Byron Was Dead: To Begin With

Yet another death in our circle of friends. This time a high school friend of Mr. Gaelic. To quote Mr. Gaelic, Byron "was a creative artist, a radical free spirit and an angry voice in the wilderness of Alabama." The best tribute I've read so far was written by another blogger. As part of the tribute, he posted a video that speaks to the absurdity of it all.


It's All in the Way It's Used


Finola, the eldest child, is seated at the computer. Maeve, her youngest sister, stands behind her. Thing One, the male cat, lies curled in a circle on the couch.

Both girls look up when they see Mrs. Gaelic, their mother, walk into the room.

Guess what we did today?
We trimmed Thing One's nails because he scratched Finola when she tried to pick him up.
Did you hold him in a towel?
No. Maeve just held him down while I cut his nails.
Y'all should do Thing Two's nails since she scratches my furniture.
We would if we could corner her.
Mrs. Gaelic picks up a lap blanket from the couch and walks into the family room.
Finola, you stay by the door. Maeve, you help me get her.
Maeve and Mrs. Gaelic close in on Thing Two, the female cat, behind the couch. Mrs. Gaelic tries to wrap Thing Two in the blanket as Maeve and Finola gather around Mrs. Gaelic. Thing Two squirms her bottom out of the blanket and immediately lets go a wet kitty fart that send some wet kitty poo flying onto Mrs. Gaelic's hand.
I guess that's where they got the term "She had the sh*t scared out of her" from.
Mrs. Gaelic laughs even though her teenage daughter just used a four-letter word. But in context.


Mama Needs a New Pair of Shoes

Don't you love when your state offers a tax holiday on certain goods? My state held the annual back-to-school tax-free weekend recently. Thankfully, my fashionista teenager was out of the country and was none the wiser that while the cat's the mice will buy.

About thirty miles from my house is an outlet mall; so off we went in the waning hours of the tax holiday weekend. We were on a mission: blue jeans for my youngest daughter who grows like a weed but whose slim frame makes it nearly impossible to buy ready-to-wear that's not cut for the ever expanding waist lines of America's children.

Horror of horrors awaited the 11-year-old. I dragged her into a store for me! Bad Mommy! Buying something for the child then expecting the child to reciprocate and wait patiently for Mommy!

Come close and I'll tell you a secret. I'm a shoe snob. I will only buy really well made shoes. Ladies, check your shoes. If you see a vertical seam on the instep side of the shoe, the manufacturer cut corners by using two pieces of leather to make the shoes. If there's no seam, they used one piece, which takes up more leather, and is therefore more expensive to make.

My shoe snobbery leads to a closet full of mostly designer shoes. But realizing that I could be the next Imelda, I only buy my shoes at outlets or places like DSW.

Having decided on a pair of the baddest, blackest, pointy-toe patent heels to cross my path in years, I resigned myself to paying tax on them since, even at their deeply discounted price, they were over the $100 per item limit for tax free. (I also had a replacement pair of black sandals under my arm.) As the cashier rung up the total, she said if I bought two regularly priced items I could get another thirty percent off the shoes. Any two items. Even two dark chocolate bars of chocolate.

My haul of two pairs of designer shoes, regularly priced at $379.99 and $249.99, plus two bars of Godiva dark chocolate, came to a whopping total of $132. No taxes paid!


Say When

A few days ago I complained about all the death and sickness around me. To paraphrase Dory, Knock it off, God.

Sitting at my birthday dinner Thursday night, I inquired of Mr. Gaelic how his day had been. Big mistake. He said that he hadn't wanted to tell me because it was my birthday, but that the woman in the office across the hall from his collapsed at her desk from an aneurysm. It took the EMTs over 20 minutes to get there.

Yesterday's mood at his office was very somber. All meetings were cancelled. The news is that they're keeping her on life support until her kids can fly in from Hawaii.

Enough already!


A Wine Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Six courses. Superb! Wine pairings. Inspired!

To begin...

An interpretation of arctic char and tuna carpaccio served with a Sauvignon Blanc SudTirol “Tramin” 2007

Lobster salad with heirloom tomatoes, diva cucumbers, english peas and Bellavista served with a Roero Arneis “Prunotto” 2008

Carrot flavored pappardelle with a rabbit ragu in a white wine sauce and fresh thyme served with an Aglianico Bisceglia “Terra di Vulcano” 2006

Risotto with saffron, Tuscan Pecorino and fava beans and garlic pesto served with a Barbaresco “Produttori” 2005

Roasted Muscovy duck breast with Trevisan radicchio puree, chicory and raisin timbale and 25 years old Balsamic served with a Giampaolo Motta “Giorgio Primo” 2003

Carnaroli rice pudding parfait with blackberry compote and citrus tuille served with a Maculan “Dindarello” 2006

Before the dessert course, the waiter presented me with a silky tiramisu served in an extra large martini glass complete with a single candle and a rectangle of white chocolate inscribed with Happy Birthday. The only thing better would have been if our table was in the kitchen and the chef was the one telling us about each course rather than the waiter.


My Little Town

Everybody, sing with me now... "Nothing but the dead and dying Back in my little town..." That about sums it up.

I've had enough of death in the past two years to last me well into my 80s. But now, that hooded figure is lurking around again. He took a friend of 20-plus years over the weekend. She was only four months older than I and never smoked a day in her life but succumbed to lung cancer. Speaking of lung cancer and never smoking, the wife of a friend of mine has been diagnosed with it even though she didn't smoke either.

Then there're the brain tumors. A friend and neighbor's tumor was discovered after she had a seizure. Her son had to go back to his city an hour and a half away. She needs someone to stay with her, mostly for balance issues and helping with fine motor skills.

Speaking of staying with friends who need help, I signed up to sit with yet another friend who has colon cancer while his wife is at work. My youngest daughter will go with me since she and his son hang out together at school. His wife warned me that he doesn't look like what I'm used to, having lost his hair and is down to just 125 pounds.

Quite frankly, I'm sick to death of death, dying and bereavement. For once, I'd like to go for more than six months without finding out that another friend has some life-threatening illness.

But the only way to do that is to cut back on the amount of friends we have. Because as the songwriters of this blog's opening song remind us in a different song, "a rock feels no pain and an island never cries."


Here a Moo, There a Carrot

Ever noticed how people tend to go green only when it benefits their own bottom line? Think about all the money saved by switching to CFLs, grouping errand runs, replacing old windows, and a myriad of other cost- and environment-saving ideas.

At one of my favorite grocery stores, they give you a credit for each reusable grocery bag you fill up rather than one of theirs. Our parish has a recycling bin next to the trash can (granted this doesn’t save the church any money but it looks responsible). There’s even the Cash for Clunkers program designed to get inefficient cars off the road.

There’s one place that no one goes when talking about climate change – eating meat. Nobody touches the subject. Like it’s a sacred cow or something. But I read something both interesting and disturbing the other day. According to a 2006 United Nations report, raising livestock produces more greenhouse gases than driving cars.

Chew on this for a minute: Consider how much energy is involved in growing the food that is fed to the animals long enough for them to become large enough for slaughter to feed you and me. (Yes, I’m an omnivore. Nothing better than a rare to medium-rare filet.) On top of the energy used to rear animals, there’s also the poop that leaches nitrous oxide into the air and streams. Don’t forget about the methane that they emit.

Carnegie Mellon University found that the average American would do less for the planet by switching to a totally local diet than by going vegetarian one day a week. Just one! That’s like have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, some fruit or carrot sticks for a snack, veggie lasagna for lunch, a handful of nuts in the afternoon, a plate of baked beans, corn pudding, and creamed spinach for supper, and some popcorn for a late snack.

When you look at it in terms other than micro economics, you’ll be saving more than money. Meat costs more than vegetables. It also adds more calories to your diet. Save money while cutting calories while helping the environment. All by just going vegetarian once a week.

So if my family eats all veggies once a week, can I keep my gas-guzzling SUV?


