Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Stealing

  Blogging Meme 

What kind of blog do you have? Just a snapshot of my life at any given moment.

How many posts do you have? 5600+

How many blogs do you follow? See the sidebar.

How many followers do you have? Oh, according to Blogger it's some crazy high number but I don't believe those most of those people actually read me any more.

How often do you change your theme? Seldom. Makes me grumpy.

How often do you change your icon? Never.

 Do you have any favorite blogs? Again, check out the sidebar.

Do you ever send anonymous messages to other people? No.

Do you ever get anon hate? Yes. Hence the comment moderation. You gotta sign your hate around here.

Have you made any friends through your blog? Oh, yes. You ladies know who you are! (And Bud, too.) Your support has meant a great deal to me in tough times.

What’s your favorite thing about blogging? It's a busman's holiday. I write for a living, but at work I never get to just write what I want.

What’s your least favorite thing about blogging? Sometimes it feels a little too much like work.

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 30

Today's happiness -- "She tripping or what?" An elderly, infirm woman was spreading ugliness throughout CVS yesterday. She yelled at the customer she passed on the way in ("Speak good English, why don't you?"), berated the woman (her daughter?) who was helping her, even scolded me for ... I'm not sure what she scolded me for. She turned the corner and almost hit me with her cart. I saw she had a cane so I stood still to give her an opportunity to right herself and get around me. She kept yelling, "EXCUSE ME! EXCUSE ME!" at me. Even after I'd passed her. I finally turned back, bowed deeply and shouted, "YOU'RE EXCUSED!" To which she countered, "You're no lady!"

As she was being rung up, she continued verbally abusing the woman she was with, saying there was no way she could possibly walk that far to the car, "you idiot," and demanded the "idiot" go out and pull closer to the door. Then she yelled at the girl at the register for how high the prices were and how unfair it is that you need a CVS card to get coupons and sale prices.

She was so loud, I could hear her through my headphones. She was so unrelentingly hostile I was getting really upset.

Then two teenage girls came in. One girl hooked her thumb at the old lady and asked her friend, "She tripping or what?" THAT shut Mean Granny right up. And made me laugh.

I must learn to adopt that casual attitude when confronted with rudeness. "She tripping or what?"

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: All Night Long (All Night)

1) This music video was produced by Mike Nesmith of The Monkees. Can you name a Monkees song? "Here we come, walking down the street, we get the funniest looks from everyone we meet ... HEY, HEY, WE'RE THE MONKEES!"

2) The song includes the foreign sounding phrases, "Oh jambali Tom bo li d, say de moi ya," and "Oh, Jambo Jumbo!" Mr. Richie meant to include language indigenous to the Caribbean, but was writing the song under deadline and simply made those phrases up instead. Tell about the most recent time you cheated or "cut corners." After work on Friday I was going to get a little exercise by walking around town as I did my errands. But then the bus happened by and I rode home. Bad Gal! Lazy Gal!

3) Richie was a frat boy at college. Kappa Kappa Psi, to be exact. Were you a member of a fraternity or sorority? No.

4) When this song topped the charts (September 1983), Vanessa Williams became the first African American to be crowned as Miss America. Do you watch beauty pageants? No.

5) Since it's Labor Day weekend, that holiday established to celebrate the American worker, let's talk about the workplace. Tellers work in a bank, actors work on a stage or a set, auto workers work on an assembly line. How would you describe your workplace? A clown car. Four of us squeezed into an office space originally meant for two. It sucks.

6) An estimated 40% of us have dated a coworker. Have you ever had an office romance? Yes. Often. When I was younger I worked crazy long hours and it was the only chance I had to meet people.

7) Labor Day is a big weekend for travel. How did you book your last vacation? (Online, through a travel agent, over the phone ...) Expedia/Orbitz/Travelocity (I use them all and can't remember which one I used for my last trip)

8) Mother Winters won't wear white again now until next Memorial Day. Sam thinks that's just crazy. Where do you fall in this heated mother/daughter debate? I don't think it matters.

