Sunday, August 30, 2009

Juggling, Multi-Tasking, and What Might Have Been

So I was listening to NPR a couple of days ago, and heard about an interesting study. The program was Science Friday, and the guest was reporting on new research about multi-tasking. At least I think that’s what was happening—I was sort of e-mailing my brother, filing my nails, and paying bills at the same time.

Stanford University professor Clifford Nass says that so-called "heavy multi-taskers" have trouble tuning out distractions and switching tasks, compared with those who multitask less. Well, I was sort of seeing that in myself recently anyway. Of course, I am hoping that this is a normal change that comes with a-, aa-, aging (that’s getting harder to say), and not a sign of the dreaded ‘Big A’ disease (only whisper it, now—Alzheimer’s.) Nass’ research makes it a little more universal, and a little less scary.

Actually, the research found that people who think they are good at multi-tasking are actually bad at it. I know this is hard to believe, but Dr. Nass says that not only are they not accomplishing what they think they are, but they are also losing cognitive function.

That got my attention for real. I put down the nail file, the checkbook (how 20th century of me anyway), and blew my brother off. Cognitive decline due to multi-tasking? Say it ain’t so, I’m begging you.

The research identified three areas of thinking ability: the ability to filter out the stuff you don’t need, the ability to manage your working memory (the mental filing cabinet) and the ability to switch from one task to another. Results: all three suffered for multi-taskers.

The host brought up the common practice of keeping multiple windows open on the computer, often while we’re texting or checking a BlackBerry. Apparently, we’re not fully doing anything well under those circumstances. The only thing, according to this Stanford study that didn’t detract from performance is listening to instrumental music. But even music that has lyrics leads to impairment in performance and thinking.

His bottom line was that we should all cut way back on multi-tasking, because it not only is ineffective, but it dramatically affects the way the brain operates. Yikes.

Wow. Maybe all this time I’ve been wasting doing several things at once has made a real difference in my life. Maybe I’ve done nothing well. Maybe I’ve been kidding myself. Maybe I coulda been a contendah… If only I’d kept the radio on. And paid attention.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sex & Daniel Schorr

For the final couple of years of its original run, my husband and I were regular viewers of Sex and the City. We got to know the characters, and enjoyed laughing, tsk-ing, and looking askance at their actions, choices and decisions. Until recently, I thought we both viewed these people in much the same way.

The other night we were watching one of their reruns. Carrie Bradshaw was writing her eponymous newspaper column. This is actually the program’s device to enable the central character to lay the groundwork for the plot of the evening’s episode. In this particular case, after musing about the differences between women and men, she wonders (voicing as she types) “Could it be that women are just like men”?

My husband observed, “You know, she’s just like Daniel Schorr. She asks questions, puts them out there, but never actually answers them.” Floored, at first, by his ability to correlate this enormously sexy, petite, blond hottie with that gruff, ponderous, 80-something intellectual, I was rendered temporarily speechless. But after a moment’s consideration, I nodded in agreement. I concurred, saying, “Well, sure, honey. No doubt at this very minute people all over the country are comparing Sarah Jessica Parker to Daniel Schorr. In fact, it’s entirely likely that you have just identified how the character hersexyself was conceived. "

Picture a Hollywood conference room. Plenty of fresh fruit, organic juices, and imported, bottled water. Two men in open-necked shirts and Armani slacks are brainstorming new shows. “Let’s do a show about Daniel Schorr,” one writer says to the other. . “Only let’s make him a young woman with a killer body.” “Yeah,” the other one adds, “and she’s got to have a funky wardrobe, and be completely obsessed with men and shoes.” Thus an Emmy-winning series is conceived.

“And we’ll give him friends—buddies that he hangs out with,” Writer One posits. “Pals to have overpriced meals with, go shopping with, and yak on the phone with. They’ll visit one chic restaurant after another. Of course, I guess they'll have to be gorgeous women, too, if we’re going to get viewers.”

