Tuesday, January 29, 2019


WWW.WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt us to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here.
1. What are you currently reading?   
Richard Nixon, The Life by John A. Farrell. As I await the Mueller findings, I find myself thinking of Nixon more and more.
I grew up believing Nixon was the bogeyman. Now I want to know about the man in full. The ambition and intellect as well as the envy (paranoia?) that I suspect propelled his train of thought right off the rails. I want him placed in the context of his times -- the Depression ... WWII ... the Cold War ... the Swinging 60s ... and the Watergate era he created.

I've barely cracked the spine of this book, but it's gotten high marks from political biographers I admire (John Dickerson, Douglas Brinkley, Chris Matthews), so here's hoping this book delivers.

2. What did you recently finish reading?  

Surrender, Dorothy by Meg Wolitzer. A close-knit group of friends spends a few weeks every summer at the same beach house. This year, almost as soon as they arrive, the unthinkable happens. Sara -- their hub, the one who was at the center of it all -- dies suddenly in a tragic accident.

Now what?

They continue in the house, trying to cope with their grief. They are joined by Sara's mother, Natalie, a woman left emotionally shattered by the loss of her only child. Together they mourn and alternately try to keep Sara alive through shared memories, and try to heal and get past their grief.
I had a problem relating to some of the characters. I didn't like overbearing Natalie. Maddy, Sara's oldest friend, was completely unbelievable. I couldn't take seriously a nursing mother who is tormented by irrational fears for her baby's safety, yet she smokes and drinks. (Gee, Maddy, if you're so worried about the baby's welfare, try not feeding him nicotine and alcohol through your milk.) Friends Peter and Shawn felt more like stock characters than real people.

But I loved the character of Adam. I understood his complex and loving relationship with Sara. Maddy may have been Sara's oldest friend and Natalie gave birth to her, but Adam knew her and loved her best. He was with her when she died. The impact of such a loss will be incalculable and lasting, and he knows it.

As Dr. Berger said in Ordinary People, "Control is a tough nut." Everyone in the house is faced with not only loss but a titanic reminder about how fragile their carefully curated world order can be. I appreciated Surrender, Dorothy for tackling that, even if I didn't like the final result. This is an ambitious, well-written book. Just because I found it frustrating doesn't mean I'm sorry I read it.

3.  What will you read next?  
I don't know.

It makes sense now

I've seen every episode of Friends. Many more than once. And so I've often glanced at the Laurel & Hard poster in Chandler and Joey's apartment. But I never really paid attention to it (I thought Stanley was wearing bunny ears) or gave it any thought.

Now I get it. I recently saw Stan & Ollie, which inspired me to learn a bit more about Laurel & Hardy. I came upon the 1928 silent movie, Leave "Em Laughing, and realized how much like the Friends Laurel and Hardy were.

Like Stanley, Joey is forever childlike and bumbling. Like Ollie, Chandler is exasperated and impatient but ultimately loving toward his silly pal.

As luck would have it, Leave 'Em Laughing is the movie that poster was taken from. (And those aren't bunny ears; Stanley has a toothache).

Monday, January 28, 2019

I overtipped

I am no good at math. Never have been. Sunday, it cost me. I took Kathy out for her birthday lunch. We went to my favorite Italian bistro. We both had the lasagna, and the waiter noticed we were celebrating and brought us a big slice of chocolate cake.

The final bill was $53. I had a $20 coupon, and left $50 in cash. Which means I tipped more than 30%. SHIT! I didn't mean to do that! I think I probably should have left $65, not $70.

Oh, well. It all evens out. First of all, with the bitter cold, the restaurant was doing little business. So in reality, that $5 might have meant more to the server than to me.

And Kathy's present was a freebie. My agency bought a gazillion copies of this book, signed by the author, to give as holiday gifts to clients and vendors back in Christmas 2008. When we were packing for our office move in 2018, I saw a pristine copy in the "FREE TO GOOD HOME" bin and thought of Kathy. Naturally all of us in Chicago are proud of our favorite son -- especially in comparison with the petulant agent of chaos who followed him -- but Kathy really loooooves Barack Obama. So I snatched the signed coffee table book and squirreled it away, just for this weekend.

She loved the book and hugged me a lot. So I think I shall just consider the $5 my gift to the universe, and the day as a success.

Go see it!

