Thursday, July 31, 2014

NOT happy!

Looks like I'm entering August and the Happiness Challenge with a cold. I'm sneezing and my throat is scratchy. DAMMIT!

Image: tigger11th /

July Journal Challenge

Day 31 -- Celebration

Right now I want to celebrate "these kids today." Specifically two young women.

Today a very young adult (16? 18?) who was is visiting Chicago with her girlfriends stopped en route to Millennium Park. On the busy corner of Michigan and Randolph sat a young man holding a sign that read: "Please help. When you have nothing, anything is a blessing. I SUCK AT LIFE." She said something to her girlfriends in their native tongue. The girls nodded, as if they were agreeing to wait for her. Then she opened her backpack and removed an unopened bottle of water, a box of crackers and an energy bar and gave it to the man. She was so matter of fact about her generosity toward a man many Chicagoans don't even see and it was very moving.

Then Tuesday, at the health club, a woman of about 21 or 22 came barreling into the lockerroom after her workout, furious. It seems some guy was trying to chat her up by bashing Hillary Clinton. "Don't even go there, I warned him!" She went on to say he asked her if she was "a feminist, as if it was a dirty word!" I loved two things about her: 1) she was in exquisite shape and probably could have broken him like a twig and 2) her passion.

In my heart I thank them both for giving me faith.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July Journal Challenge

Day 30 -- How today felt


My boss literally has not looked at or spoken to me this week. I've heard through the grapevine that he had a terrible family vacation last week, so maybe it doesn't have anything to do with me. Except ....

There's a big client presentation on the horizon and no one is talking to me (or, to be fair, my immediate team) about it. A well-connected kid, the son of one of our client's, was in Chicago today to learn about working as a writer at an agency. My boss had him speak to one of our creative directors and a market researcher but not me. Both of these things leave me feeling very uncomfortable -- even though it's like not being invited to a party you didn't want to go to.

So I've gone from hoping for a raise last week to hoping not to be fired this week.


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

• What are you currently reading? At Risk by Patricia Cornwell. It's the first Cornwell I've read in ages that didn't revolve around Kay Scarpetta. I haven't even cracked it open yet, so to provide an overview of what it's about, I turn to B&N:
A Massachusetts state investigator is called home from Knoxville, Tennessee, where he is completing a course at the National Forensic Academy. His boss, the district attorney, attractive but hard-charging, is planning to run for governor, and as a showcase she’s planning to use a new crime initiative called At Risk -- its motto: “Any crime, any time.” In particular, she’s been looking for a way to employ cutting-edge DNA technology, and she thinks she’s found the perfect subject in an unsolved twenty-year-old murder -- in Tennessee. If her office solves the case, it ought to make them all look pretty good, right? Her investigator is not so sure -- not sure about anything to do with this woman, really -- but before he can open his mouth, a shocking piece of violence intervenes, an act that shakes up not only both their lives but the lives of everyone around them. It’s not a random event. Is it personal? Is it professional? Whatever it is, the implications are very, very bad indeed . . . and they’re about to get much worse.
• What did you recently finish reading?  Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly. Our heroine, Natty, has a perfect if hectic life -- running a successful bed-and-breakfast with her husband Sean and raising her two teenage daughters. Then two unexpected events take place: Natty's closest college buddy, Eve, turns up on her doorstep and one of her daughters gets sick on an out-of-town field trip. Natty rushes to her daughter's side, leaving her friend alone with her family. Mis-take! Eve seduces Sean and moves in ... Eve is a fascinating villain who could be conductor of The Crazy Train and Natty is a far-from-perfect heroine, so the book is interesting. As lurid, trashy thrillers go, it was fun.

• What do you think you’ll read next? I don't know. Our village's annual book sale is Friday, so I'm sure I'll find some treasures there.

To see how others responded, click here.

July Journal Challenge

Day 29 -- I wish …

For serenity.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Teaser Tuesday

Here's how to play this meme.

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
I'm in mystery/thriller mode these days, and here's an exciting one:

After a hot shower it takes me less than three minutes to fall asleep.
When I wake, someone is trying to kill me.

From Keep Your Friends Close, by Paula Daly.

July Journal Challenge

Day 28 -- Something/someone you love

Since a trio of them are facing adversity right now, my friends are top of mind at the moment. It makes me sad because I love them and I cannot "make it better."

•  Kathleen's father had a massive stroke and her extended family is trying to figure out how to handle it. At his age, what are the prospects for rehabilitation? If he can't ever live at home again, how can he still live with his wife/their mother? If Mom and Dad have to move to assisted living, what about their house? It sucks. My heart aches for her.

