Sunday, November 15, 2009

Against The Wall

I am a real estate broker and this has been a very rough year, not for the faint of heart, that's for sure. I work mostly high end properties, so one or two sales a year are not unusual for me. I work all year for those one or two sales, full time, full out. I love what I do and I'm good at it. I've been a broker for 17 years, 15 of them in the office I currently hang my license in. There are four other real estate firms within a half a mile of my office. We are a small office, there are five of us, all women, and we do about 90% of the business that gets done. My single best day ever, I had back to back closings and closed 5,650,000 million dollars of property. I LOVED that day. The sense of accomplishment was awesome.

Real estate tends to bring out the worst in people sometimes, and there have been times when I know these people I'm dealing with are perfectly nice people, and the pressure and emotion just gets to them and they go off. I have been cursed at, hung up on, shouted at.... and I just ignore the bad behavior. The sellers and buyers I deal with tend to be used to getting what they want, and I rarely deal with first time buyers or sellers. These people are seasoned in real estate transactions. They don't like to be told no (let's face it, neither do I!). I had one buyer who had been at the property he had an accepted offer on numerous times with architects, designers, landscape people, sound engineers, etc. The sellers threw the gauntlet down, no more visits until he was in contract. So the next time he called me to arrange for yet another visit, I had no choice but to tell him. The language I heard on the other end of the phone would make George Carlin blush. The next time he called me, he was all sunshine and kittens and did not mention his tantrum at all. He has also been one of my biggest supporters, and I have sold friends of his their country properties. I had another buyer who was dinking around with negotiating, and he called me and said, "Ok, my wife gave me my marching orders, how do I get this done?" and we got it done. Funny stories.

I had one couple fly out for the weekend from their home base in California. We had discussed the inventory at length before they arrived, and I had everything lined up they wanted to see. There was one property they omitted, and I thought they should see it. "Are you sure you don't want to add this property?" "We are sure, we're not at all excited about that house." Ok, fine. We see everything they wanted to see, spent all day reviewing. It had started to rain, everyone was getting burned out on looking at property, and none of the properties were right for them. I suggested, just for fun, they see the house they were not excited about, they walked in and said, "This is our house." I had another buyer not even get inside the house when he announced he was buying it.

That being said, most transactions are not so cut and dried, and there is always, always a time when the proverbial shit hits the fan. I am involved in such a transaction right now, and have a lot riding on it. Every communication is critical at a time like this. We have not had a closing more than two million dollars since 2006, and I have an offer of over four million dollars on a property, and it's a highest and best proposition; take it or leave it. It's also cash, which is huge because jumbo mortgages right now are very difficult if not impossible to obtain.

The listing agent on this property is also my office mate, and she appears to be on the brink of a nervous breakdown. I have had this offer on the table for more than a week, and there have been countless emails and conversations with the sellers; the pressure is intense. She only has a few years under her belt, and has never had a deal of this magnitude. I just keep telling her never let them see you sweat. People react to confidence. She is taking the sellers out this afternoon to look at rental properties so they know they have options to move into and can take their time looking to buy a smaller property in the community. One of those properties happens to be my listing, and I've asked her to show it last. I'm going to surprise the sellers with a little visit and see if I can get this done for everyone's sanity.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Best Laid Plans

So last night I had four girlfriends over for the evening. My husband rarely travels on business, but he was away last night, so I planned a girls night. I had everything planned out and had the day off, so I was looking forward to attending to every detail leisurely. Until the power went out for five hours due to high winds here. Living on a mountain basically, we lose power every so often, usually for a brief time; no big deal. I had polished all my silver over the weekend - I thought why not, I'll be ahead of the game for the holidays. So at least that was done.

I don't know, I am a bit of a study in contrasts I think. I can happily eat off a paper plate and drink beer out of a bottle, but other times I get all girly and have to pull out the good stuff, and honestly, very little pleases me more than fussing about my house getting ready for guests when I'm in that kind of mood. So I did what I could without electricity, I put new candles in candle sticks and hurricane shades, I set the table, which included a mini pumpkin at everyone's place setting, and God help me, I even had fall colored, maple-leaf shaped shiny confetti that I sprinkled on the table cloth, and topped it with little pumpkin colored votive candles. China, crystal, silverware, linen napkins.... check.

If a man had been around, he might have concurred that either I had bought something ridiculously expensive or he was going to get lucky. I don't really operate like that though. I once went out before we were going to a cocktail party a couple of years ago because I needed pantyhose. I hate pantyhose, but it was winter and I was wearing a black dress..I needed to wear some. So off I go, and I pass a store that has a huge banner announcing it's having a big sale on coats. I thought you know, I should go in there, I could really use a new trench coat. I go in, and I see a bunch of people milling around some roped off area, so of course I have to see what the fuss is about. Huh, a whole section of fur coats on sale. You know what happens next. So I am standing in line waiting to pay for my gorgeous brand new ankle length fur coat, and it occurs to me this might be a shock when i return home. I was, after all, going to buy pantyhose. So I call home and say, listen, just so you're not surprised, I just bought a fur coat. He is not surprised.

Anyway, so mid afternoon yesterday I'm starting to get antsy about the power still being off. I was still in my pajamas because I couldn't blow dry my hair anyway at that point, and I'm beginning to consider that dinner is going to be hot dogs on the grill. The power comes back though, and all is well. By the time my first girlfriend arrived at 6, I had even had time to have a half a glass of wine and relax for a few minutes. We had wine and appetizers in front of a nice fire I had going in the fireplace in the living room, then dinner in the dining room. No shortage of talking, but that's a given when you get five women together.

I am fortunate enough to have some wonderful old sterling silver pieces from my grandmother, her mother, and HER mother. Some of them are engraved with the various ladies monograms. I love that I own a piece of my ancestor's history, and I often wonder about them when I pull out what were once their treasures, to use. I bet they'd be happy that I use them regularly and keep them polished. I was thinking last night as I was hand washing them after everyone left, who's going to take care of them and enjoy them after me? I can't really picture either of my kids polishing antique silver, but I'd sure like to think one of them would love it and take care of it. On that note: use the good stuff.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I went to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Giants stadium at the Meadowlands in New Jersey this past Wednesday. I first saw him in 1986 in St. Louis, Missouri, when I lived there (unfortunately - that I lived in St. Louis- not that I saw him) I was a few months pregnant with my son, who is now 23, and the concert was so long I kept hoping he would stop so I could go home and go to bed, but I was loving the concert so much I didn't consider leaving for a second. Women in their first trimester get pretty sleepy.

Anyway, I have seen Bruce numerous times between then and now, and I always enjoy it. We have gone the past couple of times with some of our oldest and dearest friends, Steve and Patrice. They live on Long Island and we meet up, tailgate in the parking lot and enjoy the concert together. We've gone to several college reunions with them (Steve and Tom were once room mates and graduated together) and a long weekend with our respective kids in Vermont. I think as you get older, you appreciate long time friendships that have stood the test of time.

Usually for these get togethers we run like a finely oiled machine. We have tables, chairs, tablecloths, grills, a vast array of snacks and drinks. This year not so much. Steve and Patrice have had a lot on their plates recently which I will not go into here. I really don't have an excuse of any kind, the date just kind of got here.

It was all good though, and the company is what is most important, of course, it just wasn't what is typical of our tailgating. We had plenty to eat and drink, but not a chair to sit on in the parking lot. It was a chilly evening, in the fifties, but the one thing we did have in abundant supply was outerwear. Patrice brought an entire trunk full of coats, fleeces, sweatshirts, etc. I burst out laughing when I opened the trunk and saw it all. We joked that maybe we could each sit on a pile of jackets.

