Sunday, November 30, 2014


For the first time, I reached my Nanowrimo goal of 50,000 words! Yea!

I'm nowhere near done with Liza's saga. It was too ambitious for 50,000 words. But I'm going to give it a rest for a while. I've been more than a little obsessive and it's time to do housework, write holiday cards, laundry, etc.

Sunday Stealing

Shop On The Corner Meme

What kind of job did your mom have when you were growing up? She was a stay at home mom. All our mothers were stay at home moms. On November 22, 1963, after President Kennedy was assassinated, we were each sent home from school at lunchtime and with a note saying not to come back until further notice. Looking back, it seems shocking that the school just assumed none of us would be returning to an empty house.

 Have you ever known anyone that’s been on tv, including you? My friend Ed is an extra on the TV show Chicago Fire. I was on TV Election Night, 1992. I was a Clinton campaign worker ("Clintonistas," as we were known) and I was shown in the victory celebration on Channel 7, the local ABC affiliate. I remember exactly what I was wearing -- a long black sweater, black leggings and little boots. I wish I had enjoyed what a good figure I had back then, rather than concentrating on its flaws.

What was the most interesting animal you have seen in the wild? I've never seen an animal in the wild.

What holiday do you enjoy the most? Dr. King's birthday. First of all, because it celebrates Dr. King and it's always good to reflect on his message of peace and tolerance and equality. Secondly, it's a day off when we can really use one. Mid-January can look and feel pretty bleak. I appreciate the respite of a day off and something so positive.

 What was the first video game you ever played? Pong.

 What is the one thing you own, that if it got lost, you would be bummed? My independence!

 Do you have a favorite breakfast item? Eggs.

 What do you find yourself buying all the time? Cat food.

 When was the last time you got a real letter in the mail? My cousin Rose and I correspond all the time. There's a letter right beside me dated last Monday that I just got yesterday. Maybe it's that five day lag time that helps make snail mail so unpopular. Oh well, I still enjoy getting the mail each day.

Do you have a most prized piece of jewelry? I have a couple pendants -- one silver bar like this and the other a coin --  made from real (scrap) silver recovered from the the Atocha. The Atocha was a Spanish ship that went down just off Key West in the 1600s. My late uncle was a coin collector and studied the treasure that was recovered from the ship. One of his proudest possessions was one of the ship's real coins, worth thousands of dollars today. Whenever I wear the coin or pendant, I remember him and how much the Atocha meant to him.

 Do you own any board games? I've got Clue and Scrabble in the closet somewhere.

 What chore seems the most daunting right now? HOUSEWORK! This place is a freaking sty. Which is why I'll do my Christmas cards today. It's too overwhelming.

 Were you born in the state you live in? Yes.

 Have you ever lived in a house that has been broken into? No.

 What is your favorite cheese? I'd like a sharp cheddar scrambled into my eggs, please.

 Who do you know that watches the most sports? My friend Mindy's husband watches all the football he possibly can. Doesn't matter which teams. He's just transfixed by football.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Saturday 9

Paint It Black

1) This song was chosen because yesterday was Black Friday, the traditional day of sales. Have you begun your Christmas shopping? I'm almost done. I have a couple of gift cards and stocking stuffers left to pick up, and then I'm done. By the way, this is the first year I ventured out into the Black Friday madness. I went to Macy's after Thanksgiving dinner because it was right there, open around the clock starting at 6:00 PM Thursday night. The prices didn't impress me but the crowds did. So many little kids, so many strollers! I hadn't expected that.

2) Are there any Thanksgiving leftovers in your refrigerator right now?  No. We ate out. The upside is no clean up. The downside is no leftovers.

3) AAA says Thanksgiving is a big travel weekend. Did you venture far from home for your holiday dinner?  No. I took the el downtown like I always do, but got off at an earlier stop.

4) Keith Richards likes France but, alas, the French authorities haven't always been fond of him and his criminal record. Have you ever been to France? Yes. Decades ago I went to Paris and Nancy. I still can't get over the fact that I saw the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees.

