Saturday, January 31, 2009

Oh Shut UP, Rush…!

President Obama has been in office for eleven days, and already the Republican noise machine is gearing up to pin everything that ails the country on him. For instance, did you know that Mr. Obama is solely responsible for selling off our country to Asia? This re-writing of history practically as it unfolds… It's mind-boggIing, and ultimately a complete waste of a creditable amount of creativity and wiliness that could be put to a much more positive use, given the mess we're in. I fail to understand how it's going to accomplish anything in the way of solving the problems, regardless of who created them. But politics is not about solving problems, advancing human society, or serving the public. It's about pinning as much blame as possible on the party in power, when it is not YOUR party…the better to position your party to regain power next time around.

Aren't we all sick to death of this?

Earlier this week, Rush Limbaugh, the standard-bearer for the right-wingnut crybabies, made the "outrageous" declaration that he hopes Mr. Obama fails. As if that is a surprise.

So I've dreamed up a little fantasy back and forth between Rush and me

Were the liberals out there hoping Bush succeeded or were they out there trying to destroy him before he was even inaugurated? (We did not destroy Bush, Rush. He did that all by himself.)

Why do we have to play the game by their rules? (Those are NOT our rules. They're yours. Go back in history to 1992 and take a look at how YOU hounded Bill Clinton from day one.)

Why do we have to accept the premise here that because of the historical nature of [Obama's] presidency, that we want him to succeed? (Because if he doesn't succeed, you dipshit, this whole country is going down the toilet. Not you, of course. YOU won't have to worry about not having a job. You will continue to sit in your antiseptic, Republican-funded ivory tower and disseminate malignant misinformation when what people desperately need is hope and hard answers to hard questions. )

This is affirmative action, if we do that. (There it is! "Affirmative Action!" A buzz-term designed to get the good ole boys all riled up… I mean, "activate the base." We knew one of those would sneak in here somewhere.)

We want to promote failure, we want to promote incompetence, we want to stand by and not object to what he's doing simply because of the color of his skin?
(Of course not! We only promote failure and incompetence based on party affiliation…)

…We're talking about my country, the United States of America, my nieces, my nephews, your kids, your grandkids. Why in the world do we want to saddle them with more liberalism and socialism? Why would I want to do that? (Dear god…we can't have our kids learning tolerance, patience, self-control..or—god forbid—how to form a coherent sentence…)

So I can answer it, four words, "I hope he fails." And that would be the most outrageous thing anybody in this climate could say. (Outrageous? Not for you, Rush. You passed "outrageous" decades ago. Stupid? Seditious? Possibly even treasonous? Wait…I forgot. That flag-waving stuff is only valid when YOUR guy holds the office.)

Enough, dammit. Enough already.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Flicker (as opposed to "Flickr")

Pressing on towards Valentine's Day, I probably won't have enough time or residual wits about me to do much more than post a picture or two...and that, only if I somehow have the incredible luck for my inspiration to correspond with a spare moment to run for the camera and click off a few shots...

That said, here's a flicker in my back yard feeder.

I thought it was amusing that he was planted in the middle of this little feeder that I normally use to attract chickadees and other small birds.

This guy is definitely not a chickadee. Or small. In fact, he pretty much takes up the whole feeder all by himself.

I've never seen a flicker in my feeders before, though I've seen them pecking around on the grounds underneath. Looks like my wild bird seed with suet nuggets found a fan...


Monday, January 26, 2009

On beauty

It bothers me that beauty is so important, yet I'm so susceptible to its promises. I know of no female who has ever been fat who hasn't been told that some aspect of her life would be better if she were only thinner. You'll never get a boyfriend or have a good social life got replaced with you'll never get a good job looking that way. Despite that all of that was proved false, there were times it felt true. Right out of college, I lost a job to a friend I had helped with classes all throughout college. My GPA was over a full point higher than hers. I had more experience. Our grooming and attire were equally comparable and perfectly prescribed for the dress for success eighties. Back then, I saw her only real edge over me was that she was thin. I didn't recognize now that her natural extroversion and self-confidence made a huge difference.

Look on any job hunting web site and you'll find that pretty people do get jobs and higher incomes with more ease than we plainer people. The difference is even greater between fat and thin people. Read deep enough and you'll find that confidence is usually the determining factor in how one's appearance is perceived. It's a Catch-22 though. The more confident I feel, the better I look, and the better I look, the more confident I feel. Let the job rejections pile up, and confidence will wane, and my looks will show it, making it harder to fake seeming confident.

Recently Mary wrote on the dos and don'ts of job hunting, "1) Do not be over 50. If you are over fifty, try to not look it. Do remember botox or collagen treatments. Never underestimate the effect of teeth whitening and hair dying." Lisa wrote about a woman feeding her kids Cheerios so she could get Botox. Though still shy of the fifty mark, I've found a lot more truth in those comments than I do about confidence making the difference. Days after I started my last job I knew that it wasn't going to be the right fit, even though I was determined to make it work. All the training videos featured white women in their twenties, wearing no more than a size six, and over 90% of them had blonde hair. After a while, every one who worked in my shop joked that there was no way we would get ahead in this company, because none of us fit the mold. We were either too old, too big or the wrong color. Not a one of us is still employed by them.

For months, I sat along side younger women and men with less experience going after the same jobs I was. Doing my post interview analysis of every rejection, I'd look at all my questions and answers, but I couldn't also help noticing that my wrinkles show more now than before I lost weight. My hands are undeniably wrinkled and veined. They just don't look as appealing when I hold out a pen to sign a contract. I was limping at an interview one day after a bicycle crash, and I just knew they were thinking arthritis, not exercise related injury. How big a role did those play? I'll never know, but I can't stop wondering.