We had champagne, and I brought along champagne flutes, because the champagne was Veuve Cliquot, and you really shouldn't drink that out of a plastic beer cup. It's just wrong. Beside which, I had a New Year's day brunch a couple of years ago, and I went to William Sonoma to buy champagne flutes, because I certainly didn't have enough for the thirty or forty people we were expecting. They had some on sale for some ridiculous price, like two bucks, so I asked how many they had. They told me 40 so I just bought all of them. So if they got broken, I've got about 38 more at home.

We went on opening night for this leg of them playing the Meadowlands, and there is something magical about seeing Springsteen in his "home" stadium. The powers that be are building a new Giants Stadium, and the existing one will be torn down, and he opened with a song he had written for the occasion called "Wrecking Ball." He ran through the entire Born To Run album, in order, which was great fun.

We had a drink in the parking lot and let some of the traffic clear out and got home around 2 am. It was pretty windy that night, and for a moment during the concert I looked around, the breeze ruffling everyone's hair, the music cranking, and I'm not sure when I've had a better time on a beautiful autumn evening.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Have They No Dignity (Or Shame)?

People behaving badly recently. Serena Williams put on quite a show at the open, walloping her tennis racquet against the court and unleashing a profanity laced tirade to the line judge. I know, I know, she's an athlete, she's competitive, she wants to win. Unacceptable, period. I tell you what though, I wouldn't want her to be pissed at me, she looks like she could kick some serious ass. I am uncomfortable with confrontation, which is sort of funny being I'm a real estate broker. I am competitive in that arena and have a bit of an alternate personality that kicks in business wise. In fact, there are other real estate brokers who would prefer not to mess with me too much business wise. I don't throw fits or tirades though.

Then we have Madonna, who gave a "tribute" to Michael Jackson at the Video Music Awards recently. What should have been about Michael Jackson turned out to be all about Madonna. Go figure, huh?

And the current ass of the week has to be Kanye West, who interrupted Taylor Swift as she was attempting to give her thanks and accept the award she had just won at the VMA's. He felt it necessary to grab the microphone from her and give props to Beyonce. I think Beyonce is great, I'm a fan, and so are lots of other people because she went on to win an even bigger award later in the evening. She graciously brought Taylor back on stage, but the moment was gone for her.

I think the commonality in all this is when you behave badly, it only reflects on you. I like my idea having an ass of the week. And I'm glad Serena Williams won't read this. She'd make me cry.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

September 11

It was a Tuesday, a Tuesday that we shouldn't really remember at all. Beautiful fall day, crystal blue, cloudless sky. But what happens on a beautiful September Tuesday normally? You get up, drink your coffee, shower, get kids off to school, go to work, or stay home and run things there; ordinary - unremarkable stuff. Life. Get up the next day and do it all again. Only, of course, the unimaginable happened.

I was in a car with my boss and my associate headed to New Jersey for a meeting with our website designers. I had not turned on tv, and as we happily chatted and listened to music in the car, we had no idea what was going on. Until we got to the top of a hill in Bergen County, New Jersey, and when the sky is clear, as it most certainly was that day, you can see Manhattan unfold like the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz. A giant cloud of smoke. We are not terribly concerned. Huh, must be some fire. Wow, hope people are ok. We have no idea it's the World Trade Center.

We go to our meeting, and the news is starting to break. One of the web designers says, "Something is going on in Manhattan, they think a small plane may have accidentally hit one of the twin towers." That's a shame, wonder how that happened; casual concern all around.

Then the air changes, someone from their reception area comes in and whispers to them. They look at us and say, "We have to turn on the tv, something bad is going on." So we sit, riveted, watching what is going on, speechless, and trying to understand the scope of it. It is then the news starts looping the crashes, first one, then the second. The first time this small room of people see the first plane hit, there is cringing. When we see the second plane come in, the sun sparkling off it, and careen into the second tower, the realization starts to hit us. It's amazing how quiet a room full of people can be when their brains are working to try to process something so absurd and implausible as two planes, BAM! BAM! rocketing into the twin towers. We are glued to the tv, just disbelieving. There is no meeting. We get in the car to head back up to the Hudson Valley, and already there is just a mass exodus out of the city. People are on their cell phones, some are crying. There are absurd decisions to consider - my associate was to cover the office that day - and she looked at me and asked, "Do I sit in the office?" I told her to go home.

As I learned that one of the hijacked planes took off from Boston and literally followed my beloved Hudson River right down into midtown, all I could think was that they flew over my house, and Marymount, my college, and my husband's alma mater, the United States Military Academy at West Point. They used my Hudson River to navigate their way, in our bright New York sunshine, to cripple my city and wreak unspeakable havoc, carnage, and fear. New Yorkers are a lot of things, but fearful is generally not one of them.

I think more than anything, we didn't know what to do because it was unprecedented. And we were powerless to do a damn thing about what was going on. Phones start ringing. I am located, on a great traffic day, about a 45 minute drive from Manhattan, so lots of folks in this general area work and commute to the city. We lost two residents of our tiny town, one a young firefighter, a childhood friend of my brother's, and one a middle aged, wealthy business man. Terrorists don't discriminate. All told, 55 people in the lower Hudson Valley lost their lives that day. People are calling friends, neighbors, taking roll call. Then the planes hit Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon. Surreal.

As New Yorkers, we take great pride in our city, and this was (and remains) intensely personal to us, just as I'm sure it was, and is, to the residents of Pennsylvania and Arlington. People that could get out of the city tried, and it took hours upon hours for them to get home that day. We heard stories of people spared by fate, too. An attorney friend of mine, whose office was at the World Trade Center, was called unexpectedly to meet a client for breakfast that day. A friend of my daughter's parents had an argument that morning, and her father missed his train because of it.

Although that was eight years ago now, I don't still don't think we are far enough removed from it to register it fully. (Someday, and please mark my words, there will be a movie made about those days events, maybe Spielberg is genius enough to do it with the dignity and honor it deserves) And yet we're close enough to remember, mourn, and recall exactly what we were doing that day.

From all the images fired at us in the following days - flyers posted looking for loved ones, the American Flag being raised at ground zero, people covered in ash and soot literally running for their lives, there is one image that still haunts me. As the heat became so intense that people started choosing to jump to their certain deaths rather than remain in the inferno - one couple, a man and a woman, jumped together, holding hands. Did they know each other? Were they co-workers; lovers? Were they strangers who had never seen each other, and fate threw them together, and they decided it would be easier to have a companion to hold their hand as they dropped to their deaths? There is a story there.

But in the end, like the Whos in Whoville, who stand shoulder to shoulder together after the Grinch steals their Christmas, we came together. As families, friends, neighbors; as communities, as states, and as a country. What should have been a forgettable Tuesday in September, will never, ever be again.

Friday, September 4, 2009


I was thinking about the seven things people generally don't know about me, and I have come to realize just how quirky I am. How about this: I have two dogs, one is a 90 pound labrador retriever whose main job is to shed hair all over the house, and in particular, my wool, oriental rug in the living room. I also have two long haired cats who do not go outside (except on a leash on my deck, which is another story altogether). One is a purebred persian in full coat. I vacuum several times a week and I love my Electrolux Oxygen vacuum. However, when I get out of the shower, I go OUTSIDE to comb and detangle my wet hair, so I don't get any hair in the house. I do this all year, except on the coldest/snowiest days. Go figure....