You Say It's Your Birthday

I don’t know what’s a better birthday present – starting my birthday week with the Paul McCartney concert or finding my long-lost bestest guy friend on Facebook.

Update of the friend first: He made it out of Iraq alive even though some of his fellow pilots weren’t as lucky. He’s got a brand-new baby girl and enjoyed some very productive turkey hunting.

History lesson for today: I was born on the anniversary of the first wartime use of an atomic bomb. And also Lucille Ball’s birthday. Which sort of explains me as a whole – a redhead with the temper of a nuclear bomb. Oh, wait, that’s redundant. Nevermind.

Sir Paul: Come to find out that our third child’s godfather was attending the concert as part of his 50th Birthday celebration, thanks to his wife’s posting it on Facebook. Rather than fight traffic closer to concert time, we arrived two hours ahead of time, found our friends, and tailgated our way through a couple bottles of sparkling rosé and some wicked vodka tonics. We parted ways at the gate, us to our cheap seats, them to their prime real estate on the field. A little ways into the warm-up act and Mr. Gaelic gets an email on his Blackberry from a friend at his office saying that the man has two extra tickets on the field, do we want them? Do you have to ask?

On the field! Section B, Row 10, Seats 19 and 20! Didn’t have to use the binoculars! Soot on the nose from the fireworks during Live or Let Die. Confetti down the shirt after The End. Stood (or should I say danced?) the entire two and a half hours of Beatles, Wings, and Macca.

So he didn’t play Birthday. Who cares? He played Something.


Move On Back To Squares

Phenomenally addicting pentatonic scale generator.


Why Em See Ay Oh Em Gee

Yesterday at the gym was quite thrilling. Having skipped a week for college visits with my eldest, my idea was to do only fifteen minutes on the stationary bike. But there were several other differences that lead to my thrilling workout.

My legs are long enough that the seat should have been raised one notch higher than I usually keep it at. So up the seat went a notch.

As the pedaling began it quickly became apparent that my trim in the shower was a little shorter than it usually is. Combined with the increased pressure on the bicycle seat from the extended legs, the steady round and round and round of the machine got more than my heart rate going.

It wasn’t even two minutes into the workout that things began to really get going. Thankfully there was no one to look at other than a few older men on the weight machines and a couple of overweight women on the treadmills. My thoughts were able to bring me back without making a spectacle of myself.

Just what the gym needs, a woman enjoying herself on the bike a little too much.


Stick Out Your Tongue and Say Nanny Nanny Boo Boo

Don’t you just love the American way of life? Think about it… Every year, I get my annual physical complete with mammogram, Pap smear, cardiac stress test, eyesight test, hearing test, flu and pneumonia vaccinations, any needed booster shot for tetanus, blood work that encompasses over four pages of individual markers, skin cancer screening, and even a colonoscopy (preformed at a leading university hospital complete with an MD anesthesiologist and four nurses). Plus, the clinic provides me with breakfast after my fasting blood work is done, lunch, a private lounge area with wide-screen HDTV and computers, and actual pajama-like button-front monogrammed scrubs to wear during my day at the facility.

It’s zero out of pocket and no health insurance claims to file. All gratis thanks to my husband’s company.

Never mind the fact that I’m a healthy, non-smoking, very light drinking, daily exercising, within the good range for weight, BMI, blood pressure and heart rate, monogamous, under 45-year-old female. Bring on all those preventative tests that tell me I don’t have cancer or heart disease or diabetes. I’m not paying for it. What do I care if I take up the time of doctors who could be seeing patients at risk for certain health issues? It’s better than seeing my former general practitioner.

He and all the doctors in his practice went to a boutique practice where you have to pay $1800 out of pocket non-insurance reimbursement eligible just for the privilege of calling him your doctor. Then every time you see him, it’s the regular visit cost which is eligible for insurance reimbursement, after your copay.

He’s making the same amount of money and seeing fewer patients. I’m getting better care for free. Insurance companies are still making a healthy profit for their shareholders and paying lobbying companies like my husband’s to make sure that the insurance companies stay in business.

So, you see, I have a vested interest in making sure that health care in America remains status quo. So what if health care costs consume an ever growing share of the U.S. economy, up from $993 billion in 1993 when reform was last considered to over $2.3 trillion in 2009? Why should I pay more taxes to offset the cost of health care reform when my husband is fortunate to make in the top 5% of American salaries? Why should I give up my platinum health care just so other people can get an appointment? Why should I care if rising health care costs threaten to bankrupt some families, become unaffordable to more companies, and push the federal budget to the breaking point? After all, America is the last great Free Market in the world. Ain’t life grand as long as you are one of the health care haves?


I'm a Reader! Who Are You?

While visiting potential colleges with my eldest daughter, I dragged her along to visit a few things of interest for me. My literary side-trip.

While in Salem, Massachusetts, we visited an old graveyard to inspect the headstones as well as attempting to visit the House of Seven Gables. Unfortunately, we spent too long in cemetery and didn't make it into the Seven Gables. But some of those headstones were remarkable in their detail and design.

In Amherst, we made the very last tour of the day for Emily Dickinson's house. Yes, she was a recluse. But a brilliant recluse with a love of baking, gardening, and reading. Over 2000 volumes in the family's library.

Upon returning home, I found a stack of children's books by the back door which my youngest culled from her bedroom bookcase. No doubt taking up space that she wanted for books in her current level of reading.

It's so easy nowadays to treat books the way we treat most other things, as disposable. Cheap enough to own and cheap enough to toss when we're done. Gone are the days of a family being lucky (and wealthy) enough to own more than the Bible. Other than travel books and genealogical research tomes, I can't think of the last book that I borrowed from the public library.

But walk into any room in my house and you'll find shelves and shelves of books. Even the kitchen. My own private library. Most fortunate. But never a recluse.


Triple Usually-Decaf Grande Latte

The good thing about not drinking caffeine is not having to depend on the stuff to wake up in the morning. Another good thing is that when you really need a good dose of high octane (like for a long-distance drive) it keeps you wide awake when you need it. But that's a double-edged sword.

When you're not used to drinking caffeine and you get yourself a triple shot latte on the road, not only does it keep you alert for the drive but it keeps you awake for hours and hours on end after you've arrived.

Maybe I should have gone for a single shot latte.


Tell Me Are You a Christain Child?

My second daughter was supposed to do the yard work in order to gain her freedom from the most recent grounding. She was supposed to do it Saturday.

Saturday came and went. No yard work. Sunday came and went. No yard work. Monday. No yard work. The wisteria was beginning to grow across the front gate making it impossible to open.

As I was pushing the mower yesterday, a woman handed me a flier about a neighborhood Southern Baptist church. I told her I was an Episcopalian.

"Do y'all believe in God and Jesus?"

"Um," stunned for a moment. "Yes, we do."

Blank stare on her part.

"We were one of the first Protestant churches."

Continued blankness.

"Like when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the church door?" hoping it would jog something in her memory.

More blankness.

"He was a German Catholic priest or monk who wanted to reform the Catholic church, which began the Protestant Reformation."

"So you're a Christian?"

How can people be so ignorant of history? Especially the history of their own denomination?

When I recounted the story to our youth minister at church last night, he told me there are some people who don't think Catholics are Christian. When several major branches of the Christian Church are in ecumenical communication, it seems very isolationist to consider one's denomination to be the One True Church.

As she turned to leave, I thought how sad that her daughter standing beside her might turn out just as ignorant. But any hope for future generations was dashed as she told me she was a teacher.

And people wonder what they're teaching kids in school these days? Ignorance must be bliss to some people.


Gaelic's Addiction

Mr. Gaelic let me have a subscription to a genealogical website. In the past few days, several new pieces to the puzzle that is my family history have fallen in my lap. It's a treasure trove.

Photos of family cemeteries in remote parts of the country, including closeups of the actual grave markers; old family photographs of long-ago ancestors; military records that almost prove a line I've been working on for ten years. And the biggest catch was closing the loop on a family dispersed in the mid-1860s by a horrific double murder of the parents. Just what everyone always fears - finding an axe-murderer in the family closet. Thankfully, he was a brother-in-law to my direct ancestor.

