Saturday, February 22, 2020

Sunday Stealing

Getting to Know You

1. What is your favorite color? Cubbie blue.

2. If you could get on a plane tomorrow and travel anywhere, where would you go? Hollywood! The TCM Film Festival is coming up and this year, I can't afford to go. But I want to. Desperately.

3. Were you closer to your mother or to your father? My mom.

4. What is your favorite meal (savory and dessert)? Friday I had the best burger -- with bacon, cheese and a fried egg. It was freaking HEAVEN! So I want that again. Fries. Cole slaw. Coke or a beer. And a Dove Bar for dessert.

5. Can you wink with each eye?  (How about curl your tongue)? Yes to all.

6. Beach or forest? Forest.

7. City or farm? City!

8. Would you rather be blind from birth or turn blind as a teenager? No, thank you. OK, I'll be a good sport and answer the question: blind from birth.

9. Would you rather always be overdressed or underdressed? Need more definition here. Do you mean overdressed as in too elegant for the situation? Or overdressed as in a down coat on an 80º day?

10. If you could pass alone one of your attributes to your children, which would it be? My conscience.

11. What are you most insecure about? My financial future.

12. What are you afraid people see when they look at you? Nothing. The older I get, the more invisible I feel.

13. What is the saddest you’ve ever felt? After John Kerry lost to George W. Bush. I put everything I had into that campaign and it literally broke my heart. John Kerry is smart and decent and dedicated. He deserved better, and our country deserved him.

14. Would you rather have your own private island, or your own private jet? Island. I will name it Galtopia.

15. How do you think you will die? I have a strong feeling that it will be fast. I don't know if it'll be a fatal stroke or heart attack or a cataclysmic accident. I don't dwell on it much.

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Buttons & Bows (1948)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) The lyrics extol the beauty of "rings and things and buttons and bows." When you're getting dressed, do you give much thought to accessorizing? I'm not much for scarves and belts, but I do enjoy jewelry. I always wear earrings when I go out. Usually a necklace. Never bracelets but often a watch. I enjoy watches. That's one thing I don't like about advancements in technology; there's not a lot of style or originality in a FitBit!

2) Dinah Shore sings that she doesn't want to live where the cactus hurts her toes. Sam can sympathize, as she has a blister on one of her toes from where her winter boots rub. Do you have any aches and pains to report this morning? Nope. I feel pretty good this morning.

3) Dinah was such a popular entertainer that people were surprised to learn she earned a degree in sociology from Vanderbilt University. What is something we'd be surprised to know about you? I can be pretty macabre. One of my favorite shows is Autopsy: The Last Hours of ... . My oldest friend is even worse; she's never seen a vampire movie or mob story she doesn't like. We've been friends since Kindergarten. I wonder if it's something in the water in the town where we grew up.

4) Dinah's was the best selling version of this song, which was introduced by Bob Hope in the movie The Paleface. Hope had success early in his career as a song-and-dance man on Broadway. Are you better at telling jokes, singing or dancing? I laugh easily and I like jokes. Here's the first one that comes to mind. (It's been credited to Paul Lynde on The Hollywood Squares.)

How many balls on a regulation billiard table?

Depends on how many men are sitting on it.

5) Both Bob and Dinah donated their time to entertaining the troops in WWII. It was during a USO tour that Dinah met and fell in love with actor George Montgomery, who was serving in the Air Force. They were married for 20 years and had two children. Their daughter followed her parents into show business and became an actress. If a young person asked you for career advice, what would you tell them? Consider geography when you choose a career. I've had friends who left Chicago for their dream locations only to find it wasn't so easy to get jobs in their professions.

•  A friend with experience in financial marketing moved to Denver, a city where few banks have headquarters. He was unemployed for a long, long time.
•  My oldest friend, a hospital administrator specializing in cardiology, longed to live near her family in Hesperia, California. The nearest job she could get was in Topanga, almost two hours away. 
•  My friend Henry, a college professor, moved to Key West, which has just one institute of higher learning. When things didn't work out at the community college, he ended up in lower paid jobs at the newspaper and the public library.

