Thursday, April 20, 2017

Missing Betty

It is almost three months since Betty died and I am missing her in my own way. I see an article about dogs or funny cats, find shoes in her tiny size, or think about my changing reading habits and compare them to hers. I would like to talk to her honestly, as we did so often.   I come from Brooklyn, where very few of us mind our own business. We have opinions and don't mind letting you know them, whether you want to hear them or not. She set a high standard for mother in laws and gave me a living example of how not to interfere.

Well, she had a head start. She was raised in Minnesota where most people mind their own business, and often don't let one part of the family know what is going on with the others. I respect that, while sometimes am very confused. When her son and I went to tell her we were separating after 35 years of marriage, she surprised me. She said that she had a hard time believing we'd made it that far. And she told me that I would always be her daughter. I'm so thankful I talked to her a day before she died. We didn't have unfinished business. Just a loving message and the hope to see each other when the weather got better.

In June, 1975, we moved to Flagstaff where my husband finished college and we had our first daughter. During those two years and the time we spent in Pocatello, Idaho, Betty and I were faithful correspondents. She'd send me long newsy letters and I'd send her whatever was on my mind. I learned not to complain (to her at least) about her son, though. Family loyalty was first and foremost and don't acknowledge problems out loud. Fix them!

And yet I always knew she was there for me. When I needed daycare in 1978 she drove from Eagan to Minneapolis to pick up our daughter as long as I needed her. When I was pregnant again in 1981, I had a health crisis and when I was released from the hospital, she came with a rickety old trailer and helped me buy and wrangle a new mattress because I could not rest on the old one. She was small but strong and when we moved to a different house I expressed the hope that it would be the last time she would move our washing machine. I rarely offended her, but saying she would be too old the next time, rubbed her wrong.

Right up until she died at age 91, she considered herself to be strong and capable. It didn't matter that her body was not as strong as in the past, and I don't think she understood that some of her choices were not well thought out due to a minor stroke. She lived the way she wanted and acknowledged that living in an apartment would be easier for us, her family, it was not the way she wanted to live or die. I am having a hard time reconciling myself to that. I've seen firsthand how managed independent living adds years to life. My own parents, who I thought to have only a year or two when I moved them from NY to MN, lived another six and seven years. I don't know how much longer my dear Betty would have lived had her family moved her against her will. It could have been the worst action and caused misery. And although I miss talking to her, and reading her column in the Moose Lake newspaper, I'm glad I had forty-two years of friendship, caring, and love.

(After the divorce, I was not an official part of the family on the same footing as my ex-husband, and his brother and wife. So in a way, I was lucky. My darling Betty had become a kind of crazy cat lady and left her legal family a terrible mess to deal with. The cat man came and caught over 60 cats and it will be quite a job to get the house habitable again. But if anyone can do it, they can.)




Thursday, December 29, 2016

Wrapping my head around Trump voters

Recently, someone from my past got in touch with me on Facebook and I thought I'd friend them and reconnect. Oy, oy vey, oy vey is meir. (Not literally, but feeling like, oh, oh god, oh god help me - at least to me. Someone else can do a literal translation.)

We'd never been super close but her mother had been one of my favorite people growing up. This person had a post about Trump being her man and I thought she was joking. She wrote, "Carol we both voted for him, he will make this world a better place then Hillary could ever of made it.Wait & see he will turn this country around for the better." Oy vey, oy vey, oy vey.

This is who voted for him. The deluded, who he is stabbing in the back with his appointments even as I write this. I just don't know how anyone could have believed his posturing, his lies, his phony Christianity. I am trying not to get upset, but truth is, I am upset. I am upset that so many of our fellow citizens fell for his crap. 

On one hand, I knew that bunches of people voted for him, but they were faceless masses to me. On the other, I knew Hillary won the popular vote, so of course the people I know voted for her. And then I see my friend's posting and I am pulled up short. Yes, she is not well educated, and probably watches Fox News. But how could she and so many others be fooled into thinking Trump was a good alternative?

Well, I do know how. For eight years the Republican Party has been crying about how awful President Obama is. For every good thing he accomplished, they spread lies about the terrible state of our economy. For every school shooting, they disallowed reasonable gun control. People without health insurance getting health care, bad, bad, bad. Oh listen to me go on. I could vomit and I'm sure you could too.

Michelle Obama says "When they go low, we go high." I'm sorry, Michelle. It doesn't seem to be working. But what is the alternative? Getting low like they did, and still do? As much as I want to hide under a pillow, that is not the answer. My inbox is jammed with messages from groups and individuals saying we have to work together and stay strong. Which one gets my money? Which one gets my energy?

I miss Molly Ivans who had fun pointing out hypocrisy and the Emperor's New Clothes. I wish I knew someone who could lead us with humor and hope. The only way we are going to survive is if we can laugh.

Someone tell me it's a joke. Or tell me a good one that makes me smile.




Wednesday, December 21, 2016

By Popular Request

Back when I was a young mother with young children I accompanied my daughter's class to an art museum. At that time I also had a preschooler who was attached at my hip, super shy and would never talk to strangers. She came along on the field trip and surprised everybody by looking around and then saying to the docent, "My mom does this!" Out of the mouths of babes. I looked at this particular exhibit and was less than impressed and thought what is the difference between this artist and me? Confidence. Not only did this artist believe so much in their talent, and had to express it, they got someone else to believe in them.

I bring this up because every time I post something personal on Facebook, the response humbles and surprises me. People like my writing. What is the difference between me and professional writers? Confidence. Very often my friend Ken will ask me to blog again. Okay, Ken, I'm going to try. If anyone wants to follow me, there is a link.

Since Election Day many of us have been shaking our heads and trying to clear our vision. This didn't happen we say. This is a mistake. There will be a correction. Nope, yesterday made clear the Electoral College confirmed Donald Trump will be our next President. Get used to it if you can. The friends I follow on Facebook, the sites I visit, are all fairly liberal. They do not reflect the other side. Can I, as Michelle Obama suggests, go high when they go low? I don't know. I really don't know. As a liberal, I am tired of being kicked in the face.

Hillary Clinton is a church going Methodist Christian and the president elect doesn't even pretend to live by Christian principles, yet the religious right fought tooth and nail against her and threw their support behind him. Did it all come down to abortion? This is a man who willingly paid for abortions. Maybe there is a log in my own eye, but I can't see the mote in his supporters eyes.

Since the election we have been asked to come together as a nation and stand behind our president elect. I've been asked to put aside differences and unite. At the same time, the Neo-Nazis and White Supremecists have been feeling their oats and think they are validated each time they publicly show hate. They've been around for years, but now feel free to take a stand and strut their stuff. And just as I have been surrounding myself with like minded liberals, thinking we are a majority, they think they are a majority too.

I don't know you, the people who voted for a selfish man who thinks the rules don't apply to him. Maybe you just wanted a change, and thought what the hell, let's try something different. I do know the rules apply to me. Not only the laws of this land, but the laws of decency and universal brotherhood. At this point there is not much I can do about the election. I would like to work for abolishing the Electoral College. And I want to keep my center strong and balanced. There is stormy weather ahead, dress warmly, and hold on tight.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Time to blog again

I started blogging on a private site back in 2007 or so. It was a safe place to pour out my thoughts and heart. I was secure in the knowledge that I could say whatever I wanted and not have to apologize or defend what I had written. I no longer belong to that site because I found blogger.com which is free. Other people have told me that Wordpress.com is better. I don't know.

Blogging helped me vent and deal with aged parents who refused to die on my timeline (oh about 1968) and the feedback and support helped me stay who I wanted to be, someone giving her parents the best end of life she could. But after they died, I didn't write very much. I found a Saturday morning writing group that I loved and seemed to take care of my writing needs.