This weekend, I saw Stan and Ollie, and loved it! I'm only slightly aware of Laurel and Hardy. My oldest friend loved to watch their TV show* when we were little kids and would scratch her head and say, "I'm sorry, Ollie." But there, you now know everything about them that I knew when I put my butt in the seat.

But it's an enormously charming film, even for those of us who are not immersed in the pair's films. It takes place in the 1950s, long after their heyday. They are, frankly, broke and need work, so they go to England and do live shows. Hardy's health and their relationship have both been better.

I enjoyed seeing how seriously they took their craft. I appreciated how tender they were with their fans, especially the newly-minted young ones. At one point, Hardy loses his temper on a street corner and destroys a newspaper, shoving it in a trash can. Then he sees a group of schoolgirls witnessed his unseemly behavior. He immediately recovered, fiddled with his tie and conveyed to the kids that it was all a big joke, done for their benefit. Instead of being disillusioned, the girls were delighted.

Do yourself a favor and spend some time with Stan and Ollie. You will enjoy it, I promise.

*Which, it turns out, wasn't a TV show at all, but edited versions of their movies. They were not paid for these airings, which is fucking criminal.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Sunday Stealing

What are some small things that make your day better? Singing with a long-forgotten oldie as I wash my hair, the chance to read my book on the train in the morning, a blue sky.

What shows are you into?
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Pawn Stars.

What TV channel doesn’t exist but really should?

and Her Boys TV. If it can be even tangentially connected to these three, I want to see it.

Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?
I am so crazy about The Cubs' Anthony Rizzo, and how he uses his power and fame. For a kid who had cancer to be a major league first baseman and an All Star is a big deal. 

But then there's his charity work. He built the new family waiting room at Lurie Childrens Hospital, so that no other parent will be as uncomfortable as his mother was, waiting to see how her child is doing. He worked with traumatized teens after the Parkland shooting (and faced down the Breitbart crowd, who criticized his efforts). He appears at fundraisers and if he can't be there, he sends signed jerseys and balls to be raffled off.

And there's his sportsmanship. I've seen him apologize to an umpire when he displayed too much attitude. Because "it's never good to show anyone up." I hope kids take note of that as well as his homeruns.

I wish everyone in the world was more like Rizz.

What age do you wish you could permanently be?
35. I felt sexy and healthy and completely on it when I was 35.

What TV show or movie do you refuse to watch?
Seinfeld. Or Game of Thrones.

What is something that is considered a luxury, but you don’t think you could live without?
As many cable channels as I can get.

What’s your claim to fame?
Bruce Springsteen dipped me back and kissed me.

What’s something you like to do the old-fashioned way?
Read bound books.

What’s your favorite genre of book or movie?
I read a lot of biographies. I like just about any kind of movie except epics.

How often do you people watch?
Every morning on the el.

What have you only recently formed an opinion about?
I don't know. I'm pretty opinionated.

What are you interested in that most people haven’t heard of?
Lucille Ball's early film career.

A full career before Lucy Riccardo

What’s the farthest you’ve ever been from home? I went to Europe once and Hawaii twice. I can never remember which one is farther from Chicago, but they're both soul crushing flights.

What is the most heartwarming thing you’ve ever seen?
Critters. Dogs and especially cats melt me.

What is the most annoying question that people ask you?
I was annoyed by an Uber driver who asked me, "Do you still work?"

What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
The Kennedys.

If you were dictator of a small island nation, what crazy dictator stuff would you do?
Light bulbs would be standard issue. I hate buying them because they're so boring. OH! And I would ban choose-a-size paper towels. Life demands we make too many choices. Enough already!

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Travel by train. Stop, breathe, enjoy the view.

About Alban

I have an unlikely Facebook friend. His name is Alban. He is a 16-year-old high school student in Michigan.

We "met" on a page devoted to the Beatles. He asked why Wings broke up, and was eviscerated. Apparently, among the faithful, this is a stupid question. Never mind that, for Alban, Wings are ancient history. After all, he wasn't born until after Linda McCartney's death. Forget that -- were he to "just Google it," as he was advised to -- he would receive an overwhelming 186,000,000 results.

Most of all, disregard that we're all adults and  he's just a kid.

So I opened a can of wupass on the bullies. Because I hate bullies. And because I think it's great that Alban is a newly-minted Beatles fan.

The middle one is Alban's favorite.
So now he's my "friend." He shares his love of 50s and 60s music (he's just discovered Ricky Nelson and Elvis) and TV (he has an unexpected but passionate attachment to The Bradley Sisters from Petticoat Junction.) I'm sure that, as he roams his high school halls, he doesn't have many classmates who share these enthusiasms.