Where I work now, my co-workers range from their early 20s to their 60s, and a size 0 to a size 28. We're Caucasian, African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic. What we do is help women look and feel their most beautiful for a day many see as the most important in their life. When you see a girl or a woman who doesn't normally feel pretty look in a mirror and realize she's beautiful, that feels damn good.

The beauty industry is geared to make us always feel like we're lacking something. In a culture obsessed with not just beauty, but youth, there are days when even looking great for a woman my age or older doesn't feel like enough. But that's the way the beauty industry wants us to feel. A sense of inadequacy and need is what keeps people buying, especially during an economic turndown.

I'm really tired of it, but I'm still playing the game. The harder times are, the more important it seems to put on a good face. I've read about re-prioritizing your budget to make beauty more affordable, but that's just common sense. I've also read about a study showing that larger models in ads actually sell more than than thinner models. Women are more able to see themselves when looking at a size 12 model than a size 2. This ought to make sense to the fashion and beauty industry, but it won't until consumers make that happen.

Friday, January 23, 2009

remaking America...

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin
, downloaded from The Washington Independent


A little over 400 years ago, Shakespeare knew it. In The Merchant of Venice, Portia says: "
I fear you speak upon the rack, Where men enforced do speak anything."

Thursday, hitting the ground running, President Obama signed an executive order putting an end to "enhanced interrogation techniques", including waterboarding.

This i
s a very, very, very, very, very good thing.

And there are more good things to come. I'm sure of it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tightening Our Belts...Or Something

Remember those days when Mom would patch that hole in a sweater rather than throw it out and run off to Macy’s for a new one? Or when Dad “bondo”-ed rust holes in the car, instead of trading it in for the latest model when it showed a little wear? Remember Mom and Dad putting away pennies for years toward that first color TV? (For that matter, remember the TV repairman? Those guys aren’t around anymore…if the thing breaks—which it is programmed to do after an amazingly meager number of viewing hours—we just throw it in the landfill and head off to Best Buy.)

If we have any hope of wading out of the mess created by the implosion of our 21st century greed-powered economy, we not only need to remember, but make every effort to return to those thrifty values of our distant past. Comparing the indulgences my family guiltily allowed forty years ago with today’s tendency to think nothing of dropping several hundred dollars on the newest electronic toy or designer gew-gaw, or several thousand (or hundred thousand) on the most testosterone-pumping or status-screaming conveyance, I seriously doubt the feasibility of this mandate.

All this talk of tightening our belts, listening to our better angels, and rejecting our recent “collective failure to make hard choices” is good. It’s relevant. It’s necessary.

But is it…possible?

Under a headline of “Nipping Less…Tucking Away Cash,” a feature in today’s Oregonian reported the recent downward trend in the local cosmetic surgery industry, assumedly brought on by our national economic crisis. Seems that significant numbers of the “Real Housewives of Multnomah County” are finding it necessary to choose the cheaper option of Botox injections (at $400 a pop) over spendier (elective) cosmetic surgery. The opening paragraph of the article tugged our heart strings with the sad dilemma of a woman who would have to choose between botoxing her forehead and erasing the varicose veins in her legs (she chose the Botox, because, after all, she could “always wear pants”…!)

And then there was this telling little tid-bit:

"I know people who say… I'll feed my kids Cheerios if it means I can get my Botox…”

My fellow Americans:

We. Are. Screwed.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


One of the advantages of being "free" today was the chance to watch history take place.

I guess all of us will have our own take on what happened this morning. The expression on the President Elect's face as he came down the hall to take the oath. His face said to me "I have a right to be here." Not only did he take the oath on the Bible Abraham Lincoln used' but Lincoln was sworn in by Chief Justice Taney. Taney basically said in the Dred Scott Decision that blacks "are so far inferior that they had no rightswhich the white man was bound to respect." How far we have come and how far we still have to go.

And my take on the president's speech is this. If we give up all that we are we may lose all that we have. That we have much in our history to be proud of. That it's long past time to remember who we were, reclaim it and rebuild a nation our children (nephews) will be proud of.

Reality will set in tomorrow, and we'll have to start rebuilding. But for now, Lord Almighty what a day.


I actually got up this morning thinking about…Valentine's Day. The menu, in fact, finally crystallized in my mind. And I thought about how now I can go to the cafĂ© and complete my signage, and let people know what the menu is, and start taking reservations… This is how single-minded I've become. This is how much of a slave to the dream I am.

At 8:00 I jumped in the shower. And at 8:30, I glanced at the clock, thinking I was right on track for getting to work at 9:00, my scheduled time of arrival. 9:00 Pacific Time. Noon, Eastern Standard Time. The exact time our 44th president was scheduled to take the oath of office.

And I stopped short, and I thought…what the f*** am I doing?

So I threw on my make-up, turned on my television, and sat down. Sat down to witness, at least by live TV, history in the making. A history for which I have been longing for eight long years…and for which this nation, and a people dragged from their homeland to serve as slaves to the founders, have been longing for far longer than that.

In this same room, on this same television, I watched, terrified, mesmerized, the saga of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That, too, was history in the making. A sad, desperate and evil history. A history which plunged our nation into a deep moral, ethical and spiritual vacuum. (Though who is to say that the recently defunct administration would not have led us there anyway…without any help from Osama Bin Laden?)

