Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Warm Fuzzy

This little mermaid had a bit too much Christmas at the age of 6.
Carolyn is a lovely, grown woman now. Like Nan and Alex, my two other godchildren, she warms my heart.
Each one of them is unique and important to me. We are related by blood AND our souls seem to have a special connection as well.
Truthfully, I am blessed with the most outstanding nieces and nephews anyone could wish for!

Monday, December 28, 2009

I'm Finished!

The pity party is over -- fini -- kaput. It was getting me nowhere fast and I'm tired of being an invalid! What made this party go on too long was the fact that I was hit by a trio of health woes. First was Spouse's flu bug with a slight fever, aches and fatigue, but not enough to stop my normal routine. [I must remember that is not a good thing in my case.] Then it mutated into my annual bout of bronchitis for 18 days of nonstop wheezing and coughing. This bugger virus sneered at the most powerful OTC cough suppressant and expectorant syrup. Even prescribed codeine and guaifenesin hardly made a dent. I was beginning to think I would never sleep again! To add insult to injury, my back snapped a week ago and sent my sciatic nerve into a frenzy. My left leg declared war against the rest of my body probably because of all the wrenching coughing. Sitting upright, bent forward has been the only comfortable position I could find. I actually was able to snooze in that position, but a serious sleep deficit must now be addressed. Spouse tried everything he could think of to be helpful, but I basically snapped his head off most of the time. [Unremitting pain does that to me.] Amazingly, he just kept on trying. He also whipped himself into an emotional frenzy as he tends to do when something is wrong with me. Many extra hours at work, covering for those who were on vacation -- and -- losing sleep over my situation didn't help, either. Therefore, my manifesto: There will be no more snivelling by either one of us. There will be no more following me around afraid I might break in half. Daily showering will recommence immediately. Daily hugs and kisses will be mutually offered and accepted. [Snuggling will return when all the pain is gone -- I promise.] Gratitude for both of us returning to good health will replace frustration and depression . . . so help me God!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Simple Gifts

The protocols and traditions surrounding Christmas and any holiday are what make them special. Anticipation is a huge part of Christmas. Following are some of the things that made Christmas special during my childhood. -- praying for fresh snow to cover the dirty snow; -- eating Norwegian rice pudding and marinated herring for supper on Christmas Eve; -- going to church late and leaving silently by candle light at midnight; -- having a cup of egg nog with Mom, Dad and any sibs still awake enough before heading to bed; -- crawling into a cocoon of cold sheets and heavy blankets; -- squirming around to make blue sparks of static electricity between my flannel pajamas and the sheets; -- falling asleep thinking about the loot I hoped to get in the morning; -- devouring Mom's special Christmas breakfast; -- receiving that one, special something that I simply HAD to have even though it was too expensive; -- watching Mom and Dad enjoying their gifts and them watching us enjoying ours; -- skipping lunch because breakfast had been huge and filling; -- taking a nap to recover from the day's excitement; -- eating too much Christmas dinner; -- going for a walk in the cold, gas-lit streets, looking at the lights on neighbors' Christmas trees through frosty windows; -- catching snowflakes on my tongue or craning my neck to see the stars, hoping to catch sight of THE star; -- crawling under the covers again, admiring favorite gifts before being told to turn out the light and go to sleep; -- falling asleep surrounded by my new stuff, carefully placed on top of my bedspread; -- feeling so very lucky to be alive. Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dope

