Sunday, December 30, 2007

My Sunset Culinaire Cruise

Yesterday afternoon we went on a dinner cruise with a real three-course dinner. It was beautiful and delicious. We each began with a salad (my friend, the Birthday Boy, is more adventuresome than I and had a Thai salad with a spring roll), then we went with the catch of the day -- grouper -- cooked with rice on a shrimp reduction sauce, and for dessert I had a terrific rice pudding (that tasted spicy somehow) with raspberry sauce and he had chocolate cheesecake.

We both had wine enjoyed watching the sunset with the ship's dog, a lovely old mutt named Jackie who endured our petting in exchange for access to the area under the table so she could search for anything that may have missed our mouths.

In the past we have taken a sunset sail, but this was actually much better. The boat's capacity is only 18, and the price tag is a little heftier, so while all shipmates were friendly, there's less of that raucous party atmosphere.

Don't know what we're doing today. I just know that I love being here because of my friend. His lover and their friends are so interesting and just so accepting of me. Yesterday we had lunch with a married couple of lawyers who recently moved down here from DC (Virginia, actually) and he is looking for a teaching position at the community college down here where my friend is a professor. His wife and I hit it off instantly, talking about everything from the wonderfully tacky moccasins found at the Wisconsin Dells to the inspiring love story of John and Elizabeth Edwards. She said what I was thinking, "It's so nice to meet someone who agrees with me about everything!"

Well I'd better log off now and continue up Duval in search of souvenirs for loved ones back home. Wait! What's that I hear? Could it be a margarita calling out to me?

(I'm composing this from a community computer at an Internet cafe, so unfortunately I can't include any photos. For more information and some professional pix, visit www.sunsetculinaire.com.)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

It's just as easy to be nice as ...

... to be an incredible asshole.

The night before I left for Key West, I spent a ton of time on the phone with the nicest customer service representative for Continental Airlines. She very patiently explained what could happen if the snow started to fall in Chicago (it did) delaying my flight (it was) and jeopardizing my opportunity to make a connection in Tampa to Key West. She was completely lovely and reserved a seat for me on the only available Continental flight to Key West the next day. Turns out I didn't need her help, but that doesn't diminish how thorough and polite she was and I appreciated that sooooo much.

Contrast this with the little jerk who was directing people at Terminal A in Tampa. All he would do is point. He refused to answer questions. I had 10 minutes to make my flight, and when I got to Terminal A I discovered I would have to go through a long line at security again. Taking off my shoes, collecting all my 3-oz or less bottles and zipping them into a storage bag, etc. They do not make you go through security twice at O'Hare, Hartsfield or Miami, so I thought this was a mistake. "I have answered you three times!" he barked. Maybe 21, with a face ProActiv would love, and he's giving me shit. Not to mention that I've never spoken to him before in my life, much less twice previously. I went to check his nametag and he covered it with his hand. "You don't get to know my name. You just have to get in line." He was wearing a red vest, so I know he was airport, not NTSB, so I sarcastically thanked him and wished him a happy, happy holiday season. A man observing this exchange gave me the spot in front of him at the middle of the line.

So to the woman on the phone at Continental and to the fellow traveller right behind in line as I went through security (again!) at Tampa, thank you, thank you, thank you. Your kindnesses meant a lot to me, and almost washed away the stench of the officious brat boy who was undoubtedly using bravado and rudeness to compensate for bad skin and a small penis.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Friday's Feast #27



Appetizer.
Name 2 things you would like to accomplish in 2008. Lose weight and organize my home.

Soup.
With which cartoon character do you share personality traits? Bugs Bunny. I can be a highly verbal smart ass.

Salad.
What time of day (or night) were you born? The stroke of midnight. The hospital told my mother that legally I could not be born at midnight -- that in order to put a date on my birth certificate she had to choose between 11:59 PM and 12:01 AM. She went with the latter. I have had my astrological chart done twice, and this factoid completely freaked out both astrologers. I was born on the cusp of the cusp!

Main Course.
Tell us something special about your hometown. Some of America's most creative citizens have lived here: Frank Lloyd Wright, Hemingway, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Bob Newhart.

Dessert.
If you could receive a letter from anyone in the world, who would you want to get one from? Gloria Steinem. She has had a profound and ongoing influence on my life.


For more information, or to whip up your own feast, visit www.fridaysfeast.com.

It helps to have a plan

Let's examine the facts:
•  I hate to fly
•  The airlines have twice lost my bags on the ORD/EYW route
•  A major snowstorm is supposed to hit tomorrow, right about the time my flight is supposed to take off


This makes me crazy. At times like this, my mind just won't stop spinning. My flight won't take off on time and I'll miss my connecting flight and I'll never get to Key West. Or my flight will take off but the conditions will be treacherous and I'll end up as a Galcicle in icy Lake Michigan. Or … Given a few hours and my gift for awfulizing, I can easily whip myself up into a frenzy..


So I took steps to protect me from me. First I got a deep tissue massage. Ah … Then I met a friend to exchange Christmas gifts. It was good to blab and gossip and not think about the flights. Then I got home and started to panic again. What it … what if … what if …?


What if my flight is grounded for hours and I miss my connecting flight in Tampa? I sat on the phone with a very nice, very patient customer service rep who held the last seat on a flight to Key West on Saturday. It's super expensive, but it will get me down there. Hopefully I won't need it, hopefully my travel tomorrow will go without a hitch, but just in case it doesn't, I have a plan.


The illusion of control feels almost as delicious as that deep tissue massage.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

THURSDAY THIRTEEN #47 -- Really Good Gifts


THIRTEEN GIFTS

THE GAL REALLY

ENJOYED GIVING


It IS much better to give than to receive! And now that all (but one) of my holiday gifts have been distributed, here are 13 of the highlights.

1. Hudson the Polar Bear (shown). I got my mother a real-live polar bear as part of the Brookfield Zoo’s Share the Care Program. In addition to knowing that she is helping with young Hudson’s care and feeding, she also received a (much) smaller plush Hudson, a color portrait of the real thing, and a commemorative certificate.

2. Small suitcase. It’s black and white and about 12” x 6”, purchased for my niece. She loves trunks and cases and jewelry boxes. I have no idea how she’ll use this – purse or storage – but she’s imaginative and enthusiastic so I know it has a good home.

3. Cars Mater National. It’s the latest GBA game based on the Cars movie (just released last month), and my nephew didn’t even know it existed! You should have seen the mix of joy and genuine surprise on his face. Yes, I’m the coolest aunt ever.

4. Chicago Bears Claw Glove. Technically speaking this was a Hannukah gift for a friend’s little boy. He was behaving so well under such trying circumstances (listening to his parents and me babble about things of no interest to him at all) that I was happy to relieve his boredom, and it made me happy to watch him joyously swiping the air, most likely imagining the Green Bay Packers.