So now…finally. Finally. We have a new president. A new administration. A new direction. And that direction is "up." "Down" is not an option. Nor is sideways. Perhaps we had to go so far down…descend into hell, as it were, to get to this day in history. To clamor for this level of hope. To throw off the backward-thinking, the returning to old hatreds, the nurturing of old grievances.

Today is day one.




Monday, January 19, 2009

January 20, 2009

Tomorrow is almost here.

Tomorrow we see the back of George W. Bush.

Momentous enough… But, pined for and overdue as it is,

Tomorrow is so much more than just an ending.

Tomorrow is the pink-gold light of a promising dawn.

Tomorrow is all stop, full reverse, and come about 180 degrees.

Tomorrow is making right and stepping up.

Tomorrow is gathering together and getting down to business.

Tomorrow is hitting the ground running.

Tomorrow is change, and all hopes are high.

Tomorrow is history.

Inauguration Eve...

Tomorrow's the day.

The day we've been waiting for for so long; the beginning of a new era. I wish I didn't have to go to work. I wish I could stay home and watch. This is historic. I have a bottle of champagne chilling in the 'fridge. It's almost time to celebrate. Like so many other Americans, I can hardly wait.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

It's not so much fun to watch either.

She says, "He'll get over it."
She says, "It's just a joke."
She says, "He's got drama."
She says, "I'll get over it."
She says, "I'm really mad at my boyfriend."
She says, "We'll get back together."
She says, "I'm sad Mom."

Maybe yes. Maybe no. To all of the above. At any point during the day.

She's sad. She's hurt. She's mad. She's worried. She's exhausted.

She's blue. She's hopeful too.

But I must caution her against being girlfriend and boyfriend again. At least for a while. I must caution her to remain a friend only, for the time being. I have to somehow show her that creating or enabling a cycle of breaking up and getting back together is not a good thing.

This break up is not the first but it has become the worst (for her).

I think I may have underestimated the extent of their relationship. The deep, abiding love they carry for each other.

I believe that when it's happened in the past it's been so brief as to be 'cute' (forgive me -- it is never cute) or immature or a mimicry of what has gone on in their lives, and I didn't give it enough thought or notice. Or credence?

I must caution that those ups and downs are not emotionally healthy. In fact, they are very bad for her. For anyone. But how to explain that?

I have to remember, I have to feel, and I have to understand that she is a young adult now and she feels the very same emotions that we all feel and that my responsibility is to protect her ... well ... from herself.

I know all of that. I'd just forgotten. [reads as if the forgetting is no big deal -- but it is]

In the Sweetness and the Cute-ness and the First Love-ness of their relationship, in the Pure-ness and the Honest-ness, The innocence, this mother dropped the ball. I didn't prepare her for ups and downs, although any small difficulties have been helped along as they occur [from both the moms and sometimes the dads].

I am quite sure if he called her today and asked, "Hey Em, will you be my girlfriend?" She would say, "Oh S. Sure! It's fine." And while I would like to allow that yes, it is fine ... I guess I'm thinking that it is and it isn't.

Note to self: She's more in touch and in tune with things than even I sometimes give her credit for. Knowing. Understanding. Loving. Caring. Hurting. Feeling. Forgiveness.

How do we Moms handle a break up? With as much grace and understanding as is humanly possible. We have special children, now young adults, who have been first pre-schoolers together and then friends and then eventually girlfriend and boyfriend. We must think first of our own child and what is best for each of them. We can't allow this break up or moment or temporary set back to come between us and I've enough faith in our own friendship that we won't.

I've no doubt that Emily will remain a friend for life. Loyalty comes to mind. Acceptance. Love. Kindness. Caring. It's all unconditional on her part. She's made that way. If you are her friend you are wrapped in a cocoon of love and loyalty.

I'm sure it's not healthy for her to feel and hold on the way she does, but her life experiences aren't as broad or varied as [yours and] mine and it's difficult to know if the explanation given actually gets through in the way it's intended.

Keeping a close eye on her in an attempt to gauge her feelings has proven to be something along the lines of unreliable. If I bring up S or the breakup I hear, "oh don't worry about it mom."

But if I listen to the quiet I see and hear another story all together.

I see and hear sad.

cross posted @ Flamingo Feathers

I know sooner posted this entry here ... walked down the hallway to hear Em having a phone conversation. "Oh, it's okay. Alright honey." LOL ... sort of. She called him. He apologized. "We're back together!"

Which, as I mentiond above is and isn't okay. I'll spend some time chatting with J this week and eventually we'll figure this all out.

Thank You, Thank You Very Much

When the Christmas season was nearing an end, when the wrapping paper and ribbon where long gone. When the tree was drooping and looking as if it were time for the curb. When it snowed in December and vacation lasted several weeks though it seemed like a dream. When the Christmas cookies were gone and the decorations were coming down, that was the time when my Mother would gather us up and sit us down at the kitchen table with blank paper in front of us and order us to write our "thank you" notes.

They were laborious affairs. It seemed the words would not come into my head let alone flow from the #2 pencil held between my nail bitten fingers. Inspiration would not make a visit and the four of us would stare blankly at the empty pages and sneak quick glances at each others work to see if any progress had been made.

They were usually the same bland carbon copy letter to each of my Aunt and Uncles. I'm certain would begin this way, "Dear Aunt M&J, Thank you for the blankedy blank. I really like it (usually clothes or a book). I plan on reading (wearing) it right away. Thank you. Love,......."