There's a reason narcotics have that nickname. Anyone who uses them recreationally truly is stupid. They turn brain cells to mush and movement slow-motion. But . . . . . . I thank goodness for them, too. Here's why. Tuesday morning, as I toweled off following my shower I felt a stabbing pain in my left hip and numbness in my leg. I couldn't imagine what had hit me. My mind came up with some scary scenarios. One of my grandmothers had been walking down the driveway to get the newspaper when her hip broke and she fell. The doctors confirmed that it happened in that order -- weird. Being considerably younger than her when that happened, I decided that was not it. As the pain worsened and caught my breath, I thought of a hairline fracture. Calling 911 seemed too extreme, so I called my doctor's office. Choking back tears and sitting on hold after responding to way too many recorded questions, I got an appointment in two hours time -- amazing! Normally, I wouldn't be caught dead in public without make-up or styling my hair. I actually debated whether or not to risk streaking mascara or going without. The latter plan won. I was in too much pain to care about going out with damp, crooked hair and no war paint, bent over at the waist. Gasping and groaning, tears shamelessly running down my face, I drove myself to the doctor's office. Sitting straight up is the only position in which I find comfort, even taking Percocet and high dose Motrin. At this point I'm more pissed-off than pained. Christmas is in two days and I'm barely mobile -- perfect timing! I feel like such a dope . . .

Monday, December 21, 2009

THE Gift

I am not an enthusiastic shopper. Oh, the garden center or grocery store produce section get my juices going, but I couldn't care less about the latest gadget or style. Crowds are not my thing and too much light and noise turn me into a head-achy, grouchy mess. The same was not true when I was a kid. One memorable shopping experience was when I'd made enough money from babysitting to put a wool, plaid kilt I'd been lusting after on lay-away. At 35¢ an hour, it took awhile. I could have requested it for Christmas, but I just HAD to have it sooner than that. When I finally paid off the last bit, the saleslady, recognizing the significance of the moment, carefully folded the kilt so that the shiny-gold-pin-that-came-with-it showed, placed it between tissue paper, then into a gift box. She then put the box into a handle shopping bag. I strode home ever so proudly swinging that bag at my side. Another special shopping expedition happened when I was about 12. Because Mom was such a great cook, my sibs and I decided to give her the latest kitchen gadget for Christmas. We saved up allowances and walked uptown together to make the special purchase. On the long, cold walk back home, we giggled in anticipation of Mom's over-joyed reaction when she opened THE Gift on Christmas morning. We just KNEW she'd LOVE it. Waiting those two weeks was pure agony, but all of us managed to hold out until the big moment without spilling the beans. As was custom in our family, everyone had to brush teeth, get dressed and eat breakfast at a reasonable hour on Christmas morning. Mom and Dad were smart in that they -- er uh, they asked Santa to leave our filled stockings outside our bedroom doors after we'd gone to bed. Between creaking stairs and bells on the stockings, they knew when we were awake. While we all whispered ohs and ahs over the treasures in our stockings, the aroma of coffee and bacon would eventually rise up from the kitchen to grab our attention. Either Mom or Dad would call up the stairs when it was time for us to trundle on down for breakfast. The torture of waiting for everyone to finish eating and for Mom and Dad to pour themselves more coffee ended only after we'd lined up, by age, and were lead into the living room by our parents. The tree was always lit and Santa had added big candy canes. Piles more wrapped gifts also appeared since we had carefully placed our gifts under the tree the night before. Now, placement of gifts was very important. You always wanted your gifts to be opened first so that you could bask [modestly, of course] in the praise and thanks from their recipients. This did not stop us from furtively but earnestly searching for our own names on all of the packages. When it was finally time to get down to the business of actually opening said packages, Dad ceremoniously handed out one at a time to each of us. There was no point in rushing to open a gift because we'd have to wait until each of us had opened theirs and thanked the giver before another would be doled out. It was AGONIZING! If a kid stopped to actually play with a gift, the rest of us would give him or her the eye so they'd know to stop it. Actual use of or play with a gift had to wait until every package had been opened. Of course, that unwritten rule didn't apply to the parents. Christmas morning could be long and drawn out if one of them decided to get all worked up over a new necklace or pair of gloves or something useless like that. Not sure how, but Dad always knew which box was to be left til last. THIS would be the pee-ace-day-reezeeztons -- our gift for Mom. Everything stopped when Dad handed Mom THE Gift. Big grins and stifled giggles gave away our pleasure over our carefully chosen gift. Mom oohed and aahed over the wrapping paper, trying to guess what was inside then slowly -- painfully slowly -- deliberately slowly [like-a-stripper-although-I've-never-been-to-a-striptease-show] -- pulled up the tapes holding everything together. When at long last, the gift was revealed, she half-winked at Dad and exclaimed that it was just what she wanted -- a Veg-O-Matic!! As we kids drew in closer, she opened the box and pulled out the magnificent machine that could slice and dice potatoes or instantly cut them into french fries; slice tomatoes (yeah, sure) and do much more culinary magic. We could hardly contain our excitement and pride! Mom claims to have actually used that Veg-O-Matic throughout the years. It now resides in the kitchen of the youngest sib. She hadn't been born yet, so it seemed appropriate that she should have it -- a piece of family history to cherish and pass down to one of her sons.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Day After