Writer Two adds, “Now they can’t talk about politics or national security, or education. Nothing about the social security system. This will just be about their personal lives. Their jobs, their relationships, their seeming ability to purchase an endless array of designer clothes and accessories with no regard for cost or the moral question of overacquisitiveness. But I guess we should stick with meeting men, dating them, and breaking up with them as the main theme.”

Honestly, I always thought that one of the reasons he enjoyed this particular program was that it is rather titillating at times. It deals with topics not addressed on network television, and there is a fair amount of explicit talk, coupled (and I do mean coupled) with some incredibly suggestive scenes. In other words, I figured it appealed to his horny-slash-sexual side.

Now it turns out that he has been thinking of Carrie as Daniel Schorr, a political observer and commentator for longer than we have been alive. Don’t get me wrong, I respect Daniel Schorr. I enjoy hearing his opinions and analyses on NPR, but neither his name, nor voice, nor image has ever come to mind during “Sex and The City”. What else have I been missing?

If the raspy and hoarse Mr. Schorr was indeed the prototype for Carrie, what about the rest of the cast? Perhaps Charlotte, the perpetually romantic good girl, was patterned after Tom Brokaw. Has there ever been a cleaner-cut, more trusted all-American boy? His highly-respected books about the men and women who fought in World War II have only enhanced his “good guy” image. Miranda may have been based on the avuncular and reflective Mike Wallace. Mm, no… Not cynical and disillusioned enough. More likely it was the late Tim Russert of Meet the Press. He was the master of the skeptical head-shake, frequently combined with a soft chuckle, clearly communicating disbelief in the idealists around him. And surely Samantha, the promiscuous, self-involved gadfly would have to have sprung from the model of Geraldo Rivera. Like Samantha, he makes his own news where there is none, and just can’t wait to be “in your face” about it. Oh yeah, Samantha is definitely the Geraldo of the stiletto-heeled man-junkies.

Yes, my husband has really nailed this one down. He was able to see past the glitter and glamour, the carnal nature of the cast, and the Manolo Blahnik shoes. Getting right to the heart of the show, with an insight and perception so rare in middle-aged men. Yep, he’s a real Barbara Walters.

So the next time you tune in to “Sex and The City”, think of it as a political round-table, with no need to offer equal time for opposing views. Try to look past the long legs, the plunging necklines, and the push-up bras. You just have to be able to fantasize.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

If You Can't Judge a Book By Its Cover...

--maybe you can judge a reader by the books s/he takes on vacation! Of course I’m referring to the Reader-in-Chief, President Obama.

According to news reports released last night, the list of presidential reading material being taken on vacation, mind you, is as follows:
1. The Way Home by George Pelecanos
2. Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman
3. Lush Life by Richard Price
4. Plainsong by Kent Haruf
5. John Adams by David McCullough

Not exactly a lightweight, is he?

I’m not going to be reading numbers 1 or 3, because according to the reviews, they fall into the dark, thriller/crime genre. Thus, I would expect nightmares and/or depression for the duration and some time following the completion of the book. Yes, even some of the best books I’ve ever read (think Anna Quindlen’s compelling and excellent “Black and Blue” or Chris Cleave‘s completely amazing “Little Bee”) depressed the socks off me, and I am learning (I think) not to go there. This realization spills over into the Friedman book, except that since it’s reality, and not even something I can try to mitigate as fiction (It’s a story, Leah—someone made this up!) the effects may be even worse. This leaves us with just numbers 4 and 5.

I confess (because what’s the point of lying about it) that I never got around to reading number 5, John Adams, but it does look really nice on my bookshelf. The HBO series (thanks, Netflix!) brought it to life so beautifully that it sort of permitted me to feel as if I had read the book. At least they didn’t change the ending, as so many movies seem to feel entitled to do.

