Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My poor Joe

Some time between 11:00 PM Sunday night and 7:00 AM Monday morning, my old tomcat Joey had a sudden attack of diarrhea on my futon.

He's a good boy. He would never miss the box intentionally. It must have hit him very suddenly.

Yes, it was a drag to have to haul my futon cover down to the laundry room first thing Monday morning. No, I don't have the stink completely out and yes, it's creeping me out. (Note to self: Let's see if those Febreeze commercials are telling the truth about pet odors.)

But most of all I'm worried about him. He's very old. He's still social and affectionate, and as recently as Sunday I saw him playing with Reynaldo (albeit only for a few minutes), so I don't think he's in any pain.

But he's dying. Fading away. I know it. I see it. If he has diarrhea again, or exhibits any signs of discomfort, I'll bundle him and haul him to the vet.

But we're back to this again: Am I doing it for myself or am I doing it for Joey? He's approximately 18 years old. That would be 87 in human years. He hates going outside -- the street sounds and smells terrify him.

But I love him. I love reaching out and touching him, feeling his purr and curly paws against me. I love his gentle soul. I don't want to lose him.

But I don't want him to hurt. Ever. I see that as my job, to keep his life as safe and comfortable as possible.

I hate this.

We still give a damn

Sunday my friend John and I went to see Gone with the Wind, enhanced and on the big screen again
to celebrate its 75th anniversary. We had a great time.

I saw this movie for the first time when I was still in high school, released in theaters for the 35th anniversary. It was the 70s. The audience back then thought Scarlett O'Hara rocked. She was a feminist's feminist.

Then in 1989, for the 50th anniversary, I saw it in the theater again. By then the word "bitch" was being bandied about to describe Katie Scarlett.

In 2014, the prevailing audience sentiment seemed to be that Scarlett was selfish and silly.

I find this fascinating, since the movie doesn't change, but this country -- and our perception of women's roles -- continues to.

I'm still the 70s gal. I still think Scarlett is a tough, brilliant but blind heroine who somehow keeps her family safe and fed in the worst times despite facing unimaginable hardships. I love Miss Melly, too. She's the woman I wish I was. Just as tough as Scarlett, but always in touch with her better self.

And then there's the racial aspect. GWTW is filled with happy darkies serving benign slave owners. The Ku Klux Klan is referred to as a "political party." It's pretty odios. My friend John is black. He was one of 4 people of color in the theater Sunday.

When I saw the movie in the 1970s, there were no African Americans in the theater. But that didn't surprise me because the neighborhood my family lived in was lily white. Every movie I saw, I saw with an all-white audience. In 1989, the theater was all-white, too, and I was aware of it because the neighborhood where I chose to live when I left home is racially diverse.

John said he wanted to see it Sunday because 1) it was an event, 2) because the Civil War happened, 3) the attitudes of the country in the 1930s when the film was made happened, too and 4) it's always good to spend a Sunday afternoon with me.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Stealing

Ask Away! 

1. What is your zodiac sign? Oh, dear. This is not an easy question for me to answer. I was born at the stroke of midnight, which for legal purposes does not exist. So my mother had her choice between November 21 and November 22 for my birthday. She chose the 22nd. So I'm on the cusp of a cusp. I've had one astrologer tell me definitively that I'm Scorpio, another that I'm Sagittarius. So I kinda give up.

2. What is your favorite color?
Blue. Specifically Pantone 294, which is Cubbie blue. 

3. What’s your lucky number?

4. What talents do you have?
I write well, I'm a good public speaker, and I can wiggle my ears.

5. Are you psychic in any way?
Not really.

6. Favorite song?
It changes. Lately I've been listening to a lot of 70s pop, specifically Boz Scaggs.

7. How many pillows do you sleep with? Two

8. What position do you usually sleep in?
Face down or on my left side

9. Have you ever tried archery?
Yes. It's the sport I was best at back in my high school days.

10. What’s the longest you’ve ever gone without sleep?
20 hours

11. Do you have any scars?

12. Have you ever had a secret admirer? Yes

13. Can you do any other accents other than your own? No

14. Are you a good judge of character? Yes

15. Can you curl your tongue? Yes

16. Are you a clean or messy person?

That's me on the right
 17. How long does it take for you to get ready? Where are we going?

18. Do you have much of an ego? Yes

19. Do you talk to yourself?

20. Do you sing to yourself?
I'm tone deaf, so it's better that way.

21. Can you name all 50 states of America?
Yes. Is there a prize involved?

22. Have you ever been scuba diving?

23. What makes you nervous?

24. Do you correct people when they make mistakes?
Yes. I'm afraid I can be something of an ass.

25. Are you ticklish?

26. Have you ever been in a position of authority?

27. How many piercings do you have?

28. Can you roll your Rs?

29. How fast can you type?
Oh, God! I haven't been timed in a million years. I used to be very fast.

30. What are you allergic to? Bee sting and erthromycin

31. Do you keep a journal?
You're looking at it

32. Do you like your age?
I'd prefer to be 10 years younger

33. What makes you angry?

34. Were your ancestors royalty?
Not to my knowledge. I haven't gone any further back than my great grandparents, though.