As it does with sand, the wind is whipping the snow into unpredictable shapes and sending sparkle through the air. Altogether, it's been an entirely satisfying snow event here, in D.C.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Oh, What a Beautiful Morning . . .

. . . Oh What a Beautiful Day! Finally -- the one and only District of Columbia is getting a decent snow!! [left photo taken at 9:40 last night / right one was taken at 9:40 this morning] I'm an anomaly in this town [in the whole region probably] because I'm delighted to see the snow. I wouldn't even mind shoveling it -- IF I was healthy and IF I needed to -- one more advantage of apartment living. I will admit that big snow storms are not for everyone nor even necessarily always fun. Losing electricity, water or other side-effects of heavy snow soon take the joy out of it. [Growing up in northern Illinois, I can't tell you how many times I had to take a birdy-bath by candle light in a frigid room with frigid water!] Also, if snow accumulates more than four inches, our Civic's chassis gets hung-up on the unplowed streets. This is the only time when I wish I had one of those big, honkin' SUVs with four wheel drive. I'd be out there toolin' everywhere with a big, evil grin on my face. I LOVE driving in snow! Why, I'd even volunteer to pick-up doctors and nurses and drive them to and from hospitals! But . . . since we don't own a big, honkin' SUV with four wheel drive, footin' it is the best way to go and I'm so ready for it. In a previous post, I mentioned that I'd bought real, rubber galoshes several years ago and have NEVER been able to use them. NOW I can! Snow is a gift from God. Freshly fallen snow: -- makes everything look clean and sparkly. -- muffles sound giving us a respite from noise. -- forces us to slow down and to be mindful. It also makes us realize that those otherwise invisible public works guys are heroes. So get out there and thank those plow truck and salt truck drivers -- they're workin' their tails off! Then go back in your cozy home and appreciate that you have one.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Memories of Hot Dr. Pepper

The past two weeks, I've been fighting a nagging case of bronchitis. Hot drinks seem to help. Walking through the grocery today, I noticed big bottles of Dr. Pepper and impulsively picked up one. When I was a young woman, in the 1970s, I did a fair amount of travelling for business. I didn't mind it then because I was still single with a heavy case of wanderlust. For ten days every June, I travelled to work my nonprofit's annual convention. I was in program development for which we set up a booth of materials. Members were always interested in the latest issue or program we had to offer and the more years I went, the better it got seeing old friends among the members and other exhibitors. Sipping on my hot Dr. Pepper and lemon today reminds me of the convention week when I practically lived on hot Dr. P. and Claxton fruit cake samples. Both had exhibit booths near mine and gave away free samples all day. People may joke about fruit cake, but theirs was really good. I could never get away for lunch, so I was grateful for the free samples. All that sweetness eventually got to me, but it was better than going hungry. For roughly 10 hours a day, I manned that booth with a cheesy grin on my face. My day started around 6 a.m. with setting up workshop rooms. Then it was into the booth for 10 hours. After a quick supper, we worked on setting up for evening workshops. Frankly, I'm not sure how we survived. We were not compensated for overtime, either. A few years later, some liberated women came to work for this old women's organization and the shit hit the fan. They were ready to sue the organization for the lousy treatment of it's staff. Long and short of it is that we eventually were allowed comp. time for all the extra hours. Coming off that convention schedule, it took several days just to get our heads screwed on straight again and our bodies back in sync, so that was a good thing. With that little show of courage, one morning I made a comment about "Tricky Dick" to someone in the coffee room. Even though I was not talking loud, nor was I addressing her, the battle axe who ran the headquarters got red in the face with anger and told me to never use that term again when talking about "our president." Being young and dispensable, I clammed-up. To this day I regret not having the courage to confront her.
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All those memories came flooding back just from drinking hot Dr. Pepper! I shudder to think about what would come back if I ate any fried catfish . . . don't want to go there!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My latest read: "The Help"