5. St. Louis bottle opener and magnet. More than twenty years ago, when I first met the dad of the boy mentioned above, I got him to tell me an embarrassing story about himself. It involved beer, a road trip to St. Louis, and a group of frat boys relieving themselves on the Arch. I believe he forgot having told me that story until he opened the jewelry box and discovered this treasure, decorated with the poor Arch. Watching his look change from surprise to recognition to … well … embarrassment was great fun.

6. Personalized cat ornament. My uncle has always been very good to me. I’m saddened by watching him suffer through a slow, painful and ultimately failing bout with Parkinson’s disease, However this doesn’t get in the way of my recognizing that he can be a real pain in the ass -- lately he has been guilting and tormenting my poor mother big time, and he’s become very hard on his caregivers and his only child (my cousin). He could be very high-handed before the disease struck, and Parkinson’s hasn’t helped. All this helps me understand why his cat, an old and regal gray tabby, has become his best friend in the world. She is descended from Egyptian gods, and consequently feels she and my uncle are complete equals. Roommates, if you will. She is impervious to his uglier moods, and loves him even when he’s having medication-induced fits. So it made me happy to have an ornament made with her name and picture on it. I included a note that his best friend deserves a place of honor on his tree. And she does. She’s brought him comfort and companionship when he’s needed it most. so I’m grateful to that old furry girl.

7. Bush and Cheyney chew toys. My friends who live in the Keys have been together nearly 20 years and just bought their first house. Since they’re both men, it’s hard to find an ornament commemorating their first Christmas in their own home together, so I had one made. Of crystal. I think it’s quite lovely. But that isn’t what excited them. It was the Presidential and Vice Presidential squeaky chew toys I included for their dogs. Those are what completely delighted them! Oh well, gifts are supposed to be for the recipient, and I’m happy that the silly dog toys brought them such laughter.

8. Vintage post cards. My family has been going to the same resort in Wisconsin for generations. I first went with grandparents. Now my kid sister takes her kids up there. I regret every wasted, boring moment, but my sister thinks it’s the loveliest place on earth. She’s very into scrapbooking, so I was thrilled to find 1960s postcards of the place for her to add to her albums. Thank goodness for eBay!

9. “Head sock.” My brother-in-law can somehow always guess what’s in a giftbox before he opens it. This year I thought I had him because I didn’t even know what this was called. A polar fleece hood or cowl … thing … that will keep his head, ears, face and neck warm. Before he had all the paper removed, he asked, “Is this a head sock?” Damn if that’s not the perfect name for it, and yes, that’s it was! How does he do it?

10. Houdini corkscrew. I’ve been getting my hair cut by the same stylist for decades. Over time I’ve given him bigger tips at Christmas, or gift cards, but it’s all become a yawn. Last year I noticed how happy he was the bottles of wine he got from one of his clients, proudly displaying them at his station through the holiday season. That’s when it hit me: I’ll get him a corkscrew to keep in the shop so he can share his Christmas spirits with his customers. I was glad it made him so happy.

11. “Believe” bracelet. A charm on a dainty blue ribbon for a friend of mine who has had a hard time finding her niche professionally. She’s good at her job, but she gets disillusioned quickly and leaves each place of employment after just a year or two. She really wants to be a success at her current position, and so I gave her an ongoing, pretty and wearable “pep talk.”

12. Massage. My gift to me. I’m nervous about my upcoming trip to the Keys. I don’t like to fly. I don’t have much time between planes and it’s supposed to snow. The airlines have been known to lose my bags when I fly this route. I’d prefer not to be some gator's Happy Meal, thank you very much. So Thursday afternoon, I’m treating myself to a massage. Hopefully it will relax me so much that I won’t be able to awfulize myself into a pathetic, terrified frenzy again before I board the plane.

13. Toy drives. A red purse, a pair of SpongeBob books, a Bratz doll, a Lego set, a pair of woolen Chicago Bears mittens and a Rubik’s Cube. I never saw these goodies opened, but purchasing them made me happy just the same. Maybe it’s because I’m in advertising and feel somewhat responsible for how commercial Christmas has become, especially for kids. It breaks my heart to think of a child NOT being joyfully surprised at Christmas. I’m proud and peaceful knowing that I made it possible for 5 kids to get something unexpected this season.

What about you? What gift gave you the most pleasure to give?


Put your link in the comments and I'll add you here:
1) Deb shares the most popular resolutions people make each year 
2) Ellen B. has a universal, multi-lingual New Year's TT
3) Chelle Y. revisits last year's resolutions
4) Moondancer shares 13 favorite quotes from a story she knows very, very well!
5) Malcolm's TT is back!
6) How do you think Tinkerbell did with her 2007 resolutions? Find out here.
7) Nicholas makes a compelling argument for sequels that are better than the originals
8) Sue got a stocking filled with fragrant goodies
9) Sobeit asks 13 questions about "after Christmas"
10) Open Grove Gloria has an inspirational TT
11) Monday through Sunday looks back on an eventful year
12) Lori got some way cool stuff this year!
13) Susan Helene Gottfried takes us to Yellowstone
14) Lazy Daisy's self assessment is brought to us by the letter "Y"
15) Sandy Carlson introduces us to the world of fairies
16) Natalie shares her resolutions for 2008
17) Yen remembers 12 wonderful months
18) Fresh Girl looks back on her Christmas celebration
19) Gattina shows us her Christmas gifts
20)Deanna goes down memory lane and comes back with some adorable retro dolls
21) That Grrrl shows off her photos of abandoned farmhouses
22) Toni gives us the highlights of her holidays, including a shih tzu named Cujo. (Sorry, Toni, but the connection kept timing out before I could leave a comment.)
23) Nancy discusses what she doesn't want to do in the future
24) Ornery's Wife shares 13 facts about Ornery himself
25) Nancy J. Bond reveals her favorite Christmas gifts
26) Dane Bramage looks back on those we lost in 2007
27) Michelle O takes us on a tour of her daughter's toy box
28) Angelie tells us what she gave, and what she received


Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!


The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!



A word about sisters

Specifically my kid sister and me.

Part of why we clash so much is that I'm disappointed in the woman she's become. I know that sounds harsh, but there you go. (And if a gal can't be honest with her blog …) We're 8 years apart, and it was during her childhood our parents' marriage broke down completely. They never divorced, and the hostility in the house was very hard on her. I took on the role of protector and ersatz parent. Because I was young and still immature myself, I'm afraid I may have imbued her with gifts and qualities she didn't have. I know that, in material ways, I made her life easier to make up for how difficult her day-to-day was in that house. Now that she's often selfish and expresses a certain sense of entitlement, I realize that I helped create her. And I suppose I have no right to be disappointed that she hasn't lived up to expectations I had no right to project onto her.

On the other hand, she gets on my very last nerve. And I clearly get on hers.