I've written a few longer pieces on Facebook and have gotten a lot of love and support. But now I think it is time to start blogging again. I think my next piece will be about text message misunderstandings and how much I miss writing and getting real letters. Or maybe it will be about something else. Whatever, talk to you soon.

Monday, March 3, 2014

62 + 2


The title of this blog is 62 + 2. If I wrote it tomorrow it would be 62 + 3. Because what is the significance of a birthday as opposed to the days that follow it? We might celebrate on a particular day, but each day is an anniversary of living. A very happy unbirthday to me, indeed.

The last time I posted a blog was October 5, 2013. I have been, as they say, focusing on my career, such as it is. I had two notes taped to my monitors. Stay long enough to get good at the job and the other Imagine where you want to be in six months. There are a few others in my cubicle too; something by Lou Holtz that says you are never as bad as they tell you and you are never as good as they tell you, and something lovely about never giving up and being like the vine finding a crack in stone to grow and I will too.

This is a funny job. Selling auto refinance to bank customers by phone. It is especially weird because I don't like talking on the phone much and have an almost pathological fear of calling strangers to ask for anything. So it has been good for me to get over that particular fear. And the fear of rejection... hey, I'm told no at least 60 times a day and it doesn't kill me. So it might be true that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

I can't exactly relax, but I've made progress enough that I can think about other things. I'll let you know what they are as they occur.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Life in the corporate world

This has been a difficult week for me. Making it to Friday without running away, calling in sick, or just plain quitting is a victory. One supervisor has no idea what to do with me, another tells me I am right on track. He told my training group that there will come a time when we will come to him and say we just can't do it and want to quit. And then he said when that time comes he will smile and tell us we are right on track. (I hate being predictable.) That is where I was. But as hard as Thursday was, I came back on Friday and did a bit better. He also said that one day, it will just open up and it will click.

I have never before worked with such positive and supportive people. There isn't one person I've met who isn't willing to help and doesn't wish me success. Pretty amazing. But, and of course there is a but, it is hard as hell. Go, go, go. Do, do, do. Sell, sell, sell. More, more, more. I come home each night and feed the cats, check email and facebook, play a few games of Blockarelli (http://www.tonypa.pri.ee) and fall into bed. No time for blogging. Saturday morning when I could sleep in, the cats wake me to be fed at 6. They do not understand the concept of weekend. But I do and it goes way too fast for me.

"Bloom where you are planted". Does anyone remember that? Sometimes I feel like I am a plant that is being divided, and am having a hard time keeping my roots strong. Ultimately there will be two, or more healthy plants but for awhile they both look scraggly.

Scraggily yours...

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Happy New Year

Yesterday I had an 11 am start at work. The lights were not working when I got off the highway. Everyone was very courteous and stopped at each light, behaving like it was a 4 way stop. I climbed 8 flights of stairs and we sat in the heat, with minimal lighting until 4 when they sent us home. Aside from not being able to do our work, the one thing that seemed to bother most people was the ice maker not working; we had running water. Boy, what an inconvenience! At one point I mentioned that I had a large gourd back at my desk and they could borrow it to go down to the river to fetch some water.

This is what my daughter calls a first world problem. I think of the hundreds of thousands pouring out of Syria into the desert refugee camps with no running water, no sanitation, very little shelter. I think of poor villages all over the world where people walk far to fetch dirty water. I think of babies dying from dysentery simply because there isn't clean water and I think, "we can do better."

My having clean water does not alleviate the need for others to have clean water. In this world we share resources whether we want to or not. There are reports that the radiation from the Japanese reactor meltdown is affecting the fish in the Pacific ocean. "Don't eat Pacific seafood" people are saying. But how long before that water covers the Earth? The air pollution in China affects everyone. The acid rain from American power plants affects lakes in other countries.

The Baha'i prophet, Baha'u'llah, proclaimed that "The Earth is one country and Mankind it's citizens." I believe that. Today is the start of the Jewish New Year. My wish for my Jewish friends and family is for love and health, laughter and compassion. My wish for everyone else is this, love and health, laughter and compassion. Let's work to wipe out greed, misanthropy, small mindedness, religious intolerance, political intolerance, preventable death, cruelty, sexual and other slavery, hunger and dirty water.

Happy New Year, dear friends, happy new year.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Blessed silence

I was reading someone's post and they wrote, "What are you listening to now... right now?"  And I thought, silence, blessed, blessed silence. But then I realized it never really is silent, is it? I hear the hum of the computer fan and my fingers tap tapping on the key board. Some crickets are chirping and a night bird is screaming every few minutes. And if I went in the bathroom and closed the door I could still hear the building's machinery humming away. And if I could silence that too, I would still hear the chatter in my brain.

Right now that chatter is full of doubts and bad messages. It is telling me that I will not pass the training on my new job. That the supervisor really doesn't like me much, and that I am way too old to compete with these children who are my co-trainees. I should quit now and find some undemanding little job and be happy.

But then the strong positive me chimes in and says, "Quitcher bitchin!" They wouldn't have hired me if they didn't think I could do the job. Don't listen to the naysayer in my mind. A very wise teacher once said, "Leave no room for doubt in your mind." I feel tendrils of fear taking hold of me and must cut them away with the machete of effort and self esteem. I can do this! I can learn compliance language and be successful.

The trick is being here now... right now, and now and now again. And when the doubts creep in, return to the now, now, and now. I am not sure what is going to happen tomorrow, even if I will wake up, (Oh, I hope I do!) but right now I am alive, and breathing and awareness of the preciousness of life is soothing music to my soul.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Food vs Control

I have lost 49 pounds since last October. I haven't been denying myself good things, but by using portion control and controlling what I brought home, I have been maintaining a slow and steady weight loss. I've learned a lot about myself, my choices, and consequences. This morning the realization of using food to self medicate struck me like a hammer.

The facts:
1. My late father was part of an asbestos class action lawsuit. Over the years he received small checks in an ongoing settlement. I was notified of a payment and sent the NY law firm the proper documents.
2. A check was received and  deposited on July 1, but credit union would not accept it the way it was written. I spent the next ten days either trying to get them to accept it or in phone jail with the law firm.
3. I finally resolved it by going to a local bank who accepted the check as it was written.

During this time I was very upset. I felt like I had no control in a Catch-22 situation. I started craving ice cream and had some every time I was out. (I did not bring any home, phew, that's good.) I also wanted carbs all the time. I even bought a box of Entenmen's Rich Frosted Donuts and ate six in one day. As they say in Yiddish, nisht goot.

Yesterday I sat with a young man at Citizens State Bank and felt the weight lift off my shoulders. The funds will be available to pay some bills by Tuesday. I laughed with relief. Then I drove to the co-op to get an organic rotisserie chicken. Immediately I was back in control. I didn't think, "Oh, I feel in control of my situation, now I will eat sensibly again." It was that I didn't feel the need to make myself feel better with food. The crazy part was that while I was feeling so frustrated eating another donut did not help at all. Thank goodness I had healthy fruit choices at home because I ate everything that wasn't nailed down.

I am told that as a way of controlling their environment anorexics don't eat. They can't control what is happening around them but can control what they put in their body. But what do you call what I do? Damned if I know. But now that I am super aware of what causes me to do it, and what the effects are, such as bloating and feeling yucky, I feel better equipped to handle frustration next time it comes around.

Anyone who feels they have life figured out and all the answers is only fooling themselves. It is an ongoing journey with ongoing challenges and opportunities. I'm afraid I didn't do as well as I would have liked to these past few weeks. I can't change that and I don't know how I will deal with the next stressful situation. But I can and will do better today.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Out on the bike

My sister-in-law, Leslie and I were trying to figure out when we got the same Trek Antelope bikes for Christmas. I think it might have been 1989. Both of us were really delighted. I knew she was getting one but I had no idea I was getting one too. Lo, these many years later, her sons rode hers into the ground and mine finally needed new tires and tubes. I won't pretend they were worn out, they weren't, but twenty-five years is a long time for rubber to last. Being married to a cycling enthusiast, I never had to service my own bike until now. You should see my beautiful city tires and new red basket. All I need is an air horn and I will be a menace on the road. (She's the little old lady from Minnesota, the terror of Excelsior Boulevard... go granny, go granny, go granny, go!)