Does anyone write thank you notes any more? Or has the ease of picking up the telephone replaced that kitchen table with the stacks of lined paper and sharpened pencils? Maybe an e-mail? Is receiving a note in the mail a lost art? Is this traditional show of respect, good manners and thankfulness gone the way of the dinosaur? Or the anticipated usual response of no response.

I think not! Yesterday I pulled out of my mailbox a letter, not a labor intensive note the likes of which I wrote, but a letter decorated in pink, blue, purple, red and yellow magic markers that read.....

"Dear Aunt Mary and Uncle Joe,
When we went to see WICKED I saw a lot of cool stuff. The play was awesome. I really want to see it again but it costs a lot of money. My favorite caracter, I mean character was either Glinda the Good Witch or Elphaba the Wicked Witch, even though she wasn't really wicked. I wanted a souvenir so I bought a tee shirt that says "I Love OZ" with the money you gave me for Christmas. Thank you so much for the money. I love the shirt I bought with it. It was the best play I've ever seen. It was really long but I was not bored one single second. My next goal is to get on Broadway or do a traveling show like the Wicked actresses and actors. Glinda had the prettiest blonde(sic), curled perfectly hair and Elphaba had the sleeked and straightest black hair. I was sooooooo jealos (sic). Thank you for the great memories I got with the money you gave me. I love you guys.
Love, ZZ"

This kid is 11 years old!! I doubt I could write with such passion and impact!

The thank you note is not dead but alive and living in the hearts of little kids everywhere.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


I'm not on the table, I'm in the sack. Well, the sack is on the table............but, I'm not really on the table.

Friday, January 16, 2009


As someone said yesterday afternoon, first there was the Miracle on 34th street and yesterday there was a miracle on the Hudson.

I want to pay tribute to a remarkable set of circumstances. If someone had written a film about what happened on the Hudson River yesterday, they’d catch hell for all the fortunate “coincidences” that led to a damn near perfect outcome.

Mom suddenly decided we needed to watch the news yesterday afternoon. There in the middle of the screen, in the middle of the water was the tail fin of a plane surrounded by boats of all sizes. WTF is a mild version of what ran through my mind. As the story unfolded that afternoon and this morning, “damn, you have got to be kidding” was the refrain.

But, think about all the things that had to come together. The size of the plane: I don’t think you could land a 747 on the Hudson River. Of course a 747 might have made it to the field at Teterboro, thank heaven we’ll probably never have to find out. The destination; the plane was going to Charlotte before heading to Seattle. The fuel tanks in the wings weren’t full helping to keep the plane from sinking. And the engine mounts are designed to shear away if necessary; leaving the wings intact. The passengers and fight attendants; yeah they were scared but they kept their heads and they helped each other. All those boats; ferries, tugs and I don’t know what all homed in on that plane like iron filings to a magnet. I saw shot today of the first boat heading towards the plane. Somehow I don’t think river ferries normally go quite that fast.

And finally the pilot. And this is the part that would have most of us going, “ah come on,” if it was fiction. He got his pilot’s license before he learned to drive, flew fighter planes, and has been a commercial pilot for nearly thirty years. The thing is he flies gliders as a hobby. He knew his ship, and I suspect he knew the Hudson well enough to know the best section of the river to try for; the one with docks and boats on both sides, and he trusted himself to bring it off.

Following a tradition that goes back to the old sailing ships, passengers and crew on planes are often referred to as “souls on board.” And like those captains of centuries past this captain brought all the souls in his care to a safe harbor.
We’ve heard the word hero tossed round a lot over the past few years. This is one time one the title is well earned.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Million Dollars

I was walking out of the hotel struggling under the weight of two heavy bags and an overloaded purse. Wondering why there is never a bellman when you need one, I plunged into the frigid air bracing myself against the blast of wind that immediately engulfed me. A man was walking towards me and I briefly thought, "Maybe he will offer to help me!!" but no, he smiled and said, "Cold isn't it?".

I responded instead of just smiling back and nodding, "Freeze your lungs".

He stopped and turned around towards me and began to speak, "The strangest thing happened.." he began. To not be rude, I stopped and gave him my attention, thinking this couldn't take long and I mercifully put down the baggage...."I was hit by a Transylvania college student while traveling with my family. He had no insurance and my car is wrecked. We spent the night in the emergency room at the hospital...." Yes, there is a hospital directly across the intersection from the hotel...."because my insurance does not have rental. I am walking around trying to find some help."

I offered some "help", "Go into the hotel and find the number for Southland Christian Church, they are the largest church in the area and I think they might be able to help some way".

"You go to that church?"

"I use to, when I lived here."

"Where do you live now?"


He began to walk towards the doors, "I only need eight more dollars to get a room at the Quality Inn."


I picked up my bags and began to walk away, but something in my heart gave a tug and I reached into my purse and pulled out a five dollar bill and offered it to him. "It's not $8 but it's all I have." (why did I lie?)

He took it and said, "It's like a million dollars to me."

We parted and he went into the hotel and I made the final 30 yards to the car mentally kicking myself in the butt for once again handing money over to a panhandler.

But was he?

It was most certainly one of the better stories I've heard. And truth be told, I've given money to a lot less creative solicitations. Still, it was awfully cold outside!

I remember the first time I was hit up for "change". I was in the drive thru off Interstate 75. I was so startled that I remember letting out a scream when a man leaned into my window and requested money to eat. I rolled my window up and drove away. I immediately felt bad and the horribleness of it stayed with me all day.

