Saturday, December 04, 2021

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Got My Mind Set on You (1976)

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


1) George Harrison sings that he requires money, patience and time. Which of those three do you wish for most this morning? Patience. I've been in a pissy mood lately.

2) This was long one of George's favorite songs. He first heard it back in September, 1963 -- months before the Beatles became an international phenomenon -- when he visited his sister in Benton, IL. Is there a song that reminds you of a trip you took? "Rock the Boat" was popular the summer I took my first-ever plane ride. I was in high school when my cousin and I flew to Fort Lauderdale to visit her dad/my favorite uncle. This song seemed to be on the radio every time we got into his car (a red convertible). "Rock on with your bad self."
 

 
 
3) For years, George thought his birthday was February 25. When he was 17, he saw his birth certificate and learned he was really born on the 24th. His mother explained that he was born just before midnight on the 24th and she didn't get to hold him until early morning on the 25th, so she considered the 25th as his birthday. Do you know any interesting stories about the day you were born? I was born at the stroke of midnight. Midnight is legally not a time (not part of either day) and so the staff in the delivery room pressured my mom to "pick a day" so they could get it down on my birth certificate. In those days, mothers were heavily medicated when they gave birth, so she was still pretty stoned and didn't understand what they were yammering about. But she picked a day and time anyway: 12:01 am on 11/22.

4) When George was just 14, he met Paul McCartney on a bus en route to school. Tell us about a time when you met someone who ended up changing your life. Last year at this time (the day after Thanksgiving, 2020) I found myself in line at the post office with an elderly lady. She had a big bag of gifts, wrapped in green paper decorated with reindeer. She was clearly confused about the difference between the post office and The UPS Store. I told her I didn't think the staff of the post office would package her gifts for her. I took her over and showed her where the packing materials were. Our conversation took 3-5 minutes. Her mask was very low, her nose was exposed and when she spoke, her top lip was visible. I learned through contact tracing that she is, very likely, the one who gave me covid.
 
It was awful. I was sick for six weeks in all, and I was so frightened. My sense of smell is changed. But I learned a lot. First of all, my then new doctor turned out to be a keeper, sensitive and attentive. My local government was really there for me, too. In addition to contact tracing, I received offers to help me with medication and grocery shopping. THIS is what I want tax dollars spent on! I will remember this when I vote in our 2022 gubernatorial election. And last, anyone who dismissively refers to covid as "just the flu" can go fuck themselves.

5) Then 17, John Lennon was not interested in letting George perform with his band. He dismissed George as too young. Paul insisted George get a chance and the rest, as they say, is history. Tell us about someone who stood up for you and helped you succeed. My boss Aaron has been very supportive. He has changed my attitude toward my job for the better. I will miss him. I haven't posted about his resignation because I'm still too rattled by it.
 
6) In the 1970s, George took up gardening. He said that clearing away weeds and overgrowth helped him clear his head, and he was very proud of his jasmine flowers. What's your hobby? Why do you enjoy it? I wish George had taken up gardening when he was still with the Beatles. I watched Get Back and while I so enjoyed it, I found George to be (in my mother's words) "a real pill." ANYWAY, movies are my hobby. I watch them, I read about them. I love movies.

7) He also enjoyed playing ukulele and encouraged others to do the same. George often gave ukuleles as birthday and Christmas gifts. What's the last gift you received? My friend John gave me a gift card to my local movie theater. I didn't receive it until after my birthday because he ordered it from his phone and had it sent to the wrong email. (He was one digit off.) It's a great gift -- see answer above -- but the circumstances amuse me. It wasn't that long ago that John bitched and moaned about "millennials" who are "attached" to their phones and never look up. Then he got a new phone. Guess what: he now uses it for everything!


8) At the Academy Awards in spring 1976, another George was in the news. George Burns won an Oscar for his performance in The Sunshine Boys. Who was in the last movie you watched? Barefoot in the Park. Robert Redford was really funny.
 

9) What's the last thing you dropped? Did it break? My phone. No, it didn't break. But one of these times it will. (I drop it a lot.)




Tuesday, November 30, 2021

WWW.WEDNESDAY

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? Ma'am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown. I watched the CNN series on Diana and saw Spencer in the theater. It got me thinking about another generation's rogue princess: Margaret. 

This biography of Queen Elizabeth's younger sister is really not a biography at all. It's a series of anecdotes told by people who knew Princess Margaret at different points in her life. In the 1950s, she was one of the most desirable women in the world. In the 1960s, she was half of England's most glamorous couple. By the 1970s, she was a campy joke, a rich, older woman who collected boy toys. Throughout all her incarnations, she was good copy for the British tabloid press. 

This book is terrifically entertaining. All the anecdotes are interesting -- outrageous and poignant. She is often monstrous. But as awful as she is, I still feel sorry for her. She was who she was because of her birth. Period. She believed she was prettier, more charismatic and better suited to serve than Elizabeth, but she was always just the kid sister. It defined and frustrated her. If only she'd had the patriotism and empathy that made Diana The Peoples Princess.