When I decided to read Kathryn Stockett's novel I expected to be enlightened, disgusted, touched and shocked. I was not disappointed. What did surprise me was how conflicted many Southerners seem to be about race relations.
The story is set in the early 1960s Mississippi when Jim Crow was still in full force yet an under current of change was brewing. The help was a tactful way to refer to African-American domestics who were paid less than minimum wage and treated no differently than their slave ancestors had been.
It hurt my heart reading about Black women who loved and raised the white children of their employers. They nurtured those children into adulthood only to have them turn around to treat them as their parents had. As during antebellum times, a maid who raised a child might then be given to that grown-up child to serve her and her family. Southern decorum insisted that those women were like extended family and dearly loved.
The constant anxiety these women felt was another shock. If a maid displeased her employer for any reason, she could be accused of stealing or worse. No proof was necessary to accept the word of a white person. In the eyes of white residents and the law, her reputation was ruined and, even if she wasn't sent to prison, she was ostracized and unemployable from then on. There was no mercy, even if she had a family to support.
My naivete was challenged and disrupted by this novel. Growing up in a WASP suburb of Chicago, I realize now that I wore blinders. It was not intentional -- just the way it was for lack of exposure.
Racial color-blindness doesn't exist; differences are too obvious. However, if we concede differences and similarities and our own imperfections and faults we can relate to anyone. We are human first -- all the other categories we use to describe ourselves and others are secondary.
End of sermon.

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's a grayscale kinda day

While others are enjoying the beauty and sparkle of recent snow accumulations, we're having a grayscale kinda day.
Heavy fog descended upon us last night and continues to roll in and out today. The sun is not able to burn through it yet. Visibility goes from about a half mile to maybe 50 yards. I like the soft edges fog gives everything.
Not hearing any planes taking off from or landing at National, so it's not something travelers can appreciate.
I will admit, however, I'll be happy to see the sun again after several days of wet, cold, nasty weather.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Outrageous or What?!

Ever since law firms started advertising on TV, litigation has spiraled upwards to ridiculous levels. There have always been "ambulance chasing lawyers," but a personal experience still leaves me angry. Several years ago, Spouse and I were hit by a car full of young women. Turned out they were half of a bridal party headed to the wedding of one of them. No one was hurt and I was more concerned about the distraught bride and her friends than I was about our trunk full of thawing groceries. The police and fire departments arrived, collected required info. and checked out everyone involved. By then friends had arrived to drive the girls the rest of the way. A tow truck pulled their crippled car out of the intersection and I drove our dented car back home. Within less than two hours, two different law firms phoned to see if we wanted to sue. Yeah, right -- like we were going to sue a distressed, young, college student over an accident! Accidents are unintended incidents of bad luck -- not deliberate acts. Before I could fully explain this to each "vulture" they hung up on me. Tax cheats seem to be the new favorite for TV-advertising-law-firms. There is more than one out there promising to save thousands on what people owe to their states or the IRS. Actual clients candidly and gleefully testify to getting 90% knocked off of their tax bills. Who is being cheated here? THE REST OF US! The lawyers get their percentages and the cheats pay a fraction of what they owe. The rest of us honest, tax-paying schlubs are left to make up the difference. We're talkin' billions here and they get away with it because of loopholes in tax laws. Now the commercials urge the cheats to hurry before the laws change. This cash cow may not last long, so hurry-in to get your piece of the pie! Only in America. . . . *sigh* P.S. I've had way too much time on my hands because I did catch what Spouse had and it's taking longer to get out of my system. My self-pity parties always seem to churn-up stuff like the above. Forgive . . .?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Another Good Memory