He also "likes" all my posts and writes things like, "Aw, you're nice." He IM'd me on Christmas Eve.

It's odd and a little embarrassing. But if it makes him feel less lonely, I can see no harm. We'll never meet in real life, not that he's expressed any desire to. I'm sure he'll soon outgrow me.

But as annoying as Facebook can be, this is what it does well. It makes a boy in Michigan feel connected. Adolescence is hard. I hope my little thumbs up's and comments help.

Sometimes I think I need a tune up

There are times when I really miss being in therapy. When I have a thought that I know isn't healthy or productive, but I don't know how to stop it.

Last week, when I was walking toward the ATM, it occurred to me how surprised I was that my friend Nancy really wants to see me. We haven't gotten together since before Christmas, and she misses me. For real?

I think about the role Henry wants me to play in his recovery, how John says it's been "too long" since we got together for drinks, and how determined my niece was to see my at Christmas, and I am surprised.

My aunt sends me a postcard whenever she goes on a road trip. Preferably one with glitter. She wants me to know I'm in her thoughts. Why me?

I know why this is. Within my nuclear family, I was the "difficult" one. The one no one wanted around. My Icky Grandma, matriarch and biggest personality, really didn't like me because I was too loud. I similarly got under my father's skin. While my mother always loved me, neither she nor my younger sister understood me in the least. In fact, they somehow viewed my life choices as a reflection on theirs. My kid sister feels, in fact, that I am so impossible she still wants little to do with me.

When I was molested by a family member, it was made clear to me that I should keep it to myself, not make waves. My physical safety and emotional well being were less important than the image we had of our dysfunctional family as "normal."

Meanwhile, my older sister -- the one who beat me from the time I was little until I moved out, and who actually once went after my mother with a broom handle; the one who broke my parents' hearts by leaving the receipt from her abortionist in her slacks in the laundry basket; who never helped my widowed mother financially, when money was needed so desperately -- was completely accepted. Was, in fact, Icky Grandma's favorite.

Never mind that, once I look beyond my immediate family, I did get love. My favorite grandfather was never shy about telling me (and anyone else who would listen) that I was clever and funny. His wife, the grandmother I remember most fondly, always had a special place for me in her heart, in part, I suspect, because I reminded her so of her husband. My uncle felt a special bond with me. I've never doubted my Cousin Rose's love.

So why is it love surprises me? It's not a realistic view of my life. But it's the one I have. When these thoughts come into my head, I examine them and try to dismiss them. But here I am, 61 years old, and these thoughts are still the ones who dominate.

Why do I cling to the negative to the detriment of the positive? Why do I let the critical voices (even from beyond the grave) drown out the love? How come "then" has an oversized impact on "now?"

Friday, January 25, 2019

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: My Favorite Things (2018)
Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) This week's artist, Jennie Abrahamson, is very happy living in Stockholm, but she refers to Paris as "a flirt." She enjoys her time there so much she always wants to return. Is there a place you've visited that tugs at your heart and imagination, tempting you to return? Instead of being adventuresome and contemplating new destinations, I find myself daydreaming about returning to previous vacation spots: Colonial Williamsburg, Hot Springs, Boston ...

2) Jennie has said her music has been heavily influenced by 80s pop, which was popular in her early teen years. Are your favorite songs the ones you listened to when you were growing up? I guess it depends on how long you think it took me to grow up, because my favorite songs are from the 60s, 70s and 80s.

3) "My Favorite Things" is from The Sound of Music. Crazy Sam's high school claim to fame was playing Sister Margaretta in the senior class production. Though not a big part, her performance lives on because relatives love embarrassing her with pictures of her in an especially unflattering nun's habit. Who took an embarrassing photo of you? What were you doing? When I was a little girl, my uncle had a talent for catching me with my eyes closed or mouth open. He kept them to himself and didn't put them in albums or distribute them among the family. Toward the end of his life, he sent me an envelope of these embarrassing pix with playful notations on the back. I thought it was very funny, and so very him. Sensitive to the feelings of the younger Gal, but irreverent to the end.

4) The lyrics celebrate "brown paper packages tied up in
strings." What was in the last box you received in the mail? A full-sized umbrella. The box was more than 4' tall. I try to reuse packaging, but since I'm not sending anyone curtain rods any time soon, I had to regretfully toss this box away.