5) Mick Jagger jokes that, to be polite to fellow hotel guests, he always finishes trashing his room by 10:00 PM. What kind of hotel/motel guest are you? Are you rockstar rambunctious, or are you quiet? Are you neat? Have you stolen any towels, bathrobes, etc.? Except that I sleep with the TV on, I believe I'm a perfect guest.

6) Mick Jagger got his financial savvy as a student at the London School of Economics. Are you good with money?  Ha!

7) In the early 1990s, a then little-known actress named Angelina Jolie appeared in a Rolling Stones video ("Anybody Seen My Baby?"). Name an Angelina Jolie movie. Loved Maleficent. I'm still Team Aniston, but Maleficent was awesome.

8) In the early 1960s, the Stones nearly avoided tragedy when their tour bus skidded off a bridge. Tell us about a near miss you're thankful for. I can't believe it's been six years, because I remember it like it was yesterday. One Tuesday, when I was on my way back to the office after a lunchtime workout, I very nearly got hit by a cab that was racing through the yellow light. Considering the speed at which it was traveling, if it had made contact with me, I would have been killed instantly. (Shudder.)

9) In 1966, when this week's song was popular, CBS telecast How the Grinch Stole Christmas for the first time. What's your favorite Dr. Seuss story? 

Giving thanks

My friend John and I celebrated our third Thanksgiving together. His friend Gregory joined us (or, rather, I joined them, as they have been celebrating the holiday this way for years). We ate at McCormick and Schmick's and here's what we had.

Once again I was impressed by how easy and comfortable our new tradition is. I'm thankful for no guilt, no stress, no clean up. I highly recommend it.

Bright light city, the final chapter

Las Vegas is such an aggressively tacky, silly place. There are even slot machines at the airport. After I put my friend on her flight to Los Angeles, I had about 20 minutes before my flight boarded. I went to the ladies room and then played the Dolly Parton slot machine.

I won $36! And then my flight was called, so I didn't have time to lose it.

Thanks, Dolly!

Bright light city, Part 3

We stayed at the Luxor, which is a charming but completely ridiculous Las Vegas hotel. It is literally a pyramid, so when we went up to our room on the 23rd floor, we actually swayed. Our room was
shaped like a pyramid, too, so the window was at a severe angle. It's one of those Vegas spectacles that just has you shaking your head and saying, "What the fu ..." over and over again.

We ate at two of the Luxor's restaurants, the Pyramid Cafe (which is a nice coffee shop) and Rice and Company (a very good Asian restaurant).

We also saw its Titanic exhibition. This was my fourth time seeing it. I saw it more than a decade ago in Toronto, then here in Chicago, then another time in Vegas at the Tropicana. It's a very moving to see luggage and dishware and glasses and shoes (laces still tied) that belonged to the passengers. There's also a simulated iceberg that you can touch, so you can actually feel what the ship confronted.

What was new this time was The Big Piece. An actual chunk of the ship is now on display, close enough to touch. To borrow a phrase, this is when shit got real. Maybe it was the late hour, maybe it was the booze I'd already consumed, but seeing the actual portholes that the doomed looked through, moved me to tears.

If you ever have the opportunity to see this exhibition, please do. It's intense, it's beautiful, it's thought provoking.

My friend and I discussed it at length afterward and she maintains the reason why the Titanic story has such a hold on us is that there are so many times the tragedy could have been mitigated or avoided. They could have loaded the ship with more lifeboats, they could have stocked the ship with the right grade of coal, the look outs could have used binoculars, they could have hit the iceberg head on, which would have damaged but not sunk the ship. If only ... if only ... if only ...

Bright light city, Part 2

These two are both grandparents.

This humbling fact kept going through my mind as Donny and Marie performed at the Flamingo on my birthday.

They are both in exquisite shape, performing for 90 minutes, two shows a night. I was tired just watching them. If I may be permitted a bit of snark, Marie's had a bit too much work done. But maybe that's me being jealous.

