Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Ewing Shop

This little (200 sq. ft.) slice of heaven is where I stayed in Colonial Williamsburg. 220 years ago, the building on this spot was a dry goods store run by a Scottish immigrant named Ebeneezer Ewing. Today it has a gorgeous four-poster bed with curtains, a working fireplace, and just enough modern touches (plumbing, TV) to make it comfortable but not enough to ruin the vibe. I even had my own little backyard!

One of the coolest things about staying right there in one of the historic houses on the grounds is that it was convenient. After touring one of the exhibits, I could just run home and use my own bathroom instead of the public restrooms. The little sign on the front door discouraged any tourists who thought my humble abode was an attraction.

I loved every moment I spent here.

(Sick of my trip yet?)

I'm Indi-a Mood for Love

That's the name of the OPI polish I got during my spa pedi. Prior to my luxury soaking, exfoliating, moisturizing and painting, I got a reflexology massage. Veronika, a Russian lass, worked wonders on my neck, wrists/hands, and especially my feet. Which is why I think of Tuesday as Tootsie Day at the Spa at Colonial Williamsburg.


I picked these as my first posted photos from my four-day sojurn to Williamsburg because people-watching, especially kid-watching, was one of the great joys. Student groups seem to be high on their own independence, being away from their parents. Younger kids, there with their parents, got swept up in making believe that they live back in the 1700s. I noticed a lot of Beatle t-shirts, more on young people than baby boomers. I view this as England's revenge for the Revolution.

More later. Lots more. I predict you'll all just plead with me to quit posting about about Williamsburg before too long!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Food coma

Just finished the most luscious hunka pork roast I have ever been served, along with some delectable potato concoction and green beans .... and, OK, a pair of pomegranate cosmopolitans. Which means I am now ready for bed at an hour earlier than any time in my life since grammar school. But it's a good, comfortable exhausted. Part too much food, part fabulous facial and hot stone massage, part three solid hours of shopping. (Who knew I would love pewter so much?)

I have had a lovely trip. I am relaxed and only think about my oldest friend and her daughter and what they're doing to my brochure back at the office occasionally. The only real dark cloud on my horizon is worrying about the exceptional young people I flew here with. On my flight from O'Hare to Richmond were more than half a dozen kids en route to deployment at Langley Air Force Base. On the one hand, flying with them was a comfort because when we hit turbulence, they couldn't have been more nonchalant. Here I was, surrounded by young people with exceptional reflexes and relevant knowledge of planes and they didn't think our rocky flight was worthy of notice. Hurray! On the other hand, though, as one young man leapt from his seat to help me (unasked) slip my suitcase into the overhead, I thought, "Please, God, don't let him die." It's weighing heavily on me. But that's life, and as my shrink reminds me, "bad is part of life." I can't let the bad obscure the good.

So while I plot ways to help those serving us, I will also curl up in my fantabulous four poster bed, eat Fig Newtons, enjoy American Idol, and relish every moment spent here in Colonial Williamsburg thus far. More details and photos when I get home. (I promsie, Kwiz!)

Monday, March 28, 2011

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go

Windy City Limos is set to pull up to my front door in less than an hour. I am nervous and happy and excited and scared. I don't fly well, I really don't. My best friend is supposed to be back from celebrating spring break with his family today -- hope I am able to reach him before I board the plane. I could use a text of commonsense "dad talk." If I can't have that, I still have my Xanax!

Once I land in Richmond, all will be fine. I am eager to get to Colonial Williamsburg and settle into my "authentic historic accommodations." There are museums to explore and grounds to wander through and stores to pillage. (I need a new ring for my right hand -- I lost my beloved topaz last week but I didn't freak out because I know Williamsburg has terrific shopping and wouldn't a replacement be a great souvenir?)

Monday Movie Meme

Movie Madness. Share on your blog movies that feature maniacs, lunatics, psychos, crazed behavior or mentally tortured souls. And be sure to link back here to The Bumbles.

Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood. Vivian Abbott Walker is such a big personality that it takes two actresses -- Ashley Judd and Ellen Burstyn -- to play her. She's the ringleader of the Ya Yas, a group of Louisiana neighbors who grew up together from girlhood to through their teens and motherhood and beyond. Their rallying cry, "Ya Ya!" does make them seem more than a little crazy. Vivian is a lot crazy. At times her approach to life seems wild and unique and liberating. But at other times, it's indulgent and Vivian seems as immature as her children. One incident, when Vivian was being treated with a dangerous but very popular barbiturate called Milltown, is very dark and we see how quickly a colorful personality can slide into a dangerous one.

Barbra Streisand plays Claudia, a high-priced New York call girl. She kills a very nasty, abusive john, Leslie Nielsen. (I guess she called him "Shirley.") Claudia has issues. She's rebellious, stubborn, pushy and, well, nuts. Yet she insists she's fine, it's the rest of the world that's nuts. Richard Dreyfuss plays the attorney who defends her sanity in court.

Finally, in tribute to the late great Elizabeth Taylor, here's her greatest loony role: Cathy from Suddenly, Last Summer. It was quite shocking for 1959, and if not for the considerable artistic credibility of Katharine Hepburn and Liz's star power, it never would have been made. Hepburn is wealthy matriarch Violet Venable. She promises to donate a ton of money to Dr. Montgomery Clift's mental hospital if only he will lobotomize her troublesome niece, Liz Taylor. Hepburn tells Dr. Clift that Cathy is horny and hostile and keeps spouting "crazy talk" about what happened last summer, when she went traveling with Cousin Sebastian, an incredibly talented writer and Hepburn's beloved son. Sebastian died tragically last summer, but the story Liz recounts is so gothic, so sordid, so scandalous and nuts that it can't possibly be true, can it? Of course it can! After all, this is Tennessee Williams!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sunday Stealing

Cheers to all of us thieves!