Yet in some ways, no one knows you like your sister. On Christmas Eve, we gave one another our favorite gifts. I got her vintage postcards of our family's favorite vacation spot in Wisconsin. She got me the DVD of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. She reminded me that since she knows how I love it, she was the one who got it for me first in Beta, and then VHS, and now was undoubtedly time for an upgrade.

I guess that's one of the gifts of Christmas, isn't it? To remind us that we're bound by history and family, and that we love one another … even when we don't like each other.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas Morning

This was one of the readings from last night's candlelight service. written by Longfellow, and enthusiastically embraced by this Gal.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th’ unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor does He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Monday, December 24, 2007

Oh, Magoo! You've Done It Again!


This morning I was ambivalent about Christmas. I'm thrilled with the presents I got my niece and nephew and cannot wait for our gift exchange later this afternoon. But as always with my family -- with every family, to some degree, I suppose -- there is going to be tension. My mom is sad about the breakdown of communication with my uncle. My sister is not sensitive to my wanting to end my Christmas Eve and welcome my Christmas Day with worship at my church, so we may not be entirely finished with gifts and dinner by the time I have to leave …

So I popped in my old VHS tape of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. Aside from fact that I was transported back to the first time I saw it (when I was about 6 or 7, in black and white, in a darkened spare bedroom at my grandmother's house, it was the first time I met these Dickens' characters), it also reminded of the message:

It's Christmas Eve and we're together.

It may not be perfect. But it will be memorable, especially for my niece and nephew. And who knows how many more Christmases we'll be able to celebrate together?


This is why I love movies. They get through to me … fast. I have learned much from books, too, naturally. But Magoo managed to penetrate my cranium and heart in little more than a hour. And I'm grateful.


Merry Christmas, Blogosphere!

Truer words were never spoken

"If you take their money, you have to take their shit."
"God bless the child that's got her own."

Not very Christmasy sentiments, I know, but they do seem to sum up what's happening with my family this holiday season.

My uncle's life is miserable these days. We're approaching the one-year anniversary of his wife's death, and he is dying himself -- slowly and painfully from Parkinson's. His world is becoming smaller and smaller, as he tires easily and is less willing to allow people to witness his spasms. I remember how he used to downhill ski and compete in 5k races and my heart breaks. So much of what has defined him as been taken away.

HOWEVER, it's important to note that when he was healthy and whole, he could be a real jerk. I love him, and he's always been good to me, but that doesn't cloud my vision. He's very wealthy, and he has long believed that gives him power over others. I don't accept that premise, so he and I have never clashed. We have, however, had our tense moments.

"Who do you think I should leave my money to?" he has asked. If I say I don't care (which I don't), I am diminishing the accomplishment he's proudest of -- the accumulation of wealth. If I say "me," then I'm just another bloodsucker who wants his money. There's no winning this tiresome game, so I won't play. I have told him alternately to give it to my mom (his sister) and to make provisions for his cat. This seems to disappoint him, and it annoys me.

He's become very hard on my mom, summoning her to his side regardless of what's going on in her life, yet refusing to come see her when invited. Likewise he has become more and more demanding on my cousin, his only child. Sometimes he uses guilt -- "I'm going to be all alone," "I hope this is my last Christmas." More often he uses money -- "I don't care that it's Christmas. I'll get my caretaker to drive out and get you. She'll do what I say because I pay her." Last week he said this within earshot of his caretaker, which upset my mother terribly. Or he'll carefully time his, "I wonder who I should leave my money to?" game, implying that if you don't show up when he snaps his fingers, he'll bequeath his wealth to someone else. It isn't that my mom and cousin want his money; it's that they resent the implication that they can be bought.

It saddens me to see him alienate the people who love him most. It saddens me to watch him willfully shrink his world and ruin his own Christmas. I've sent him cards and notes and one-of-a-kind gifts (a personalized ornament, a CD I mixed especially for him) to reassure him that I love him and am thinking of him. But I don't feel like talking to him in real time because resent how upset he's left my mom and I don't want to play his games. 

I remember the uncle who bought me my first-ever Beatle record, who took me skiing for the first time, who let me bring him to school for "show and tell" when he was home on leave from Viet Nam. I love that man, and I hope he's still in there somewhere. I wish he could be healthy and whole again and in the holiday spirit, but that is simply not going to happen. 




Sunday, December 23, 2007

Unconscious Mutterings #21

I say ... and you think ... ?

Health :: Insurance
Tacky :: Pink flamingoes
Heels :: Ankle straps
Yay! :: Yea!
Model :: Runway
Gather :: Congregate
Best gift ever :: Blaze
Clients :: They're who I REALLY work for, not my agency bosses
Stomp :: The Broadway show
Clothing :: "Oh shit, it's Sunday and I still didn't pick my violet sweater set from the cleaners!"

For more information, or to mutter yourself, visit Unconscious Mutterings

Saturday, December 22, 2007

One week from tonight …

I will be on this sunset dinner cruise in Key West. Today is my friend and host's birthday, and but this will be our celebration. From their website: "Watch the sun slowly set into the Gulf of Mexico while enjoying a specially prepared dinner that features an array of appetizers, fresh salads, choice of filet mignon, local fish, or tasty chicken breast preparation and a dessert that could be key lime pie with berry sauce or a chocolate decadence."

My friend lives in Key West, and yet never does any of the "tourist-y" stuff like this. Here's hoping it all comes off without a hitch.

I'm not cleaning the sink

I'm also not:
• Straightening out the den
• Picking up my dry cleaning
• Writing checks and paying bills
• Putting fresh sheets on my bed
• Exercising


I am instead:
• Drinking beer
• Farting around on the Internet
• Observing wildlife (watching my cats)
• Wallowing in The Way We Were (the scene this still is from must have ended up on the cutting room floor)


I know me very well. I'm feeling rather delicate so I'm just going to protect myself today. And who knows? Perhaps if I shed a few cathartic tears for Katie Morosky, I'll feel better. ("See 'ya, Hubbell.")

I wish I had a river I could sail away on …

I discovered this Joni Mitchell holiday song last year when I bought myself James Taylor's highly listenable Christmas CD, which (Andy Williams aside) has become the soundtrack of my holidays.

"I'm so hard to handle. I'm selfish and I'm sad …" This wistful little song perfectly captures the other side of Christmas: How reflection on the past year, how all the activity and the traditions of the holidays can leave me feeling vaguely fragile and unhappy.
My uncle is dying oh-so slowly and cruelly from Parkinson's, and I'm angry (not at him, at the disease) that his condition necessarily dictates our holiday plans.

I resent the toll this -- and other Christmas complications, courtesy of the family -- takes on my mom.  

I miss my best friend.

All this leaves me feeling selfish and sad. And I wish I had a river I could sail away on …

Friday, December 21, 2007

Trying so hard to mind my own business …

My nephew is in second grade. He's smart, happy and funny. He's excited about Christmas because he still believes in Santa. He loves his Mommy (my kid sister) very much and is much closer to her than to his dad.