2. What did you recently finish reading?
Clammed Up by Barbara Ross. Thinking of Snowdens ... Julia Snowden's family has been running a clambake on Maine's Busman's Harbor for generations. After her father's fatal bout with cancer, the business has hit hard times and Julia is desperate to save it.

She's hung her hopes on expanding from just clambakes to including private parties and events. The first, a wedding, goes horribly awry when the best man is found dead. The police close her down as they investigate the murder, and finances go from bad to worse. More than just the business, the bank could get her widowed mother's home. The sooner the murder is solved, the sooner the business can reopen.

The first of the Maine Clambake series, it was a very good cozy mystery. It established its setting (if you like seafood, the descriptions of the meals will leave you drooling), it has a likeable heroine who is smart but far from perfect, there's little or no gore and a soupcon of romance. It ended a little too neatly and I was disappointed when the killer was revealed because it didn't make a ton of sense to me. 
 
But there was plenty here to enjoy, and I'm sure I'll be back to visit Julia and Busman's Harbor again.

3. What will you read next? I don't know.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Compassion Challenge -- Day 28

 I'm encouraged to participate in this November challenge with my church congregation.

Inspiring Compassion: The 30 Day Compassion Challenge. 30 days to explore the topic of compassion: Mindfulness, Compassion for Friends & Family, Self-Compassion, Compassion for All, Compassion for Our Planet.

Sunday, once again, I kept my mouth shut.

I went to Boston Market because I didn't feel like cooking and I had a coupon for 15% off. I ordered a chicken pot pie, a side order of stuffing (to enjoy later), and, to put me over the dollar amount to qualify for the savings, a cookie. FYI: They have very good chocolate at Boston Market. 

The cashier, clearly new, forgot my cookie. I discovered this when I got home. I was unreasonably unhappy. I admit I'd been thinking about that cookie all the way home.

I was too lazy to go back. But I also didn't become a keyboard warrior and log into "Tell Boston Market." 

I know that there's a school of thought that she had a simple job to do: put my ordered items in a bag and take my money. She didn't do it.

On the other hand, Thanksgiving is The Super Bowl at Boston Market. I imagine the staff -- who may not have wanted to work at all because they have loved ones, too -- worked very hard and are tired. Plus, she is new. AND no one really needs a cookie. Not even a big, delicious chocolate chunk cookie.

Compassion for All.

 

 

Sunday, November 28, 2021

In honor of the Festival of Lights

 



Sunday Stealing

 FROM MANTELLIGENCE

1. What is the craziest, most outrageous thing you want to achieve? It's neither crazy nor outrageous, but I long for peace of mind.

2. Have your parents influenced what goals you have? Of course. My parents influenced everything about me.

3. What is a fashion trend you’re glad went away. Fringe and macrame. This hideous thing is an evening bag from the 1970s.

4. What word or saying from the past do you think should come back? "Flippy." In Jailhouse Rock, Elvis' girl whines that he hasn't even noticed her new outfit. He declares it, "Flippy. Real flippy."

5. What do you bring with you everywhere you go? My housekeys and a mask.

6. Is there such a thing as a soul? Of course.

7. Is there life after death? Of course.

8. Do you think there will ever be a third world war? I hope not. I fear if there is such a war, it will be the last we ever see.

9. What smell brings back great memories? I was happy to smell apple cinnamon at Thanksgiving. It's a happy holiday smell.

10. How would you like to be remembered? As a good friend.

11. What kind of music are you into?

 
12. What is the biggest surprise of your life? Some things I thought would be easy (romantic relationships) haven't been. Some things I thought would be hard (career) came easily.

13. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Hamburgers.

14. Where is the most awe inspiring place you have been? Washington DC. Walking up the steps to the Lincoln Memorial, seeing the Jefferson Memorial at night, actually made my heart swell a bit. I don't think I want to ever go near the Capitol again. Not after January 6, when those Trumped lunatics defiled it.

15. Describe your life in six words. Nah. I'll give you two: She tries. 


 

"Sweet Loretta Fart, she thought she was a cleaner, but she was a frying pan ..."

So I've watched all three episodes of Get Back and loved it, loved it! Though it did reinforce my prevalent Beatle theory, which is that the group was two geniuses and two really lucky blokes.  

Because this is about the lads preparing for what would be their final live performance, looking at it through the prism of their breakup is inevitable. It's much more comprehensive than the 80-minute Let It Be documentary, and much kinder to Paul. He's shown here trying to hold the band together, not plotting to break them up.

It's George, I think, who comes off worst. Petulant, defensive and all-around unpleasant. It's understandable, I suppose. Those geniuses -- Paul and John -- are still a unit and they don't really let him in. They are more enthusiastic playing the songs they wrote together as young teens (like "I Lost My Little Girl") than George's new songs ("I, Me, Mine" and "For You, Blue"). It must have been hard to be relegated to the role of junior partner when he believed he had something to say.