My Vegas companion, my oldest friend, loved Donny when we were in junior high. I mean, she loved him. Photos on her bedroom wall, writing his name on her folder, the whole nine yards. So seeing him with her was a particular kick. And I must give her credit for knowing how to pick them. My fave rave from the early 1970s, Bobby Sherman, doesn't look anywhere near as pert as Donny these days.

My oldest friend and I laughed a great deal on this trip. It was good for me to get away, good for me to enjoy a change of scenery, and nowhere is the scenery more different than Vegas!

Bright light city, Part One

A week ago today I went to Las Vegas for my birthday.

They say all bags on the carousel look the same. Not mine. Connie sees to it by shedding all over my bags so they are the ones covered in cat hair.

The flight to Vegas was uneventful, which makes me happy because I'm a white knuckle flier. We were book for Gate D10 and guess what plane we rolled past to get there. Yes, the most famous plane in the world. They say President Obama was in Nevada to talk about immigration policy. But I think it's a Chicago thing, and our favorite son just wanted to show me a little support on my birthday.

As always around my birthday, there are observances in memory of President Kennedy. The Tropicana Hotel hosted an exhibit that included a replica of the JFK/LBJ Air Force One. It was an especial kick to see it after meeting the real thing. BTW, my all-time idol JBKO is the one who designed the distinctive look Air Force One still sports today. She chose the two shades of blue for the nose (both lighter than the field behind the stars of the flag) and the font for UNITED STATES OF AMERICA up the side and flag on the tail. The only change from Jackie's original sketch is the addition of the Presidential seal.

Playing catch up

I can't believe how long it's been since I've updated this blog! Part of it has been that old demon sloth, part has been that first I was busy and then I had the blues, part has been that I've been working fiendishly on my Nanowrimo, and part has been that I haven't known where to start. That's how I am when things get too far away from me -- once I finally pick up the shovel I don't know where to start digging.

So let's consider this post a bit of spadework.

At the beginning of last week I was battling the blues, and it's always easier to write about that once it's past.

Birthdays tend to be a time of reflection, and when I was reflecting I didn't like what I saw. I'm broke, my home is a mess, my career is stalled, I felt unappreciated by my friends ... once things started looking bleak, it spun out of control.

Looking back, there were four catalysts:

1) My poor Joey. He's fine now. Today he's affectionate, a little bit thinner, playing (even able to jump onto the bed on his own!) and eating. But my senior citizen kitty had been very ill earlier this month and, as I was preparing to go away to Las Vegas, I was worried about leaving him.

2) Financial woes. Not only are my personal finances a mess, it's come out that our condo association is broke, too. Like me, the board has been guilty of laziness and poor choices. I believe my dues are going up more than $40/month in 2015.

3) My cousin Rose. I love her, but if I spent more than 4 hours with her at a crack (really, I've timed it)  I want to kill her. Since her divorce more than a decade ago, and then menopause, she's been judgmental and inflexible and more than a little angry. Last summer, I lied to her about the extent of my bathroom renovation because I didn't want her staying here. Well, guess what! She's coming back -- in March, maybe sooner! AAAARGH! Now I've got to get my bathroom done pronto or be caught in the lie. I don't want to hurt her, so as soon as I file my taxes I'll call Cute Handyman. Even though I resent doing it before I'm ready. And I don't want her staying here. And I feel guilty about how I feel about someone who is so dependably good to me.

4) My bedframe broke. I was getting into bed on Wednesday night and bam. I felt so helpless, like such a loser. Here I was leaving for Vegas Friday morning, and I was going to be in the Loop all day Thursday (try to find a hardware store in the Loop), plus I had to no idea how to fix the thing anyway. Well, I figured it out (duct tape, wood glue, and c-clamps).

Well, that's it for now.

Birthday and Thanksgiving updates to come.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Spa Weekend -- Day 2

On Sunday I got my Las Vegas/Key West pedi. "OPI La-Paz-itively Hot." I am happy.

Gratitude Challenge -- Day 17

"Every day for 30 days, celebrate what you're grateful for, corresponding to the theme of the day." 