Which leave is with…ahhhh… number 4. Plainsong. It even sounds wonderful in your mouth, doesn’t it? It’s one of the most warm and pleasing and satisfying novels I have ever had the pleasure of reading. When the book was published in 1999, Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Russo (Nobody’s Fool, Empire Falls, Straight Man) was quoted as follows: “Kent Haruf's new novel Plainsong is nothing short of a revelation. I don't expect to read a better novel this year. Or next, for that matter.” A blurb most aspiring or successful authors can only fantasize about! In fact, it was Russo’s enthusiasm that prompted me to read Plainsong way back then.

President Obama is in for a real treat. I hope Michelle reads it, too. And I’d love to know what books she took with her for the week… If we find that out, we can dissect her list, too!

Since I’m never without at least one book on my nightstand (I have been accused of reading while washing dishes, and I can’t deny it with a straight face) and others in my car (you might get a chance to read a little between appointments), I love sharing titles and getting recommendations about any and all reading material. Bring on your comments! What’s on your nightstand?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Size of a What?

Some of the world’s great minds are now asking questions about weighty matters like war and peace, homeland security, and human cloning. My question is far simpler: What’s the connection between citrus fruit and tumors? This can hardly be discussed without sounding like Andy Rooney. “What is it about tumors?” he might rasp. Or, “Didja ever notice how doctors give you the bad news?” I’m trying to be serious here, but the specter of Andy looms large, and frankly, I just don’t have the eyebrows for it.

Let’s get to the root of the matter. We humans get sick, and we go to our doctors for information, advice and help. Sometimes our worst fears are realized, and the doctor must put on his most sensitive face, look compassionately at the floor, and say, “We found a mass.” Now, for the uninitiated, mass is code for tumor. They just don’t like to say the word tumor. In fact, it’s not allowed. A doctor can lose his license for such violations of semantic protocol. This is also true of the word dead. They’ll use expire, pass on, pass, anything to avoid any form of the verb to die. Not that we’re talking about a library card or a football, but it makes no difference. To your doctor, you can expire or pass, but you will never d-- uh, uh, uh! When my father died, his doctor actually told me that they would pronounce him. Period. I kept waiting for the end of the sentence. It never came. Anyway, back to our mass.

For some reason, as soon as the doctor imparts this information to the mass-holder, we want to know how big it is. This is not unlike our unfailing need to ask the age of someone we just learned has been pronounced. “Oh—I’m terribly sorry. How old was she?” As if the response somehow makes the individual’s death more or less acceptable. We don’t ask if this was a kind and decent person, or whether she lived well and did good works. Do we all have some arbitrary age in mind that marks the difference between the acceptable deaths and the unacceptable ones? But again I digress. Our doctors, bless their hearts, always tell us the same thing. “It’s roughly the size of an orange,” they mutter grimly. Unless, of course, the mass is more advanced, in which case it is likened to a grapefruit. Why is it that you never hear of someone with a tumor the size of an apple or a kumquat? The physician has yet to be born who will look down at his hands and say, “It’s the size of a pomegranate.”

So the question is, what do they have against citrus fruit? How did that come to be the gold standard by which the morbid overgrowth of tissue is measured? I mean, if it made any sense, you’d see groves of citrus trees illustrated with tumors hanging from the branches. Now that’s just not right. If I worked for the Citrus Grower’s Association, I’d be organizing lobbyists to be at the AMA conventions pushing the doctors to switch to another standard of measurement. How about the gauge of the ball? A small tumor could be a ping-pong ball, then labels would gradually advance to tennis ball, baseball, softball, volleyball, and God forbid, basketball. I guess Rawlings might not like it, but the grove owners would breathe a little easier. Or consider the more aesthetically pleasing notion of likening each tumor to a flower. Mine may be the size of a tea rose, yours may be roughly the scope of a sunflower, may you rest in peace. In any case, it seems like a far more pleasant way to break the news to a person with a swollen, uncontrolled neoplasm, than to invoke the citrus analogy. Besides, once you’ve been told that they’re going to surgically remove this grapefruit-sized blob from your anatomy, could you ever reasonably expect to enjoy eating one of those luscious Texas Ruby Reds again? It doesn’t seem likely to me.

