Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Stealing

Sunday Stealing

1. Do you send Christmas cards?  Yes. I got them in the mail before December 1. I enjoy writing and sending cards.

2. How soon do you start shopping? I shop all year around.

3. Who do you shop for? My niece and nephew, my cousin, and four friends (two with significant others)

4. Do you put up a Christmas tree? No

5. If so, is it fake or real? It's a fake tree, but it's still in its box in the closet

6. Do you like tinsel? NO! Very bad for pets

7. Do you use homemade or store bought ornaments? Store bought

8. Do you put Christmas lights outside your house? No. I live on the fourth floor.

9. Do you put lights on the tree? If my tree was up, it would have lights. But it's not, so it doesn't.

10. How about popcorn and cranberries? No

11. Is there a wreath hanging on your door? Yes

13. Do you hang up your stocking? No

14. Does your family read "Twas the night before Christmas?" No

15. Christmas Movie? Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol

16. Character from any Christmas Movie  Scrooge

17. Christmas Song  It changes. This year it's "In the Bleak Midwinter"

18. Christmas Memory The Christmas I was four, I got Blaze. I wanted him desperately, promised Santa I'd be good, and he magically appeared under the tree.

19. Give or Receive? Give!

22. Ham or Turkey? Turkey

24. White Lights or Colored Lights?  I don't have a preference

25. Blinking Lights or Still Lights  I don't have a preference

26. Were you Naughty or Nice this year? I was nice, with scattered naughties

27. What do you want for Christmas this year? Just a happy, stress-free holiday with good friends

28. When do you open your gifts? As soon as I get my greedy paws on them

29. What's the best gift you've ever gotten? The aforementioned Blaze

30. What's the worst gift you've ever gotten? I've gotten a lot of duds, but I don't think you can ever classify a gift as "bad" or "the worst." I mean, someone thought enough of you to get you something!

31. Who gives you the most gifts? There's not a "most." I get one gift from each person.

32. Have you ever had a secret Santa? At a previous job. Once.

33. Do you like wrapping gifts? Sure

34. Do you put change in those red buckets? Only once this year. The bell ringers haven't been out so much.

35. Do you burn a yule log? No

36. Can you name all the reindeer? Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blixen, and the most famous reindeer of all, Rudolph

37. Do you bake cookies? I have, though not this year

38. Have you ever seen your mommy kissing Santa Clause? No

39. Have you ever gotten a kiss under the mistletoe? Yes. My second favorite Christmas memory. (She said, blushing)

41. Do you drive around and look at the Christmas lights? No

42. Have you ever left Santa cookies? Yes

43. Have you ever sat on Santa's lap? Yes

44. Who do you celebrate Christmas with? My friends in the Keys

45. Where do you celebrate Christmas? At their house and then a restaurant

46. Have you ever had a white Christmas? Yes. Love them and miss them. That's the only drawback to Christmas in Key West.

47. What part of Christmas do you look most forward to? I like the happy of the whole season

48. Have you ever had your picture taken with Santa? Not that I recall

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Saturday 9

Happy Holidays

1. As you can see, Sam loved giving her annual wish list to Santa. Yet some children are reluctant to climb into Jolly Old St. Nick's lap. Did you enjoy the tradition or were you shy? Or did you by pass it altogether -- either because you wrote him a letter or because your family didn't celebrate Christmas? I was always very shy with Santa and would have preferred to send a letter. 
2. Are you currently on the Naughty or Nice list? How did you get there? I believe I'm on the Nice list. Though I guess only the big guy knows for sure.

3. Did you ship any gifts to friends and family this year? If so, which one traveled the farthest? I sent a pen-and-ink to my cousin in Tampa, which is 1100 miles from Chicago, and a mug and t-shirt to my friend in Beverly Hills, just over 2000 miles away.
4. Did you buy yourself a gift this year? Yes. I got myself a season of Bonanza DVDs. They help fuel my current love affair with the 1860s. I've mostly been watching these and holiday specials. I don't like reality these days and will only return to it when forced to. (I also got myself a package of 6 pair of Hanes white panties, but I don't consider anything that utilitarian a gift.)
5. What's your favorite holiday-themed movie? Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. It was on last night. I am happy.

6. Thinking of movies, Christmas is lucrative for Hollywood. Have you ever gone to a movie theater on Christmas Day? Nope. And obviously this year I won't be seeing The Interview. I wouldn't have -- not a big Seth Rogan fan and don't find assassinations inherently funny. But I hate, hate, hate it that the North Koreans can keep a movie from being released.