26. Who has done something today to show they care about you? My mom asked thoughtful questions about my life

27. Do you have a lot to learn? Hell, yeah!

28. If you could learn how to do three things just by wishing and not by working what would they be? Become proficient in Spanish, ballroom dance, and the InDesign software program

29. Which do you remember the longest: what other people say, what other people do or how other people make you feel? How people make me feel.

30. What are the key ingredients to having a good relationship? Compassion, respect and fun

31. What 3 things do you want to do before you die? Run a 10K, lose weight, get organized

32. What three things would you want to die to avoid doing? Gain weight, become dependent, lose my teeth

33. Is there a cause you believe in more than any other cause? I'm a big fan of the American Humane Association. They protect kids and critters from neglect and abuse.

34. What does each decade make you think of:
1950s: Elvis; 1960s: Beatles; 1970s: Elton John; 1980s: Bruce; 1990s: The Clinton Era; 2000s: 9/11 & The Recession

35. Which decade do you feel the most special connection to and why? The 1960s. I love the Beatles and the clothes and the idealism

36. What is your favorite oldie/classic rock song? "Close your eyes and I'll kiss you, tomorrow I'll miss you ..." The Lads from Liverpool, of course

37. What country do you live in and who is the leader of that country? I live in Galtopia, and, as The Gal Herself, I lead it.

If you could say any sentence to the current leader of your country what would it be? Why are we in Afghanistan?

38. What's your favorite TV channel to watch in the middle of the night? The Hallmark Channel. I am enjoying the old Cheers episodes with Sam and Diane

39. What Disney villain are you the most like and why? Shenzi, the girl hyena from The Lion King. Because she clearly doesn't think she's bad. She's just fallen in with a "bad boy," Scar, who then blames her for everything. So then naturally she eats him alive. (Yes, I'm still in therapy. Why do you ask?)

40. Have you ever been a girl scout/boy scout? I was a Girl Scout and had badges all the way up the back of my sash. So there!

41. If you were traveling to another continent would you rather fly or take a boat? I'd rather stay here. But thanks for offering.

42. Why is the sky blue during the day and black at night? Why do birds sing so gay? Or lovers await the break of day? Why do we fall in love?

43. What does your name mean? "She who loves the Cubs"

44. Would you rather explore the deeps of the ocean or outer space? I'd rather stay here. But thanks for offering.

45. Word association

What is the first word that comes to mind when you see the word:

Air: Space

Meat: Ribeye

Different: Drum

Pink: Flowers

Deserve: "You get what you ...."

White: Whine

Elvis: King

Magic: Kingdom

Heart: of Gold

Clash: "London Calling"

Pulp: Fiction

46. If you could meet any person in the world who is dead who would you want it to be? JBKO, my all-time idol. Sister, I need some advice!

47. What if you could meet anyone who is alive? My beloved future Hall of Famer, and current Cubs consultant, Greg Maddux. Let's talk 2011, shall we?

48. Is there a movie that you love so much you could watch it everyday? The Godfather

49. You are going to be stuck alone in an elevator for a week. What do you bring to do? My laptop so I can fart around on the Internet

50. Have you ever saved someone's life or had your life saved? I saved my kid sister from drowning when we were swimming together. I was in high school, she would have been about 8.

Aw ...

This scene gets to me every time. I realize it's a retro/male rescue fantasy and I should reject it on a psycho-sexual, gender stereotype basis. But instead, I yell, "Way to go, Paula!"

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: A Long December

1. Looking back at it now, how were your holidays and your time on New Year's Eve? I rang in 2011 with a very good friend in Key West. What's not to love about that?

2. Do you have any unusual collections? I suppose I collect purses. I guess what makes it unusual is that I never intended to have "a collection." I just bought bags that made me happy. And many, many bags make me happy.

3. If you could train a machine to do one thing for you whenever you wanted, what would you have it do? I live on the top floor, and the laundry room is in the basement. Nothing bugs me more than hauling all my dirty clothes, as well as the detergent and fabric softener, etc., and finding all the machines are already in use. If there was a machine that could somehow tell me which washers and dryers were available before I make that long trek, I would be happy. Well, happier.

4. What is one thing that makes you cry? I'm not much of a crier.

5. What do you love to do on the weekend? Go to the movies.

6. Do you and your family get along? Ha! I'm getting along well with my mom these days. As for the rest of 'em? Eh.

7. Have you ever gotten kicked out somewhere? If yes, do tell. The Nixon Presidential Museum. I corrected the docent a time or two and she objected to this. Specifically in the section regarding the 1960 election. She didn't appreciate my help. Actually, I am rather proud of this event. Presidential Museums should not deal in rumor and innuendo. Too bad I never made it to the exhibit regarding Cambodia ...

8. Who do you normally turn to when you need to complain about something? My friends.

9. What is the last thing you ordered on-line? Burberry short winter boots. (Half off, end of season sale!)

Friday, March 25, 2011

He was gorgeous

I'm watching a golden oldie, Destry Rides Again, starring James Stewart. I am surprised anew by how sexy he was. For some reason, my first thoughts of him are always the silly, stammering old man I saw on talk shows when I was a kid. But in his prime he was lithe, graceful, smart and sensual. Remember that lovely scene in It's a Wonderful Life when George and Mary are sharing the phone, listening to the "Hee-Haw" guy from New York? Watch him respond to the smell of her hair, to her body next to his, and you can see him falling in love. Yes, James Stewart was sexy back in the day.


I am now officially on vacation. I have been looking forward to this trip for months. These past few days at work have been productive. I have stayed within my self-imposed limits -- with both money and calories. I have even finally gotten closure on the issue with the IRS and learned they will be sending me a check! So why am I feeling so ... vulnerable? Why have I suddenly been having macabre fantasies centering around my own violent demise? Yes, my thoughts have been running to all the horrible things that could happen to me in Colonial Williamsburg.

Fortunately I had a good therapy session last night. And, while I'm still burdened by the diffidence, at least I know the cause, and that helps. A lot.