Day #16 -- Something that makes you smile

My old tub of guts, Joey. He's such a good cat. I love when he curls up next to me, presses himself against me on the futon and purrs. He and I are both contented at those moments.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday Stealing

Taking Stock Meme 

Making: plans for the day

 Cooking: or rather, defrosting, a salmon filet

 Drinking: Slim Fast creamy chocolate shake

 Reading: The Patriarch, a wonderful biography of Joseph P. Kennedy. I will miss this epic book when I finally finish it.

 Wanting: The laundry room to myself this afternoon. Two washers/dryers for 24 apartments. UGH!

 Looking: for my rings. Where did I leave them?

 Wasting: time by farting on the internet

 Wishing: and Hoping

 Enjoying: my Sunday

 Waiting: for Godot

 Liking: my new sweatpants. I bought them last year and put them away, but now that it's a cold day, it's time to put them to use.

 Wondering: what the future will bring

 Loving: this time of year

 Listening: to the news
 Needing: to take a shower

 Smelling: nothing. Not a damn thing.

 Wearing: my pjs

 Following: hundreds of people on Twitter

 Noticing: that my skin is mega dry earlier this year

 Knowing: that this week will be busy at work

 Thinking: that I ought to get off my fat ass and get going

 Feeling: lazy

 Bookmarking: lots of stuff

 Opening: mail. Time to pay my mid-month bills.

 Giggling: over A Hard Day's Night. Just watched it again yesterday and love how funny it is.

Gratitude Challenge -- Day 16

"Every day for 30 days, celebrate what you're grateful for, corresponding to the theme of the day." 

Day #16 -- Something that makes me laugh

My oldest friend has always, always been able to make me laugh. We laugh over stupid stuff, which is often a relief. She's been keeping me amused for half a century. Next week we're going to Vegas together for my birthday, and I'm very grateful that I have her to celebrate with.

Spa Weekend -- Day 1

Yesterday I took myself to a local salon for a massage and facial. I had a coupon, so it was less than $100, including tip. That it wasn't too expensive helped me relax more.

The aesthetician told me my skin was in "very good" shape, which surprised me because that's no way to retail product. But it did make me happy to hear. The masseur was a little too blabby for my taste. I think because he's male and a foreigner (he described himself to me as "an Israeli Jew") he was afraid that I'd be uncomfortable and was trying to put me at ease. I wasn't ill at ease. But it was a good massage.

I literally sang all the way home. (The Boss in my headphones.) I'm grateful that so many people walk up the street talking to their hands free. It probably made me look a little less loony to the cars that passed me. (Very few pedestrians, as it was one of our first really cold days.)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: All About that Bass (2014)

1) This song is body positive. In that spirit: What physical feature would you never change, no matter what? I like my green eyes.

2) The lyrics mention how often the media uses Photoshop to present a more ideal female form. Is Photoshop on your computer? If so, do you know how to use it? No, I don't have it and no, I don't know how to use it.

3) She also sings about Mattel's Barbie doll. According to Toys R Us, this year's best-selling doll is not Barbie but Disney's Elsa. Have you seen Frozen? Haven't seen Frozen yet, but I'm all for a movie that celebrates a good role model for little girls.
4) In the video, Meghan dances merrily around her twin bed with its pink head/footboard. Describe your bed to us. Full sized cherry wood frame in a very messy bedroom.

5) Ms. Trainor began writing songs when she was 11. Would you find it easier to write lyrics or music? Lyrics. I can't read or write music.

6) Meghan recently performed "All About that Bass" on the CMAs with country star Miranda Lambert. Who is your favorite country singer? I recently rediscovered all those old Garth Brooks songs on my iPod, and I'm really enjoying them, so I'll go with him.

7) In September, Meghan had to cancel several concerts because of throat trouble. Are you battling a cold, cough or sore throat this morning? No. And I got a flu shot this year, so hopefully I'll stay healthy!

8) Meghan was born in Nantucket, MA. "Nantucket" is an Algonquian name that means, "faraway island." How did your town get its name/what does it mean? Chicago comes from the Algonquin Indian word for "wild onion," but the spelling is French. Or rather, how French settlers interpreted the Indian word.

