Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thumbs Down: Generic sliced cheese food

In a panic about the state of the economy I bought a package of generic sliced cheese food while grocery shopping a couple of weeks ago. And not the store brand, but even more generic than the store brand. "Guaranteed Value American Sandwich Slices."

Tonight I had the opportunity to taste the individually wrapped American sandwich slice when I made a grilled cheese food sandwich to accompany my chicken noodle soup for dinner. BMG, a cheese connoisseur who has eaten many a sliced cheese food sandwich, generously remarked that the generic generic cheese tastes like plastic. He is being far too kind to the people at the Guaranteed Value Sliced Cheese Food Factory. Because it actually tasted like hot spit filled with sand in what was masquerading as a melty delicious exterior. And I ate the whole sandwich trying to love the hot spit and sand in the melty deliciousness. But I never loved it. I hated it. And now I'm sad I spend $2 on 16 pieces of cheese. $0.12 per slice is WAY too much to have spent on this garbage.

My advice to you, dear readers, is that it is not worth it to save $0.025 per slice to have to eat hot spit mixed with sand. Thanks for listening.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Facebook movie game: Do you have a life? I do.

I've seen 69 of 239 films! Well, at least 69 of 239 films in their entirety and in my recollection.

This game is going around on Facebook. SUPPOSEDLY if you've seen over 85 films, you have no life. Mark the ones you've seen. There are 239 films on this list. Copy this list, go to your own facebook account, paste this as a note. Then, put x's next to the films you've seen, add them up as you go (you'll understand as you move it), change the header adding your number, and click post at the bottom. Have fun, and if you go over 85, I won't think you don't have a life, but WILL think that you love movies!

(x) Rocky Horror Picture Show
(x) Grease
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean
( ) Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest
( ) Boondock Saints
(X) Fight Club
( ) Starsky and Hutch
() Neverending Story
(x) Blazing Saddles
(x) Airplane
Total: 6

(x) The Princess Bride
() Anchorman
(x) Napoleon Dynamite
(x) Labyrinth
() Saw
( ) Saw II
( ) White Noise
( ) White Oleander
( ) Anger Management
( ) 50 First Dates
( ) The Princess Diaries
( ) The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement
Total so far: 9

( ) Scream
( ) Scream 2
( ) Scream 3
( ) Scary Movie
( ) Scary Movie 2
( ) Scary Movie 3
( ) Scary Movie 4
(x) American Pie
( ) American Pie 2
( ) American Wedding
( ) American Pie Band Camp
Total so far: 10

(x) Harry Potter 1
(x) Harry Potter 2
(x) Harry Potter 3
(x) Harry Potter 4
( ) Resident Evil 1
( ) Resident Evil 2
( ) The Wedding Singer
( ) Little Black Book
( ) The Village
( ) Lilo & Stitch
Total so far: 14

(x) Finding Nemo
( ) Finding Neverland
( ) Signs
( ) The Grinch
(x) Texas Chainsaw Massacre
( ) Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
( ) White Chicks
(x) Butterfly Effect
( ) 13 Going on 30
( ) I, Robot
( ) Robots
Total so far: 17

( ) Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
( ) Universal Soldier
( ) Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events
( ) Along Came Polly
( ) Deep Impact
( ) King Pin
( ) Never Been Kissed
(x) Meet The Parents
( ) Meet the Fockers
( ) Eight Crazy Nights
( ) Joe Dirt
( ) KING KONG
Total so far: 18

( ) A Cinderella Story
( ) The Terminal
( ) The Lizzie McGuire Movie
( ) Passport to Paris
( ) Dumb & Dumber
( ) Dumber & Dumberer
( ) Final Destination
( ) Final Destination 2
( ) Final Destination 3
(x) Halloween
(x) The Ring
( ) The Ring 2
( ) Surviving X-MAS
( ) Flubber
Total so far: 20

( ) Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
( ) Practical Magic
( ) Chicago
( ) Ghost Ship
( ) From Hell
( ) Hellboy
( ) Secret Window
( ) I Am Sam
( ) The Whole Nine Yards
( ) The Whole Ten Yards
Total so far: 20

(x) The Day After Tomorrow
( ) Child's Play
( ) Seed of Chucky
( ) Bride of Chucky
( ) Ten Things I Hate About You
( ) Just Married
( ) Gothika
(x) Nightmare on Elm Street
(x) Sixteen Candles
( ) Remember the Titans
( ) Coach Carter
( ) The Grudge
( ) The Grudge 2
( ) The Mask
( ) Son Of The Mask
Total so far: 23

( ) Bad Boys
( ) Bad Boys 2
( ) Joy Ride
( ) Lucky Number Slevin
(x) Ocean's Eleven
(x) Ocean's Twelve
(x) Bourne Identity
(x) Bourne Supremecy
(x) Lone Star
( ) Bedazzled (The Peter Cook/Dudley Moore version is what I saw)
( ) Predator I
( ) Predator II
( ) The Fog
( ) Ice Age
(x) Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
( ) Curious George
Total so far: 29

(x) Independence Day
(x) Cujo
( ) A Bronx Tale
( ) Darkness Falls
(x) Christine
(x) ET
(x) Children of the Corn
( ) My Bosses Daughter
( ) Maid in Manhattan
( ) War of the Worlds
( ) Rush Hour
( ) Rush Hour 2
Total so far: 34

( ) Best Bet
( ) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
( ) She's All That
( ) Calendar Girls
(x) Sideways
( ) Mars Attacks
(x) Event Horizon
( ) Ever After
(x) Wizard of Oz
(x) Forrest Gump
( ) Big Trouble in Little China
(x) The Terminator
(x) The Terminator 2
() The Terminator 3
Total so far: 40

(x) X-Men
(x) X-2
( ) X-3
(x) Spider-Man
(x) Spider-Man 2
( ) Sky High
( ) Jeepers Creepers
( ) Jeepers Creepers 2
(x) Catch Me If You Can
(x) The Little Mermaid
(x) Freaky Friday
( ) Reign of Fire
( ) The Skulls
( ) Cruel Intentions
( ) Cruel Intentions 2
( ) The Hot Chick
(x) Shrek
( ) Shrek 2
Total so far: 49

( ) Swimfan
( ) Miracle on 34th street
( ) Old School
( ) The Notebook
( ) K-Pax
( ) Krippendorf's Tribe
( ) A Walk to Remember
(x) Ice Castles
( ) Boogeyman
(x) The 40-year-old Virgin
Total so far: 51

(x) Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Ring
(x) Lord of the Rings The Two Towers
(x) Lord of the Rings Return Of the King
(x) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
(x) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
(x) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Total so far: 57

( ) Basketball
( ) Hostel
(x) Waiting for Guffman
( ) House of 1000 Corpses
( ) Devils Rejects
( ) Elf
( ) Highlander
(x) Mothman Prophecies
( ) American History X
( ) Three
Total so Far: 59

( ) The Jacket
( ) Kung Fu Hustle
( ) Shaolin Soccer
( ) Night Watch
(x) Monsters Inc.
(x) Titanic
(x) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
( ) Shaun Of the Dead
( ) Willard
Total so far: 62

( ) High Tension
( ) Club Dread
( ) Hulk
( ) Dawn Of the Dead
( ) Hook
( ) Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
(x) 28 days later
( ) Orgazmo
( ) Phantasm
(x) Waterworld
Total so far:64

( ) Kill Bill vol 1
( ) Kill Bill vol 2
( ) Mortal Kombat
( ) Wolf Creek
( ) Kingdom of Heaven
( ) the Hills Have Eyes
( ) I Spit on Your Grave aka the Day of the Woman
( ) The Last House on the Left
( ) Re-Animator
( ) Army of Darkness
Total so far: 64

( ) Star Wars Ep. I The Phantom Menace
( )Star Wars Ep. II Attack of the Clones
( ) Star Wars Ep. III Revenge of the Sith
(x) Star Wars Ep. IV A New Hope
( ) Star Wars Ep. V The Empire Strikes Back
( ) Star Wars Ep. VI Return of the Jedi
( ) Ewoks Caravan Of Courage
( ) Ewoks The Battle For Endor
(x) The Matrix
(x) The Matrix Reloaded
( ) The Matrix Revolutions
( )Animatrix
( ) Evil Dead
( ) Evil Dead 2
(x) Team America: World Police
( ) Red Dragon
(x) Silence of the Lambs
( ) Hannibal

Total so far: 69

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A perfect Christmas

For the first time in more than 10 years I've been excited about a little decorating for Christmas. I love the lights and the smell of a Christmas tree. Growing up my mom would enlist the entire family in decorating the weekend following Thanksgiving. We would string garland and lights on the banisters, bedeck the windows with lights, and tie red ribbons on nearly every object in the house that could accommodate a red ribbon. It was an exciting family project that, for me, heralded the start of the Christmas season. I had been in a relationship with a Jew for several years who objected to Christmas decorations. So, in the spirit of relationship harmony I swallowed my enthusiasm for decorating.