9) When you look at back on Summer 2014, what will you remember? Beginning my bathroom renovation. I'm glad I did it. Looking at my new medicine chest and lights make me happy.

Friday, August 29, 2014

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 29

Today's happiness -- My last early Friday. Our office closes at 12:30 on Fridays in summer. I dearly love those extra free hours. The best part will be waking up on Saturday, knowing I don't have to go to the vet for Reynaldo's prescription food because I did it Friday afternoon.

36 is a dangerous age

My cousin Rose has a theory: Men are at their most attractive in their mid-thirties. When we were 15, we thought men in their mid-thirties were the most attractive. Now that we're AARP members, we still find ourselves looking at men in their mid-thirties.

Upon further reflection, I've narrowed it down to age 36. That's when men are hottest. Here are four attractive men who were sizzling at 36.

Redford 1973
Sir Paul 1978
Brosnan 1989
Clooney 1996
The research was grueling, but my readers deserve no less.

You're welcome.

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 28

Today's happiness -- "Nothing to get hung about." I had a "Strawberry Fields" kinda day. Nothing caused me worry. The weather was fine, work was fine, everything was fine. We even had free food in the coffee room.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 27

Today's happiness -- Good Manners.  After I spent more than 30  minutes online and on the phone with a new cell phone provider, fruitlessly trying to change my service, I gave up and decided to go home. I could hear the tell tale "double ding" that meant the down elevator had arrived but I didn't think I could make it through the frosted doors in time. I heard a woman's voice call, "Is someone there? I'm holding it!"

I thanked her and told her if I'd missed the elevator I just might have started to cry in frustration. She asked me what happened ... I told her ... she complained about her cable service ... we walked to the el together. (I'm Green Line, she's Blue.)

Turns out her name is Gwen and we have worked on the same floor for more than a year but since we're on different accounts we've never spoken before. As we parted, she said, "I'll tell you what my mom always told me -- 'Don't have a good evening, make it a good evening.'"

She was very nice and polite and it made me happy.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

These are the champions, my friends!

Tens of thousands of Chicagoans attended a parade and rally honoring Jackie Robinson West, the southside kids who brought the national little league championship to a city that desperately needs something to cheer. These boys handled their time in the spotlight -- on the playing field, on the road, with the press, on stage and along the parade route -- with grace and southside style. We're all just so proud of them.

Grown ups at today's Millenium Park rally
I know that the nation at large seems to believe that young African Americans on Chicago's south and west side are all gun toting thugs. Obviously it's not true. I'm so happy that these 13-year-old heroes are Chicago's ambassadors, letting the world know our young men have have class, dignity, dedication and drive.

The city was especially alive this lunch hour -- with buskers and street vendors and happy adults wearing gold JRW shirts and carrying signs that hailed the heroes.

This warm and lovely August afternoon reminded why this is where I live, and how very, very much I love baseball. America's city embraces America's game!

Would it kill me to be more compassionate?

I have an especially annoying coworker. He handles our printing, and you'd think that in a world where more and more advertising is going digital, he'd be grateful for the opportunity to do our massive quarterly direct mail projects. He's not. He always sighs heavily and is resistant and forever putting other jobs before ours because posters and more "fun." Unfortunately, we don't charge my Fortune 500 client the lower, "not fun" rate and therefore they deserve his highest level of service, as well.

I found out yesterday that he has cancer. The time off he took earlier this month wasn't a late-summer vacation, it was a biopsy. He has a few rounds of chemo in his future, and so we must be sure to copy his assistant, Rose, on every email. (I love working with Rose.)

I pride myself on being "one size fits all," and avoiding hypocrisy. Cancer does not make this producer less annoying. On the other hand, perhaps it does explain his lackadaisical attitude toward my projects. Maybe hasn't been feeling well these past 18 months. But then, I have seen him exhibit passion -- unfortunately it's been passion for other work.

See? I just can't simply be nice about this man.

I guess I just have to accept that the most I can muster is that I truly hope he's comfortable. I do not wish him, or anyone, pain, and I hope his treatments are successful. But I still don't like working with him and I still resent his attitude. I do.