So many people around me are in pain, both physical and emotional. My oldest friend and her turbulent children ... my friends John, Kathleen and Ed ... even my shrink herself. I have been wondering why I have been spared ... and worried that my luck will soon run out.

I get angry at myself for being too judgmental about those I love and fear I'll be punished for it. I get frustrated and furious with situations I can't fix. I'm terrified of air travel. These are familiar topics for her and me: my need to control and "fix things," my reluctance to simply accept myself and others the way we are, and that sadness is the downside of caring so deeply for others.

So now I know. And now I can chill out and wait for it to past. And know that come tomorrow, or maybe Sunday, I'll be in fine form to leave for my vacation on Monday morning.

Now this makes me happy!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

If I drove, I'd drive a Subaru

Because of this commercial. I know it's been running for about six months, but it still gets to me every time. "Daddy OK."

In praise of the Peach Bowl ... and restraint

It's peach liqueur, orange juice and a lot of ice and I love it. I snuck away at lunch to a real restaurant, dined leisurely and without interruption on food that was brought to me by a server, sipped a cocktail as I read my book. It was $19, including tip. It was glorious.

Whereas I used to indulge in this practice about once a week, this is the first time I've done it since January 18. That's my austerity initiative for you. Not to mention that this one meal alone was more than 1500 calories.

I think I appreciate it more as a treat. Plus, as much as I enjoyed it, it's not really worth 6,500 calories and $82.33 each month, which is what I estimate I was wasting by doing this weekly.

Bad choices

Spoke to my oldest friend today. She's weary and overwhelmed. Her daughter is home, and that's good. But the high school called my friend in for a very serious conference -- counselor, principal, and mental health consultant of some sort. They told her that her daughter is severely depressed, smoking during school and that her truancy is on the verge of becoming a legal problem. My friend felt attacked, ganged up on, emotionally depleted. So she brought her 21-year-old son along. Not only to drive her to the meeting (she shouldn't get behind the wheel because of her incapacitated arm and her the pain killers), but to give her reinforcement. This was such a mistake. Part of her daughter's problem is that she believes her mother loves her older brother more. Also, he has his own anxiety/anger issues. A high-school drop out and anorexic (nearly 6', he once got down to 113 lbs.), it wasn't that long ago (12/2008) that he was actually committed for a few days. It's not wise for her to lean on him so. He cannot handle it.

What is she thinking? I told her she should ask her cousin to come along to these things. That woman is an adult, a mother herself. Besides, she moved 2000 miles to California just to be closer to this cousin. My oldest friend says, "She'd come if I really needed her." I couldn't help laughing. How much worse can this situation get?

At any rate, the school had a separate, one-on-one with her daughter today. As I understand it (the meeting hadn't taken place yet when we spoke), the school will explain to the girl that if she doesn't participate in counseling and follow whatever pharmaceutical regimen her pediatrician prescribes for her, her mother (my oldest friend) will be brought before a judge to explain why not. And then the State of California will decide how best to handle her. The high school freshman will be told that judges tend to be very strict, and reform school is not an impossibility.

I told my friend that, as much as she loathes him, she has to call her ex-husband and discuss together what they will do. Their daughter will have just begun therapy when it's interrupted first for spring break and then summer vacation, two extended periods that will find the girl here in Chicago. My friend maintains she simply can't do it.

I know she's tired, sad and sick. But I also know that if she blows this, she will look back on her behavior at this critical juncture and be angry at herself, and she'll become more depressed. I've seen this before -- back in Summer 2009, when she thought she had completely screwed up with her son and her romantic relationship, she literally wanted to die. I'm not kidding: she had gall bladder surgery and prayed to die on the table. Today, in 2011, she has two messed-up kids, messed-up finances, a tenuous job situation and no lover. I worry so about how she's going to feel when this month is receding in her rear view mirror and she reviews her behavior. I worry about it a lot.

Image: Michal Marcol /

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

60 Things You Can't Possibly Know About Me

Liberated from Kwizgiver

1. What is in the back seat of your car right now? Nothing. No car.

2. When was the last time you threw up? Mid-December. It was a Monday morning. I was in Beverly Hills, the first to puke in my oldest friend's new apartment. I had a migraine.

3. What's your favorite word or phrase? "What the fu ...."

4. Name 3 people who made you smile today? The little kid in the orange jacket and hood, Ken the Maintenance Man, Carlos

5. What were you doing at 8 am this morning? Saying a little prayer for LaLiz

6. What were you doing 30 minutes ago? Riding home on the el, seated uncomfortably in front of a homeless man who made walrus noises with his mouth for no apparent reason

8. Have you ever been to a strip club? Yes

9. What is the last thing you said aloud? "That's it for the Gourmet Grill" (I was feeding the cats)

10. What is the best ice cream flavor? Mint chocolate chip

11. What was the last thing you had to drink? Water

12. What are you wearing right now? My nightshirt

13. What was the last thing you ate? Lean Cuisine Rigatoni

14. Have you bought any new clothing items this week? no

15. When was the last time you ran? Friday, February 11. I almost missed the train.

16. What's the last sporting event you watched? Last weekend the Bulls and someone

17. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? Boston or Atlanta

19. Ever go camping? yes, and I don't ever need to go again (Kwiz' answer, and it applies)

20. Have you ever lost anything down a toilet? Yes. I swallowed a gold crown. It cost me hundreds of dollars to replace, but there are some things that I simply won't do for money.