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Last Rose Of Summer

Well, really, we are at the tail end of summer. Not that we HAD much of a summer, what with the first part monsoon like and cold. But these days....ahhhhh...I love this weather. Chilly in the evenings into morning, glorious to sleep with the windows open, no humidity. I approve. I can feel and smell fall coming. I keep wondering how long my hummingbirds will hang around. We've got a mess of them that visit the feeders out on the deck, but they migrate and won't be back til the spring. We've never had as many as we have this summer, and I have spent many a late afternoon/early evening out there, watching their antics and practicing my ukulele playing. One aspect I do not like about this time of year at all is the abundance of yellow jackets. They are very aggressive and will not leave your food or drink alone if you dare to enjoy them outside. At least here, in my neck of the woods. I've been stung by them many times, the worst was when one hit the collar of my shirt and ricocheted inside, stinging me more than 15 times trying to get out. I was at a fall cookout, and I wanted to rip my shirt off, but delicate flower that I am, I let it sting me rather than do that. I was hopping around, flailing at my shirt, and once people realized what was going on, one of the practical women in the group looked at me, said, "Where is it? Point." I pointed, she smacked me a good one and killed it. You ought not to kill them though on general principle, because they release some hormone/pheromone business that tells its hornet mates there is trouble nearby, and they come to see what the fuss is about, and you don't want that on your hands (or down your shirt). No Sirree, I speak of which I know. Bumble bees and some other bees have one sting, then they die. Yellow Jackets keep going. Nasty bastards.

This summer has not been so fabulous for gardens here either. We lost several plants to out and out drowning early on, and our tomato plants are spindly and sad looking. They have some tomatoes on them, but they're not yet ripe. I don't eat tomatoes, so really, makes no diff to me. I'm ready to retire the flowered wreaths on my front door and hang my fall ones, order some firewood, put some mums around and welcome the fall. There's always next summer.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What Few People Know About Me

Hey Susie-- here is one for you to participate in..

This is from my very long time, dear friend Janet, who hit me up to blog about seven items people may not know about me. Hmmm.

1: I broke my leg skiiing on February 13th, which was also a Friday. I was in high school and decided the new powder from a storm the night before was too tempting and skipped school. Bad break, five places, my binding didn't release, my ski planted and I rotated around it, so a spiral break. I was in a cast from my toes to my upper thigh for six months.

2: I'm a very good swimmer, and used to be a lifeguard, but I don't go in the ocean. Too scary (cue the theme music from Jaws). I love everything about the beach though.

3: (Anyone squeamish about childbirth can skip this, but I'll totally think you're a wuss) I love babies but was not meant for having them. My first baby wasn't so bad, failure to progress (how insulting, incidentally) and a c-section. Baby number two, yikes. Because I remember how uncomfortable the c-section recovery was, I did not want to repeat that if I didn't have to. My ob-gyn didn't think there was any reason for me not to try to have baby #2 vbac (vaginal birth after c-section), plus my sister in law had just successfully done what I had hoped to accomplish (her first one c-section, following one vbac) and I talked to her about it. I went to classes on it, did my homework, had the thumbs up from my doctor. Because I felt a bit cheated out of the whole childbirth experience the first time around, I went totally hard core for #2. I wanted nothing, no pain meds, no epidural, I wouldn't take an aspirin if they had offered it. I labored for 22 hours with her, and didn't take a thing (nor did I make a peep), I was totally rocking that labor. I got to ten centimeters, pushing, they're monitoring her, she's fine. I remember them asking me if I wanted to see what color hair she had, and I was like are you kidding me? I start to fade. Emergency right NOW. They get me on the table and she's so far down from pushing they try to push her back UP. They open me up and struggle like hell to get her out, and I know something is wrong because no one is talking, and they're calling for more doctors in medical jargon like STAT. No one told me what was going on, and the anesthesiologist puts the mask on me and I'm out. I woke up with my husband sitting in a chair next to me telling me he thought he lost me. At the same time they gave me general anesthesia, they hurried him out of the room so he was in the dark, too, as to what was going on. My uterus ripped, and an artery tore, either from pulling the baby out or nicked via a scalpel, and I almost bled out. I had seven units of blood transfused (God bless every one who donates blood). I was 29, and they almost gave me a hysterectomy, but made the decision to repair it because I was so young, and told me my baby days were done. The next day, they discover my uretor is torn from my bladder, so they open me back up and reimplant my uretor, and surgically implant a catheter in my bikini line that leads to a bag for my urine while my bladder heals. So I got home after a week in the hospital, much of it on morphine, to a three year old and a new born baby, carrying a bag of my own pee. Lovely. And I spent Christmas in the hospital (she was born December 20th).

4: Actually probably everyone who knows me knows this because I'm so excited about it: I play the ukulele. I started about six weeks ago.

5: I'm a terrible liar.

6: Five people in my life call me Susie. I'm Susan or Sue to everyone else.

7: When I'm out and about and my kids (who are now 23 and 19) are not with me, and I well know this, I will still turn every single time I hear a child yell "Mom!"

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Spite Party

That's right, a spite party. Have you ever gone to some function or event, not because you WANT to but because someone really leaves you with no choice? I did last weekend. One of the people I work with is on our local library board, she's basically in charge of it. A function was being organized several months back; a novelist has just published her newest book and it takes place in our historic community. Said novelist was having a book signing at the local library, open to the public, and later on there was a lakeside cocktail party for invited guests, the guest of honor being the author. The organizer of all this, also my co worker, told us a while back she needed this particular day off, but did not share why. I am a real estate broker, as are all of my co workers. Who do a large percentage of our business in this historic community. I'm also a writer, and would you not think that the organizer of the event might not think to ask us if we were interested in supporting these events? Or might like to go? No, she did not. It pissed me off - and I rarely get pissed off - not only for myself, but for the other couple of brokers in my office as well. I thought it was pretty thoughtless of the organizer.

So, I have a contact or three up my sleeve, I made a call and was told by the gentleman of the estate where the cocktail party was being held, "Of course we'd love to have you! I was wondering why I didn't see you ladies on her guest list." (He was merely, and graciously, providing the place for the cocktail party) So I called my other, also ignored in this matter co-workers, and said I don't care what you are doing Saturday evening, we're going to the party. It's the point. So no mention of the events of last weekend were discussed, neither by the organizer, or by us.

And we just went, mingled, had a glass of champagne and some hors d'oeuvres, talked to people we knew and met a few we didn't, chatted a bit with the author, and oh yes, were completely gracious and friendly with the organizer, who of course was stunned by our presence. Like I said, sometimes people leave you little choice.

And sometimes being a hammer in a velvet glove is quite satisfying.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

And in case the love song doesn't take....pats my beautiful black Jag...


Perhaps one of my favorite contemporary love songs (there are so many classics that I'm in love with, sap that I am). Full of longing, hope, promise and sweetness. Enjoy.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Every Woman Should

This is for all my girls, and more specifically the young ladies in my life: My daughter Caitie, who is like watching a piece of my heart walk (and drive and laugh and bounce) around, and whom I simply adore and could not possibly love any more, and in no particular order: Felicia, Elizabeth, Kelly, Lynsey, Rachel, Becca, Carly, Kelly, Beth and Genny, and although they are not ready for this advice yet, my much adored neices, Laura and Kailey Ann. Listen to your Mama, girls.

Every Woman Should:

be able to make scrambled eggs or a grilled cheese sandwich at 3 am.

know how to drive a standard. shifting and clutching are hot. Vroom vroom.

have their own toolbox. with fishing line. i cannot get enough uses for fishing line.

not be afraid to get their hands dirty.

be able to go into a car dealership, test drive, negotiate, and pay for your own car. by yourself. at least once.

be able to be presentable in twenty minutes, and a knock out in an hour. Ok, maybe an hour and a half.

own a string of pearls. if they were your great grandmother's or your mom's, all the better.

and diamond stud earrings.

and black high heels.

and some pretty underthings.

and sweatpants and sneakers.

not lie about your age. it's insulting to you.

not care if you have to dash out in public and are not wearing make up.

have perfect manners and know when to use them.

and when not to.

be able to uncork a bottle of wine in less than 30 seconds.

have your heart broken.

break someone's heart.

master the art of flirting. this should be practiced on babies, trash collectors, old men and old women. be an equal opportunity flirt. babies are great to flirt with. 

have children if you want

and don't if you don't want to.

be able to say no. and mean it.

be able to say yes with no guilt.

do nice things for yourself.

and others.

be kind. be genuine and nice. it will get you much further in life. being a bitch doesn't get you anywhere but lonely.

but don't be a pushover.

don't manipulate. it's diminishing to you. you're smarter than that.

be a girl's girl. girlfriends will always have your back.

be careful who your girlfriends are.

be able to laugh uproariously-

and smile like an angel.

try different things that interest you.


don't do anything for (or with) a guy you're in a relationship with that your instincts tell you not to.

fall head over heels, madly in love. do everything to enjoy it when it happens.

believe in yourself.

value yourself. if you don't, no one else will.