And now that summer is here I am out on that bike trying to remember which gear to use and when to start shifting. I fell today trying to balance at a light. Bunged up my left thumb, have a goose egg on my thigh and terribly bruised ego. Of course ten cars saw me fall but I jumped up quick and reassured everyone, "I'm fine, thanks for asking."

Today I rode into Minneapolis to the Workforce Center at Chicago and Lake, about 13 miles round trip. It took about 45 minutes going (downhill) and about an hour coming back (uphill). My quest is to find ways of getting where I want to go without too many hills to climb. I am not above walking the bike across busy intersections and up a steep hill. So far I've found gentle inclines. But that is not all I've discovered.

Lilac time is just about over. Now peonies and iris scent the air and bush and hedge roses are blooming like crazy. I've noticed that the real difference in curb appeal riding through higher and lower income neighborhoods comes down to edging lawns and pulling weeds from sidewalks. Lots of peonies and perennials in the poorer parts of town, but maybe not the time to really keep up the gardening, or they could be rentals and the landlord doesn't cut the grass as carefully as a homeowner.

It is so easy for me to talk myself out of riding the bike. I just have to think of a hill and I get discouraged. But I have $70.00 invested in new tires and tubes and these are going to wear out before they dry out. And as a metaphor for my life, I am going to be active and wear out before I dry out. Tomorrow dancing to the Bodacious Babes of Swing and Saturday I'm escorting a friend to a union dance. Best of all, spending time with my daughter and her husband and my two grandsons. What a wonderful way to spend the solstice! Sum, sum, summertime!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Porn

What is porn? It is obscenity. What is obscenity? In the famous words of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, "I know it when I see it." He did not try to distinguish between soft and hard core, but it does make me think. Because I think I unwittingly watched some hard core food porn. It was called Man vs. Food.

In the particular episode I saw, the host tried to choke down massive amounts of hot food. The sauces were so spicy he had to wear gloves to protect his hands and anywhere those hands might touch.  Yet he shoveled it into his mouth which is much more sensitive than his hands. He was in pain and people were urging him on, almost like fans at a cockfight. It was fascinating in a train wreck kind of way. They showed huge portions of cooked meat soaked in extremely hot barbecue sauce and we all said, "Eeew." What could have been nice was now obscene. I saw it and I knew it.

At one point I turned to my twelve year old grandson and remarked that for most of the world, man vs. food meant getting enough. He thought about that while we watched. I've been thinking about it too. What is the difference between that show and others that show people enjoying food all over the world? I think the operative word is enjoy. The best burger or creme brûlée doesn't cause pain to the eater. It is eaten with gusto and appreciation. It is not a spectator sport. I see a distinction between a pie eating contest at a picnic and a hot dog eating competition for cash. One is fun, the other work.

I was once invited to a 50th birthday party at a sports bar. The hostess hired the entire place for the whole evening, and, I don't know why, thought it was a good idea to have all those many televisions playing porn. I guess her husband, the birthday boy, liked it. I was pretty shocked. I didn't know where to look because everywhere I turned those monitors were showing things I didn't want to see, and I especially didn't want to see them in high definition! I've seen sexy movies and this was not sexy. To me it was anti-erotic and I left soon after wondering why I attended.

I don't deny anyone their right to watch what they want. If I see the marquee says XXX I am pretty sure what my ticket buys. And now I know if a show is called Man vs. Food to change the channel. Because just like Justice Stewart, I know obscenity when I see it.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Owned by a Siamese Cat

There is no easy way to say it; I'll just come right out and admit that I am owned by a Siamese cat. I own Piper, a Maine Coon, and as mellow as the day is long but Little Mister Mischief owns me. It must be true otherwise why am I out of bed and feeding him at 5:30? I can usually sleep through his little tricks to wake me but, endlessly inventive, he's thought of a new way.

My fingertips were over the edge of the mattress when I felt a little rough tongue. On the edge of consciousness I pulled my hand back and continued sleeping. Not long after, Little Mister jumped on the bed and started to roam around me. I knew enough to ignore him and then he started licking my shoulder. If I was wearing a summer nightie I could understand it; my shoulders just might be delicious. We are having  unseasonably cold nights and I am still wearing long sleeves to sleep. It is a very weird feeling to have a cat licking my nightie right by my ear. Yeah, I was up and I only have myself to blame.

Piper was found by a friend in a drainage pipe. We figure he and his sister were thrown from a car. He was only twelve ounces and covered with fleas when I got him. Once he stopped being bitten he took to biting me when we played. It is the nature of kittens to roll around with each other and nip. No other kittens around, he would nip my arm and scratch me. You might as well tell water not to be wet as soon as tell a seven week old cat not to bite. I knew I had to get him a companion.

I met a man in a well lighted parking lot by his place of work. There, in a box in his car, was a sleeping ball of fur. He had a vet's certificate showing he'd had his kitten shots and was healthy and cost less than a kitten from the Humane Society. Without waking him, I handed over the cash and brought a Siamese kitten home. He and Piper became fast friends, wrestling, nipping, sleeping together. My arms began to heal.

I used to have a little Siamese cat named Baby. He would snuggle under my arm or follow me around calling "maaa, maaa." My daughters were eleven and fifteen at the time and he was just what I needed, a dependent small creature who needed me and didn't act like a human adolescent. We thought he was so clever at the time. As he aged we realized he was one of the sweetest, albeit stupidest cats we'd ever known. He always found a lap to sit on. I remember one time when my parents were visiting from NY, my father found himself, maybe for the first time in his life, petting a cat on his lap and he could not figure out how he got there. That was my baby boy. Watching him decline and die was very difficult. This new cat was a different kettle of fur.

My first cats were named David and Anastasia. They were followed by Slinky, Parsley, and Pepper (another monumentally stupid kitten.) Marshy and Lily were named by my young daughters. Baby's real name was Gaston, named for the antihero in Beauty and the Beast because "every last inch of him was covered with hair".  I just couldn't think of a name for this new one and went through several until I found one that fit. Little Mister Mischief, Little Mister for short. His name says it all.

Little Mister is just about three years old and is getting affectionate in his own way, not that he ever actually cuddles. He has the quietest purr of any cat I've ever met. It is like the lightest of breaths, just on the edge of hearing. He loves drinking from the bathroom tap and frequently sleeps in the sink. His favorite activity is splashing the water in the toilet and I've trained myself to put the lid down or suffer the consequence of sitting on a wet seat. He frequently observes me in the shower by sitting on the edge of the tub between the liner and curtain and putting his head around to watch the shower spray.

I recently applied for a job that involved a lot of traveling. I didn't get it but I did a lot of thinking about what would happen to my cats. They would have to go to other homes. When telling my daughter about the rejection I said that I guess the cats would be staying. It did get me thinking, though. Could I live a life without cat hair and cat puke and a litter box? Could I start thinking of new carpet? Yeah, I could.

Wait! What? A pet is a commitment for life; their life, as long as it lasts. But as someone who has seen a long marriage end and has done a little dating, I am seeing it more as a relationship. Sometimes it's over or the fit just isn't right. I'm not about to throw my kitties from a car. We will live in harmony. I will brush the bed off before I sleep, keep a towel on the armchair and continue supporting Purina and Arm and Hammer. But as I sit here in the early morning, I know the seed of a cat free life has been planted.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

My beautiful new wardrobe and an old story

The other day I posted "If they gave degrees in bargain shopping, I'd be a PhD" as my facebook status. I had just come in from scoring some amazing deals. Since I've lost weight most of my clothes don't fit very well and I've had to get some new stuff. But here's the deal, I don't have unlimited funds and I am incredibly cheap. Yeah, it's true. Although I will give you the shirt off my back, it is usually one I found on sale.