When I see them standing close to the highways with their signs, "Unemployed Vet' or "Lost Job" and just the other day, "Traveling through and hungry" I think how unbelievably sad it is. How they stand there with that vacant look, not making any eye contact. In rags.

And I wonder if they are professional panhandlers.

And when I meet someone as I did today, someone who may be in real need, I do not like the fact that I am cynical and jaded.

A million dollars. It makes me smile.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

In Search Of Owls

I posted these images on one of my blogs, so I apologize if I'm a little redundant here. But, they represents one of the most exciting experiences I've had in quite awhile. I've started to try to follow the birdwatcher's buzz out here on Long Island. There is a very active board where bird enthusiasts post what they've sited and where. Well...the word was out (and there were images to prove it) that there are snowy owls on Long Island this winter. Apparently, there have not been snowy owl sitings here in the last six years. This was an irresistible challenge. I contacted my photo friend Lori (YES! I have made a friend) and we decided to try and find a snowy owl. The boards were pretty specific where to go and look. We headed out to Jones Beach with high anticipation but minimal expectation of seeing one of these birds. Surprisingly, we found one rather quickly, perched conspicuously on a dune. This owl was quite tolerant and essentially posed for us as long as we were interested. It was a pleasure just to stand and gaze at this magnificent bird...much less, capture an image.

Once is not enough...

I went out a second time alone, leaving my house before dawn. Jones Beach is about an hour from where I live and I arrived just as the sun was starting to rise. I started down the path toward where we'd seen the owl before. As I walked along, I saw a dark bird and a white bird in a mid air confrontation. I initially thought the light bird was a gull but as I watched, I knew the flight was not right. At that point, I knew it must be an owl. I quickly looked through my camera and sure wasl ( I later learned it was being harassed by a peregrine falcon). I had started out with my camera set for what I anticipated I might find...a motionless owl in low light. So, even through I fired off a number of shots, I had nothing of value. This was all taking place in a matter of seconds. I knew I was losing the opportunity and was able to get my shutter speed and ISO adjusted quickly enough to catch one worthwhile image. While it's a little noisy not as sharp as I'd like, I'm thrilled with this capture.

snowy owl


snow starling

It has stopped snowing (thank god) and the more Oregon-like rain and balmy (50 degrees) temps have obliterated almost all vestiges of the disaster, save the remains of the extra-large mounds created by the few pitiful attempts to plow.

But I took this photo on the first snow-day, when the snow was still pretty. It's a starling. Happy but grungy birds. His background in this pic makes him look like a million bucks.

a different drummer...

If a man does not keep pace with his companions,
Perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
Let him step to the music which he hears,
However measured or far away...

Henry David Thoreau

I didn't give my Christmas party this year, but if I had, there was a guy that I see sometimes at Starbuck's whom I might have invited. He's a tall, slim (but there's a reason for that, which I'll get to), good looking guy who usually reads the NY Times. I first noticed him because of the way he dresses: in winter, he wears loafers with socks, worn, comfortable looking khakis, a polo shirt and a navy blue blazer; in summer he wears loafers with no socks, worn, comfortable looking khaki shorts, a polo shirt and a navy blue blazer. It's the summer garb that I noticed first, of course. An interesting, if rather eccentric, look, but I'm not at all put off by eccentricity; in fact, for the most part, I value it. I commented on the look to A right away (this was a couple of years ago): "Have you seen that guy who wears a blazer with shorts?"

A had, of course, as he's at that Starbucks more often than I am. He assured me this was simply a Northeastern look. Uh-huh. A spent all his formative years, from the time he was 12 until he graduated from college, attending school in the northeast (yeah, A's a preppie and a Harvard man), whereas I've only visited the northeast a few times, so although I'd never seen another guy in shorts and a blazer, I figured, what do I know?

On weekend mornings, my neighborhood Starbucks is heavily populated by various people from the neighborhood, including a number of people in their 50's and 60's. Having lived in my house since 1984, I know a lot of these people because our children went to school together. This guy is not part of that group, though. He does have two grown children, but they're older than my oldest, so I hadn't met him as a fellow parent. Still, there are plenty of people in that group who are new to me for various reasons. A knows more of these people than I do, and accordingly, when I meet A there for coffee, he's sometimes talking with some of these people whom I don't know, with the result that I've been introduced and have ended up making new friends. There are people who take the position that they have enough friends, but I'm not one of them. I'm always up for making new friends, and I've welcomed the opportunity to get to know some of these people. I've expanded my Christmas party invitation list accordingly, with excellent results. Everyone I've met and ended up inviting to my Christmas party has been interesting and a welcome addition.

Eventually, I made the acquaintance of M. It turns out that he's a retired accountant. We've talked a few times about the things that people our age talk about: politics, books, our children. In November, when Mike was in town, we went to Starbucks on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Kath met us there with Xander, who ended crawling all over Mike, whom he adores. M came over and said hello and asked how old Xander was. He mentioned that he was writing a woman who has a six-year-old, and said he wondered what that was like. I thought then that if I gave my Christmas party, I might invite him. He seemed interesting to me.

But I didn't get around to giving the party this year. It's a lot of work, and I had plenty of family activities planned without adding the work of doing that party. And I didn't give another thought to M until A came over one day between Christmas and New Year's and said, "Wanna know something interesting about M?"

"Sure!" I said, thinking maybe A would tell me he was an avid kayaker or some such thing.

"He's living in his car," A said.