Sermon over.

Sister Susan

Dogs And Cats Not Allowed On Velvet Sofa. Screw The Dogs.

I'd Like A Chocolate/Vanilla Swirl In A Cup Please

Making a Persian Black and White Truffle Sauce

Friday, July 31, 2009

Losing The Cottage, Beach Road, Amagansett

Every once in a while
a place becomes a part of you
and you take it with you
wherever you go.
You remember the rooms
and the color of the walls
and the smell of the sea.
You can feel
that feeling you get
from not wearing shoes
most of the time.
And isn't it funny
that when we take off our shoes
and feel the sand on our feet
that the whole world goes away
and all that's important is
how the ocean looks -
and is it cold?
So you try to remember
the colors in the sunset
because you need to take them with you.
You know this is it:
a chapter is closed
a dream interrupted.
And you know
that from now on
that "Residents Only" sign
at the top of the street
means you, too.
So let the weeds grow up through the gravel driveway
let the garden seed itself
let the quail and pheasants
have the run of the place
it always belonged to them anyway.
I can remember it for the right reasons
and keep my bottle of sand on the windowsill
and sometimes
when I open it
I can smell the ocean.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Calamity Susan and How I Murdered My Best Friend's Parakeet

I've gotten a BIT more focused as I've matured, but when I was younger I could really get myself (and those around me) into, well, quite honestly, a mess. I once caused an entire European soccer team to take the wrong train; they couldn't have been very happy about that.  Another time I was late and literally running to my then boyfriend's college graduation, and fell and broke a heel off my high heeled sandals, so I just took them off. I was flying from Georgia to New York to visit my parents another time, and the day before my trip I could not find my plane ticket. Anywhere. I never did find it. I had to go through all kinds of hoopla to get a new one reissued on such short notice (and no computers, this was the late 1980's) 

I lost my passport once days before a flight from Germany to the states and wound up at the American Consulate, and I swear the only reason I was on that plane was the fact that the guy behind the counter happened to have gone to the same high school as I did. I forget how it came up, but god bless Suffern High School.

I also once, trying to be helpful at a red light, leaped out of my car to hand the driver of the car in front of me the license plate that I thought had fallen off and someone put up on his trunk for him. It was a car dealer with a temporary plate. He thought I was insane. I know, blonde. It explains a lot I guess.

Maybe my lowest moment came when I was living in Germany in the early 80's. I was alone a lot with my husband being in the field frequently, and I was unofficially adopted by Janet and Charlie. Charlie was my husband's Company Commander, and therefore my husband's boss. We had a great battalion of Army Officers and their wives. (I was going to say and husbands, so as not to be sexist, but I don't think we HAD any army husbands in our group back then.) 

Anyway, this was a very tight group of people, from the Battalion Commander, Colonel Frank Henderson and his wife, Penny Lee, to lowly Lieutenant's wives, like me. We traveled en masse frequently, Berlin, Paris.... the whole gang went. I was the baby of the group, and was well taken care of and looked after, particularly by Janet, and Charlie, too, when he wasn't in the field. They'd have me over for dinner frequently, or just to hang out. My husband and I also spent a lot of time with Janet and Charlie, just us two couples frequently, when the guys were on base. 

Janet was the organizer and the boss for the four of us. She made the travel arrangements for trips and told us what we needed to do and where to be. We were happy to have her direction. Janet was always responsible, unlike some other people she associated with (ahem). Only one time do I remember Janet not being totally responsible, and I'm sure I was AT LEAST partly to blame for that. Janet was teaching and her group of teachers at her school were going to some beer garden or festival, and they had a bus taking the group and bringing them back home. Our husbands weren't around, so Janet asked me if I wanted to go with her. You don't have to ask me to go on an adventure twice, so I said sure! 

There was a lot of beer. Strong German beer. There were plastic squeaky hammers which just seemed to appear, and people were bopping other people on the head (or wherever with them). I believe we lost track of time and wound up sprinting for the bus, but we did get on it. This is when Janet started to not feel very well. Never a big drinker, she had had one too many. We got to her apartment and I asked her if she wanted me to stay with her. Yes, please. She gets into bed, and I go in to check on her and see how she's doing. I was happy to be able to help someone who was so good to me.

Do you want anything? I ask her. "Water." So I head on out to the kitchen, but the boss is not so under the weather that she can't shout out a specific instruction. "In my Seattle Seahawks glass," comes the request. I locate what is clearly the only glass suitable for the occasion, and take her ice water. She drinks, she sleeps, I go to bed, all is well in the morning.

One time Janet and I decided we should highlight our hair. Now I have highlighted my hair since I was in high school, but Janet had not, and she had beautiful, shiny healthy medium brown hair. So we did each other's hair, and I got too enthusiastic with her highlights, I kept adding them and seeing what I thought, one more here, more there. Perfect. I was quite proud of myself. 

Until she washed everything out and her hair was, and I am not kidding, the color of a bright yellow Easter Egg. It was too late or something to go to the store for brown hair color, to try to restore it, and I think the next day was Sunday or a holiday and all the stores were closed, so poor Janet went around with a bandana on her head for a day or two. That's not the worst of what I did though, oh no. I'm getting to it.

Janet and Charlie and Tom and I decided we should get new BMW's to bring back to the states with us. So one Saturday, we go into the dealership and a sales guy is at his desk, and we tell him we'd like two BMWs, please. They got a navy one, ours was black. Charlie and Tom, when it was time, drove them to the place they were going to be shipped to the US from, and I believe my husband narrowly escaped death when a truck jackknifed on the autobahn near them.

The autobahn, incidentally, has no speed limit.  I didn't know how to drive a standard (which our BMW was, and therefore I needed to learn), and Charlie had this bright yellow Mazda that was a standard, and he said he'd teach me. So we left my husband and his wife somewhere along the road in our car (the Mazda was a two seater) and we start driving. I'm doing ok, and Charlie is very patient with me. I'm getting the hang of it, and Charlie says, in all seriousness, "When you go a hundred we'll turn around and go back."

I said, "I don't want to go a hundred, I'm scared." "Oh come on, look, everyone else is going fast, you need to get experience shifting at high speeds. Hit a hundred and we'll turn around. We're not getting out of the car until you go 100."

So I did, it took me a long time and a lot of convincing from Charlie, but I knew he was somehow adamant about it, so 100 miles an hour it was. I took so long that Tom and Janet thought we might have gone to visit a neighboring country. Good lord. 100 miles an hour!

Being married to an Army officer involves a fair amount of socializing, and a formal ball or three a year. Janet and I went shopping for dresses in a German department store one time, and I think my gown needed some kind of minor alteration, hemming or something, and Janet offered to do it for me, as she knew how to sew. So I'm over at her apartment, just the two of us there, and we decide we want a beer, or a glass of wine, I forget which now. Doesn't matter. She's busy sewing and she said, "Go put the wine in the freezer, it's not cold, and by the time we're done with this it will be cold." 