In short, if you long to teach surfing, don't move to the desert.

6) Dinah was an avid golfer and even sponsored an LPGA tournament. She was also an excellent cook who hosted TV cooking segments. Which would you find more relaxing -- an afternoon on the golf course or in the kitchen? Ew, this is hard because neither one sounds attractive to me. I suppose golf, if I'm with people who don't take it too seriously because, except for putt-putt, I've never tried it.

7) In 1948, the year this record was a hit, Scrabble was introduced. Do you prefer word games, card games, board games or jigsaw puzzles? Card games, especially Canasta.

8) Also in 1948, LPs (33 1/3 rpm records) were introduced. Do you have any vinyl records in your home? Lots. I don't know why, since I have nothing to play them on.

9) Random question -- Which of these would you consider the greatest insult: to be called boring, untrustworthy or stupid? Untrustworthy. I know I'm neither boring nor stupid.

Friday, February 21, 2020

What is time?

I got home Thursday night and was just beat. No reason, really. Not a busy day at work -- not by the longest shot -- and I'm coughing less as I recover from my bronchitis. But still, I wanted a nap. And if I want a nap, maybe I should listen to my body and take one.

On the other hand, I also want to live up to my OneWord and do MORE each day. Move more, be more productive, save more, etc.

So when I woke up from nap at about 10:00 PM, I thought, there's really no reason why I can't do something. After all, that's why I chose MORE. I don't have to do everything, I just want to do MORE.

And so I scrubbed my bathroom floor. Not just wiped it down, scrubbed it with Mr. Clean and rinsed it down.

One of the benefits of living alone is that flurry of activity disturbed no one. And I feel good about having done MORE before Thursday ended.

If I'm more flexible about how I approach my out-of-office hours, I can get MORE done.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

My grandma's fudge

While tooling around on eBay, looking for something else entirely, I stumbled upon a seller in Elizabeth City, NC, who was parting with her collection of vintage cookbooks. One of them just so happened to be a compilation of recipes put together in 1987 to raise money for the Lutheran church my family attended. Sight unseen, I bought it for $12.00.

On pages 48 and 104, my grandmother is represented. I knew she would be. Grandma was all about that church.

The first was for pork chops. I remember her pork roast, but not her pork chops. The second is for fantasy fudge. That I remember! Whoever owned this book circled the recipes she used. Grandma would be pleased to see both of hers were circled.

So this spiral bound, musty little volume feels like a rare treasure. I'm giving it to my Aunt Joanne (Grandma's surviving child) for Mother's Day. I know she will love it.

I'm enchanted that it just so happened to fall into my life now, from 33 years ago and 941 miles away. I wish it could tell me its journey to my hands.

I close with Grandma's fudge.


3 c sugar
3/4 c margarine
6 oz evaporated milk
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 c marshmallow cream
1 c chopped nuts
1 tsp vanilla

Combine sugar, margarine and milk. Bring to a roiling boil, stirring constantly 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add chocolate pieces; stir until melted. Add marshmallow cream, nuts and vanilla, Beat until blended. Pour into 8x8 buttered pan.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Anthony Rizzo and dogs

Two things to brighten any day: The Cubs' Anthony Rizzo and fur babies.

Rizz with the service dog he provided for the Joe Dimaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood, FL
His own puppy, Kevin, dressed as Sheriff Woody
Kevin brings his chew toy to Dad's workout session
My favorite! Kevin modeling his shark fin float coat

Monday, February 17, 2020

Tuesday 4

Toiletries and Cosmetics 


1. What brand of shampoo do you think works best for you and what does it do for you? Four days/week I use Nizoral. At my dermatologist's recommendation. The bottle says it's a dandruff shampoo, and I wish I had dandruff, because there are far cheaper alternatives out there! Nizoral is the only OTC shampoo that contains ketoconazole, which helps control my scalp oil and irritation.


2. Do you have a favorite brand and shade of lipstick and blush? Nope. I don't wear them anymore. I think they age me. But when I was younger, I never left the house without wearing blusher.