That's not what I expected to discuss over lunch yesterday. Yet that's what my nephew wanted to talk about, and since we were celebrating his birthday, he got to choose.

Now a highschool freshman, his favorite subject is Western Civilization. He loves the teacher, loves the resources, loves the subject. Particularly Rome and Byzantium. When we changed the subject to Of Mice and Men, I was on firmer ground.

I love how much he loves learning, how he relishes that it's harder than 8th grade had been. I was also happy to hear that he still walks to school every day with Anna. He has known Anna since pre-school, his great-grandmother and Anna's grandmother were church friends. Old friendships are important, and I'm glad that he's maintaining his.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: A Day in the Life (1967)

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

1) According to Rolling Stone, this is the greatest Beatle song of all. What's your favorite Beatle song?  It changes. Right now it's "She Loves You." The music is infectious bubblegum, but the lyrics are surprisingly sophisticated. It's a guy giving another guy relationship advice -- I can't think of another song with that premise. And "pride can hurt you, too," is a bit of wisdom I need to be reminded of.

2) "A Day in the Life" took 5 days to record. Looking back on the last five days, what did you accomplish? Not a lot. At work I came up with some content for a series of radio PSAs my client is considering. At home I played around with ideas for this year's Nanowrimo. (November is NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth.)

3) This song is the highlight of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, the first album released after the Beatles gave up touring. Critics predicted that, when they abandoned live concerts, their creativity would wane. Obviously this wasn't the case. When has someone underestimated you? I was in a very long, not healthy, relationship. My boyfriend was sure I'd never walk away. He was wrong.

4) The song says our hero "woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head." How is your hair right now? Are you prepared to go out and face the world? It's kind of a mess right now, as I've yet to take my shower. I'm not washing it this morning, though, since I'm going to the salon at noon and I'll leave the shampooing and conditioning to the pros.

5) The lyrics tell us he had to hurry to catch the bus to work. When is the last time you rode public transportation? Yesterday. To and from work. Like every workday.

6) "A Day in the Life" was a true Lennon-McCartney collaboration. Conventional wisdom is that Paul is easy going while John was edgy. Is your temperament more Lennon or McCartney? Much as I adore Sir Paul, I think my personality is more Lennon.

7) "A Day in the Life" came out five years after the Beatles replaced their drummer. Taking over for Pete Best was undoubtedly the biggest break of Ringo Starr's career. Tell us about a time when fortune smiled on you. When I interviewed for my first writing job -- for which I was completely unqualified -- the creative director reviewed my resume and saw we'd gone to the same high school. This caused her to give me a bit more consideration than my experience (which was negligible) deserved.

8) It would be hard to overestimate the Beatles' impact on popular culture. Their story and music have inspired a Broadway musical, a Las Vegas show, two movies and, according to Amazon, 900+ books. What's the most recent biography you read? Currently I'm reading The Patriarch, a massive biography of Joseph P. Kennedy (JFK's very colorful dad).

9) The Beatles are an ongoing boon to England's tourism industry. Fans from all over the world visit Liverpool each year to see where the Beatles grew up and got their start. If you won a trip to England, tell us what you'd like to see. Like Pussy Cat in the nursery rhyme, I'd go to London to look at the Queen. And, like any Beatle fan worth her salt, I'd cross Abbey Road.

Even this All American family couldn't resist

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


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

• What are you currently reading? The Patriarch by David Nasaw. I'm barely a quarter of the way through, Joseph Kennedy (JFK's father) is not yet 45, and he's already been bank president, stockbroker and head of a movie studio. Now he's trying to get into the Roosevelt administration. I'm really enjoying this part because I watched the documentary series on PBS about the Roosevelts. It seems that in FDR, Mr. Kennedy has finally met someone who is more charming, more manipulative and cagier than he is.

• What did you recently finish reading? Gambit by Rex Stout. A Nero Wolfe mystery. I started but never finished it about 8 years ago, where it's been languishing on my shelf. Then last weekend I found it again and simply devoured it. I wonder why it didn't hold my interest before and this time it kept me riveted. Anyway, the title is a chess term but the mystery is only peripherally about chess. It's about mothers and daughters and fathers and daughters and lust and love and jealousy and betrayal. And, of course, murder. I figured out whodunnit at about the same moment the intrepid Archie Goodwin did. What made this book so interesting is that while it was pretty easy to deduce the killer, the hard part was coming up with proof. "I feel it in my bones," will not stand up in court. It was great fun to see how Archie and Wolfe would prove their brilliant deduction.