•  My best friend does not like his life and continues to live inauthentically. He is about to enter his second year of unemployment. His father-in-law is supporting the family, something he has a difficult time accepting. His way of handling it is to act as though it isn't happening. When all of this catches up on him, it's not going to be pretty. My heart aches for him, too.

•  My oldest friend's life has been a mess since she moved to California. First it was her job. Then it was her son. Then it was her health. Then it was her daughter. Then it was her finances. Now it's her son and her daughter. I don't know how much longer she can live under all this stress. My heart aches for her, too.

All I can do is hope and pray and worry and show my support in any way I can.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Today she would be 85

Equestrian and dog lover, photographer, editor, wife, mother and grandmother. Oh yeah, and First Lady.

What son John said when he announced her passing to the press could apply not only to her death but to her entire extraordinary life: "She did it in her own way and on her own terms and we all feel lucky for that."

I don't remember discovering her. She was just always a presence. Never complaining and certainly never, ever explaining. Facing both success and sorrow with the same outward equanimity.

People admire her for her clothes sense, and certainly her look has proven timeless. But I revere her for making guts a feminine trait.

So happy birthday to my all-time idol, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.
One of her last public appearances

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Stealing

From A to Z

A If you were an ANIMAL, what would you be? I'd be one of my cats. I try to give them a good life and if I could be one of them for a day, I could better gauge how successful I am.

 B BOOKS: What's on your reading list? I think next up is At Risk, by Patricia Cornwell. It's been a long time since I've read one of her books that wasn't part of the Scarpetta series, so I'm intrigued but not sure what to expect.

 C COMPULSIVE about anything? Dopey stuff that doesn't matter. Like all my bathroom towels have got to match or I'm not happy.

 D DREAMS - Do you ... dream in color? remember your dreams? keep a dream journal? The
most recent dream that I can recall had me losing my notes before a big presentation and unable to recall what an acronym stood for. Another, strangely enough, had me touring Los Angeles' Staples Center with the mom of a long-time friend, played by Joanna Kerns -- who is only like 5 years older than me and an actress I'm just barely aware of. Recalling that dream had me going, "what the fu ...?"

 E EATING - what's your usual snack? Cereal.

 F A Few of your FAVORITE Things: "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens ..." Julie Andrews. LOVE HER! And the Beatles. And baseball. Today my all-time favorite Cub, Greg Maddux, is being inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

 G GIGGLES! What (or who) makes you laugh? Do you have a good sense of humor? My oldest friend always makes me laugh. When we're together, we find most things funny.

 H major HOT Button: Guns. No one needs an assault weapon. No, you don't. You simply do not.

 I I am ______________ ... The Walrus

 K Also KNOWN As... Aliases? Screen names? A non de plume perhaps? Psst! "The Gal Herself" is not my Christian name.

L I LOVE ... Greg Maddux!
 M How do you feel about MEETING people? Do it all the time? Rarely? Parties or 1-on-1? I don't much care for it. But the older I get, the more confident I become.

 N What's the story of your NAME? were you named after anyone? Do you go by a nickname? Any aliases? I'm sorry, but I believe I just answered this.

 O OBSERVANT - What's around you right now? What do you see? This Week with George Stephanopolous, though George is not with us this week.

 P Who are the special PEOPLE in your life? I have a wonderful circle of friends.

 Q Any Little QUIRKs About Yourself: I can wiggle my right ear. I insist on my nails being clean. That's about it.

 R What do you like to do for RECREATION? Watch movies and fart around on the internet.

 S Do You SING in the Shower? In the car? For your friends? I am a shower songstress.

 T What's at the Top of your TO DO list?: I need to get off my fat ass, take a shower, and start my day.

 U Any UNUSUAL Experiences: Bruce Springsteen kissed me. He tasted like beer.

 V VEGAS, Vienna, Venice, Vladivostok... How far have you traveled? What's your favorite City? I've been to Paris and Munich, but my favorite city is still Chicago. If you like dining, theater, sports, museums, shopping and architecture, it's the most wonderful place.

 W WINTER, Spring, Summer, Fall... What's your favorite season? What makes it special? I'm really enjoying this summer, because it hasn't been too hot. I don't do heat.

 X EXes - Things You Don't Do Anymore (but did, once (would you, again?)) Sex

 Y Any secret/deep YEARNINGS? If I have secret yearnings, I'm afraid I'm not meme-ing them.

 Z ZERO to ZENITH - Where are you in your life? Still growing? On an upward (or downward) curve? Just skating along? I feel like I'm just skating along. Sometimes I can't believe how old I actually am!