This year, BMG affirmed my interest in decorating, which has opened the floodgates for my inner Martha Stewart. But, the house isn't quite Turkey Hill Farm, so I knew I needed to start small. BMG and I decided no tree this year (the house still needs some work to make room for a tree). Sigh. I still wanted to decorate, so I decided I would string lights onto the wreath I bought to hang on the front post. But, no power source. Hmmm. What to do? Aha! I remembered using battery operated lights once for a work event, so I started to scour the ad circulars for similar Christmas lights that would just require a simple flick of a switch and, through the miracle of mercury or acid or whatever it is that makes batteries work, I'd have a tastefully lit wreath.

I found a deal on lights at Stop & Shop - buy two boxes of 15 lights each for $4. So, I bought two, wound the lights around the wreath, and wired the battery boxes to the back of the circle of greens. And then I ran out to buy size C batteries - ten of them because I remembered from my work experience that these lights took a lot of juice, and I didn't want to be unlit for even one more night. I excitedly put the batteries into the compartment, stowed the spares, and then tried to flick the switch for my "voila" moment.

One string of lights never lit. Apparently there wasn't enough tension on the battery buttons to make it work, no matter how many times I flipped the batteries over, switched them with new batteries, or tried to wiggle every possible moving part (and even some unmoving ones.) And the second string of 15 tiny white sparklers? The battery door was SOOOO tight that I had to turn the lights on and off with...my teeth.

While I LOVE Christmas lights, I love my teeth more. So, I've taken the battery operated lights off the wreath and thrown them away. And I've replaced the wreath with a beautiful (and free) swag given to me by Coop. The wreath is now indoors, hanging on the front window, looking festive and sharing its evergreen fragrance with us - a perfect substitute for a tree. (I may even hang ornaments on it.) My only string of regular Christmas lights is about 15 years old. And it is now at the bottom of a trash bag. Because it wouldn't work when I plugged it in after winding it around the indoor wreath.

No lights, no tree. The house is fragrant. And I don't feel stifled by my relationship. Feels like a perfect Christmas to me.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Stepford Gifts

My home has been barraged with ad circulars and catalogues over the last month. I was kind of hoping the catalogue people wouldn't find me when I moved, but apparently they have, or a whole new crop of catalogue people has discovered where I live.

I thumbed through a glossy, four-page ad for a big box housewares store this evening while waiting for my sister, who was at Target, to return a call. I found the circular to be depressing because of the Stepford Wives-like quality of the goods being hawked. Things like,
Talking picture frames ($19.99-$139.96)
"Mr. Beer" Deluxe Home Edition Brew Kit ($29.99)
"Retro Series Hot Air Popcorn Maker ($39.99)
Pet nail trimmers ($19.99)
Personal, hand-held breathalyzer ($14.99)
Hot chocolate maker ($19.99).

As I absent-mindedly turned the pages all I could imagine was hundreds of Christmas trees with the exact same collection of plastic crap assembled underneath them. And when these presents are all unwrapped, every person in every home will be listening to their identical talking photo frame as they enjoy the identical scents wafting from their identical mini reed diffusers, chugging their 8th glass of identical home brew chilled in their identical under-the-counter wine coolers. And they will know they are drunk because they have measured their blood alcohol levels with their identical breathalyzer/key rings.

Ugh.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Seeking adventure

I'm still adjusting to life in the suburbs. Make sense, I've only been here (officially) for two months. As part of my denial that I live in a community where people think of themselves as "neighbors" if they live three towns away and everyone wears pants with little whales stitched on them I've begun fantasizing about living in New York City.

I'm originally from Central New York and have always had a little chip on my shoulder about New York City. I've been there maybe a half dozen times in my 38 years on this planet, and I've been utterly overwhelmed by the scope of the Big Apple. A friend once said to me, when asked how she managed to live in New York City, "It is like a series of small towns. The eight block radius around your apartment is the small town in which you live, and the eight block radius around your job is the town to which to commute daily. Everything else is superfluous."

So why New York City now? I was explaining to GPA earlier today that I crave both the size and possibility of New York City, but also the small scope. New York City doesn't have grocery stores that are acres in size, it is possible to get to the drug store without having to jump in the car, and your neighbors are people you could interact with every day without having to go out of your way. And, as you travel between the "small town" where you live and work, you are reminded that New York City has MOMA, SoHo, The Colbert Report, the Cloisters, Zabars, and Tavern on the Green. There is a possibility of adventure every where you look.

Here in the suburbs where I now make my home most of my 60 minute commute is filled with images of chain stores, billboards, Dunkin' Donuts, and traffic signs. While there are beautiful views, there aren't many possibilities for adventure. This is what I crave.

It isn't likely I'll be moving to New York City anytime soon, or even back up to Boston. I choose this because I love BMG and I love the way I grow through our relationship. But I need adventure to help me feel alive. I need to feel like every day isn't like the day that came before it.

Any suggestions?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thumbs down: Barnes and Noble

As many of my faithful readers know I am recovering from foot surgery. On my first solo foray out of the house in about two weeks I went to my neighborhood Barnes and Noble to return two books - one I bought to entertain myself while recuperating and the other I bought accidentally as a Christmas gift. Why I was returning these books is boring. What isn't boring is that Barnes and Noble would take neither back because they had both been purchased more than two weeks ago. They knew the books had been purchased more than two weeks ago because I still had both receipts and the books - because they were unused - were in pristine book condition.

But, back on July, Barnes and Noble decided to take no returns after more than 14 days. Not even a store credit (which I would have gladly taken). When I commented to the store clerk that I hadn't been aware of the policy change, she replied snarkily, "It was very well advertised. This should not be a surprise to you." A black cloud had been hanging over my head most of the day so I snapped back, "I have better things to do than read press releases about store return policies changing."

And now, I'm never shopping at Barnes and Noble again.

And here is the funny part. In the same trip I also returned two pieces of clothing to Kohls that I DIDN'T have a receipt for. They customer service people were so pleasant. I gave them the credit card I used to pay for the items and they were able to research when I purchased the pieces (tags intact) and the price I paid, and then promptly issued me a credit on my card. Pleased with this interaction I shopped some more and ended up buying more than I had returned.

D'uh Barnes and Noble! Good customer service means good customer loyalty.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"All I want for Christmas...

...is a picture of Obama because he is the greatest president EVER." So reads the Christmas list of my four-year niece, MCK. I'm hoping I can get a friend to get me a signed glossy photo from the campaign (I'm aware they are a little busy to be worrying about fulfilling the sweet albeit random request of four year old girls). Otherwise, I'll spring for a life size cutout of our 44th president, which will become her favorite present from her favorite Aunt.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thumbs down: Karmic invasions during post-op recovery

CAUTION: Graphic surgery details below

I had what I THOUGHT was minor surgery last week. And I was wrong. Eight days after a bunionectomy and metatarsal osteotomy I find myself still woozy, unable to walk with any normalcy, and generally feeling fragile.

A bunion, not to be confused with Binion's, is a deformity in the way the big toe grows - rather than being straight it grows at a wacky angle, causing a knob to become pronounced on the the instep of one's foot - usually at the part of the foot that is already the widest. Generally speaking, bunions aren't bad, unless they hurt for no apparent reason (e.g. tight shoes) or if the deformity becomes pronounced. Well, my deformity on my left foot was becoming pronounced enough to drive that big toe under the second toe leaving blisters on the bottom of the second toe. And it occasionally hurt for no reason in spite of the fact that I usually wear orthopedic (although stylish) shoes.