22. What is your guilty pleasure? The after-midnight sitcom reruns on the Hallmark Channel

23. Do you use smiley faces on the computer a lot? No

24. Do you drink your soda from a straw? Only when I get fountain drinks

25. What did your last text message say? "OK"

26. Are you someone's best friend? yes

27. What are you doing tomorrow? I have a lot of meetings and a shrink appointment

28. Where is your mom right now? At her house

29. Look to your left, what do you see? My green lamp

30. What color is your watch? Today's watch is silver with a deep blue face

31. What do you think of when you think of Australia? Hugh Jackman

32. Ever ridden on a roller coaster? yes

33. Birthstone? Topaz

34. Do you go in at a fast food place or just hit the drive through? Go in

35. Do you have any friends on facebook that you actually hate? No

36. Do you have a dog? No, but I wish I did

37. Last person you talked to on the phone? Kathleen

38. Have you met anyone famous? Yes. I met Bruce Springsteen in 1981. And in 1982 I hung around by the stage door after a matinee and saw Elizabeth Taylor leave the (then) Shubert Theater, where she and Burton were appearing in Private Lives. She was wearing a big caftan and carrying a parrot in a cage. She certainly was a colorful character!

39. Any plans today? American Idol

40. From whom did you get this? Ms. Kwiz

41. Are you happy? yes

42. Where are you right now? My spot on the sofa

43. Biggest annoyance in your life right now? That I have to go to all those meetings tomorrow

44. Last song listened to? I fantasize that I can play the piano when I listen to this

45. Last movie you saw? Blue Valentine
46. Are you allergic to anything? Bee sting and morphine (my but that sounds like quite a combo, doesn't it?)

47. Favorite pair of shoes you wear all the time? Roxy flats

48. Are you jealous of anyone? Yes

49. Are you married? No

50. Is anyone jealous of you? I suspect so

51. What time is it? 7:39

52. Do any of your friends have children? Yes

53. Do you eat healthy? I'm making a renewed effort in this area

54. What do you usually do during the day? Sit at the computer

55. Do you hate anyone right now? No

56. Do you use the word 'hello' daily? Yes

57. How many kids do you want when you're older? When I'm older? Please! The Baby Ship has sailed.

58. How old will you be turning on your next birthday? 54

59. Have you ever been to Six Flags? Yes

60. How did you get one of your scars? Like most boomers, I got a vaccination

I Want Wednesday

I want the cubs at Firefox Live to stop growing up! They are far more sedentary, far less playful these days, and soon they will be moved outdoors with the adults. I have enjoyed these two darlings so much. I hate that their youth is ending so quickly.

Farewell, Old Girl

Elizabeth Taylor died this morning. Her life was certainly well, even extravagantly, lived. Yet I feel kinda bad. Partly because it's the end of an era. And partly because I truly did enjoy her work. Here's a post I did, years ago. Consider this my tribute.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

An appreciation of La Liz

When I was growing up, Liz Taylor was one of the most famous women in the world. Jackie Kennedy Onassis was her only competition. Princess Grace and Sophia Loren certainly had their fans, but when it came to dominating magazine covers, Liz and Jackie were in a class by themselves.

Jackie is a woman I always admired. Stylish and stoic, smart and enigmatic, she is still the lady I wish I could be. Liz, on the other hand, had become a garish joke. She and Burton always seemed to be drinking, fighting and smoking. She wore mu-mus and obscenely big diamonds and too much makeup. Her movies sucked.

But then I discovered her old movies, and suddenly I understood what all the fuss was about. She might not ever have been a great actress, but for a time she was a most compelling movie star. Did they coin the phrase, "she makes love to the camera" about her? If they didn't, they could have. Her cinematic charisma is genuine and powerful, like a force of nature.

She herself once said, "Some of my best leading men have been dogs and horses," and that's certainly true of her child-star years. She's so affectionate and natural when she throws her arms around Lassie or The Pie that you remember that your first great love was was four-legged, too.

Her teen movies are all pretty dopey, as MGM teen movies tended to be. The only one I've watched more than once is Little Women. She made a terrifically selfish, yet somehow lovable, blonde Amy.

Then she grew up, and her beauty was breathtaking. Father of the Bride and Father's Little Dividend show her as this ideal little 1950s girl. She had no aspirations in the world beyond being a good daughter, then a beautiful bride, a supportive wife and a loving mom.

Then came A Place in the Sun. She is fabulous in this film, literally the embodiment of the American dream. She made a ton of really great movies during this period. She came to dominate the screen and seem somehow more modern, more vibrant and more carnal than anyone around her. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Giant, Suddenly Last Summer, even Butterfield 8 (a movie she hates) are all watchable and rewatchable because of her.

Then there's her Martha. Her work in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is the high water mark of her career. This was the perfect material for her contemporary, carnal qualities and she is simply brilliant. I had the opportunity to see Virginia Woolf live a few weeks back. Kathleen Turner was ill that night, so I don't know if her live Martha could have eclipsed Liz' cinematic creation. But the understudy who played the part was unable to erase the memory of Liz's boozy voice barking out those lines.

Now when you think of Liz, it's easy to dismiss her as silly. Her friendship with Michael Jackson, her weight gain, her ceaseless health problems, her addictions, her jewelry. I understand this because when I was growing up, I thought she at best irrelevant and at worst frivolous.

But then I saw her work, and I'm the better for it. Thank you, Dame Elizabeth, for some indelible screen moments.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

10 on Tuesday

10 Vacation Facts

I am excited about my vacation (one week from today I'll be in the Spa at Colonial Williamsburg, getting a reflexology treatment and my spring pedi). So my 10 on Tuesday reflects my current fixation.

1) August is the most popular month for leisure travel

2) Thanksgiving weekend remains the most popular single weekend for travel

3) It's a good thing most of us travel domestically, because 2/3 of Americans do not have a passport

4) For those of us with the proper documentation, Paris is the top international vacation spot for Americans

5) It's no surprise that Orlando is the most popular vacation spot in the country, thanks mostly to a certain mouse and his magic kingdom

6) For families with teenagers, Smugglers' Notch Resort in Vermont is recommended. In winter there's downhill and cross country skiing, airboarding, dog sledding and skating. Summer boasts biking, hiking, and four water slides eight heated pools. And there are adults-only hot tubs and teens-only game rooms.