3. Is soap your favorite for face washing or do you use other products? I use Aveeno Face Wash.

4. Do you have an all time favorite perfume or scent that you wear? If you don't wear perfumes, is there a scent that you love in general? I'm with Liz. Black Pearls, to be exact. It's been discontinued, but I have a secret stash

Introducing Darius. Or maybe not.

My OneWord for this year is MORE. I chose MORE to remind myself that's all I need to do. Not "everything," not "all," just MORE. Save more, be more productive around the house, move more ...

I fell off the bandwagon in mid-January when I got sick.  Instead of doing MORE, I was happy to do ANYTHING. But now in mid-February, I'm breathing without coughing, going hours without napping and ready to for MORE.

Inspired by my niece, I RSVP'd "yes" when my church asked for volunteers to be prison pals. My congregation is very involved with prison reform. And how hard could it be? After all, I write for a living.

What I didn't take into account is that prison is full of very not-nice people.

I was matched with Darius. He is serving a life sentence for a double homicide. GULP! He has already been in prison for 25 years.

I know we shouldn't judge a person's entire life by his worst moments.

I know that when we help the least among us, it's as if we are helping the Lord.

And so I wrote to Darius. I didn't use my last name and am using the church as my return address.

I am hopeful that he answers and that we begin a correspondence that enriches us both. Megan, a fellow congregant, has experience writing to inmates and will help me if I feel uncomfortable. And this is only a six-month commitment.

I am hopeful, but skeptical. We'll see how this unfolds.

"This is what I'm meant to do with my life"

So said my niece as she explained her foster parent training to me.  She and her fiance are beginning by becoming respite caregivers. If foster parents need a break, for a day or an evening or overnight, they can leave the kid in a safe place, with people who have been checked out by the authorities and are trained in CPR, etc. 

Then, after doing this for a year (and after their wedding and honeymoon) my niece and her new husband will become foster parents themselves.

They want to be parents, but they don't want to have a baby. They want to open their hearts and their home to a child who needs them. 

I am enormously proud of her.

Bad days down south

Henry's weekend got off to bad start. Patrick -- a lifelong friend of Reg's who stays with them each winter -- came home Saturday to find him sitting naked in the living room, talking to himself, and impervious to Patrick's being in the room. A seizure? A hallucination? Who knows?

Sunday, while shopping with Reg for tires at Sears, Henry had a full-on seizure. He lost consciousness, bit his tongue, the full 9 yards. He was taken away in an ambulance.

In the ER, Henry was stabilized with intravenous medication and sent home to rest.

I've heard all this from Patrick and Reg. I don't know why I haven't heard from Henry. Maybe he's still mad at me, maybe he's embarrassed, maybe he's still disoriented.

This all serves to remind me that Henry cannot help his condition. There are thing he can do to mitigate the damage, things he's not doing, but that's a quibble in the scheme of things. He rode his bike into a van. He has a traumatic brain injury.

So now I'm back to where I was, when my weekend began. I have to learn how to integrate his injury into our relationship. I'm still tossing counseling around in my head.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sunday Stealing

Happy Birthday, Bev!

Have you ever ...

1. Broken a bone? Yes. My clavicle when I was a pre-schooler.
2. Broken a window? Yes. In the den.
3. Been on TV? Yes. The Congress Hotel, 1992. I was on the local ABC affiliate as a cheering Clinton campaign worker the night we won. My mom was so proud!
4. Had a friend who shared the same birthday as you? Yes. Nancy H. We went K-12 together.
5. Locked your keys in the car? No, no car.
6. Accidentally sent a text or email to the wrong person? Yes. Embarrassing.
7. Sat in the back of a police car? Yes. I witnessed a crime and called 911. The police thought the suspect might still be in the neighborhood so they put me in the backseat as we rode around looking for him.
8. Fallen asleep at work? No
9. Made a snow angel? Yes

10. Ridden in an ambulance No

What is the  ...