So, I had a bunionectomy and metatarsal osteotomy. My foot surgeon put a 2.5" slice through the top of my big toe, shaved off the knobby, deformed bone (that's the bunionectomy) and then sliced the bone in my big toe wide open and placed a pin in it to keep it straight. After a week of generic aching made less severe by a surgical boot, crutches and percoset, I finally got the chance to peek at the toe when I visited the doctor for my first post-op appointment. My poor tootsie had a handful of small but angry bruises on them. But, it mostly looked fine. The doctor said it was healing great and I could now (a) get it wet (hooray - shower!), and (b) begin putting full weight on it. "You mean, no more crutches?" I asked. "Nope" he replied. "What about driving?" "Fine with me," he said. "Jogging?" "Okay, no jogging. But you COULD be jogging in as little as three weeks.

So, that good news, coupled with the fact that the first week hadn't been THAT bad, I decided to start walking around (at home) as I normally would. As normally as I COULD. My foot muscles are so tight from a week of elevation that they aren't as compliant as I would like. And, for most of the next 24 hours I was okay. Not ready to go dancing or return to work (lots of stairs), but feeling like this recovery thing was going to be pretty easy. And then, tonight, while standing at the kitchen counter depositing a mint chocolate chip covered ice cream scoop into the sink I instinctively pivoted on my foot and torqued it bad enough to cause me to yell in pain and immediately begin crying.

With me home for 8 days and BMG operating almost exclusively out of the home office, he and I have been lovingly bickering most of the last week. But, when I yelped he immediately popped up, hugged me as I cried, found my crutches, got me a percoset and some seltzer, and got me settled back on the couch with my feet again elevated and iced. And, three hours later, it is still aching from a tiny tiny pivot on one part of one foot.

BMG asserts that hammer toes are caused by pent up anger. And there is a part of me who believes this setback in my recovery bravado is karmic payback for eating the (reduced fat) mint chocolate chip ice cream after drinking two glasses of wine and reveling in the three (or was it four??) slices of pizza I had for lunch and dinner. Stupid karma!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I'm a loser

I stumbled upon this poem by Elizabeth Bishop. It feels like it characterizes the part of me who is trying to let go of being so perfect, so tightly wound, the part of me I call "The Closer".

One Art - By Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

---Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Thank you Mr. Caldwell

Mr. Caldwell, my 7th grade social studies teacher, clearly recognized my Pulitzer potential. With his encouragement, I wrote a prize winning essay comparing and contrasting present day (1983) toy culture versus colonial era toy culture. I got to read my essay aloud to the members of the Syracuse Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution at a tea and cookie ceremony in a Syracuse-style manse somewhere on the campus of Syracuse University.

Evidence of my genius is in these brilliant excerpt:

"...Guns have also changed quite a bit. Back in the colonial period boys usually had their own real guns. From what I have studied, they didn't have toy guns. The boys may have used gun-shaped sticks or their hands, but they did have plastic toy guns like we have now. The boys were also the only ones who were supposed to use guns. Nowdays it is different. Both girls and boys play with guns, but real ones are not allowed in our present day community..."

And this gem.

"...The difference between board games is great. Back in the colonial period board games were very simple compared to the board games we have now. There were no fancy mechanisms that move your playing piece for you. The games did not have credit cards or intricate thought process...no fancy electronic gimmicks were included."

*****
Mr. Caldwell died in what we were told was a single car crash during the spring of my 7th grade year. I would like to let him know that I am grateful for the way he encouraged me, and I felt proud to be a good student in his class.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead runs from October 31st-November 2nd. And this raises an opportunity to again tell a funny story about my niece, M, who celebrates her fifth birthday on Saturday. Perhaps her connection with Day of the Dead is the reason for this amusing story:

*****

M was with my mother at the cemetery where my grandmother was buried six years ago. My mother regularly goes to put fresh flowers in the urns at this family plot. While my mom was fussing with the flowers, M was playing around the "memory stones" - an activity all of my nieces and nephews seem to enjoy. They practice letters and numbers in cemeteries, learn about family and social relationships, and make up stories about the people remembered in cemeteries. Anyhow, M took a break from her playing and asked my mom, "Can we dig up Gigi's body?" Nearly choking my mother replied, "No M, we cannot dig up Gigi's body. Why do you want to do that?" And M replied, "Well, I've never seen a real live skeleton and I really want to see one."

*****

Day of the Dead is a holiday observed most famously in Mexico - but observed in different ways in different cultures around the world. It is a time when the membrane between the living world and the dead world is thin enough for messages to pass between the two worlds, and families use this time to talk with their dead relatives and to give them objects they may need to sustain them in their next life. Who do you want to talk with on Day of the Dead this year?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hellooo Kitty

Hooray for the folks at "Who Sucks" who pointed out this excellent news story which I found while I was searching for Hello Kitty paraphenalia to buy for my niece. I really need to get a cat.

What does "race" mean in today's politics?

In Boston there is a reportedly bitter fight for the State Senate seat in the 2nd Suffolk District. Incumbent Dianne Wilkerson, an African American woman, lost in the primary to Sonia Chang Diaz, an American-born woman who is (at least) 50% Latina. Wilkerson is now running a right-in campaign against Diaz. Part of her argument is that as a black woman she can better represent minorities in Roxbury, Dorchester and Jamaica Plain than Diaz, who isn't a minority. "Race is definitely an issue in this campaign," I heard Wilkerson say on a WBUR interview yesterday afternoon.

WAIT A MINUTE! Did I hear that correctly? Both candidates could be called minorities by the US Census. African American isn't more "racial" than Latina. They are both minority groups that that face systemic, institutional oppression. What the heck is happening in Boston politics that two women would be qwibbling over who is more oppressed and therefore more qualified to represent other minorities? If race is a qualification, who is to say that Wilkerson can represent the Asians in Chinatown that are part of the 2nd Suffolk District, or the Latinos who dominate Jackson Square in Jamaica Plain? Has the word "race" become a code to mean "black"? And, if so, why can't we just say "Black" or "African American"? And, how can this ridiculousness be happening while on the national stage our nation is rallying behind a strong, smart charismatic leader who happens to be biracial? Presidential politics show us that as a nation we are (finally) ready to see that an African American man can be the best qualified candidate. For many people the election isn't about race, but about qualification.

What qualifies someone to be an elected leader? I would argue that it is the ability to positively motivate a team of people toward a common goal or purpose. It is savvy intelligence, and the ability to identify and convene a complementary group of people together to work together to implement strategic priorities. A record of accomplishment - both in one's personal life and professional life, integrity, strong and inspiring communication skills, ability to communicate values of justice and fairness are also high on my list of priorities for a leader. An elected official doesn't need to look like the people s/he represents in order to represent them. If this were the case, we'd either need 20+ presidents working together to represent all the kinds of people in the United States, or we'd need to be satisfied with having only one or two constituencies represented at a time. A strong elected leader doesn't need to look like the people s/he represents in order to represent them. They just need to be able to listen and trust the experience of their constituents as expressed directly by the people or their proxies (e.g. union reps, other elected officials, advocates).

If I were a voter in the 2nd Suffolk District I would in fact wonder about Dianne Wilkerson's "character" because of her personal problems - bankruptcy, ethics violations and financial misconduct chief among them. I would also consider her accomplishments as an incumbent Senator in my consideration of her being fit for office. And, I probably would have voted for Chang Diaz in the primary. I believe Dianne Wilkerson's politics and rhetoric about race are dangerous and mistrustful and not what we need in Boston or America.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gammy's World

I excerpt here an anecdote relayed to me by my sister E. Some relevant background. E and her family live in rural upstate NY, with dairy cows and windmills as their nearest neighbors. Their small community is approximately 30 minutes from Syracuse, NY - where my mother lives in a part of town with an increasing number of African-American families, Latinos and Asian immigrants. The high school I attended, six blocks from my mother's house, was more than 35% African American and there were race riots of a sort when my youngest sisters were in school - in the late 1980s. It is also worth noting that my mother, who is called "Gammy" by nieces and nephews, is currently a foster parent to several immigrant refugee teens, including a handful of boys from Sudan.

Now...on with the anecdote.

*****

E and her 4 year-old daughter (M) were in line at Macy's. Behind them was an African American woman and her child. M tugged on E's hand and asked curiously, "Mommy, are we in Gammy's World?"