5) It mentions doorbells and sleighbells. What's the most recent bell or alarm that you heard? The elevator. DING!

6) This song has nice things to say about cold weather, specifically snowflakes and mittens. What do you like about winter? People are nicer when it's cold. The hotter the weather, the shorter the tempers.

7) Dog bites and bee stings are singled out as things that
can leave us feeling sad. What's most recently given you the blues? I'm feeling a little dauncy right now. According to that bard and philosopher, Lucy Riccardo, "dauncy" is the feeling you get when you aren't really sick but somehow still feel lousy. I'm dauncy because my whole life seems to be in a holding pattern right now. Henry is no longer in danger but he's not yet well. I don't know if I'm moving this year or not. I have a job, but not a career, and I'm just hanging on until I can retire ... Blah, blah, blah. Dauncy.

8) In 2018, when this song was released, Roger Federer won the Australian Open. Are you good with a racket? Ha! No!

9) Random question -- Your local zoo announced the hatching of three snowy owlets. All males. You won the honor of naming them. Go ahead. The biggest one would be Hoss, the wisest baby owl would be Adam and the cutest would be Joe.

I've missed her!

My oldest friend and I had a long phone conversation last night. Early this morning, actually. I happened to be up -- believe it or not, the dry skin on my back was so itchy it actually awakened me! -- when she sent a text about her computer being down.

Just the text meant a lot to me. When she goes to her dark place, she's completely incommunicado. I try to respect her need for space, but it worries me when she withdraws.

But the call! Bliss! I brought her up to date on my both my glamorous chiropractor and possible 2019 move. She told me about her extensive dental work -- root canal, two extractions and a partial plate -- all paid for by MediCal. I am so happy to hear about this. I've been worried about her teeth for over a year now. With her money woes and more pressing health problems, she just hasn't had the resources to attend to them, till now.

Then we talked about Tom Selleck. Yeah, it seems like a non sequitur. But the original Magnum as always been one of the loves of her life.

We laughed. It made me so happy. I told her the truth, which is that I think of her easily a dozen times a day. "You, too, dear," she said. Then we each said, "I love you," and I went to sleep.

Color me happy.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Sharing WowBao

Wednesday I saw all three of them: Napoleon, Caleb and Randi! They were in one of their usual spots, the corner of Michigan and Lake. And, since they were sitting on cardboard on the icy sidewalk and it was starting to snow, seeing them made me sad.

I was worried that this meant they were once again homeless and jobless. After all, why else would anyone be on the street in this weather? And I saw a wheelchair. Does this mean that Randi's cancer came roaring back with a vengeance?

I needn't have worried. For while the news I learned wasn't good, it wasn't dire. Caleb still has a job -- a good union job, driving a forklift -- but he is currently unable to work. In November, he fell down in the warehouse and tore ligaments that have been slow to heal. Hence the wheelchair. Short-term disability pay isn't his full salary, and they simply don't have enough to pay their January bills. And so, for the next week and a half, until he is cleared to go back to work, they are going to panhandle.

Randi is still unable to work, something related to her prescription medications. When she was out of earshot, what Caleb whispered touched me. She's running low on makeup, and it's hard for her "not to feel pretty." I remember last year, when her cancer treatment resulted in a complete hysterectomy, and how unfeminine she felt. He loves his wife very much.

At first it seemed strange to me that begging is their go-to. But to them, it's an honest way of life. They are short on cash, they are having trouble making ends meet. They are not asking for cash under false pretenses. And they don't want to lose their home.

They still live in a single repurposed room above his boss' garage. It has heat, running water, and it's safe at night. They still keep all their belongings in suitcases loaded onto a grocery cart, except now they don't have take everything they own with them everywhere they go. Randi was almost giddy about being invited to the movies with another couple. They didn't go -- no money -- but in the past it was something they couldn't do because they couldn't leave their stuff anywhere.

And Napoleon is a healthy bruiser! He climbed up my leg, just like he did as a kitten. But he's huge, 15 lbs. of feline. While Caleb was talking to me, Napoleon climbed into his lap and helped himself to the bowl of WowBao someone kind person had given them. Napoleon had kibble and water, but WowBao was hot and Napoleon is no fool.