The trouble is that now I'm even more addicted to the research than I was before.


The Episcopal Tower of Terror

Yesterday's sermon began with a confession. The priest has an obsession with McDonald's french fries and all things Disney. It was to his greatest pleasure that the Episcopal Church held its General Convention in Anaheim.

He went on to compare the proceedings to riding the Tower of Terror. Is everyone familiar with that ride? At the top of the elevator, it opens the doors to the beautiful surrounding of Anaheim before dropping you, seat off your chair and all, then stops and takes you up and down in quick succession.

Let me get you up to speed on the proceedings of the Episcopal Church. A few years back, New Hampshire elected an openly gay man living with a partner as their bishop. Several parishes balked as did many of the dioceses in Africa. Some parishes left the Episcopal Church of the United States to join Anglican dioceses of Uganda and other African countries. Nevermind that some of those same African countries punish homosexuality by imprisonment or even death.

Fast forward to Anaheim and my priest was reporting that homosexuality is an issue that we'll struggle with in our generation, just as other generations struggled with whether to wear clothes of mixed fibers, to eat meat given to idols, to own slaves, and to have women priests.

I listened as the priest reminded us that the Bible speaks to divorce many more times than to homosexuality. He pointed out that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah was about homosexual rape and that any rape is wrong. He reminded us that even though the Church denounces divorce it has come to accept that it is a part of our current culture. I remember my own grandfather after his divorce would never remarry because he believed that in the eyes of the Church he and my grandmother were still married.

As the priest reported that the Episcopal Church will begin exploring the possibility of gay marriage, my stomach bottomed out as if dropped in that service elevator.

As anyone who's ever darkened the door of a law school, I understand that marriage is at heart a contract. Why else would divorce court be so expensive? But that's the state side of marriage. I've always believed that the religious side of marriage was to procreate. Something that can't be done the natural way in a gay marriage.

If I were Empress of the World, everyone would have to be married by the state - both straights and gays - for the contractual agreement of marriage. (Don't even get me started on the perils of living together - that's a whole other blog.) If a straight couple then wanted to be married in the church, they could. But in my mind, a church marriage for gays would be out of the question since I held firm to that procreation belief.

That's when my beliefs were challenged. Right then and there, sitting in the fourth pew listening to my priest.

What about couples who choose not to have children? Or enter a marriage knowing they can't have children? Or older couples on a second marriage after a beloved spouse passes away?

My procreation argument was blown out of the water.

To me in my religious mind, I must now accept either that only couples who procreate should be married or that marriage should be available to all couples who truly love each other.

It's that love/hate relationship with church. Where, like as the doors open at the top of the Tower of Terror and you get comfortable in that view, suddenly your comfort is challenged. To me, that's what being religious is all about. Because if you're comfortable every time you listen to a sermon, you're just going to a church where you'll hear what you want to hear.


Getting a Red in Life

Q: What's safer: a redhead or a piranha?
A: The piranha. They only attack in schools.

Q: What’s the difference between a terrorist and a redhead?
A: You can negotiate with a terrorist.

Q: What's a redhead's idea of the shortest way to a man's heart?
A: Through the breastbone.

Q: What do you call a redhead with an attitude?
A: Normal.

Q: What two things are necessary to keep a redhead happy?
A: One is to let her think she is having her own way, and the other is to let her have it.

Q: What's the difference between a blonde and a redhead in bed?
A: A blonde let's you leave the bed when you are satisfied - a redhead let's you leave the bed when SHE is satisfied.

Q: How do you know when you've satisfied a redhead?
A: She unties you.

Q: What's the advantage of a blonde vs. a redhead?
A: At least you can ignore the blonde safely.

Q: What do redheads and McDonald's have in common?
A: You've never had it so good and so fast.

Q: What do a redhead, an anniversary, and a toilet have in common?
A: Men always miss them.


Shirting with Disaster

My second daughter is taking summer P.E. at her high school so that she can take an academic class in its place during the school year. Class goes from 7:25 a. fricking m. to 2:35 p.m. The first session of the day is spent in the classroom. Currently that’s the Drivers’ Ed part of the course. During the second session of the day, she dresses out in her school P.E. uniform.

The other day she left the house before I was up. After running errands was the first time I saw her that day. The first thing out of my mouth was, “Where’re your shorts?”

She smiled and tugged her dress down at the hem.

“What do you have on under there?”

More tugging and, “Underwear.”

“You’ve got to be kidding?” as I lifted the side of her dress to see her black undies. “That’s a shirt, not a dress.”


“I bought that as a shirt to wear over jeans.”


I looked at it again and remarked to my husband, “When I was a kid, we wore dresses that short.”

He shook his head.

“Don’t let me catch you wearing a shirt as a dress again.”

More tugging at the dress and her face turned the cutest color of red.


Dirts So Good

‘Tis better to have fallen and recovered than to never have fallen at all. That’s not right. ‘Tis better to not fall in the first place. At least if you’re on the downside of 40.

It all began with noticing just how dry the yard is. So after mowing, a quick dousing with the sprinkler should do the trick. I positioned the sprinkler to point down the side yard next to the driveway. After thirty minutes, it was time to reposition the sprinkler.

Not wanting to get wet, I decided to do an end-run around the spray of water as the sprinkler was pointing in the opposite direction. So I took off running in an arc toward the outside of the driveway.

You know how everyone says that when something bad happens it happens in slow motion? Well, that didn’t happen for me. My feet hit a slick spot on the rocks of the driveway and down I went, landing on all fours on the rocks. About that time, the sprinkler wooshed back around and soaked my entire side head to toe as I tried to erect myself quickly enough to avoid the water.

Mixed with the water dripping down my leg and arm, it looked like there was a cup of blood spurting from my knee and the heel of my palm. ‘Tis a good thing kneeling isn’t a required activity of my daily life.


Airport Misadventures

My eldest daughter returned yesterday from a three-week exchange trip to Austria. The return flight information was in my Blackberry based on the original information from the American teacher. There was either operator error in inputting the flight number and arrival time or the flight number and arrival time changed from what was in the original parent packet. Either way, waiting at the international arrival gate at the airport for over an hour for other parents to show up was not on my afternoon agenda.

People-watching is a great way to kill the time. There were the Delta attendants sporting the new, and highly controversial, red designer duds. There were the Air Lingus attendants that reflected their country’s demographics of 50% blondes and 50% brunettes. There was the bilingual couple behind me whose conversation easily flowed between French and English. There were even our across-the-street neighbors returning from a family vacation is Scotland. (Sadly, there wasn’t enough space in my vehicle to give them a ride home.) Finally, the American kids and their teacher rounded the turn to be enveloped by hugs and kisses from parents, siblings and friends.

The most important lesson that you will learn from today’s blog is to never, NEVER put your parking ticket next to your cellphone. Similar to what happens when you put your hotel key card near your cellphone, my parking ticket was demagnetized. After several attempts at the in-terminal payment kiosk, it finally dawned on me what had happened.

But when you can’t prepay your parking ticket, you have to wait in line with everyone who’s paying cash. Two lanes out of a dozen or more were Cash Only. Not that bad, only three cars ahead of me. However, when the cashier manually rung me up, the price was bumped up to the next portion of an hour. I looked at the clock in my car. One minute over the hour. One minute! And he made me pay the extra hour!

Lesson learned. Never put anything magnetized near your cellphone.


Generation Why

One of the problems with being born on the cusp of anything is not quite fitting in to either group completely. While I’m definitely a Leo, I’m sort of Gen X. Technically speaking, I was born within the year span for Generation X. But my upbringing was done by the Greatest Generation parents and an older Baby Boomer sister.

My husband is a Baby Boomer. Since I had my children while I was relatively young (by today’s standards), most of my close friends are Boomers as well. I fit in very well with them in certain aspects, even though I still love me some Police, Prince, and Michael Jackson (rest in peace).