I must work on this. I must learn to juggle clear-eyed honesty with compassion.

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 26

Today's happiness -- Law & Order reruns.  It's established as one of my favorite shows -- after all, I named my cat Reynaldo after Benjamin Bratt's character, and there is no higher honor. WE-TV has marathons every Tuesday night and even though I've already seen each and every episode, I'm still riveted. Last night, it even distracted me from the Cub game ... and I'm not sorry!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 25

Today's happiness -- Summer sandals.  I love it that the last thing I do before leaving the house is slip into my Birkenstocks. No socks to put on, no laces or buckles to contend with. Yes, I am that lazy.

Monday, August 25, 2014

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 24

Today's happiness -- That I can.  I dropped off a bag for the local food pantry. Pasta, Spaghetti-Os, tuna, mustard, tomato soup, etc. Nothing fancy, nothing expensive. But every box, can and bottle will go to good use. There's something both humbling and satisfying about being able to help. Humbling because it's reminder that it could happen to me, I could be the one who needs a bag of food to get by. Satisfying because I know I just made a difference. And most of all, I'm grateful and happy that I can make a donation.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Stealing

Click here to play along

1. Favorite fictional couple?  After giving this some thought, I'll go with Bob and Emily Hartley from The Bob Newhart Show. Theirs seemed like a marriage of equals who genuinely enjoyed and supported one another.

2. Favorite fictional character? Jo March from Little Women

 3. Favorite fictional TV show? Mad Men, though I could argue that it isn't all that fictional

 4. Favorite fictional movie? The Way We Were

 5. Favorite fictional villain? Hans Gruber in Die Hard

 6. Favorite fictional hero? John McClane in Die Hard

 7. Favorite fictional pet? Thomasina was a wonderful cat

 8. Favorite fictional setting/universe? OK, ya got me. I have no answer.

 9. Least favorite fictional couple? The Nanny and Mr. Sheffield.

 10. Least favorite fictional character? Anyone played by Patricia Heaton. I can't stand that woman.

 11. Least favorite fictional TV show? Any one starring Patricia Heaton. I can't stand that woman.

 12. Least favorite fictional movie? Star Wars. I don't hate it, I just don't get it

 13. Least favorite fictional villain? I'm sorry. I got nothing.

 14. Least favorite fictional hero? The lead in The DaVinci Code.

 15. Least favorite fictional pet? The Brady Girls' cat. The poor thing disappeared once that group somehow formed a family and became The Brady Bunch.

 16. Least favorite fictional setting/universe? Middle Earth

Saturday, August 23, 2014

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 23

Today's happiness -- Saving money.  Instead of spending $40+ in cab fare to the salon for my haircut, I spent $3.50 on the bus. I'm feeling not only happy but virtuous.

Reflections on my Saturday

•  Bromelain is the enzyme in pineapple that causes diarrhea. I ate a ton of it Friday afternoon because it tasted sooooo good and because it's so full of vitamin C and fiber. I didn't know about Bromelain. I do now.

•  Got some serious streaks in my hair today. A good haircut with some highlights is a tonic for anything that may ail me.

 •  Getting caught in the rain exhausts me. I don't know why. The storm cooled things off considerably and made the world more comfortable. Yet when I finally got home I slept away most of my Saturday night. I put on the Cub game -- it was on rain delay, of course -- dozed off and woke up hours later. Even after I finally awoke I was just lazy and rooted to the futon.

Image courtesy of Marin at

Saturday 9

1) Popular music has produced almost countless groups, but not that many duos. Besides Sonny & Cher, can you name another? Hall and Oates. "She's Gone" has been running through my mind for a week now. That little earwig has really borne in!

2)  Hearing this recording from his clock radio is how Bill Murray woke up every morning in Groundhog Day. What woke you up this morning? My cat Rey decided at 4:30 that it was time to rise and shine. He can be a persistent little shit.

3) When she was growing up, Cher practiced her autograph for when she became a star. Is your signature legible? Or is it more of a scrawl? I have very nice handwriting. Which is worth very little in today's world.