7. Have you ever suffered an embarrassing moment at the company Christmas party? Yes. And we're never speaking of it again.

8. What's your favorite beverage in cold weather? Bailey's. I haven't had one yet this year. Must rectify that this evening.
9. What will you remember most about 2014? I think I will remember my birthday trip to Vegas.


Friday, December 19, 2014

I almost cried!

Got in this morning to find a big giftbag on my chair. Inside was a faux leather tote, similar to this one, but in cognac. Huh? What? Who? Why?

It was from one of my coworkers. She left last week for India, to visit her parents and her in-laws, but left instructions with one of my officemates to give it to me today, my last work day before Christmas. Even better than was the note:

"To the most thoughtful person I've ever had the good fortune of knowing. You spread the holiday cheer year around."

No, really!

It feels like people often view me as hard or tough. And I can be when I have to be. But I do work at being a good Christian, thinking of others and letting them know I value them. Apparently this 20-something across the way from me at work sees who I strive to be, even if I often fall short.

This unexpected present brought me so much joy today!

 PS This bag is going to Key West with me. I'll take a photo of it on the beach, to show my coworker how much I enjoy her gift.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The kindness of strangers

I had my annual mammogram last Saturday. The technician told me the results would be faxed to my doctors (my gyne and GP are in practice together now) and would be in their hands Monday.

Today is Thursday. I still haven't heard from my doctors. I started to get scared.

So just now I called over there. One of my doctors just came in today for the first time this week and hadn't had a chance to review any of his paperwork, the other one has been booked solid.

The woman I spoke to, who works for the doctors, looked up my mammogram, just to make sure that the report had been received. She could sense the nervousness in my voice and, basically, told me not to worry.

She made it clear that she's not qualified to give me the official word, that she doesn't read these reports as a living, etc., etc. But she also told me there was "nothing out of the ordinary."

It was a compassionate thing for her to do. I thanked her profusely. After all, I won't be around next week and it would be terrible to have the specter of breast cancer clouding my Christmas.

The allure of the 1860s

It started last summer when I was housebound with a cold. That's when I rediscovered Bonanza, which has become an ongoing obsession. Partly because it brings back childhood memories, partly because as an adult I realize why it was so crazy popular back in the 1960s: it's filled with attractive men in tight pants. The Cartwrights were so freaking capable. They're always fixing wheels and wagons and windows and fences and protecting people and property and just forever standing firm on the side of right.

It continued with my autumn viewing of Gone with the Wind on the big screen. The clothes! The hair! The romance! This inspired me to immerse myself in the 1860s when I began working on my Nanowrimo novel.

Now I don't want to come back to the 21th century. I like imagining myself celebrating the holidays in Nevada, ca 1865. I choose Nevada because it really wasn't involved in the Civil War, and I don't want that brutal conflict to mar my fantasy.*

Authentic greetings of the season

I want to ride my horse through the snow. I want to go Christmas shopping up and down mainstreet and put my parcels in the back of the buggy. I want to wear a cloak, not a coat. I want to enter rooms through swinging saloon doors and warm myself in front of the fireplace or the coal burning stove. I want to go to church on Christmas morning in a one-horse open sleigh.

This is where my head is, and this is where it's staying.

*Yes, I know that if I were to be realistic, I'd have to be worried about battle with the Shoshone and Paiute Indian tribes. But I don't want to be realistic. I'm enjoying my fantasy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


My holiday buzz has been harshed. There's an organization here in Chicago that does very worthy work, giving boys and girls in at-risk communities somewhere safe to go after school. They are, however, just one charity that performs this valuable function. There are others. I tend to support the others, because the organization I'm referring to in this post gets a great deal of support from Chicago's advertising agencies. Instead I give to Toys for Tots and a local childrens home

Yesterday, when I got into the office, there was a letter to Santa on my chair. Kia wanted nail polish so she could give her little girlfriends manicures during a sleepover. Every one of us had a similar letter. The kids from the organization this agency supported wrote very detailed, very heart-wrenching letters.

I was ambivalent about this. I felt I was being blackmailed into giving to this organization, just so my agency could enjoy bragging rights within the ad community. On the other hand, if I didn't participate, Kia wouldn't get what she asked Santa for.