My kid sister has had a bad year. Her husband was out of work for several months, and they didn't have any savings put aside. Now that he's got a job again, they are struggling to get back on their feet. I'd be a lot more sympathetic if she got a job herself, but somehow that never occurred to her. It's not my business. I bite my tongue. I keep to myself. My input is not welcome. (My cash, yes. But input, no.)

It's so hard to keep my trap shut after last Sunday, though. I was telling Nick about Tina and Devin, the kids I bought gifts for as part of a toy drive. Tina's favorite color is red and she wants to go shopping with a Target giftcard. Devin's favorite color is blue and he loves SpongeBob.

Nicky said he thought those were "expensive and silly things to ask for when you're trying to keep from starving." I was shocked.

He went on to tell me how his family "had" to buy a movie theater gift card and an alarm clock/CD player for "poor kids" through church. "Mommy said she didn't want to, but if she didn't, everyone would think we were Scrooges." That is soooo my kid sister! It doesn't matter if you ARE selfish -- only whether or not people think you are selfish.

I told Nicky that I had fun buying and wrapping Tina's and Devin's gifts, that it made me happy. I told him that maybe carrots and a blanket might have been more useful, but who wants useful Christmas presents? Shouldn't kids like Tina and Devin have a little magic on Christmas, too? He was clearly getting confused -- starting to feel disloyal to Mommy -- so I dropped it.

But this conversation hurt my heart, and I just can't stop thinking about it.

He's a sweet boy. A generous boy. He made a deal with his parents -- he would drop out of the lunch program and bring his lunchbox throughout the month of December if they gave him the money for gifts instead. It bothers him that Santa won't come for his big sister this year (she's in high school) and he wants to fill her stocking himself so she won't feel "left out" when he goes through his stocking on Christmas morning.

But he's also his mother's son, not mine. I have to respect that. Be careful what I say, and try to teach him by example, not word.


Friday Fiver #1

I found me a new meme! And you know how I love my memes. I'm surprised by how aggressively not Christmasy this one is.

1. If you could change your name, what would it be? Lady McCartney. I understand it will soon be available again.

2. What is the worst name someone has called you? It's strange, but I can't remember a specific name. My father once told me I had no sense of humor. That stayed with me because that has never been true and it made me sad that he understood me so poorly.

3. If you could meet someone famous, who would it be? I'd like to tell Elizabeth Edwards how much her book meant to me. After all, how often does a book change your life?

4. How do you like to travel home? I take the train to the office and then back home each day. I'd prefer a private car and driver, but somehow the agency doesn't think I'm worth it.

5. What kind of phone to you have? LG cell. GE cordless landline. There! That's something I've never written about before!

For more Friday Fiver information and answers, click here.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

THURSDAY THIRTEEN #46 -- Alternative Christmas Movies


THIRTEEN MORE HOLIDAY MOVIES

Yes, I love It’s a Wonderful Life. And the Grinch. Of course I've thrilled to the romance of Rudolph and Clarice. Sure, I've laughed at Ralphie's Christmas misadventures. But here are 13 more holiday movies that you might not automatically think of, may not have already seen this year, but will help you maintain that Christmas feeling as you curl up under a blanket with a mug of something warm.

1. Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. (1962). My favorite version of the timeless tale, possibly because it’s the first one I saw start to finish. Highly relatable and only about an hour long, it’s surprising faithful and filled with songs I still love today (especially “I’m All Alone in the World”) written by Jule Stein and Bob Merrill, who also did Funny Girl. If you have young kids, this is a great way to introduce them to the story.

2. The Family Stone. (2005) The good son, Everett, brings his intended home for Christmas, and his formidable clan gives her a very hard time. I love Diane Keaton as the matriarch, especially in her relationships with her husband (Craig T. Nelson) and her daughter (Rachel McAdams). It all rings very true

3. Holiday. (1939) I believe this is the Great Kate Hepburn at her greatest, most beautiful and most moving. She’s poor little rich girl Linda Seton, trying make sense of her life. Unhappy and misunderstood within a family she still loves, she’s thrilled when her sister brings unconventional, imaginative working class Cary Grant home for the holidays.

4. The Gathering. (1977) A dying man tries to reunite his estranged and far-flung family for one last Christmas celebration. It sounds maudlin but it’s not. It’s a reaffirming tale about the bonds of family. Much of the credit goes to the credit goes to a terrific cast – Ed Asner, Maureen Stapleton, and Gail Strickland.

5. Christmas in Connecticut. (1945) Barbara Stanwyck is a columnist who pretends to be the original Martha Stewart-style homemaker, but she’s really a hardboiled Manhattan fraud. When, as a publicity stunt, her magazine sends a handsome sailor to her “country estate” for a perfect holiday at home, she worries that the truth will come out and her career will be over. Hijinks ensue. It’s very funny, romantic and smart. Stanwyck was a terrific screwball comedienne.

6. Silent Night, Lonely Night. (1969) A made-for-TV movie that’s definitely not family fare but lovely just the same. Shirley Jones and Lloyd Bridges are two strangers who end up spending Christmas at a New England lodge. Their lives are lonely and complicated, and they find comfort in one another’s arms. A poignant story about how raw our emotions can be this time of year.

7. Die Hard. (1988) It is so a Christmas movie! John McClane makes sure the hostages survive their Christmas party, doesn’t he? And don’t forget the note he pins on one of the bad guys, “Now I have a machine gun. Ho, ho, ho.” I love Bruce Willis, and this is the cornerstone of the faith. Have a torn t-shirt and a smirk ever looked better?

8. Miracle on 34th Street. (1947) The bad old non-believers actually try to have Macy’s Santa institutionalized because he maintains he really is Kris Kringle. Maureen O’Hara and Natalie Wood are the lovely but hard-hearted mother and daughter at the center of this tale, and it’s fun to watch them come around and embrace the joy of Christmas.

9. The Thin Man. (1934) Like Die Hard, it doesn’t immediately seem like a Christmas movie, but that is the backdrop. The first of the sophisticated, charming series of Nick and Nora Charles movies does take place over the holidays, and includes a very funny Christmas party, where high-society Nora mingles with the friends of her new husband, a former detective with a colorful past.

10. Love Actually. (2003) A fabulous, life-affirming look at love and romance in many forms. There are so many moments in this movie that delight and touch me. Most of all, watch for Emma Thompson’s reaction to receiving a Joni Mitchell CD from her husband for Christmas. She’ll break your heart.

11. The Desk Set. (1957) The 8th of the 9 films Tracy and Hepburn did together. He’s a computer loving efficiency expert. She’s the head of the research department, and she refuses to allow herself or her staff to be replaced by a machine – not this Christmas! They clash, they flirt, they fall into respect and then into love.

