Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I'm a Kreative Blogger! Who Knew?

Today I owe a debt of gratitude to the lovely Judi at Lines Composed for the “Kreative Blogger” award she bestowed upon me Sunday! I’m quite excited and delighted. (Relax, the poetry ends here.)

So Judi states the rules as these:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award. (check)
2. Link to that person’s blog. (check)
3. Copy the logo to your blog. (any minute now)
4. List seven things about yourself that your readers might not know. Hm...
5. Nominate seven new recipients of the award. (Easy.)
6. Post links to their sites.
7. Leave comments so they know they’ve won.

Okay, I can do this, so here come seven things you might not know about me.

1. I am short. Not just a little short, or medium short, but really short, like 5’ 1”. I used to be 5’ 2 ¾”, but I am shrinking, like most women “of a certain age”. When my husband says we’re going to live into our 90s, I say, “If we do, I’ll be three and a half feet tall!” This becomes more significant if I let you know that the hub is 6’ 4”. Yeah. A redwood.

2. Unlike most of my compadres, I love to cook. I’m addicted to America’s Test Kitchen (the PBS cooking show) and their magazine Cooks Illustrated. I have a season pass for ATK on my Tivo, and still buy the books and the DVDs. Is there a 12-step program for this? I’ve never made anything from their cookbooks or website that was anything short of spectacular. Seriously, it took me almost two hours to put together their meatloaf the first time I made it, but it was totally worth it. I know. Meatloaf. But really! I would not steer you wrong—you are my peeps.

3. I have a custom embroidery business. Yes, for the past ten years (“Since October 1999”) I’ve been the proud proprietor of a home-based operation that stitches corporate logos, club logos, or school mascots on shirts, bags, jackets, aprons, blankets, etc. I do a great job, if my customers aren’t just pulling my leg, and I love doing it. When I started, I was still employed full-time outside the home, and gradually built it up. Now I have two industrial-strength machines, and am my own third-world nation. I love all things related to stitching, so this is a natural for me.

4. In my previous incarnation I worked in healthcare. I did reimbursement analysis for a major hospital (850 beds), clinical department management at a major medical school, and worked the business side of more than one private practice. It was always interesting, often frustrating (ask me how I feel about insurance companies) and a pretty decent way to earn a living. I got to work with—and for—a lot of nice people. Also, a couple of total cretins who would have sold their own grandmothers to look good on any given occasion. (You know who you are!)

5. I am a news junkie, and get very emotionally involved in politics and world affairs. I’m keeping that out of my blog, because I want FITNY to be a place to go without a we/they yes/no black/white dividing line. I want us all to laugh together and enjoy our common ground.

6. I’m a remarried mother of two, step-mother of two. Together we have two sons and two daughters, all of whom are off on their own. Two married, two spoken-for. A 2 ½ year-old grandson who is the apple of my eye, and a nineteen-month old granddaughter who is the apple of my other eye! And I look forward to the new apples yet to come. (When I secure parental permission, you will see photos, hear names…) Our first marriages lasted 19 and 25 years, respectively, and we’ve been together for 14 now, so this is not the Brady Bunch. Only the youngest ever lived with the two of us. They are all great kids (not unbiased, but not untrue) who have paired off with other great kids!

7. I love coffee, chocolate and fresh peaches. I hate coffee that’s cold, weak or sweetened. I can’t tolerate cigarette smoke in any quantity, in any setting. But sometimes when I catch a little whiff on my way to the non-smoking section, I get a flashback to my parents. It’s like my madeleine… but don’t get me started on Proust.

I think I overwrote this, but tough nuggies, it’s my blog, and I can’t be stopped. I’m mad with power, apparently-- Bwah-hah-hah!

Now, on to the seven new recipients of the Kreative Blogger award!

1. Cate at show my face. Always puts a smile on my face—she has a great way with words!
2. Kellydiels.com Because when you want authentic—there she is. I’m stalking her, wish we could go for coffee together.
3. Greg at telling dad. Greg has it all together and isn’t afraid to share. I love reading Greg. He’s a cool (and responsible) dad and blogger!
4. Amanda at Confessions from household 6. It’s great reading about her family and her experiences on the military post; I feel like I know all of them.
5. Missy at Is It Just Me? Her banner alone is enough to make you love her. Check out her pithy subtitles!
6. Jess at I was told there would be bacon. Jess combines the edginess and the hilarity I’m always a sucker for. And there’s bacon, too—right?
7. Shana at Three Men and a Little Lady A dentist surrounded by the men in her family, fighting for her sanity. Or was it insanity? Or does it matter? She’s great.