9) According to the National Weather Service, between rain and snow, winter brings Nantucket the most precipitation it sees all year. How is the weather where you are today? Dry and clear and 15º right now. The mercury is supposed to reach a balmy 25ª this afternoon!

Gratitude Challenge -- Days 14 and 15

"Every day for 30 days, celebrate what you're grateful for, corresponding to the theme of the day." 

Day #14 -- Color
My favorite color is blue. I love blue. My bedroom walls and carpet are blue.  I love wearing blue with blue, especially dark wash denim and a light blue shirt or sweater. My favorite blue of all is PMS 294, the official blue of my beloved Chicago Cubs. Because nothing makes me as happy as baseball. Nothing, except ...

Day #15 -- Music

Music can change my mood in an instant. Certain songs, like "At Seventeen" by Janis Ian or "Save the Best for Last" by Vanessa Williams, must be avoided at all costs. But many, many more songs lift me up. I'm grateful for how reliable and potent and cheap this mood elevator is. This evening, on the el, I listened to a wonderful old Garth Brooks song I haven't thought about ages -- "Papa Loved Mama" -- and I smiled all the way home.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Gratitude Challenge -- Day 13

"Every day for 30 days, celebrate what you're grateful for, corresponding to the theme of the day." 

Day #13 -- Smells
Cinnamon is my favorite scent. It makes me feel warm and happy. One of the reasons why I like autumn so much is that suddenly, cinnamon is everywhere!
I also like lavender, but I admit it's a distant second.

Where's Martha?

Tuesday night, my classic film club screened Hitchcock's Lifeboat. We had a big crowd, which made me happy for Will, our moderator, because he's so enthusiastic about these gettogethers. But two things bothered me:

•  The newbies' response to the film. I was sitting beside four people who I don't recall having met before. They were a mother, her teenaged daughter and two of the daughter's friends. Their laughter really disturbed me. There were moments that Hitchcock included as comic relief from the film's life/death tension, so their giggles here didn't register on my radar. But when they tittered during the chaste, tentative Mary Anderson/Hume Cronyn love story and (worse) the lynching of the Nazi, my skin crawled. I appreciate that the way the Nazi is viewed in this film has changed over time, and our moderator told us that Hitchcock himself believed that when the survivors take arms against him, it was a metaphor for the allies standing up to the Germans. I, on the other hand, thought it showed that when we abandon our American ideals and the rule of law we can be reduced to level of our worst enemies. Ok. That's a debate worth having. BUT in either event, beating the man and throwing him overboard should not be a knee slapper.

•  No Martha. At these meet-ups I've become well acquainted with two new people: Rebecca, the transplanted Southerner who is trying to launch a new phase of her career, and Martha, the Buddhist CTA bus driver. This is the second meet-up in a row that Martha missed. She loves classic Hollywood and hasn't missed a single one of these screenings since I joined more than a year ago. I hope everything is OK. Next month is our annual Christmas party, and I really hope she's there!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Gratitude Challenge -- Day 12

"Every day for 30 days, celebrate what you're grateful for, corresponding to the theme of the day." 

Day #12 -- Texture
This is my Goody hairbrush. I love how it makes my hair look. I love how the bristles feel against my scalp. I love how easy it is to find in my handbag. That's why I have four of them (purse, bathroom, bedroom and coffee table).

I am grateful that if I need a fifth, it's still as nearby as my local Walgreen's.

I'm safe from any threats by a shoe lace

My Joey is starting to feel better. On Tuesday he was his usual big old purr box self, and even played a bit, first swatting at my necklace and then treating my shoe lace like prey.

He just needs time to heal. He's had a rough 10 days, battling a kidney infection, and he has another 10 days of antibiotics to go.

I realize he'll never be young again. I look rambunctious young Connie and vital Reynaldo and understand that Joey is nearing the end of his life journey. But I'm no longer afraid that this infection will be what kills him.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Gratitude Challenge -- Day 11

"Every day for 30 days, celebrate what you're grateful for, corresponding to the theme of the day." 