One thing where I fit in better with my parents’ generation is my child-rearing philosophy. The problem began with the Boomer generation who decided to allow their children to call adults by their first names. They dropped all honorifics, including Aunt and Uncle so that Uncle John became just John. Amongst my set of friends, we have a rule that we all instituted without confirming with each other first – children address all adults as Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So. Does the fact that my close friends are all friends from my parish have anything to do with it?

One of my biggest pet peeves is placing children on par with adults, such as inviting children to adult parties and adults to children parties. I may be friendly to children but I’m not friends with them. They should have their own friends just as I have mine. When we were invited to a neighbor’s birthday party, I knew that the momentous occasion would include children. Looking at the invitation alone was enough to make the hives welt up on my neck.

At the party, I watched in both amusement and horror as a mother explained to her preschooler that the two drinks in the pretty dispensers were alcoholic – one with gin, the other with rum – and that the child didn’t like either of those, “remember?” To the side was a pitcher of a red colored drink for the kids. Why should a child serving him or herself settle for red if he or she likes green or blue better? Thankfully, only one child tried to help himself to the blue adult drink (at least that I saw).

The last 50th birthday party that I attended was an adult-only affair. The adults could be adults and mingle with other adults without having to worry about whether their children were heading off into the street or helping themselves to the blue rum-based drink. Call me old-fashioned, but if you’re going to invite the whole family, save the hard liquor for after all the kiddies have gone home. At which time I’ll have my Old Fashioned made with bourbon and on the rocks.


Blush Blush, Keep It Down Now

Two back-to-back compliments came my way yesterday. The content and the speakers completely floored me.

A group of us ladies carpooled downtown for our State Society DAR luncheon. The ballroom was packed with close to 500 of us. Given where the luncheon was held, the food was much better than our regular local chapter meeting luncheon fare. Hats were everywhere; but only the pages wore white gloves.

Following the luncheon, my carpool companions wanted to walk over to the DAR building for some shopping at all the vendors who occupied the perimeter of the hall and the entire basement level. My sole purpose for shopping was with the official jeweler to buy my two state pins (the state of my chapter as well as the state of my patriot) and chapter officer pin.

Finding a seat amongst the vendors was difficult so I moved outside. Since my carpool mates would be exiting the door I was perched near, I decided to wait outside after pinning my new purchases onto my ribbon. My hat shaded my face from the sun as I enjoyed the fresh air. Two ladies walked past on their way into the hall. I looked up through my sunglasses and smiled.

"You look just like Audrey Hepburn," the first lady said as she passed.

The second lady, quick on the first's heels, topped it with, "You're beautiful."

Taken aback with embarrassment, I mustered a "Thank You". Women love to hear that we're beautiful. Especially from the men in our lives. When it comes from another woman, we begin to wonder why our men don't say things like that more often, without prompting.


Woe and Behold

How often can an ex-boyfriend make you cry? Perhaps it depends on whether he remains a part of your life. That’s what Facebook Former did last night. Made me weep buckets.

He didn’t rehash any arguments or relive any adventures. He did something much more endearing. He sent me a picture of my father’s grave marker.

Facebook Former lives just up the road a ways from my hometown. He visits my hometown quite often on business. Knowing that I hadn’t seen a picture of my father’s grave marker yet, he offered to take a picture if I supplied the directions to the grave. That’s when Google Earth comes in handy. The zoomed-in section of the cemetery accompanied the directions in an email.

Last night while I was online, an alert popped up on my screen announcing a new email from Facebook Former. No subject line. Just a quick two sentences telling me that he ran into a judge who was also one of my father’s pallbearers and that the judge sent his greetings. This is what happens when you’re from a small town; everyone knows everyone. And the attached picture. Just one frame. But enough to tear at my heart.

Even though both of my parents are now deceased, as long as Facebook Former remains a part of my life, the ties to that small town will never be cut.


Salt and Spice and Everything Nice

Lucille Ball and I are one and the same person. Or so I believe. Especially after yesterday. Let’s recap, shall we?

We’re both redheads. We share the same birthday. We’re both of Gaelic descent. And we’re both totally, comedically incompetent at times.

Like yesterday.

I found a bootleg recipe for my all-time favorite barbecue sauce. Not Kraft or anything you can buy off the shelf. We’re talking a little barbecue joint deep in the backwoods of my home state. You can’t buy the liquid gold in the store, only order it or buy it at the “restaurant” (and I use that term loosely). To get to the place, you have to go with someone who knows the way. It’s down a road, make a right on a dirt road, go down a ways and when you see all the BMWs and Jeep Cherokees parked outside, you’re there. It’s a tar paper-sided shack that serves two things – ribs and white bread. You can get a half slab if you want. Either way, you get a stack of Wonder bread to sop up the sauce. Oh, yeah, they also serve Bud and Co-cola products.

The ill-gotten recipe calls for two tablespoons of sugar and one teaspoon of salt. I didn’t realize I had grabbed the salt instead of the sugar until I was about to add the salt, which was listed near the bottom of the ingredient list. Oh. My. God. Two whole tablespoons of salt when it called for just one teaspoon.

Off to the grocery store I went to buy enough of certain ingredients so I could increase the recipe to make up for my mistake. It ended up being cooked down in my canning pot. Which for those of you who haven’t put up your own jars takes up about two burners on the stove. Perhaps the guys next door might like some bathtub barbecue hooch. They’re always grilling out.


The Decemberist Airplane?

Is she channelling Grace Slick or what?

What's the American Translation from English?

Lots of you have already seen the new Evian babies advertisement that's making the rounds on the Internet. But which version have you seen? The international version or the U.S. version?

Seems like as with many things in life, Americans are given a different rendition.

How many of you know that "The Philosopher's Stone" is in the dictionary, but "The Sorcerer's Stone" isn't? In America, the book and movie are known as "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." In the rest of the world, it's "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone."

So what did Evian change? In America the opening graphic asks, "How does drinking Evian make you feel?" Whereas the rest of the world is told, "Let's observe the effect of Evian on your body." It seems like such a niggling little thing to blog about. But why do companies change things for American audiences?

Sure, Sorcerer sounds more exciting than Philosopher. But what gives with Evian?


E Pluribus Divertere

How were the fireworks? Thunderous? Exciting? Moving? Did you hear the Declaration of Independence reread? Did you sing the National Anthem? What about other national songs? Did you pray?

Huh? Pray on Independence Day? What for? It’s a celebration of our defeat of tyranny. We should go out and make noise, not sit in church with our heads bowed quietly praying. Let the world know how proud we are.

Pride in one’s country is all good and fine. But what about the providence that helped bring about our freedom to shoot fireworks into the night sky?

The last time that my family ventured downtown for a concert on the 4th my father was in tow in his wheelchair. There’s a great photo of him and my husband with flags surrounding them whilst sitting at the top of the marble steps waiting for the Pops to begin and then the 1812 Overture with cannons and fireworks.

This year, I opted for something completely different than the hubbub of all the crowds and security checkpoints. Church beckoned, with the promise of organ fireworks and a dramatic reading of the Declaration. The way the organ master made the windows shake was better than fighting for blanket space on an overly crowded lawn. A lunch of hot dogs and all the trimmings finished out the morning. More celebration than worship. Any day that you can sing all four verses of “America, The Beautiful” in church, especially the fourth verse about “alabaster cities … undimmed by human tears”, surrounded by folks you know and love is good enough reason to celebrate.

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful tradition.


The Shots Heard 'Round the Family

The Americans began the battle with 910. The enemy had 1,075. At the end of the battle, the casualties were: American dead 29, American wounded 58, American missing/captured 0, enemy dead 244, enemy wounded 163, enemy missing/captured 668. Outcome? It was "the turn of the tide of success." So said Thomas Jefferson. The date was Saturday, October 7, 1780.

While Maj. Patrick Ferguson was en route to join Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis, he learned that a large group of Patriots was following him. He established his men in a defensive posture atop a ridge known locally as Kings Mountain in South Carolina. Ferguson was isolated on Kings Mountain without any chance for reinforcements. With everyone in place, he waited for the Patriots to come and attack him.