On Friday I went for a walk and decided not to take a purse. Just my debit card so I could buy a summer purse at the Goodwill boutique. I am not joking, they really do have a special shop, called Second Debut where they sell the Ferragamos and other fancy brands. On the way I stopped at a shop called Guild. It is a collective of artisans and others where they sell their goods. Everything from dishes with tattoo art to vintage clothing to jewelry. As if by magic I found the 90% off rack of new expensive clothing. I tried on a U2 shirt. It is brown and hand beaded to read 'I STILL HAVEN'T FOUND WHAT I AM LOOKING FOR'. ($140. reduced to $14.) I also tried on jeans/leggings/I don't know what to call them, in brown stretch ultra suede. They were $262. reduced to $131. and then to $26! Holy moly! They fit and looked good, only they were made for someone with very long legs and had zippers down by the ankles. I was able to turn them up without even going near the zippers. The sales lady told me to just scrunch them. Uh, no.

Today I cut about six inches off the bottom of the pants and hand hemmed them. Those pants look fine and I am very pleased. But now I have these cut off parts to deal with. Nice ultra suede tubes with zippers. I feel like I should do something with them. Maybe save the zippers... And suddenly I wished I could talk to Harriet. She would have some good ideas.

When she was in the nursing home we didn't have much to talk about so I would bring up stories she told in the past. Her father was a tailor and one day a lady came into his shop to have beaded cuffs taken off a suit. Harriet asked if she could have them and made her dolly a beaded outfit. When the woman came back to pick up her suit, Harriet's father called her into the shop. He told her to bring her doll. When the woman saw what she had done, she picked her up and kissed her. These were in the days they lived behind the store, and she was small enough that a fancy lady could pick her up.

I may have heard that story twenty times. Each time she told it her eyes would light up with remembered pleasure. She never did well in school and was held back. I think she was made fun of and school was torture. But she taught herself to knit using her mother's hair pins and could sew at a very young age. By the time she was seventeen she was the top earner at a beauty parlor because they would wait in line for her. She was good and she was quick. It made her feel good to support her family during the Depression. Her father, in his later years looked at her, a career woman, and at his other daughters, who were all champion cleaners, and said that maybe she was the smartest one. After being told she was a dummy for years, those words of recognition were soothing balm. In my opinion it was too little too late but she basked in the memory.

A few things come to mind. Have we told our children they weren't good enough? Have we told them how talented they are? Have we celebrated their differences? Can we recognize our own talents? I'm a terrific shopper. Sure that won't get me very far, or as they used to say in Brooklyn, that and a token will get you on the bus. But it is a talent. It allowed my children to go to school in an upscale suburb looking as well dressed as the rich kids. Now I just wish I knew what to do with these zippered cuffs. Mom, send me some inspiration. (I know this is heresy, maybe I will just throw them away. Shh, don't tell my conscience.)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Two Left Feet

I think I was forty years old before I learned a consistent way to remember left from right. Make a letter L with the left thumb and forefinger and, voila! That side is left. Children teach us so much, and some of it is useful and fun. I've also learned righty-tighty and lefty-loosey for screw tops and locks. Although locks can fool unless you know if it was installed for the inside or outside. But nine times out of ten, I can get the door unlocked the first time. (Small victories!) I had a hell of a time when I signed up for Girls Marching in the ninth grade, not reliably starting on the right foot. Still, it got me out of sitting at a lunch table with the boy who made my life hell. (He likes you, the vice-principal told me.)

I like to dance. I love to dance. I guess though, when it comes down to it, I am not the very best dancer. I didn't realize this until I started dancing with a variety of partners when I took East Coast Swing lessons. I am not alone, though. Lots of people can't dance, can't even keep a beat and some are show offs and some are fun and, and, and... what should be fun is stressful.

In college I went to dances almost every week. Bands would come up from the Bay Area to Quincy and we would dance at the Grange Hall. Sometimes we would get fooled by bands who kept changing their names. One week they would be advertised as Wild Turkey while in reality they were the same old Dripping Lips. (Oy!) I would go and have fun but hated waiting to be asked to dance. All these years later, I still hate it.

Last night I went to a Swing Dance with a big band at the Wabasha Caves in St Paul. I signed up through the Meet-up group Get Out Get Social. (It used to be called WONRO, Wearing Out Not Rusting Out.) Many of the people from the lessons were there and we had a little refresher lesson before the band started. I was determined to have fun.

If I could just relax and smile and dance, I had a pretty good time. But if I had to reassure my partner, or have someone criticize me, it wasn't much fun. People were pretty good about dancing if I asked them and, putting fears of rejection aside, I asked. I was kicked in the ankle by another couple, had my feet stepped on, and worse of all was banged in the head by the elbow of a tall partner.

On the plus side, I got a good workout, went beyond my comfort zone, only spent $7 for the cover, and  felt pretty in a swingy dress I found at a consignment store. I only stayed from 6 to 7:30 even though the band was scheduled to play until 10. I left feeling good, if banged around and looking forward to doing it again sometime. Practice makes perfect? I'll settle for fun.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Thoughts on music and society

I like to listen to books on cd when I drive, consequently I have a hard time keeping up with contemporary popular music. My son-in-law, John, maintains a wonderful blog where he reviews and links to music old, new, and soon to be released. It is called Purely Him, http://purelyhim.blogspot.com. Sometimes I hear something I love and don't have a clue who the artist is. So I plunked down $12. and bought the 2013 Grammy Nominees cd. There is a reason that these are hits; maybe overplayed, but something for everyone.  Guess what? I like Kelly Clarkson, Gotye, Florence + The Machine, Pink, Katie Perry, Fun, and the whole gang.  I even enjoyed Taylor Swift and Carly Rae Jepson. I am pretty happy with the purchase.

Yes, I am one of those people who really listens to lyrics and many resounded in my heart. I never knew that there were all these songs about the end of relationships. I remember songs about loving people or looking for love, but I don't remember all this honesty. Wow.

Now I know that Sting doesn't have a new record. That is Gotye. And what I thought was George Michaels is Muse. Then I heard a song that sounded like Bruce Springsteen. It was Bruce, cool! But then I started listening to the lyrics and I got mad. The song is called We Take Care Of Our Own. It is catchy and inspiring and full of jingoistic fever and totally full of crap. We do not take care of our own.

Maybe we come together in times of crisis and put up a good front for a couple of weeks. But we do not take care of our own. Ask Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are waiting years for benefits. Ask Viet Nam veterans who are victims of Agent Orange. Ask the displaced in New Orleans years after Katrina. Ask the working poor, ask the young parents who can't afford day care. Ask struggling school districts.

How did we get into this state in the strongest Democracy in the world? How did we get a congress that is in the pockets of oil, drug and insurance companies? When did corporations get more rights than citizens? Why is unlimited gun rights more important than human life? Florence + The Machine suggests Shake It Out. Pink says Try. Kelly Clarkson maintains What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger. But Bruce, don't say We Take Care Of Our Own, because we don't.

I'm going to follow Alabama Shakes and Hold On.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Rush to judgement

Today was, in the old parlance, wash day. In honor of Spring I stripped the bed, even the duvet cover. When I went to the laundry room almost all the machines were used. I found three washers but when it was time to dry, just two dryers. I made do. When I went back I found the same washers and dryers, from nearly two hours before still hadn't been emptied. I started to write notes in my mind. How rude. They should not monopolize the machines, didn't they know or care other people needed them?

As I was dealing with my dry stuff a young woman came in with a three year old and an empty stroller. She started to fold her towels and put them in a cardboard box on the stroller. By talking to the little girl I found out that she had a brother named Michael who hasn't had a birthday yet and was taking a nap. I mentioned to the mother that she had a lot of laundry and she said, yeah, about twelve loads.