4) In addition to show biz, Sonny & Cher had many careers: Sonny was a restauranteur and politician, Cher is an interior designer. Would you like to try your hand at any of those professions? Nope.

5) In 1965, when this song topped the charts, Sonny and Cher were as famous for their wardrobe as for their music. Sonny was fond of tall, heavy-heeled boots while Cher often paired granny dresses with bare feet. What's on your feet right now? I'm barefootin'.

6) By 1968, their career crashed. Cher's early attempts as a movie actress failed, their records stopped selling and the IRS came after them for back taxes. Have you ever been audited? Not an official audit, though twice I've received letters from the IRS explaining that they took a different view of my return than I did. That means twice they made me drink and cry and swear with worry. Fortunately both times my accountant cleared it up and I didn't have to pay any incremental tax.

7) In 1971 they were on top again with their TV show. But their marriage was coming apart. Sonny said, "For the last 5 years I worried about our career, not about us." Have you ever been guilty of putting career before relationship? No. I've been guilty of the opposite and shirking my professional duties because My Man needed me. Funny but in retrospect I do regret it. The men weren't worth it.

8) By 1972 they were living separate lives -- in the same house. For the sake of The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, they pretended to be happily married another year and a half. Tell us about a time when you pretended to be happy, but weren't. HA! Daily! I work in a clown car -- four of squeezed into an office space better suited to two. It's so exhausting to pretend, day in/day out, that I don't hate the proximity of my coworkers.
That's me in the trunk

9) While their separation and divorce were bitter, they resumed their friendship when Cher showed up at the opening of his restaurant in 1976. Have you ever made the first move in repairing a relationship? Yes. I can be stubborn in relationships, to be sure, but if you're my friend I'm quick to forgive.

I wanna hang with these guys

When I was housebound with a cold, I rediscovered Bonanza. My affection/appreciation grows with each episode I watch. Part of it is nostalgia -- when I was a kid, every adult in my life loved the show.* Part of it is quality -- it's well written. Part of it is novelty -- there aren't many westerns anymore.

Part of it is the Cartwright men. They were pretty neat. There's crazy successful patriarch Ben, who built the biggest ranch in Nevada, the Ponderosa. Fair and wise and sensitive. And wildly unlucky in love. His first wife died in childbirth. His second wife died in an Indian attack. His third wife was thrown from a horse. This accounts for two things: 1) since his three sons had different mothers, they can't be expected to look too much alike and 2) why no other woman ever got serious about this sterling man. On the one hand, he must have looked like a catch. On the other hand, I mean really! Marrying Ben Cartwright must be hazardous to your health.

Then there's Adam. Well read and almost always in black. He appreciated art, architecture, and messing with his kid brothers. I have a crush on Adam. Followed by Hoss, the gentle giant who is as strong as he is tender. And passionate Joe, who every now and again can be caught looking at the camera as if to say, "Can you believe how handsome I am?" And he has a point. My mother used to tell me that when I was a very little girl, maybe 4, I loved Little Joe and used to cry when he got punched or shot.

And the Ponderosa. It's a beautiful farmhouse. Living room, dining room and at least seven bedrooms. Of course there was no bathrooms in those days. But so many books! Adam and Ben loved their books and I love their built-in book cases.

Does your cable company carry the Me-Too channel? If so, you can watch Bonanza every day. You might want to give it a peek.

*It was in the Top 10 for 10 of its 14 seasons, and #1 for three years in a row. But my dad liked it because it was always in color. In 1959, it was the only network show in color, when few people had color sets. We were among the first in our neighborhood to have one, and so my dad insisted we watch Bonanza.

Friday, August 22, 2014

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 22

Today's happiness -- Checking off the chores.  Here it is, Friday night, and my weekend grocery shopping and laundry are already done! If that doesn't inspire a twirl dance, I don't know what will.

It makes me sad

I want my President to act Presidential. I want the leader of my party, my country and the free world to lead. That's why I have, at times, been disappointed by Barack Obama. I'm no Obamabot. I believe he should have gone to the site of the BP Oil Spill. He should visit our porous border and stand up for the children entering our country.