I asked my coworkers if they were participating and offered to pick up the toys requested in their Santa letters. Then I went to Target and spent more than $110 on remote controlled cars, My Little Pony, Lalaloopsey and other brand name toys, because the kids requested them. (Yes, my coworkers reimbursed me.)

Then I found out that the letters were reproduced and at least three of us agencywide got the same letter. And that's just at this agency. I know of two others that are having toy drives for this organization this week.

I feel used and exploited.

I will never give to this organization again, no matter how much pressure my agency puts on me.

This doesn't feel at all like what Christmas should be about.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Stealing

The Have You Ever Meme
1) Have you ever gotten lost in a maze? No.

2) Have you ever been attacked by a wild animal? No.

3) Have you ever ridden a camel? No.

4) Have you ever pet a rat? No.

5) Have you ever been a member of a gym? YES! Ding ding ding! I got one.

6) Have you ever been in a helicopter? Yes! Two in a row.

7) Have you ever cheated at a test? No.

8) Have you ever ridden a tractor? No.

9) Have you ever passed wind/gas in an embarrassing situation? Yes.

10) Have you ever played the bongos? No.

11) Have you ever handled a snake? Yes.

12) Have you ever assembled furniture by yourself? Yes.

13) Have you ever been scuba diving? No.

14) Have you ever had a disastrous interview? Yes.

15) Have you ever sold your services? Yes.

16) Have you ever raised money for charity? Yes.

17) Have you ever won a giant sized cuddly toy from a fair? No.

18) Have you ever milked a cow? No.

19) Have you ever used the phrase "back in my time" to someone younger than you? Yes.

20) Have you ever invented a fairly unique meal or drink? No.

Fa la la la la

I'm happy to be spending Christmas in Key West because those friends want and love me, and being around that kind of warmth  and generosity is what the holiday is all about.

But the bad thing about it is that I won't be here, in my hometown church, to worship on Christmas Eve. I miss that.

So today I was surprised and happy to be singing "Deck the Halls" and the less conventional (but still very lovely) "In the Bleak Midwinter" in my own house of worship.

It's that time of year

Yesterday I had my annual mammogram. Usually I'm nervous about this, as breast cancer is something I believe all women fear to some degree. Only this year I wasn't scared at all.

I hope that means that next week I get good news that includes the word, "benign."

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Feliz Navidad (1970)

1. "Feliz Navidad" is Spanish for "Merry Christmas." Can you wish us happy holidays in a language other than English or Spanish? God Jul

2. According to ASCAP (the American Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers), this is one of the 20 most played holiday songs of the last 10 years. What's the most recent carol that you heard? I tend to think of Vanessa Williams as an actress, which is too bad because she's got a lovely voice.

3. Which Christmas song do you hope you never hear again? "My Favorite Things" because it is NOT a Christmas song! Maria sings it to the Von Trapp children during a rainstorm, not a snowstorm! It's spring, not winter! (Exclamation points indicate how very strongly I feel about this burning issue!)

4. This week's featured artist, Jose Feliciano, was honored to perform this song at the tree lighting ceremony at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. If you were to win a trip to our nation's capital, which sites would you visit? The Smithsonian would be first on my list.

5. As a very young child, Jose taught himself to play the accordion. If you could suddenly, easily learn to play any instrument, which would you choose?  Guitar

6. Jose says that hearing early 1950s rock on the radio made him want to become a singer. What's your favorite music genre? Pop

7. At 17, Jose had to drop out of school to help support his family. Too young to enter bars, he played guitar in coffee houses for tips. Have you ever worked a job where you regularly received gratuities? I got tips when I was a babysitter

8. Jose and wife Susan have been together for more than 40 years. Who is the happiest married couple you know? Hmmm ... Thursday night at dinner I was heartened to hear how my friend Kathleen's husband is supporting her during a very difficult time. He's a fascinating man, rather challenging, so their marriage hasn't always been smooth. But I think it's been happy.

9. Jose wrote and performed the theme of the 1970s show, Chico and the Man. What's your current favorite TV show? NCIS. I loves me my Gibbs.

Friday, December 12, 2014

From sad to happy

So yesterday was the agency Christmas party. I always avoid these affairs like the plague, so as my coworkers were boarding the bus to go to the restaurant where the party was held, I slipped out and headed home, a little sad.

I'd been compulsively checking my email all day, hoping to hear from my friend Kathleen. We had tentatively planned to get together to celebrate my birthday (11/22) and hers (12/26) and Christmas. She had mentioned how rough her life schedule had been lately -- her father suffered a debilitating stroke last summer and her mother, not very small herself, has been trying to keep him in the family home, and so Kathleen and her siblings have been taking turns spending evenings with their parents to lighten their load. But Kathleen has a very demanding job and she's just been run ragged.