The combined Patriot militias of Cols. Issac Shelby, John Sevier, Joseph McDowell, and William Campbell came together in late September. They learned that Ferguson's Loyalist force was invading the Carolinas and threatening to hang them and burn their homes. Outraged by this, the Patriot force set out to destroy the Loyalists.

The Revolution turned families against each other. At Kings Mountain, one of my husband's direct ancestral lines had one American and three Loyalist brothers fighting. Family history states that the American brother shot his Loyalist brother at the same time that the Loyalist brother shot the American brother. The brothers knowingly killed each other, each for his own political ideology.

So as we celebrate the 233rd year of our Independence, it's good to know that the only thing we'll shoot is fireworks. And that we keep our political ideology in check and not let our emotions get the better of us when it comes to people whose views are different than our own.


It's Been a Hot Day's Night

Hit the ground running and don't stop for love or money. That's the way our tour company planned out our days in Savannah, Georgia, with my Girl Scout troop. With the ambient temperature reaching 98°, even a drop of moisture in the air was enough to send the heat index into the triple digits. We were all glistening, and not in a good way.

The tour company geared everything, everything around the girls. At Old Fort Jackson, we had a private Girl Scout militia session complete with a War Between the States-era drill sergeant wearing his wool uniform and barking orders for us to perform. At least standing on the parapets one could get a breeze off the Savannah River. There was the 178-step climb to the top of the Tybee Island lighthouse. Thank goodness for ballet!

There were the tours of Savannah - a walking scavenger hunt, a horse-drawn carriage ride, a walking ghost tour. Bonaventure Cemetery wasn't on any of the tours, much to my chagrin.

Where dead souls didn't make the cut, live dolphins did. The three-hour cruise took us into parts of Georgia and South Carolina where some dolphins live in the brackish waters feeding in the abundant waters. The boat captain was able to get a whole slew of mamas and their babies to surf in the wake of the boat as we cruised back towards Georgia. Those dolphins were having a blast, jumping out of the water and playing.

The troop got to play in the water at the hotel pool, complete with a pizza party and birthday cake for our birthday girl and everyone else. Even three adults got in the pool in front of the privately hired college-boy lifeguard.

All that fun and excitement wasn't what we were in Savannah for. The city is Mecca for Girl Scouts because of one woman with the foresight to announce to the girls of Savannah that she had something special for them, the girls of America and the world. Her name was Juliet Gordon Low. Her birthplace is where we spent our last full day in Savannah with a program to let the girls and the "tall ten-year-olds" dress up in 1870-style dresses and practice arts and crafts from the period when Daisy, as she was known, was ten years old.

The girls brought back many memories of Savannah. I just wanted to bring back my beloved Spanish Moss. And boiled peanuts. But that's a blog for another time.


Say What?


My second daughter can actually pronounce that. It's Welsh. And it's a real place in Wales.

Yesterday at the Folklife Festival there was a woman who was teaching people how to speak Welsh. In the less-than-fifteen minutes that my daughter listened to her, she got the pronunciation down pat. A real gift for Welsh. Me? Not so much.

Here's your Welsh lesson in less than a minute. The LL in Welsh has no equivalent in English. Position your tongue in your mouth as if you were going to make an L sound. Then blow air around your tongue. Better yet, get someone who knows how to do it show you.

We learned the translation. "The church of St. Mary in the hollow of white hazel trees near the rapid whirlpool by St. Tysilio's of the red cave" We also learned that folks usually abbreviate it to LlanfairPG.


Million Collar Babies

My last official duty as a Girl Scout leader is coming up in two days. A trip to Savannah, Georgia, with 17 people. After seven years as the leader of a Junior Girl Scout troop, it's time to pass the mantle. (I just stayed at the same troop level and the girls would move to a Cadette troop as they aged out of Juniors replaced by girls moving up from Brownies.)

Looking back over my tenure and remembering all the girls that have been in my troop reminds me of just how much we did through the years. Beach camping twice, amusement parks twice, camping in the woods at least ten times, ice skating five times, skiing seven times, horseback riding once, New York City once, getting people to vote twice, participating in parades five times, etc. etc. etc. Even though I'm totally burned out on being a Girl Scout leader, after thinking about all the things we did together I feel like George Bailey.

Every trip we took, the girls were required to drop off their gear at my house at a "packing party" before the actual departure day. Even though we don't leave for Savannah until Saturday morning, tonight is the packing party. There's nothing worse than getting to our destination and a girl telling me she can't find her shirt.

"Didn't you follow the packing list when you packed your gear?"

"My mom packed for me."

"Is this your trip or your mom's trip?"

With so many people wearing identical albeit different sized shirts, I just hope the moms put names in the collars as they should. I don't even want to think about the post-trip lost-and-found.


We Did It

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past month, you know what's been going on in Iran since their election. Iran blames the U.S. and Britain for the demonstrations and unrest. In my book, it's all America's fault.

Not that we have CIA operatives stirring things up. But that we are the ones who made it possible for the Iranians themselves to stay in touch with each other and the world, no matter how hard the Iranian government tries to stop them.

I'm talking about cellphones, Facebook, and Twitter. All of those technologies utilize good old American inventions like the Internet and GPS which were made available to the citizens of the world thanks to the ingenuity of Americans. So bring on the accusations of American instigation. The 2009 Summer of Iranian Unrest, brought to you by the American people.


Lose Weight Will Sleeping

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD). That's my diagnosis. It's similar to Restless Leg Syndrome but much different. "PLMD is characterized by involuntary leg twitching or jerking movements during sleep that typically occur every 10 to 60 seconds, sometimes throughout the night. The symptoms cause repeated awakening and severely disrupted sleep. Unlike RLS, the movements caused by PLMD are involuntary - people have no control over them. " So says the NIH information on PLMD. It's a neurological disorder but nothing along the lines of a brain tumor or other more hypochondrical disease.

My doctor said I had 15 of these movements a minute. That's one every four seconds. No wonder I'm so tired during the day. With that much moving around during the night, I'm getting more than my fair share of exercise while I sleep.

The Wait

The nurse called with the results of the sleep study. She said it’s basically a neurologic problem and the doctor wants to see me. The appointment is for 1:30 today. Stay tuned, same bat time, same bat channel.


Let's Go Fly a Light

Saturday mornings are meant for sleeping late, not being awoken with the phone ringing at 5:15 a.m. Our phone announced the incoming party’s name, the parents of our second daughter’s best friend. The friend wasn’t at home and the parents didn’t know where she was. The father called to find out if she was with our daughter. Which she wasn’t. First thought in my mind, “Oh, no, not another runaway!”

In the past month, my eldest daughter’s friend ran away from home. The police came to our house to interview both of the teenagers about if they knew of the girl’s whereabouts. Which they didn’t. The girl finally surfaced five days later at a friend’s house.

Just for the record, I’m a terrible mother, according to some of the comments I hear third-hand from parents of my daughters’ friends. Some of the terrible things I do:

*Allowing the kids to choose, once they’ve been confirmed, whether to go to church with us (unless they’re on the schedule to acolyte, in which case it’s non-negotiable)

*Allowing my middle daughter to wear shorts and skirts to school which the other parents think are too short
*Allowing my children to get their learner’s permits without tying the privilege to a certain level of grades
*Allowing my teenagers to take public transportation and/or walk all over the city to shop, eat, and watch movies
*Teaching my children at a young age about human reproduction
*Telling my young teenagers about oral sex
*Offering my children wine with meals at home and tastes of other alcoholic drinks when their father or I order them in a restaurant

But in my defense, my children

*Won’t have a resentful attitude about church as adults
*Will have a respect for alcohol and know their limits before getting to university and the “real world”
*Understand that sex is a normal part of life and, as girls, won’t allow a boy to insist on certain activities without a reciprocation on his part
*Call adults Mr. and Mrs. rather than by their first names as a sign of respect and the boundary between childhood and adulthood
*Know that our home is a haven, a safe-place, not only for them but for their friends as well

Once I insisted that my eldest daughter sit in on an adult education lecture at church. The lecturer was a young female chaplain from the local church-run school. She described the differences in parents by comparing us to tractor beams (à la Star Trek) or lighthouses.