12. Meet Me in St. Louis. (1944). The Smith girls love their St. Louis home. Yet their dad has a lucrative career opportunity in New York. What will they do? I love this movie because really, not very much happens. It’s just a beautiful, sincere slice of life. And it features Garland introducing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

13. An Affair to Remember. (1957) One of the all-time great film romances ends with reformed but still bitter Nickie stopping by to wish his “old friend, Miss McKay, “ a Merry Christmas. Why doesn’t she just get up off the sofa and fly to his arms? Hand me the tissues.

Leave your link in comments and I'll add you here …
1) Driller AA's list is inspirational and truly Christmasy
2) Sniz shows us how expressive and creative scrapbooking can be
3) Carrie Lofty takes us to Italy in the 1950s, as only she can
4) Lori's is a scary trip down memory lane (at least it was for me)
5) Believer in Balance has 13 activities to keep the wee ones busy over the holiday break
6) Greatfullivin has a collection of vintage cartoons that you have to see to believe
7) Sandee shares Christmas quotes
8) Malcolm needs our help on a survey
9) Nicholas has a book TT … with a twist
10) Nap Warden generously shares 13 holiday banners


Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!




Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A meme to cleanse my palate

I want to write a festive, happy yuletide TT, but I'm not feeling very upbeat or Christmasy (see post below). Thanks to Sassy Lucy for tagging me, giving me something to write about as I transition from blah-blah-blah-blah-blah to fah-la-la-la-la …

Crazy Eights Tag

8 Things I’m passionate about
*The state of our union. I care very deeply about what's going on with this country
*Animal welfare issues -- especially spay/neuter and making adoption everyone's first option
*My own fabulous felines
*The Chicago Cubs
*The Beatles 
*Sir Paul (My adoration is so expansive it deserves two mentions)
*My friends
*My family (esp. my mom, niece and nephew)

8 Things I want to do before I die
*Lose some damn weight (taken verbatim from Sassy Lucy's 8's, but it's a good one for me, too)
*Redo my bathroom and kitchen (I've been planning for 5 years now)
*Visit states I've never been to (like Wyoming, or Alaska)
*Renew my passport (I keep saying I'm gonna …)
*Get rid of all the clutter! I'm not being metaphorical here. My apartment is overrun by paper and stuff!
*Stop fixating and awfulizing
*See a World Series game played in Wrigley Field
*Do more and do better

8 Things I often say
*"My beloved, future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux"
*"The thing of it is …"
*"I, on the other hand, thought it was funny"
*"Can I ask you a question that's none of my business?"
*"Hi, hi, oh, hi!" (Which is gal-speak for, "I'm so glad you called")
*"You know I completely love you, but …"
*"I don't hate Sox fans. I pity them."
*"Sure, I could do that … if I was someone else entirely"

8 Books I’ve recently or currently reading
* American Legacy by C. David Heyman (current)
* Courting Trouble by Lisa Scottoline (current)
* Now and Then by Robert Parker
* Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson
* The Other Woman by Jane Green
* Almost Paradise by Kieran Crowley
* Diana by Sarah Bradford
* Where There's a Will by Rex Stout

8 Songs I could listen to over and over
*The Old Heart of Mine by the Isley Brothers
*River by James Taylor
*I Will by the Beatles
*Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts by Bob Dylan
*Rosalita by Bruce Springsteen
*Sunday Morning by Maroon 5
*If Only You Knew by Patti LaBelle
*Come See About Me by The Supremes

8 Things that attract me to my best friends
*Sense of humor
*Compassion
*Honesty
*Smarts
*Diversity
*Tolerance
*Love of animals
*They tolerate me

8 People I think should do Crazy 8s
I'm not tagging anyone specifically. But I encourage you to check out these answers, as well as Sassy Lucy's, and then let me know if you decide to play so I can check out your responses.

I did not enjoy today

I took Amtrak down to visit the client this morning. It's a trip I usually enjoy. Today I most emphatically did not. We got stuck in fog and were a full 90 minutes late. I missed the first half hour of my meeting. Fortunately the client was very gracious. If anyone back at the office says shit to me about it, I'll scream. FOG CANNOT POSSIBLY BE MY FAULT.

Then on the way home, a drunk guy on the train just wouldn't leave me alone. I'd prefer not to relive his drunken banter, instead moving onto my psycho cab driver. He:
1) had to stop for gas! He said he would halt the meter. Damn straight, Skippy!
2) asked me "what's wrong with having children" and wondered why I didn't have any.
3) tried to charge me meter-and-a-half, which isn't legal.

I'm so glad to be home, surrounded by the felines who love me!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

But I have three cats!

I don't disagree with this assessment. I just wonder how I'd fare living with three felines.



You Would Be a Pet Bird

You're intelligent and witty, yet surprisingly low maintenance.
You charm people easily, and they usually love you a lot more than you love them.
You resent anyone who tries to own or control you. You refuse to be fenced in.

Why you would make a great pet: You're very smart and entertaining

Why you would make a bad pet: You're not interested in being anyone's pet!

What you would love about being a bird: Flying, obviously

What you would hate about being a bird: Being caged

Behold the Lotus Martini

Yum! I had my first tonight, and it was really very good. My best friend was in town, just for one day, and we were able to meet for drinks at the Hotel Sax. He's tired but happy. Filled me in on his Christmas plans and gifts for his family.

He seems more connected to his wife and kids these days, and that's good and important. Were I to be completely honest (and a gal's gotta be honest with her blog), I'd admit that I miss being the #1 repository for his hopes, dreams and concerns. But this is better for him. Both he and his wife are children of divorce and would never split up, would never do that to their own kids. So since he's made the commitment to be there physically, it's important that he also be happy there emotionally. It's also better for me, because I don't have to worry so about him. As long as he is there for me when I need him, can make me laugh, and accepts me as I am, I'm happier and stronger myself.

And just in case you want to whip up a Lotus Martini for yourself:


Glass: Martini
Garnish: Mint Leaf

1¾ oz Gin
¼ oz Grenadine Syrup
¼ oz Blue Curacao
1½ oz Lychee Juice
6 Mint Leaves

Instructions:
Muddle mint leaves with gin in base of shaker. Add other ingredients, shake with ice and strain into glass.



Monday, December 17, 2007

$17.42 per day

According to a humane society in Michigan, that's what it costs on average to care for a stray/abandoned dog or cat. 

As the year ends, you may receive a bonus from work. Or perhaps you want to take advantage of the charitable tax deduction. Or you worry about how shelters will be able to afford to help our fur friends survive in this harsh winter weather. There are as many reasons to support animal shelters at the end of the year as there are people who love animals. 

And it's true that every little bit helps. A check for $10 or $15 can help keep a dog or cat safe and warm for a day this holiday season. Look into the sweet, guileless eyes of the pet who shares your home and you realize how important $10 or $15, used properly, really can be.