• What do you think you’ll read next? I've got Webb Hubbell's first novel, When Men Betray. It's a political mystery set in Little Rock. As a former aide to Bill Clinton and Mayor of Little Rock, he's well qualified to tackle this terrain.

To see how others responded, click here.

Time to admit it

I hate war but I support our troops.

I had hoped that we really were winding down our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and responded by cutting back on my contributions and donations to my two favorite soldier-related causes -- Operation: Shoebox and Puppy Rescue Mission.

Ok, so my world view was irrationally rosey and it's time to get off my ass.

Operation: Shoebox gets my stuff. I'm traveling a lot through the end of the year, and I must remember to bring home all those little shampoos and conditioners and pack them up for our fighting men and women. I'm also beginning to receive Christmas stuff in the mail -- holiday cards, 2015 pocket calendars, little felt stockings. Time to pack those up for the troops.

Puppy Rescue Mission gets my money. These wonderful people raise the thousands of dollars it takes to bring home the pets adopted by troops overseas. Yeah, I know that your local shelter could save a lot of dogs and cats right there in your neighborhood for the cost of rescuing a single overseas critter. But here's the thing: our troops are surrounded by hostility and destruction and death. These dogs and cats touch a chord in them and reconnect them to their humanity. That is a beautiful thing that makes me even more proud of our soldiers.

I wish I didn't have to help these organizations. But I fear I'll have to continue for years to come. I hope that everyone who supported our over-ambitious, poorly planned interventionism ten years ago get off their asses, too. That's what burns me. In 2004, then-Senator Kerry said we were doing more harm than good in the region, creating chaos and generations of new terrorists. He was, obviously, right. How ironic that it's left to now-Secretary Kerry to clean it up.

Monday, September 22, 2014

I couldn't make this up

I mentioned last month that I have rediscovered Bonanza. I began watching the reruns when I was home sick with a summer cold and find I really enjoy it. Partly for nostalgia's sake, partly because it's pretty good. Also, between Me-TV and it's sister channel, Me-Too, it's on almost whenever I want to watch it.

I have developed a crush on Adam, the oldest brother, who has a hairy chest and a dry wit. He did not play much of a part in the episode I fell asleep watching last night (Little Joe was about to get into a gunfight to avenge his mother's memory) but he did have a starring role in my dream.

I dreamed that I time traveled back to the 1860s to marry Adam Cartwright. I remember little of the dream except that I was glad to move onto the Ponderosa because one of the benefits to sleeping with a man back then is he didn't expect me to shave my legs or prune my bikini line.

No, really.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Stealing

Alphabetty 2 

A) What does the last text you sent say? And to whom? After our dinner, I texted my dear old friend it was good to see her.

B) What does the last text you received say? And from whom?  She said it was good to see me, too.

C) What time do you wake up most mornings? When my cat Reynaldo is overcome by hunger and boredom.

D) Are you afraid of walking alone at night? Sometimes. Depends on how late it is and where I am.

E) What do you do to relax at the end of a stressful day? Curl up with a cat. Purrs and fur do wonder.

F) Where did your last kiss take place and with whom? I don't remember. HOW SAD IS THAT?!

G) Do/did you get into trouble a lot at school? Well I wasn't as bad as I could have been.

H) Do you enjoy your job? If unemployed, are you content being so? I'm a writer and I enjoy writing. I don't necessarily enjoy this particular job anymore.

I) Do you often pick up on double entendres and innuendos? Yes.

J) Have you ever been offered drugs but declined? Yes.

K) Have you ever met someone who has completely altered your way of thinking? Yes.

L) Have you ever been offered drugs and accepted? Yes.

M) Tell us something weird that turns you on. No. But thank you for asking.

N) When did someone last admit romantic or sexual feelings for you? Was the feeling mutual? About two years ago. No, it wasn't mutual.

O) What is something you have given a lot of thought to lately? Farmville 2

P) When did you last swallow your beliefs to avoid an argument or confrontation? Two weeks ago at the office.

Q) Do you usually initiate hugs? No.

R) Are you a very affectionate person? No.

S) Can you roll your own cigarettes? No. And if I can go the rest of my life without having the stink of tobacco on my fingers, I'll be happy.

T) What are you looking forward to? I'm going to LA in a few weeks.

U) Do you have any tattoos. Do you want any/more? No. No.

V) Are you mentally strong? Yes.

W) Are you physically strong? I could be stronger.

X) Do you think you’re a good person? Yes.

Y) Name one thing you wish you could change about your life right now. I wish I had greater self discipline.

Z) What do you usually eat for breakfast? This morning I had Raisin Bran.