Yoko didn't annoy me as much as I expected her to. Is this because she was a producer? Or was she simply a ubiquitous fly on the wall and nothing more? Linda is a pretty blonde counterpoint to Yoko, and it feels like she's only there because, well, John has his new girl there!

Ringo gets who he is in their hierarchy and, unlike George, seems to aspire to nothing more. He's comfortable in his own skin, happy to noodle the beginning of his new song ("Octopus' Garden") for his mates.

Get Back gives us a more positive Paul than Let It Be was. He clearly loved being in the studio with those guys. He wanted to get back before the fans. He wanted to maintain the whole "group" vibe, even though John is only intermittently engaged and George seems to be suffering from chronic Lennon/McCartney-induced dyspepsia. 

He is, of course, a human with flaws. And those flaws amused be because they are mine, too. We learn that Sir Paul:

•  loves a plan

•  resists change

•  admits "there's nothing to complain about," and then proceeds to complain anyway

I have grown up to be my Beatle!



Saturday, November 27, 2021

Compassion Challenge -- Day 26

 I'm encouraged to participate in this November challenge with my church congregation.

Inspiring Compassion: The 30 Day Compassion Challenge. 30 days to explore the topic of compassion: Mindfulness, Compassion for Friends & Family, Self-Compassion, Compassion for All, Compassion for Our Planet.

Yesterday, I kept my mouth shut.

I try to be sensitive to the homeless. I remember that they are people who have a much tougher life than I could endure. Sleeping outside, subject to crime and scorn. Facing uncertainty and illness. No, I don't subscribe for a moment to the theory that they're just "lazy."

But homeless people are people, and like any group of people, there are bad ones mixed in with the good. Here in town, we have a long-time homeless man who is a strange combination of entitled and mean. He doesn't respect your space when he asks for money. Now he's been panhandling around here for years, so I'm not afraid of him. But for people who don't know him, I imagine it's scary to have him in your face. Years ago -- before the pandemic -- he got a forever spot on my bad side because he actually tried to shame me for not giving him enough money. We were on the el platform and he asked me (as always, standing too close) for "money for a sandwich." I took the dime and nickels from my pocket and handed them to him.

"I can't buy a sandwich with this!" he shouted, going on to tell my fellow commuters, "I asked her for money for a sandwich, and she gives me a quarter!"

First of all, I would never give away my quarters. I need them for laundry! Secondly, what the ever loving hell?

"The correct response," I said icily, "would be 'thank you.' It's not my responsibility to buy you a sandwich." A much nicer person than I will ever be said, "I got you, Buddy," and gave him a dollar bill. 

Every time he's begun to approach me, ever since, wherever we are, I remind him of that day. "Remember this face," I always tell him. "I'm the woman you insulted on the el platform because I didn't give you enough. I will never help you." 

There are enough people who need my help, want my help, and don't try to guilt or extort my help. I won't waste my time, energy or money by giving one of my blessings bags* to him.

ANYWAY (it's taken me a long while to get to present day, hasn't it?) yesterday I saw him again. He was on the corner in front of the bank, yelling at the streetlight and throwing something -- turns out it was dry Ramen noodles -- at the button you press for the WALK light. He was really mad at that button. The light had changed, and changed back, but he wouldn't stop scolding it.

He was clearly having some sort of break. I kept walking. I encountered a pair of cops in front of Target. I was going to tell them about the homeless man, and then I didn't.

Maybe they would have helped him, and his life would be better for it. Or maybe they would have arrested him, which could have upset and frightened him. I don't know.

I do know what was in my heart, though. It wasn't help for him. It was more punitive. I wanted him off the street. I wanted to be rid of his embarrassing display. He was an eyesore. 

Since my motivation was far from altruistic, I kept my mouth shut. It was a busy Black Friday. I wasn't the only one who saw him. Let a kinder person, a person without our baggage, help him. Because I think intent matters, and my intent would have been unkind.

Compassion for all, even him. Maybe especially him.

  

*I always carry ziplock bags containing a clean mask, a package of tissues, a breakfast bar and a $1 bill. Sometimes I include cough drops or a comb. Depends on what's on the shelves at The Dollar Store.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Black Velvet (1989)

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

 

1) This song was chosen because yesterday was Black Friday, the traditional day of sales. Have you begun your Christmas shopping? I'm almost done! It's a habit I picked up from my mom: when you see something that's perfect, snap it up, regardless of the month. Go by the gift, not by the calendar. I'm glad I did because Hanukkah is really early this year (begins 11/28) and I have a gift I've got to get into the mail pronto. 

 

2)  Was there an adult beverage served with your Thanksgiving feast? I had a margarita. One of my friends had beer, the other ordered Prosecco.

 

3) Did any pets enjoy scraps from your Thanksgiving table? Nope. I ate out with friends.

