Thursday, May 28, 2009

Men Doing Needlework

A young man recently passed away and his obituary stirred memories I thought some might find interesting. This bearded, nearly 7-footer, discovered a love and talent for knitting. Having learned the basics from a friend, he took off running. He became so adept that he taught others knitting tricks and wrote books about the art. Roosevelt "Rosie" Greer was a bear of a football player for the L.A. Rams in the 60s. He took up needlework as a hobby to help him relax after games. He also became an actor and entertainer. Talk show hosts light-heartedly teased him about his needlepoint hobby, but his artistic talent was also acknowledged. During the 1970s, the organization I worked for implemented an anti-crime campaign. It kicked-off with a national workshop here in D.C. An injury forced Rosie to retire from football by then and, among his many interests, he became a crime fighter. He also agreed to be a special guest at the workshop. A co-worker and I were asked to greet Rosie when he arrived. At well over six feet and nearly that in circumference, we easily spotted him. He was wearing a light blue denim pants suit, tastefully decorated with embroidery, front and back. He gave both of us bear hugs -- my arms could only reach his sides. When a photographer asked to take our picture, we women stood at his sides. His arms were draped over our shoulders and our arms weren't long enough to meet in the middle his back. This guy is HUGE! When I think about him, I have to admit to a silent giggle picturing this giant-of-a-man with hands like hams delicately stitching a pattern with needle and embroidery floss. But then I remember an exhibit Mom and I visited last winter at Ann Marie Gardens in Solomons, Maryland. Woolies were created by 19th century sailors on long sea voyages to help fill the weeks and months at sea. When I first heard the term woolies, I thought it referred to long underwear. It doesn't. Using scraps of yarn, thread and anything else they could scrounge onboard and during shore leave, men wove and stitched elaborate likenesses of their ships and other scenes. My photos cannot come close to illustrating the fine and detailed work in these woolies, but I think you'll get the idea. Click on each picture to see more detail.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

George Mason doesn't seem bummed about all the hundreds of thousands of Harleys in town for Rolling Thunder this weekend. They're making lots of noise and traffic chaos but it's only for a day or two. This is a serious event for vets of several wars. Their bond with each other is clearly evident as they help each other when a bike breaks down or someone gets lost. It's quite a spectacle to see streams of them thundering across the E Street Expressway and down 23rd Street. Spouse and I wave to them from our balcony and many wave back. The weather has been perfect yesterday and today. I just hope the predicted storms hold-off until tonight so they can complete their circuit.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Say WHAT?!

In a full-page, color ad in today's Washington Post -- A section no less -- is an offer:
D.C. Retailers Initiative CELEBRATE Memorial Day with Recession Buster $avings Save up to $50
Following that huge header are cut-out coupons: one to save $25 for purchasing a minimum of 6 (750 ml or larger) bottles of "spirits" [hard liquor]. Next to it is another cut-out coupon to save $25 on the purchase of 6 eight-packs of beer and/or wines (750 ml or larger). Below the coupons are colorful pictures of bottled "spirits". Do we really need/want to encourage alcohol consumption during what should be a sober remembrance of our war dead? I'm not opposed to alcohol, but really! The kicker, however, is that to obtain one's Recession Buster $avings, (limit one per household/organization) the coupons must be completed with full name, address, date of birth and email address with receipt attached and mailed to El Paso, Texas . . .

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

To wear or not to wear: that is the question.