When I hadn't heard from her all day -- not by call, email or text -- I thought she'd been overwhelmed and forgot about our date. It was understandable with all she had on her plate, plus the holidays. But it made me sad.

So I got home, had a little tuna salad and was watching TV when Kathleen called. "I'm just leaving my office now. I'll be there in about an hour."

She hadn't forgotten! She'd just been so swamped all day she hadn't had a moment to call me to confirm. I went from sad to happy so fast it was as though she was my own personal Christmas miracle.

We went to a tiki bar and enjoyed drinks (I had a couple Coco Locos, which are hot chocolate spiked with rum) and pineapple chips and dip. Most of all, I was happy that I was able to make her laugh and get her out of herself for a while. Her father will never again be able to dress or feed himself, her parents will have to be convinced to sell their home and move to a smaller and more manageable place, she doesn't like the job she devotes so much time to ... I'm glad I distracted her for a while. When I got home, I was surprised to see we'd been out for three hours. It did us both good.

Now for the gifts. I got her a book and a water bottle adorned with a photo of her and her daughter. (When her daughter is home from college, they run together every morning.) She got me a Downton Abbey mug with gourmet tea and a promise to see a Cub game this summer. And if you read this blog with any regularity, you know there's not much I want more than an afternoon within The Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


To play along, just answer the following three questions ...

• What are you currently reading? The Christmas Cookie Club by Ann Pearlman. Every year, Marnie and her girlfriends get together and eat cookies, swap recipes, drink wine and catch up. They've been doing this for years, their bond is enduring, and their stories are relateable.

I read this when it first came out (maybe 5 years ago?) and recalled little of it except that it's a nice, feel-good bit of Christmas chick lit and now I'm enjoying it all over again. If you like to bake, this book may be of special interest to you, as each woman's club recipe is included.

• What did you recently finish reading? The Patriarch by David Nasaw. A sweeping, breathtaking biography of an American original: Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, JFK's father. He was a banker, stockbroker, movie producer and real estate mogul (though not a bootlegger, as legend has it). He was a terrible diplomat and a worse husband. But a passionate, loving father and devoted friend. This massive book took me months to get through, and now I feel kind of empty without it. I'm afraid I kinda miss the old bastard.

• What do you think you’ll read next? Maybe Gone with the Wind. I haven't touched it in decades, and going back to the future might be a good way to start the new year.

To see how others responded, click here.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

I Saw This!

There's no overestimating the impact Mary Poppins had on my life. The first movie I ever saw in the theater, it began my lifelong love affair with film. One of the clearest and dearest memories of my childhood is of lights going down and the big red curtains at the State Lake Theater opening to reveal that first memorable scene, the rooftops of London.

So when we went to The Museum of Science and Industry yesterday, I was hoping that the much-talked about Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit would include my girl, Mary. After all, to me that nanny is every Disney Princess, all rolled into one. But I was worried because none of the PR releases I'd read in advance even mentioned her.

Oh, Gal of Little Faith! There was a trove of Maryphernalia! I saw original sketches of the famous "Jolly Holiday" (penguin) number and authentic costumes and a deleted scene (no sound, but still!) and the actual alphabet blocks that magically fell into her name during "A Spoonful of Sugar." But best of all, I saw this ...

 The actual globe she's holding in her hands was on display! The snowglobe that inspired her to sing "Feed the Birds!" I saw it! Kathy was amused that I actually fell to me knees to get a closer look at it in the case, but I refuse to be embarrassed. I was thrilled.

When I got to work this morning, I mentioned this to two of my coworkers, who also remembered being piled into the car by their parents and driven to the theater to see Mary Poppins. It was a lovely collective memory of 1964.

Here's the clip of the scene. I love it, love it, love it.

Day at the Museum

My friend Kathy and I spent Monday at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. As my birthday gift, she encouraged me to think of something I want to do but can't get anyone to do with me, and so I chose MSI. It was my favorite when I was a kid -- hell, it's every Chicago kid's favorite. But I haven't been there in decades.