 

4) Are there any Thanksgiving leftovers in your refrigerator right now? Nope. I very nearly cleaned my plate and ended up in a food coma.


5) Football is a popular Thanksgiving weekend pastime. Will you be watching any games over the next few days? If yes, which team(s) are you rooting for? I don't do football. I'm too busy following internet chatter about where my favorite (ouch! former) Cubs, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, will play next year.

 

6) This week's song is by Canadian Alannah Myles. She was born Alannah Byles (with a B), but changed her name to differentiate herself from her father. He was influential in Canadian broadcasting and she didn't want to be accused of riding his coattails. Have you ever received a professional leg up from a relative? Nope.

 

7) In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October. Instead of pumpkin pie, Canadians traditionally enjoy butter tarts for dessert. What dessert was on your Thanksgiving menu? They ran out of pumpkin pie so I had cheesecake. It was a mistake. Not because it wasn't good -- it was delicious -- but it put me into a food coma. I guess butternut bisque, light/dark turkey meat, hot apples, green beans, stuffing and mashed potatoes were enough. Plenty!

 

8) "Black Velvet" is a tribute to Elvis. Songwriter Christopher Ward said he was inspired by a trip to Memphis, long after Elvis' death, where he spoke to The King's fans and was touched by how much they still loved their favorite singer. Who is your favorite singer?

Looking forward to reading his lyrical memoir
 

I admit it's jarring to see him as he is today because I've been watching Get Back, another view of the making of Let It Be.

9) Share a memory from Thanksgiving 2020. I had a frozen turkey dinner alone. 2021 was such an improvement! I'm so thankful for that triple shot of Pfizer.


 60s Barbie and I hope you're having a lovely Thanksgiving weekend.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

A moment of gratitude

There's a lot worrying me these days. Our building may need substantial, expensive work. Or maybe it doesn't. We're awaiting information from the local government about structural problems with the building next door. It could be that their issues have nothing to do with us, but if they do and if it's warranted we're going to commission an architectural study, and if that study reveals problems, we'll have to investigate the scope and expense of repairs. That's a lot of "ifs" right there. That's a lot of "wait and see." I'm not built for "ifs" and "wait and see," so I'm anxious and obsessed and scared.

I'm upset about the fire. (See post below.) It not only makes me sad for the people who lost their livelihoods and homes, it fuels my feelings of impermanence and danger, right here in my own home. 

But it's Thanksgiving. I don't want to lose sight of the blessings of today because of worry about "if" and "wait and see."

•  First of all, I'm getting together with John and Gregory for our Friendsgiving feast. Because of covid, we were on our own last year and it was sad. So I'm thankful the three of us all are all triple-shot, that President Biden is leading us with science and not tales of hydroxychloroquine and bleach remedies, and that our neighborhoods and nation are coming out of our coronavirus cocoon.

•  I feel good. Nerves and worry aside, I'm rather strong. Two of my friends -- contemporaries! -- actually use canes on a regular basis. Not this gal. I'm grateful for that.

•  I can afford care. I have a doctor I trust and thanks to my insurance, I talk to a shrink regularly to help me deal with the nerves and worry. Not everyone can afford these things.

•  My niece and nephew are both happy. I love those two to the moon and back, and I'm happy that they're settling well into adulthood. My niece is not only happy with her new husband (one year in October), she has been accepted by his vast and loving family. This is important to me, because she and her mother (my sister) have clashed mightily over the years and I'm glad she has this support. It has also somehow alleviated the stress between mother and daughter, which makes me happy. My nephew is about to graduate from college and tells me has "exciting" news to share with me in a few weeks when he's home for Christmas break. Since patience is not a virtue I possess, I want to know NOW but he says he has to see my face when he tells me. Does he have a good job lined up? Does he have a girl to introduce me to? Is he changing his career path to teaching? Does he have an autographed Anthony Rizzo baseball? Whatever it is, I'm grateful that he's happy and wants to share his joy with me.

•  Roy Hobbs has integrated himself into our household. I still miss Reynaldo with my whole heart, but that's the thing about hearts -- they can expand to allow more love in. While he and my Connie Cat are not yet buddies, they co-exist very comfortably and she seems to like having him here. For his part, he's settled in and is quite happy. (Though he finds every closed cabinet and door a challenge.)

•  I'm happier at work than I've been in years. My new boss, Aaron, and I have been clashing lately and you know what? It's good and healthy. We respect one another and appreciate one another. A new experience for me! I have help now, too. Rita just started on Monday. She's madly enthusiastic and eager to take as much off my plate as I'll give her. (Of course, as luck would have it, much of the crunch ended on the very day she started. Isn't that how life works?)

•  I have friends, real and cyber. For the ones in my life, and for the ones who comment on this blog (I read them; thank you!), I am so grateful.