It makes a gal think

I am just about finished with Ken Burns' latest PBS documentary, this one on the Roosevelts. I am so impressed ... by Burns' work, by this family and by my country.

The documentary introduced me to TR as I had never seen him. It didn't really tell me much I didn't already know about Eleanor and Franklin, though it did present FDR's achievements in a new light and context. For example ...

I have been hard on President Obama lately because he has desperately disappointed me. But not because he's a "marxist/socialist" (as one overheated blogger from Florida called him yesterday -- as if the two are interchangeable) but because he lacks the leadership skills and imagination exhibited by the Roosevelts, especially FDR.

That blogger I encountered yesterday proved herself to be a superficial woman -- interested in justifying her misplaced anger and ignorance with her religion, which is sad for all Christians -- but she did get me thinking. If there had been Fox News and the Internet during the Depression and WWII, would we all be speaking German today?

I'm not being facetious. Can you imagine how FDR, with his New Deal programs like the National Recovery Administration and the SEC and the FHA, would play with the extreme right wingers that dominate the airwaves? Those programs did more than give the citizens hope, they strengthened our economy to the point that we were able to first assist the United Kingdom and then enter WWII. And defeat Hitler.

I'm a loyal Democrat -- a Kennedy girl who believes that government should do for us what we can't do for ourselves* -- so it's not surprising that FDR struck a chord with me. Still I appreciate hearing from the other side. I always perk up and pay attention when Mike Murphy, Nicholle Wallace (now on ABC's The View) or Steve Schmidt shows up. These Republicans are thoughtful grownups who can articulate their POV without going all birther/muslim/socialist/marxist. I've learned a lot from listening to them.

But because they don't pander to hate, I bet a large swath of far right wingers like "my friend from Florida" can't be bothered with them.

Which is sad.

 And kudos to Ken Burn and PBS for serving up our recent past in a way that encourages us to think.

*A rather Christian notion

That went well

I got a mailer from Carson's that included four coupons for my beloved Goodwill Sale. Usually, to get these 20% off coupons you need to contribute gently used clothes or linens, but here they were, in my mailbox! So I left the two blouses I was going to contribute at home. Oh, they'll end up at Goodwill, all right. It's a charity I enjoy supporting. But if I drop the blouses, and any other clothes I part with, at Goodwill itself rather than Carson's, I'll get a receipt for The Tax Man. So this was win/win.

First I got a new pair of black slacks and a dressier black/royal blue blouse ticketed at $84 for just
$44.38. Then I got my favorite Clinique eye creme for $39 instead of $44. Best of all, I found this watch. It's at Macy's for $49, but I got it at Carson's with my Goodwill coupon for just $34. I love the sturdy denim blue band and easy to read numbers.

I had time before my bus and stopped at a discount grocery store I seldom get visit. The Gerber baby food I mix with Connie Cat's medicine was just 90¢/jar (about a dime less than I usually pay) and I got a package of fettucine for just 69¢! That went immediately into the bag of food pantry donations, which is filling up nicely.

I got home before the rainstorm. I don't know why getting caught in a downpour drains me so, but it does. So I'm glad I missed it. On the way home I found myself in the middle of my village Oktoberfest. (Our local police now have segways; they look just as silly as Chicago police on segways.) My village is justifiably proud of how inclusive we are, so in addition to standard German fare we could choose from other cuisines. Which is how I ended up with egg foo young for dinner.

A good day all around.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Margaritaville (1977)

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

1) In this song Jimmy sings of "booze in the blender." What do you prepare in your blender? I don't have a blender.

2) As the song opens, Jimmy is sitting on his front porch swing. Describe the front porch of the building you're in right now. We don't really a front porch. There are four or five steps (odd that I never paid attention to how many) that lead to the vestibule where our mailboxes and doorbells are.

3) Jimmy sings of being able to smell boiling shrimp. Do you prefer your shrimp boiled, glazed or breaded? All shrimp is good shrimp to this gal.

4) During the song, he mentions his flip flops. Have you put your flip flops and sandals away till spring? Or is it still warm enough to wear them? It'll be warm enough again this weekend. But I know these days are waning.

5) Jimmy Buffett had hoped this song would be recorded by Elvis Presley, but The King died before he could perform it. What's the first Elvis song that comes to mind? "Like the river flows surely to the sea, darling so it goes, some things are meant to be." I'm such a sucker for Elvis and this song.

Fins to the left, fins to the right
6) Buffett fans are known as Parrotheads. Concert attire for a well-dressed Parrothead often includes a Hawaiian shirt and a foam fin hat. What will you be wearing tonight? Same as I will be wearing all day today -- jeans and a t-shirt. I went out this week and can't afford to this weekend. Plus, my foam fin is at the cleaner's.