You hear about someone’s cancer. They found a tumor the size of an orange in his abdomen. He’s doing well, but what if it had just been described as “a four-inch diameter mass”? Wouldn’t that have met the two cardinal rules of doctor-speak? That is, one, don’t call it a tumor. And two, look compassionately at the floor. An engineer I happen to be married to once drew fire from a creative writing teacher for describing a tree as having a three-foot diameter. Creative it’s not, but clear it is. Maybe doctors should learn to communicate a little bit more like engineers, and a little bit less like greengrocers. They can take care of their patients, and keep me from sounding like Andy Rooney. Didja ever notice that his eyebrows look like kiwi peels?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Whose Restroom Is It Anyway?

Inspired by Tova Darling’s hilarious story about an ‘oops’ visit to the men’s room, I am here to fess up to my own similar faux pas. (See

Years ago, when in my early 20s, I was working in a San Francisco building which was undergoing serious renovations. From the time I started there, the nearest restroom to my office was designated “Women”, though the presence of several urinals made it clear that its original purpose was otherwise intended. The first time I entered, I’m quite certain that I did a double-take worthy of Lou Costello. (Yes, I am very old. Young ‘uns, think Adam Sandler.) But, having pulled the door back open and verified that the sign did indeed say “Women”, I shrugged it off and took care of the task at hand.

Some months into this work assignment, I paid a visit to my home town, and went with my parents to visit my favorite aunt in a local nursing home. While we were chatting, I asked her where the rest room was. She told me to go down the hall to my left, and it was just the other side of the nurses’ station. I (normally) (okay, occasionally) follow directions well, and went into the first door past the nurses’ station. I was alone, used the stall, and came out to wash my hands. While I was standing at the sink, the door opened, and in walked my father! I don’t know which of us was more shocked to see the other. We simultaneously hollered each other’s names! He thought I was too dim to grasp the visual clue of the urinals, and I couldn’t believe he would walk into the women’s room to find me!

I had grown so accustomed to using a facility assigned to my gender despite the urinals, that it just didn’t faze me. My dad was just coming to take care of his own hygiene, and must have turned more than a few hairs gray at the sight of me. We had a huge laugh about it back in my aunt’s room, and again in the car on the way home. But my mother did not find the story as amusing as we did. (The nursing home aunt thought it was hilarious, however. No wonder she was my favorite!)

I learned two things from this. One, you can’t judge a room by its urinal. Two, check rest room doors more carefully before entering. My father learned that I was a moron. But at least (or maybe at most) I could laugh at myself.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Oh Yes I Can (Get Satisfaction!)

I can safely say that I know less about the Rolling Stones than anyone else of my baby-booming generation. The sum total of my knowledge lies in these three statements: 1) There are four guys in the band; 2) Mick Jagger is their lead singer; 3) Their biggest hit of the ‘60’s was “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. And frankly, I’m not that sure about number one.

When my son encountered “satisfaction” as a third grade spelling word, his unforgettable teacher introduced the class to the Stones’ famous anthem. What she did not do, however, was introduce them to the true path to satisfaction: memorizing poetry.

As children we all started learning rhymes subconsciously. Usually it was the a-b-c song, or “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. Eventually we learned the jump rope ditties required to be a part of the playground scene. Beyond the Pledge of Allegiance, most students balk at the notion of memorizing anything. Ask your kids to commit a poem to memory, and prepare to hear a loud chorus of groans and moans.

High school students who know every lyric of the most obscure and absurd songs ever written still claim that being required to memorize poetry is brutal, punishing, and offensive in ways that defy description. This is likely because it requires such exhausting tasks as reading and concentration. They don’t know what they are missing. Words are powerful, and words that rhyme are magical. Poetry connects us in our marrow. You never know whose cells share your poetic DNA until some serendipitous event occurs.