7) Fisher Island Resort near Miami is this year's hottest spot for a romantic getaway. Once the private estate of the Vanderbilts, it's on an exclusive island that can only be accessed by ferry, boat or helicopter. Once you get to the resort, there are beaches, racquetball/tennis courts, a full spa, restaurants and a piano bar.

8) The Palms Place is the busiest luxury spa in the US. It looks nice enough, but I think it's where people to go to relax after partying, not simply to relax.

9) Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, CA, is considered America's premier shopping destination.

10) New York City is the most popular destination of foreigners coming to the US for leisure travel. Broadway, Times Square and Central Park are the must-sees.

Oh, I don't know

Should we be involved with Libya? I don't know. I really don't. We're fighting a homicidal madman that the world would be better without, that's for sure. But what about Afghanistan and Iraq? How much war can wage at once?

This is too big for this country girl to fathom. Good luck to you, Mr. President. Ever wish you were still Illinois' junior Senator? (There's a famous story about President Lincoln. A citizen demanded to see him in the White House and somehow managed to bully and cajole his way past the guards to see The Man Himself. Since Lincoln was busy -- that pesky Civil War took up a lot of time, after all -- he was surprised to see this visitor. The man explained his presence by saying, "I voted for you. I put you in the White House!" To which Lincoln replied wearily, "I forgive you.")

Anyway, while I don't know how I feel about the conflict, I know I support our troops. Which is why this afternoon I am sneaking down to the post office and mail off a package to Operation Shoebox. A couple of paperbacks, some sample-sized tubes of body lotion, a tube of toothpaste, some handiwipes ... Nothing that feels of much value to me, but stuff I hope will brighten the day of soldiers willing to risk life and limb for us.

Monday, March 21, 2011

And the beat goes on

I haven't heard from my oldest friend since last week. That's really not like her. I know she had a follow-up doctor's appointment last Wednesday and worried that perhaps it didn't go well and she had been readmitted to the hospital. No, that wasn't it.

Last Saturday, her 21-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter got into a huge argument over something, and her daughter moved out. She went to a Sweet 16 party and then .... nothing. She has her phone turned off and my friend can't find her. She did speak to the mother of the girl turning 16, who reassured her that her daughter was fine on Sunday when she disappeared with a group of other partygoers and had said something about "crashing." The other mom thought my friend knew about this.

My oldest friend is exhausted and weak and loopy on pain meds. She feels that under the circumstances, she can no longer control or adequately raise her daughter and is sending her back here to Chicagoland to live with her father.

I suppose that's the best option. Except, of course, the kid has to come home before she can be shipped off. And she has put her mother and brother on notice that she's never coming home.

No one has as much drama in her life as my oldest friend. Her health is compromised. Her job is tenuous. Her finances are a mess. Her oldest son is a high school drop out with anger and anxiety issues. And her daughter is a handful.

It doesn't matter that much of this is of her own creation. It's still taking its toll on her. There has to be a way to rectify at least part of it, but I'll be damned if I can come up with any solutions.

He's an old man

Saw my friend, John, briefly at lunch today. He's very thin, very gray, and ambles slowly with a cane. I was shocked.

Yes, he's been very ill lately -- and very slow to mend. He spent an additional 3 nights in the hospital earlier this month because of debilitating fatigue and his blood pressure was dangerously low. But since he's back at the office, working half days, I was expecting him to look more robust. He doesn't.

Even though I'm naturally a worrier, I'm trying not to freak out. He's seeing both an internist and a cardiologist regularly, and Northwestern Medical Center is one of the best hospitals in the country (ranked in the top 10% in 80 different areas). He has good insurance and his employers are being most supportive. Though I did see a newly dead bird on the way back -- it had flown into a skyscraper -- and am trying not to see that as a sign of something dire.

Instead I'm trying to view this as an object lesson. John is less than 5 years my senior. And suddenly he's an old man! I must value my health more and work harder at getting back into shape. I don't want to be old and gray and I don't want to walk with a cane.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Movie Monday -- All About Food

Share on your blog movies that are about growing, cooking, serving, eating or any other function of food, linking back here at the Bumbles.

I concentrated on food served during movie date nights ...

Lady and Tramp. Has there ever been a more romantic spaghetti dinner?

Psycho. Perhaps the least roma
ntic movie meal ever -- Marion's last meal is a sandwich with Norman in the Bates Motel. When you know what's coming, it's a very creepy scene. Here's a woman whose last name is Crane eating a chicken sandwich while sitting beneath taxidermist Norman's stuffed birds. Think wily old Hitchcock is doing a little foreshadowing here?

Jerry Maguire. Couch-jumping antics aside, Tom Cruise can be a compelling screen presence. I love the scene in Jerry Maguire, early on, when he's trying to have a real conversation with the very-willing-to-be-wooed Dorothy, despite the mariachis.

The Jerk. I love Steve Martin handling the waiter at the French restaurant. First he wants "fresh wine," from this year, none of t
his old, vintage stuff. Then he freaks out because there are snails on his date's plate! But he's onto the condescending waiter: "He doesn't realize he's dealing with sophisticated people here."

Sunday Stealing

Cheers to all of us thieves!

1. Who are you? I woke up in a Soho doorway, a policeman knew my name ...

2. What are the 3 most important things everyone should know about you? I love the Beatles, I bleed Cubbie blue, and I'm a registered Democrat.

3. When you aren't memes like this one what are you doing? Reading, watching TV, yapping on the phone, petting a cat ...

4. List your classes in school from the ones you like the most to the ones you like the least (or if you are out of school, think of the classes you did like and didn't like at the time). English, Social Studies, Art, Science, Music, Math, Gym

5. What is your biggest goal for this year? To get my finances and weight under control. As Dean Wormer said, "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life."

6. Where do you want to be in 5 years? Right here on this couch. Though I hope by then I'll have it reupholstered.

7. What stage of life are you in right now? Like most Baby Boomers, I'm in denial.

8. Are you more child-like or childish? Childish

9. What is the last thing you said out loud? "Bye."

10. What song comes closest to how you feel about your life right now? I get frustrated when people care so much more about others in far away places than they do for their neighbors, who are suffering, too.