So I go back to her kitchen, put the wine in the freezer, close it up tight, and go back to join her. Janet loves birds, and she had, honestly, the most adorable parakeet at the time, Frank. Frank was very social and loved people and attention. He was named Frank after Colonel Henderson. Frank would frequently perch on the head of people visiting Janet and Charlie, and I remember more than one time Colonel Henderson rocking in Janet and Charlie's rocking chair, Frank on his head, bobbing away in time. I loved Frank as well.

A short time after I return from the kitchen, Janet realizes, Frank, who had been in the living room with us, is missing. We look around, call him. Nothing. Where could he be? Janet asks me, "When or where is the last time you remember seeing him?"  Hmmmmm....I'm thinking. Um, yes. The last time I remember where he was WAS ON MY HEAD, before I went to the kitchen. We run. Not only are the drinks cold, but so is Frank. 

He is alive though, and we take him into the bathroom and turn the hot water in the shower on to warm the room up as quickly as possible. Janet is naturally fussing over him, and I'm as worried as she. The next day, in a twist of irony, Janet made chicken with orange sauce for dinner. Frank had made it through the night, but clearly was not right, because he took a dive in the hot orange sauce and that was it for poor Frank. I felt terrible. I wouldn't hurt anything. Janet got a new bird after that, but he (or she, who knows) just wasn't Frank. 

So Frank is long gone. The BMWs are long gone. Janet's Easter egg hair is (thankfully) gone. Me going 100 miles an hour is gone. But the memories of such a wonderful time with people we are still great friends with will always be with me. And Janet and Charlie, luckily, took all my mishaps in stride. I'm their oldest daughter's God Mother.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Flying Lessons

When I was growing up, my parents were pretty strict about what I could do, where I could go, and more particularly, with whom. They did, however, have the good sense to be indulgent with me where strays were concerned - first with animals - later with people. Some of the lessons I learned from these experiences will stay with me forever. Some were warm and nurturing; others broke my heart.

Mostly I brought home cats. There was the tabby that followed me home from the bus stop, the tiny yellow kitten from the litter my best friend's cat had, and a half grown black and white cat I found in a field. We also had a dog that I got for my fifth birthday. She was a menace for a couple of years, digging holes in walls, ripping curtains from windows and basically chewing everything in sight. I loved her madly. I dressed her up, taught her tricks, talked to her and otherwise delighted in her company. She had to be put to sleep when I was seventeen. I had to stay home from school because of my ache at her loss, and my parents allowed me that, too.

My brother brought home strays too, although not with the frequency that I did. I remember him striding up our front lawn carrying a snake her had caught. The next thing I heard was my mother shrieking from an upstairs window, "That snake is NOT coming in my house!"

Every mother has her limits, I suppose.

Every now and then my parents themselves were rescuers. On a Sunday drive (probably to get away from my brother and me) they found a scared tiny kitten right on the white line at the roadside out in the middle of nowhere. My mother scooped her up and brought her home. She slept snuggled in my arms all night, purring blissfully. The next day when my mother took her to the vet for her first shots we learned that all four of her legs were broken. The vet suspected she had been thrown from a moving car and thought it best to put her to sleep. It still makes me happy, decades later, that the last night of her weeks old life was spent in a warm bed, a teenaged girl softly stroking under the nameless kitten's chin as she dozed peacefully.

Although the first time I brought a guy home for dinner was when I was five (favorite family story) by the time high school rolled around so did boyfriends. Some were around a short time, others longer. Most were welcome at our house.

After a couple of weeks of dating my then boyfriend, he offered to drive me home from my first year of college for the summer. He spent a lot of time in my parents guest room, having just graduated from college and in a training course in Virginia. He drove up every weekend to see me for months. We got married the following year.

Which brings me to the real subject of this story: Birdie.

Immediately after our honeymoon my husband had to report to Germany for a three year assignment. Knowing he would be in the field for six weeks on a training mission with his battalion, I decided to stay put in New York until he was back on base.  I spent that summer lifeguarding as I had the four summers before. One day at the pool where I worked, I saw a boy carrying a box. I peeked inside and there was a little ball of fuzz - a baby sparrow. The boy was about thirteen, and had found the bird on his way to the pool. Thinking about her baking in the box while he swam for the day was too much for me.

"Can I have it?" I asked.

He handed me the box. I kept her going through the day by giving her water and some worms I had coerced some of my swimming students to dig up for me. That evening, once again, I came home with a stray.

I fixed up a cardboard box with a window screen for a top for her, and by evening she settled in and slept. My Dad went to the local fishing equipment store and bought some worms. I can still remember that summer - a white take out box full of worms in the fridge along with the milk, eggs, and other things normally found there.

Not knowing what we were in for, we soon found out. She wanted to be fed starting at dawn.  Mother birds, if you've ever stopped to watch them, spend the entire day hunting up food for their brood. ALL day. This meant one of us always had to be home to feed her. She ate every half an hour, maybe every hour. Like human babies, as she got bigger the time between feedings stretched out a bit. 

We had to chop the worms up; this was my Dad and brother's job. I could touch the worms and feed them to her, I just couldn't bring myself to slice and dice a live one. I fed her with an eyedropper full of chopped up liquified worms at first, then a bit later, tweezers. She also became fond of canned dog food.

"Birdie," as she became known, quickly charmed all of us. She was a good diversion for me, newly married and anxious to explore Europe and start my new life.  She immediately learned that someone standing over her box was a likely candidate to give her her next meal.  All you had to do was look in the box, and she would be sitting there flapping her tiny wings, mouth wide open expectantly.

Although we all thought she was adorable, Birdie could definitely complicate life. One time I was home alone with her and had no worms chopped up.  She was letting me know in no uncertain terms that she was hungry.  I called a lifeguard friend, begging him to help me, and he agreed.  I drove the worms over to him and he chopped them up for me - on his mother's cutting board.

I remember my brother, out of school for the summer, on more than one occasion saying, "I'm NOT staying home with that bird!"

Since she was my baby, so to speak, I knew she had to learn to fly. I spent a lot of time with her perched on my finger, raising my arm up and down gently as she instinctively caught the draft and flapped happily away.  After several weeks of this, her baby down making way for full fledged feathers, she left my finger and sailed across the living room.

Birdie was well on her way in life and so was I.  It was time for me to join my husband.  My parents took me to the airport and stayed with me until my flight was called.  They were delighted when I spotted Herbie, my college cafeteria manager, and his family waiting to board the same plane.  (I couldn't help but wonder if they would have felt the same if they had known that Herbie, at an end of the year campus party, reached down, took my loafer off my foot, poured his beer in it and used it as a mug. And that I had keys to the cafeteria so if my crew wanted a late night snack, we didn't have to hit the vending machines. Lots of giant tubs of ice cream with about 25 people with spoons were hit up in the middle of the night)  My flight was called and I said goodbye to my parents.  They remember watching until I disappeared into the plane.  They mostly remember, that at the age of 20, I didn't look back.  My father said my mother wept the whole car ride back home. Not having been away from them for more than a couple of weeks, I was going to live in a different country for three years.  I was young and fearless then, I don't know if I could do that now.

Once on the plane, I introduced myself to my seatmates, a middle aged gentleman traveling on business, and an older woman going to visit relatives. I always figure if you're going to be elbow to elbow with somebody for seven hours, you might as well be friends.  I chattered away excitedly, telling them all about my recent wedding, and that I was in fact, on that very  plane to join my new husband. Just then a flight attendant approached me with a glass of champagne, handed it to me and said, "This is from a gentleman in the front of the plane."

Herbie sending me a congratulatory drink.  My seatmates weren't so charmed with me after that, and it sort of amused me not to explain.