For example, take the night my husband and I were in a restaurant with our good friends Dave and Betty. When my husband used the phrase, “There are strange things done…” Dave and I simultaneously, and without further prompting launched into a recitation of “The Cremation of Sam McGee”, given that my hubby had unwittingly offered up its opening line. Dave and I amused ourselves, and amazed ourselves at how automatically it spewed forth. Our respective spouses’ jaws dropped. They could not have regarded us with more disbelief if we had picked up straw hats and canes, and done an old-fashioned buck-and-wing across the dining room floor in striped blazers and straw hats. I couldn’t recall as many of its verses as Dave could, so I eventually looked up the old poem and set about memorizing it all over again. If it ever comes up in the future, I want to be ready. The competitor in me wants to be able to match him, line for line. And I found once again, that for pure satisfaction, not much can beat memorizing poetry.

I originally learned that work of Robert W. Service in the tenth grade English class of a wonderfully earnest and enthusiastic teacher; she inspired students to learn. The poem came back readily, and I took pleasure in re-learning it. That competitive side of me, (which certain small-minded people sometimes describe as cutthroat) can only hope that at some future trivia competition they ask for the name of the derelict boat in this poem. (Look it up.)

I confess that these days my personal preference is to read the work of our former poet-laureate Billy Collins. He can make me laugh till I hurt my stomach muscles (who knew I had any?), and he can stop my heart with a simple poignant line. Oh, to write like Billy Collins!

But it’s not only baby-boomers who enjoy this secret pleasure. Five or six years ago my first and oldest friend, then aged 101 years, mentioned in a letter that she always recited “The Day is Done” by Longfellow at bedtime. She did so because her late husband had done so before going to sleep each night. This simple nightly ritual clearly made her feel closer to him, and somehow eased the pain of losing him. Of course, that compelled me to seek out “The Day is Done” so that I, too, could recite it to myself at bedtime, spiritually connecting me to my dear friend. She left this world a few years ago at age 102, but I recite it still, and keep her in my heart.

Poor Mick. He was just memorizing the wrong stuff.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Paula Poundstone and Me

You know, some things that are just fine in the privacy of one’s own home should not be done in public places. I’m usually pretty tuned in to the proprieties of basic good manners and common sense. But in the past few days I’ve succumbed to some social pressure (I’ll explain in a moment) and I’ve been doing it in the customer lounge at my car dealer (just an oil change, thanks for asking), and in the waiting room at my dermatologist’s office. (Just a check-up; thanks for your concern.) What am I doing? I’m reading Paula Poundstone’s very funny book, “There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say”. The pressure?—it’s due back at the library tomorrow. The problem?—I can’t control my laughter.

Now there was a time when I didn’t find Paula Poundstone funny at all. But in the past few years, hearing her on “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”, ‘the NPR news quiz’, I have developed a full appreciation of her humor. I look forward to her appearances, and she never fails to crack me up. I’ve pretty much learned to time my coffee sips to avoid her input, so as to keep from squirting coffee out my nose. Ouch. Please don’t laugh—it’s happened more than once. Okay, more than twice.

Now I’m reading this book, and I can’t renew it because it’s on hold by another (probably selfish) patron, so I’ve taken it with me to the oil change and the skin screening. I can tell you that several customers of my car dealer moved to the other side of the room when I: 1. couldn’t control my laughter, and 2. I was continually doubled over, clutching my sides. Now, I was able to keep silent, so maybe they thought I was sobbing to myself, but I guess it wasn’t pretty. It rarely is. Anyway, they were sure to establish distance.

In the doctor’s office, there were only a couple of other people, both older-looking men, both dressed casually, and both successfully ignoring me. Or perhaps they feared that I was some psychopath about to burst into a hellish rage, and felt that their best hope for safety was to feign ignorance. Well, feign away, boys, I may be crazy, but I don’t act on it. I’m just laughing with (not at) Paula.