7) Loyal Parrotheads paid between $500 and $5000 to see Mr. Buffet at a fundraiser for Barack Obama's 2012 Presidential campaign. What's the most you would pay for a concert ticket? I've seen Jimmy in concert and thoroughly enjoyed it, but not $500 worth. I did, however, pay $285 to see Sir Paul, live and up close from the infield at Wrigley Field. My favorite Beatle at my favorite place in the world. It was glorious.

8) Jimmy is an outspoken environmentalist and supports causes like ocean conservation, saving the manatees and expanding the Dallas Zoo. What steps do you take to help save the planet? I recycle. I'm careful to choose appliances with good Energy Star rankings. I bring my own canvas bag to the grocery store. Fill my reusable water bottle from the tap. I know I should do more. We all probably could do more.

9) Uh-oh. When Jimmy and the Coral Reefers played in Wisconsin this past August, more than two dozen concertgoers got tickets for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Do you believe pot should be legalized? I'm really ambivalent on this. On the one hand, the police and courts are wasting so much time and money on this when there are bigger problems. On the other hand, I don't think it enriches anyone's life. Oh, and I hate the smell, I really do. Does that make me sound like an old fart? Well, Jimmy himself is getting up there, isn't he? He must be nearly 70 by now.

Checking on my chicks

Sometimes I can be a mother hen when it comes to my friends. So I'm happy to report that some of my chicks have checked in and are doing OK.

My friend in the Keys is so excited about his book going to press. I haven't spoken to him, but we've emailed and texted. Since he's been working on this novel forever -- writing, rewriting and revising for, literally, years -- it represents such a big chunk of his life. I sent him these flowers to commemorate the occasion and he snapped this with his phone. Yeah, I know I'm supposed to be economizing, but 800Flowers had certain bouquets on sale AND I got bonus airline miles. Plus, c'mon, this is an event and attention must be paid.

Tom's wife is pregnant and he's happy at his job. Tom is a great guy. A "bro," as he and his friends like to say. He's had a tough go of it professionally over the last two years but he's kept at it and his hard work has paid off. His personal life is going very, very well, too. His wife's pregnancy happened faster than he expected but just as she hoped. She's a pediatric nurse at a major city hospital, and consequently sees only the sickest babies born to women over 35. The millions of healthy ones born to 35+ mommies each year? Those are not entrusted to her. So she was most eager to have her baby before she turns 35 and this one will come in under the wire. Tom is happy, but since it's nearly six months in the future, it doesn't seem "real" to him yet. What he is over the moon about is his dog. They got a puppy at Christmastime, his first pet ever (!), and it's such a delight to hear him talk about how that dog has opened his heart. Naturally, since we were in a sports bar and the visages of Rice and Petersen were on the screens all around us, the subject of the NFL scandals came up. Tom is a massive football fan who likes to watch Dolphins games in his official jersey, but this year he can't bring himself to watch. He talked about an incident where he accidentally made his puppy yelp and it literally made him cry. He says with that in mind, he can't look at men who would beat those who love and trust them. I thought I was going to cry.

Mindy's got it all in perspective. Her career and marriage are solid. Her oldest son just got his own apartment in the city. While he's a little lost professionally, he does have a well paying job (unusual for millennials in this tough economy!) and he's happy with his girlfriend and, since he's not yet 24, he has time to find a job that satisfies both his wallet and his imagination. Her younger son is now her problem. A senior in high school, he's skipping school and getting very bad grades already again this year. He has ADD and isn't willing to do the extra work required of him. Mindy and her husband are very patient with their son, more patient than he is with himself. Mom and Dad accept that he's going to have to go to community college for a year or two, to mature and get his grades up, and then go off to college. They're ready for his higher education to either be a 6 year slog or perhaps it will be a vocational school for him. Their son, however, has a new circle of friends who are already talking about going away to Iowa State, Oberlin and Purdue, and he won't have the grades or scores to get in to a good school. So he's been acting out -- skipping school and saying things he KNOWS will press his mother's buttons. Specifically that he thinks Adrien Petersen should be left alone ("So he hit his kid. Big deal.") and, since their beloved cockapoo has developed diabetes, it's time to put the dog down ("She's so expensive" and "Her best her days are behind her" and "It's embarrassing the way she pees all the time."). It hurts her that her sweet-natured little boy has turned into such an asshole, but then she reminds herself that he's mad at the bad choices he's made, mad because he's not going to have what he wants when he wants it (the dorm life he saw his brother enjoying at U of I and that he his friends will have this time next year) and this is how the mad manifests itself.

Cha-ching! Tom picked up the check for my burger and beer. I overpaid for my portion of the meal with Mindy* because I didn't have any singles and we didn't have time to wait for change if we were to get from the restaurant to our trains. So I'd say financially it was a wash.