•  I'm still a fan girl. I'm going to watch the first installment of Get Back today before I go off to meet John and Gregory. I'm so grateful that the Lads still bring me joy after all these decades, and feel sorry for people who don't have a similar passion in their lives.


 

I feel better for having written this. So I'm grateful God gave me the gift of words, and I'm thankful to everyone who reads them.


 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Sad today

There was a major fire just blocks from me. It started in the kitchen of my favorite most breakfast place and destroyed it. The two apartments above it are gone, too. They were tiny, affordable apartments, one rented by a waitress, the other shared by a brother/sister pair of college students. Those three people are now homeless.

The nail salon next door is closed for the foreseeable future because of extensive water and smoke damage. My favorite pizza place (next to the salon) may reopen today. The movie theater on the other side of the restaurant -- a very sturdy structure dating back to the 1930s -- expects to reopen today after mitigating the smoke damage.

I love my breakfast place. Not only do they have the best eggs benedict, the owner is a smart and genuinely good business woman. She worked so hard to keep her wait and kitchen staff employed, even when the dining room had to be closed due to covid. Through Facebook, she offered to do your shopping for you. She put together boxes of fresh vegetables and fruit along with paper towels and paper napkins, using her professional suppliers to help her customers stock their pantries even when grocery store shelves were empty. She paid her waitresses to fill the boxes and bring them out to cars. How imaginative! What a good boss!

She made it through the worst of it, and now her business is gone. A GoFundMe was started for the restaurant, and she told the organizer that she would give the first $10,000 to pay her wait and kitchen staff.

I love my movie theater. It's an art deco movie palace that's been on this very spot since the dawn of talkies. I'm so grateful it will be OK.



Compassion Challenge -- Day 23

I'm encouraged to participate in this November challenge with my church congregation.

Inspiring Compassion: The 30 Day Compassion Challenge. 30 days to explore the topic of compassion: Mindfulness, Compassion for Friends & Family, Self-Compassion, Compassion for All, Compassion for Our Planet.

Tuesday, I revisited and recognized limitations.

My friend Kathy has cognitive issues. I don't know exactly what they are because she refuses to discuss them with a doctor. But she cannot keep a thought in her head.

I don't enjoy talking to her. She begins every conversation with, "I used to have trouble with my head, years ago, but it's better now." Then she proceeds to prove it isn't true. She interrupts a conversation by randomly asking who this or that person is. Did we work with him/her? She started to explain why she doesn't/can't watch TV -- even though she has accumulated several sets -- but lost her train of thought. She wanted to know where John, Gregory and I are dining for Thanksgiving and seemed surprised we were having turkey. I mentioned to her that my neighborhood (she used to live here, too) had suffered a major fire on main street Tuesday, destroying my favorite breakfast diner and damaging my beloved movie theater. She was dismissive.

This is sad and tiring, but I know she can't help it. I also know that fewer and fewer friends connect with her precisely because her conversations are sad and tiring, so I recognize my gestures matter.

But then she pissed me off. She has to move. Her landlord has sold the building she lives in. She told me she can't afford more than don't-feel-sorry-for-me-$750-a-month (that's how she said it each time) and wants to stay in Dekalb, a college town more than an hour away from Chicago.

"I couldn't find anything for don't-feel-sorry-for-me-$750-a-month in your neighborhood. But that's OK. Where you live is pretty soulless now."

"You'll be happy to know then that soulless main street was fucking destroyed today." 

"Oh, yeah. What's your condo worth now, anyway?"

Since the disparity between our finances has long bothered her, I try to avoid such conversations. First of all, it's not like I'm Melinda Gates. My condo needs new windows, new carpeting and a kitchen upgrade to get a competitive price. (That's what: $15,000 worth of work?) Secondly, I refuse to apologize for being a more successful writer than she was. Friends are supposed to support each other, be happy for one another. 

But last night I gave her a number. Then I got off the phone as soon as I could, telling her that I wished her a happy Thanksgiving and that I'd let John and Gregory know she asked about them and wants to hear from them. I tried to end it on a high note, even though I was upset.

I must remember that she can't help it. Her cognitive issues make it hard for her to keep track of conversations and exacerbate her less attractive qualities.

I shouldn't be so quick to anger, so snappish. She can't help it.

On the other hand, while I can't let myself off the hook for my impatience, I have to forgive myself for letting my temper get the better of me. I'm not perfect. But at least I call. John and Gregory don't bother. The four of us met nearly 40 years ago, and I honor that. I put in the time. When I fall short, I must do better. But I should also cut myself some slack. 

Compassion for her, and compassion for me.

 

 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

WWW.WEDNESDAY

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? Clammed Up by Barbara Ross. Julia Snowden left Maine and the family clambake business for the bright lights of Manhattan. But, like Michael Corleone, her family pulled her back in. So now she's back, helping expand the business to include events. Her plans go terribly wrong when one of the first wedding crashers is a murderer, and the best man ends up dead.