There seems to be a tempest in a teapot brewing right here in river city! It has to do with the wearing or not wearing of pantyhose. There are good arguments for and against use of this particular garment. But then again it almost seems like a moot point since so many women wear pants/slacks these days. Nevertheless, I feel it's my right and indeed duty to weigh-in with my two-cents-worth. During the dark ages -- during my early teens in the early 60s -- girls could hardly wait to wear stockings or, as our grandmothers called them "hosiery." It was a sign of maturity. Pantyhose had not yet been invented. One way to hold up stockings was with individual garters -- big rubber bands that cut off one's leg circulation or, if they failed, rolled down the leg rolling the stocking with it to just below the knee -- not at all attractive. Another way was by means of a garter belt. This was a weird looking contraption that, oddly enough, some men found arousing. It looked a little like crotchless panties with two strips of elastic hanging down the front and two in the back. Metal clips hung at the ends of the strips and were intended to anchor one's stockings. Doing the back clips required more agility than I ever attained. Oh, and let's not forget about the SEAMS!! Yes, dear boys and girls, our stockings had seams running up the back of the leg from of the heavily knitted heel. Keeping them straight and perpendicular was an unobtainable goal for most of us. We were all thankful when unseamed stockings came out. Still, the garter belt was a problem. The back clips often would let go for no apparent reason necessitating a quick trip to the ladies room. There was yet a third option to hold up one's hosiery -- the girdle. Whoever devised this garment surely hated females. I suppose they were better than early corsets with bones stitched into them. Girdles were more or less rubberized shorts and most uncomfortable. Shape wear is a euphemistic name for the modern version of girdles and other garments that squeeze the breath and joy out of their wearers. Getting back to pantyhose -- I don't think the decision to wear or not to wear them should be decided by anyone but the individual. Free choice is a God-given right, so back off criticizing women for their personal choices! I, for one feel more comfortable and presentable wearing them with a dress. [For those of you who may be wondering -- yes, I wear a slip, too.] I gave up the girdle long ago, but am not ready to abandon pantyhose -- yet. If some women want to wax, exfoliate, and wear baby oil on their legs everyday -- let um! If others want to be hairy or stubbly, so be it! If I want to make scars and spider veins less noticeable, it's my daggum right!!

Monday, May 18, 2009

"The (Ladies) Women's Room"

The author of this book recently died. Marilyn French was labeled a man-hater because of her books and didn't do too much to change any minds about it. The (Ladies) Women's Room came out in 1977. I was a single, working "girl" at that point, still wondering what had happened to the life plan I had anticipated. By then, according to the plan, I should have been married for a few years -- right out of college -- with at least two kids under my belt. My husband would be the sole bread-winner and I would be the faithful full time mom and homemaker. The equal rights movement basically nullified the plan for many in my generation. Rather than accepting the stereotype our mothers had endured, we were now free to chart our own course. We had little guidance to help with this, but books such as Marilyn's gave us the courage to try. I've always been shy. I do not dress provocatively because I don't want to draw attention to myself. However, from the time I was about 15 I have been subjected to catcalls and whistles -- "nice headlights" - "great nokkers" - "ooo baby I'd like to get it on with you" -- you get the picture. It was humiliating and infuriating. Having been raised to be a Lady, I didn't know how to handle it. Marilyn's book gave me the courage to hold my head high and keep walking with dignity. Reverberations of the women's movement are hardly noticeable anymore. Girls and young women have virtually the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Like Women's Suffrage, the Equal Rights Amendment is just something they've read about in history books. The women's liberation movement caused a paradigm shift that has enabled more freedom of choice for both men and women. Fathers are now staying home happily and effectively parenting their children while mothers bring home the bacon. During my childhood, this would have been scandalous. Marilyn French was no Susan B. Anthony but she helped to illustrate the need for women to change the ways we think about our lives and personal goals. Thanks, Marilyn.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Going Solo -- epilogue