It's almost happy time

Every year I take the August Happiness Challenge. Here's a brief explanation of the Challenge: "Each day in August you are to post about something that makes *you* happy. Pretty simple. And, it doesn't even have to be every day if you don't want it to be. It's a great way to remind ourselves that there are positive things going on in our lives, our communities, and the world."

You're invited to join me. Visit me with a link to your daily happy, and I'll come read it. I've found that experiencing other peoples' everyday pleasures is a great moodlifter.

It helps if your Happiness Challenge posts are marked with an icon. Just something that means "happy" to you. Here are mine from summers gone by. They all still make me smile.

And today he's in the Hall of Fame

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Why I Love Greg Maddux

He's the tenth winningest pitcher of all time. As of last night, Steve Carlton takes a back seat and the Professor takes sole possession of 10th place with his 330th win. Good is sexy, great is hot.

He's modest. In last night's postgame press conference, he spoke respectfully of passing Carlton. "It's kind of cool. I got to watch him in a few games when I first came up and I always admired and respected what he did on the mound."

He's an all-around baseball player. He hits -- he got his 80th RBI last night. He fields -- 15 Golden Gloves. With Greg Maddux in the world, there's no reason for Roger Clemens to exist.

He has the sweetest smile. He looks like a Precious Moments doll in a Dodger uniform. Which comes in handy, since I've read that in person he's as slick and insincere as Tim Matheson's Otter. Reporters make it sound like he's likely to grab a stranger's hand and pump it, "Eric Stratton, damn glad to meet you."

His looks are deceptive. Friends who do not understand why he inspires my lust as well as admiration have dismissed Greg Maddux as looking like "a suburban dad" or "a computer geek." That is precisely the point. When you see Michael Jordan, you know instantly he's the best there ever was, the best there ever will be. MJ looks like he was kissed by the angels before he was born. Greg Maddux is an example of the power of concentration, will, and intellect. And I think that is sooooo hot.

His wife is his high school sweetheart. The first time I saw her, I thought, "Of course, a blonde." I mean, he's a ball player, and aren't blonde wives one of the reasons boys want to become ball players? And Greg Maddux is more than a ball player, he's a ball player who grew up in Las Vegas. I just assumed that meant he had the desire for peroxide in his blood. Amazingly, all my assumptions are wrong. Greg and Kathy met in high school! And here they are, quarter of a century later.

He gives back. The Maddux Foundation supports youth programs and shelters for abused women and children.

Yes, I've seen the old Nike commercial where he said rather memorably, "Chicks love the long ball." But rest assured, Greg Maddux, this chick will love you till I die.

Day 27 -- A view from today

There's a big tree right outside my living room window, and two more that I can see in the yard next door. Right now they're all thick with leaves and full of squirrels and birds. During summer I often find myself transfixed by the view. 

And I am not alone.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday 9

1) This song refers to the summer breezes and winds of mid-July. Now that July is almost over, how would you describe this month's weather where you are? It's gonna be steamy today, but on balance it's been a chillier-than-usual July.

2) The lyrics mention the "perfect plans." Do you have plans for today? Or will you just let this summer Saturday unfold? I'm just going to let it unfold.

3) This week's artist, k. d. lang, attended Red Deer Community College in Alberta. Red Deer's school colors are green, black and silver. What were your school colors? I spent four years "always cheering for the blue and white. Fight! Fight! Fight!" So said our school fight song.

4) She had a bit part in the 2006 murder mystery The Black Dahlia. Do you enjoy murder mysteries? Yes. I'm hooked on them.

5) Ms. lang is a vegetarian. What's the last beef, chicken, pork or fish you ate? There was sausage on last evening's pizza. It was goooooood.

6) In 2000, when this song was released, California suffered a series of blackouts. Has your power gone out this summer? Not yet. (Thank God!)

7) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire also came out in 2000. Did you read it? No. Sometimes I think I'm the last Hogwarts virgin on earth.

8) Which would you rather have on your hot dog: sauerkraut, ketchup/mustard/relish or chili? I'm going to go old school with the condiments and choose ketchup/mustard/chili.

9) If you had your choice, which would you prefer: new shoes or a new wallet?
I'm actually good on both counts right now. Could I have the cash equivalent instead?

Day 25 -- Explore

I am spending more time than I ever expected to on, exploring new sinks. I want something small -- less than 22" wide -- because my bathroom is so tiny. I'm learning that, fortunately, smaller means cheaper. One I choose a pedestal and basin, I will move on to exploring faucets. This is a brave new world for me!