I'm liking this book so far because the backdrop includes peril and real tension, but not of the violent kind. A tourist-based company like the Snowden's only has a few summer months to make their money for the year. The longer the police keep their business shut down, the more difficult it will be for them to stay open. Maybe it's because so many independent companies and family-owned businesses didn't make it through covid, but I really feel for Julia.
 
I've always wanted to try the Maine Clambake Series -- Kwizgiver is a fan -- and when Book #1 became available from the library, I snapped it up. I always try to, as Julie Andrews sang, "start at the very beginning, a very good place to start."

2. What did you recently finish reading?
Fatal Vision by Joe McGinnis. In the annals of true crime, the Jeffrey MacDonald case is legend. A handsome Green Beret captain, he was accused of killing his wife and two little girls in their home on the Army base. No one wanted to believe he did it. But he did.
 
For me, though, the most compelling character is Fred Kassab. His stepdaughter, Collette, began dating Jeff MacDonald when they were in the 9th grade. Fred watched Jeff grow up, marry his stepdaughter, and start a family. Shortly after the murders, he told the Army and the press he stood by Jeff, that if he'd been blessed with another daughter, he'd want the same son-in-law.
 
But slowly, he began to notice things were wrong with his son-in-law's story. (Example: why did Jeff insist they'd never owned an ice pick -- one of the murder weapons -- when Freddy had seen his wife use theirs last Christmas?) He didn't understand how Jeff could begin dating again so soon after losing Colette and the girls, or why he kept finding excuses not to share forensic and legal evidence with Fred.

Fred's evolving realization that the one who destroyed his stepdaughter and grandchildren was someone he loved is really the heart of this story. And once Fred truly understands, he won't let it go. He did not rest until Jeffrey MacDonald was brought to justice.

3. What will you read next? Ma'am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown.

Happy Birthday to Me, Part 1

Tuesday was my birthday. I'm glad I saved my gifts from far off lands to the East (like Florida) until Tuesday morning to open because they brightened my mood.

I posted this photo on Facebook to thank everyone who mailed me goodies and let them know everything arrived safe and sound. (Thank you especially, Snarkela.)

My friend Elaine is going to be fine. She has a bruised rib and an unsightly bruise on her cheek, but nothing serious. Still, she was 12 hours in the ER, so she was exhausted and we didn't go out.

But Kathleen and Joanna both checked in, promising that we'll get together after Thanksgiving. Kathleen has had health problems and is super busy at work. Joanna is never on time for birthdays. She depends on Facebook to let her know birthdays roll around. 

My oldest friend called, letting me know my gift is in the mail from California and promises that I'll love it.

I'll see John and Gregory on Thanksgiving and we'll celebrate me then, too.

Rita started at work on my birthday. We finally have another writer! I consider her a birthday present. I've been so busy and stressed. It'll be good to have help. I may even be able to take a few more of my vacation days before the end of the year.

So it wasn't great, but it wasn't bad, either. It was fine. I had a fine birthday.


Compassion Challenge -- Day 22

I'm encouraged to participate in this November challenge with my church congregation.

Inspiring Compassion: The 30 Day Compassion Challenge. 30 days to explore the topic of compassion: Mindfulness, Compassion for Friends & Family, Self-Compassion, Compassion for All, Compassion for Our Planet.

Monday, I reached back.

An old friend, someone I was very close to at one time, reached out to me for my birthday. An ecard with a personal message: Gal, thinking about you and hope you are doing well.

My first response? I don't need this. I literally haven't heard from him since my Cubs won the World Series in 2016. I'd been very hurt by silence on my 2016 birthday and Christmas 2016, and then tried to let it go. Some bruises don't ever heal completely, though. I'd trusted him, thought we were part of one anothers lives. And then suddenly, and without any real explanation, radio silence.

So my birthday 2021 is special? What was wrong with 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020?

Then I thought, something must be going on in his life that made him reach out. So I reached back. I emailed back that I appreciated him remembering me on my special day and that I hoped he was well, too.

I felt better for having done it. Compassion for him, and compassion for me.

 



Sunday, November 21, 2021

Pity Party, Table for One

Tomorrow is my birthday. Elaine from movie group and I were going to have dinner together at one of my favorite newly-reopened restaurants, The Madison Tavern.

She just called to cancel. She's in the ER. She was the second car in a three-car accident on Michigan Avenue and her airbag deployed. She's in shock and her chest hurts.

And I'm sad because now I have no birthday plans. Shame on me.

There are five gifts and a card on my sofa, waiting for me to tear into. People have suffered worse fates.

I'll see John for Thanksgiving and my birthday on Thursday. Kathleen keeps saying we'll get together, but she had to take time off work and now she's working crazy hours so while she keeps floating ideas, dates and times out there, she doesn't commit to anything. Joanna will no doubt reach out tomorrow, when Facebook reminds her it's my birthday.

Elaine is in the hospital, Gal. Hurt and scared. Get over yourself!