So thanks again to Judi, and thanks to all these creative (now Kreative) bloggers who make it so much fun to read what they have to say!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bumper Stickers

Yesterday I saw one that said “Just be nice.”

Doesn’t that say it all? It goes back to my previous rants about manners and courtesy and the apparent lack thereof in our society today.

Just be nice.

It totally made my day.

Nothing political, nothing ideological, nothing divisive or even competitive.
Not “My kid is an honors student at Central High”. Not “State University Football”. Not “Boycott Them” or “Vote for Him” or “Save the Whales”. Not “Conquer Cancer” or “Walk for Alzheimer’s” or “Fight Autism” or “Share the Road”.

I have nothing against the whales, the candidates, the teams or the honors students. I personally support all of the whales, some of the candidates, a team or two, and every honors student I can single-handedly identify.

I oppose cancer (in all its many-ribboned forms), Alzheimer’s, and Autism. I gladly share the road with bicyclists. I have been known to boycott, walk, fight and share, though maybe not all at the same time.

But I rarely display a bumper sticker.

My previous favorite was “Serving Donuts on Another Planet”. My son is a big fan of “Jesus Loves You—Everyone Else Thinks You’re an A**hole”. I have to admit, I like that a lot, too. Probably because it applies to so many people. But I definitely have a new favorite. Three little words.

Just be nice.

Some years ago I had co-worker who coveted the “Mean People Suck” bumper sticker, but declined to put one on her car because she had a young daughter. I admired her standards, and thought she was right to remain above the fray on that one. I’d love to find her, and send her my new fave. And one for her daughter, too!

Friday, September 25, 2009

What's In a Name?

Well, as usual, that depends. At times our name precedes us in an introduction, making it responsible for the well-known first impression. So does “Winston” sound brainy or stuffy or staid? Does “Kami” sound sweet or flighty or superficial? I think you’ll agree, in many ways our names speak for us.

I hadn’t thought too much about the significance of my own name until 2004 when I read the popular “The Dogs of Babel” by Carolyn Parkhurst. The protagonist was a professor of linguistics, who considered his own name, and the names of others in some depth.

At that point, I was astonished to realize that I, who seek and uncover and appreciate anagrams with an unnatural zeal, had never contemplated the fact that my own name was an anagram for both hale and heal. What makes that particularly interesting is that I’ve never thought of myself as either robust or vigorous. I pursue good health, but I don’t hold myself up as either a pillar of womanly strength or the cover girl for “Ain’t I Something?” magazine.

The discovery of these lovely rearrangements gave me a new outlook. I actually began to consider myself in a somewhat different light. I decided to regard myself as the personification of ‘hale’, and the embodiment of ‘heal’. Yes, Leah suddenly was a new person. Gone was the specter of my childhood bouts of bronchitis, the plague of the overwhelming allergies and the decades-long series of shots that haunted me. Shingles at thirty-something? So what? Bygones, I tell you! Here is the new me! The healthy Leah!

You know what? That actually worked for a while. Talk about your mind-body connection! I lived it. Strong and sturdy, hale and hearty—the new Leah. I didn’t get sick, I didn’t catch colds, I didn’t yield to the flu or the disease of the month, whatever it might have been! Hooray for me—a healthy me!

Until. One day. In this little paradise I had created for myself, a new wrinkle (well, besides the crow’s feet) emerged. Digestive issues that over time blossomed into Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). For a while everything I ate created problems, which—DUH!—took all the joy out of eating. As a result, my name took on yet another new meaning. This time, not as an anagram, but as an acronym:

Leah now stands for Let’s Eat At Home.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

And The Award Goes To...

Sunday night while a tiny percentage of the tv viewing audience (like me) were watching the Emmy Awards show (apparently the vast majority watched football), the lovely and always entertaining JennyMac at Let’s Have a Cocktail was busy bestowing some awards herself!

I was fortunate to be among the recipients of an “I Give Good Blog” award! Of course, we all know it’s an honor just to be nominated, and it’s not about winning, and gee, I was flattered just to be in the company of the other nominees, blah, blah, blah… Yeah, right. Face it—I’m ecstatic, and I didn’t even have to dress up and fix my hair. Just sittin’ around in my comfy little flip-flops, and boom—here’s your bling!

Thanks, JennyMac!

Now I’m not doing this for the awards… Heck, when I started, I didn’t even know there were awards for blogging. But it’s kind of like baseball. It’s a lot more fun when you’re doing well. So, hooray!