I’m not sure where she gets these thoughts, but I’m pretty sure they’re not normal. But then again, maybe ‘normal’ is just a setting on your dryer. In any case, I’d love to know what makes her tick. She finds a funny way to look at life’s ordinary events, and is able to ask questions we wouldn’t have thought of on our own. With her to guide us, we learn about the Civil War, Helen Keller, Charles Dickens, the Wright Brothers, Joan of Arc and more. Yes, she explores all of these topics (and more!) in her book, and you wouldn’t believe some of the great (and questionable) stuff you’ll learn.

The real lesson, though, is to keep the hilarity at home. It’s much safer there. And then you won’t have to wonder why the dermatologist put you in restraints.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mixed Blessings

My definition of a mixed blessing is a woman with two washers and two dryers.The first time I conceived of such a luxury/curse was more than 20 years ago, when I heard a new neighbor had six children. My first words were, "Think of the laundry!" That's when I learned of her twin sets of Maytags.

Some people would worry about the grocery bills; others would develop a nervous tic just thinking about the cooking or the dishes. Not me. For me it's all about the laundry. There's a sign in my laundry room that reads, "When I Said I Do, I Didn't Mean Laundry." And yet I do ...Socks with sand ground into them, grass-stained pants and spaghetti-fied shirts appeared like thought bubbles over cartoon characters' heads every time I saw this woman and her Chevy Suburban full of kids drive by. High Tide, I thought.

Kids make clothes dirty in inverse proportion to their ages. For the math-impaired, this means a 2-year-old can get twice as dirty as the cosine of a 9-year-old, divided by the square root of your mother-in-law, and in only a small fraction of the time.

Laundry never goes away. As soon as the hamper is empty and every little outcome of your fluffing and folding is snugly tucked away, replacements materialize in the hamper, and they multiply. It's like a magic trick that the laundry gods play on us.Then there's the late-night afterthought, "Oh, by the way, can you wash these pants for tomorrow?" And that's from the hubby, not the kids - their survival instincts are better. Um, it's 9:30 on Sunday night, and you're just thinking now that you want these pants for tomorrow? With all the clean and pressed pants in your closet, it has to be the pair you have on? Sure, why not stay up late doing laundry? It's the way I most like finishing my weekends. (Sarcasm is just another service we provide here at Rubin House.)

Years ago I taught my kids to turn their clothes right-side-out and empty their pockets before putting clothes in the laundry. This was achieved easily, following two simple rules:1. Anything that entered the hamper inside-out was returned to its owner, clean and folded. And inside out.2. Gems, keepsakes and assorted detritus discovered in pockets could be claimed for a mere 25-cent charge. (These days I'd have to charge a buck or two.) Hubby, however, has had a full-time paying job (complete with pension), so I cut him a whole lot of slack in this area. I'm actually marginally grateful if two pairs of his socks see the inside of the hamper in a given week. Usually I have to gather them from the floor, either in his study or next to his side of the bed. When I marvel aloud about the treasure trove I've discovered, he defends, "But suppose there's a sock emergency; are you prepared like I am?

"What precisely, I ask, would a sock emergency be? Perhaps a naked guy with a towel wrapped around his waist rings the doorbell and says, "Excuse me, but my friends and I were just making a por - I mean a home movie, and I realized I'd look so much better with a pair of brown socks on." There you'd be to save the day?

"Good one," he allows."But why would you give him a pair of dirty socks?" I argue. "Wouldn't that be considered poor form?"

"Hypothetical guys don't need clean socks," he answers.

"But you're the real deal?""I am, indeed," he affirms. "My scattered socks and I are the real deal."I agree. But now I have a new definition of mixed blessing.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Coincidence? You Decide.