My mother's mother was born in 1893 in small town Pennsylvania. She was descended from early Quakers who were given a land grant by William Penn. I'm told that a Friends Meeting House for which Grammy's family donated land still stands. She was a beautiful, modest, auburn-haired, choir member when my Poppy first saw her in church. She had a charming upturned nose, absolutely gorgeous hands and legs [even in old age] and an enviable grace about her. Sadly, these genetic blessings seem to have skipped my generation. Poppy was a good-lookin' young gent himself and two years older. They never admitted it to me but I think they were smitten on first sight. Sunday church services became the highpoint of their week. They enjoyed a long, challenging and satisfying marriage. Four of their five children survived infancy and produced sixteen grandchildren of whom they seemed very proud. Poppy died at too early an age in my mind. He had heart problems which took his life one night in 1972. I'm grateful to have only fun, loving memories of my grandparents. During the long Thanksgiving weekend of 1983, Spouse and I took Grammy to the Old Post Office Pavilion to have a look around and to treat her to her favorite food -- iced cream. The whole drove down from Mom and Dad's in Potomac, I was picturing her digging into a luscious, cold confection in one of the handmade, sugar cone bowls. NOTHING could make her happier! It was a very cold and windy November day and we had to park far away. I was worried that Grammy wouldn't make it to the Pavilion, but she was game to give it a try. All three of us arrived wind-blown, red-cheeked and giggly. Thank God she was none the worse for our long trek! As I steered us toward the iced cream place, Grammy caught a whiff of the skin-on- french-fries. Granted, a cold, blustery day would not be my choice for an iced cream social, but Grammy LOVED the stuff! With a big serving of hot, freshly cooked, salty fries and Cokes, we climbed the stairs to the upper level and a table and chairs overlooking the cavernous space. Spouse nervously watched my frail-looking grandmother daintily chow-down on those fries. Between sips of Coke, she exclaimed how delicious they were. Spouse and I had been married mere months at the time. Being from Iran, he was used to worrying about and doting on his elders. My grandmother blew his mind that day. We enjoyed people-watching and each other's company. She had no problem with his foreigness or religious background. She just wanted to make sure I was happy. Watching us together, she could tell. When we delivered her back to Potomac, she gave both of us hugs and whispered that she was so happy for me. Yeah . . . I still miss her.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Horror at Hains Point

It is a dark and stormy night. [No wait -- it wasn't dark yet and it was just drizzling, but you get the drift.] Dramatic, dying sunbeams sweep downward into the racing, cold, gray waters of the Potomac.
The clueless, wound-up pack of teens arrives shortly before sunset. The river and clouds have drawn them to this particular spot on the Point and the chilly air refreshes them after a full day in the bus bringing them to D.C. from their small town in [oh, I don't care -- you pick a place]. As the fresh breezes off the water reach them, their sexual energy level blossoms by at least 47%!
Skittering and scampering around the park, chasing each other in mock assault, accidentally touching each other's privates, little do they know that they are stimulating more than just themselves. Reverberations through the ground alert the Creature of the Point to his next opportunity to snack.
Stealth is crucial if Creature's hunt is to succeed. Gray clouds help because his aluminum arm is nearly the same color.
Teens are a particular delicacy. The hormones surging inside them tingle his taste buds like spice and salt -- irresistible. Pinching off their greasy little heads is like squeezing a luscious, juicy grape off its vine. Popping one into his mouth is satisfying nearly to the point of ecstasy. Teen males are a little gamier-tasting than females, but Creature is not picky.
The jig is up after consuming only four teens -- drat! Somehow, in their hormone-saturated minds, the gang of teens figures out some of their classmates have gone missing. In frustration, a chaperon blows his whistle, figuring they are in the bushes somewhere doing what teens do when they're let loose.
The gigantic, smoke-spewing bus, now occupied by four fewer passengers, soon departs the Point. I stand frozen in my steps, waiting for the inevitable.
Soon enough a hand resurfaces, feels around for anything else to eat, then, in a fit of frustration, makes an ear splitting finger-snap and descends to await another bus-full of snacks.
Life at Hains Point is never dull.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Just cuz I feel like it. . .