So JennyMac’s rule is that now I must give the award to four other worthy recipients. It’s hard to make such a weighty decision, because frankly, I’ve found some totally amazing writing in the blogosphere, and choosing four out of all the wondrous sites is a challenge. Plus, many of my favorites have already received this award, because there are so many astute readers out there!

Nonetheless and howsomever, here you go. My choices for the “I Give Good Blog” award are:

1. Doreen Orion at What Do You Want From Me? Wonderful tales of her travels with her husband in a tricked-out bus, and the stories about the book clubs with whom she meets! I meet lots of fabulous folks through her. (They don’t call her Queen of the Road for nothing!)

2. Kelly Diels at Kelly Diels.com Amazing and insightful journeys into her life and times; I wish she lived nearby—I’d try to meet her for coffee or lunch or to be her BFF/neighbor. This woman runs deep, and exudes inner and outer beauty.

3. Prerna Malik at The Mommy Writes A great job of combining writing info and advice and resources with her own slice of life—family and worldview. I love her voice!

4. The team at Fifty is the new… Everyone who writes here deserves her own award! They present beautiful and thought-provoking insights on a myriad of topics.

So that’s it for tonight folks. You all looked beautiful, we brought the show in under budget and under 500 words! Whew—let’s give our winners another big round of applause, and please drive home safely. Seat belts for everyone!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

In Case You Missed It

As mentioned Friday, the lovely Leah Gorrell at Life Letters graciously invited me to be her guest at http://www.leahdotgorrell.blogspot.com/. I was delighted to oblige, and today I am reprinting that interview for your dining and dancing pleasure! Thanks again to TOL (The Other Leah) for the hospitality!

So in case you missed it-- here goes...

1. So we are both named Leah.... how do you feel about that?
I’m delighted to be meeting people named Leah. We should start an All-Leah Club, and only people named Leah could belong. Let’s call it “All Leah, All The Time.” I hated the name as a kid, because my best friends had such cute names like Suzy and Linda, and the only time I ever heard the name Leah was when some kid would say, “Leah??? That’s my grandmother’s name.” I guess it could have been worse—it could have been their grandfather’s… Now I like the name. I suppose I’ve grown into it. And to be fair, it’s better than my sister Elphaba. Kidding.

2. Do you watch Mad Men??? If you don't, why not????
Hmm, yeah, I know I should be watching Mad Men, because I hear it’s great, but we don’t have cable (I know, shock, gasp, cringe) so I haven’t seen it. I do watch Damages, however, but only via Netflix (God I love Netflix), so I guess I could order Mad Men, too… In other words, I have no excuse but inertia.

3. What have you learned from blogging that is the most shocking to you??
I’m sorta shocked at how many people with little kids are taking the time to blog! I’m totally in awe of that, because when my kids were that age I couldn’t get organized enough to do something that time-consuming. These days (geez, I’m making myself sound like I’m a hundred years old, and I’m only 97, which is the new 90, so…) young women are doing SO much more than my peers (well, some of us) and I did. I think they are fantastic.

4. Favorite Store to blow mega bucks at??
I’m actually a discredit to my gender in the shopping department. Like it takes an act of Congress to make me go shopping. This year for my birthday my husband gave me some money and said I should go out and buy all new clothes. Does that tell you how bad I am about shopping? And my birthday was in June and I only started the shopping ordeal very recently. Oh yes—and he had to remind me that he did something similar two years ago when he told me that I should take the $$ from our tax refund and buy new clothes. I never did it. Are you getting the picture? So I can’t even answer you properly, except to say that I did some major damage recently at one of the outlet malls.

5. If you won 10 Million Dollars would you give some to me or spend it on something nice like a charity??
Well, after you and I split it 50/50, then I have a list of pet charities (not the dog and cat kind—just meaning ‘favorites’) that would get a big wad of it. Then I’d want to help my kids of course, and I think there would be lots of travel and relaxation to spend it on. Did I mention booze? I should mention booze. Booze.

6. Who are you most like Oprah or Jesus?
Well, my hair is closer to Jesus than Oprah, but my reading tends more to the Oprah than the Jesus… Also, I’m a people person, and love to talk, but I can’t tell for sure if that’s more one than the other. Hmm… missing the shopping gene—that’s probably more Jesus than Oprah. But I’m also rather cynical and sarcastic at times, and we know that’s not going to put me into the Jesus column… Okay—Oprah. Except for the skin color thing.