Parents who insist that their children do and say and think and act the way the parent wants the child to are like tractor beams, pulling the child into them. This action is enough in drive the children away or to make the child rebel in ways harmful to the child. Not what we should be striving for.

But lighthouses weren’t designed to draw anyone TO them. If a ship goes TO the lighthouse, it crashes on the rocks. Lighthouses are designed to show ships the way to safety by keeping them away from danger. Parents should strive to show their children the dangers that exist and let the children go. My eldest daughter now refers to herself as the lighthouse to her friends. She’s proud of that fact, but understands that it’s a huge responsibility for someone her age.

Even though some parents may think I’m too lax with my rules, I know to pick my battles. I do have street cred with my children, as when I kept our eldest from going on an exchange program because she didn’t keep up her end of the bargain which was an improvement in her grades. (She’s now taking four AP classes and going on a different exchange trip.) And the middle daughter (who infamously was thrown out of the church children’s choir and was asked to leave the church youth group) knows what it’s like to live under house arrest. (The jury’s still out on whether she’s a lighthouse to her friends, but I suspect she might be heading that direction.) I’m just saving the big guns for the big infractions.

As for the friend whose parents woke us at an ungodly hour on Saturday, she is safe at home. I bet she’s grounded for life. And while I don’t want to cast allegations on the parents involved since they are friends of my husband’s and mine, rather than having a helicopter parent the girl needs a lighthouse parent.


Mouth by South East

The youth minister at our parish is an extroverted, somewhat handsome, funny-as-hell, irreverent but religious, hopefully soon-to-be seminarian, 27-year-old man from the Atlantic coast of Georgia. And this man is taking the senior high youths to the Dominican Republic for a week in August on a mission trip. All eleven girls and ONE boy. Heaven help us.

The planning session was last night. My middle daughter, her friend, one of the adult chaperones and the youth minister were the last ones there when I arrived to drive the two girls home. After much ragging on the youth minister about his girlfriend-of-the-season and the possibility of using a waxing of his thick chest hair as a fund raiser for the mission trip, it was time to get the girls home to study for their finals.

As my daughter got in the driver’s seat to pull the car away from the telephone pole so her friend and I could open the passenger door, the youth minister, who followed us out, was throwing wadded-up paper balls at my daughter which she promptly threw back at him. She smartly rolled up her window so he couldn’t get the paper ball in her lap anymore. But that only provoked him to mark the window with an imprint of his open mouth. Right at eye level.

Until I can get outside with the Windex, I have to drive around with our youth minister’s mouth print staring me in the face. I think we need a chaperone for the chaperone.


Are You There, God, Well Leave Me Alone

The gods are conspiring against me. And I feel like I’m living that Rembrandt’s song, you know the one, the Friend’s theme song. “When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year…”

Somehow another of those days rolled around yesterday bringing with it such wondrous experiences as:

Underestimating how long it would take at the grocery store so that the groceries had to sit in the trunk of the car during my noontime doctor’s appointment. At least there wasn’t any ice cream, although there were meat, eggs, butter, milk, etc.

Remembering after unpacking the groceries that I hadn’t eaten lunch and that the piano teacher was coming tonight. Since she really helped out last week on my day trip to New York City, I needed to buy a card.

Realizing after stopping at the bank, the card store, and McDonald’s that the car needed gas.

Misjudging the driveway curb on the way into the gas station so that on closer inspection while gassing up I discovered the front passenger tire was flat with a huge gash from where the curb cut into it.

Finding out that the owner’s manual wasn’t in the glove compartment so I had no way of knowing how to loosen the jack from its housing in the trunk.

Phoning everyone I knew to call for help and finding no one available so that I considered driving home with a pancake tire.

Eating my cold McDonald's lunch in the car while waiting for help. (Already after 3:00 by now.)

Having my husband (finally off his client call) bring the manual and actually help change the tire so that I didn’t have to pay a tow truck.

Seeing that the spare tire was flat and that the gas station where I was didn’t have an air pump.

Driving ever so carefully and slowly across the six-point intersection to a gas station with an air pump so that I could make it home.

Hearing from my second daughter when I was almost home that she wanted a ride home because she cleaned out her locker today.

Arriving home with the need for a good cry, a long soak in the Jacuzzi, a bourbon, or a combination of any or all of the aforementioned.

As one friend told me, this is God’s retribution for leaving my home state. I always knew my home state was God’s country, but this is ridiculous.


A Bathroom Stall Built for Two

How embarrassing!

Last night every room in the house was occupied with kids and noise. With my husband working late and my pain meds’ keeping me from anything very productive like my PTA or Girl Scout paperwork or finishing the next chapter in my latest book, mindless online puzzles were the way to go. After finishing three puzzles within ten minutes, my attention turned to something even more mindless in hopes of putting me to sleep for the night. Online quizzes.

According to those scientific gems of personality discernment, I am 15% Bitchy, 12% Girly, if I were a Green Army Man, I’d be the Machine-Gun Soldier, I’m attracted to both good boys and bad boys, my true zodiac sign is Leo (which it actually is), my ideal mate is an Aries or a Gemini, and, here’s the shocker, guess where I should have sex next? (Yeah, I know, it’s a weird quiz but, hey, the TV had been commandeered by the kids.)

A Public Bathroom! I’m sorry, I always considered myself more of a Carrie than a Samantha.


I'm Gonna Shoot that Rooster

Insomnia is a b*tch. Actually, it’s the caffeine that they snuck into my afternoon supposedly decaf latte. Whatever the cause, the effect is the same. The inability to sleep until it’s time to get up.

Anybody willing to deal some of their Ambien?


Going Brown

Our household wasn't one of the first to jump on the environmental bandwagon. Plastic bags continued to bring the groceries into the kitchen. Incandescent bulbs illuminated the night. Cars made the trips to the grocery store for a forgotten ingredient. Until the economy changed all that.

Grocery stores began offering discounts for every reusable bag used to carry your purchases home. CFLs used less electricity, thereby reducing the monthly power bill. And gas prices soared to new heights making walking to the store or doing without the better options. Until living the Green life changed all that.

Fact Number One: I'm cheap! I was using the plastic and paper-inside-plastic bags as trash bags around the house. Since the kids are responsible for taking out the trash, complaints were rampant when there were no liners to carry out to the big garbage can. It also meant that the person in charge of the monthly cleaning of the interior trash cans (moi) had a harder time getting them clean. And I wasn't about to spend money on trash bags when I could reuse the ones from the grocery store for free.

Fact Number Two: I like bright rooms. Even with second generation CFLs, the quality of the light they give off is far too far behind my adored incandescent bulbs. Even though I spent beaucoup money to switch out all the bulbs in the living room, I hated the way they took so long to warm up. And the light they gave off was too harsh for actual living in the living room. The usurper bulbs have now been replaced.

Fact Number Three: It's not that I'm lazy, just feeling the effects of age. Gas prices went back down. Okay, okay, they're up again from a few months ago. But overall, they're down from last summer. We didn't fork over the money for a Prius. But we did give our very old station wagon to the Salvation Army in favor of a very non-Mom car with better gas mileage. Now driving to the grocery store for a forgotten ingredient or even to Starbucks just because is a treat. Not because I'm no longer in an older model gas-guzzling station wagon, but because I have two teenagers who beg to drive me anywhere to get the experience under their belts.

But we're not all Brown again. The computers and chargers still get unplugged when not in use. Curtains and windows are used to control the room temperature as much as the thermostat. And my husband still rides his motorcycle to work (over 60 mpg city!). Like today, the annual Ride to Work Day.


Curious Georgia

Am I crazy to take my Girl Scout troop of fourth and fifth grade girls to Savannah for five days? Three years ago, the troop of fourth, fifth and sixth grade girls went to New York City for four days and had a blast. It's more bravery than insanity. Well, maybe a combination of the two.