I promised Caleb and Randi I would look for books for him and pants (size XL) for her. He's currently go through the Bourne books, a set he found somewhere. And she needs big pants because her meds cause her weight to fluctuate. It's important to note that Caleb asked only for the books -- not money nor the clothes -- because he knows I pick them up from the Little Free Library. More than money or things, they like to talk. As Randi once said to me, she appreciates being treated like a woman, not a homeless woman.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Go in peace

I haven't actually read any of Marie Kondo's writings, but I've read about her approach to household organization and decluttering.

One takeaway was that things should spark joy. It's with this in mind that I attacked my jewelry rack. I thought realistically about when I last wore a piece, or how often I wore it ... and then I imagined someone spotting it at Goodwill and it making her happy. If a thing no longer brings me joy, why shouldn't it brighten someone else's world? With that in mind, I'm parting with 13 pairs of earrings, one necklace and three rings.

Even better, when I look at what I've got, it's easier for me to decide what to wear.

I know what you're thinking: DUH!

OK, so it takes me a while.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sunday Stealing

Sunday Stealing: Ravenclaw

1. Do you have a passion project? What is it? Until this morning, I'd never heard the phrase "passion project." Maybe I'll start one. I have to give it more thought.

2. How many languages can you speak?

3. What was the last book you read? 

4. Where in the world would you most like to visit?
Hmm... I don't have many burning international travel goals. If money was absolutely no object, I'd love to take the TCM Classic Cruise. It's five days, from NYC to Bermuda and back, but that isn't why I'd love to hop aboard. It's also five full days of classic movie events. TCM buys out the entire ship. It's all screenings and lectures and theme parties and everyone on the ship is there because they love classic movies. 

To go the way I dream of going (which is not the cheapest option, obviously) is $5000. That includes onboard meals and events, but not airfare to/from New York, or non-mealtime snacks, or spending money when I'm in Bermuda (because I'd want to venture out onto dry land and into the sunshine sometime). So it's not going to happen any time soon.

5. Top 5 fictional characters?
Because #4 has me thinking of movies ...

1) Katie Morosky (Barbra Streisand, The Way We Were)
2) Jo March (Katharine Hepburn, Little Women)
3) Rhett Butler (Clark Gable, Gone with the Wind)
4) Toto (Terry the Terrier, The Wizard of Oz)
5) John McClaine (Bruce Willis, Die Hard)

6. Something you miss from your childhood?
It's a someone. My favorite grandpa. I was his favorite grandchild and, in real time, I didn't really appreciate it. I wish I'd been smart enough to really drink in the time, attention and unconditional love he generously gave. Plus, he was a wise and uncommonly good man. He died when I was in high school. I want more time with him!

7. What skill do you wish you had?
I wish I was bilingual.

8. Tell us an interesting fact.
Paul McCartney met John Lennon in July, 1957, when my mom was four months pregnant with me. George Harrison joined them seven months later, when I was two months old. So the Beatles and I were born at just about the same time.

9. What was your favorite subject in school?

10. Favorite planet?
This one.

11. Which historical figure fascinates you and why?
John F. Kennedy. I've learned so much about America, and about life, by studying him. He was, in many ways, more courageous than the average citizen knows and yet so desperately flawed in others. (John Jr. once said, "People tell me I could be a great man. I'd rather be a good man." Those are the words of a little boy who was raised by a heartbroken mother.)

Still, I am forever inspired by JFK's words and works. He encouraged the country to aspire, to be more, to be better. We are better for his time with us, and his loss remains incalculable for so many reasons.

When President Trump chose to use JFK's Resolute desk in his Oval Office, I hoped that some idealism, elegance and positivity would rub off. I have since given up.

12. Favorite mythical creature?
I'm not sure I have one.

13. Do you believe in any conspiracy theories?
They won't be "theories" anymore, once Mr. Mueller shares the evidence.

14. What is your favorite word?
I like "gubernatorial," because it's fun to say. Living in Illinois, where our governors have an unfortunate tendency to get into legal hot water, I have opportunity to use it.

15. Do you have any obsessions right now?
The Cubs. Spring training starts in less than a month and I simply cannot wait! Yea!


16. Do you play any instruments? 

17. What’s your worst habit?
I'm a slob

18. Do you have a collection of anything?
Stuff from the 1960s (which is now called "midcentury").

19. What’s your biggest ‘what if’?
My friend Barb offered me a job back in 2005 and I didn't take it. I wonder if my finances and career wouldn't be in a better place now.