We toured it from 9:30 till 2:30. While MSI is decidedly high-tech and interactive, I wanted to revisit all the favorite exhibits of my youth. First of all, Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle. Everything is built to scale for a 5" tall prince and princess. When I was a tiny gal, I loved it because the lights and water actually worked and because everything in each overstuffed room is handmade and handcarved. Yesterday I learned details that weren't of interest to me as a wee one: the chapel includes the world's smallest Bible and an actual relic, a sliver of silver from The True Cross, a gift to Colleen Moore from Ambassador Clare Booth Luce, who received it from the Pope himself.

When I was taking that picture of the castle, I was sorry the mom and daughter were in the shot. But now I'm glad. Look at her hand, reaching to get closer to the magic inside. That was me and every other little girl who has seen it over the years.

My second all-time favorite place in the museum is Yesterday's Main Street, which represents Chicago of 1910. The streets are brick, just as I remembered them. I saw the corset shop and the grocer's and the old time dentist. But best of all was the nickelodeon, showing silent movies around the clock. The theater is much smaller than I recalled it, but it was in the same spot and she was there. I loved this ticket window when I was a little girl, and thought that ticket taker was the best job ever. It made me so happy to see her again. Then we had real ice cream sodas at Finnigan's Ice Cream Parlor.

This is the first time I've ever been to the museum at Christmastime. Which is a shame, because for more than 70 years, MSI has been celebrating Christmas Around the World. There's this one big tree in the main hall, surrounded by smaller trees representing more than 50 other countries, and decorated  by volunteers from Chicago's ethnic communities. I learned that in the Czech Republic, the traditional Christmas meal isn't turkey but carp (ew!) and a barley/mushroom casserole that sounded pretty yummy; that in Scandinavia, St. Nick doesn't have elves, he has a companion named Black Pete; that in Poland, all pets are included in Christmas celebrations because it was animals who witnessed Christ's birth in the manger.

In the gift shop I saw a t-shirt that read, "Talk Nerdy to Me." I almost bought it. Because if there's anything that yesterday reinforced for me, it's that I'm such a geek. I truly can't think of much I would have enjoyed more than my day at the museum.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Richard and Gary and Old Navy

Every year, the tree at Whole Foods is decorated with little hearts from the kids at the village children's home. Some kids live at the home 24/7, waiting for appropriate foster homes or for their parents to get it together and take them back. Others are there because their parents are taking advantage of the sliding scale daycare. Anyway, each heart has a kids' name, age, sizes and Wish List items. Since the children's home is, literally, next door, I always participate by taking an ornament and fulfilling a Christmas wish.

This year I grabbed Gary's. He's 14 and I think that must be a tough age to be at the children's home Christmas party. He doesn't believe in Santa anymore, and he just might be pretty angry about not having a family -- not with his real parents and not in a foster home. And what if no one chooses his heart? Everyone wants to shop for a little one. But what if none of my neighbors want to pitch in for a teenager? So I went to Old Navy and got him a sweater and sweats (all on sale). I also tossed in a $5 giftcard to a local hamburger place. You know, just in case my taste in teen boy clothes isn't all that he'd like it to be.

When I dropped his present off at Whole Foods (the damn gift bag cost $3!), I had to pass the tree again. It occurred to me that maybe I want to buy for a cute little kid, too.

So then I grabbed Richard's. He's 6. He asked Santa for a sweater and jeans. Doesn't that break your heart? He wants clothes, not toys. So back to Old Navy. I got him a sweater but all the jeans are too expensive, so I got him a long-sleeved t-shirt decorated with a football, a soccer ball, a basketball and a baseball. Unless he's exclusively a hockey fan, I've got him covered. And then, since he's only 6 and should get a toy, I tossed in a 99¢ bus. I like thinking of him pushing it around on the floor at the holiday party.

I've kinda had the blues. I'm just not very happy with my life. Nothing is bad -- the cats are healthy, my friends are great, I'm feeling strong. But both my home and my finances have gotten away from me and I can't seem to get it together in either arena.

But I was able to help Richard and Gary. And that's something I was able to accomplish.

Sunday Stealing

The Are You Meme
1) Are you psychic in any way? Sometimes I think I may be.

2) Are you a good dancer? No.

3) Are you a good singer? I sing even worse than I dance.

4) Are you a good cook? I don't know. I do it so very seldom.

5) Are you a good artist? Nope. (This meme is starting to make me feel bad about myself.)

6) Are you a good listener? I can be.

7) Are you a good public speaker? Yes. (Hallelujah! I finally got one!)

8) Are you a good babysitter? Yes. (Two in a row! I'm on a roll.)

9) Are you a good mechanic? No.