11. Worst household chore Vacuuming
12 .Worst color Can't think of one
13. Worst pizza topping Anchovies
14. Worst weather Chilly/gray/rainy
15. Worst self-care job (e.g. dressing, washing, shaving, teeth, toe nails) Tweezing errant hairs
16. Worst game Football
17. Worst school subject Math
18. Worst animal
Can't think of one
19. Worst season Spring, because it has the most chilly/gray/rainy days
20. Worst TV show Trump TV


Saturday, February 15, 2020

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Secret Valentine (2008)
Hear it here.
1) The lyrics talk about a song that's so romantic it "turns out the lights." Are the lights on in the room you're in right now? Yes. There's a four-bulb fixture above my head right now.

2) In the video, our heroine's Valentine's Day adventure begins with a note slipped into her pocket. What's in your pocket right now? No pocket in my pjs.

3) This week's band, We the Kings, are proud sons of the state of Florida. Bradenton, to be exact. They even called one of their CDs Sunshine State of Mind. Have you ever been to Florida? If so, where have you visited? Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa and Key West. (Miami, but only to change planes.)

4) Lead singer Travis Clark has a pierced lip but doesn't always wear a lip ring. Do you have any piercings? If yes, are you wearing jewelry in your piercing(s) right now? Just one in each ear, and right now I'm not wearing any jewelry.

5) The band's name comes from a cheer they did when they attended Martha B. King High School. Have you attended your high school reunion? Ew. Ick. No. Thinking of high school gives me PTSD.

6) Hearts are the symbol of Valentine's Day, so here's a little heart trivia: whales have largest heart of any animal. When we say a person is "big hearted," it means we think of them as generous. Think about the people in your life. Who would you describe as big hearted? My friend Mindy. She's top of mind because I'm seeing her today. A very nice woman, she sees the best in everyone.

7) It's estimated that 9 million people buy Valentine's Day presents for their dogs and cats. Have you ever purchased a holiday gift for a pet? Yes, but not my own. At Christmastime, I remember my niece's cats and my nephew's cats, as well (and his tortoise, Georgina, gets a kiwi).

8) Valentines to teachers are also big sellers. Did you ever have a crush on one of your instructors? Oh, yes! One of my 7th grade teachers was dreamy, with wavy black hair. He only lasted a year. I was heartbroken he wasn't there for 8th grade.

9) With the popularity of e-cards, fewer Valentine messages are sent via the USPS. What's the most recent thing you dropped into a mailbox? Payment for last month's doctor visit.

I hurt. Now what?

I spent my long-ago 20s with a bad man. He was handsome, charming and good in bed. He was also impulsive, manipulative and violent. Everything was my fault. If I were more sensitive to his needs, we wouldn't fight and he wouldn't have to "act out." If I were more attractive, he wouldn't have to cheat. If I wasn't always trying to belittle him, he wouldn't have to drink so much. So I spent my every waking hour -- and many dreams -- trying to figure out how to bolster him, how to make him feel more secure.

I almost married him. It wasn't until we were in California -- he was trying to get into San Jose State and I was going to get a job to support us -- that I said to myself, "What am I doing?" I looked at my bruises in the motel shower stall and had an awakening. While he was at the college, I packed and took a cab to the airport. I went to the TWA counter with my paper ticket, told them I was sick (not exactly a lie) and changed my flight. I went back home. I never actually saw him again, though we had some unsavory exchanges over money and belongings.

I spent years of couch time discussing him, trying to get over him. I was also blessed with very supportive friends. My oldest friend was especially helpful. She swore to me that if she ever again heard me say of a man who hurt me, "Oh, he didn't mean it," she would kick my ass.

Last week, she kicked my ass.

Henry hurt me. He can't help it, of course. He is recovering from a brain injury. Hyper sensitivity and paranoia are not uncommon. I understand this intellectually, but I'm still in great pain because my dear friend was needlessly mean to me and is not remotely sorry.

I have a tendency to think it's my Christian duty to forgive, to accept people as they are, to love them as they are. But my best friend pointed out that I don't deserve to be hurt.

I get it. I see the pattern.

I know Henry is not totally responsible for his actions. I also know that I shouldn't let it hurt me so. Yet it does.

I think it may be time for a tune up. Perhaps I need to look for a new shrink. Isn't this what insurance is for, to help us when we hurt?