"What?!?!? He is not!"

"Yes he is!"

"How do you know that?"

"Because I asked him."

Whoa. In a million years I wouldn't have been able to ask M if he were living in his car. It seems the question came about because A saw his car, and noticed that the passenger seat was reclined, with a sleeping bag in it, and there were all these clothes stuffed in the he simply asked M if he were living in his car, and M said yes. Apparently, he's been living in his car for quite a while, i.e., maybe a year or two. A immediately said that if he wanted to, M could shower or do laundry at his place, but M said no, he uses the neighborhood recreation center. I didn't know we had one, and I'm not even sure where it is, but apparently he uses it because he's always clean as well as clean shaven.

I'm bothered by this. I know that M cannot be rescued. I don't even know if he wants to be rescued. But it poses a million questions. How could this happen? This is someone who is educated, and was probably licensed. At one time he had a job and a family and a house. He worked for a couple of big companies, so he must have had some sort of retirement plan, as well as social security. That doesn't all just disappear, no matter what bad luck you may have, so did M make a conscious decision one day that he was going to punt it all to live in his car? I'm sufficiently practical that I could understand someone doing this for a month or so, between places, to save money. But I can't actually imagine even doing that myself, and to decide to live in your car indefinitely, in your sixties? Never a good night's sleep, never a decent meal (of course he's slim!)...I can't really comprehend that. One of his adult children lives here, but M has said he does not get along with that child, who has not taken him in, so that hardly seems a reason to stay.

How does one decide to live in a car? And why stay here, in this solidly middle class neighborhood? It's hardly the most economical place to live, even in a car, and he must have to find side streets to park on at night, to avoid the police, because I'm pretty sure they would not be sympathetic to anyone sleeping in their car. And why spend your time in Starbucks, drinking overpriced coffee with no free refills? Why not LaMadeleine, where it's air conditioned in the summer and there's a fireplace blazing in cold weather, and where, for $2.50, you can have endless free refills of coffee as well as some free bread, butter and jam, all day long if you like. Why isn't he working somewhere? He's attractive, articulate, educated...surely someone would hire him to do something. I'm pretty sure this is not just my way of reassuring myself that this could never happen to me. And why the blazer?

I don't begin to understand...

This entry is cross posted at Talking to Myself.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I'm still here....going around in circles

Today is the first day in over a week that I've sat down to read any blogs. I decided to start here because participating in this group is important to me. I so admire all the women here. The first thing I read was Lisa's request that we all try and post more frequently. I know I am the worst offender so I've made a cup of tea and will now try and summarize what's going on in my head since I don't have anything particularly profound to discuss.

In the last few years, I have felt more and more like I just don't have a clue what to do with myself. It's not for lack of ideas...I could easily fill a page with things I want to do. I think it's about settling on one thing at the expense of everything else, because there are only 24 hours in a day.

Of course, the things that "must be done" come first, even though they're often the least interesting or fun. Then, there's a LONG list of what could be happening in my "spare time". Is anyone else drowning in prospective projects? I am, and it's paralyzing. I can't figure it out.

When you have a dozen things you WANT to do, why is it so hard to just pick one and do it?

Excuse me while a do a little brain barf here...because I don't know how to verbalize this eloquently.

Here's a (very) abreviated list...I want to:

get my hard drives cleaned up and organized
teach myself some new photoshop techniques
get to the gym regularly to swim
work on sewing projects I have started
start new artsy projects using new techniques I've come across
learn about processing raw photos
look for opportunities to teach aqua fitness
go into NY and see a friend
get out regularly for a photoshoot...then process the images in a timely fashion
get some long overdue letters written to old friends
post in my blogs more frequently
stay up to date with blogs I'm interested in
update my website

You get the idea.

So, where do I start? For me, a list like this gets broken up into the things I SHOULD do versus the things I'd simply like to do. But, that still doesn't get me much of anywhere. In the last week, I think I've touched on two. I have gotten to the gym to swim (3 times) and I've been out taking pictures once. Oops, I guess I should give myself credit for blog posting....I am writing this now after all. It should come as no surprise that I still feel overwhelmed. When will I get to all this and what should take priority?

Is anyone else like this? When it comes to allocating time to your true interests, how do you choose what comes first? I've become proficient at procrastinating it ALL, convincing myself that NOW is not the time to start THAT (whatever THAT du jour may be). You know, it feels like one ferocious case of ADD.

I wonder if this is something that comes with midlife. We've spent years working and/or raising our families and not prioritizing ourselves. Now, we have some time to do what we want to do with our lives. I feel the time ticking and I want to make sure it's spent doing something that will be meaningful to me....something I feel I'm "meant" to do. Lisa has done it....she's bought a resteraunt. Robin has gone to seminary. But here's Kat, running around like a chicken without a head, still not knowing what she wants to be when she grows up. Sometimes I think I'll never figure it out. How did you?

An observation in the dark

3:00 a.m. If it's possible to truly dislike an hour of the day, this one gets my vote. I'm awake far too often at this hour. Is it my changing middle aged body clock? Is it habit? Is it just the delusion that I'm still young and can go without sleep without paying for it? I don't know.

I do know that this is a still and silent hour. Those are states that I normally embrace, but lately I've been running from them. I've always loved silence because in its emptiness, I heard what I needed to hear. Silence provided the conduit to creativity, to recharging my batteries, to connection with God/dess. Now, in the silence, I hear nothing but a squeaking treadmill of old, destructive thoughts. I'm convinced that escaping the contents of our minds is why we so often turn on the noise.