"Uhm, no. We're in Macy's sweetie," said my sister, barely containing an incredulous laugh. "Why do you ask?"

"Well, there are brown-skinned people here. And I only see brown-skinned people in Gammy's world."

E gulped, stifled the laugh recognizing the seriousness of this conversation, and said, "Well M. There are brown-skinned people everywhere! Not just in Gammy's world."

"Nooooh mommy," M replied authoritatively, "there are NO brown-skinned people where WE live."

E cocked her head, thinking about how to respond to this. Because M was right. There are in fact NO brown-skinned people where they live.

*****

How would you have responded at that point?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bitter coffee drinkers unite!

Do people in other countries have as many sugar and sugar-like substance options when they go out for coffee? We have granulated white sugar, sugar in the raw brown sugar, Equal (blue packet), Sweet and Low (pink packet), Nutrasweet (yellow packet), and, in some tony location, sugar syrup.

Life is complicated enough without having at least four different sugar or sugar-like substances from which to choose at breakfast. I suppose it may be easier to focus one's energy on which sugar you prefer, rather than expending energy on, say, American presidential politics or local rezoning efforts (I don't like to pay attention to this stuff either). Or maybe we're flaunting the fact that we don't live in a nation where we have to deal with food shortages. Some countries are focused on getting ANY sugar to their people. We Americans have up to six options every time we get a coffee. "Ha! Ha! Poor people have no sugar! Look, we have SIX different kinds of sugar plus variations on the white sugar - cubes, packets, shakers! Aren't we lucky to be Americans!"

I've decided to give up sugar in my coffee as a form of slacktivist protest. I invite you to join me until such time that we have a simpler array of options.

Words I DON'T like


I did a short blog post on words I DO like - gems like crumbalievable (which means deliciously and unbelievably crumbly), and drunkle (a drunk uncle).

Now, I believe, it is time for a post on words I DON'T like. Or, the WORD I don't like. There is just one. At least today there is just one. And it is.....swipe. It conjures up the image of a slippery wipe. And there is not a single image I want in the imaging part of my brain LESS than a slippery wipe.

Let's all do our best to keep the world swipe free. Here are some suggestions to help.
1. Find yourself in a conversation where you need to talk about the furtive theft of a small item, consider alternatives like "steal," "pinch," or "shoplift."
2. Using your debit card at the grocery store? How about "sliding" your card instead?
3. Filing a report with the local police after finding your parked car was hit from the side? Described the accident as having involving a "parallel collision between one moving vehicle and one parked vehicle."

Okay, I've done my part to keep the world swipe free. Now it is up to you. Thank you very much.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Smellier

I just spell checked "Broken Up About It". The trusty spell check function here on blogger suggested that the word Somerville, my fair city, was not in fact a word. Their suggested options for the correct spelling included the word "Smellier."

Hmmmm. Maybe THAT'S why the city has had such a hard time shaking its unfortunate nicknames of "Slummerville" and "Scummerville".

Broken up about it

What is the "hip" term nowadays to refer to the person who does your hair? Is it hair stylist? I've always been unsure of how I'm supposed to refer to Umberto Rossetti, the "guy who does my hair." And now it doesn't matter. Because I broke up with Umberto yesterday. I broke up with him while driving home from work and I surprised myself by actually tearing up over it while stopped in traffic on 93 South.

Umberto has been cutting my hair every five to eight weeks for nearly seven years. Umberto is the one who gently told me that my home coloring job was a mess and encouraged me to get my color done professionally. I was part of the transition to Umberto being someone who rented a chair in a Somerville salon institution to becoming a small business owner. Every time I go to his salon, which he owns with his cousin Carlo, I feel beautiful. I have been known to go to the salon 30 minutes early just to sit and read magazines and relax amidst the banter.

Between my recent move to an oceanside suburb about 20 miles south of my old stomping grounds in Somerville, MA, the hectic pace of my job, and the wild success of Umberto's salon, I cannot make an appointment time work for me. It take nearly two hours to do my hair - 45 minutes for the color (rich heather) and another 45 minutes for the cut and styling and 15-20 minutes of waiting and other silliness. I don't want to be in Somerville for another 2 hours after the work day ends. I cannot justify taking two hours off (or even two 1 hour periods off) in the middle of the day, and I don't want to go back to Somerville on the weekend. I'm stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

So, yesterday I went to Deja Vu in Hingham (recommended by BMG's not particularly dowdy mom and his hip suburban sister-in-law) and booked two appointments - one for a color and one for a cut. And now it feels like I'm dating again. This is like a hands-on interview to learn if Robin and Sarah can possibly give me the experience of feeling beautiful and relaxed while in the chair. If not, I'll have to go back to Umberto with evidence of my cheating on him emblazoned upon my head, asking for forgiveness.

Monday, September 15, 2008

I am, I am Super Girl, and I can do anything

Thanks to NSBN for directing me to this silly online quiz from her blog.

Your results:
You are Supergirl
























Supergirl
72%
Superman
70%
Wonder Woman
67%
Spider-Man
65%
Catwoman
60%
Iron Man
60%
Hulk
55%
Green Lantern
50%
Robin
40%
Batman
35%
The Flash
25%
Lean, muscular and feminine.
Honest and a defender of the innocent.


Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

Soapy definition

If someone douses you with liquid soap are you then clean, or dirty?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What to eat at a funeral

So I'm reading my newest favorite blog, www.cakewrecks.blogspot.com. The cover cake wreck is a three dimensional rendering of the twin towers in NY with an emotive "We will never forget" in curlicue writing at the base of the towers. Trolling through more than 175 comments I find this curious nugget:

"In my opinion cake is normally used for celebration. (At funerals you usually see pie[.])"

True? I must admit I'm not a big fan of funerals. I express my sympathy better in writing, and my sadness in less public forums. But, of the five or six funerals I have attended, I can say for certain I've never seen cake NOR have I seen pie. I've seen plenty of deli platters and pre-fab fruit platters, and I have a vague recollection of one of those giant chocolate chip cookies decorated like a cake. And never have I heard someone say, "At funerals you see pie." What makes pie more suitable, more solemn, more commemorative than a cake? I know plenty of women (and some men) who drown their sorrows in brownies and cookies. Is there something about pie that just says, "So sorry someone died"? I don't get this comment at all.

This brings me to another question. What is it with funerals and grocery store catering? Where are all of the people who channel their grief and sadness into cooking? Why haven't they opened "Funeral Foods Catering Company" so they can make delicious food for post-funeral gatherings and wakes for the foodies who are too bereft to cook? Maybe this will be a challenge on the next Top Chef the funeral food challenge? What foods would you want to assuage your sadness at a funeral?

Monday, September 1, 2008

I'm a believer!

"I don't believe in traffic rotaries." This is a misuse of the English language that burns me the most. You don't BELIEVE in traffic rotaries? How can you not BELIEVE in them? They obviously exist, and it is likely you, the non-believer, has driven through one and found them aggravating or scary or frustrating. I think what you MEAN to say is "I don't LIKE traffic rotaries."

It is likely you, dear readers, have heard (or perhaps committed) similar misuse of the word "believe."

"I don't believe in red bean ice cream."
"I don't believe in women serving in combat roles in the military."
"I don't believe in zoos."

Most of the time, when I've heard people misuse the word "believe" what they are implying is they either don't like something, or don't endorse it. Try it. Insert the word "like" or "endorse" in any of the three phrases above. It works. And, it makes the speaker sound far more sane than your average holocaust denier.

Which leads me to my question. What is happening in our society that the weighty word "believe" has become a stand-in for the lighter word "like" or more emphatic "endorse"? Is this a natural outcome of the increasing role of the Christian right in our social life, where fundamental values and beliefs become the yardstick by which grocery store purchases and entertainment options are weighed? Is it simply a by-product of the American tendency to go to extremes in all manner of things?

Whatever the reason, I can say definitively that I don't believe in it.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Locke vs- Rousseau, or should we have traffic signs or not?

I was a political science major for about a minute when I first started college 20 years ago now. One of the assignments I remember was the development of an essay comparing and contrasting John Locke's Two Treatises on Government to Jean-Jacques Rousseau's The Social Contract. In my early polemic days I believed that Locke's theory was that humans are essentially good and Rousseau's theory was that humans are essentially bad.