Day 26 -- I'm excited for

The backpack drive at the neighborhood toy store, where the goal is to fill up as many backpacks as possible. Back-to-school can be so expensive for parents, and it feels so good to help. Yesterday, for just $3.19, I was able to buy #2 pencils and gluesticks. I'll pick up something else over the weekend. Not having kids of my own, I feel left out of the bts brouhaha but with the community backpack drive I can be like every other American and stroll the school supply aisles.

I am happy

It took Cute Handyman a day and a half, but he got it done: he swapped out my Eisenhower-era medicine chest and lighting for my new round medicine chest and three-light sconce.

The "before" photo, at right, is not actually my bathroom. It's from the real estate listing for the condo next door. But mine was just as bad. Worse, actually, because instead of having lights atop the chest, there was one on each side. Dangerously close to the shower.

The new one is smaller so it won't get rusty from being splashed every time I shower. The smaller size also makes my tiny bathroom look less tiny. The overhead lights use cfl bulbs, which is better for the environment. Best of all, it's not recessed into the wall. If I want to change it, this chest can just be removed and another one hung. The wall won't have to be rebuilt, which is how Cute Handyman spent most of his time Thursday.

It cost more than $900, but I love it. Next up is my new sink. That will take another day and another $700 in October. The main event will be the tub and wall tile, which will take days and simply can't be done until 2015. I don't have the time or money this year.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

July Journal Challenge

Day 24 -- Old photo of a family member

I miss my girlcat. 
Charlotte was moody and elite and had such balls when dealing with her male feline roommates. I really admired her chutzpah. 

Connie has fit into the household very well. She's a far livelier playmate for Reynaldo than Charlotte ever was, and he's better behaved and less manic now that he has a running buddy.

Interestingly, I think Joey misses Charlotte, too. She hated him, of course, dismissing him as big and sloppy and a blight on her personal landscape. But Joey likes routine. Being hit upside the head by Charlotte every morning was something he could rely on. With her disappearance and Connie's arrival, he's been grooming himself very aggressively. I think it's nerves and confusion

I wish we could talk, Joey and I. I'd tell him that I miss her sitting on the toilet seat, observing my makeup ritual as if to guarantee that I didn't embarrass the household when I went out. I miss reaching behind me on the sofa, knowing she's sitting behind my head. And he could tell me how he misses her stealing his food.

Politics and sex and religion

I live in one of the most progressive villages in a very blue state. That's why I was surprised by what I overheard at lunch yesterday.

I took Wednesday off because, well, I could. I treated myself to an uberfilling lunch and a cocktail at Flattop Grill. The tables are very close together, and I couldn't help but listen to the conversation at the next table. I wasn't intentionally eavesdropping -- my current read is a thriller and I'm rather into it -- but the gentleman was almost literally speaking into my ear.

At first I was amused. A man of about 35, he was lecturing his much-younger male friend (20?) about "the ladies." After two marriages, he's decided not try matrimony again, instead settling into "serial monogamy." Then he started in on gay marriage.

He called it, "a perversion." It's taught by his church and The Bible that it's "a perversion." He asked his younger friend how it's different than necrophilia. I was going to chime in that the difference is consent, but the younger man did well on his own. The younger man said civil rights are everyone's struggle. He wasn't articulate, but he was passionate.

I wanted to quote the book of Matthew to the "ladies man" -- "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery" -- and according to my understanding of that verse, he's living against God's rule. I wanted to tell him that some of hold the separation between church and state very dear. But the younger man was doing fine all by himself. And besides, he's entitled to his toxic, ugly opinion. I was just shocked to hear it espoused so openly in my liberal little hamlet.

On a separate, but related, note: Our Meet Up moderator, Will, is a gay Republican. I didn't think such creatures exist, but they do. He even "liked" Laura Ingraham on Facebook! Go figure.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Journal Challenge

Day 22 -- What makes you laugh

"The Boys." That's how I think of Stewart and Colbert. When something big happens during the day, I say to myself, "I wonder what The Boys will have to say about that!" Their humor is smart but silly and politically based and I love them because they are, at heart, anarchists. They speak truth to power every night, four nights a week. They are following in the most glorious tradition of American humor. Somewhere, Groucho Marx is smiling.

 Day 23 -- Abstract

I'm afraid I don't get abstract art. And I'm afraid I can't come up with anything else for this prompt.

Monday, July 21, 2014

 Day 21 -- Your favorite story

A grandmother is planning a trip to the beach with her baby grandson. She buys him a hat to protect his little face and a shovel and pail for play in the sand. She picks up the beloved toddler and they have a wonderful time. And then a tragedy occurs: a tidal wave sweeps him away into the depths of the ocean.