Best of all, that's three chicks this mother hen can check off her worry list.

*Somehow, whenever I go out with Mindy, I end up overpaying. It's been like this for 30 years. It used to bug me, but now it just makes me smile.

Friday, September 19, 2014

I want this very much

I love The Palmolive Building on Michigan Avenue. It's a beautiful, lovingly restored art deco building and that light you see is called The Lindbergh Beacon. It dates back to the 1930s when it helped pilots fly into Chicago from over the Lake. Of course with today's air traffic controllers it's no longer necessary, but it still shines every night, rotating a full 360ยบ. 

Quite possibly the coolest condo in the building is now up for sale! It was actor Vince Vaughn's bachelor pad, and now that he's a sedate married man and a father, he's put it on the block for just under $15 million.

What will my $14.9 million get me? The top three floors. The 35th floor will be my bedroom and personal bath, as well as four guest bedrooms and two more bathrooms.

The elevator won't stop at 35, though. The bedrooms are connected by stairs to the living room on the 36th floor. That's where my foyer (and elevator entrance), living room, dining room and kitchen (including butler's pantry) are. 

From the terrace
Another set of stairs takes me to the the 37th floor, the penthouse. That's where my game room is. Computers, big screen TV, pool table, and bar. My private terraces will give me unparalleled views of Michigan Avenue and Oak Street Beach.

Best of all, the 37th floor was, for many years, the office of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. I like this idea of this unrepentant 1970s vintage feminist putting her feet up there.

A new day

In the late 1980s and early 90s I clocked a lot of hours volunteering at the animal shelter. One of my duties was watching how prospective pet parents interacted with the adoptable cats. I was asked to do a little prescreening and raise a red flag if someone expressed outmoded animal care ideas.

"Naturally I'll let him out at night. Cats need to roam."
"I don't want to get her fixed until she has at least one litter. It's not fair to her to not let her be a mother."
"I'm going to keep him in the basement because we have mice."

Of course that was 20 years ago. We have evolved as a society and generally people recognize how dangerous it is to let our pets just "roam," and that it's safe and preferable to spay/neuter a puppy or kitten before they are old enough to mate, and that domestic cats should be companions, not "mousers."

I'm hoping that, as a society, we evolve the same way about childcare. And that whole idea that no one can tell parents how to raise their kids? It's not true. We have laws that protect children from bad parenting, as we should.

For example, in this state, you can't leave a kid of 13 or under unsupervised for any length of time. Doesn't matter that "back in the day," 13 year olds were considered old enough to baby sit. We know better now. You can't let a kid under 16 behind the wheel of your car. Doesn't matter that "back in the day," rural kids were driving trucks and tractors. We know better now. You are responsible if minors drink in your home. Doesn't matter that "back in the day," parents thought that, since kids are going to drink anyway, you think it's "safer" for them to do it at home. We know better now. You have to secure your little one in a carseat. Doesn't matter that "back in the day," you were allowed to bounce around and patrol the backseat unfettered. We know better now. If a child misses more than 18 days of class per school year, the parents can be fined or jailed. Doesn't matter that "back in the day," your parents didn't think it was "a big deal" when you skipped school. We know better now.

And it's illegal to hit a child so hard, or so often, that the kid requires medical attention. It just is. Even if you are the parent. It doesn't matter if your parents disciplined you that way "back in the day." We know better now.

We don't want a child to stop doing something because they fear corporal punishment, we want them to stop it because they know it's wrong. It's not about obedience, it's about values.There are many long-term studies -- conducted long before the current NFL scandals -- that bear this out. Children who were spanked often can grow up to be more aggressive and have an extrinsic morality.

I hope all these people who still insist that it's okay to "belt," "whup," "beat" or (a new one I just learned yesterday from my friend Tom) "chancleta" kids because their parents did it to them will open their eyes and their hearts. Saying that the way you were raised wasn't perfect doesn't mean you don't love and don't honor your parents. It means you recognize that they were human. Second guessing some of your own parenting decisions doesn't mean you don't love your children. It means you can forgive yourself for being human and that you're willing to change.

It's a new day.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bravo! Bravo! Author! Author!

My friend in the Keys is now a published author! His novel of historic fiction is going to press tomorrow. It's a micro run (250 copies) with a vanity house, but so what? He won a grant from a local arts council and that's how he's paying for it. The fact that the arts council believes in him enough to cut him a check for a couple thousand proves that his manuscript has merit.

He is justifiably proud of himself. I am enormously pleased for him. He loves Key West so much, but has suffered quite a few career setbacks in nearly 20 years down there. He is a good person with an enormous heart, and I am thrilled that he has something to celebrate.