Despite construction on I-95, I arrived home at noon just as I'd promised Spouse. As soon as I walked in, he greeted me with dirty laundry, an empty refrigerator, a long hug and lots of kisses. I put down my bag, drank a glass of water, then we headed out to the grocery store. It felt good to be back home and even better when we cut into a watermelon Spouse chose. It was as good as any late summer melon, so we ate some for lunch and I took a nap while he watched the Cubs or Caps, or some other team on TV. We both slept like rocks Saturday night. I can't speak for other couples, but neither of us sleeps well when the other is not there. We went to bed early and got up late. I feel guilty about not driving down to Mom's in Solomons for Mother's Day, but I was exhausted. The rest of Sunday, I sat on the balcony enjoying a spectacular May day and watched for Spouse to come back from a run on the Mall. He came home energized and happy. As always, he'd met interesting people and enjoyed watching the tourists and little kids watching the ducks and geese. To top it off, I'd cooked his favorite pot roast. We both relaxed knowing that we were safe at home and together again. That may sound predictable and boring, but for old fogies like us, it's contentment. Oh, did I mention that Carolyn's going to Alaska . . . *sigh*

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Going Solo -- part 5

When Carolyn and I went to the Blue Talon Bistro for dinner Friday night, I was still full from the nuggets, but didn't want to be a spoilsport. As each waiter came to flirt with her, I eyed the menu trying to figure out what to order. Carolyn ordered the meat loaf and I ended up with a chicken mushroom crepe that will live in memory forever -- it was THAT GOOD!! Of course it was laden with cream and felt like a lump of lead in my stomach, but I was disappointed that I couldn't finish it. Damn those nuggets!! Waddling back to the car, we drove to her dorm and sat in her tiny single room chatting: me asking embarrassing, personal questions -- her working hard to avoid answering them. All too soon, her beau arrived with a friend. They were scrounging supplies for a barbecue at another friend's newly rented house. A little small talk and I knew it was time for me to depart. Before I left, Carolyn offered to meet me at the hotel early the next morning for breakfast before I headed back up to DC. I knew she was just starting a long night with her friends and had plenty of studying to do so I tried to talk her out of it. Of course I wanted to spend more time with her, but one goes to college only once and I didn't want to be a big wet blanket during her last few days on campus! Being her mother's daughter, she insisted, so we met at 8:30 Saturday morning for breakfast in my hotel and parted with hugs and kisses in the lobby. It hurt my heart watching her go because I knew it would be a long time before I see her again. Days after she gets home to Illinois, she'll be leaving for a job in Anchorage -- ALASKA!! She's very excited about it, but her large and extended family will miss her bigtime. Did I mention she's going to Anchorage? . . . the one in ALASKA!!
-- to be continued --

Friday, May 15, 2009

Going Solo part 4

Heading back toward the car from the glass house, I spotted a distinguished looking older man and a toddler, both bare-footed, sitting on a log at the edge of the water. There was a small, sandy beach into which the little girl was carving shapes with a twig. When I asked if I might join them for a minute, I was welcomed. The gentleman, upon learning about my visit to a William and Mary student, told me he was a recently retired physics professor from there. His granddaughter loved spending time with her Boobah and especially at this spot on the river. They seemed perfectly content just being together. Within minutes of sitting down, a big, gnarly pine cone dropped on my head, startling all of us. We laughed about it and soon after I said my good-byes and returned to the road. Driving on low, wooden bridges across wetlands, I had a sense of what early colonists might have experienced there. Later in the summer the mosquitos and dragonflies must have been irritating. The smell of wet timbers and marsh weren't entirely pleasing, either. But then again, 17th century people didn't bathe often, so they probably didn't notice it! Anyway, I stopped several more times to enjoy the site of mergansers, egrets, falcons, swallows and osprey. And, for the first time, I saw an actual wild blue bird! At one pull-off point, there was a chunky tree offering friendly shade. Sitting in my car, I watched a young couple enjoying a picnic several yards away. The only sound was the river lapping at the shore, breezes blowing through the leaves and birdsong. It was the kind of experience that makes me feel closer to Mother Earth and God. I relished it until my stomach started growling. I'd had an early breakfast of hotel-room-coffee-maker-coffee (yuck!) and two Pepperidge Farm cookies. It was now almost 2:30 and Carolyn would be meeting me at 5:30 to go out for dinner. Driving back into Williamsburg, I got twisted around just enough to run into a KFC. I could almost hear my stomach begging for chicken nuggets, so like a fool, I fulfilled it's wish.
-- to be continued --