I also realize that no one is made of money, and you want to know that your contribution is going where it will make a difference. So, if you're looking for an animal welfare group to support, visit www.give.org. This is the Better Business Bureau's report on national charities and it can help you share your resources with groups who will use it wisely.

Manic Monday #6

What is your idea of a perfect romantic evening? I like taking it slooow. A nice, leisurely meal in a quiet place. Lots of good conversation. Add a little subtle flirting. Then back to his place for some not-so-subtle flirting, and to enjoy what happens naturally.

Imagine you had to take part in the winter Olympics. What sport would you do? Luge! I love sleds.

What's something that people do in traffic that really bothers you? When the driver stopped at the red light is so intent on making his "right on red" that he begins creeping into the intersection without noticing the pedestrian in the crosswalk, IN FRONT OF HIS CAR. I can't tell you how many hoods I've pounded in self defense. And it's not a fair confrontation -- a ton of steel vs. a 5'2 Gal.

You have just read this week's Manic Monday. For more information, or to play yourself, visit 

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tina's favorite color is red. Devin loves SpongeBob.

She's 11. He's 8. They are both involved in the child welfare program in my home town. I selected their construction paper "ornaments" from the tree at the local grocery store. The ornaments give the kid's first name, age, favorite color, clothes sizes and a special Christmas wish.

Tina's favorite color is red and her wish is to go shopping at Target. I got her a red purse and placed a pair of Target giftcards inside. (I figured two $10s would look like more than a $20.)

Devin's favorite color is blue and he loves "everything SpongeBob." I got him a blue, long-sleeved polo shirt and two Spongebob books.

Undoubtedly there are kids not far from where you are right now who are facing a Christmas that will be devoid of magic. Who won't be ripping paper off a box containing something just for them. Don't you just hate that? Doesn't it just break your heart? Don't you wish you could do something to help?

You can! Christmas is still more than a week away, so you have time to provide a child with a merry memory! 

If you don't know of a local charity, call on the Marines! The Toys for Tots website can lead you to a toy drop off location or show you how to make a donation right there on the site.

If you want to give but don't feel like trudging through the snow, you can point and click and give at The Today Show Toy Drive site at Amazon. Just choose something off the Wish List and Amazon will see that it gets to the Today Show Toy Drive. (If I hadn't already given, I'd send in a Pizza Party Elmo. He is soooooo cute!)

Do it. It's the best holiday high there is. I know. I just wrapped Devin's gift and I feel positively fabulous!



Unconscious Mutterings #21

I say ... and you think ... ?

Interview:: Andy Warhol
Army :: Navy, Marines
Unwrap :: Open
Evolve :: Primates to humans
Bus :: Bus stop
The real thing :: Marvin and Tammy ("Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing, Baby")
Streak :: Run naked
Gorge :: Stuff myself
Spicy :: Chipotles peppers
Course :: Soup, salad, main course, dessert
For more information, or to mutter yourself, visit Unconscious Mutterings

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Job Well Done

It's been about 25 years since I first met my friend Kathy. At that point in my life, I was only incidentally a writer. Mostly I was a party girl. It was the 1980s, after all. Kathy is 10 years my senior and, even though we had the same job, we were at very different points in our lives. She was newly re-entering the workforce, a mom with 2 junior high school aged kids, and in the process of a divorce. We had so little in common during those days that I wonder why we became friends in the first place. But we have gone through a lot of changes together and remain friends to this day.

When Kathy left her husband, she allowed him to be the custodial parent. She loves her children and thought this through carefully. She had been a stay-at-home mom during their early years, cared for them through illnesses, helped them with homework, accompanied them to camp, etc. Her husband, who also loved his children, had been working and missed a lot of their growing up. Her concern was, if he didn't get to know them now, before they got into high school, he would never really know their children the way she did.

So it was Kathy -- not her husband -- who had to be satisfied with nightly phone calls, dinner once a week, and a sleepover every other weekend with her kids. 

I was surprised by how hostile other women, especially other mothers, were to Kathy's decision. "Oh yeah, your friend who dumped her kids." I heard that and similar unsympathetic comments. As a woman who has never been a mother, but who has always been a feminist, these comments confused me. She didn't "dump" her kids at a firestation, she left them with their father. Divorced men whose children don't live with them aren't looked down upon. I didn't see why Kathy faced such insensitivity. I still don't.

Especially because she turned out to be right.

Her relationship with her son and daughter always remained strong. Rocky at times, for sure, but they were never estranged. Even better, the kids became close to their dad. When Jill decided to skip college and get married, or when Kurt stumbled scholastically, Kathy and her ex-husband dealt with these issues together. Not as man and wife, but as a family. 

Recently, Jill was preparing to deliver her fourth child. Jill's husband (the same man she married right after high school graduation all those years ago) was working construction at a site far away from the hospital and wouldn't make a reliable Lamaze partner. Kathy is in sales now and on the road, and therefore not a good candidate for Lamaze partner, either. Jill has become so close to her dad that she impulsively asked him to be on deck to go through delivery with her. He tenderly reminded her how much a Lamaze partner sees and they both had a good laugh about it, and she asked her sister-in-law instead.

Last month, Kathy's ex had emergency heart surgery. At the same time, Kurt's wife was in the hospital, delivering her first baby. Because her ex couldn't drive so soon after surgery, two weeks later Kathy picked him up and brought him to Kurt's house, where they all celebrated the baby's first Thanksgiving together. Kathy and her ex gave thanks for his recovery and their fifth (!) grandchild.

Kathy doesn't feel threatened by how close her kids have been to their dad. She's proud of it. It hasn't all been perfect, nor easy -- for example, Kathy was hurt by her ex's subsequent romance with a woman she considered their friend, and upset with the way the lazy way he's maintained the house they still own jointly. (Now that she's 60 and had been hoping for the proceeds of the house to help pay for her retirement, she's very upset!) But when it comes to their kids, Kathy and her ex have always been supportive and inclusive of one another.  It began with her decision to let the kids live with their father. It helped diffuse the acrimony a husband and wife felt about the break up of their marriage, and helped them focus instead on their roles as parents.

I admire Kathy for making the brave decision. For bucking convention, absorbing the criticism of those who called her "selfish." For putting her children ahead of her own ego. For giving the children -- and now her grandchildren -- the gift of a loving, cohesive family.


Friday, December 14, 2007

It took almost 90 days, but …



THE NEW SOFA IS HERE! Meet "Troy," from Crate and Barrel. As with my recent laptop purchase, I was grumpy about having to spend the cash for Troy. But now that he's here, I'm happy.

Friday's Feast #26

Appetizer
Make up a word and give us its definition.
My word comes courtesy of my 9-year-old nephew. "Hospitician." He explains this is what he's going to be when he grows up. A hospitician is "someone who helps people by working in a hospital." It can be, but doesn't have to be, a doctor. A hospitician can also help people by "reading xrays and looking through a microscope."