10) Are you a good diplomat? I try, though not always successfully.

11) Are you a good employee? Yes.

12) Are you a good dresser? When I put effort into it.
13) Are you a good swimmer? Yes.

14) Are you a good skier? No.

15) Are you a good gift giver? Yes.

16) Are you a good musician? No.

17) Are you a good comedian? I can be funny.

18) Are you a good cleaner? I clean even worse than I sing.

19) Are you a good actor? Yes, I think I am.

20) Are you a good writer? Yes.

"The girl with the cute haircut"

Last night was the movie meetup holiday party. We saw Remember the Night, a rather obscure Christmas movie starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray.* I can see why it's not as popular as Christmas in Connecticut (last year's movie). It does not have a conventional Christmas feel-good ending. But still I enjoyed it.

Even more, I enjoyed the Meet Up. My usual girls weren't there -- Joanna's flight from New Orleans was delayed; Martha remains incommunicado for the third month in a row -- so I was forced to talk more to other people than I normally would. And, after all, that is the point of these Meet Ups.

These two other ladies and I somehow got on the subject of Barbra Streisand. Funny Girl and "My Man," specifically. I joked that I loved that number because falling for the wrong fella is specialty of mine. One of the ladies recommended or, and I said that with my luck I'd end up with the new millennium Ted Bundy. The ladies laughed and one said, "I can just hear us asking each other, 'What happened to the girl with the cute haircut? I hope we didn't lose her to computer dating.'"

That made me happy because (1) I made them laugh and (2) they liked my new haircut and (3) they referred to me as "a girl" and I know I'm well within 10 years of them. This last birthday -- when I hit 57 -- made me feel very old and any reassurance I get that I don't look like I'm knocking on 60 makes me feel better.

*I grew up on MacMurray on My Three Sons, as boring a dad as TV ever produced. His long movie career reveals there was much more to him than that -- humor, cynicism and even a little sex appeal. Who knew?

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Lucky Star (1983)

1. Have you ever wished upon a star? No. I've tossed a small fortune mint into fountains as I made wishes, but I've never wished upon a star.

2. In the 1980s, Madonna considered her wrist bangles one of her fashion trademarks. What's one of your fashion trademarks? I wear a lot of blue. So much, in fact, that one of my friends used to begin our phone conversations by asking, "which blue shirt are you wearing today?"

3. Though she got good grades, Madonna could be disruptive at school, known for turning cartwheels in the halls between classes. Can you do a cartwheel? Nope.

4. Her high grade point average earned her a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan, home of the Wolverines. Do you follow college football? Nope.

Happy to see LuAnn and Margo are still roomies
5. Madonna co-starred in the movie version of Dick Tracy. Do you enjoy comics? When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I used to read Apartment 3G every day in the paper while I rode the train. I don't recall why I stopped.

6. She played Argentinian First Lady Eva Peron in the biopic, Evita and directed a movie about Wallis Simpson. What famous 20th century woman do you wish you could meet/could have met? That would, of course, be my all-time idol, JBKO. According to rumor (and there is no shortage of rumors regarding this lady), she couldn't stand Madonna, either.

7. Madonna authored a children's book called The English Roses. Tell us about a book that had a big impact on you when you were a kid. Charlotte's Web.

8. One of Madonna's "vocal idols" is Ella Fitzgerald. Who is your all-time favorite female singer? Streisand.

9. Madonna once did a Pepsi commercial. What beverages are in your refrigerator right now? Coke, Dr. Pete (the Sodastream version of Dr. Pepper), 2% milk


Just talking to people

Friday I ended up conversing with three of my neighbors. This is unusual, especially since I can go days without seeing any of them.

First I saw the woman from the third floor who wears the fashionable Warby Parker frames. Whenever I have seen her in condo association meetings she has been aggressive, pushy and condescending. Yet today, in front of our building, walking her dog, she was warm and friendly. After we chatted, she told me to stop over anytime. I couldn't believe how different she was, one-on-one.

Then I rode the elevator with the neighbor who wears a hairnet when he does his laundry. He and his girlfriend were coming in from Christmas shopping and they both looked so nice. Then I thought of my usual laundry room uniform -- oversized, elastic waistband jeans and Crocs -- and realized he might have been thinking the same of me.