It is nice living here in the condo. They were originally built as apartments and they weren't designed for private laundry facilities. If you go before the board, and if you pay for all the plumbing and electrical, you can install apartment sized washer/dryer combos. I was going to do that before I realized I could spend a couple of dollars every few weeks for quite a few years before I would break even on my investment. But then again, I am just one person and I have a pile of underwear to fall back on. I wasn't a young mother having to shlep around the week's wash.

How easy is it to jump to judgement without knowing the circumstances? And how quick are we to shoot off our opinions of what we think and what we should do? Too easy and too quick. Today it was indignation over supposed laundry room thoughtlessness. All around the country, and in Washington, too, following the Boston bombings there was a quick rush to conclusions and condemnation of different groups. Take away civil rights for all Muslims, wire tap the mosques and congregants. Don't allow homosexuals the same rights as heterosexual people. Dig a little deeper, withhold judgement and find that violence can strike in any group. Just look at our own Timothy McVeigh. More gay people have been harmed and tortured by straight people than the other way around. And do not confuse pedophiles with homosexuals. Ask all the young girls abused by an uncle. Some pedophiles are straight, some gay, they all need to stop.

Funny though, where is the outrage over the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas? Where is the outrage about the secret pipeline spill? I walk a fine line and sometimes I can't see where it leads or what is on either side. Where to spend my outrage and energy? Last night I watched a documentary about the Maldives that made me feel so helpless and frustrated. Maybe I can't do anything about that, but I sure as heck can get outraged at thoughtless people in the building! Then I see the face of a tired young mother doing the best she can given her circumstances. I tell myself to have some compassion and not be so quick to judge.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

"Life opens up when you do"

Have you seen the commercial for Crest products? The tag line is "life opens up when you do." On and off throughout my life I have used Crest toothpaste. Aside from cleaning my teeth, I haven't seen it having any other impact on my life. So I do wonder at that particular phrase for these dental products. Toothpaste aside though, the sentiment turns out to be true. I have been opening myself up to life and and life has been opening up to me. This week was so busy I needed to make a chart.

The highlight of the week was seeing Nathaniel and his family three times. Suddenly that little nugget, that sleepy little ball of existence is a person. He cooed at me and smiled and did a lot of vocalizing. He sat on my lap and looked at the sky and the world around him. He stretched and squirmed and kicked his little feet, such tiny perfect feet! The few hours I spent alone with him were fun for me and he seemed to have a good time too.

When his parents came home we had a moment where my daughter said, "That's why I didn't want to tell you. I knew you would judge." Wowza! That pulled me up and made me STOP and back pedal and change my attitude at once. Not that it was any of my business, and it isn't, I just needed to be reminded that these were adults who had the choice to do what they think is best and my opinion is not welcomed or needed. And once I realized that, all cares fell off my shoulders and I could sincerely, with love and respect, wish them happiness.

What a wonderful time of life. learning to mind my own business and opening up to all the possibilities. Just because I don't see things the same way as others doesn't necessarily make me right, it only makes me different.  How boring this world would be if the only flowers were roses and orchids. We need daisies and dandelions, snapdragons and baby's breath too. I love those micro photos of tiny organisms, so small and perfect and living a full and healthy life with no opinions from me.

Some years ago I got to hear the Dalai Lama speak at the U of M. He told the story of his good friend, a monk who had been imprisoned by the Chinese for twenty years. When asked what was the hardest part, the monk replied that sometimes he would lose compassion for his jailers. What gives me stress? Judging others according to my standards. There is a person I know who has a very good life, one that many of us would envy. Every tiny setback causes panic and stress. Instead of looking at that person and shaking my head, I've decided not to judge. Who knows what forces shaped their outlook? Who knows what terrors live behind the facade? It is not for me to know or judge. What is for me is to extend a loving thought and wish them well. Sending positive thoughts and energy can do no harm. At Thanksgiving a long time back I had a physical demonstration of how negative energy and messages are debilitating. My sister-in-law and niece and nephews did an exercise that showed me how by thinking bad thoughts they were able to affect my strength and how reversing those thoughts made me stronger.

There are many problems and causes of unhappiness in this life. If I can not fix them, my prayer is not to be the source of any more. Today, April 28, 2013, I send positive energy to friends, family, my community and my world. I am open to life and life is open to me.



Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Slippery Slope

There hasn't been ice cream in my home since October. Very very little junk food at all. I have been controlling portion size and basically eating very well. I have been telling myself I can eat anything, just  control how much. Seems like sense.

Yesterday I bought a pint of Belgian Chocolate gelato on sale. Oh yeah, I sure used some portion control! A small portion here and there and then again and it is gone! Not only is it gone but today I had to be at the Mall of America and I bought a small cup that wasn't on sale. Came home and ate the Riesen I keep on hand to fool people when I add it to the ceramic candy bowl.

What else isn't tied down and is full of fat sugar, chocolate or salt? Ah it is a slippery slope and I see I can not bring ice cream home. A small portion ordered in a restaurant can be enjoyed on occasion. But if I want something cold at home, it has to be less than luscious frozen yogurt.

I refuse to look at the down side, only the up. No more statin, no more blood pressure meds, no more insulin at meals, and only a small amount at night. Good blood glucose levels throughout the day. These are all positives. And if that means sacrificing ice cream, so be it. I refuse to be the kind of person who has a wonderful life but focusses on all the tiny negatives. I am blessed with the chance to be healthy as I age and that is a precious opportunity many people never get.

And I can have ice cream... just not at home... and not for another little while.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

April showers, or dancing in the rain

Everyone knows we are having a challenging April. Snow this morning and rain right now. May flowers!!! Several choices, stay in bed, eat fattening food, or go dancing. Just call me twinkle toes. I attended the second of four East Coast Swing classes this afternoon. They are sponsored by the North American Ballroom Association and we are getting them free through Meet-up. Sweet.

For over thirty years I basically danced with one person and we had a lot of fun. We didn't always know what we were doing, but we did it together with lots of laughing. Sometimes I'd be laughing so hard my side would hurt. Today I must have danced with at least forty partners. We would practice a sequence with a couple of turns and then go to the next partner. I admit to getting a tad dizzy. It was fun though frightening at times. We are all at different levels and have different degrees of rhythm. The men didn't twirl, just the women. I'm reminded of something Ginger Rogers is supposed to have said. She said she did all the same steps as Fred Astaire, only backwards and in heels.

It is strange to dance with such a variety of partners; tall, short, younger, older, confident and not. Some corrected me and I tried not to get offended. I advised one guy to put a little tension in his elbows. It was like dancing with rubber arms.

I've wasted a lot of time wishing for a partner to dance with. Today I found many. There are two more Swing Lessons here at this studio and next month I am going to go out on a limb and sign up to learn the Tango. It is outside of my comfort zone, but so what? Let's dance.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Barefoot Contessa and me

Since getting cable TV and The Food Channel, (but not the Cooking Channel) I have been learning a lot of new things and shaking my head at others. Yes, where I used to lightly sauté my veggies for soup, now, thanks to Guy Fieti I sweat them down. And if ever I were to appear on Chopped, I know to add lemon for acid and nuts for crunch and when all else fails, make ice cream or hash.

I happened to catch the last part of The Barefoot Contessa. She was preparing a little outdoor meal/picnic for some of her friends. I was glad to find out how to make tabouli salad but was a little put off by some other things. The first time she said she was going to stuff the tabouli in pita bread with shards of feta cheese I thought, hmm, that is an interesting way to describe a cut of cheese. The third time I sneered. Now, feta cheese is a soft cheese and does not go into shards easily. I could easily see a shard of Parmesan, but feta? No, just being pretentious. Then she started to pack the simple lunch for the picnic in her own backyard.