7. Any advice on me being a parent to a 2 year old?
Try to relax about your 2-year olds tantrums and streaks of independence. It’s part of his job description, and it is definitely how he makes a living. (You call this living?) It really will all taper off when he is three, and you will have achieved nirvana. Deep cleansing breath innnnnnnnnnn, and ouuuuuuuuuut. Ahhh. All better now.

8. Favorite Joke or Prank:
Dates all the way back to college when friends and I crumpled up enough newspaper to totally and completely fill our neighbor’s dorm room, floor to ceiling. Then a bunch of us sat out in the hall (having taken forever to clean the black ink off our guilty little hands) yakking, trying to look totally casual waiting for the girl to come home. When she finally did, and unlocked her door she nearly fainted. That was followed by lots of hysterical shrieking. I think every other door on our wing and two others opened up, and girls poured out toward our end of the hall to see what had happened. It was totally worth the effort! It was the talk of the dorm for weeks. Other (cheap) imitators tried to follow, but our prank was legend!

9. You are on death row for whatever reason...... what is your final meal???
Oh, I know why I’m on death row—but let’s not go there right now. Let’s do talk about my last meal. Light, crispy crab cakes, medium-rare filet mignon, sautéed scallops, and fettucine alfredo. (Hey, if it’s my last meal, who’s going to worry about calories, saturated fat, or overdoing? Finally!) And chocolate layer cake coated in chocolate hazelnut ganache for dessert. Yes, I can at least fantasize big!

10. Do you use coupons when grocery shopping.... please explain your answer
I cut coupons out and put them into an envelope and sometimes even manage to take them to the store with me. Mostly I mean to use them and don’t quite put that into practice. But maybe I should make more of an effort to do that. It’s always to cool to see them actually subtract from your grocery bill! I mean $117.41 sounds SO much better than $118.99. Woo-hoo! I saved a buck fifty-eight, and it only took me forty-six minutes of coupon cutting and organizing to pull off this coup! (Coupon coup?? Har, har!)

11. How do you feel about vests? Do you own or wear them???
I have a whole bunch of vests that I wear all through the cool- and cold-weather months. If you read my blog post about being a weather wimp, you’ll know that I’m talking about a good nine months. Sometimes I give up the vest for a full heavy sweater, but then there are times when I wear a sweater over my vest. I think I am a reptile. Cooooooold blood. You wouldn’t believe the number of blankets I sleep under.

12. Do you feel like I have wasted your time??? Which of my blogs is your favorite??
You have never wasted my time! I’m a big fan, and I like reading about what’s happening with you, and your view of things. I especially like Thankful Thursday s, because they remind me to take a little mental inventory of what I am thankful for, too. We all have so much, and some days it’s hard to keep that in mind. If we can do it, though, it really makes us happier, and isn’t that the whole idea? I’m just sayin’… And today, by the by, I’m thankful for YOU letting ME be your guest! It’s been a blast!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Good Manners, Part Two

I can tell by the comments you all (bless you all!) have left that I touched a nerve. Let’s talk a little about what used to be called common courtesy.

This week, courtesy was the topic du jour, jour after jour. I’ll touch on a couple of my favorites.
From Amy Dickinson, who writes a syndicated advice column (replacing the late Ann Landers at the Chicago Tribune when she died), there was a discussion of “What Happened to Civility” on Thursday afternoon’s “Talk of the Nation” on NPR.

After all the obvious things were reiterated about how awful the Big Three events were (to recap: Joe Wilson yelling, “You lie!” at the President, Serena Williams harassing and threatening an official at the U.S. Open, and Kanye West rudely usurping Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the VMA ceremony.) In my estimation, the best point Amy made was about apologies. She cited a letter from one of her readers asking about whether an apology was called for in a certain incident. Amy’s advice? If you ever wonder whether you need to apologize, the answer is yes. Well put.

On “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” (another NPR show) the whole panel had a field day, doing riffs on each and every one of the three rudesters and their shameful behavior. My favorite was Mo Rocca recommending that the three should end up in a current-day “Breakfast Club”, and I believe he had some ideas about them force-feeding tennis balls to each other.

But the finest moment belonged to Ellen Goodman, whose column in the Boston Globe (and nationally-syndicated as well) was titled “Clinging to Civility” this week. She reminded us that as a candidate, President Obama was urged to get tough with Hillary Clinton. “He didn’t and he won.” Then he was advised to ‘duke it out’ with John McCain. “He didn’t and he won.” She notes that in the very speech that was so rudely interrupted, the President said, “I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility.” And he models that behavior. You gotta love that.