That's not really the gist of their work, and this isn't really a post about Locke and Rousseau.

This IS a post about whether or not humans are essentially good or essentially bad. And I tend to agree with Rousseau's belief that humans are corrupted by society but good when left to their own devices. So, apparently does the European Union which has been experimenting with the elimination of traffic signs in seven towns over the last two years. The basic rationale is this: traffic signs prevent people from taking personal responsibility for civility on the road, and in fact may cause people to try to game the system and therefore drive recklessly. And, by all reports, it seems to be working. Or at least it isn't hurting.

BMG and I are in agreement that more people need to take more responsibility for their decisions. Blaming McDonald's for making you fat, blaming your parents for not teaching you how to fasten a pair of button fly jeans, and blaming mortgage companies for giving you a loan you cannot pay all indicate some level of irresponsibility when it is likely that all sides of every blame story could take more responsibility for acting in what the state of Montana calls a "safe and prudent" manner.

Which brings me to the point where BMG and I disagree. At least when it comes to Americans. I reminded him, during our discussion, that the state of Montana for a brief period had NO speed limit, and for several years had no daytime speed limit. All they had was an admonition that drivers use speeds deemed "safe and prudent" for conditions. And guess what? Average driver speeds went up, and so did traffic fatalities. Eliminating speed limits in Montana did not restore civility but rather sanctioned recklessness behind the wheel.

Driving can sometimes lead me to feel incensed because it reveals the most selfish impulses of most people (myself included). I long for a society in which it is universally understood that pulling over for an emergency response vehicle is the polite and important thing to do. Whoever is in that ambulance is in a greater rush than you. I long for a society where our reaction when we hear a gentle beep in our direction isn't an avalanche of expletives, but rather an apology for making a mistake. I'm with Rousseau on this one. Humans are corrupted by society, and it seems even more so in the great 'ol US of A. I don't trust my fellow men and women to honor the social contract. In fact, I don't believe most people even know what the social contract is. This is the crux of why I created Smart Town - to imagine a place where everyone knows and respects the social contract, where the golden rule is the prevailing rule of law, and where the needs of others are as important as the needs of oneself. I may have just moved to Hing Ham, but I long for Smart Town, where our Mayor is John Locke and we have no street signs. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Need a laugh? Visit this blog...

Oh, dear GPA! I am so grateful to you for sharing the funny Cake Wreck blog. I now share it with all of you. My only advice is to use the bathroom before you read this because you may end up wetting your pants because of the uncontrollable laughter.

"Why is it so dead around here?"

Saturday afternoon BMG and I settled into a sidewalk cafe' in what appeared to be a trendy part of Providence, RI. We were being served "High Cheese" (wine, cheese, sausage and pate) at a restaurant that adjoined a gourmet food shop. A high end shoe store and home goods store were across the street. It was the kind of retail district that, if situated in Cambridge, would have been bustling 24/7. In Providence, there was no one to be seen.

"Why is it so dead around here?" I asked curiously.

BMG pointed across the street and drew my attention to the following sign. "That may be why," he said sagely, with a twinkle in his blue eyes.


"Oh. It is dead around here, because everyone around here is dead," was my amused reply. I returned my attention to the cheese plate, which featured a Morbier, a soft cheese marked by a thin vein of ash running through its center. Raising an eyebrow I looked up at BMG. He shrugged, raised his glass of beer in a toast, and we ate.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Thumbs Down #2 - iTouch

Listen up Steve Jobs (and I know you read my blog while you sit at home in your black turtleneck sipping espresso out of tiny cups). I think the iTouch is stupid. It is supposed to be a mobile web device that is convenient and cool and eminently accessible. But, because it doesn't work on the AT&T data plan, which lets users view the web through the cell phone line (it only works using a wireless connection to plain old cables for accessing the Internet), it makes the web accessible only in places where one can easily bring a laptop anyhow. BMG drew a picture for me while we were gulping chai tea lattes last night at Panera.
BMG says, "Yeah, but you can take it to Panera and access the web through Panera's WiFi network." If I'm going to park myself at Panera to do web work, I'm bringing my laptop.

Okay, so it is an iPod too. But, why not just buy an iPod at 1/2 the price? I mean, if the Internet capability is limited to WiFi hot zones and you really just want it for the iPod function, spend 1/2 the money and get an iPod. Paying extra money for functionality you aren't going to use doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

The only way the iTouch would be attractive to me is if it could interact with a cellular data plan so I could use the Internet anywhere I can get a cell signal.

POW-MIA

Drowning in deadlines, packing and unpacking as I slowly move in with BMG, spending computer time managing Weight Watchers and reconnecting with friends and family on Facebook - all of these activities have distracted me from my "being". GPA recently asked, "How ARE you?" "Uh, I have absolutely no idea how I am. What I do know is I am 100% disconnected from myself right now."

What does it look like to be so distracted from the very fact of "being" in this world?

I woke up sans alarm this morning and headed straight to the kitchen to make a small pot of my precious espresso. ("Oh Bialetti! Is there anything you CAN'T do?") Instead of starting the coffee, a 90-second process, I started putting away the groceries that had been sitting on the counter since Thursday morning at 6:30 AM when Peapod delivered. But I needed to put some excess PowerAde (BMG's drink of choice - flavor "blue" is the fave) into grocery overflow on top of the fridge, and I needed to rearrange the mound of stuff on top of the refrigerator in order to make room for what looks like 20 oz. bottles of blue energy drink. So I head into the pantry to grab the step stool. Oh, right, the pantry is a mess. So I pull out (a) an industrial sized package of aluminum foil, (b) a wiffle bat, (c) and the garbage can with a 1/2 cup of dog food in it from good 'ol days now 2.5 years passed when a Black Lab puppy lived here and start rearranging things to make room for the food processor and crock pot that now live here. "Oh, I should start my coffee!" I head out of the pantry and remember the point of the pantry rearranging was to get the step stool so I could put away the PowerAde. So, I pull the step stool from the garage sale pile and start putting away the PowerAde. When that is done I think to myself, "I guess I'll just finish putting away the rest of the groceries" which involves clearing off the counter. To do this I consolidate two cups of pens on the counter, put cookbooks I don't use in the garage sale pile, and start the dishwasher (Whoops! Forgot to do that last night!). Then, and only then, do I start my coffee.

And with the coffee started, I head to the couch, turn on my iTunes, and start listening to my informal break-up play list created three years ago when GO and I called it quits. "Why am I doing this?" I think to myself as Big Head Todd and the Monsters tell the melancholy story of living with someone you don't love any more. (At least not in that giddy or comfortable way.) "Do I need to cry?" I probably need to cry - there is no doubt about that. But this isn't why I'm listening to break-up music. Hmmm. I keep blogging.

I take a blogging break and head into the bathroom, where my eye catches a disparate montage of silly creatures and vacation mementos and displayed on a shelf above the toilet. Wooden ducks, rubber ducks, Eiffel towers and ninja figurines are among the characters who populate our bathroom. BMG and I frequently rearrange these items, hiding them around the house in unlikely places to surprise one another. (Imagine the gales of laughter when someone finds an army of plastic ninjas hiding in the center tube of a roll of toilet paper, or opens the refrigerator and finds a paddle of ducks waddling towards the beer.) On the shelf today I see a German egg cup in the shape of a boy. He wears a knit cap (ostensibly to make a fashion statement while keeping the egg warm) and is very cute in a retro kind of way. Next to him, like a faithful companion, is a troll dressed as an angel. I start crying. More with relief than sadness. Seeing those toys on the shelf, BMG and me side by side, reminds me that I want a genuine life with BMG, an honest life, a silly life, a loving life. GO and I had a good life, and we had all the trappings of our cohort - the right vegetarian cookbooks on the shelf, the vermicompost bin as coffee table that was the envy of our hippie friends, and the outdoor gear neatly stowed away for quick get-aways to the mountains where we would pack-in, pack-out reliant only on our hip and expensive Nalgene bottles to get us through. But it wasn't a genuine life, at least not for me.