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Going Solo -- part 3

Later on Friday, knowing Carolyn had papers due and final exams to go, I struck out on my own to give her study time. She suggested I take the Colonial Parkway to Jamestown and even provided me with a marked map.
Even though the weather was pretty swampy, I decided to hit the road with the sun roof and windows open. [Why is it that we don't think about sunburn when we're in a moving car. . .?] All that aside, it was a gorgeous, soul-lifting experience, cruising down the nearly deserted parkway. I hate to admit that it would not have been nearly as fun if Spouse had been there. He worries about pot holes, watching the road every nanosecond and getting lost. [Ok, so he has reason to worry about the latter. . .] Going by myself allowed time to photograph interesting bark, flowers, and to just stop to enjoy a moment without being questioned.
The wide James River is frequently in view, interrupted only by groves of pole pines, honeysuckle bushes, bright yellow buttercup flowers, clover and oaks, maples and evergreens. The fragrance was heavenly! Just cut grass added to the fresh, green perfume.
When I arrived at Jamestown, I skipped the welcome center and instead chose to drive the long way around the island. The first stop I made was to visit the "glass house." A reconstruction of the original had heavy wooden beams holding up the high ceilings that sheltered fired-up kilns. A cordial, costumed man was working on a candle stick in pale green glass and chatted with me while he put on the finishing touches. He admitted it was fun working their during cold weather, but not so much in the heat of summer.
-- to be continued --

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Going Solo -- part 2

Today's greater Williamsburg bears no resemblance whatsoever to what it was 30 years ago. Even though we found a "Williamsburg Pottery" on a tourist map, it wasn't at all what I expected. It was somewhere in a nearly abandoned shopping center (?) of warehouses selling everything from day-old Pepperidge Farm baked goods to "native arts." We walked to most of the buildings, but the heat and humidity were intimidating enough that I talked my niece into cancelling the search for said pottery place. Of course we spotted it as we drove out, but the car's AC felt too good at that point.
I dropped Carolyn off at her dorm to shower, change and get to her parttime job. That evening I took her and her beau to their favorite Mexican restaurant for supper. I was going to order a Corona, but when Carolyn ordered a frozen Margarita, I knew I had to try one. I'm so glad I did!!
Since they both had papers due that night, we ended our evening early. I returned to my hotel room happy to have spent quality time with such adorable young people.
The next morning I drove Carolyn to her physical therapy session. She had a really gruesome knee injury playing pick-up basketball in March and it will be months before she can even run again.
Her session was in a tiny room inside a huge sports complex outside of town. I cringed watching her torturous looking exercises. In another part of the building I discovered 3 and 4 year olds learning to jump, skip, run -- forwards and backwards -- and balance on a ball all in preparation to learn to play soccer. They were just TOO CUTE!! An energized little girl in pigtails reminded me of Carolyn's mom, my younger sister, when she was little. My sentimentality gene really got a workout during this trip!
-- to be continued --