At last night's end-of-the-year Leaders' Meeting, one volunteer (who is celebrating her 50th year in Girl Scouts) reminded the group that for the longest time the city of Savannah didn't like the Girl Scout troops coming to visit the Birthplace because the citizens thought the Girl Scouts were too rowdy. (Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts, lived and began the first Girl Scout troop in Savannah. Her house, known as the Birthplace, offers programs for troops and is also open to the public for tours.)

The Birthplace closed for renovations for a while and guess what? The tourist dollars vanished. When the Birthplace reopened, the city was much more inviting to Girl Scouts, welcoming us with open arms, even catering to us with tour packages created specifically for Girl Scouts.

It's funny how powerful the Almighty Dollar can be. I guess money can buy happiness, or at least acceptance.


Mr. Zuckerberg, Tear Down that Website

This is not a recruitment ad but a sobering view of hatred. The picture was taken from James von Brunn's website. He's the man who walked into the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, yesterday and fatally shot a security guard for the sole reason that the security guard was black and working at the Holocaust Museum. The shooter claimed to be a World War II veteran. Perhaps he was.

Many of you have read before about my favorite World War II veteran. A man who landed in Normandy on D-plus-14. Who told stories of the sky glowing orange on three sides from the fighting - the fourth side being the blackness of the Channel. A man who helped liberate a camp in Austria and was in charge of delousing the Russian POWs. Whose stories were first-hand accounts of the tragedy known as the Holocaust. Whose stories were scrubbed clean to become my bedtime stories as a child - of being separated from his unit in France, guarding the tanks during a hot summer night, attending Christmas service with a French family who invited him to eat with them.

How hatred develops is easy to understand. Perceived slights and indignities, one's feeling of entitlement not being supported by all around, grudges left to fester. But it's also learned. And quite frequently at an early age. One way of reaching younger and more impressionable people is through Facebook.

Facebook won't take down the Holocaust denier pages claiming that they are expressions of free speech, however ignorant. There's a fine line between free speech and Big Brother. We can't become like Iran which shutters access to websites, like Facebook, that the government considers to be a threat. Yet, there are stories from here in America of local government tyrants doing the same thing because certain online threads are undermining their credibility. But where can we draw the line?

What about people who declare that Dr. Tiller should die for his actions and someone following through on that? What about musicians who shout to the world about forcibly putting women in their place? What about people who claim the Holocaust never happened?

Any threat, verbal or written, against the President is perceived as real and investigated. All citizens should be given that same chance of survival. Whether an individual, like Dr. Tiller, or a group, such as Jews, and African-Americans, and Muslims, and Christians. For we've all been victims, at one time or another, of persecution and hatred and bigotry and ignorance.


Caught in a Blind

I’m going blind. Blind, I tell you! A good friend told me that it happens at 40. Forty came, and went. (And don’t ask me how old I am. I won’t tell you. A woman who tells you her age will tell you anything.) But my eyesight was still pretty good, except for the nearsightedness brought on during law school.

But now! Just last night, going through a backlog of 2,485 emails (don’t ask), one caught my eye, “Key Music Group for Great Knees.” As a dancer, knees are very important. And as a dancer, music is again very important. My thoughts, when clicking on the link to the article, were of finding a new band’s tunes to download to my iPod for dancing.

Boy, was I surprised when I clicked on the article and began reading! There was nothing about music or bands or anything like that. Just information on building up your quads. Back to the email to make sure I clicked the correct link. Yep. Same article came up.

I was about to chalk it up as a bad bit of editing on the part of the writers. Until a closer look at the title destroyed any pretense of superiority. My eyes squinted at the screen,

“Key Muscle Group for Great Knees”

Blind, I tell you, blind!


It's a Wonderful Day for a Moonbounce

When adolescents and preteens don their swimsuits on a two-story inflatable water slide on the grounds of the Seminary, you know it's time for the annual parish picnic. As in years past, we tend to self-segregate. The families with younger kids tend to gather in one area; the families with teenagers and college kids gather in another area; older couples and singles gather in yet another area. Yet again, for the umpteenth year, we spread our blanket with the same two families.

Along with the water slide, the jazz band, the popcorn machine, the snow cone machine, and the moonbounce all made their return. Plenty of fried chicken to go around, even if all the breasts and legs were gone in a heartbeat. Perhaps someone needs to genetically alter chickens so that they have eight breasts and legs and only two wings and thighs.

In past years, our rector's wife used her husband as a fund-raising opportunity by encouraging parishioners to put in money to get the rector to go down the water slide in his collar. But she passed away from skin cancer almost a year ago exactly leaving her husband with three sons. So the only adults on the water slide this year were the fathers with children too small to slide on their own but who still wanted to join the big kids.

There is one big kid in the parish. He's actually the youth minister. A good-looking single guy not yet 30. He was impressed that our second daughter, mad at him for making her leave youth group once, maintained her cold-shoulder treatment of him for two weeks. Most youths who threaten never to speak to him again only last an hour or two. But at heart, he's still a kid himself.

Case in point... He was standing at our blanket talking to the second daughter, her best friend, and me when, all of a sudden, he started running for the moonbounce, my daughter and her BFF fast on his heels. He lead the two teenage girls into the moonbounce which was full of five- to seven-year-old boys. Squeals erupted from inside as they, presumably, caused said youngsters to bounce wildly up and down. By the time I reached the moonbounce, the youth minister had organized all the kids to try to roll the moonbounce by running from one side to another as if on a ship. Thank goodness it was anchored to the ground at all four corners!

Watching my daughter bounce around inside made me want to climb inside myself. But for the fact that I was wearing a skirt and there were too many other parents keeping watch on their kids, I just might have. Maybe next year. After all, next year is another moonbounce.


The Naming of Kids

Maybe I should name my children. After all these years, they aren't walking around nameless, answering only to calls of "Hey, you." But in the blogosphere, they haven't been referred to as anything except Child or Daughter. Until now!

So by order of the grand poo bah of this blog, affectionately known around these off-line parts as the Empress of the World, I dub thee, in birth order:


I give you their blog names so as to avoid future confusion whenever I write about them. Like the following...

The other day, after seeing Maeve onto her school bus, the preschooler from across the street spied Finola walking to the corner to catch her school bus.

Preschooler: Look, Mommy. There goes Maeve's teenager.


To Sleep; Perchance to ... Zzzz

Did you see "Lost in Translation"? That Sophia Coppola movie with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Remember in the movie how they both were suffering from insomnia?

My sleep cycle is such that my doctor ordered a sleep study. Sleeping in a strange bed is quite difficult. Try sleeping in a strange bed, with a noisy air conditioner, and wires attached all over your head, face, and body. There was what felt like almost an hour of trying to get to sleep. Then the what-felt-like an hour of: waking up, deciding a trip to the restroom would help, trying to get the technicians attention to unhook me, and then trying to get back to sleep.

The technician woke me first to remove the wires because, of all the people spending the night, I was in the shallowest sleep. Arrgh!!! That was at 5:00 a. frickin' m. That makes less than five hours of sleep.

While the technician was removing the wires, he said that I didn't snore. What a relief! But he said that he knew why I didn't sleep. Why? He couldn't tell me because he's not an M.D. Great. Another wait for the doctor to tell me what's going on. While I'm waiting, a little nap would feel so good. Where's Bill Murray when you need him?


There He Was, Just a-Swimmin' in the Pool

Going to a gym can be as much entertainment as it is exercise. On the main exercise floor are the gym rats. Don't forget about the older ladies in silent competition.

Yesterday's vigorous session on the stationary bike and pirouette practice in the studio was followed by a relaxing stretching session. But what followed the stretching topped everything. As I rounded the corner from the stretching area to head back to the locker room, there was a gaggle of women peering through the windows which overlook the pool. What in heaven's name could draw such attention?

A quick look and... Oh, well, then, that explains it! The pool was overrun with men!