Tuesday, February 11, 2020


WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here

1. What are you currently reading?
No Judgments by Meg Cabot. Sabrina suffered a bad break up and wants to start a new life. So she changes her name (call her "Bree"), her hair (from blonde to pink), her job (she's waiting tables) and addresses (she's now in a tiny apartment in the Keys). Everything is going well, until a hurricane sets its sights on South Florida. Like many conchs, she decides not to evacuate but instead ride it out.

I like chick-lit and know the locale pretty well, having traveled to Key West regularly for decades, and so I'm enjoying this book well enough in a Hallmark movie kinda way. I mean, if you can't tell by page 5 to whom Bree will ultimately give her heart, you have never read this genre.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Cary Grant by Marc Elliot.I read a lot of biographies, and have seldom encountered a subject whose real self is so different from his public persona.

On screen he was suave, immaculate, and witty. Offscreen, he was insecure, petty, jealous and cheap. This, in large part, was due to his upbringing. Hardscrabble and devoid of emotional security, his childhood left indelible scars. Therefore, the man who brought joy to us for decades was really pretty joyless. Fortunately, by the end of this book, when he settles into relationships with both his mother Elsie and daughter Jennifer, he finally seemed happy. 

Which is not to say I enjoyed this book. It tells his story chronologically and, I'm assuming, accurately. But Mr. Elliot seems positively obsessed with proving Grant's homosexuality. And yet he doesn't. Probably because Grant was (again I'm assuming) a bisexual who really did love three wives and had many more relationships with women than with men. Definitely because Grant accepted his sexuality and was less interested with labeling himself than Elliot is with labeling him.

And even after 448 pages, the Reel Cary Grant has a greater hold on me than the Real Cary Grant. Audrey Hepburn still speaks for me:

3.  What will you read next? I've got a couple baseball biographies here -- one about Gehrig, the other about Ruth. I don't know which one I'll choose to take me into spring training.

He can't help it. I can.

Henry was really shitty to me Monday morning. For a quick recap, he sent me a sad email Sunday night, worried about losing Reg and wondering what to do about it. I answered it, thoughtfully, before I went to bed. I told Henry he needed to talk to someone who could help him navigate through his feelings and frustrations and articulate his position to Reg without sounding accusatory. I recommended the psychologist he saw briefly last year and his minister. I looked up phone numbers of both the doctor and the pastor, making it as easy for Henry as possible.

Monday morning, I woke up to an email promising that it will be the last time I ever hear from him. If I can't be there for him during the longest, loneliest night of his life, then I obviously don't care about him and he will respond in kind. He closed by asking, "what else can I do?"

I responded that he could do what I suggested last night -- make an appointment with the psychologist or his pastor. Then I went to take my shower. I was frustrated, but not yet angry.

Then I got the email from Kate. She's an old friend of Reg and Henry's that I've met a few time. She and I have never corresponded. 

"Are you okay?" she asked. "Is Henry okay? It sounds like there's been a meltdown."

Henry sent Kate our email exchange. Bastard!

It seems Henry called Kate Sunday night, too. And, like me, she didn't pick up. She assumes he was too lazy or too rushed to personalize the Monday morning "pity party" email and sent it to both of us. She went on to say that my original Sunday message to Henry was "perfect," what she wished she'd said.

Monday was Reg's birthday. I saw photos on Facebook of the two of them at a jazz club. Reg was excited to report that Henry got into the spirit of the birthday celebration and actually danced.

So let's see: I'm walking around feeling angry and wounded because he has disrespected me. He seems to view my friendship as a utility he's paid for, like hot and cold running water. I have no right to not take his call because I'm watching the Oscars. When he turns on the faucet, I simply must be there. It's ugly and unfair.

Meanwhile, he's enjoying dinner at Salute! and dancing by the blue lights of The Little Room Jazz Club

I know he can't help the erratic behavior. He is trying to recover from a traumatic brain injury.I understand the situation and it breaks my heart.

But it does not give him the right to hurt me.

I cannot control his behavior. Hell, since his bike collided with that van, he can't control his behavior.

I must stay positive and loving to Henry, but I also have to protect and love myself. 