11. Have you ever taken martial arts classes? Nope

12. Does your life tend to get better or worse or does it just stay the same? Yes. I mean, life is pretty fluid. I have felt each of these ways at one point or another.

13. Does time really heal all wounds? Yes. And, as Groucho said, it also wounds all heels.

14. How do you handle a rainy day? I grab an umbrella.

15. Which is worse...losing your luggage or having to sort out tangled holiday lights? Losing my luggage! Definitely!

16. How is (or was) your relationship with your parents? My mom and I have always been pretty close. My dad and I always had a hard time with one another.

17. Do you tend to be aware of what is going on around you? Sure. I mean, if I wasn't, would I even know I wasn't?

18. What is the truest thing that you know? That it's always my life, and ultimately it's up to me to make it what I want it to be.

19. What did you want to be when you grew up? A great singer. Unfortunately, I'm completely tone deaf.

20. Have you ever been given a second chance? I'm sure I have, but nothing specific comes to mind.

21. Are you more of a giver or a taker? I try to be more of a giver. I don't know how successful I am.

22. Do you make your decisions with an open heart/mind? I try to.

23. What is the most physically painful thing that has ever happened to you? My uterine fibroid embolization. Want to hear about it? I didn't think so.

24. What is the most emotionally painful thing that has ever happened to you? There have been break ups that broke my heart.

25. Who have you hugged today? My cat Joey.

She's at it again

My oldest friend's Ohio friend is a hostile nut. I would detail some of the sturm und drang, but you wouldn't believe it. I've been there every step of the way and sometimes even I don't believe what happened. There's been online bullying and retribution and lies and secrets and literally thousands of dollars (money my friend could ill afford) that was supposed to cover their mutual friend's rent but actually went for an transatlantic plane ticket and holiday. It was awful. My oldest friend assures me she's out of this woman's thrall, but with all the problems my oldest friend has had lately, I can't afford to trust it. So I have been checking this woman's Facebook page and blog. I am protective of my fragile oldest friend and I want to make sure that all that crap truly is in the past.

This Ohio woman hates President Obama and speaks about him in the most disrespectful ways.
Today she went off on "Obamarama" and called him "a puppet" and likened Gaddafi to "Saddam Barack Hussein."

I appreciate that there are other opinions out there, and I respect them when they are based in fact and ideology. That's what makes this country great. BUT this woman's problems with Obama stem from her crazy "birther" sentiments. She's called him "the Kenyan" and has likened him to Hitler.

I suspect that this woman isn't mad at Obama at all, but feels powerless in other areas of her life. He's just a convenient target for her rage. I think that's the same motivation for all the dust she kicks up in her online community.

But just as she's oblivious to the pain (and expense) she caused my oldest friend in the past, I don't think she gets how inappropriate her online attacks on the President are ... from a teacher. She doesn't have privacy settings on either her blog or her Facebook page, and she posts this crap under her own name and beside her own photo. I can't imagine how I'd feel, were I the parent of a middle school student, to see that one of my kids' teachers behaves in this angry way, a way with not-so-subtle racial overtones.

I just hope my oldest friend really is well rid of this sad, silly, dangerous woman, and that someday soon I won't feel compelled to read her mind-numbing poison.

And please, if you want to comment, you're welcome to do so. There's no need to be anonymous.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


That's how much I paid for Dino Safari Play Set at CVS -- after my discount and coupon. I am not going to let my new austerity initiative ruin any child's Christmas. I mean, wasting too much money on too many handbags and too many vodka-inis over the last two years can't/won't stop me from dropping a ton o' stuff into the bins at local toy drives. I just have to be vigilant and creative all year around, that's all.

So far I have Snow White Ballerina Barbie, a Strawberry Shortcake "Berry Sweet" Play Set, and the Winter Dreams Lipsmacker Collection. I thought my Christmas 2011 gift bag was skewing a little girly, so I picked this up.

None cost more than $5 on sale!
I feel like quite the intrepid toy hunter.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: You Were Meant For Me

1. Have you ever felt that you were “made” for someone or some purpose? I am gifted when it comes to critters. We have a natural rapport, so I feel I was made to be a pet parent.

2. What do you do when you have a problem that you can't do anything about it? Talk to one of my friends. Or confide in my shrink. Sometimes hearing myself talk about it gives me a fresh perspective and the way becomes clearer.

3. If marijuana were to be legalized, do you think it should be taxed? Sure

4. What is one thing you should never do on a first date? Bring him back to your place. You always want to be able to slip away if it suddenly stops going well.

5. If someone (at gunpoint) forced you to receive a portrait tattoo of someone, who would it be? My all-time heroine, JBKO.

6. Is tomorrow going to be a good day? Sure. Like Annie sang, "Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love 'ya, tomorrow! You're always a day away ..."

7. Anything fabulous happen to you last night? Nope.

8. For a few years in a row, you receive a nice tax refund: do you make an adjustment with your payroll deduction so they’ll take less, or do you leave it that way so that you can continue to receive the big check every spring? I leave it the way it is. I know it doesn't make sound fiscal sense, but I have a reason. If I end up doing freelance-for-pay, I don't want to find myself owing.

9. When was the last time you had butterflies in your stomach? Before an early-morning client presentation. I wasn't worried about the public speaking part of it. I was concerned that we wouldn't get there in time.

I like apples

Found this over at Endomental.

Your Inner Fruit Flavor is Apple

You are a late bloomer, and you may be coming into your own right now.

You follow your own path, and the turns you take are often unexpected and inspired.

You are goal driven but patient. You know that the journey is just as important as the destination.

You feel different from everyone else, and that's okay. You're happy to rock your own style.