Each person had a beautiful orange gift bag with a fancy paper napkin and plastic fork. Then she packed the shrimp in small chinese take out boxes. The tabouli pita pockets (with shards of feta cheese) were each beautifully wrapped, not in plastic wrap, but in parchment paper. Dessert was crystalized ginger cookies wrapped in cellophane bags with orange ribbon tied in a bow. Guess what they had to drink? Splits of Veuve Clicqot for each person, served with a straw!

I've just been doing a little pricing in my head and online:
Champagne- $23-25 each ($138-150)
Gift Bags - $3 each ($18)
Chinese take out boxes $8-15 for 100.
Fancy napkins $3-5
Food - $50

Taking the lower prices I figure it cost about $217.00 for this simple backyard meal. Wowza! I could have done it as nice but for far less and not created so much waste. I could see splurging like that for a special concert in the park or maybe going to Ravenna or Tanglewood.

2 larger Bottles Veuve Clicquot $40. each, $80. I would prefer Moscato D'asti at about $20. for the good stuff, and as low as $13 for a lesser brand but still good. (I like sweet bubbly wine)
Food - $50.
Served on pretty platters with real plates, nice napkins and nice glasses, the whole thing would have cost between $76 - 120. I would have had to wash some dishes, worth saving $100 or more, and my guests would have had just as good a time.

Maybe at one time Ina Gartner was a cook on a budget and made everything so elegant they called her The Barefoot Contessa. Or maybe she was a rich girl who was a hippie. I don't know. Maybe it is being unemployed and living on a tight budget, but this show was pure fantasy land. The divide between the rich and the poor has never been bigger or more noticeable. The next show was Ten Dollar Dinners. I can do it for nine!




Sunday, April 7, 2013

Fun and frustration

Sometimes I get so ticked at some of the behavior I see in Minnesota. That is the frustration, or at least one of them. Let's talk about fun instead.

I have been having fun going to Meet-ups around town. Yesterday morning was the Midtown Writers Group where we write for anywhere from one to ten minutes to different prompts. No editing, mostly just what pops into our heads. So much fun to hear what others write too. No criticism, just sharing if someone wants to share. Monday nights I attend Laughter Club where we laugh to silly exercises and feel good for 45 minutes. And today I went to the first class of East Coast Swing. Not too much different from the Lindy we used to do back in Brooklyn. Ninety five of us signed up with about twenty more women than men. No surprise there.

The instructor was a lovely young man from Costa Rica with a rather thick accent. He was very good at showing us what to do and emphasized having fun is more important to than being perfect. He said that women always start on the right foot. I didn't know that. He said it is because women are always right! (Not Michelle Bachman or Phyllis Shlaffley.) And men start on their left, not because they are wrong, but for balance.

The room was huge but everyone hung back. Two women named Cathy and I stood a little forward. We invited others to stand with us but they are Minnesotans and don't want to stand out. Of course the teacher made them all come forward and we stood facing each other, two rows of women and two rows of men with the teacher showing steps in the middle. A short women behind me said she couldn't understand or see him. I told her to go closer in the front row. Oh no, she had to stand there in the back and complain instead. That frustrates me.

Last summer I spent some time on the Jersey Shore with my dear friend Monica. We went shopping in Cape May and I bought a blue print dress with short sleeves and a vee neck. Today I put it on and although it was a little large, I thought it looked pretty when worn with blue beads and earrings. It wasn't until I was looking at myself in the dance hall mirrors that I noticed how poorly it fit. It hung down at least three inches longer in the back. Oy vey is meir. In pantyhose and that dress, I looked like I was trying much too hard. It is frustrating to spend time on my appearance and realize how far I missed the mark.

Friends share inspirational messages on Facebook. They are all about loving oneself and accepting our imperfections and living life as well as possible.  I  am not sure if I will ever wear this dress again; will I have it tailored to fit or give it away? It doesn't bear much thought or energy. It is nice when problems are so infinitely small. This really is the small stuff.

(By the way, the scale was at 150 today and I am looking forward to breaking that barrier soon. Dancing has got to help!)


Friday, April 5, 2013

A day of happy tears and release from worry

I have written before about the concern some of my neighbors and I have for another neighbor, Gerrie. She has lost her short term memory and wouldn't accept help and we couldn't get her help. It was a circular argument. She needed to be on medical assistance to qualify for home help, but since we had no idea of how much money she had we couldn't get her on medical assistance and she wouldn't let us into her place and we couldn't get her help because... and on and on. She had a niece but no one knew where. There was one other number and another neighbor, Mary, tried it. It was a cousin and now the wheels started to turn.

The cousin had a number for the niece, the niece called her sister and they all were worried and yesterday we had a wonderful get together. Three neighbors, two nieces and one cousin came together to discuss Gerrie's condition and what could be done to help her. We confessed that because we were not family, our hands were tied. They all said they were Nordgrens and they were stubborn and they would take charge and get things straightened out. None of us knew it, but one niece had taken her to the doctor a year before and tried to keep in touch. She had informed the office that she wanted them to inform her if there were any problems. It had gotten to the point that Gerrie hadn't paid any of her bills in months and Connie was going to see to it she got on auto pay. They will have her evaluated and submit the paperwork for medical assistance. They will get her signed up for home help or Meals on Wheels, whatever is needed.

Then it was time to go get Gerrie. I pounded and pounded on her door and she finally opened it and I told her it was time to come eat birthday cake. Oh she couldn't, she was a mess. I said it was only Mary, Betty and me and she had to come. Then she walked in and found a party! Her nieces kissed her and hugged her and she cried and cried. She wouldn't let go of one niece's face she loved her so. And they told her how they were so happy to see her. She didn't recognize one. She said her niece lived in St Paul and was too busy with her family. We said, Gerrie, look over there, that is your niece Connie. She is here. So many happy tears.

Gerrie's brother was a real piece of work and after their mother died the girls were adopted out. There were other sisters from a first marriage and as Connie put it, they have issues. Gerrie's parents wanted the girls but for some reason couldn't keep them. So it had been years since Connie and Cheryl and their cousin Linda had been together. But they were joined in their concern to see their relative was OK. They are going to clean her house and get her papers in order. They are going to oversee her welfare. They are going to get power of attorney to make sure things are dealt with.

I call this a release from worry for Betty, in particular and all of us in the building who have worried about her. And it is a release for Gerrie too. I hope she can let them help her and enjoy these days left to her knowing she has family to rely on and is not so very alone. There is work to be done and I am more than happy to help by visiting and listening. Passing this worry on to people who can accomplish something is a wonderful outcome. Blessings on them.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Reflections on holiday traditions and the food we eat

This year I attended both a Passover Seder and an Easter dinner. The Seder was exquisitely cooked and the Easter dinner was pretty awful, as far as the food. Company was lovely at both events and I am grateful to my hosts for inviting me.  One dinner was more delicious than the other, but the food was just as appreciated and liked at both. I told my daughter that there are some really bad cooks around and I started thinking about our cultural differences. She said it wasn't just culture, it is a particular family's particular culture.

My Jewish friend owns a catering company. Some of the foods were familiar to me from my childhood, but done so much better. My Christian friend's dinner was a committee affair. I made some little salmon cakes and sour cream dill sauce because I've never cared much for ham. There was a ham, and pork chops so tough I could have tied them on with string and used them for sandals. Store rolls, (no Clara buns for this family!) and one of the aunties made her famous, secret recipe banana cream pie. Save room for pie I was warned.

I was sitting with two teenaged girls when pie was served. They were hoping that their aunt would give them the recipe if they ever got married. I took one bite and told them I knew the recipe. Roll out refrigerated sugar cookie dough, line pie pan and bake. Make instant vanilla pudding and slice bananas into it. Spoon over crust, top with Cool Whip, let set in the fridge and serve. I mentioned that it might be more delicious with real whipped cream, and one of the girls suggested an Oreo cookie crust. And that is how recipes grow and change and hopefully get better.