Reality vs. Hollywood Reality

If folks don't start questioning how real TV reality shows are after last week's White House incident, I worry about our future and security. Publicity hungry people will find ways to put themselves in the public eye. The couple that broke into the White House (I will not add to their notoriety by naming them) have pulled similar stunts elsewhere. For example: the female half pretended to be a former Redskin's cheerleader at a reunion. The real ones quickly figured it out, but that didn't stop Hollywood from buying footage of it. If this couple was not conventionally attractive, dressed to the nines and transported in one of those ridiculous Hummer limousines, they would have been sent packing at the gate. Through impudence and lies they managed to talk their way in. In general, security people try to be courteous and helpful as well as diligent. Thanks to this crass couple, I'm afraid we may no longer enjoy as much civility when going through security measures -- anywhere. As for producers of those TV reality shows -- quit it and give us something worth watching! Entertain or educate us. Quit pandering to viewers who only want to witness embarrassing or salacious moments in others' lives. Thank goodness for PBS!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This past Monday was a big day . . .

. . . for my cousin Hallie and her husband, Mike. The one and only Hillary R. Clinton, Secretary of State, swore-in Mike as the new U.S. ambassador to Estonia. He's a 30-year career diplomat and the two of them make a phenomenal team. They've served under every imaginable condition from being shot at in Panama to befriending Serbian royalty. Thankfully, they remain my lovely, loving cousin Hallie and charming, incredibly smart and jovial Mike. Family from Illinois, Pennsylvania and Tennessee came for it. Originally scheduled for the Monday before, the Senate was too busy with healthcare reform to take the final steps in confirming Mike and other appointees. Many of his family members from Tennessee planned to be there on the original date but could not come this time. Mom, Janet and Zach drove up from Southern Maryland and brought Patty, Tom and their son Mike who'd flown in from Chicago. We gathered here and slogged over together through the rain and wind. [Even though Spouse and I live catty-corner to State, there weren't enough umbrellas to go around, so some of us were not quite as polished as we would have liked to be walking into the grand atmosphere of the 8th floor.] Even though I've been there before, the stateliness [pun intended] and sparkle still impress me. [I can't imagine how the huge crystal chandeliers -- of which there are many -- are kept so clean!] Being that Madam Secretary was still meeting at the White House when our event was to begin, we wandered out onto the terrace to enjoy the view. There are several more rooms elegantly decorated with priceless paintings, china, silver, oriental rugs and antique furniture, so we were not bored. [Though standing around for so long took a toll on some of the older guests.] When Mike, Hallie and their children Lindsay and Nicholas arrived, followed by Mrs. Clinton, we all applauded. She made some very complimentary remarks about Mike and Hallie both. [Mike had been one of the people who helped her prepare for her confirmation hearings. It was nice that she mentioned that in addition to his career highlights.] During Mike's comments, she looked around the room, impressed by the turn-out. A long grip and grin followed and we family members waited around. [The Secretary departed shortly after Mike's remarks because a dignitary from New Zealand (?) was visiting. I didn't get a good look at the flags on the limos because I was fumbling with an umbrella and trying to get out of the way.] Anyway, we then headed to Red Hot and Blue on Wilson Blvd. for a gang lunch where we could finally let loose and enjoy each others' company. Mike and Hallie were our always gracious hosts even though they leave for Estonia on Sunday! We're all so proud of them but hate to see them go. . .
The photo is from one of their Christmas cards sent during their service in Serbia.