One thing he shouldn't do ... can't do, really ... is go to Ferguson, MO.

For the benefit of anyone in 2020 who happens to come upon this post, Ferguson is ground zero for racial unrest since the shooting of Michael Brown. I don't know if the kid grabbed for the gun. I don't know if the cop had no cause to shoot. I do know that the city fathers have handled this abominably and that the sight of rioting and looting and police armed as though they were patrolling Gaza instead of Missouri makes me sick.

I wish our President could go there and say something that will bring us together and help us heal. But he can't. Because he's black.

Isn't that a kick? Our first African-American President can't talk about race.

I remember after he spoke candidly about the Trayvon Martin murder -- where the facts were, to my eyes, more obvious than in the case of Michael Brown -- some people were ridiculously up in arms. Two women that I've cybermet through Saturday 9 were especially hostile and, I feel, representative. One said that if there was rioting after the Martin verdict, it would be the President's fault. The other slagged the POTUS and then posted photos of Trayvon flashing his tattoos and exhaling smoke -- as though body art and pot were death penalty offenses, and that the punishment should be meted out by some cop wannabe on community watch. (You know, the man the 911 operator told to stay in his car.)

That second woman really roasts my chestnuts because she begins her blog with a psalm and is so unbearably sanctimonious about all the many hours she spends at church. I just hate it when people wrap themselves in faith so they can feel warm and cuddly with their racism. I realize that the people with the darkest hearts are the ones who can benefit most from church, but I doubt that she spends time looking at her own sins. If she does, she never posts about it. Instead she concentrates on her litany of complaints.

Consequently I no longer watch the news the way I used to -- which was rather compulsively, I admit. Between Ferguson and ISIS, I just can't. It makes too sad.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 21

Today's happiness -- Getting it done.  I completed my session with my personal trainer, having done everything he requested. I was sore, I was sweaty, I was tired. But I was accomplished!

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 20

Today's happiness -- Through a tourist's eyes.  The sidewalks are filled with tourists, both downtown where I work and in the neighboring suburban village where I live. On Wednesday I stumbled upon something that not only makes me more patient when I encounter them, it makes me happy.

When a tourist suddenly stops in the middle of the sidewalk to take a picture, I no longer roll my eyes and exhale loudly as I walk around them. Instead I stop a moment and look at what they're photographing through their eyes. It's a lovely reminder of the architectural marvels I'm lucky to see every day but have come to take for granted.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


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

• What are you currently reading? The Tuesday Club Murders by Agatha Christie. This is my first Miss Marple book and I'm enjoying it. What a cagey, dear old girl! The book it itself is an easy read, a collection of short stories about mysteries and murders that appear unsolvable ... until Miss Marple looks up from her knitting.
• What did you recently finish reading? At Risk by Patricia Cornwell. A dreadful book. It's not often I say this, but I'm sorry I read it. A MUST TO AVOID! The plot is convoluted and every character is unlikeable, except our hero. He's poorly written. I'm a Cornwell fan, but as I read it I thought to myself, "I wonder what big thing Patricia just bought -- helicopter? summer house? -- that she cranked this crap out to pay for."
• What do you think you’ll read next? I don't know. I've got a Linda Fairstein sitting here, but I'm kinda jonesing for a biography.

To see how others responded, click here.

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 19

Today's happiness -- First-aid ointment.  I have long had Walgreen's antibiotic cream in my bathroom in case of cuts or burns. I discovered recently that it's good for so much more! Once a pimple is broken, it's no longer "acne," it's a sore just like any other. And when you're of "a certain age" like me, acne treatments like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide can be very drying and don't seem to help healing. I began applying the ointment and the zit is clearing up much faster! I've begun applying it to the spot where I scratched open a bug bite, too.

So I have found a new way to reduce redness, and that makes me happy!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 18

Today's happiness -- The infield.  Rizzo, Baez and Castro. How I love this young Cub team! That's three hot bats, three competent gloves, all under age 25. I feel free becoming very attached to these kids because they're so young they'll probably be my guys for seasons to come. Sure, we're cellar dwellers now but, should I dare to dream, these could be the players that lead us to the promised land, or at least the play-offs.