Birdie was now in my parents care.  She flew more and more, and one day my mom took her out on the back deck and let her go.  As evening came, while Mom was out watering plants, Birdie came back chirping and fluttering.  Mom went inside and got Birdie's box, lifted the screen and Birdie immediately flew into it and hopped into her makeshift nest.  Mom took her inside for the night and released her outside in the morning.  And so it went for several weeks. When Birdie had had enough for the day, she would patiently wait on the deck perched in the spider plant, or not so patiently, she'd hang on the screen door until she was taken in for the night.

One day my mom was in the front yard and saw my brother walking down the street, talking, but alone. As he neared, my mom asked, "Who are you talking to?"

"Birdie," he said, pointing to her, as she accompanied him back home, flitting from tree to tree as he walked.

As fall approached it became clear Birdie was restless, yet still attached to my family.  Afraid she might approach a stranger or make another mistake that might befall a tame but technically  wild bird in suburbia, my parents decided to release her far from home in a forest.  She was now feeding entirely on her own.  One last time they put her in her box.  This time she got a car ride.  They drove until they felt they found a good spot for her, then got out and let her fly.  My parents told me that Birdie didn't look back, either.

The lessons I've learned from bringing home strays? Don't bring them home if you can't give them what they need.  That sometimes the things you think you are helping wind up helping you.  That it pays to be generous and fearless with your heart, and if you are not you will miss much - and yes, hurt less.  If someone or something works its way into your heart, embrace it and be thankful.  I've learned that love is the most special and valuable gift you have to give.  Be sure the things you bestow it on are worthy and deserving of it.  If they are, love with enthusiasm and passion.  Expect and accept the same in return.  When you love someone, tell them. Simple? Yes. Say it out loud.  Tickle their ear softly with it. Sing it to them. Write it down, fold it up and put it in a pocket, a briefcase or a lunch box for them to find.  And lastly, no matter how much you love something or someone, or they you, if one of you needs something the other one can't give, sometimes it's kinder for both of you, to fly.

post script:  Last summer my daughter was taking our dogs out for last call. 11 pm or so. She came in yelling "MOM! There's a baby bird in the grass! We have to help it!" And so it goes.

Can They Spare It?

My good friend Janet is a master gardener. I am not, but I do love my flowers and herbs. I was thinking recently, however, that some things in life are just  plain disappointing. Take Montauk Daisies. Now, I have an emotional connection to them, as my family had a house in Amagansett, in the Hamptons for about 50 years, and Montauk Daisies are all over the place. So I have some here, and every spring I get excited to see them come up, with their abundant dark green foliage, and every late summer, I get annoyed that I have them. All the caretaking all summer, watering, etc., and a little daisy on the end of each stalk is all they can give me? Puhleeeze. Lillies of the Valley as well. Oh I know, people love the smell, but honestly, that's the best they can do? A bunch of little bells and all that greenery? It's not right, I'm telling you.

How about when you go to a bridal shower, or a baby shower? You bring a gift, all wrapped beautifully, a card, and on the way out you get some crappy butter mints wrapped in tulle. Plus, usually you have to play some ridiculous game at showers - and who started the tradition of the bride wearing the bows from all the gifts on her head? Some angry mother in law to be, would be my best guess. You go to the dentist, and you get a new toothbrush and some floss, at least that's pretty useful. You're going to need that equipment to get the butter mints out of your molars.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Traffic Court

So in February or thereabouts my daughter gets stopped in a car inspection road stop. Guess what, her inspection is expired. It's in the teeny tiny town we live in and she still gets a ticket. So we go that very day to have it inspected, there is something wrong with it, I believe it was a faulty Johnson Rod, they fix it (for $200 something dollars) and the inspection is up to date. Very next day.

She pleads not guilty and sends the ticket in, so she has a chance to explain and have her day in court, so to speak. I may start going to traffic court every Tuesday because it was some of the best entertainment I've had in a dog's age. 

We are awaiting her turn to speak with a police officer to do some "negotiating" before she appears before the judge. Everyone has a turn to do this, and there are two women ahead of her. I'm there for moral support. We tune in mid conversation with woman #1: "But officer! I really don't consider that speeding!"  "Ma'am, I'm sorry, how can you think 37 miles over the speed limit is not speeding?" Woman #1: "I really don't see how you expect me to keep up with traffic! That's all I was doing!"  Cop: "Ma'am, you're not supposed to keep up with other people going 37 miles or more over the speed limit, because guess what, we're going to get them too." With this she is crying, dabbing her eyes with a tissue. The cop, wisely says, "Ma'am I'm going to give you the best free advice you're going to get all day, and that is when you are before the judge, please don't tell her you were not speeding."

Woman #2 gets her turn. She was ticketed for going through a red light. She tries to talk her way out of it, and in an interesting turn, plays the race card. "Officer, I was only ticketed because I am Asian!" "Now Ma'am that's just not true and you know it, let's not go there."

My daughter gets her turn to have a consultation, she has her supporting paperwork and the cop offers three months probation (provided the judge agrees). If she has no other infractions in that time, it's history. The judge notices me there, and says, Mom, you can stand with her for moral support. I tell her, "she's fine." (Yes, all this over a barely expired inspection). The judge agrees with the cop's recommendation, she is reprimanded to pay attention and to honor the judge's wish to not be in traffic court again.

Say what you will about the police, but the one that day had the patience of a saint if you ask me.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


So things keep spinning along without any input from us, don't they. Spring has FINALLY sprung, things are growing; blooming. Birds are chirping and busy building nests. Spring is a time of renewal, and a time of change. Graduations, goodbyes, parties. Babies, first communions, first jobs, first apartments, weddings. 

Somehow the seasons seem to pick up speed in their progression as we get older. Well, think about it. When you were five, remember how long a summer seemed? It stretched on forEVER. That's because it was like one twentieth of your whole life. When you're 40 or 50, one season is, well, I can't do the math on that one, but it's a tiny fraction in comparison. Sometimes it feels like life is fast forwarded, and you can't help but wonder how many moments you miss because you're too busy living life. Stop and look around once in a while. Breathe it in. It won't be the same in an hour. It will have passed you by.

Sometimes our roles change. Kids get older and don't need you as much, or at least not in the same way. Parents age and suddenly you find yourself parenting them sometimes. My Dad has cancer, multiple myeloma, but blessedly he is in remission. He now uses a cane, and when I'm with him I've become the keeper of the cane. My mantra has become: "Dad! Do you have your cane?"

He's got the everyday cane and the dress cane. I bought the dress cane for him on the wharf in Nantucket. Beautiful wood and a detailed brass handle. The dress cane is reserved for things like church, parties, funerals, that kind of thing, because he's lost canes before.

My Mom has gotten fuzzy, her memory wafting, and my Dad has become her keeper. My oldest childhood friend and I were emailing about our parents recently. Her Dad has prostate cancer, and her Mom is having cataract surgery. Unfortunately, as personal as these things are when it's your family, it's part of the seasons spinning. 

Babies. Blooming. Celebrations. Life keeps spinning. Don't let the spring pass you by unnoticed.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Day Off

We're all busy, right? Once in a while we need a day off. Not cause we're sick, but because we need a break. My grandmother worked for The Reader's Digest, and lovely company that they were, they used to give all their employees every Friday in May off, just because it's such a pretty month. How civilized is that? The picture above is one of my brother's day off. He takes them once in a while, just on account. The picture is from last summer, and he and my son, who were concocting dark and stormies, I think that's what they're called, out on my deck. I like the fact that even though it's hot out and they're barefoot, my son has a knit hat on like it's March. The best mental health days are spontaneous, which that one was. He and his family came for a one night visit, and decided to hang out for another day. Fun.