Grandma immediately bows to her knees in the sand and prays to God for the return of her grandson.  "Please, Lord! I have always been a good person and a loving Grandmother. Please return my grandson to me."


Just as she finishes her prayer, a huge wave crashes back on the beach, returning the baby, his shovel and his pail in hand, to his Grandmother's side.


She looks at her grandson, then looks back at the sky and yells, "He had a hat!"

Ah, humans! We always want more, don't we?

Once again, you're bugging me, Bud

I like Barack Obama. I respect Barack Obama. I'm proud of being from the state that gave the rest of you Barack Obama (and that feisty Southside girl, Michelle).

But Barack Obama works for us. And, just as I had a performance review last week, I want to have a sitdown with my President and tell him that when it comes to the Border Crisis, I'm rating him, "Needs Improvement."

This is exactly how I felt during the BP Oil Spill. Just as George W. Bush needed to go to New Orleans after Katrina to show he cared, Barack Obama needs to go to the border. He has to set an example for the rest of us, and show the rest of the world, that the United States of America treats children with compassion. Pope Francis spoke out all the way from the Vatican. Barack Obama needs to do that much and more.

Because he is the responsible, elected officer of this goverment.

Don't tell me he doesn't "do theater." Bullshit. He always has. Whoever is reading this has not been to Springfield, IL, as many times as I have. Barack Obama announced his candidacy, and then introduced Joe Biden as his running mate, in an area where he never spent much time, and that's not especially photogenic or especially accommodating for 21th century media -- because it's preserved as it was when Abraham Lincoln walked there.

He appeared "between two ferms" to promote his namesake legislation.

Instead of going to the border, he was played pool with Hickenlooper and his staff sent out social media #thebearisloose missives aimed at showing us he's a regular guy, just like us. Rather than showing me you like beer, Mr. President, I'd prefer you show you're just like me by showing me you ache for those refugee kids and denounce the xenophobia on display.

I don't think I agree with the Administration on drones. I don't think I accept that Gitmo is still operating as it did when he took office. But I also know there's much about these situations I don't understand.

This I get. And I don't like it.

My President is my leader. So lead.

Joe Klein, hardly a Foxhole, wrote an effecting op ed in the July 17 issue of Time. He compared Obama 2014 with the Kennedy I grew up on, the Kennedy I actually remember, Bobby. In 1968 -- Bobby's all-too-brief shining moment -- the nation was aching, too. Civil rights and Vietnam, anyone? But Bobby didn't avoid speaking to our better angels, he "went there." He dove in. In Klein's words:

Kennedy never gave the impression that politics was distasteful, beneath him, as Obama too frequently does. Kennedy was all about passion; Obama seems all about decorum.

Barack Obama can do that. Unlike Bobby Kennedy, he's not an inherently shy man. Unlike Bobby Kennedy, he's not saddled with a thin, nasal voice. Unlike Bobby Kennedy, who relied on poetry, Barack Obama has the gift of original, soaring rhetoric. Unlike Bobby Kennedy, ambition for the nation's highest office came naturally to Barack Obama.

Well, Mr. Obama, now you're our President. Inspire me. Soothe me. Show me your heart. Here's an example. A man forcing his audience to question "what kind of nation we are." The piece of paper he's playing with? A campaign speech that was never delivered. Instead, he spoke from his heart.

We need leadership from you, Mr. President. Go to the Border. Give us greatness.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Stealing

Summer Meme

Favorite summer flower: Gerbera daisy

Flavor of ice cream: Mint chocolate chip ice cream

Mode of transportation: Train

Music: Sir Paul

Food: Barbecue

Favorite game to play: Farmville 2

Earliest childhood summer memory: Going to Kerry's Custard for ice cream. It was just up the street from our home, but going with just my friends (no adults!) gave me a heady sense of freedom.

Favorite Drink: Coke

Favorite Snack: Ice cream

Place to read: Anywhere!

Most annoying: Rudeness. People are friendlier in cold weather, and more short-tempered when it gets hot.
How I handle the heat: I don't. If it's over 80ยบ, I hide indoors.

Pet Peeve: Space hogs. If you didn't pay for two seats on the train, you shouldn't take two seats on the train. Your backpack shouldn't be riding in comfort if it means someone else has to stand.

All-time favorite bathing suit: One piece, because I burn so easily. With a skirt, because I don't feel like dealing with a bikini wax. (You'll never lose if you bet on me being lazy.)

Best Time of Day: Around 7:00 PM

Most romantic: Watching fireworks

Summer movie: So far this year, Begin Again.

July Journal Challenge

 Day 20 -- A Daydream You Had
… and continue to have.