Geez, I’m nothing if I’m not timely! Just got an e-mailed news bulletin stating that Lynette Fromme was released from prison in Texas. Life is funny, and ever so unpredictable. Who knew she would crop up in today’s news stories? Well, I guess the Texas prison officials did, but I have no contacts there. I’m just saying…

What next? The release of Sara Jane Moore? Could the two of them go on a lecture tour? Will they call themselves “Would-Be Assassins Here for a Buck”? “We Went to Jail, But Ford’s Still Dead”? “Stephen Sondheim Made Money Off Our Madness”? (Both were represented in the Sondheim musical “Assassins”.)

Life takes its share of odd turns. And they’re not always funny. Obviously.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I'm Surrounded

Sure, we look happy enough, the six of us, but face it, this was posed. If I weren’t smiling, the Hub would have brought in reinforcements, and then where would I be? (Probably under the table with a bottle of gin and a funnel.)

Yep, I love the guy and I’m grateful that we found each other, but it’s possible that now that he’s working from home, he finds me a little too often. It’s not exactly like house arrest, but there are some stark comparisons. Before I get ahead of myself, let me set the stage…
Hub’s work is very computer-based, therefore he spends hour after hour planted in a very noisy desk chair in his office.

Aside: This chair is actually beyond squeaky; it emits an almost blood-curdling yowl whenever the big guy moves a muscle. Back in the day, when it was merely squeaky, I dubbed it Lynette, after Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, who gained fame in the ‘70s for trying to assassinate then-president Gerald Ford. This took place in Sacramento, where Fromme was apparently defending the redwoods against capitalist oppression. [The redwoods and the capitalists appear to be at a standoff.] Fromme did seem to start something, however, because a mere 17 days later, and a mere 87.5 miles away, Sara Jane Moore pulled a gun on Ford outside the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. This was a day after she was picked up and released on an illegal weapons charge. Duh. The police reportedly felt she posed no threat to the President. Hah. Moore, unlike Fromme, actually fired a shot, and oblivious to the plight of the redwoods, seemed only to sympathize with Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army. (Yes, I am old.) Okay class, close your books and take out a sheet of paper—we’re going to have a short quiz. Not. Aaaaand back to our story.

Now that the chair’s vocalization has been amplified to the yowling/howling level, I just call it the hungry hyena. Now that’s a sound you don’t want to wake up to, but I digress. Again. The Hub’s legs have atrophied in the year and a half since his so-called retirement. He parts with his chair only to forage for snacks. Fortunately or unfortunately, this is a frequent occurrence; it keeps him from turning to stone. It also keeps him from losing weight—a story for another day.

So except for the times when he doesn’t want me to know that he’s in the pantry, plundering the walnuts, red licorice, raisins, peanut butter, pita chips, potato chips, corn chips, taco chips or chocolate chips, the King of Chips pads about the house looking for me. And regardless of what I’m doing, how focused I am on a task—be it reading, listening (NPR is my constant companion), writing, cleaning, cooking, stitching, or translating The Odyssey from the original Greek, when he finds me, he starts talking. Focus, lost. Concentration, gone. “Yes, Dear?”

This is a common trait among males. It stems from the presumption that anything they have to say will be far more important than whatever you were thinking, saying or doing. Not to male-bash here, we love the big lugs, but years of observation and experience bear this out. So the K of C touches base, expounds on his current theory of the day, slips in a quick stop by the fridge for a glob of hummus, and returns to the man-cave. Sometimes there is recognition of the infraction, as in, “I’m sorry—were you curing cancer?” but not often.

If we’re close to mealtime, he’ll ask, “Is it time to feed me yet?” If I’m leaving the house his lower lip trembles a bit until I let him know that I’ll be back in time to put food on the table. Whenever I leave town, he asks for a printed schedule of who’s coming over to feed him which meals. Fortunately, it hasn’t come to that. When it comes to food, his survival instincts are intact. As for me, he’s got me covered—it’s the doggone electronic ankle bracelet I can’t get used to.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Freak Me Out!