It shocks me

Adrian Petersen is 6'2 and weighs 215 lbs. On two separate occasions, this man has been accused of child abuse in "disciplining" his sons (two different children, with different mothers, both aged 4). He "whooped" both of these children while in the car with them. The more recent instance included a switch. Which, of course, means that he takes a stick with him when he travels with his preschooler, just in case he needs to "whoop" him.

Mr. Petersen plays for the Minnesota Vikings. At least he did. Right now he's suspended while these allegations are investigated. It's rumored that the Vikings don't want him back.

That doesn't shock me. Who isn't repulsed at the idea of a 200+ lb. man hitting a child until he leaves marks?

Apparently lots of people aren't repulsed. That's what shocks me.

Comments like these makes my skin crawl:

"I was beat as a child and I'm fine."

"We were spanked we needed it. And I spanked my kids....and if the grandkids need it...I spank them too."

I wonder if you are "fine" after being hit regularly as a child. I certainly do not believe anyone ever needs to feel a slap.

There are things about my upbringing that I question in retrospect, but here is one thing my mother got completely, unutterably right -- no spankings, ever. She believed that it teaches that "might makes right." She said kids learn that it's acceptable to handle a situation with a physical response.

I wonder how many drivers involved in road rage were "spanked" as children. I wonder how many street thugs received "whoopings." I wonder how many wife beaters got 'the belt" or "the wooden spoon." That would explain why they somehow feel that justified in acting out when they feel "disrespected."

Domestic violence -- whether man on woman or adult on child -- is a real problem in this country. And I worry that it will continue as long as people cling to the outmoded and very sad notion that just because someone is smaller than you are, you have some God given right to strike them.

And here I am, in need of a new watch

... and some gray (or maybe navy) slacks. Just in time for the Goodwill Sale! Which is good, because I can't afford to pay full price just now.

I love the Goodwill Sale. For every piece of gently used clothing or linen you bring to Carson's (or BonTon or Bergner's, depending on where you live), you get a coupon for up to 25% something new. So you're cleaning out your closet, you're saving on something new, and you're helping someone in your community get a job.

I'll be going this weekend. I have at least two blouses earmarked for this. Yea!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


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

• What are you currently reading? The Patriarch by David Nasaw. The subject, Joseph P. Kennedy, led such an expansive and eventful life at that even though this book is massive (860+ pages), it's holding my interest. Right now it's the 1920s and he's left banking and Boston for Hollywood to a movie studio. If you're interested in the Kennedy family, I recommend this book.

• What did you recently finish reading? Leading Man by Benjamin Svetkey. A charming and surprisingly touching novel. Our narrator moves to New York with his childhood sweetheart. He's going to be a journalist, she's going to be an actress. Their love affair becomes a triangle when she is swept off her feet by a major movie star. Yes, there's tons of glamor in this book but there's also quite a bit about the nature of love, and how it's one of the few forces in life that can really change a person.

• What do you think you’ll read next? I've got Webb Hubbell's first novel, When Men Betray. It's a political mystery set in Little Rock. As a former aide to Bill Clinton and Mayor of Little Rock, he's well qualified to tackle this terrain.

To see how others responded, click here.


I'm in a bad mood.

Last weekend marked the second anniversary of my mother's passing. I find myself angry at her. I know she wished I was prettier, more conventional. I know she was continually surprised when people other than her cared about me. Yet she leaned on me consistently and rather heavily. Snatches of conversation that bear this out keep running through my mind. I try to dismiss these thoughts because 1) they're probably not representative of our entire relationship and 2) it does no good, since the dead win every argument. My shrink warned me, toward the end of my mother's life, when I made the conscious decision to not argue with her about things that this would happen. My shrink was right. (Maybe she earned all those letters after her name.)

I'm bored at work. There are a lot of reasons for this that I don't feel like cataloging right now. But the days crawl by and I'm more exhausted when I get home than I'd be if I was busy.

I'm worried about money. Again. My retirement accounts are fine, but my day-to-day finances are a mess. Bathroom Renovation Part II, a new sofa, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and the holidays are all on the docket between now and year end and they're all expensive.

I miss baseball. Yes, the Cubs are still playing but they are playing very sloppy ball. It makes sense. After all, they're statistically out of it and are playing teams who are also out of it. I am very hopeful for next season, but we have get to slog through the remainder of this season -- and then winter and spring -- first.

So let's look at this another way.

The money stuff is a sticky wicket. I have expenses I have to handle and I have to figure out how to be smart about it. That's not a matter of attitude. But ...

OK, my mother and I didn't have a perfect relationship, but I know she loved me. I should concentrate on that. And I should count myself as lucky that at least I'm not racked with guilt about being mad at her. She was my mother, yes, and I loved her and miss her, yes. But we were also simply two women in a half-century long relationship. Conflicts are only natural.