Okay, but back to our own everyday lives…

We interact with others all the time. Sometimes in person, sometimes on the phone, and more and more, we interact online. Each encounter has the potential to be positive and uplifting, to be basically a neutral outcome, or to be a bummer. For me, much of that feeling is determined not by the actual end result, but by the way it occurred. As my mother would have said, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” So if the cashier doesn’t say ‘thank you’ when I leave the supermarket, I still paid the same money and left with the same groceries, but it feels different from the times when they say ‘thank you.’

So you can let the post office door slam behind you, although I’m close behind with my arms full of packages to mail, or you can glance over your shoulder and hold the door for me. You can keep driving past my subdivision, bumper-to-bumper, and leave me waiting with my turn signal on, or you can stop and wave me out into the traffic one car ahead of you. You can let me hold the door for you, and not even mumble a thank you, or you can smile and hold the door next time for someone else. There’s that opportunity to ‘pay it forward’, as they say, and maybe we will all go back to the good old random acts of kindness.

I have a few personal favorites. One, when I’m walking into or out of the library, if I see a car pull up to the curb, I’ll walk up to the driver’s window and offer to drop off their books for them. They don’t have to get out of the car, and I feel like I did a good deed. Two, I like to let someone pull into traffic. Not twelve cars, but I can let one or two in… How much later am I going to get where I’m going? Of course, when the other driver doesn’t so much as wave a little thanks, I kind of grimace, but hey—I tried. Three, when someone even older than I am (and there are a few of them left who still go out in public) I try to make sure I get the door for them. I’m not looking for applause; chances are you do all these things, too. Most of us are courteous and thoughtful people who look for ways to be kind and pleasant. Maybe that’s why we notice when others don’t.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thanks, Other Leah!

Yes, yes, I know I said we’d have “Good Manners and Common Courtesy, Part II” next, but that will be postponed (pardon the pun) for one more pressing mention here today.

I’ve been honored to make a guest appearance on Life Letters, found at http://www.leahdotgorrell.blogspot.com/.

Yes, we may have formed the world’s smallest club—Leahs Who Blog.

Leah sent me a dozen or so questions to which I replied in as funny a manner as I could muster, and she had the good grace to post that whole interview-from-afar on her blog today.

Please stop by, and give her a shout! She writes a great blog, and we all love the company.

Thanks again, Leah! I just like saying that, since I don't know many other Leahs...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Three Little Pigs of the Week

This seems to be the week for writing about the breakdown of our civilization. Well, more specifically, the lack of common courtesy in our everyday lives. Bluntly, there’s nothing common about courtesy any more. People seem to have forgotten the basic rules of the game.

Within the space of a week we’ve witnessed a Congressman’s outburst at President Obama, Serena Williams’ rant at an official at the U.S. Open, and Kanye West’s usurpation of the spotlight at the MTV VMA event.

Of course, these three incidents have had ongoing publicity and attention, and it’s easy to see why. People to whom we have accorded a certain status (Congressman, tennis superstar, high-powered rapper) should remember what the Kennedys always said: With great privilege comes great responsibility. Or as my mom would have said, sit up straight, pull up your socks, say please and thank you.

Now I think this about the three little pigs in this week’s headlines: You are all so rude it makes my teeth hurt. You don’t have any excuse for your actions and words, and all this ‘being in the moment’ stuff is just so much hooey. (Don’t you love it when I refuse to curse and swear on the blog? It’s not as if I don’t do it in real life, but here’s the thing: since I don’t know who might be reading this, I’ll use my creativity—my inner thesaurus, if you will (and I bet you will) to avoid saying something that might offend someone. Like especially people with whom I share dna. And you know what? That’s because I was taught good manners.) But I digress…

You try to excuse your inexcusable conduct with platitudes and weak little lame excuses that just don’t cut it. Bad behavior is really not justified by your need to vent. You need to let off steam? Find a way to do it without hurting someone else, be it Taylor Swift, the linesman at the U.S. Open, or the President of the United States. And it’s never too late to apologize for your actions.

I will say this. Of the three, only Serena Williams actually offered what appeared to be a sincere and articulate apology, and showed what looked to me like real contrition. And she did it promptly, too. No, it doesn’t erase what she did, but it sure mitigates it in my book. (And face it, this IS my book.)

Next up: Why the butcher, the baker and the candlestick-maker out there need to have manners, too!