In praise of my cheap polyester sheets

Yes, they're almost shiny. And yes, I feel like I may just slide out of bed. And I realize that in warmer weather I may feel like they're sticking to me. But after a week I still love my new polyester (that's 100% poly, not poly/cotton) sheets. Here's why:

1) The little pale blue peace symbols and hearts. I think they were designed for a little girl with a full-sized bed, but never mind. Ever since I saw HAIR, I am into peace symbols again.

2) They dry instantly.

3) Even after laundering, they haven't shrunk one iota and the fitted sheet still fits neatly over my mattress.

4) They were soooooo cheap on sale. Like 60% off.

Ok, so now I've seen it

I have spent part of my sick day watching the Taylor-Burton Cleopatra. I have been reading about this film for as long as I can remember, but haven't ever watched it till today.

Elizabeth Taylor in her prime is so beautiful that it's ridiculous -- almost as ridiculous as her eye makeup and headdresses. (Trust me, the two at right are tasteful. Wish I could find a shot of her truly trippy serpent skull cap.) Richard Burton's acting is so over the top that you long for Marlon Brando's Antony in Julius Caesar. Brando delivered his lines as though he was Antony and the thoughts were spontaneously occurring to him. Burton makes sure we all realize he's reciting speeches.

But it's fun to let your mind wander as you watch, trying to guess scene by scene if Liz and Dick had started doing it in their dressing rooms yet.

Trust me, the making of this movie is juicier and sexier to read about than the final product is to endure.


Woke up with a bitch of a headache! I swallowed some meds and now I think all I need is some uninterrupted sleep. Hope I can skip the nauseous part ...

Image: m_bartosch /

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Grab a hankie

Had lunch today with my friend Ed. He's the one with newly-wed daughter, now 25, who has been battling leukemia for the last six months or so. He talked about how brave she's been throughout this ordeal, but that every now and again it wears her out and she gets sad, weepy and childlike.

Which is why, every time Ed and his wife go to New York to stay their daughter as she recovers from chemo, they remember to pack "Pink Baby."

Their little girl was never much for words -- her gifts ran to music and art. So they weren't surprised by the unimaginative name she gave her favorite baby doll: "Pink Baby" was so named for her pink dress and bonnet. Back when she was in preschool she couldn't sleep if Pink Baby wasn't beside her.

So now, when Mama and Daddy pick her up at the hospital after another round of chemo and tuck her into bed with Pink Baby beside her, she knows it's OK to give in to the weakness, pain and fear and let the love and comfort she gets from her parents and her baby doll work like a balm.

I wish Ed's life was going more smoothly. Three years ago, he survived a bout with cancer himself. Shortly thereafter, he lost his job. The strain of their daughter's illness, his unemployment, her being the sole breadwinner and the cost of flying to and from New York every month has caused a certain strain between them. I suppose that's to be expected -- they are each only human and doing the best they can under horrible circumstances. But still, it makes me sad. And I'm so fucking sick of money worries -- my own and everyone else's!

Thank goodness for the bizarre, wacky news story that this company finds itself at the center of. If a public display of kink can't distract you from the problems at hand, nothing can!

They speak Spanish in Costa Rica

My best friend is off to Costa Rica on Thursday morning. He, his wife and his younger daughter are off to meet up with his older girl, who has been there a week already with a group from school. (She's an exceptional young lady, very serious about community service. So far this week, she and her classmates have helped out at an organic paper factory and a tree conservancy, visited a bat refuge, hiked a lot and seen tarantulas and wild boar.) As a family they will visit a volcano and the rainforest and then soak up the sun for a few days at a beach resort.

These are memories they'll cherish forever and I'm happy for him. I miss him, too.

Between his daughter's school trip and this week en famille, March is a very expensive month for them. Plus they're visiting Martha's Vineyard this June with friends they met through their daughters' private school. This couple -- a hedge fund manager and a lawyer -- are wealthy and, it seems, can afford to travel often. The two families went skiing together in Beaver Creek over Thanksgiving and spent a long Presidents' Day weekend in Crested Butte.

My friend doesn't make much more than I do and his wife is a stay-at-home mom. In order to afford all this, they are going to have to pass on Jazz Fest in New Orleans, an annual trip with his sister, her husband and their kids. It's too bad, but we all have to admit that sometimes we can't afford to live the way our friends do (witness me and Barb last week).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My first Idol post of the season

I like J.Lo as a judge. I didn't expect to, but I do. She's very into it, and her comments are compassionate but relevant. Kind of like an earthbound, sane Paula. Steven Tyler simply cracks me up. He's just as eccentric as I expected him to be. And I still don't care much for Randy, Dawg.

Anyway, I liked Haley's "I'm Your Baby Tonight," even though she left the judges lukewarm. Maybe it's because I always liked that song and haven't heard it in a while ...

Same with Casey's "Feels Like Teen Spirit." It's a cool song that I haven't heard in forever, and I might be responding more to the song than the performance. But still, I thought Casey sounded genuine. "Here we are now/entertain us."

I thought Stefano's "If You Don't Know Me By Now" was completely hitsville. Love the song, love the performance.

Lauren's "I'm the Only One" was great. (How can Melissa Etheridge possibly be gay when we've clearly slept with the same guys?) Her voice was sensual and passionate.

Don't know how I feel about Paul. He is, as Steven said, the very definition of a "cool dude in a loose mood." His Elton cover was memorable but ... a little precious and pretentious. But maybe he'll grow on me. Same with James' Bon Jovi cover. He seemed to working too hard on bringing a rocker/crazy personality to the Idol stage. You, James, are no Daughtry.

The rest? I didn't love 'em or hate 'em. They just didn't stand out for me.

But it's early. I take my Idol very seriously and reserve the right to completely change my mind about everybody next week!

"I'm wearing glasses, so I'm serious."

Yesterday this agency suffered another dozen layoffs. This morning we had a huge meeting to clear the air about it, which was nice. We have endured a certain amount of public scrutiny recently, and it was good to get the news from management instead of the blogosphere.

