murder (1934); Mrs. Eva Coo, who insured, then killed her hired man by running over him in a car (1935); Mrs. Mary F. Creighton, who helped her lover poison his wife (1936), and Mrs. Helen Fowler, who, with a partner, bludgeoned a service-station attendant in a holdup (1944).

Now I am not sharing this because I wish to get into a discussion about the death penalty or disparate media coverage of the executions of women or any other such matter. I cannot say whether the media's approach to this topic has changed significantly in the past 60 years.

I just want to make an observation.

Under the photograph of Martha Beck arriving at Sing Sing, the photo has a caption that reads, “Escorted by an officer and matron, 200-pound Martha Beck arrives at Sing Sing, two hours after hearing her sentence.” In the body of the article, the reporter notes that Martha Beck “will follow in the footsteps of seven other unglamorous women who have gone to the electric chair in New York state.”

Life magazine is reassuring their readers that it is okay.

Women are being executed in New York State - but only unattractive ones. 1950’s America could rest easy because no women who were thin and pretty had been executed in our fair nation.

Oh. What a relief.

If you would like to read more about the women mentioned
in this 1949 Life magazine article, try the links below:
Martha Place (1899) / Ruth Snyder (1928) / Anna Antonio (1934)
Eva Coo (1935) / Mary F. Creighton (1936) / Helen Fowler (1944)
Martha Julie Beck (1949) / Sing Sing Prison / An article comparing
Helen Fowler's 1944 conviction with other murder trials

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pippi Longstocking

Astrid Lindgren, the author of the Pippi books, pictured with Inger Nilsson as Pilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Efraim's Daughter Longstocking

In search of a Halloween costume this year, I came up with an excellent idea and rediscovered my love for a favorite character from childhood. I have not read the books (yet), but I was mad about Pippi Longstocking in the 1969 Swedish TV series that got edited into four films and dubbed into English. Inger Nilsson plays the indomitable Pippi as authentically quirky, independent and good natured. She was spot-on perfect. (The fact that Columbia Pictures put out "The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking" in 1988 is, in my opinion, a tragedy best ignored.) The 1969 version was created under the watchful eye of creator Astrid Lindgren, and she wrote the original scripts for the show herself.

Pippi was my childhood hero. Living on her own (as her seafaring father allowed her to), rich as a king (paying for everything with gold doubloons), strong enough to lift a horse and always getting wrapped up in new adventures. Pippi was tougher than any of the boys (or pirates) she encountered. She was also uniformly unimpressed with anyone who underestimated her or tried to limit her because she was a child or because she was a girl. Brilliant. I remember that when I was young I imagined (rather self-importantly) that Pippi and I had a great deal in common.

So I am going to be Pippi this year, making good use of my red hair. I have no idea why it never occurred to me before. I've got to run out and find copies of the series to rent. As I understand, it was re-released in 2002 with better dubbing... although I suspect I will prefer the original version and its choppy mealy-mouthed dubbing.

Now to convince The Guy that he would make an excellent Mr. Nilsson.

Pippi hits the candy shop

Pippi defending the weak and generally harassing the neighborhood bullies

Interesting bit o' trivia - The character is SO loved that she has inspired a Japanese Musical, which I think is a hoot.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Friends You Can Call At 4am

My closest female friend and I have known each other since we were twelve. For the purposes of anonymity, we’ll call her Eddie. Mostly because I called her that when we were 12.

In the way of friendships formed during childhood, we don’t necessarily share a lot of interests. I love to cook, she orders takeout with great panache. I follow world news and politics, both of which bore her to tears. She knows all about finances and interest rates and credit scores, matters that completely evade me. I enjoy the charm of small towns, she needs the rush of a big city. She almost never wears make-up. I have been wearing a “full face” since I was 13. Her hobby is riding a motorcycle, mine is community theater. I love foreign films and ensemble dramas. She likes horror and action films with things that blow up. She’s athletic and good at sports, I... am not.

We both love handbags, Colin Firth, Chinese food and romantic comedies.

Also in the way of friends who have known each other since childhood, our bond is less about what we have in common and more about how intimately we understand each other. When you have revelled and commiserated with the same person through every high and low of your adolescence and adult life, they get to know you fairly well.

Eddie (who does not live in the same part of the country as I) flew to the Northeastern U.S. a couple of days ago to attend a wedding as her significant other’s “plus one”. She has been seeing her S.O. for a few years, they are pretty serious. While she knows his immediate family well, there will be friends and extended family at this wedding whom she has never met.

The day after she flies out, I get a phone call from her at my work.

Eddie never calls me at work.

She apologizes for calling, ascertains that I have a minute (very considerate, no?) and, having made certain it is ok, commences crying hysterically.

“I just got the worst haircut I have ever had.”

She is in a drug store. The S.O. and his family are waiting in the car. They have been waiting for forty minutes. She is frantically trying to select a hair product / accessory / large bag that will help the situation. The wedding is tomorrow. A wedding at which she will be meeting a bazillion people who matter to her S.O. People she wishes to make a good impression on. And her hair looks “somewhere between a Billy Ray Cyrus mullet and the Jennifer Anniston shag.”

This is not a good look for her.

In between sobs, she tells me she feels silly to be crying but she can’t help it. She knows S.O. and Company think she is being ridiculous. But she knew I would understand.

I try to calm her. I make suggestions. We decide a thick headband a’la the 60’s is her best bet. Hairband is selected. Texturizing mousse is located. All will be well.

I get off the phone thinking how good it is that we have each other.

It is important to have friends you can call up and confess something awful to or share something absurd with. She and I will call each other some days just for perspective (i.e.: “He said this. Then I said this. Now HE says I’m being unreasonable. AM I being unreasonable?”) or to be reassured that we are not the only one in the world who thinks that leggings look idiotic. I am fortunate enough to have a few friends whom I can call at 4am crying, but Eddie knew me before I was really me. Sometimes we call when we’re upset and would have difficulty explaining why to anyone else. It’s nice.

In Sleepless in Seattle, Meg Ryan calls Rosie O’Donnell and admits that she has flown to Seattle to see that guy from the radio show. She knows she can tell her friend this thing that she would never under ANY circumstances tell anyone else. Because it is INSANE. Because anyone else would have her committed. Because it's the kind of embarassing that you can hardly admit even to yourself. But she knows that her friend will understand.

Eddie and I have that kind of friendship.

She is (rhetorically, of course) the first person I would call if I had to hide a dead body. Or if I hopped a plane to Seattle to stalk Tom Hanks. OR if I had been holed up crying in a Walgreens for 40 minutes because some idiot hacked off my hair.