I unburdened myself last night to my oldest friend. Our conversation was like a tonic for me. Afterward, she sent me this, advising me to print it out and carry it with me at all times.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Tuesday 4

Reading Is Fundamental

1.  Do you have some favorite books to share?
My all-time favorite book is the one I learned the most from:  JFK: Reckless Youth.  It takes our future president from birth to the Senate. He was born with many gifts -- charm, wit, looks, intelligence, wealth. He was also lonely, sickly, and pegged from birth as the lesser son to his older brother. Within the Kennedy clan, Jack was isolated, a brainy, bookish boy in a family that valued action over intellect. Plus, he and his mother never "clicked." There are reasons: Rose Kennedy's complicated marriage, the demands of raising a special needs child (Rosemary) at a time when little was known on the subject, and the basic differences in their personalities. But those reasons are hard for a little boy to grasp. He just knew his mother was remote and this was the beginning of his lifelong difficulty connecting with women on a real level.

You're keenly aware that when the book ends, he's 35, with just 11 years left to live.

So while the world saw a war hero, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and the youngest man ever elected to the Presidency, his personal reality was very different. From Reckless Youth I learned that, no matter how a life may look from the outside, you don't know how it feels on the inside.

2.  When looking for a book what things do you look for?
Something different from what I just read. After I finish something involving or complicated, I'll reach for something light. Kinda like sorbet to cleanse the palette.

3.  Does the cover of a book make a difference or help you choose?
Depends on how I come upon the book. If a book is recommended to me (Kwizgiver is a good source), then I'm already convinced I want it, regardless of the cover. 

But so many books that I read come from our neighborhood used book sale. This event is a major fundraiser for the public library, and I help out by sorting the books. We volunteers are rewarded after the sale by being allowed to have as many remaining books as we can carry. I admit that when I go in to the high school gym on that Sunday morning, I am attracted by covers and titles.

4.  What is your favorite genre of book? That is, is it science fiction, romance, mystery, true story, or biography?  
I have three reading "food groups" -- biography, chick-lit, and mysteries. I bounce comfortably from genre to genre.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Sorry, but I get the Oscars

Henry called tonight. I didn't pick up. Then he emailed. I'm not answering. I am watching the Oscars. I wait all year for this. I'm not giving it up.

Since his accident in 2018, Henry and I have spent countless hours on the phone. The calls are marathons, and they follow a pattern. He asks me about me, then after a perfunctory few moments, the subject changes to him. His confusion. His frustration. His victimization. Much of what he says is fantasy or drivel.* It gets tiresome, so I try to change the subject again, so we can hang up on a positive note. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

For example, last week I tried to switch to a concert he'd attended with Reg and Reg's friend, Patrick. He didn't care much for the performance, so I attempted to find a highlight by asking about the venue.

"Have you ever been there before?"


"What was it like?"

"It has not changed since last time I was there."

"Honey, that doesn't make sense."

 "Yes, it does. I was there all the time in 2009. That was 20 years ago!"

How do you have a conversation like that?

I know he can't help this. But he gets so mad at me he growls. Literally growls like a werewolf. Then I'm upset for hours, or days, afterward. I can't tell you how many showers I've spent replaying these calls in my head.

I know Henry loves me, and that it's a compliment that he reaches out to me. It means he trusts me when he's feeling vulnerable.

But tonight is Oscar night. I love Oscar night. I get Oscar night.

I'll answer his email before I go to bed. I want him to know I'm with him in spirit. I'm always with him in spirit. But I get Oscar night.

*He can't help this, I know. He is still recovering from a traumatic brain injury. If you read the section on "Behavioral Impairments," you'll get an overview of my Henry.

Easier to write

I recently posted about my friend, Kathy, and how concerned I was about her precipitous mental decline. She forgets things she's just said. She has trouble with time. She can't recall major news events that obsessed her just over a year ago.

At 72, she lives alone. But her adult grandchildren are nearby and active in her life. Even better, they have keys to her apartment, so I don't have to worry about Kathy lying confused and injured alone in her home. (You remember that commercial: "I've fallen and I can't get up!")