20. What is your favorite fairy tale?
Sleeping Beauty, I suppose. But I've never been much a fairy tale fan.

21. Have you ever dyed your hair? Is there a color you’d like to dye it?
I was a Lucy redhead for 20 years.

22. If you could learn one language overnight, which would you choose?

23. What’s the most useless thing you know how to do?
It's a toss up between Gregs shorthand and wiggling my ear.

24. What’s the most important change that should be made to your country’s education system?
Free pre-K.


I just didn't feel like it

My movie group met for the first time of 2019, and I wasn't there. I used the season's first big snowfall as an excuse, but that isn't why I didn't go. I just didn't feel like it. I just wanted to cocoon.

Being on the condo board is becoming something of a drag. I won't go into the petty details -- and oh! are they ever petty! -- but it's wearing on me. I fantasize all the time about moving in 2019. I sincerely hope the building deconversion sale goes through.

Work is annoying me. I know, I know. It's called "work" for a reason. Nothing is wrong, really. I just sense an uptick in tension, and with open seating it's impossible to escape.

I owed Henry a phone call. I realize I'm lucky to have him at all, and that it's a privilege that he loves me and reaches out to me during this tender recovery period. But talking to him wears me out. I am very happy to note that there's real, visceral improvement: He barely touched on the accident today, and didn't spend a moment bashing his partner, Reg. He's less about the past and more about the world around him. I believe more and more strongly that he will recover and be his old self again.

But there's a pressure inherent in our conversations. I admit I challenge him. He has told me repeatedly since the accident that everyone treats him "like a child," and I have promised him repeatedly that I refuse to. But am I doing the right thing? I'm not a shrink or a physician, I'm just a friend who loves him. And so on Saturday, after we had our chat, I took a nap.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: '65 Love Affair (1977)

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

1) The first line of this song is, "I was a car hop." Car hops used to take orders and bring diners food to eat in their cars. Today, the drive through lane has pretty much replaced car hops. Think about the last time you went to a fast food restaurant. Did you order at the counter or at the drive through window? Friday I went to Subway for lunch. I ordered at the counter. (Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen a Subway with a drive through.)

2) Mr. Davis sings that his girlfriend was "bad with her pom-poms." Presumably she was a cheerleader. Share one of your school's cheers. Beat 'em, bust 'em! Beat 'em, bust 'em -- that's our custom. We are gonna readjust 'em!

3) The lyrics tell us he believes that if he could go back in time, his girl would still be his. If you could travel back in time to your high school years, what would you enjoy doing again? What would you do differently? I enjoyed watching our basketball team (the only sports team we had that didn't completely suck). I would have taken my Spanish class more seriously. The younger we are, the easier it is to learn languages, and I think that speaking Spanish would expand my world immeasurably.

4) During his performing days, Paul Davis sported a full beard and flowing hair. We're using that to check your powers of observation and recollection. Think of the last man you spoke to. Who was he? Describe his hair, and tell us whether he was clean shaven. My neighbor, Mr. Bryant. He has white hair and a sparse, very white goatee.

5) Paul Davis was born in Meridian, MS, and that's where he returned to when he went into semi-retirement in 1982. Meridian's biggest employer is the Naval Air Station in Meridian. Do you know anyone who is currently in, or employed by, the military? My oldest nephew is in the Navy.

6) He was a pool player and a golfer. Which sport are you better at? Ha! I'm bad at both of them!

7) Sadly, he died in 2008, on the day after his 60th birthday. His best friend remembers him as "a homebody," who enjoyed staying up long into the night with his friends, playing and listening to music. Describe your perfect way to spend an evening. Pizza and a movie.

8) The publishing rights to "'65 Love Affair," as well as Paul Davis' bigger hits ("Cool Night" and "I Go Crazy"), are owned by another Paul -- Paul McCartney. Sir Paul's MPL Publishing Company has made him a very rich man, and Paul says that's because he chose to invest in music, something he loves. What about you? If you were to invest in a business or industry you love, which would you choose? Something related to pets.

9) Random question --You're at a party and one of your host's best friends is a real egghead who tries to draw you into a conversation about paradigmatic counter existentialism. Would you: a) just listen politely while letting your mind wander; b) admit you don't know what the hell he's talking about; c) explain why you personally feel that the counter existential paradigm just adds unnecessary complexity to the individual's search for meaning? A. And I hope there's a nearby window my mind can wander through.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


WWW.WEDNESDAY asks us three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here.