Finally I met my downstairs neighbor for the first time. While we were chatting, I asked her if she could hear me singing in the shower, since we share a bathroom vent. I'm such a bad singer, I told her that if it offends her she should just poke the ceiling with her broom. She laughed and said she hadn't heard me, but if she did she'd poke twice, which means, "You go, girl!" But then she told me that last summer she did hear me, when I was suffering with a cold and was coughing and [here she made the noise of me sucking mucous instead of blowing]. I was so embarrassed! And amused. That sound must really carry. It used to make my mother crazy, as well, even when I did it behind my closed bedroom door. Interestingly, my downstairs neighbor doesn't hear me yelling at Reynaldo, or watching TV at all hours. Just coughing and [insert sound of sucking mucous instead of blowing]. I'll try to remember to reach for a tissue, but sometimes, when the skin under my nose is so raw or I can't breathe, I just gotta [insert sound of sucking mucous instead of blowing].

Thursday, December 04, 2014

In other news

I believe one of my coworkers has suddenly developed a crush on me. I don't know how I feel about this.

He began working with our team two years ago. He spent most of his time at our clients' offices downstate, so I seldom if ever saw him. But over the last three months he's been up here almost exclusively and, since I've been back from Vegas, he's been coming over to our clown car and insinuating himself into our morning conversations as soon as I arrive.

And let me explain -- since there are four of us in an office originally designed for two, and since tensions can run high, I tend to be overly cheerful and babbly in the morning. Just to smooth things over and make sure the other three get along. I consider myself to be the agency's rodeo clown.

Apparently he suddenly finds my babbling captivating.

Now on the one hand, he appears age appropriate and is very, very smart. Those things are good.

On the other hand, he is rumored to be getting over a bad relationship and is said to have a drinking problem. Those things are not good.

Oh well, I don't have to do anything about anything. For the time being, I think I'll just enjoy being found at the very least amusing by a man of very high intellect.

Don't know why ...

… but I keep waiting for the proverbial "other shoe" to fall.

Nothing particular triggered this. I just have a free-floating feeling of dread. Which I shall try to combat. Because worrying over nothing does no good.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

See? This is what I mean!

Last week, while sitting by the luggage carousel, waiting for my friend to arrive in Las Vegas from LA, I scribbled off three postcards. One to my aunt, one to my niece, and one to my Cousin Rose. Rose loves to receive snail mail, and I wanted her to know I was thinking of her.

Well, she responded. "Hope you had fun in Las Vegas. Not my preference, but then, not my birthday."

This is why I'm most emphatically not looking forward to her staying with me in early 2015.  Nothing I do or say is "her preference."

For example, she was telling me how much I was missing by not shopping at Costco. Now I live in a two BR condo with precious little storage. I have no desire to spend any of it on a 12-roll package of paper towels. On the other hand, I wanted to be polite and keep the conversation moving. So I said, "Hmmm ... you know what I could buy in bulk? AA batteries. I'm always running out of them for my TV remote and my shower radio."

"SHOWER RADIO? That's the craziest thing I've ever heard of!"

Or when she kept haranguing me for the size of my purse -- even though I never once complained about its heft or asked her to carry it. Or ... or ... or ...

In addition to making me feel, well, homicidal, she also makes me feel guilty because I know how much she cares about me. (Even though it seems everything I do is, to use one of her favorite words, "stupid.") For my birthday, she got me a pen and letter opener, both inscribed with my name, because she says I'm the last one who bothers to write letters by hand and mail them, and she appreciates it. She always wants me to visit. She fantasizes about trips we'll take to Europe. (I can just imagine her criticizing me all over Poland.)

During my turbulent adolescence, my Cousin Rose was my idol. My role model. The only adult in my world it seemed to support me.

I do honor and treasure that relationship, and wish we could go back.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


For the first time, I reached my Nanowrimo goal of 50,000 words! Yea!

I'm nowhere near done with Liza's saga. It was too ambitious for 50,000 words. But I'm going to give it a rest for a while. I've been more than a little obsessive and it's time to do housework, write holiday cards, laundry, etc.

Sunday Stealing

Shop On The Corner Meme

What kind of job did your mom have when you were growing up? She was a stay at home mom. All our mothers were stay at home moms. On November 22, 1963, after President Kennedy was assassinated, we were each sent home from school at lunchtime and with a note saying not to come back until further notice. Looking back, it seems shocking that the school just assumed none of us would be returning to an empty house.