OMG-- What did I JUST say??? So today's paper tells me that John McGuire, journalist for 38 years at the Post-Dispatch died in his sleep yesterday. He was only 71! The article says that the cause of death is unknown, but still... YIKES! When they find out, I may have to go into the witness protection program. Creepy, creepy, creepy...

Click on the link to read about this very cool guy's life and career. Bill McClellan's comments are particularly poignant.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How Powerful Am I?

I'm not one of those people who think that the universe revolves around me. In fact, pretty clearly, it revolves around my husband. I'm a mere planet in his orbit. Of course, I'm the planet who makes his meals, does his laundry, sends the greeting cards, talks to his parents, and sleeps by his side, but that's not important right now.

I'm saying that I know I'm a mere speck of dust in the cosmos, with no more significance than any other. And yet...

The first time I started a blog was June 12, 2008. The next day, one of America's beloved newsmen, Tim Russert died at age 58, totally unexpectedly. We news junkies freaked out. I kind of dropped the blog like a hot poker, but not because of Tim's death.

Here I am, a year+ later, and I'm all ready to start up a blog again, this time in earnest. (Ernest who, I'd rather not say.) Just as I'm getting ready to go, my personal hero Gwen Ifill (told you I was a nerd) informs me (and millions of other viewers of Washington Week) that Walter Cronkite has died. Gwen was visibly choked up-- the first of many iconic journalists to display that kind of gut response to the loss of 'Uncle Walter'.

When I got over the initial feeling of loss, and shared this with the C.O.T.U. (Center of the Universe), (no wonder he's called 'the Hub') I got to thinking about my almost-on-the-web blog, and the Tim Russert experience. Spooky, huh?

So, not that there's a cause and effect relationship here, and I know that I surely didn't want the world to lose either of these fine men, but what a coincidence...

Was some great Webmaster in the sky trying to tell me to keep away from the blogosphere? I sure hope not-- I just spent the past couple of months reading a dozen or so books about blogging. Wouldn't want that to go for naught. And my daughter and son, who've been urging me to do this for several years wouldn't be pleased at all.

So what to do? Well, I let the appropriate mourning period (assuming there is such a thing) for Uncle Walter pass, and I launched my little blog. Should I have warned Katie Couric, Jim Lehrer and Charlie Gibson? Naaah... I'm not that powerful.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Woo-Hoo! Erma Bombeck Title!

2008 Contest Winner
Leah Rubin is the 2008 winner of the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. Sponsored by the University of Dayton and the Washington-Centerville Library, this competition received nearly 1500 entries. Leah received first place in the humor category. Her framed certificate hangs proudly over her desk, so that the visage of Erma can smile down on her. Click on the link to read about the competition and read the winning essay!
So this is my opportunity to speak my piece, put it out there, let you get to know me. In for a dime, in for a dollar, they used to say, so here we go. I think of myself as a humorist, but perhaps I'm kidding myself. I actually come from a long line of kidders. My mother's people were Kidders. Well, no, they weren't.

If you ask me if I'm a poet, I'd say iamb. I'm a freelance writer who has been intimidated by the blogging format, despite my enjoyment of reading others' blogs. Now that (I think) I have this medium in my grasp, I'll be posting regularly. I'd like this to be a conversation with you, so your comments will be welcome. Come-- let us blog together.

I'm a baby-boomer, married to an engineer (slide rule, not choo choo), mother of four (two mine, two his), and grandmother of two. My husband and I are celebrating fifty years of marriage: twenty-five for him, seventeen for me, and eight together. He's semi-retired, working from home. I've established my solidarity with the sage words of Rosalyn Carter (former First Lady, if you're under 40), "For better or for worse, but not for lunch." Yeah, riiiiiight.

I'm Just Saying...

This blog is a possibly warped, often confused look at life and the peculiar people who live it. Some might call it a slice of life, which is not to be confused with a piece of cake. But if it were, I say, how about a cup of coffee with it?

Hey, does this blog make me look fat?