Admit it—you can’t wait!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Have an Ice Day

Some people say everything is relative, and I tend to believe that myself. And really, I can think of no example in which it is truer than when it comes to weather.

Think about it: 58⁰ sounds great in January, but here in the midwest, we’d recoil in horror and crawl back under the covers if we hit 58 in August. Sure, we ride the roller-coaster of highs and lows, but we generally enjoy a reasonably pleasant climate.

Yet the truth is, I am a complete and total weather wimp. I bundle up if it's less than 65 or 70 degrees out, and I'm miserable if it's over 80. If I were being totally honest, I'd have to say that I'm only actually comfortable in about a 7-degree range of temperature. This is not to say that I'm a complainer about it; I tend to try to keep this under wraps, so to speak. But that does not equate to happiness, or even a modicum of comfort.

It’s the norm for me to find myself surrounded by people wearing much lighter attire than I am. At home, I’m the one in the turtleneck under a sweater with the aptly-named warm-up jacket over it. The hubby’s in shirts sleeves, asking, “Is it warm in here?” It is not.

On one of our recent days of record-setting warmth, I noticed that I was hurrying in to the supermarket because I was only wearing a light jacket, while others were sauntering through the parking lot in tee shirts and shorts. And yet, during air conditioning season, I don’t even dare to venture into the frozen food aisles. If I’m in shorts, and I absolutely must grab a bag of frozen peas, my teeth chatter and I morph into a Mom-sicle. I guess my internal thermostat is out of whack.

In February of this year I flew out of town when the mercury read 34⁰. Not bad for the season, certainly when I look back at the record setting low temperatures accompanied by ice and snow which we had experienced only a few weeks earlier. All the same, I wore my heavy winter coat. Of course.

My first flight took me to Las Vegas. Upon landing, our pilot announced that it was 63⁰. A collective gasp was heard. The couple beside me began to strategize their move into survivalist mode. They were Vegas residents who had thought they would be coming home to warm weather. I thought 63 was warm for February, (or as close to warm as I’m likely to get), but to these Nevadans, this was a serious cold snap.

“Are they nuts?” I thought to myself. “They don’t know what cold really is! They should experience the joys of a Midwest winter, complete with below-zero wind chills if they want a real blast.” I personally frown upon the grousing types. (After all, we are here to judge.)
As I took a seat in the airport awaiting the next leg of my trip, I couldn’t help overhearing several more conversations about the unexpectedly cold temps. Again, my inner voice piped up. “Geez, Louise, don’t these people know when they’re well off?” I wondered.

When we lined up for boarding, I found myself next to a couple from Iowa, who had also been on my first flight. They were rolling their eyes and laughing about the "weenies" who think 63⁰ is an emergency situation. I laughed along with them, and agreed that they didn't know what 'cold' was.

Ninety minutes later I deplaned in Sacramento, my destination city. Temperature: 60 degrees. Conditions: sunny, with a light breeze. My daughter pulled up at the curb to greet me. She was dressed in a business suit and heels. I was in wool pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a wool cardigan sweater, and my heavy coat. Zipped up. All the way. She looked at me and said, "Your winter coat? You’re in California!" I know, I said, but it's three degrees colder than Vegas.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Is There Another Side of This Story?

Some readers and friends have been asking whether the Center of the Universe minds being blogged about. Common question: Doesn’t he want to tell his side of the story?

Others have asked about whether all the attention is going to his head.

Answer to the first question: Let him get his own blog. It’s not my problem.

Answer to the second question: How would that change anything? (Assuming we could even notice.)

Answer to the unasked question: He respects funny more than he respects truth. Sometimes.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Project 2,996 Tribute to Lisa B. Cannava

I am honored to participate in Project 2,996 --an initiative to memorialize each of the lives lost on 9/11. What follows is my tribute to one of those lost souls.

On September 11, 2001 we lost 2,996 of our fellow human beings to a series of senseless acts of terrorism. Although eight years have passed, we must not forget that each of those people was beloved of others. Each left behind a network of people whose lives were intertwined, and whose loss was incomprehensible then, as it remains today.

One of the Americans who died that day at the World Trade Center was Lisa Cannava. She was only thirty years old, and worked as a supervisor at Carr Futures. Sixty-nine CF employees died there on the 92d floor of the WTC. Lisa’s desk was “right there where the plane went in.”

In an incredible coincidence, Lisa’s brother, John DiFato also worked in Tower 2, eleven floors from his sister. They were the only children of Tony and Theresa DiFato.