 Have you ever known anyone that’s been on tv, including you? My friend Ed is an extra on the TV show Chicago Fire. I was on TV Election Night, 1992. I was a Clinton campaign worker ("Clintonistas," as we were known) and I was shown in the victory celebration on Channel 7, the local ABC affiliate. I remember exactly what I was wearing -- a long black sweater, black leggings and little boots. I wish I had enjoyed what a good figure I had back then, rather than concentrating on its flaws.

What was the most interesting animal you have seen in the wild? I've never seen an animal in the wild.

What holiday do you enjoy the most? Dr. King's birthday. First of all, because it celebrates Dr. King and it's always good to reflect on his message of peace and tolerance and equality. Secondly, it's a day off when we can really use one. Mid-January can look and feel pretty bleak. I appreciate the respite of a day off and something so positive.

 What was the first video game you ever played? Pong.

 What is the one thing you own, that if it got lost, you would be bummed? My independence!

 Do you have a favorite breakfast item? Eggs.

 What do you find yourself buying all the time? Cat food.

 When was the last time you got a real letter in the mail? My cousin Rose and I correspond all the time. There's a letter right beside me dated last Monday that I just got yesterday. Maybe it's that five day lag time that helps make snail mail so unpopular. Oh well, I still enjoy getting the mail each day.

Do you have a most prized piece of jewelry? I have a couple pendants -- one silver bar like this and the other a coin --  made from real (scrap) silver recovered from the the Atocha. The Atocha was a Spanish ship that went down just off Key West in the 1600s. My late uncle was a coin collector and studied the treasure that was recovered from the ship. One of his proudest possessions was one of the ship's real coins, worth thousands of dollars today. Whenever I wear the coin or pendant, I remember him and how much the Atocha meant to him.

 Do you own any board games? I've got Clue and Scrabble in the closet somewhere.

 What chore seems the most daunting right now? HOUSEWORK! This place is a freaking sty. Which is why I'll do my Christmas cards today. It's too overwhelming.

 Were you born in the state you live in? Yes.

 Have you ever lived in a house that has been broken into? No.

 What is your favorite cheese? I'd like a sharp cheddar scrambled into my eggs, please.

 Who do you know that watches the most sports? My friend Mindy's husband watches all the football he possibly can. Doesn't matter which teams. He's just transfixed by football.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Saturday 9

Paint It Black

1) This song was chosen because yesterday was Black Friday, the traditional day of sales. Have you begun your Christmas shopping? I'm almost done. I have a couple of gift cards and stocking stuffers left to pick up, and then I'm done. By the way, this is the first year I ventured out into the Black Friday madness. I went to Macy's after Thanksgiving dinner because it was right there, open around the clock starting at 6:00 PM Thursday night. The prices didn't impress me but the crowds did. So many little kids, so many strollers! I hadn't expected that.

2) Are there any Thanksgiving leftovers in your refrigerator right now?  No. We ate out. The upside is no clean up. The downside is no leftovers.

3) AAA says Thanksgiving is a big travel weekend. Did you venture far from home for your holiday dinner?  No. I took the el downtown like I always do, but got off at an earlier stop.

4) Keith Richards likes France but, alas, the French authorities haven't always been fond of him and his criminal record. Have you ever been to France? Yes. Decades ago I went to Paris and Nancy. I still can't get over the fact that I saw the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees.

5) Mick Jagger jokes that, to be polite to fellow hotel guests, he always finishes trashing his room by 10:00 PM. What kind of hotel/motel guest are you? Are you rockstar rambunctious, or are you quiet? Are you neat? Have you stolen any towels, bathrobes, etc.? Except that I sleep with the TV on, I believe I'm a perfect guest.

6) Mick Jagger got his financial savvy as a student at the London School of Economics. Are you good with money?  Ha!

7) In the early 1990s, a then little-known actress named Angelina Jolie appeared in a Rolling Stones video ("Anybody Seen My Baby?"). Name an Angelina Jolie movie. Loved Maleficent. I'm still Team Aniston, but Maleficent was awesome.

8) In the early 1960s, the Stones nearly avoided tragedy when their tour bus skidded off a bridge. Tell us about a near miss you're thankful for. I can't believe it's been six years, because I remember it like it was yesterday. One Tuesday, when I was on my way back to the office after a lunchtime workout, I very nearly got hit by a cab that was racing through the yellow light. Considering the speed at which it was traveling, if it had made contact with me, I would have been killed instantly. (Shudder.)

9) In 1966, when this week's song was popular, CBS telecast How the Grinch Stole Christmas for the first time. What's your favorite Dr. Seuss story?