There's a popular t-shirt with a Cub logo and the phrase, "Just once before I die." So I am a little afraid that if we do get to the World Series, I'll have to croak.

Monday, August 18, 2014

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 17

Today's happiness -- Nothing.  I don't mean that nothing made me happy on Sunday. I mean that doing nothing made me happy. I spoke to a neighbor in the building laundry room and to the pharmacist at the drug store, but other than that I was silent and solitary all day and it suited me just fine. Every now and again I need to be alone to recharge.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday Stealing

Sunday Stealing

Would you ever consider becoming a teacher? Yes. When I was a kid I wanted to be a teacher.

 Would you ever give a hitch-hiker a ride somewhere? No.

 Would you ever try fasting for a whole week? No.

 Would you ever try to quit one of your addictions? "One of" my addictions? What a cheery question! I probably am addicted to caffeine, and I should give it up. Sorry that's all I have to report.

 Would you ever dye your hair purple? I did. It was the 80s.

 Would you ever spend $100 for the best tasting hamburger in the world? Sure. Though I insist that the bill include the side of my choice, tax and tip. $100 for a beef dish dinner in a really nice restaurant is certainly not unheard of.

 Would you rather chew gum off the ground or kill a squirrel? First of all, what's the penalty for doing neither? I suppose I'll go with the gum. Children do it every day and they somehow manage to grow up into adults.

  Would you rather play Monopoly or Operation? Monopoly

 Would you rather eat chocolate or fruity candies? Chocolate

 Would you rather listen to one CD forever or become deaf? The CD ... and it's going to The Beatles White Album. If it's Barry Manilow, I'd rather be deaf.

 Would you rather be deaf or blind? Deaf

 Would you rather text or talk on the phone? Talk on the phone

 Would you rather spend a day with Lady Gaga or Miley Cyrus? Gaga

 Would you rather learn to play piano or guitar? Guitar

 Would you rather have a stomach-ache or headache? Headache

 Would you rather be overly interesting or overly dull? Overly interesting

 Would you rather be too loud or too quiet? Too quiet

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 16

Today's happiness -- A day at the zoo.  My cousin Rose and I went to Brookfield Zoo, walking distance from where I grew up, and a staple in my summers as a kid. We spent about 10 hours together -- which was about 1 hour too long because at dinner we did start to get on one another's nerves -- but it was by and large a very good day. Okapis, giraffes, penguins, primates, lions and tigers and a rhino. I learned a lot (most especially that I should avoid palm oil for the sake of the rainforests and orangutans) and thoroughly enjoyed a day that, frankly, I'd been kinda dreading. My cousin has always loved me very much, and I get much warmth and comfort from it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday 9

1) The lyrics mention his respect for "90 proof and Marlboro Red." What was your most recent drink? When was your last cigarette? Cranberry juice and vodka/never

2)  They also reference "singing like crazy fools." What's the last song you sang? "She's Gone" along with Hall and Oates on my shower radio.

3) Blake Shelton won a Grammy for his performance of this song. Crazy Sam won the award for "most improved bowler" when she was in third grade, and it's now in a closet somewhere. Do you have any trophies? If so, where are they? No trophies. Projects I've worked on have won industry awards, but the companies I worked for got the hardware.

4) Blake is currently on tour. The merchandise sold at concerts brings in big money for the artist. Do you have any tour memorabilia (like a poster or t-shirt)? Lots. I'm having a quilt made from some of them.

5) In addition to The Voice, Shelton is on TV a lot with his Pizza Hut commercials. What chain restaurant is nearest your home? Do you eat there? Subway, and I go there very seldom. It's so easy to make a sandwich I can't see paying someone else to do it.