Yet, should the young lady make the tastier pie and serve it at Easter dinner, inevitably it will pale in comparison to the one her auntie made. Not because auntie's pie was better, but because it is enshrined in memory of time and place, of family and love. Those tastes are inviolate and we never want them to change.

Every Thanksgiving the magazines are full of new ways to cook turkey or potatoes or pumpkin pie. And every year we want the same. The cook might want a change but the guests usually look forward to what they are used to, be it sweet potato pie or green beans with almonds. I am sure my family could not imagine Thanksgiving without Clara's famous buns. I remember one year that my late father-in-law made a small turkey roast and a huge standing rib roast for Christmas dinner. Oh the disappointment of the grandchildren as he parsed out the turkey. They didn't want expensive beef, they wanted turkey on Christmas! It was ingrained in their little minds and they were not open to change.

My father always searched for the Halvah of his youth and my mother fondly remembered crullers from her neighborhood bakery when she was a little girl. Neither ever had any that were as good. I remember being a young wife coming home from a wonderful party with my husband. We stopped at  a Baskin Robbins store and had coconut ice cream cones. They were indescribably good. A week or so later we went back and did it again. But it wasn't the same. We weren't the same. It was just coconut ice cream and nothing special.

When we feed each other, hopefully the taste and nutrition is of the highest quality. That is a plus, but most importantly love and caring and good wishes should go into the food. That way, even if the pork chops are tough as old leather, all our families taste is the love; good company, good food and sweet memories.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Under the mattress

This morning I decided to turn the mattress and topper on my platform bed. It is a pillow top mattress with only one side up so I had to huff and puff and turn it 180 degrees. During the process I reached below the slats and discovered, along with all kinds of detritus, four pair of reading glasses and a favorite book. And it occurred to me, what would I find if I changed my attitude?

I am not the kind of person who accepts "it has always been that way" as a reason for continuing anything that doesn't make sense. Just as I won't accept people accepting bad behavior from an individual because it is the way that person acts. If something doesn't make sense, either change it, or explain it to me so that it does make sense. And if a person acts unacceptably, do not just go along with it, tell them that poor behavior will not be tolerated. You don't have to go along with it because "that's just the way he is".  You can, of course, do whatever you want; I choose to do differently.

That is not to say I am 100% open minded. Not at all. But by being aware of being stuck in one spot, and becoming a little concerned about that one spot, I become open to changing my position. Just as I can't flip that mattress over because that would be wrong for the mattress, I can not totally flip my attitudes. I will not become a racist because that is wrong. But maybe by turning around the way I think I might discover that yes, I do have some racist detritus, as worthless as used tissues. By seeing the trash, I can deal with it. And by moving my attitudes a few degrees, I can be open to finding old values and discovering something wonderful. I can't say what because I haven't discovered it yet.

Definitely time to clear off the coffee table and vacuum the carpet. Adventures await.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The News Since 2/11

It has been over a month since I last posted a blog and a lot has happened; I lost my job, started a long correspondence with an interesting individual, attended a Women in Transition workshop, and most important of all, welcomed my newborn grandson, Nathaniel. He is not my first grandchild, that is his brother Gavin who came to us when Erica married John. He's lovely and loving and I am so glad to know him, but at twelve he's too big to cuddle under my chin. Nathaniel is my first grandbaby. I spent a goodly while today holding him on my chest. He's such a mellow little peanut. Babies really are the world made new. I am in love with that precious bundle.

The Women in Transition workshop was held over two days, four participants and the leader. Earlier in the month we all took personality and career assessment tests to learn our strengths and weaknesses. Nothing very surprising in the results; I hate rules, I like people, I would rather start a project than follow it through, I don't like discord and disharmony, and thrive in an atmosphere of cooperation and respect. I commented that everyone wants that. Much to my surprise I found out that some people do their best work under conditions of tension. Indeed, when I think about it there are people I know who like to stir the pot just to see what happens and how others will react. That is not for me, oh no, no, no.

One of the exercises we did was writing about pictures in magazines. Each person wrote about what they saw, I wrote stories. One picture was of a plant in a laboratory, one of an astronaut on a space walk. I wrote of them both being alone, of their strength and situations. Other people wrote straight descriptions, this is a hummingbird, this is a blue car. But to me, everything is a story. It is also the way I speak, using analogies. The leader told me I need to find a job doing something like writing for Garrison Keillor. (Insert music here: Nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you try...) I shouldn't try to work in a factory. Oh really? The only time I tried I walked off the job after three hours and told them they could keep the money. The good thing is I've gotten off my complacent rear end and am actively pursuing leads. I've got two in the pipeline right now.

When my children were small we made sacrifices so I could stay home and raise them myself. I always said I had the rest of my life to work. Well that was prophetic! Now it looks like I'll be doing just that, once I get another job. I'm making the effort and know it is only a matter of time.

Monday, February 11, 2013

What to do?

If you ever were to visit my condo building there is a good chance you would meet Gerry. She is that friendly old lady dressed in purple with either long wild hair or very regular pin curls. Don't worry about waiting for me to buzz you in, Gerry will open the door to you or anyone. She always agrees that she shouldn't do that but there is one huge problem. Gerry has no short term memory.

Within a single conversation she will ask you what day it is three or four times. She knows something is wrong, she does, but will accept very little help. She is canny and wily and fighting for her life. No one can get into her unit and we wonder if she is getting enough to eat. I've wanted to take her to the grocery or for a haircut. She won't go. Another resident, 84 year old Betty, takes her to church and out to eat each Sunday. Betty is exhausted. Rita, age 81, wonders if Gerry might start a fire in her unit. Management doesn't know what to do. Several years ago a social worker determined that she wasn't a problem and could stay in her home.

But that was then and this is now and something has to be done for her own health and protection. We meet in the lobby and exchange horror stories. A few weeks ago I found her wandering around at nine at night in her overcoat and hat. She had been going in and out in the subzero weather waiting for Betty to take her somewhere. I was really concerned and the next day called the social worker at the building where my parents had lived. She suggested I get in touch with Adult Protection Services.

They are reopening the case and sending a social worker to investigate. Betty thinks she should go to a memory care facility. I hope she can get what they call Adult Elder Waiver where she can stay in her unit and get someone to come clean and make sure she is getting good nutrition, maybe Meals on Wheels. I know she is hungry because she took the left over food from our latest card party. Here, Gerry, do you like peanuts, oranges? Take home some chili and corn bread. Do you want veggies? Take the dip too.

Not everyone has children to watch out for them as they age. Not everyone wants to deal with their difficult aging parents. But what are we to do? Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes one to deal with the elderly. My mother used to say she was now the child and I the mother. What do we do with these old children with no one to oversee their health and wellness? We believe in freedom to live as we want as adults and have many protections in place so the elderly are not taken advantage of. But what do we do when they need help and won't accept it? I am the contact for the social worker and hope to hear from her soon.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Boney Butt

In my life I have been fat and thin and through it all one thing remains the same. I have a hard time sitting in most chairs. The flatter the chair, the worse. I have used wheelchair cushions for car seats, desk chairs and even new, padded, dining room chairs. I've never found a bike seat that is really comfortable. I have a boney butt with a nerve that is sort of sideways. And it occurs to me that I could have had much more profitable school days if only I'd had a cushion.

Back in the day, we wore crinolines and hoop skirts. Not the 1860's, the 1960's! I literally couldn't sit on a scratchy crinoline slip and it was damn hard arranging the hoop around me on the chair. And once sitting, the chair was either cold and hard or sweaty and hard. One leg under, then the other, up, down, up, down. It was amazing anything got done.