Those grandkids really are present for her. While she's grown distant from her son emotionally, and her daughter has moved away physically, her grandchildren are emotionally tethered. I was so happy to see a video of Kathy in a sombrero being serenaded for her birthday by the waitstaff at a Mexican restaurant. She was surrounded by her daughter's three adult kids, and she looked so happy.


I still am not convinced this story will have a happy ending. But really, who among us is lucky enough to just close our eyes and die peacefully in our sleep. She is fortunate to have aware and involved young people in her life, and I'm grateful for that.

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Sunday Stealing


1. Is it more important to love or be loved? To love

2. If you had the chance to go back in time and change one thing would you do it? I would have moved faster to pull the plug on a toxic relationship

3. If a doctor gave you five years to live, what would you try to accomplish? I'd try to be more peaceful

4. What is the difference between innocence and ignorance? Innocence implies a certain absence of responsibility. You simply don't know better, or haven't been exposed to something. Ignorance is a perhaps willful lack of knowledge. (Am I making sense? I know what I mean but I'm not sure I'm communicating it effectively.)

5. What is the simplest truth you can express in words? Joy comes from helping others

6. What gives your life meaning? See #5

7. Can there be happiness without sadness?  Pleasure without pain?  Peace without war? For this I turn to my all-time idol, JBKO:
"I have been through a lot and have suffered a great deal. But I have had lots of happy moments, as well. Every moment is different from the other. The good, the bad, hardship, the joy, the tragedy, love, and happiness are interwoven. You cannot separate the good from the bad. And perhaps there is no need to do so, either."

8. What’s the one thing you’d like others to remember about you at the end of your life? I was there for them.

9. Is there such a thing as perfect? No

10. What do you love most about yourself? That I have accomplished a great deal professionally with little formal education.

11. Is it more important to do what you love or to love what you are doing? To love what you are doing

12. What do you imagine yourself doing ten years from now? Enjoying retirement or pushing up daisies

13. What small act of kindness were you once shown that you will never forget? About a year and a half ago, a rather powerful coworker (several rungs above me on the ladder) just so happened to witness how I was being treated. She gave me a much-needed pep talk. The right words at the right time. I hope I can pay it forward.

14. To what degree have you controlled the course your life has taken? I'm the one steering this ship.

15. If you looked into the heart of your enemy, what do you think you would find that is different from what is in your own heart? Wow. I think I'd be more shocked by the similarities between us. But in terms of differences? Values.

Let's hear it for The Gold Guy!

Sunday means Oscar. And I looooove Oscar. Here are my daring predictions for the acting categories:

Best Supporting Actress: Laura Dern, who was good as the cut throat divorce lawyer in Marriage Story. I liked Florence Pugh better; her Amy was the highlight of Little Women for me. But I don't vote. Plus, Dern undeniably had some great moments, compassionate to her client and brutal to opposing counsel.

Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt. This is my favorite category because I've seen all five performances, and think all five are worthy.  In Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Tom Hanks doesn't imitate Mr. Rogers, he evokes him and fleshes him out and makes him four dimensional. Similarly, Anthony Hopkins makes Pope Benedict warmer than I'd thought possible in The Two Popes. (I laughed out loud when he said, "It's a German joke, so it doesn't have to be funny.") In The Irishman, Joe Pesci is a quiet menace, a monster benign in appearance and manner. His costar, Al Pacino, is so warm and alive as Hoffa that you're sad every moment you see him, anticipating his inevitable demise. But Brad Pitt ... His Cliff Booth is heroic and silly and irreverent and completely charming. And this was a surprise for me, as I'm not much of a Brad Pitt fan. But in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (like in Moneyball) he disappears into the part and wins me over.

Best Actress: Renee Zellwegger. I adore Judy Garland, and approached the movie Judy with a healthy skepticism. And I wasn't crazy about the film because it focused so narrowly on The Wizard of Oz Judy and end-of-the-road Judy, ignoring the stunning career she had between those touchpoints. But still, Zellwegger is awesome. It's a fair, affectionate, tender and funny performance. She gives Judy her due, even if the script does not. (The Academy never did, either. Zellwegger could win an Oscar for playing an actress who was denied her Oscar.)