Day #11 -- Noise

I'm a City Mouse. I like the sounds of traffic and trains and the kids next store playing under my living room window. It makes me feel connected to the rest of the world.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Worried all day

My cat Joey was so low energy, so slow moving that I was afraid he might not make it through the night. He didn't seem to be in any pain. He just didn't seem to he himself.

He was a bit better in the morning. He's only on Day 3 of his antibiotics, with ten more days to go, so I guess this isn't unexpected. But it worried me. And I was worried about him all day.

Imagine my joy when I got home this evening and the old boy greeted me at the door. His appetite is good, though he doesn't want treats. He is affectionate, though he has a hard time leaping up on the furniture when he wants a cuddle.

As my vet told me, the important thing is that we "knock out" that kidney infection. If the amoxicillin makes him feel a little crappy before it makes him feel better, so be it.

I just wish the path to feeling better was smoother.

Gratitude Challenge -- Day 10

"Every day for 30 days, celebrate what you're grateful for, corresponding to the theme of the day." 

Day #10 -- Quiet

I require alone time. I know this comes as a surprise to people who know me casually, because when I'm out and about in public among the masses I can be a chatterbox. But I need peace and quiet to recharge, to feel refreshed and sharp and ready to face the world.

That's why I'm grateful I live alone.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Sunday Stealing

The Blue Meme 

26) Are you happy with the person you've become? For the most part.

27) What's a sound you hate; sound you love? I hate, HATE the sound of cardboard against cardboard, like when someone assembles a moving box. That completely creeps me out. I love the sound of a cat's purr.

28) What's your biggest "what if"? Oh, they're all of a romantic nature. What if I'd worked harder on that relationship, what if I'd bailed out of this one sooner?

29) Do you believe in ghosts? Not really. Not the Caspar the Friendly Ghost kind.

30) How about aliens? Intellectually, yes. It's hubris to think we're the only living beings in the universe. But emotionally, I can't get my mind around them.

31) What is the single best decision you have made in your life so far? Maybe buying this place.

32) What's the worst place you have ever been to? I didn't enjoy the little lake my family went to every summer when I was growing up. BORING! And no air conditioning.

33) Can insanity bring on more creativity? John Lennon used to say, "Genius is pain." Maybe there's something to that. Perhaps one has to be uncomfortable, unconventional and maybe a little crazy to be truly creative.

34) Most attractive actor of your opposite gender? I have always been more than a little in love with Bruce Willis. I know he's bald and not classically handsome. But I'm attracted to the attitude and the talent and the daring career choices. (And the line of his back, the way his shoulders run down into his waist and then butt. He's put together rather nicely.)

35) To you, what is the meaning of life? To borrow from John again, "Love is all you need."

36) Define "Art." The diminutive of Arthur

37) Do you believe in luck? Yes

38) In your opinion, what makes a great relationship? Respect and laughter

39) What's a song that always makes you happy when you hear it

40) Where were you yesterday? I went to the movies. Saw Birdman. (Psst! I think it's overrated.)

41) What's the worst injury you've ever had? In September 2012, I had surgery, which entailed two grown men putting their hands inside of me and removing some of my organs. Hopefully that's as bad as it'll ever be for me.

42) Do you have any obsessions right now? Always! Right now, pre-1965 America.

43) What's up? I'm working on my Nanowrimo novel. If I haven't been a good blog buddy this month, that's why.

44) Ever had a rumor spread about you? Lots of them.

45) Do you believe in real magic? No
46) Do you ever hold grudges against people who have done you wrong? Good goobies, yes!

47) What's your favorite (non-pet) animal? The okapi. They are the neatest animal ever.

48) What is your secret weapon to get people to like you? I don't have one. Maybe that's why not everyone likes me! But I think those who do like me, do so because I'm rather "one-size-fits-all." I'm always the same me.

49) Where is your best friend? At his house

50) What do you think is Satan's last name? I don't believe in Satan or Hell. I'm sorry.