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.