6) Shelton has a million-seller CD called Cheers! It's Christmas! What's the first Christmas carol to pop into your head this hot summer Saturday? "Oh, Come All Ye Faithful"

7) Shelton and Miranda Lambert were married in front of 550 guests. Do you enjoy weddings? Not really

8) The wedding took place on a big Texas ranch. Have you spent much time on a farm or a ranch? No

9) In 2013 he helped organize a relief benefit concert for victims of the Oklahoma tornados. Tell us about a charity you support. The last one I wrote a check to is Planned Parenthood. I like thinking about a world where every woman is healthy and every child is wanted.

Friday, August 15, 2014

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 15

Today's happiness -- Eating like a child.  For lunch I had fish sticks with a side of buttered peas. I chose this because I found myself imagining the way the fish would smell. And then for dinner I had hotdogs and a side of canned peaches, chosen because I forgot to defrost the steak I was gonna have.

It was all very deja childhood and it made me smile.

Frank conversation

Robin Williams on his last birthday 7/14
In the wake of Robin Williams' death I've had two very honest and revealing conversations with close friends about depression and suicide. Inspiring us to speak candidly about this problem could be the funnyman's final gift to his audience.

My oldest friend confessed that she recently had contemplated suicide. I was not surprised to hear this -- I think I know exactly when it was -- but it was, of course, troubling. She said the only reason why she didn't do it was that she had the wrong kind of pills (meaning, for the most part, non lethal) in the house and was afraid that if she tried and failed she'd end up in the psych ward.

I didn't respond by telling her to "buck up." I know that she views me as tough ("Life can grind you into the dirt and yet you somehow get back up") and I didn't want to make her feel inferior. Instead I told her of a time more than 25 years ago when I thought about it. I was in so much pain that killing myself seemed like respite.

I didn't do it that night because I didn't have any pills and my little disposable Bic shavers couldn't do sufficient damage to my veins. I remember laying in bed, too depressed to move, cataloging everything I had failed at and was sadly amused that I could now add "coming up with a way to kill myself" to list. I heard the train rumble past my window and contemplated throwing myself on the tracks.

But then the sun came up again. I had a cat (her name was Wilma) to feed. I took a shower. It was a new morning. God had given me another day. So, as my oldest friend put, I somehow got back up. She seemed surprised that suicidal despair had washed over me, too. I wonder how many people we pass on the sidewalk each day are suffering similarly.

I think my confession helped my oldest friend feel less alone in her thoughts and fears. And, hopefully, she knows she can turn to me when she feels desperate and I'll understand.

I also talked to my friend John. He's no stranger to depression. He's been unlucky in love, lost the mother he was very close to, lost his kid sister to drugs, and has battled heart disease. Right now, at 60, he's underemployed and frightened about his financial future. Yet he says he's never entertained ending it. Ever.

This surprised me. For while I'm a Christian and my oldest friend dabbles by reading Depak Chopra, Joel Osteen and the Dali Lama, John is not spiritual in any conventional way. Yet his reason for not doing it was simple and powerful -- "What about the person who finds me?" Looked at that way, suicide to him seems monstrously selfish. He's right, of course. Suicide is (almost always) a selfish act. And it's good to be reminded what a nice man John is.

These conversations were sobering but they weren't sad. Sharing the intimate stuff is important. It brings us closer. And it helps combat the isolation that can be so crippling when we're depressed.

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 14

Today's happiness -- Water.  Thursday found me staring out onto water a lot. The fountains in front of the building where I work are gorgeous. My table at the restaurant where I had lunch looked out onto a fountain, as well. As I waited for the elevator at the gym, I watched the water in the pool. And, best of all, Lake Michigan is visible from many windows at my office (though, alas, no longer my own). There's something very calming about gazing at water.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 13

Today's happiness -- Bringing the outdoors inside.  I always have flowers on my desk (this week it's orange and yellow carnations) and then there's my massive philodendron. A coworker abandoned it when he was let go 9 years ago, and I rescued and nurtured it. It's grown to fill a 10 gallon planter and a clipping occupies its own 7" pot.

I hate my office. Four of us are squished into a space originally designed for two and it feels like I work in a clown car. Having the flowers and the plants improves the space and ups my happiness quotient.