I looked at the angel troll again and thought of the Hindu goddess Kali - the mother/destroyer. "That is more like me," I think. Loving, nurturing, murdering, fierce - and everything in-between. I am a whole package - not just environmentally conscious camper. I like to watch TV shows about morbidly obese people and I recycle (almost) religiously, I trance dance and ride on the back of a scooter wearing a pink helmet, I am a conservatively dressed professional and a gal who likes to show off her best assets, I long distance bike and I play Nintendo with great abandon. I am everything. I am not MIA. In fact, I am everywhere.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Two of my favorite words

Drunkle = A drunk uncle (Drunkle Alfie got sloshed at family Thanksgiving AGAIN this year)
Shrinkles = Wrinkles that have been shrunk ("You look fabulous? What has changed?" "Oh, you might be noticing my shrinkles. It's the botox treatment I had on Friday.")

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Beware of men bearing Italian cookies in grocery stores

I had an odd interaction with the Stella D'Oro Cookie Man man at my local big box grocery store yesterday. It happened as I studied the shelves in search of the perfect cookie for the chocolate creme pie I was planning to make at home.

This started when an elderly woman commented that I seemed to be very serious about my cookies. I explained my intentions, and she chuckled and said, "Well, aren't you ambitious."
The Stella D'Oro Cookie Man, stocking the lower shelves where his sub par cookies lived, looked at me and said, "You don't have kids, do you." Not a question. A statement.
"Uh, no," I replied.
"I used to like to cook, but now I have teenagers and all they want are pizza and hamburgers."
I murmured some words of consolation and began examining cookies further away.
"Hey! Do you want some teenagers" echoed up from the bottom shelf, in a tone that was curiously both joking and imploring.
I laughed and said emphatically that I was childless by choice, a fact which occasionally engenders grief from those members of our society who judge people for making choices different than their own. (I was trying to make him think that not having kids wasn't all that and a bag of chips.)
Mr. Stella D'Oro replied. "Those people are just jealous of you. I mean, the good things about having kids are really great. But, the bad things are just worse." He sighed.
At this point we were about 8 feet away from one another, and I hoped he couldn't see the slight consternation that passed across my face. Who WAS this guy complaining about his kids to a stranger in a grocery store. "Hang in there!" I called as I grabbed a package of Nabisco chocolate wafers off the shelf, and quickly rolled away.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The start of my "culmination" phase?

My can opener is 20 years old. I'm preparing to move and realized, as I opened a can of tomato sauce for my favorite quickie dinner recipe, that I would not need the beloved manual crank can opener at my new place.

I held the can opener in my hand and remembered that it was one of my "going away to college" purchases, bought in the good 'ol days before soup and ravioli came with pop tops. Nearly every can I've ever opened in my adult life was opened with that can opener. My muscles intuitively know the feel of the rubberized handle, which fits perfectly inside my right palm. My eyes know to look for the slate blue handle before I even know what I'm looking for in the gadget drawer where the can opener resides when not in use.

I have moved fifteen times since I was 18 - beginning with that first trip to Washington, DC where I set up my first dorm room. Every time I've moved I've taken that can opener with me. Every time.

And this time I'm not.

Transitions are funny. They stir up such interesting and unexpected emotions. For me, today, I'm reminiscing on an adulthood spent with one can opener, and what it means to let it go. It is more than a utilitarian object today. It represents a step away from the "novice period" of early adulthood (a stage usually over by 33 - I'm a late bloomer). And moving away from novice adulthood means moving into the "culminating phase" of early adulthood which "brings to fruition the efforts of the era". (Middle adulthood ostensibly starts with the same process in one's 40s.)

Does moving in with BMG, away from the City and into the southern, oceanside suburbs represent a culmination of something? I've been talking with a friend about my on-going struggle to find peace in my identity outside of my roles as "employee", "girlfriend", "sister", and "daughter". I'm still sorting out this move and its meaning for me - beyond the obvious - fun with boyfriend, longer commute, less expensive rent, fewer great restaurants within walking distance, more physical and psychological distance from the office. What does it mean for the evolution of my interior life, of my spiritual self, of my psyche? Most of this will emerge over time as BMG and I take our steps towards a stronger and more permanent partnership. In the meantime, I am grateful to have words to frame the experience of holding a can opener in my hand and wondering why it feels so very important.

I'm going to turn back to my dinner now, which is a sort of pasta puttanesca that can be made in about 15 minutes. Here is the recipe.

Cook your preferred amount of pasta - preferably something with ridges that can hold a loaded tomato sauce. Consider cooking frozen peas with the pasta (peas and penne both take about 8 minutes to cook) to add another veggie to the meal.

While the pasta is cooking, heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in a wide bottom pan.
Brown up to 7 oz. of Gimme Lean (meat substitute) sausage "flavor". If you need more oil, toss in fat free chicken or veggie broth instead.
Add sliced mushrooms, sliced onions and/or finely chopped spinach as you desire.
When "meat" is browned and veggies 1/2 way cooked, toss in one 4 oz can of plain tomato sauce (NOT pasta sauce, not canned tomatoes, not fresh tomatoes)
Make sure all of the faux meat and veggies are coated with the tomato sauce.
Then stir in 1-2 tbsp of soft goat cheese to make the sauce creamy.
Add a handful of capers or anchovy paste, fresh ground pepper and fresh crushed garlic (this can also be added at the saute phase for a lighter touch).
Toss with pasta and enjoy!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Smart Town #6

BMG would like roads in Smart Town to have balusters to help people turn their cars on sharp 90 degree angles, to prevent the lane slippage so frequently encountered on the roads today. I support this because I support the giving of support. Sometimes people need tools to help them do the right thing, and balusters can provide the type of assistance we all need to make clean turns.

Balusters embedded in the roads would complement the mandatory and free Drivers' Education courses required of all drivers in Smart Town - to ensure all drivers an inculcated in the same understanding of the rules of the road.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Smart Town #5

I will judge you if you litter in Smart Town. In fact, everyone will judge you if you litter in Smart Town. And not only will you be judged, but you will have to sit in jail for a minimum of one week - regardless of how innocuous your litter may be. A cigarette butt carelessly flung into the ocean? One week in jail. Period.

Being smart does not mean being being soft on litterbugs. And, by being EXTRA hard on litterbugs, Smart Town residents and their public safety officers will prevent other crime that happens as a result of litter - which represents a general decline in the social order, and disrespect for community and property. Research shows that neighborhoods without apparent property crime swiftly fall into decline the moment one window gets broken and is not repaired. This symbolizes, for many, a general lack of caring.

In Smart Town we care. We care enough to throw your sorry behind in jail when you litter. So don't litter in Smart Town.

Books I've read


I've always felt drawn to the image of Eleanor Roosevelt. (It may be because my Aunt Esther looked just like her.) It may also be because of the mythology of her identity as a strong champion of human rights, and her power and resolve. Knowing nothing about Mrs. Roosevelt I set a goal of reading a biography of the former first lady on my "Books I want to read" list posted conspicuously here on my blog. And I've finally done it (sort of). I just finished listening to No Ordinary Time a biography of FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt during the second World War by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

What did I learn? Eleanor Roosevelt was indeed a strong champion of human rights. She propelled the social reforms of the New Deal forward throughout WWII. And she did it at a cost to her marriage and her social happiness. It is ironic that one of FDR's iconic phrases was "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," but his wife was socially crippled by her fears of rejection (according to Goodwin).

I re-read a meditation this morning by Mark Belletini, the minister of the UU church in Columbus, Ohio. The full text was printed in the latest issue of the UU World. It starts like this:
Let the sky above me unroll like a scroll,
and let me read upon it today’s text for my life:
“You are alive, here and now.
Love boldly and always tell the truth.”

Let the eyes and hands and faces
of all men and women and children
with whom I share this earth
be chapter and verse in this great scripture text:
“Life is struggle and loss, and also
tenderness and joy.
Live all of your life, not just part of it.”

Live ALL of your life, not just part of it. Eleanor Roosevelt did not live her whole life. I both admire and identify with her crusader parts. She is cited as saying, during the period of national mourning following FDR's death in early 1945, that "when you are a national figure, you easily slip into playing your role, and thus can sublimate your feelings and your true nature with no problem. There isn't room for your true nature when you play a role of such prominence." I totally get that - and I don't need to be First Lady to have the experience of being so firmly set into a role that I'm afraid to let anyone see past the smooth veneer of confidence. This may be because I am aware that there are parts inside of me that want to avoid difficulty, ugliness, discomfort even.