Lisa Bella DiFato Cannava left behind a loving and devoted husband, Richard. Richard worked five blocks away, and ran toward the WTC when he heard the news. When he was 300 feet from the building it collapsed.

John DiFato left behind a wife and three children. He was described as a terrific family man whose spirit and goodness would always be remembered fondly and lovingly.

Richard Cannava described Lisa as “a remarkable and wonderful wife, friend, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law and aunt.” He said that he was truly blessed with a loving friend and spouse. Speaking of John and Lisa, Richard said, “Their smiles, spirit and goodness would remain alive in the hearts of everyone who knew and loved them.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Other Woman

Samantha is her name. A few months ago I would have worried about one of the kids reading this, but they know all about her now. It hurts, but this is my reality. Samantha is my husband's new love, his dreamboat, his ideal. Samantha is the voice of the GPS.

For all these years I’ve been the navigator on our trips, near and far, with my Trip-Tiks, maps, and Post-it notes as tools. We’ve had fun, and have never gotten so lost that we couldn’t get unlost.

You know the saying, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? Well, apply it here. As far as I can tell, we didn’t need Samantha. We did fine without her, and now she is an ‘issue’.

Sometimes the Center of The Universe wants to take Samantha with us even on a short trip. “But we know how to get there,” I’ll protest.

“Let’s just see what she says. We’ll just give her a try,” he says. Of course, once she’s up there on the windshield, she has a mind of her own, and speaks it whenever she pleases.

Even when Carl Kasell is giving the NPR news, or CoTU is theorizing on a particular set of power lines we may be passing. (He’s an electrical engineer, y’know.) But whoa—the world must stop turning on its axis so that we can all hush and hear Robo-Girl announce, “Turn right, 250 feet, Interstate 64. Then, (pregnant pause), take the freeway.”

Well, duh. We can’t exactly turn onto the interstate and NOT take the ‘freeway’, can we?

This has led to some (all-out brawls) minor disagreements between CoTU and me. “Why are we listening to her if we aren’t going to take her advice?”

“It’s just good to get another opinion,” he says. Right, another opinion that he can visualize in stiletto heels and a skin-tight fire-engine red sheath with a plunging neckline, not that I’m bitter. On the other hand, maybe he envisions her as a petite, pixie-like brunette with a heart-shaped face and a gamine haircut. (Are you listening Amy Walter???) (More on that little heart-breaker/home-wrecker another day!)

Sometimes we may choose to ignore the (bitch) voice and take a different route. Samantha will command, Turn around and go south on Main Street.” We are ignoring her, for an interim stop for gas. Turn around—nearest opportunity. I can’t help you if you won’t help yourself. You’re going to regret this. TURN AROUND NOW, DAMMIT.” Wow, talk about your control freaks…

Which brings me to another point of contention: the volume. (See previous post regarding men and hearing loss.) We have to keep the volume high so we don’t miss any little tidbit. What this translates into is, every time the voice starts up, it startles me into cardiac arrest. (Forgive the hyperbole, but it’s damn close.) I live for the moment that CoTU decides we can disconnect Samantha. "Wait, don't unplug me-- I'm here to help you-- really! Don't touch th--"

It’s all I can do to take care of the husband I have. I can’t take care of Samantha, too.

Monday, September 7, 2009

(Candy) Corn on the Cob

How yummy does that look? Mmmm… the tastes of summer always include corn on the cob, right? And how about cupcakes for dessert? Definitely. Well, last night we celebrated the unofficial end of summer with our cul-de-sac cookout!

Here’s how it works. First, you have to make sure you have the best neighbors ever living all around you. Then you con somebody into setting up a table in the cul-de-sac. Everyone brings folding chairs, chips, dips, drinks, and side dishes. This year one person grilled chicken for the gang. One blessed neighbor made a super yummy chocolate-raspberry cake, but we don’t have photos of any of that! Why we didn’t take the camera outside so everyone could get credit for the fab food, I just can’t say… Maybe drain bamage…

But, before we went out to the gala soiree, my husband shot this picture of my dessert! It’s corn on the cob. No, it’s cupcakes. No, it’s corn on the… I know, enough.

I have an amazing design/cookbook called “Hello Cupcake” by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. It’s filled with fun ideas like this one. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to make them for the party. The “kernels” are supposed to be made from Jelly Bellys, but I couldn’t find the colors I needed at the time. So I bought the white ones (vanilla) and bought candy corn to make the yellow ones! The pat of butter is a Starburst candy, and decorating sugar is what you see representing salt. They were easy to make (unlike the Thanksgiving turkeys I attempted last fall) and a big hit! Thanks, “Hello Cupcake”!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tie One On (--but not that one!)