Soup
What is currently your favorite song?
"River," a Christmas song written by Joni Mitchell. "I wish I had a river that I could sail away on …"

Salad
What’s at the top of your Christmas wish list this year?
To have a wonderful time watching that aforementioned nephew and his older sister enjoy their gifts. And then to relive each moment of it with my mother -- their doting grandma -- before we go to bed Christmas night.

Main Course
Name a scent that reminds you of someone special in your life.
Licorice throat lozenges ("Throat Discs") remind me of my late grandfather. I miss him.

Dessert
Who is someone on television that you feel probably shouldn’t be, and why?
Tori Spelling. She annoys me.

For more information, or to whip up your own feast, visit www.fridaysfeast.com

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Now I can breathe easier


The Mitchell Report is out. Guess who's not on it. Go ahead. Guess. Guess who's Hall of Fame induction will never be in doubt. 

I swear, if either my beloved, Future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux or Ryne Sandberg had been mentioned in that report, I would have been shattered. Completely shattered, bereft, heartbroken … left with just Roy Hobbs to look up to!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

THURSDAY THIRTEEN #45 -- Caring for Critters over Christmas


13 WAYS TO KEEP PETS SAFE THIS HOLIDAY SEASON


“The Gal worries.” It’s a phrase coined by my best friend and embraced by many in my life. Because if I’m awake, I’m worrying. And there is no time of year more worrisome than Christmas. I worry about neglected soldiers (Operation Shoebox) … and children who won’t get gifts (The Today Show Toy Drive) … And right now, I’m worried about pets. Your pets, my pets, stray pets. Here’s my attempt to make the holidays safer and a little more merry for the four-legged family members everywhere.

1. When it comes to mistletoe, hang it high. If ingested, mistletoe can not only upset a tummy, it might even cause cardiovascular problems.

2. While poinsettias probably aren’t as deadly as once thought, they’re still not good for dogs and cats. They can still cause nausea and diarrhea – which can be hard on both you and your pets.

3. Turkey leftovers are not for pets. They can tend to be greasier than your dog or cat are used to, which can cause indigestion. And poultry bones splinter too easily to be safe.

4. Keep chocolate off limits! It’s not good for cats and positively dangerous for dogs because it contains theobromine.

5. Candy wrappers aren’t any good, either. Aluminum and cellophane can appear irresistible to curious critters (like my bundle of feline energy, Reynaldo), but if swallowed, they can cause tummy troubles and intestinal blockage.

6. Ditto for tinsel.

7. Make sure your tree is securely anchored. This one comes from my mom. One night, when we were all asleep, our beloved family cat Tommy decided the Christmas tree simply needed to be climbed and he toppled it. That’s when she began running a bit of fishing line between the tree and a small hook in the wall. It’s almost invisible, but it does the trick!

8. Pets and tree stands. Every year, dogs all over the country suffer tummy troubles and occasionally even sores in their mouths from lapping up the water at the base of Christmas trees. It happens to cats now and again, too, so all pet owners should be careful.

9. Watch your pets when company arrives and leaves. Those open doors can be awfully tempting. I know, because Reynaldo is always ready to make a run for it. (Fortunately, I live on the fourth floor and until he can figure out how to use the elevator, there’s really nowhere for him to go. Besides, once out in the hall, he just calls me to join him. He seems to want us to run away from home together.)

10. Keep your pet in a quiet place during holiday parties. A lot of guests can mean a lot of stress for your dog or cat. Plus you can’t be sure that every invitee (especially the young ones) knows how to be gentle with your pet. A quiet bedroom is often the perfect place for your pet to spend a party.

11. Be careful in your garage! If you decide to keep your dog or cat in the garage during a party, make sure that it’s warm enough, and that there aren’t antifreeze spills. Antifreeze is positively deadly.

12. Keep an eye on your garbage, too. Ribbons, leftovers, candy wrappers … your trash can be filled with dangerous – but irresistible – stuff this time of year.

13. Be careful when you start your car. There are lots of sad strays out there, looking for warmth. And there are still plenty of cat owners who refuse to see the wisdom of keeping their cats indoors. So to make 100% sure that you don’t hurt a cat when you start your car, hit the hood or honk the horn before you turn the key.

I've also found that  I worry a little less about homeless pets after I make a contribution to my local animal shelter. If you're looking for a shelter that could use your help, visit www.petfinder.com.

Leave your link in the comments and I'll add you here. (I'm doing browser battle with my new laptop and may not be able to leave a comment on your blog, but I'll do my best to include you here. Thanks for your patience.)

1. Holly's in the Christmas spirit and shares it with her TT
2. Sandee has a funny take on The 12 Days of Christmas
3. Lori has some warm and witty tips for dads
4. Candy Minx revisits the 1980s
5. Chelle lists her favorite carols
6. Nicholas has another of his book TTs, as only Nicholas can write them
7. SJ's TT demonstrates how passionate she is about the holidays
8. Ellen b has devoted her TT to Handel's Messiah
9. No Nonsense Girl has a random, wacky TT
10. Malcolm has a musical TT
11. I just loved Greatfullivin's TT
12. Courtney's TT is a list of 13 miracles
13. WorksforMom's TT is so tacky it's delightful
14. Sandy explains a "strange December phenomenon"
15. Jenny McB takes on holiday/life questions, including ch-ch-ch-chia
16. Bookmama has a lovely TT about memorable gifts
17. Susan Helene Gottfried shows us how ShapeShifter got into the charitable spirit of the season
18. Yummy recommends some fascinating sites
19. Shesawriter has the most gorgeous movie TT!
20. Natalie's TT is enjoyably random
21. Damozel has a critter TT, too
22. Xakara owns up to her geek crushes
23. Joy Is My Goal has perhaps the ultimate Christmas TT
24. The Mocha Mom has a factual TT about herself and her family


Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!


The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!




Thanks to Sparky Duck at Philly Transplant

You Are a Fruitcake!

You taste like nothing else in this world.
And get ready, you're about to get tossed!

"No religious test shall ever be required …

… as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." That's from our Constitution. Pretty nice document, that Constitution. I'm an unabashed fan.

"I accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior." That's what I have said in church. (Emphasis on the "personal.")

With those two statements in mind, I implore all the Presidential candidates to stop invoking Jesus and Christianity! There is no one way to worship Christ. No public figure (not even Tony Perkins or Pat Robertson) has a direct line to Jesus. And, considering that being Christian or even believing in God at all is not a requirement of the Presidency, I don't see how any of this is relevant anyway.

After all, we have a President now who insists that Christ "changed his heart." I am left to wonder what his heart was like before. He has lied to us, looked the other way when his staffers lied to Federal Prosecutors, endorses waterboarding, ignored the devastation of Katrina, underfunds social programs … He seems sure that Jesus won't mind any of that as long as he protects fetuses, stem cells and the sanctity of heterosexual marriage.

The Jesus I pray to and speak with doesn't agree.