My daughter and I had a long standing tradition every spring. She would stay home from school one day and we'd go spring clothes shopping and go out for lunch. We did this for years. Girls day. Mother/daughter fun. I adored having her all to myself for the day, but I really could have done without the ear splitting music decibel in Abercrombie and Fitch. I thought that was a very bad marketing move, because most of the kids in there either had their parents credit cards, or their parents with them (minding the kid and the credit card, if they were smart). Adults can only stand that level of noise for so long, I don't care how cool you are. She loved that she didn't have to go to school and not be sick. Mom letting you miss school AND taking you shopping and to lunch. Score.

Kids start driving, grow up, things change. On Friday my kids took me out. We had a lovely time; they are such fun and kind people. I must have done a couple of things right, because they both have very good manners, thanking the waitress and what not. Nice to see. We went to lunch and a movie. We saw "Earth." Amazing scenery and footage. A titch upsetting; we're all animal lovers, but over all really worthwhile.

We had dinner at wonderful friends house Saturday night, caught up with each other and what the respective kids are up to (theirs and ours grew up together), and I got a ride in their sweet new convertible! Great to spend a couple hours with them, and what a fun evening. Always is with them!

Sunday we were invited to brunch at another family's home in celebration of Mother's Day. They're the kind of friends who become part of the family. Wonderful people who have been so kind to my parents throughout the years. Delicious food, great company. They're terrific hosts, you know the kind that make it appear effortless even though they've got a houseful of people? That. 

So, I didn't just have a day off, I really had an entire weekend off! 

(Disclaimer: thank you to everyone who made this possible!)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Games People Play

Do you ever get bored and make up little games or challenges for yourself when you're alone? I bet you do. I will come clean and admit that I do. I have varied ones that I repeat and have grown fond of in my repertoire, but I'm also delighted when a new way to entertain myself occurs to me. 

There's the no stepping on sidewalk cracks, lots of people do that (I think), the checking to make sure the letter you put in the mailbox really did go in there (don't tell me you haven't double checked, I'm not buying that) and so on.

For example, I'm stopped at a red light and I see if I can hold my breath until it turns green again. That one's easy. I also sometimes see if I can count to ten and time it so the light turns green right when 10 pops into my head. A little more challenging, since you really have no way of knowing when that might be. I often lose that game, unless of course you cheat and say "four five six seven.... TEN" the second you see it turn green.   That's kind of a hollow victory though, you know full and well you cheated. Takes the fun right out of it. And if you can't at LEAST be honest with yourself, well, that says a lot right there. I don't know what exactly, but whatever.

Sometimes I involve other people in my games, although they don't know it. If I'm alone at the mall, I'll pick out someone walking along smartly ahead of me, and the race is on: "The lady in the blue sweater passes Williams Sonoma, but Susan is catching up fast. The lady in the blue sweater stops to admire something in the window! Susan takes advantage of the opportunity and narrows the gap... and ladies and gentlemen, Susan passes the lady in the blue sweater!" Sweet!

Sometimes it's seeing how many white cars (or red, or whatever) you see on the roadway you're traveling during your trip. Kind of a self imposed "Eye Spy." You have no one else to interact with, you gotta do something. 

The beauty of this is that it's all you. Tired of counting red cars? Change it up. Quit half way through. Yes, quit! We are so seldom encouraged or allowed to do that! I'm going to form a "Quitters United" club one day, and the club motto shall be: "I don't want to", or possibly, "I don't feel like it." 

The next time someone suggests you do something you don't want to do, try this: look them right in the eye and say, "I would, but I don't feel like it." How powerful would THAT be. That would be AWESOME! 

"Would you like to join me next Sunday for The Boring Pious Ladies Guild meeting? I can swing by and pick you up at noon." "You know, I would, but I'd really rather be on a burning ship at sea. At midnight." (I stole the burning ship at sea thing from someone, Dorothy Parker probably. She's dead, she won't care.)

Singing along with the radio is always good entertainment. Have you ever been singing along and pass someone and they're singing along to the same song on the same station? Now that's fantastic! A kindred spirit right there on the highway next to you that you don't know from Adam. Life is good and the Gods are shining on you. The odds of that happening were a lot better about 20 years ago, because there were like five stations then. Now we have about a million of them, and people are all fancy with their Sirius crap and what not on top of that.

When I lived in Germany, you know how many television channels there were? One. That's right, one. Oh, there were other stations, but of course they were in German. AFN, that was my channel. It sucked for a while because when I first got there, it was all reruns I had seen from the states. Took a year to cycle through and the reruns were new to me then. 

It was kind of refreshing, now that I think about it. It eliminated a lot of chatter about "What did you watch on tv last night?" around the office water cooler. If you watched tv last night, you watched the same damn thing that I did. No shit. 

Anyway, anybody interested in joining the Quitters United Club, the meeting will be at my house..... when I feel like it.

Monday, May 4, 2009

May 5

I was born 48 years ago today, and for fun thought I'd do a little research. In 1961, a new house cost all of $12, 500, the average annual income was $5315.00, and gas was 27 cents a gallon. JFK was inaugurated as our President, the border was closed between East and West Berlin, and Alan B. Shepard became the first American in space (on May 5, 1961). I know this because my parents came home from the hospital with me as well as a commemorative space shuttle coin bank. Cinqo de Mayo is also celebrated on this day.

How interesting that some 20 years later, as a young Army wife, I got to go through Checkpoint Charlie in West Berlin and into East Berlin. It is something I will never forget. I watched some years later on my television in Connecticut as "the wall' was torn down. Full circles are gratifying.

The movie "Breakfast at Tiffany's" came out in 1961 as well. I must have first seen it when I was a teenager, and I fell in love with it. I still watch it periodically; I'm sure I've seen it at least 20 times. I had it on VCR, now DVD. When something replaces our DVD players, I'll have it on whatever that is, too.

I read the book after I saw the movie, when I went through a Truman Capote phase in my reading. (This was also at a time when I took my literature a lot more seriously; I also tackled War and Peace.) The book is darker and not as innocent as the movie. Capote clearly insinuates Holly Golightly is a prostitute in the written version. It's funny how as a young woman I totally missed that in the movie, but this was, after all, in theaters in 1961. They were only allowed to be so risque at the time. 

I loved Holly's apartment with its half-a-claw-foot-bathtub for a sofa, her elaborate updos and her nameless cat. The movie has a charm the book did not, thanks I'm sure in great part to Audrey Hepburn's charisma and classic beauty, and a surprisingly handsome young George Peppard. So even at 48, I will take the happier, campy version and keep my naivete intact. Full circle indeed.

The Itsy Bitsy.....yeah, right!

I hate spiders. Small ones that don't run around like crazy are tolerable if they're not too near, or inside. The bigger they are the scarier they are, and they should not be in your house (or car) at all.

I was driving on the NY State thruway way when the kids were little, my daughter still in a car seat, my son maybe 6. The car was this enormous grey station wagon. That's right, a station wagon. Third seat and everything. How can that be safe, incidentally? Here, let's put children back here! Let's face them so they can see what is coming, perhaps they can warn us of impending doom bringing up the rear! No sense. That car *had* air conditioning, but it never worked. I'm hot, I need working air conditioning. I digress.

So we're cruising along, both kids in the back seat (not the suicide seat, the regular back seat) and I glance in the rear view mirror to check on my angels, and see one of my worst nightmares coming to life. Toddling along the top of the back seat is a large (everything is relative, you'll understand shortly) spider. Right above my baby's head. 

I am going 65ish, in six lanes of cars and trucks. I tell my six year old about the heinous interloper, hoping he will be brave enough to kill it. He is not, and it freaks him out. Hysteria soon overcomes us, my son is yelling; the baby, who had no idea what is going on but knows there must be something horrible happening, is crying, and I'm about to join her. 