Best Actor: Oh, just give it to Phoenix already! I admit I didn't care for the movie Joker. It's too dystopian, even by comic book/fantasy standards. And it's too, too long -- I stopped caring what was real and was imagined. I just didn't give a shit anymore. But Joaquin Phoenix is brilliant. He makes you see how the world broke him, and you feel compassion for him. You understand Joker/Arthur and you give him credit for owning his madness. "What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that treats him like trash?"

I'll leave you with Joker/Arthur literally descending into insanity. Compare this performance with Phoenix's turn as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, and you'll be blown away.

"Hi, Neighbor!"

I had a happy encounter today on my neighborhood's busiest boulevard. I'd just been to the dentist -- that tooth sensitivity I'd experienced earlier in the week turned out to be nothing (yea!) -- and was headed to Target when a couple half a block ahead of me turned around and the woman said, "Hi, Neighbor!"

I think they forgot my name. I know I forgot theirs. But we lived next door to one another for a few years, until they moved out about three neighbors ago. We had a lovely moment when their daughter was born, just after my mom died. I told them how happy it made me to hold a baby, when I was mourning. Also, since my mom loved both The Brookfield Zoo and babies, I gave their newborn a teeny-tiny t-shirt I'd picked up at my first trip to the zoo after my mom died. I did it more for myself than for them, really. It felt right and helped me heal. But still, it meant a lot to them. Funny how little things make an impact, isn't it?

Anyway, that baby girl is now in first grade and they wanted to share photos. In the February cold, we stood there together as scrolled through their phones and showed me pictures of her. I noticed that, in all of the recent ones, she was wearing a Gryffindor scarf, so I know she's a young Harry Potter fan. They told me that she's attracted to the magical and supernatural, but is learning to make choices. When something scares her, she turns it off herself.

Anyway, between the blissful outcome at the dentist and my encounter on Main Street, I was happy. Happy is good.

Saturday 9

Two Divided by Love (1971)

Unfamiliar with this week's song? You can hear it here.

1) Sam's teacher told her she'd use math every day. What's the last math problem you solved? (Did you add to/subtract from the balance of your checkbook ... use division to figure out how much you'd save with 25% off that sweater ...) I figured out how much tip to leave the server.

2) The lyrics tell us that if you take away the rain from a flower, the flower just won't grow. Do you have any indoor houseplants? Could they use a drink of water this morning? I have two philodendrons. One is big, the other is massive. They get water and attention without fail on Mondays, and whenever I go into the den. I fantasize about draping them from the ceiling, the way Hepburn did with her philodendron in The Desk Set.

3) This week's artists, The Grass Roots, are introduced in this video by country music superstar Kenny Rogers. Who is your favorite country music singer? Garth Brooks.

4) The two unmarried members of the group -- guitarist Warren Entner and drummer Ricky Coonce -- competed for a lady's affection on a 1968 episode of The Dating Game. Neither of them won! She chose Bachelor #1. Anyway, have you ever appeared on a game show? Do you know anyone who has? My friend Nancy was on Jeopardy. She did pretty well, too.

5) The Grass Roots were originally called The 13th Floor. They chose this cheeky name because many high rises do not have a 13th floor since 13 is considered an unlucky number, and they were thumbing their noses at superstition. Are you superstitious? Only about airline travel.
6) At the time of his death in 2011, group leader Rob Grill was still playing music, touring with a reconfigured Grass Roots. His widow Nancy referred to him as "one lucky son of a gun" because he'd been able to support himself as a musician, doing what he loved for 45 years. In what ways do you consider yourself fortunate? My body is pretty resilient. Come to think of it, so is my spirit.

7) In 1971, the year this song was released, Walt Disney World opened in Florida. The Epcot Center was added in 1982. Have you ever visited this, or any, Disney theme park? I've been to Disneyland twice and Disney World once.

8) Fresh chicken was just 43¢/lb. in 1971. Do you prefer the breast or drumstick? Drumstick.

9) Random question: Do you work well under pressure? I work best under pressure.