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Going Solo -- part 1

Since marrying a somewhat overly-protective guy 26 years ago, I've had few opportunities to travel on my own. Last Thursday, I took the plunge and drove down to Williamsburg to visit my niece/goddaughter at William and Mary. I wanted some one-on-one-time with her and knew I wouldn't get it during her graduation next weekend. I'll admit some trepidation, especially with Spouse constantly reminding me of how dangerous I-95 is. He didn't want me to go by myself. You see, he has this idea that we should die together. Whenever he brings that up, I remind him that the days and times of his and my demise are out of our hands. Then I assure him that we have lots of living yet to do. The drive down was smooth and fast. And, I actually didn't get lost! Having no sense of direction, that's a milestone in itself!! Having said that, on those occasions when I do get lost, I take it as a challenge and work my way out of the predicament. Moving on . . . Those of you who have driven into and around Williamsburg know that the street layout makes absolutely no sense. I chalk this up to its ancient history and the never-dying desire of current day residents to maintain the antique charm of the town. Thankfully they also understand that out-of-towners frequently end up in turn-only lanes they don't want to be in. A turn signal and waved thanks to the driver behind me always worked and I was never honked-at. Having done Williamsburg in the 5th grade and again about 30 years ago, I decided to forgo the pleasure and stayed in a nice hotel across the street from the campus. Carolyn's dorm was a 5-minute walk away. During my first day there, she and I enjoyed lunch at an outdoor table in the center of the campus. It was dejavu for me, watching the young, good-looking students hanging out with each other or rushing to and from classes. When we finished eating, I suggested that we try to find the cool pottery place I remembered from so many years ago.
--to be continued --

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Tribute to My Mom

A huge regret in my life is that it has taken me so many years to get to know my Mom. It's not that she is unapproachable or secretive. Far from it, but she took the role of motherhood seriously and rarely displayed anger, hurt, disappointment or fear. I first started realizing she was a mere mortal about 20 years ago when she asked me to go on a mission with her. She and her younger sister needed to select a facility for their ailing and aged mother after her release from the hospital. Totally out of character for her, my Grammy refused to walk after her broken hip healed. She was only 97! She was the example by which her children raised their children. She had a God-given gift for music and singing and her children received the same. Because they were so gifted, each was expected to give back by singing in their church choir -- which they did. [Out of all her siblings, I think Mom had the loveliest soprano.] The gene that gifted my Mom's generation skipped me, but I could hold a tune and learned to read music when I started piano lessons at the age of 8. Therefore, I was automatically accepted into a progression of youth choirs in our church. It was usually fun except when we had to sing at the early services on Easter and Christmas mornings. I was unabashedly proud hearing my Mom sing solos in church. Being a soloist, she sang a traditional hymn for baptisms. From her seat in the front row of the chancel choir seating, she beamed with motherly love at the newborns carried down the aisle by proud parents. I looked forward to walking out with her through a phalanx of admiring church members. If Mom and Dad hadn't been smitten with each other at first sight, Mom might have become an opera star. It had been her goal until she caught sight of a young Navy Lt. JG walking into their college cafeteria. They were married within months. My home town had a population of about 7000, but it also had it's own opera company. Mom had the lead roles in productions of Dido and Anaes, The Butterfly Stomped, Hansel and Gretel (she played Hansel in this one), Madame Butterfly and more that I've forgotten. I think Dad was a little put-off by the bouquets and praise Mom received from admiring men. He knew he didn't have to worry, but witnessing the adulation lavished on his "bride" by men of wealth and power bugged him. Her expansive and unconditional love for her family still amazes me. We kids all went through the teen-angst-years and young-adult-know-it-all-years. Yet Mom steadfastly believed in us and allowed us to learn from our mistakes with subtle guidance and remarkable understanding. Mom and Dad were very different personalities from very different backgrounds yet they created a unified, supportive family unit that still thrives today. We live in different parts of the country, but know that if one needs help, all of us will respond. Thanks, Mom. You know I mean it when I tell you I love you.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Einstein and Bloggers

I first discovered after an unsettling event during my "blogger novice months." I thought I'd done something terrible to be getting so many hits. It took a long distance call to my niece and blog-mentor to find out that dcblogs had mentioned one of my posts. Ever since then I've been discovering and following more blogs. One thing I've noticed is that many younger bloggers seem obsessed with relationships and analyzing them. Blogging has opened a whole new venue to replace the closed door, hushed chats between close friends. Anonymity is the key. Anyone can throw a question or opinion out there and sometimes get some useful feedback. Albert Einstein is remembered mostly for his complex theories on space and time. He also had a sense of fun and knowledge of human nature. A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the "universe", a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.