Saturday, November 20, 2021

Sunday Stealing

Stolen from the Daily Good

1) What teacher are you most thankful for and why?  What did you learn from him or her? My third grade teacher. She was so warm and made us feel like we weren't wrong, we just needed to try again.

2) What’s the season you’re most thankful for, and what’s your favorite part of each season? I'm a big fan of each season. Right now I'm thankful that my new team at work is so supportive, and yet my favorite part of the season is my upcoming five-day weekend. We've been really busy, and I'm tired.

3) What electronic device are you most grateful for, and what does it add to your life? Air conditioning. I hate hot weather. AC allows me to focus.

4) What musician or type of music are you most thankful for?



5) What are you most grateful for that brings beauty to your daily life? The sky. The colors of the sky always make me happy (even the dark, stormy skies).

6) What philanthropic cause or organization do you feel thankful for? I think I'll choose the ones that focus on animals. They have no say in what happens and are completely dependent on us. I am thankful for the people who look out for them.

7) What foods are you most thankful for? I like dressing/stuffing. I'm glad it's on the menus again.

8) What local store or restaurant are you most grateful for?  How does it contribute to your quality of life? My favorite Chinese restaurant is kind of like the little engine that could. It's independently owned and suffered during the pandemic. But they're still here! I think that's inspiring.

9) What book are you most grateful for, and why? So many! I'm going with this coffee table book because it's my distraction. I pick it up and find myself transported into Jackie's 1970s Manhattan (or Skorpios) life.


 

10) What act of kindness has made the greatest difference in your life? It's hard to isolate just one. I'm going to say that the acts of kindness I've done have probably made the greatest difference because they teach me about my fellow man and give me insights into the world around me.

11) What challenging experience has ended up changing your life for the better? I had a cancer scare that made a total abdominal hysterectomy necessary. I'd never had major surgery before. I've never been so scared before. Both important learning experiences. Also, after I got home from the hospital, my mom stayed with me for a few days. I treasure those mother/daughter moments now.

12) What vacation are you most grateful for? My first solo spa getaway. I discovered I like traveling alone and I enjoy my own company.

13) Name three days in your life that you feel especially grateful for. Seeing Sir Paul for the first time at the Chicago Stadium in 1976, and the births of my favorite niece and nephew.

14) What product do you use on a daily basis that you most appreciate? Coca Cola!

15) What, from this year, do you feel most grateful for? Getting to know my boss, Aaron. He is a genuinely good person, and a talented one, and he has re-energized me.



 

Compassion Challenge -- Day 20

I'm encouraged to participate in this November challenge with my church congregation.

Inspiring Compassion: The 30 Day Compassion Challenge. 30 days to explore the topic of compassion: Mindfulness, Compassion for Friends & Family, Self-Compassion, Compassion for All, Compassion for Our Planet.

Friday I ran to my "other" bank, the small community bank where my condo association has an account, not the corporate behemoth where I bank.* I was depositing $70.25 in quarters from our building laundry room.

Anyway, I saw a big box, wrapped in red and white Christmas paper, intended for toy donations for children and teens who would be spending the holidays at the local shelter for battered women. It was completely empty. 

Now maybe it was empty because it had just been placed on the floor. (After all, it's not even Thanksgiving yet.) Or maybe it was empty because it had just been emptied. But its cavernous emptiness gnawed at me.

Imagine between a child or a teen, living at the shelter with your mom because your dad is a batterer. Think about what kind of Christmas those kids can expect to have. Yes, they are physically safe, and that is no small thing. I'm proud that my community makes these women and children a priority.

But how much joy and normalcy is there for these kids, who ended up in this shelter through no fault of their own? I hurt for them.

After the bank, I had to stop at Target for stuff and things. I threw a little card of three pairs of earrings -- green jingle bells, reindeer and red ornaments -- in my cart. Today (Saturday) I walked long way around to pick up my lunch and made sure I made it to the bank before closing.

Those earrings didn't come anywhere near filling up the box, but now it's not completely empty. I know that some girl (I imagine her to be between 10 and 15) will be handed those earrings by Santa. When she goes back to school after the holiday break, and her classmates ask her what she got for Christmas, she can tell them she got three pairs of earrings.

On the way home, I picked up a Hotwheels 5-pack. This coming Wednesday (or maybe Friday), I will go out of my way to drop those off, too. It's not the toy, it's the normalcy I want to give some kid. I want to make sure his Christmas 2021 doesn't stand out as completely different from all the others in his past and future.

Judging by the emptiness of the box, not everyone responds right away to things like this. So first of all, I'm grateful that I do. It's like that Bible verse: "Whatever you did for the least of my brothers, you did for me." Acts like this give me joy because they bring me closer to Christ.

Second, I'm grateful that I have the extra $7-$10 to spend every time I stop into Target. I'm sure that there are those who want to help but just can't right now.

This week, my art director and I joined forced to buy some Polly Pockets, as requested by a little girl for a toy drive sponsored at work.