*****

I'm also midway through Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. (Thanks to The Colonel!) In reading it I'm waking up my love of gardening, and reaffirming my irritation with zealots. BMG told me yesterday I could start a veggie garden in his (our?) backyard. I'm also fundamentally lazy so need to be careful to not bite off more than I can chew. So, I think I'll plant garlic in the fall and then prepare for peas, beans, and maybe hot peppers, green onions, carrots, and chard for next year. And, of course, BMG's precious tomatoes.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Yum! Yum! Yum!


I started my love affair with food and cooking through the Reading is Fundamental program, when I picked up a copy of The Lucky Cookbook for Boys and Girls. My first recipe? Why my German orientation led me to cook the first thing first - cinnamon toast. I've published photos of the recipe JUST IN CASE you need a refresher on the complex recipe for sugary and spicy toast.




Other complex recipes in the cookbook included "Stuffed celery" and "Party Punch". I've got the recipe for "Party Punch" memorized. Mix 2 cups of orange juice with 2 cups of cranberry juice and voila! "Party Punch!" ("Add 2 cups of vodka," says my grown-up self, "And NOW you have "Party Punch!")

I remember combing through this and my Little Witch's First Cookbook and plotting out the menus and thinking about parties I could have with the suggested menus in the back of the book (stuffed celery, baked potatoes and hamburgers - doesn't that sound perfect!), imagining how impressed people would be with my cooking skill and imagination.

I don't have recollection of ever having a dinner party with my friends or family. And I cannot remember if I ever asked to cook a recipe that I would have needed either help with or special ingredients. Was I too afraid to ask? Too afraid to try? I don't know. It doesn't matter. I still love looking at cookbooks and planning dinner parties which may or may not ever happen. I've moved on to Rick Bayliss, Marcella Hazan, and Madhur Jaffrey. I'm a member of epicurious.com, and reading the Cooking section of the weekly Boston Globe Magazine is a delight.

I don't plan to be a mom. So there is no reason for me to hang on to these cookbooks. Rather than selling them for a nickel at my garage sale this Fall, I think I'll take them with me to Wellfleet tomorrow. There I will visit two of my nieces who are visiting with their mom and my mother. The older folks among us will reminisce and I hope the younger ones will be inspired to sit with Aunt Clownface and learn to make Ants on a Log.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Dream # 8 and Dream #9

Bodies are so amazing. Last night I was freezing - BMC loves the AC blasting at night - so my brain manufactured a dream in which I was jumping out of an airplane that was so high in the air that the plane was covered with ice crystals. I leaped into the icy air on my descent back to terra firma and struggled with the release on my parachute because my hands were so cold. Then the person I was jumping with couldn't get his chute open, so I zoomed down to him and hugged him, so he could benefit from my chute AND we could both be warmer.

*****

The previous night I had a weird anxiety dream. In it I was trying to cajole two cats into doing a very specific, timed obstacle course. One cat was a big tiger and the other was a long-haired black kitten. The two cats could not get the last part of the obstacle course done in the required time. And, if they didn't meet the time line, a horde of monkeys appeared and scared the felines into a kitchen cupboard. After a minute or two the scene would "reset" and the obstacle course would start over. And in my dream we kept doing it over and over again, and the monkeys were becoming increasingly hostile. And then I realized the black kitten was sitting inside a soup bowl in the cupboard, and the soup bowl was now filled with black cat hair and it needed to be washed. In my dream I was trying to figure out when to wash the bowl - hoping I could do it AFTER the cats nailed the trick so I wouldn't just have to wash it again - but I wasn't sure when that would be.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Smart Town #4

In the interest of explaining freedom and independence, I realized last night the fundamental philosophy of Smart Town. It is a place where everyone feels fulfilled through their daily interactions, has confidence that they have enough - enough attention, enough space, enough to eat, enough to buy the things they want to have. It is a place where equality is relative and there is no upsetting inequality. This is my utopia.

Explaining colonialism

While showering this morning I was working on a little project - trying to decide how I would explain colonialism to my seven year-old niece, CMR. Today is the day when we celebrate America's Independence from the British, and I got to thinking how one might explain an abstract concept like national independence to a child. This whole train got rolling last night when BMG and I went to see a fireworks display after a minor league baseball game. I heard myself quietly singing the national anthem during the 30 minute series of colorful & chest rumbling explosions. When I got to the line that sings, "And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night, that our flag was still there." Why do we celebrate the 4th of July with fireworks? Is it to symbolize the Revolutionary War battles fought by our founding fathers (while the founding mothers were wisely at home avoiding the barbarism by making cookies and sewing flags)? Is it merely because fireworks give people joy? Is it because fireworks are Chinese and we're a nation of immigrants? If anyone has reflections on THIS question, I welcome them gladly.

With this as the backdrop surrounding me as I showered, I began to toy with a strategy for explaining the American war of independence. These questions started to loll about in my brain. How do children understand freedom? How do you explain what it means to be a nation of laws? How do you even explain land ownership? How do you convey when it is okay to fight back when you think laws or rules are unfair or hurting other people? What makes it okay for the colonists to fight against the British, but not okay for the Iraqi insurgents to fight the Americans currently perceived to be colonizing their nation? How is war explained to children of privilege versus children without essential rights and freedoms?

Soaking wet in the shower, buzzing from one cup of espresso, I became overwhelmed. I became overwhelmed not by the questions (these I found stimulating), but by the realization that seven year-olds are learning about the rules that create boundaries in their worlds. They are still concrete thinkers who understand their social interactions in terms of black and white. On one side of a line on a map is Canada, and on the other is America. That's a good enough explanation. So I don't need to explain colonialism to her in order for her to understand Independence Day today. I could tell her that we didn't like the laws made up by the British, so we decided to become our own country. And we had to have a pretty long and scary fight to do it. And the first Americans had lots of conversations about the rules they did want to have to keep our country safe and happy. And today we celebrate their decision to make their own country and the rules they created. The end. I wish she were here right now so I could tell her this. But she is 325 miles away, likely playing computer games or Wii with her four year-old sister, getting ready for her Gammy and cousin M and Uncle TK to come for a party at her house.

Sigh.

When CMR gets a little older and can understand abstract thought I'll be able to have philosophical conversations with her about the meaning of freedom and privilege and independence. And that will be fun.

In the meantime, I'm off to make Rice Krispie Treats for a little bar-b-que where we will enjoy eating hot dogs, drinking beer, and being American.

Happy fourth of July!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thumbs Down #1: Skittles Chocolate Mix Pack

BMG brought these home today after riding to the drugstore on his orange Skittle-colored scooter, appropriately named "Skootle."

I've occasionally seen chocolate mix pack Skittles in the store and been mildly curious. But not curious enough to risk $0.89 on the purchase of said experimental Skittles.

So this was my chance. They arrived in a brown package that easily opened with a gentle tear. The five flavors are clearly labeled on the package, so I knew what to expect - s'mores, vanilla, chocolate caramel, chocolate pudding, and brownie bite. I dumped out the package on the counter and methodically sorted through the Skittles trying to differentiate each flavor via their hardly distinguishable shades of brown. With my five mini samples lined up, I proceeded to eat them slowly, one at a time. And I can say with absolutely certainty that they are all equally disgusting.

They taste like Tootsie Roll curds tossed with badly mixed flavored chemicals and bundled up with a crunchy candy coating. All I could taste was artificial flavor. And in fact, even now, seven minutes after the last Skittle passed my gentle lips, I'm still tasting it in the back of my throat. Blech.

I don't recommend these. Except maybe as a "gift" for someone you hate.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Smart Town #3

Bike lanes that go nowhere will not be a part of the transportation infrastructure in Smart Town.

(If there are any urban or transportation planners out there reading this, can you PLEASE explain bike lane routing to me? I don't even begin to understand what is up with the bike lane on Mass Ave. in Porter Square, Cambridge (our fair city) that starts at Porter and runs to Walden Street - and then JUST STOPS! Why lull me into a false sense of security, why lead me to believe that you are making me safe from other (larger) cars on the road, only to make my safety buffer randomly disappear?)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Look what I did at work today


I'm sweet - it says so in the paper!