That distraction isn't working for me, and neither is silence. The challenge then is to find a new way to find what silence once gave me. I'm a creature of routine, an if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it kind of girl, and I don't want to admit that my silent ways of reaching my better self and my Creator are broken. I also wonder if even though I'm not turning on the noise, I'm still holding back from entering the silence.

One of my favorite meditation images has been floating in a beautiful pool of water. It's outdoors and surrounded by trees and other greenery. The temperature of both the air and the water are perfect, cool enough to be refreshing, warm enough to be soothing. There's a soft breeze, and it's blowing leaves onto the pool. Those leaves are my thoughts, and as they get closer to me, I gently blow them away until the water and I am still again. I think I've reversed the process. I'm inhaling, taking in and holding every thought, letting them choke me.

Through difficult times, I often have to remind myself to take a deep breath. Filling my lungs with fresh air gives my body part of its essential survival fuel. It's time to remember to exhale. Anything you hold onto either too long for the wrong reasons eventually turns stale and rots.

3:00 a.m. It's quiet and still, and I've been reminded to empty myself to renew myself. There has to be room for the silence to enter me. This night, this morning, this is an hour to enjoy.

This entry is cross posted at Sorting The Pieces.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Alphawoman's Do's and Don'ts for the Job Interview Process

Since I am earnestly in the job hunt mode I have learned a few things the past couple of months that I will share with ya'll.

1) Do not be over 50. If you are over fifty, try to not look it. Do remember botox or collagen treatments. Never underestimate the effect of teeth whitening and hair dying.

2) Do have something that fits. Never wait until the last moment (that morning) to pull out your best suit only to find that you can not button it. And if you somehow are able to button it (by laying on bed and sucking in your gut) that the button does not pop off when you breath.

3) Be sure to begin your job search BEFORE the ECONOMY tanks.

4) Prepare for questions that may be asked during the interview process. Such as, "Who was your best boss and why?" that you do not launch into a three minute ramble about Duffy and how he motivated the cocktail waitress to work harder with a $100 bonus to the one that pushes the most alcohol beverages during a week's time. Once you are in the middle of it you are realize you do not know if your interviewer is a teetotaler whose father died of liver failure plus you have just revealed you were once a cocktail waitress!! When the slight panic settles in you once again begin to ramble about your worst boss being a woman and how you just can't work for a woman! Because at the conclusion of the interview you are informed that you (if you get the job...fat chance) will direct report to a woman.

5) Be prepared to answer the most inane questions. For example, "Where did you go to High School?" ...(WTF??)...and you supply the answer with the name of a Central Kentucky Catholic High School. "What was your primary area of study?"...(WTF? 35 years ago?) so that you do not blurt out some smart ass answer such as "Well, religion naturally!". Also be prepared to list your extracurricular activities, which when I was asked (I swear to God) all I could think of was us driving down those small back roads hurling empty Little King bottles at road signs. Do not snicker or snort when watching the long ago movie play in your head.

6) Try not to be older than the kid interviewing you. (hard to do at my age).

7) Never ever under any circumstances either by body language or facial expression that you consider your interviewer to be of inferior intelligence.

8) Never ever say, "Where are the women around here??"

9) Do have a joke prepared just in case you are asked to tell one! A good one is this..."Two guys are drinking in a bar..." (refer to #4)

10) Do change your shoes before going in for the interview to avoid looking down at your feet and seeing your muddy snow boots and blurting out, "Oh My God" and startling the interviewer.

I have encounter and committed every single one of these do's and don'ts.

That is why I am still unemployed.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Nothing really profound tonight. I guess I’m still suffering from holiday let down. Anyway, the Christmas decorations are down for the year and the weeds; well the weeds are doing very nicely thank you. Alive and well, perky and very, very green. They're doing fine while the rest of us are singing "mud, mud, glorius mud" to whatever tune is running through your head at the time.

Here it is January 6 and we’re just past mid winter. There’s still snow on the ground up and north and more predicted for tonight. And here? It was almost sixty degrees today and I spent almost an hour chasing weeds this morning.

Funny, all it takes is a little mild weather, a little sunshine and those little suckers grow like gangbusters. Mostly chickweed and baby dandelions. I suppose if I told them I was really happy to see them and had a use for them they’d pack their bags and head for the hills. Is it my imagination or do the plants you don’t want grow better than the ones you do want sometimes?

It’s easy to work right now; the ground is nice and damp and easy to work. Well, fairly easy. Have trowel, will dig. I found one viola blooming, a yellow primrose trying to set a bud, the winter heather is blooming, disposed a bunch of slugs and snails, and noticed that a lot of the bulbs are sending little green emissaries to check out the possibilities upstairs. Be careful guys, life does not come with a rewind button. And it is only January 6.

Anyway, the birds were singing their little feathered heads off. We have three kinds of chickadees, juncos, bushtits, and the odd finch of siskin making pretty regular stops at the feeders. It’s a kick to watch them. The juncos are mostly ground feeders, but they’ll use the hanging tray feeder. I guess it’s because they can stand in it pick through the seeds. The ones on the ground look like tiny chickens as they basically check out the north end of the yard. The squirrels are really messy, big news, when they do their standing their heads act at the critter seed feeder. So these little guys are basically the clean up crew.