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, in all the right ways.

 

*They give me good service, so I have no harsh words for thee behemoth. I'm just striking a comparison.

Compassion Challege -- Day 19

I'm encouraged to participate in this November challenge with my church congregation.

Inspiring Compassion: The 30 Day Compassion Challenge. 30 days to explore the topic of compassion: Mindfulness, Compassion for Friends & Family, Self-Compassion, Compassion for All, Compassion for Our Planet.

Friday I gave a little of my time to Alban. He's the high school student who is a complete anachronism. He doesn't like any of the music or movies that are popular now and rhapsodizes about the culture of MY youth (much of it crap, Troy Donahue, for example). I sense that he's quite lonely in real life -- how many of his classmates mourned when Keith Allison died? -- and am glad that he has a tribe of Facebook followers.

Anyway, he's seriously into Elvis, which I applaud. He's also very indiscriminate, thinking just about turd The King squeezed out is worthy of attention. Elvis once famously said that the only thing "worse than watching a bad movie is being in one," and was aware that much of his 1960s work was subpar. But Alban loves it all.

He IM'd me on Friday, wanting to discuss Frankie & Johnnie, Harum Scarum and other Elvis movies that are just beyond awful. I wouldn't do that. I mean first of all, I was working Friday. Secondly, I didn't want to be a hypocrite. Those movies blow. 

But a lonely boy in another state was reaching out to me. That's a gift in a way, isn't it? And so I answered him, saying, "Let's not talk about where we disagree and focus on what we have in common." We shared an online conversation about King Creole, Viva Las Vegas and Follow that Dream. I gave him a little movie trivia -- King Creole was directed by Oscar winner Michael Curtiz, famous for Casablanca

Alban was happy.

That's the thing about this compassion challenge: it's so EASY to lift someone else's spirits if I just stop to think about it!

Mindfulness, mindfulness, mindfulness.

 


Friday, November 19, 2021

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Somewhere (1983)

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

1) This song is from the hit musical West Side Story. It has just been remade by Steven Speilberg. Are you interested in seeing the 2021 version? Eh. I appreciate Steven Speilberg but WSS has never been one of my favorites. If I stumble across the new version here at home I'll watch it, but it's not one I'll go out of my way to catch at the theater.

Now this is the one I'm waiting for! I'm so happy that Lucille Ball is getting her due as an artist and a trailblazer. (Wait for her off-camera chuckle at the end. Kidman nailed that.)
 

2) Growing up, Crazy Sam thought this song was called, "A Place for Us." Tell us about a song whose title or lyrics you got wrong or misheard. Many. This is the first one that comes to mind. "Groovin'" by The Rascals. The lyrics really are, "Life would be ecstasy, you and me endlessly groovin' ..." I thought the lyrics were, "Life would be ecstasy, you and me and Leslie groovin' ..." Leslie? Who was Leslie? Why was she there? Wouldn't groovin' be more romantic with just two? (Yes, as a child I was quite the ninny. Still am at times.)
 
3) Barbra Streisand sings of longing for "time to spare, time to learn and time to care." The holidays are often too busy for many of us. With Thanksgiving almost upon us, do you wish you had more time? I'm good. I've been stressed lately but over work, not the holidays.
 
4) Early in her career, Barbra was pressured to have her nose fixed. She stubbornly refused, and did rather well anyway. Tell us about a time you resisted pressure. To this day I've never smoked. Not pot, nor a cigarette. And I won't.
 
5) In the late 1960s she briefly dated Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, father of current PM Justin Trudeau. Obviously Barbra knew what became of Pierre and his family without having to look them up. Without the advantage of Google, do you know where one of your former loves is in 2021? My mom was good friends with the mom of my first boyfriend. I used to get regular updates on him that way. But now both moms are gone, so if I were to catch up with him, I'd have to resort to The Google Machine.

6) One of Barbra's hit movies is The Way We Were, a love story about hopelessly mismatched lovers. Streisand always wanted to do a sequel and worked with a screenwriter on a treatment. Her costar, Robert Redford, refused. He simply was not interested in revisiting his character. Is there a movie series that you especially enjoy?  The Thin Man movies. Love, love, love them.


7) Barbra met her husband, James Brolin, at a dinner thrown by friends. They hit it off immediately, but he had to leave the next day to begin a movie in Ireland, so they began their romance over the phone. Do you enjoy long phone calls? Would you prefer video calls (Zoom)? I'm a phone fan. Just naturally blabby, I guess.

8) On July 1, 1998, two years to the day after their first meeting, Barbra and Brolin married. It used to be that brides were advised against wearing white for their second wedding, but Barbra ignored that, wearing a white beaded gown. Do you believe brides should still avoid white the second time around? A bride should do whatever she wants. It's her day.

9) Random question: Is anyone on your bad side this morning? I'm trying to be positive. Not always succeeding, but trying!