Click here for an article in the local paper about a tree hit by lightning. In the story I'm referred to as "sweet."

Hoo dog!

I do believe that this quote is going on my resume, or at least in my next performance appraisal!.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Not something I can believe in

I'm watching Stonehenge Decoded on the National Geographic Channel (which I will NOT call Nat Geo because I think it is a stupid nickname they made up for themselves to sound hip). The program uses dramatized simulations to tell a story of Stonehenge. I'm currently watching a segment in which they are attempting to explain how each 45,000 ton stone was brought from the only place in modern times where the stones found, which is 25 miles from Stonehenge. (Why no one has imagined that maybe there were stones CLOSER to the site is beyond me...perhaps the landscape looked different 4,000 years ago?) The archaeologists are inferring that each stone is alleged to have deep spiritual meaning, and the process of bringing the stone part of a spiritual pilgrimage. While explaining this supposition, the narrator suggests that the supposed engineering process could have taken anywhere from months to YEARS to bring EACH stone to the site.

What a minute.

Maybe YEARS? To bring ONE stone? Out of an estimated 60 stones that made up Stonehenge in its hengey-hey day? So at least 60 years to just get the stones to the designated spot?

I'm not sure there is anything I believe in that much that I'd be willing to put that much physical labor into, for a payoff that I most likely would not benefit from. Maybe that is ego speaking, or laziness. But I cannot imagine living in a time where that would be considered a plum spiritual assignment. Give me Unitarian coffee hour duty any day. Coffee hour, that is something I CAN believe in.

Social Networking

The Boston Globe published an op/ed piece this morning focused on the "end of privacy" with the advent of social networking and our society's insatiable desire for information. In the piece the author writes that social networking sites like Facebook, and the availability of donor lists on line, for example, are among the factors that contributes to a lack of privacy in our society.

I have several reactions to this piece.

1. If one is so concerned about privacy, then one has choices. You can choose to not have a Facebook profile, you can choose not to affiliate with people or causes that may be potentially embarrassing to you, you can make a donation through a donor-advised fund or a bank to shield your privacy. If someone chooses to engage with social networks - virtual or otherwise - by definition one is choosing to forgo privacy. If I join a bowling team, I can't expect that my participation on the bowling team will remain private, if only by virtue of the fact that there are other people on the bowling team who know me.

2. I also wonder about the people who choose affiliations that may be damaging to them in some way. I am careful about my social networking; I don't accept friendship invitations from anyone who I am not actually friends with. Why? Well, I don't want the responsibility, nor do I want to give time, to friendships or connections that don't have honest meaning for me. It is my impression that many people make frivolous choices because they think it will inspire a reaction among others - it will be funny, or shocking, or make them look "cool" or enigmatic. I don't think this has integrity, and I don't respect it. Particularly in an information age where our Internet choices follow us forever.

This changes the social dynamic for young people - who by definition are seeking their niche in society and experiment with different personas. I don't envy teens and young adults nowadays. If I wanted to be a goth when I was 17, I could do it without potential long term repercussions; no future boss was going to google me and find my online profile expressing my lifelong devotion to Marilyn Manson, killing chickens, and black fingernails. This may happen for a teen who is going through a goth "phase" en route to her or his adulthood.

Regardless, all of our social networking calls for a sense of awareness of the potential implications of our actions - which is a social skill that anyone can develop.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

All America City?

I've been in Tampa, FL at an extended municipal pep rally for the last two days, as part of a tiny and cynical delegation from my town to the All America City competition. All America City is a program of the National Civic League that recognizes cities, towns and counties for engaging citizens in sustainable improvements to its sense of community, infrastructure, and municipal programs.

I've never been a group think person. In fact, I find group think to be a little scary. But, I can definitely play the act for the team. So, with a motley crew of other urbane cynics, I've been chanting city slogans, wearing the same outfit as the other travelers from my town, and rehearsing a 10-minute song and dance number to perform for a group of judges who will decide if our town will be named "All America City."

I've watched with amusement the 50-person delegations from other parts of the country in their matching outfits, coordinated accessories, and midwestern peppiness. I've listened with amazement to the Southern groups waxing on philosophically about pancake houses and Jesus, and wondered what lies beneath the illusion of demographic borderlessness among the groups of blacks, native americans, hispanics, whites, seniors, children, families, and disabled people. And, I've seen more American flags than I really can process. American flag birkenstocks, sequined headbands, bandanas wrapped around denim-clad legs, cowboys hats and embroidered polo shirts.

What is it that makes a city an All America City? What does it mean to be an American? I think to the history of our nation and the current presidential administration. Hubris, religiosity, secrecy, scrappiness, disingeuousness, inequality sanctified by the social order.

Don't think this is what the National Civic League is looking for. I think they are looking for a set of democratic ideals applied to municipal governance - most importantly citizen engagement and liberal advancement.

If I were king of the universe, what would I be looking for? Authenticity, willingness to name problems, and concrete and compassionate solutions for addressing them, leadership and leadership development.

What would you look for?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Smart Town Part 2

More details on the road etiquette in Smart Town.
1. People in Smart Town all take Driver's Ed and they all realize that the rules of the road exist to keep people safe, and to facilitate predictable behavior and communication between drivers of motorized vehicles.
2. Because bike riders epitomize environmental responsibility and efficiency, they have separate rules of the road that allow them to zip through red lights if no cars are coming, and to turn left on red if it is safe for cars and pedestrians.
3. Sidewalks have pedestrian sensors at crosswalks that cause lights to change fairly rapidly to ensure neither pedestrians nor drivers and bikers have to wait too long for the pedestrian to get across the road.
3a. Because pedestrians know they can quickly and easily get across the street at crosswalks, they don't jaywalk and drivers NEVER stop in the middle of a street for a pedestrian, thus interrupting the flow of traffic.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Introduction to Smart Town

This is the name of the town I've begun fantasizing about, a town where I want to live. If I were the benevolent ruler of Smart Town, these are some of the attributes I would demand from the residents, business owners and visitors to my little corner of the world.
1. Roller blading is not allowed.
2. Cars have automatic turn signals that sense when a driver wants to turn and in what direction.
3. People do not jay walk.
4. An ethos exists in which people vote and do so based on information and values.
5. Communication is honest and authentic - no concerns about "hidden agendas" among politicians, neighbors, family members.

Look for more additions to the Smart Town list of positive attributes. Feel free to add your own.

Dream #7

On Sunday night I had a dream that I was standing on a super tall concrete circular pillar approximately twice as wide as my arm span. I have no idea why I was on the pillar; there was no view, nothing I was trying to reach, nothing else around. I also have no idea how I got on the pillar; there was no ladder or elevator or other obvious means by which I had arrived onto this pillar.

What was notable about the pillar was that there was a person trying to climb to the top to join me on one side, and a person in a large, bouncy, hamster ball-like contraption repeatedly hitting the edge of the pillar. The repetition and slow motion of the person in the ball made it clear that her/his goal was to join me on the pillar.

I was very clear that I did not want anyone to join me on the pillar. So, I elbowed the climber off, and then elbowed the bouncer in a different direction, one that would not bring her/him towards the pillar any longer.

*****

Part of me wants to be alone.

But you aren't the kitten's mother!

More than ten years ago I had a roommate who was a little odd. We'll call him "The Whale." We'll call him "The Whale" not because he was fat, and not because he spent lots of money in casinos. In fact, why we call him "The Whale" is irrelevant to the story at hand.

"The Whale" and I had two kittens. (I have a history of getting kittens and then becoming quickly bored with them and giving them away.) I have NO IDEA what the names of the kittens were. (Perhaps because of the aforementioned kitten revolving door in my life?) Anyhow, one morning I came out of my bedroom and saw "The Whale" walking down the hall with one of the kittens. In his mouth. Seriously. The kitten was in "The Whale's" mouth. Granted, he was clenching the scruff of the kitten's neck between his lips, so the kitten was not full on in his mouth. But, he was carrying the kitten. IN HIS MOUTH.

After double-taking, no, make that triple-taking, I said, "Uhm, why is the cat in your mouth?"

He replied, "This is how their mother carried them around. I thought they would like to be reminded of their mother."

I furrowed my brow. "But you aren't the kitten's mother!!"

He smiled and continued down the hallway.