I was a volunteer in a daughter's second grade class. That teacher, a large woman, used to get down on the carpeted floor for reading groups. If the kids were more comfortable on the floor and could more easily learn there, she joined them. All over the room kids were lying on their tummies filling out papers or kneeling and using chairs to write on. There was concentration.

I know I have some attention deficit disorder and have a hard time staying on task. But I wonder how many children could benefit using a padded chair or cushion. Maybe if they weren't trying to get comfortable all the time they could concentrate. What if we provided a comfortable testing venue, would scores rise?

Just a thought.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

60 is not the new 40 or even the new 50

I took one of the online tests that determine one's real age. I don't smoke, have lost some weight, and don't live on beer and martinis. Actually exercising, as opposed to just thinking about it, and eating more veggies had to be factored in too. Guess what? I'm only 48! I sure hope someone tells the heavenly record keepers and that they aren't planning on recouping those years early.

Conversely it seems to me that children these days are in such a hurry to grow up they are losing some years on the lower end. They don't get to loll around much. Stimulate their little minds with Baby Einstein. Six months old and it is time for Mom and Me classes. I am not saying these things are bad; you should see how clever my great niece and nephews are. They blow me away with language and innocence and I wouldn't have it any other way. But I also see little girls wearing high heels and ruining their backs and I am not crazy about twelve year olds wearing "Juicy" across their rear ends. (But that is an essay for another day.)

When I was 48 I went on strike and had the time of my life. Organizing, rallying, spending time on the picket line and helping out wherever I could. Within a few months of returning to work I was fired. I could have fought it, and maybe won, but I was determined to get out of food service before age 50. Banquet serving was golden handcuffs, good wages but no life. At the time I was living on ibuprofen, taking it before, during, and after work. My feet felt at least 75, but boy did I have some muscles! These days the feet are mostly fine, although long walks on marble floors tell me they are the same feet that bothered me at 17 when I first saw a foot doctor or 23 when I cried after a waitressing shift. Within months of leaving banquets I was able to wear normal shoes.

It is twelve years later. I am almost 61 and looking for a job again. I look pretty good, but not 40, maybe a mature 50. No one tells me they can't believe I'm 60. Believe it baby. Yet I have decided not to let the number get me down. Yes there is ageism; you'd better believe there is. And yes the economy is not the best, but people are getting new and better jobs. Granted these are people in their mid thirties. Their determination, research, and networking skills have gotten them interviews and subsequent hires. I am inspired by them. Wish me luck, but send me ideas too. I've got a lot to give and can't consider retiring for at least five more years.

The idea behind this blog was to make fun of the aging process and how ridiculous the whole thing is. Our nostrils get big and earlobes longer. I think my nose is growing. Won't it be funny when all those people with all that work done have long earlobes too? No wonder you never see their ears, the lobes don't lie. Excuse me while I examine my shell-like ears in a mirror. Are they scallop, oyster, or conch?


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Onion Jam

Although I like a wide variety of foods, I am fairly conventional. Don't put hot pepper in my chocolate. Jam is for fruit, and leave sweet off any meat. Squash does not belong in soup, or carrots in cake. So it is with delight and surprise that I tried and enjoyed red onion jam on bread at Napa Valley Grille at the Mall of America. Leslie and I did three circuits of the mega mall before repairing to the quiet and classy restaurant on the second floor. Our server brought out our soup and a plate with thinly sliced baguette, olive oil and onion jam. It was sweet, but not overly so, subtle, and delicious. I tasted wine and something deeply mellow, like no onion I had ever eaten. I do like onions when they are cooked but don't care for them raw. I wanted to know how to make it.

From the internet I found several recipes which I share here in the spirit of culinary adventure.

1. Onion Jam from the Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook
Makes about 1 cup
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups sliced onions; I have used both yellow and red
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine
2 tablespoons water
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 5 - 8 minutes until tender and translucent. Add the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 - 20 minutes, until onions are golden brown. Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring often to avoid scorching, for about 20 minutes, until the mixture is thick and jam like.  Taste and adjust for salt, if necessary.  The slower you cook it, the richer the jam will become. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

2. Alex Guarnaschelli's Onion Jam


Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 4 large red onions, halved, peeled, and cut into thin (1/4-inch) slices
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups dry red wine

Gastrique:

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • Juice and a few grates of zest from 1 lemon, optional

Directions

In a medium saute pan, heat the oil until it begins to smoke lightly. Add the onions and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until the onions give up their liquid, 3 to 5 minutes, and then add the red wine. Lower the heat and cook the onions until the wine reduces almost completely. Leave on low heat while you prepare the gastrique.
In a separate small pan, heat the honey until it begins to bubble and froth. Cook until the honey turns a light caramel color, an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Add the red wine vinegarsimmer for a few minutes on low heat, and then shut off the heat. Pour the honey mixture over the onions and continue cooking them over low heat until all of the juice is absorbed and the onions are a jam-like consistency, 10 to 15 minutes. If you desire, add lemon juice and zest at this point. Taste for seasoning and transfer to a bowl to cool until ready to serve.
3. Onion Jam from Bon Appetit

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds red onions, halved, thinly sliced
  • 8 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 cup ruby Port
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup grenadine
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Preparation

  • Heat oil in heavy medium pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, thyme, and garlic; sauté until onions are slightly softened, about 10 minutes. Add 1 1/4 cups water and all remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue to boil gently until onions are soft, liquid is reduced, and mixture thickens to jam consistency, stirring often and adding more water by 1/4 cupfuls to prevent sticking, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Cover and refrigerate. Before serving, rewarm onion jam just until heated through, stirring frequently.

4. And from Martha Stewart, the easiest looking recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine, preferably Syrah or Zinfandel

Directions

  1. Place oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onions, and cook until they begin to soften and become translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add sugar and continue cooking for 1 minute. Carefully add vinegar and wine. Increase the heat and bring to a boil, and immediately reduce to a simmer. Cook until liquid has evaporated and onions are caramelized, about 3 minutes. Keep warm until ready to serve.
Or you can go to The Napa Valley Grille and enjoy some for yourself without the bother or experimentation.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Unacceptable Answers

There has been a lot of talk that social media, instead of opening people to opposing points of view, actually reinforces ones point of view because we tend to stick with those who agree with us and banish those who do not. Yes, it is true that I like to read posts from those whose philosophy I find in concord with my own. I do not like to feel frustration and anger or anxiety. Those are emotions I experience when someone's worldview seems out of kilter to me. I try not to give them too much energy. Is this new since the internet? No, I don't think so. What is new is seeing just how widespread the views are. Where before we knew our small circle of friends, now we know, on a virtual level, many more who support our view. That makes it all the more upsetting to see how many disagree and how upset they are by us.

Which brings me to the dating site of which I am a member. I filled out a profile and answered as many questions as I wanted. I think I answered something like 525 questions. When checking out a potential date I can see their answers as well as my own if we both answered the same question. There is also a little list that compares you % match, % friend, % enemy. Sometimes I will check out a person whose numbers are high only to find out he has many unacceptable answers.

If he thinks homosexuality is wrong and denies others the right to have children, unacceptable. If he thinks gun rights are more important than voting, unacceptable. If he thinks burning the flag worse than suborning the Constitution, unacceptable. I can accept not reading a lot, or hunting, or even being a member of an activity that bores me to death. But I do find as I grow older, that I don't want to spend time with people that I am going to fight with. I won't change his mind, and he probably won't change mine.

I recently went to a show at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater. It was one man being many characters in an interview setting. Hard to explain, but he asked for audience participation and couldn't do the act without it. I volunteered (big surprise there) and asked to talk to "Manuel, who knows what women want". He asked what I wanted, and I told him he already knew, didn't he? Poor guy was flummoxed so I said that my mother always said it was just as easy to love a rich man as a poor one, but she didn't say how I could meet one. He told me to join the Republican Party.

Another unacceptable answer.