After the BIG meeting, we had our weekly staff meeting. One of my more enduringly annoying coworkers seems to been shaken up by this last round because she showed up wearing her glasses and asking remedial questions about a project we have been working on since November.

I know she was trying to make an impression and she did. I'm just not sure it's the one she meant to make.

And this is part of why I wish my vacation would just get here. I need an attitude adjustment.

Image: Michal Marcol /

I Want Wednesday

I want to be on vacation. I want the next week and a half to zoom by. There, I said it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Radiation Surge Forces Works to Suspend Nuclear Containment Efforts"

Workers at a quake-damaged atomic power plant suspended operations and evacuated Wednesday after a surge in radiation made it too dangerous to remain there, dealing a setback to Japan’s frantic efforts to stem a nuclear crisis.

"All the workers there have suspended their operations. We have urged them to evacuate, and they have," Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano said, according to a translation by NHK television.

Edano said that a surge in radiation Wednesday morning meant workers were unable to continue even minimal efforts at the stricken nuclear plant.

About 45 minutes later, though, radiation levels near the plant came back down, he said. It's possible that evaporation from reactor No. 3 may have caused the temporary surge, Edano said, although that can't be immediately confirmed.The cabinet secretary added that there was no need to broaden the overall evacuation radius around the nuclear complex.

Is it possible to break the earth? Have we ruined the planet? Now what? This is too scary.

With friends like these, I shoulda been a nurse

Let's see now ...

My friend John had a setback and wound up back in the hospital. After two months off work, battling an infection, he returned to the office on Valentine's Day. Now, a mere month later, he is once again too weak for a 40-hour workweek and is back to half days.

My former admin, Amy, is in the hospital as we speak. She had surgery on her bowels and when she leaves the hospital, she will need a colostomy bag. I feel bad because she's so young for this (45). But she's had gut trouble for as long as I've known her. If this procedure alleviates that, after decades, it may be a blessing.

My oldest friend is still very loopy. She's recovering from wrist/elbow surgery four days ago. She told me her ankles have swollen and that it might be a reaction to the pain meds, or maybe kidney failure. She's going to the doctor tomorrow. If I seem nonchalant about this development, it's only because she's being very devil may care about it herself. Mostly she wanted to talk about a Three Stooges DVD she received as a "get well" gift.

My Aunt Jo had her gall bladder removed a couple weeks ago. Her recovery was proceeding according to plan until she overdid it at WalMart. She was so happy to be out and about, grocery shopping, that hurt herself while pushing her cart and is back in bed (though it's a bed in her home, not a hospital).


I keep trying to find the pony in all this. I have concluded that it's this: at least none of my loved ones are in Japan.

10 on Tuesday

Ten "green" things I do regularly. In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I'm wearing green all week. But that's not the kind of green I'm thinking of. These are the planet-benefiting habits.

1) CFL bulbs throughout the house.

2) I recycle paper, plastic and aluminium.

3) With Shout Color Catchers, I'm able to combine whites and (most) bright colors. This way I reduce the number of loads of laundry I do each week. (I still wash deep navys and blacks separately, though.)

4) I wash everything in cold water on the energy-saving setting.

5) Woolite Dry Cleaner's Secret reduces the number of garments I take to the cleaners.

6) When I do go to the cleaners, I return the wire hangers.

7) I bring my own canvas bag to the store (when I think of it).

8) If I do leave the store with a plastic bag, I make good use of it at home -- either when I clean the litter box or for holding recyclables until I take them down to the bins downstairs.

9) Weather and time permitting, I take mass transit instead of cabs.

10) At the office, I chug tap water from a big old reusable water bottle.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to stretch. I think I may have strained something, patting myself on the back for my virtuous, tree-hugging ways.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Close to home

I was at my local food pantry Saturday, dropping off a bag of canned goods and mac and cheese and condiments, etc. It's the first time I had been there in a month. I was struck by how busy they were, according to the staff it's the continuing aftermath of February's Big Snow.

Yes, it's melted and gone. But the snow is still making itself felt by families who live paycheck to paycheck -- and missed three days' wages because of the storm. Apparently the more kids a family has, the bigger the impact on the food budget, because these families depend on school lunches and with school closed for three days, they had to pay for three meals/kid themselves.

I know ... I know ... compared to the devastation you see on TV from Japan, this is nothing. At least these folks still have solid ground beneath their feet and roofs over their heads and they know their kids are warm and dry. But these are our neighbors. They still need our help. And we still have kids who need somewhere safe to go after school, veterans who need our support, diseases like diabetes and Parkinson's that require research, and animal shelters that are considered unimportant as budgets -- both governmental and personal -- are slashed. Now, when an earthquake/tsunami is devastating Japan, it's easy to forget about the relentless, day-to-day need here at home.

So I just hope that as you open your hearts and wallets to those in Japan (here's a link for Save the Children and their Earthquake Tsunami Children in Emergency Fund), you don't forget the problems closer to home. I mean, I bet you could toss an extra can of beans or soup into your shopping cart every time you shop without noticing its impact on your bill. Soon you'll have a heavy bag to take to your local food pantry.

Vacation Prep

Two weeks from today I will return to Colonial Williamsburg for my annual spa getaway -- along with a heaping teaspoon of historical geekiness.

I'm getting ready to go. I have my accommodations booked and my spa reservations made. (The first day will be devoted to my feet, with a reflexology massage and a pedi; the second day is all warmth, with a hot stone massage and steamy facial.) And today I booked my limo rides to and from both O'Hare and Richmond Airport.

Last time I was at the local library I grabbed a random Cat Who ... book. I'm not reading them in order -- I just check out whichever one I find on the shelf. This time I left with The Cat Who Went Up the Creek. One of the characters, Polly, is visiting Colonial Williamsburg! I just read the postcard from the Governor's Palace she sent to our hero, Qwill. So I'm considering this slender volume part of my vacation prep, too.

Image: xedos4 /