So let's leave Jesus out of it. Let's accept Mitt Romney at his word when he says he's a Christian and leave it at that. Because, after all, it really is none of our business, nor a requirement for the office he's seeking. 

And in the spirit of the season, let's give Jesus a break. Let's hold Him in our hearts as our personal savior. Let's not parade Him around, just to pander for votes. Let's show a little more respect for the way others worship Him, and enjoy more privacy in and reverence for what is, without a doubt, the most personal relationship any of us will ever have.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Meet my new baby

Behold my first post composed on my new MacBook. Isn't it adorable? Faster and sleeker than my old iBook, I think I'm in love. Which is not to say that the iBook didn't serve me well over the last 5 years. But it was time to move on.

After the holidays, I have to find a nice, secure way to recycle my old laptop. Suggestions, anyone?

Nailah Franklin Update -- Bail denied

A judge has ruled that the accused killer of Nailah Franklin is enough of a threat that he must stay behind bars until his trial. Surveillance tapes, cell phone records and emails indicate that if he is the murderer, the act was most definitely premeditated. In one chilling email, he threatened to have Ms. Franklin "erased."

He didn't "erase" her, though. This 28-year-old woman lives on in the hearts of her friends and family. Warm and outgoing, involved with the Chicago Urban League, and busy with her career, Nailah Franklin was also a great deal of fun. She's remembered for her style, and how she loved shopping and "everything Oprah."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Give Me 5 Monday -- #3


This week's topic: Give Me Five things about Christmas/Holiday cards: buying them, getting them ready, sending them, receiving them, displaying them, tips for recycling them, getting/sending 'family newsletters', traditions, pictures, etc.

I love getting and giving Christmas cards, so this one will be fun!

1) I try to get my cards mailed over Thanksgiving weekend, and I'm usually successful. The holiday season is so short, and I want to squeeze as much festivity out of it as I can.

2) My cards are always from a charity I support -- usually the American Humane Society. I always have a backup card to send to my Jewish friends that only mentions "holidays," not Christmas.

3) Likewise, I'm very careful about which stamps I use. Most people get the Christian religious stamp. My Jewish friends and those who I know don't believe get the wintery fun stamps. After all, the point of the cards is to connect/reconnect/and celebrate with the people who matter in our lives, not to proselytize.

4) I have more than enough holiday address labels for my cards. In fact, I have more than enough holiday address labels for the rest of my life! It seems every charity sends them to me. I still haven't used up all the ones that feature scarecrows and jack o' lanterns, and now I'm swimming in reindeers and elves!

5) I always put a personal salutation or close in each card, and I never sign in red ink. I learned both of those tidbits of card-sending etiquette from my mom.

For more about Give Me 5 Monday, or to play along yourself, click here.


Manic Monday #5

For the holidays, are you a last-minute shopper or do you shop well ahead of time? Both. I had most of my shopping done well in advance, except for my mom. I still need to pick up one last thing for her. A nice thick moisturizer for her elbows? Or that Richard Avedon coffee table book on the Kennedys? I can't decide.

If you had to pick a new first name for yourself, what name would you choose? Elizabeth, because my name could change with my mood. I could be Liz or Lizzie or Bette or Betty or Lacey or …

What's worse, having expectations that are too high, or having no expectations at all? I don't know how to have no expectations at all, so I can't even imagine what that would feel like.

This is the authentic Manic Monday. Accept no substitutes! For more information or to play along yourself, click here.

Introducing a young "hospitician"

My nephew, a second grader, announced yesterday that he does not wish to be a soldier, a firefighter nor a police officer.* He wants to help people, but not in any way that places him in danger. So he has decided to be a "hospitician."

I had to ask him to elaborate, since, as best as I could tell, he made that word up. To those of us not in the know, a "hospitician" works in a hospital and could be, but is not necessarily, a doctor. My nephew is also willing to help others by "reading xrays and charts and looking through a microscope."

*I'm impressed that he never says "fireman" or "policeman." He very naturally assumes kids of either gender can grow up to hold any job. I'm proud to be a feminist and believe this is just another everyday example of how feminism has made a positive difference. It confuses me that many women within the blogosphere hold feminists in such low regard, and value victories like the one I mention above so cheaply.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Unconscious Mutterings #19

I say ... and you think ... ?

  1. Master:: Masters Golf Tournament
  2. Tour :: Guide
  3. Input :: Download
  4. Downtown :: The Loop
  5. Pricey :: Expensive
  6. Acceptable :: Decent
  7. Terrace :: Balcony
  8. Sunday :: "Driving slow on Sunday morning, and I never want to leave." Maroon 5
  9. Payoff :: Lottery
  10. Jack and Jill :: went up the hill …
For more information, or to play along yourself, visit Unconscious Mutterings.

Yesterday I met Mr. Stranger Danger

With transit cuts in the Chicagoland area (with more to come in the new year, but that's another post for another time), I had to take a different route to get to the hair salon. I changed buses in a neighborhood I've never been in before. A guy in a junker pulled up behind me, rolled down the window, and called out to me, offering me a ride. Fortunately I was wearing my iPod, so I could stubbornly insist I didn't hear him.

I'm pretty short (5'2) and was wearing a bulky winter coat with a hood, so it's possible that I looked younger than my newly-advanced years. This thought makes me angry. Why was this grown man offering to drive me … somewhere … anywhere? He couldn't possibly know where I was going. This pisses me off. He was taking advantage of the cold, cloudy weather and my assumed naivete.

Merry Christmas.

I wish I'd made a note of his plate.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Nailah Franklin Update -- An arrest

Remember her? I do. This is Nailah Franklin, the local pharmaceutical sales rep who was brutally murdered last September.

Police have formally arrested her former boyfriend. Separated from his wife, the father of a baby with another woman, this man has quite the arrest record for assault. He threatened Ms. Franklin after she ended their relationship. I choose not to include his name here because this story should never be about him.

Except to wonder why Nailah Franklin -- a beautiful 28-year-old with a solid education, a good career, and a legion of loving relatives and friends who remember her as "not a star, but a superstar," and speak of "her spirited and strong personality" -- wasted her time with such a man. That makes me so sad.

May those who loved her find justice, and may she rest in peace.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday's Feast #25

Appetizer
What was the last game you purchased? Cars Mater-National. SHHH! I'm giving it to my nephew for Christmas.

Soup
Name something in which you don’t believe. I don't believe there was a second gunman behind the grassy knoll.

Salad
If you could choose a celebrity to be your boss, who would you pick? Jennifer Aniston. She seems nice, and I worry about her, post-Brad.

Main Course
What was a lesson you had to learn the hard way? No one changes unless they want to. You can't want it for them.

Dessert
Describe your idea of the perfect relaxation room. Low lights, subtle fragrance, soft music, and me either soaking in a tub or getting a massage. Yum!

For more information, or to play along yourself, visit fridaysfeast.com.