I'm trying to drive and keep an eye on the spider. I finally manage to pull over and stop the car, and the spider is located and dealt with accordingly. I take no pleasure in killing spiders, I don't want to kill anything. I don't even want to get near enough to a spider to be able to kill it, but the alternative is to go all Discovery Channel and scoop it up in something for release, and uh no, that is definitely not happening.

Some people are scared of snakes and don't so much care about spiders. I don't really understand that, because how many times have you had a snake in your car, or house? Snakes mind their business. Spiders know no boundaries.

We have been in our current house a couple of years, and when we first moved in, we had new carpeting put in several rooms. Some of it was Karastan, and I believe their base of operations is in the Carolinas. About a month after the carpeting was installed, on a beautiful October morning, I got in the shower. Lather rinse repeat. 

Upon wrapping myself in a towel, something shiny catches my eye on the gray floor. Huh, funny, that looks like.... eyes. My own eyes were not grasping the scope of this ENORMOUS spider, I was simply in disbelief. When the realization hit me, yes, there is a HUGE spider on my bathroom floor, so big that I saw his EYES shining from across the room, I say what any logical person would under these circumstances: "You have got to be (extremely bad word here) kidding me!" Out loud, to myself. No one else is home.

I am home alone, wrapped only in a towel, and the bug spray is down stairs under the kitchen sink. To think of using bug spray on a spider of this size seems laughable, but I couldn't bring myself to kill it any other way, and the humane method is out of the question. This thing was almost as big as my palm, and beefy. I have honestly never seen a spider so big. The only saving grace the spider gives me is that he is staying still, in one place.

I wrestle with what to do. What if I run downstairs and get the spray, and come back and I can't find him? We would have no choice but to sell the house. 

I know no one else will be home for many hours. I really have no choice. I have no one to watch the spider for me or go fetch the spray while I watch him, so I make a run for it. I come back, and he's in exactly the same position, and I thank God (out loud). I don't want to spray him, because I'm afraid once he gets sprayed he's going to freak out and run all over, which will in turn freak me out. I hold my breath and think how absolutely disgusting this thing is, and spray from as far away as my arm will let me. I keep spraying, and this is one hardy mutant freak of a spider. I HAVE to watch him to be sure a: I know where he is at all times and b: to make sure he dies.

Then he does something horrible. He starts to crawl up the bathroom door. I keep spraying until he finally succumbs and drops off the door. He makes a SOUND when he hits the floor. Horrible. He dies, and I have to keep going back multiple times to check on him to be sure he is indeed, good and dead. I leave him there, on the floor, because I cannot even deal with his dead body. When my son came home from school, I made him put the spider in a ziploc bag, because I knew no one would believe me when I told them how BIG this spider was. I showed it off for a couple of weeks to any non believers. How sick am I?

Oh, and those carpet installers? I now know why there were snickering leaving my house. It pains me to think of that spider in my bedroom, maybe even in my bed. If that had happened, I'd be typing this from the local Psychiatric Hospital.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

There's News, And None Of It Is Good

So we have the economy to worry about, that takes up a lot of our time. Swine flu is a new preoccupation, and yesterday I made the mistake of watching Oprah, who was imparting in graphic detail the horror that is MRSA staff infection. People are running around wearing masks for protection, trustworthy looking medical students are raising unholy hell, Sunday school teachers are killing children, and just for fun, the White House sent one of its planes accompanied by a fighter jet and scared the hell out of everyone in Manhattan 9/11 style. Makes you want to stay home in your pj's and cry softly, doesn't it? There is a reason Susan Boyle has captured such interest, and it's because we need a miracle here and there. Something to believe in, something to surprise us and make us smile. We could also benefit from some good old fashioned fun. Watch! And for the love of God, go wash your hands.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Like all Moms I love my kids. They are really just wonderful young people to be around and have around. My son is back home after graduating from college last year, working at the music place he did his internship for. My daughter is also back home after having spent half her freshman year of college away and deciding it was not a good fit for her. She's going to community college full time and is happier.  They are very different people in many respects, my son is a mad guitarist, has his tongue and his lip pierced,  and is very laid back with a hilarious sense of humor. 

My daughter has inherited some of my well known Lucy Riccardo traits. She has a tendency to drop her cell phone in the toilet, lock her keys in the car and otherwise get herself into a pickle. She said very little the first two years or so of her life, and has been making up for it ever since. She is charming, delightful and extremely messy.

I don't think my son  went to a single football game while in high school, and my daughter was her class Prom Queen.  It's hard to see them grow up, because you want to hold on to them, but it's also wonderful to see them grow and flourish. I remember when they were little on Christmas Eve giving them Nyquil to get them to sleep (shut up, yes, I did) and now I have to blast them out of bed. 

With all the home made presents kids give their moms growing up, it's really the moments, little snippets of magic, that mean the most to us. My son was in a band in high school, and it had quite the local following. They played the pep rally, talent show and coffee house at their high school. They got their first "real" gig at a local club and there was much excitement about it. I had a home inspection that day that I could not move, and they were due to go on at a certain time, and of course I wanted badly to be there. Their first show! I figured if all went well I could make most of their set. My son was anxious for me to be there, too. 

The inspection dragged on and I was increasingly worried I'd miss the whole thing, and not one bit happy about it. After it finally finished, I hopped in my car thinking even if the band was walking out, he'd know I TRIED. I walked in the club and as luck would have it they had just gone on stage. The little club was packed with their high school friends and some supportive parents. 

My son was up to introduce the next song, it was dark, the spot lights were on them, and he said into the microphone, "This next song is for all the ladies in the house, and also my Mom, who couldn't be here."  A kid in the audience yells, "Dude, your Mom is here!"

 I had been trying to be as unobtrusive as possible. He is looking for me, the lights in his face making it difficult. He finally spots me, breaks out in big smile and says, "Hey Mom," and off they went into their song. 


I met my daughter for lunch yesterday between her classes. I see her waiting for me in her car as I pull up, and I think how can this little girl be driving? We have lunch, casual; pizza. She uses too much salt. Me too. We chat, she's full of stories about one of her professors, the college making the entire campus no smoking, whatever. It's a beautiful spring day, we walk around a little and admire the cherry trees in full bloom. She's wearing jeans, flip flops and a top with spaghetti straps. I look for sunglasses, since I lost mine (the apple does not fall far from the tree). We get back in our respective cars, she back to college, me headed home. We're at a red light and she looks over at me, smiles and waves.

If the sun wasn't already out, her smile would have coaxed it. How lucky am I?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

I'm on my way to an appointment this morning and I'm stopped at any one of the million traffic lights that lead to our local outlet center. These traffic lights are close together, and are carefully and strategically timed, so that the resultant situation on the roadway resembles Los Angeles rush hour. On Labor Day. Only with more cars. Maybe less honking. The outlet center attracts shoppers from all over the world, literally. People come from Japan and stay in hotels in order to shop here. No fooling. You stroll around, and the announcements over the loud speaker are in at least five different languages. One of them is English. So, I'm sitting waiting for the light to change and it happens. The car next to me has their window rolled down and its occupants are looking at me plaintively. I have nothing better to do for the next 27 seconds or so of my life, so I slide my passenger window down, and being polite, ask "Can I help you?" A couple is in the car; the man apparently is in charge of both driving and speaking. "Where's the mall?" he shouts. "Up your ass" is the first thing that wants to come out of my mouth, since he is without any manners whatsoever.  As I am with manners, however, I say, "Do you mean the Outlet Center?" "Yes!" comes the reply. "Straight ahead," I say. He points over to the exit ramp to the right, which will take him on the thruway and far, far away from the Outlet Center. I consider this. "No," I tell him, "straight ahead." (He could throw a rock at it at he's so close.) I can only hope someone stole his wallet.