Okay, it has to be said. Jim Lehrer’s wearing the world’s worst ties. And yes, this qualifies as news.

If Walter Cronkite were still on the air (necrophiles, unite!) and he was wearing bunny ears it would still look better than Jim Lehrer’s ties.

Look, you know I’m a huge nerd, and a news junkie, and yes, I mostly watch the Newshour because Gwen Ifill is on it, but I’m really extremely fond of Jim. And until recently his appearance was just fine. Nice, even. Suddenly, he’s wearing the ties from hell.

Last night it was one that looked like a patchwork made from clown suits. (No offense to the clowns out there. You know who you are.) One night late last week it was something that looked like a bandanna-kind-of-thing; let’s just say there’s a picnic table somewhere that’s missing its tablecloth.

So is Jim’s wife out of the country or something? Or couldn’t Gwen, Judy Woodruff, Ray Suarez or Jeffrey Brown politely take him aside and cut the tie off just below the knot? Action must be taken! Someone on that program has to care enough to step in and perform the intervention. Anyone? Bueller?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Selective Hearing

I’ll just give it to you straight: All men have selective hearing. They screen us out. Even the most deaf-as-a-doorpost guy will hear every nuance and aside on a broadcast sports event. They’re built that way; it’s hard-wired into them. We may fight it, but we can’t win this one.

The kids and I have been telling the Center of the Universe that his hearing is sub-par for years and years. About twelve years ago he actually went for a hearing test. They told him his hearing was fine. We told him he must have cheated on the test.

Since then, though, his hearing has declined substantially. Most of our conversations actually take place in triplicate, because he asks me to repeat myself so much.

Me: What would you like for dinner?

CoTU: Hm?

Me: I asked you what you would like for dinner.

CoTU: What did you say?

Me: For the love of God, man, I’m trying to find out what you’d like for dinner!

CoTU: Oh. Whatever.

I should be drinking more.

Now you may think that I just mumble, or should automatically talk louder to avoid this kind of exchange, but that’s already been considered, factored in, and tossed out like yesterday’s milk. If I develop the habit of talking uber-loud to coddle the guy, it may carry over into my everyday conversations with others. I’ll look like a nitwit. (Straight line: free. Inserting your own punchline: priceless.)

A couple of days ago, “Airing My Dirty Laundry” (http://whisperingwriter.blogspot.com/2009/08/right-ear.html) ran a great post about communicating with her husband. She cited research that showed that men are more likely to listen through their right ears. (Would that mean they're in their right minds?)

That totally redefines ‘selective hearing’, but hey, I’m open to suggestions. I took heed, and figured I’d try the right ear. Same results. Apparently he has both of them set on 'mute'. Sadly, mute in this case does not mean he can't talk, it means he has turned off the hearing gene (which is on a weak chromosome anyway.) Why do we bother?

There’s a spillover from this little difference of ours, too. It’s about the volume of the television. I like it in the normal range, and CoTU likes to broadcast into the adjacent zip codes. If it can’t be heard in at least three counties, it’s not loud enough for him. I’m starting to think that his strategy is to induce hearing loss in me, so that I will actually want the tv to be super-loud, too. Great—if that happens, our conversations will start to take forever.

Me: Did you call your parents back?

CoTU: What did you say?

Me: What?

CoTU: Did you ask me a question?

Me: Can you repeat that for me?

CoTU: I just asked what you said.

Me: I forgot. What did it sound like?

CoTU: blank stare, no words

Interestingly, when we’re at friends’ homes, if we’re all watching a movie, he functions with the television at normal volume. This is what makes me think this is a choice, not a disability. (Whoops, sounds like a bumper sticker.) Of course that detracts from my theory that he does have a significant hearing loss, but since he isn’t dealing with that on a medical level anyway, it hardly matters.

I came up with an idea for the acid test, however. Yesterday I made an illicit suggestion, in a whisper, in the garage with the door closed, and he heard it from upstairs with the water running. “Aha! I crowed. “You CAN hear—when you want to!”

He was somewhat abashed by the revelation. “No fair,” he complained. “You can’t use an offer to make brownies as a hearing test! Hey—does that mean you’re not really going to make them?”

“Maybe,” I said. “But only after you turn down the tv.”

And if you were thinking other things, you have a dirty mind. This blog is rated PG-50something.