This slow time at work may have advantages. I can work out longer at lunch time. Noodle around with some fiction. Be a better friend and write more consequential letters to my aunt, my cousin and my friend in the Keys.

The Cubs still have to play the Dodgers. Those games will should be good.

I've got to get my mind right.

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Guilty pleasure

I'm an unabashed eavesdropper. Today, while I was part of the crowd waiting to cross Michigan and Randolph, I listened in on two very different conversations.

1) Woman on her phone: "… no, I don't know if I'll make it back in time … no, it's not fun … no, I don't know who's idea it was …" She was so unhappy, pulled so taut. When she got back to the office and discovered who's idea it was, well, I feel sorry for that person.

2) Two rather merry thirtysomething men: "He was fun to talk to until the meds wore off." "They let him go home that soon? Where did he have it done?" "Well, it wasn't a strip mall. It's not like you can have something like that done at a tanning parlor." "Strip mall brain surgery!" (Much laughter)  Brain surgery? I wonder how serious it could have been if the patient's friends were this jovial about it.

Feeling it

In less than 60 days I turn (gulp) 57. Suddenly I'm aware of my years.

•  It's harder to stand up after I've been sitting for a while

•  I completely forget common words (Sunday, after church, I kept saying, "you know, the thing" when I was referring to an insert in the bulletin)

•  The skin around my eyes is as thin, and as wrinkled, as tissue paper

I'm not digging any of this. But, alas, I can only stave it off, I can't completely prevent it. And I'm lucky it's taken me this long to start seriously showing my years on the outside.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

I gave $20!

Does that count?

I'm watching the latest Ken Burns documentary, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, on PBS. I do love my American history, and I do admire Ken Burns' work. So I'm completely jacked about this. I learned, just now, that as a boy Teddy Roosevelt watched Abraham Lincoln's funeral procession when it went through New York. I find this historic convergence very moving.

The only dark cloud on my gloriously geeky horizon is that it's PBS. They have a way of making me feel I haven't done enough to support the channel and pay for the program I'm watching. I have contributed to my local station, but it was only $20. Is that enough?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sunday Stealing

Celebrity Obsession 

01. First Celebrity Obsession or Crush Since I was only about 3, I have no memory of this, but my mother told me I used to cry inconsolably during Bonanza, a show my father insisted we watch each Sunday. It took her a while to figure out I only got upset if someone hit or (God forbid) shot Little Joe.

02. Favorite Celebrity Encounter In 1981 I partied with Bruce Springsteen. He was kind and smart and when he kissed me -- yes, he bent me back and kissed me -- he tasted like beer. It was perfect.

03. Most Cherished Celebrity Obsession
 My all time idol is JBKO, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. I know she'd hate being regarded as a celebrity, since she appreciated her place in history, but her fame extended far beyond the White House.

04. A celebrity you’d love to hang out with
 Jackson Galaxy from Animal Planet's My Cat from Hell.

05. A celebrity you’d love to sit down and have a conversation with
 Robert Osborne! He's a host on TCM and I just adore him. He's an articulate expert on classic cinema and seems like a gentle man and a gentleman.

06. An artist you’d like to see live Sir Paul. Always and forever Sir Paul.

07. A celebrity you respect purely for talent Woody Allen. Because his talent is undeniable and frankly, there is nothing else to admire about him. I often wonder why God so gifted such a shitty excuse for a man.

08. A celebrity you feel you’d be good friends with Joe and Mika from MSNBC's Morning Joe. I mention both of them because I only think of them in tandem.

09. A celebrity you dislike that others seem to love Patricia Heaton. Why that shrill bitch keeps appearing on TV is a mystery. Oh well, grabbing the remote and switching the channel as soon as I see her face is good for my manual dexterity.

10. A celebrity you respect for what they’ve been through in life Again, JBKO. No one handled as much with more grace. Her parents' scandalous separation and divorce when she was 12, her father's alcoholism, her first husband's weakness for a well-turned ankle, enduring five difficult pregnancies in 10 years yet she only brought two babies home from the hospital, the horror in that open car in Dallas, mourning with the world watching, her brother-in-law's murder, her second husband's weakness for a well-turned ankle, her step son's death, another widowhood, her mother's Alzheimer's, her sister's alcoholism, her own battle with cancer … And yet she made this difficult life look so effortless. My admiration for her knows no bounds.

11. A celebrity you share a birthday with Jamie Lee Curtis

12. A celebrity you find annoying Patricia Heaton. Or Kris Jenner. Those two embody everything icky about women.

13. Favorite under-20 celebrity I don't think I know anyone under 20. So I'll go with that venerable 24 year old, Jennifer Lawrence.

14. Favorite over-60 celebrity Streisand

15. The celebrity “fandom” that means most to you I am a Cub fan.