We finally moved everything so it’s either hanging from the dogwood or between it and the white andromeda shrub. And the bushtits are a riot. They are so tiny. It’s hard to imagine how something so small manages during the winter weather. I think I’ve seen snowflakes almost as big as they are. Anyway, the little guys basically bounce between tree, shepherd’s crook, feeders and shrub. They’re right side up, upside down and sideways while they wait their turn at the suet stations.

This morning was a nice change from the free weights, the treadmill and the resumes. I’ll have to hang onto that for awhile. It’s supposed to start raining again tonight. The forecast is for rain, and a lot of it further north. Warm temperatures, rain and lots of snow are not a good mix. Here’s hoping it’s not as bad as they’re predicting. ‘Cause if it is, what was frozen will be floating out to sea.

A Very Rich Life...

Sunday night Mike and Chris were in the living room with their girlfriends, playing Scattergories and drinking a little wine in front of the fireplace. I removed the garlands from the stairs on Saturday, and Mike and A took the tree down Sunday afternoon, bagged it and put it into the garage. Now the couches are back facing each other in front of the fireplace, and with the velvet slipcovers, a red amaryllis on the front hall table and a trio of big ivory candles on the piano, the house looks like winter, but not like Christmas.

Taking down and putting away the decorations is always bittersweet for me. Putting them up, I find myself buoyed by the happy anticipation of the holiday ahead, but taking them down…there’s a bit of sadness in that, always. When I was a young mother this was no time for contemplation. There was barely time to catch my breath. There was a whirlwind of activity year round when my kids were young. Taking down and putting away Christmas decorations was simply something that had to be done because at the end of the month, Ali would have her birthday, and we’d be getting ready for that; then February brought Valentine’s Day; spring break came in March followed by Easter in late March or early April; A’s birthday in early April; the end of school in May; beginning of summer vacation in June; fireworks, picnics and perhaps a family trip to South Padre Island or Colorado in July; Mike and Chris' birthday and the start of school again in August; Labor Day and my birthday in September; Halloween in October; Kath’s birthday and Thanksgiving in November and voila…back to December and another Christmas. In addition, there were school open houses, music lessons, swimming lessons, band concerts, science fair projects, book fairs, volunteering, scouts, pets to care for, dinners with friends and family, rooms to paint, grass to cut, leaves to rake, grad school classes, papers to write…”A very rich life”, Aunt Mimi once said to me, and it turns out that she was quite right, although I barely had time to reflect on that comment when she made it.

Now I'm an empty nester, a thing that I’ve joked about, and yet in many ways it's no joke. Everyone who has children must eventually deal with having an empty nest. There's loneliness in having them gone, of course, but I think that one of the hardest things about being parents of young adults is that it forces us to redefine ourselves, yet again, just when we thought we had it figured out.

Because if I simply look at my calendar now, it’s not all that different from when I was a young mother. It’s true that it’s no longer filled with reminders of scout meetings and music lessons, but many of the events remain the same: Ali’s birthday will always be at the end of January; February 14th will continue to be Valentine’s Day, etc. It's not that the events themselves have changed, but my role in these events has changed considerably. And yet, to add to the confusion, in some ways my role is the same as ever. I'll always send Ali a gift for her birthday, because I'm her mother. But now that she's grown and not a child living under my roof, I don't spend January 29th scrambling to bake a cake for her, or making a late night run to the grocery store for flowers and croissants so she can have breakfast in bed on her birthday on the 30th.

When our children are young, our role as parents is clearly defined: we're simply counted on to take care of everything, in all situations. Hungry? Cold? Scared? Kid down the block bothering you? Want new skates? Who do you turn to? But as our children grow up that changes. We're still Mom and Dad, but we're no longer primary, and although that may be a bitter pill to swallow at times, it's absolutely essential to accept it. It's the goal of having children, after all, or should be: to raise them to the point that they are able to be successful in making their way in the world without us.

I was reminded how my role has changed on Saturday, when six of us were going to the DMA to see the Tut exhibit. I’d planned and organized that outing the same way that I’ve planned activities for my family my entire life, including going online and buying and printing out the tickets. But when it came time to drive to the exhibit, I was reminded that things have changed: it's no longer essential that I, as their mother, drive them anywhere. There were six of us going to the DMA, but my car seats just five, so we had to take two cars. Mike and Chris immediately opted to drive together with Brooke and Stephanie, leaving A and me to drive together in my car. There is some grace to be had in having a partner with whom to share this transition, and, happily for me, that applies even though we’re divorced. I looked at A and smiled in amusement: “You realize, we’re now officially The Old People,” I said, and I added, “How did that happen?” I remember, like it was yesterday, when we were The Young People, and like Mike and Chris, there was absolutely no question that we’d have preferred to drive with our friends rather than with our parents. Ah, well, the more things change, and all that.

There are people who aren't able to make this transition, who become bitter. I don’t want to be one of them. I want to grow old gracefully, and to move on with a sense of adventure, and my sense of humor intact, into the new roles that await me as time goes by.

Longfellow described it eloquently, in one of my favorite poems (Morituri Salutamus):
Shall we sit idly down and say
The night hath come; it is no longer day?
The night hath not yet come; we are not quite
Cut off from labor by failing light;
For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Can We Talk?

Hi Ladies...

I can't help but notice that "Women On" has been languishing a bit, lately.

I know everyone has been busy with the holidays and other personal crises, but now that the holidays are over, I wonder if we could each commit to posting something here a minimum of once a week. A picture or a short blurb about how things are going in your world would be plenty!

I would really like our blog to be interesting and vital, and I'm just not all that interesting and vital by myself...LOL!


Lisa :-]