The women began to critique each and every one. I stood silent, taking in their comments and judging the validity of those comments for myself. Until it dawned on me that we were doing the exact same thing that men get called on the rug for - objectifying them. Down the the locker room I went.

But passing the window and the women on my way out, I couldn't help but steal one last look. If only I could whistle.


All the World's a Chair

The curtain rises on the third act of the Noël Coward play to a round of applause for the aesthetically deco set design of 1930s New York City. It’s all black and silver and gray and white and polished and mirrored. The illusion of the play is almost complete. Until my eyes fall upon two chairs with asymmetrically curved backs.

If you’re not familiar with “Design for Living”, it’s a silken comedy centering around the lives and loves of Gilda, Leo, and Otto. Act I – Gilda is living with Leo’s best friend Otto in a Parisian walkup with chipped plaster and grimy tilt-out windows. Leo is the now-successful playwright, Otto the struggling painter, Gilda the muse. It’s made known that Leo spent the night with Gilda while Otto was away. Act II – Gilda is living with Leo in a London flat with marbled columns and a maid. Otto returns, a successful painter who has been living in New York. While Leo is away, Otto spends the night with Gilda. But then runs off with Ernest, another mutual but much older friend. Act III – Gilda is married to Ernest when Leo and Otto both return and jointly demand Gilda return to them. Not to one or the other, but to both of them, jointly.

What I’m leaving out is the overt homosexuality that closes Act II as Leo and Otto decide they belong together since neither one can have Gilda. It’s the classic love-triangle in which, at the end, everyone wins.

The daughter of the prop manager of the theatre is my eldest daughter’s best friend. We’ve been to their house on numerous occasions. So as the curtain rises at the beginning of Act III, I recognize those two chairs from the prop manager’s own living room. Just reupholstered. And as the characters talk about the furnishings of the apartment being for sale, I can’t help but wonder what the date will be for this year’s backstage sale of props and costumes. That lime green deco dress in Act III would be the coolest outfit for my husband’s office Christmas party.


Playing Catch-Up

Wow! Excuse my negligence. There are some things that need to be addressed before getting around to other blog ideas.

First off... the answers to the Oldies Music Quiz.

1. Happy Together - The Turtles
2. Turn, Turn - The Byrds
3. Gee - The Crows
4. In-A-Godda-Da-Vida - Iron Butterfly
5. Last Train To Clarksville - The Monkees
6. Day Tripper - The Beatles
7. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood - The Animals
8. The Still of the Night - Whitesnake
9. You’re So Fine - The Falcons
10. I Only Have Eyes for You - The Flamingoes

Now... to answer another burning question. About the Yankee Dime. What is it? Here's the definition: noun. A kiss, origin: A kiss costs nothing, and unscrupulous (i.e., all) Yankees won't part with their dimes, example: "I can't give you a cent for that flower, honey child, but I'll gladly give you a Yankee dime."

That wraps up all those questions swimming around in the backs of your minds. So, until next time, have some Yankee dimes... XX.


Arbitron Rated Lads and Lassies

The problem with having two teenagers in the house is that life can get excruciatingly loud as each one tries to be heard over the other. Over time my deaf ear has tuned out their "conversations" and other small annoyances.

But one thing that is still difficult to handle is waking up to a cacophony of musical tastes competing over the hallway airwaves. It's as if broadcasting their lives via their choice in music to the neighborhood is the only way to achieve standing among their peers.

Thank goodness the weekend is upon us. That blissful time when those sweet, adorable little teenagers sleep until noon and when looking in on your progeny makes you smile rather than grit your teeth and remark that "some animals eat their young".


Music to My Wheels

My eldest daughter applied for a week-long pipe organ seminar this summer. Her organ master recommended her for the program since he knows the program director quite well. We had some concern since there are only so many spaces available and we didn't hear about the program until a week before the deadline.

But last night we got an all-but-confirmation email from the director in response to our email letting him know we had mailed her registration form and fee. He said he would look forward to receiving it. Nothing about "Sorry, but the program is filled."

My husband and I sat down with Google Maps and began planning our respective routes to and from New England. He plans to ride her up on his motorcycle so that he can add the New England states to his colored-in map of states that he's ridden in. While I, on the other hand, was mapping out stops on the way back.

Another summer (mini-) road trip! Woo-hoo!

So far on the agenda after leaving the northern New England states are stops in Wellesley, MA; South Hadley, MA; Northampton, MA; Poughkeepsie, NY; New York City; and Bryn Mawr, PA. Yep, six of the Seven Sisters. One can dream, can't she?


As American as Apple Pie

Did you hear about the 5.0 tremor recently? Contrary to popular opinion and the scientific world, the epicenter was somewhere in southern Appalachia. And it all happened because of me.

Didn't know I could cause the earth to move? Okay, we're not discussing THAT. So get your minds out of the gutter. Yep, my actions caused a massive tremor.

From six feet under.

That was my father rolling in his grave.

All of my life, my father bought good ol' Dee-troit steel. He was a brand-loyal GM follower. When it came time for me to buy my first car, it was all he could do to acknowledge the fact that the car was German. He was a life-long supporter of all things union. And while my first car's company may have been the brainchild of Hitler, at least it was European built using European workers. Heaven help me if the words Honda or Toyota passed my lips.

Booking a rental car at the airport closest to my old hometown proved a comedy of errors. Upon arrival, there were no more mid-size sedans available. So the rental company gave me a convertible instead. In between visits to the hospital to care for my father, that car took me up the mountain to visit family, down the valley to do genealogy research, and along the river for good barbecue. After my father passed away, his sub-compact car became mine.

Driving it reminded me too much of him, and of just accepting things without any say in the matter. So on the spur of the moment, I showed up at my local dealership with the title to the sub-compact and the checkbook in hand. Cash, no better way to buy a car!

So it's not a Chevy like the car I drove during high school and college. I'm not even sure how much, if any, of it is manufactured or assembled in America. But I do know that when the sun comes out and to top goes down, the music on the radio is pure American Rock 'n' Roll.


Brown Thumb

Seriously. How hard is it to keep plants alive? You water them when they're dry. Fertilize them every so often. Make sure they have the required amount of sunlight.

The cactus that a neighbor passed my way last year has proven my undoing. How many people can claim to have killed a cactus? But last night, after inspecting the surrounding plants, there lay it's corpse. A shrivelled, deflated shell of a plant.

Was it overwatered? Underwatered? Too much light? Not enough light? Having grown up in the lushness of the American Southeast, cacti are an exotic breed for which I, apparently, am ill-suited to grow.

Hmm... Guess I'll stick to things I know and cover our house and trees and telephone poles with kudzu.


Smarter Than the Average Asian Bear

Me: posting link on another social network website and searching for independent blogs about the same.

Husband: walking into library and glancing at the screen. "Reading Farsi now?"

Me: "How'd you know it was Farsi?"

Husband: laughing.

Me: "No, seriously. Did you know it was Farsi?"

Husband: "I know these things."

Me: wondering if his being a tax lobbyist is just a cover.


I Need a Nikon Camera

Recently a friend asked me why my profile picture on a different website is a series of pinups. That’s a good question that dredged up memories of a past boyfriend. He was my first boyfriend after the big move away from my college town. He was a CIA operative that I met at a church function during the heyday of the Reagan years. Jeez, that’s really dating myself!

The Spook never left home without his camera. A fabulous thing with different length lenses tucked neatly in his camera bag along with extra rolls of film. After a few outings, he presented me with his recent portfolio. Fifty percent of the frames were candid shots of me. Why? His answer still makes me smile; he found me very attractive. Not something I heard very often, if ever, during my formative years. But girls always like guys to think they look good – and tell them so. And often.

The Spook and I spent an occasional weekend just sitting on the deck of his house taking pictures. He would tell me how to turn my head, where to gaze, when to wet my lips. His work was always stunning.

I’ve been tempted to pull out some of those old photos and scan them to use as my profile pic. But that was over 20 years and three kids ago. Maybe it’s time to find another master with a camera. And become a muse again.