1. What are you currently reading?  

Surrender, Dorothy by Meg Wolitzer. A freak accident takes someone away from those who love her. But who loves her most? The friends she shared everything with for the last decades, or the mother who gave her life?

I picked up this nearly 20-year-old novel secondhand somewhere (my local Little Free Library, I think) but it seems like it will really resonate with me now. For in October, my dear friend Henry nearly died. From his first conversation with me when he came out of his coma, to the most recent one we had last weekend, Henry has regularly said, "You are my sister." He loves, cherishes and needs me more than my biological sisters, the women I have drifted further and further away from since our mother died. Over these past few months, I have wondered about the ties of friendship vs. the bonds of family, and the nature of love.

I have barely cracked this tome open. Let's see if it's filled with the right words at the right time for me.

2. What did you recently finish reading?  

Shadows of a Princess by P. D. Jephson. This is the memoir of Princess Diana's personal secretary. He worked for her through the final years of her marriage to Prince Charles through their separation and divorce, when she set up a separate "court" and began her short reign as The People's Princess. (Jephson resigned before the divorce was finalized and Diana began her fateful relationship with Dodi Fayed.) 
Published in 2000, Shadows of a Princess was controversial at the time. The author maintains it's an honest portrait of his time in the Princess' employ. Princes William and Harry  said it was a hatchet job and cut ties with Jephson. 18 years out, I think both POVs are right. Jephson looks at Princess Diana the way most of us view our bosses. She can be demanding and exasperating. He also gives her credit for her hard work in service to Crown and Country. She is a patriotic Princess, eager to be more than a clothes horse.

He also portrays her as emotionally damaged, jealous and -- too often -- immature and self-destructive. Her fascination with seers and soothsayers, the faith she put in the ones who predicted a tragic future for her and/or Charles, was depressing. She also comes off as a devoted mother. Yes, at times, she allowed her sons to be "used" in her separation and divorce, but I have seen other couples unwisely allow their children to be pawns. Just because the Walses were Royal doesn't mean they ceased to be human.

It was an interesting read for its portrayal of day-to-day life for the Windsors. I learned what goes into a "walkabout" (when you see the Royals working a rope line), a visit to a hospital or senior center, a diplomatic trip to Egypt. The Brits do get something in return for the tax dollars that support this family. As a Yank, I'm not sure I understood that before.

3.  What will you read next?  
I don't know.

It has a name!

I suffer from spinal stenosis. And I am delighted. I don't mean I'm happy to endure a stabbing sensation up and down my calf, or stiffness in my hip or pain in my knee. Of course I'm not. But I'm happy to know what's causing it! All anyone has been able to tell me up until Tuesday is that it's not DVT.

My friend Barb recommended her chiropractor, who took a pair xrays and did some manipulations and voila! I had a diagnosis and treatment plan -- with no additional meds. That's important to me. I don't want to take another drug in addition to the fexofenadine for allergies and the statin for cholesterol and the NSAIDs always in my bag in case my kidney stone flares up.

What I didn't expect was to be greeted by Anthony Rizzo's jersey! I fangirled so hard when I saw #44. Aside from loving Rizz, I found this enormously comforting. Between them, Anthony Rizzo and Jonathon Towes make nearly $13 million/year. That makes these two men very expensive assets. If the Cubs and the Black Hawks have faith in this doctor, I do, too.

So what's going on? It seems my spine curves to the right and probably has for decades. This angle has caused the spinal canal to narrow and this is messing with nerves up and down my right leg. It's also had a negative impact on my balance, which is why I've been falling down more lately.

The doctor feels that eight or so decompression therapy sessions will help reshape my spine and alleviate the pressure and therefore the pain.

If I'd dealt with this when I was younger, he believes he could have had more success actually correcting it. I'm 61, so that's simply not going to happen. But there's no reason to believe that he can't reduce the pain. And that is very good news.

Monday, January 14, 2019


This weekend I missed two calls. One from Henry, one from my oldest friend. I didn't pick up for Henry because I was feeding the cats. I was taking a nap when my friend called.

I texted both of them, suggesting times to connect. Neither of them called back.

I am concerned, of course. I love them both. He had an important doctor's appointment Friday about his ankle.* She may find herself homeless soon. Sharon, the cousin she's been living with, just turned 70. Sharon's kids are pressuring her to sell that big house and downsize to a trailer.† I suspect those family conversations may have become firm plans.

If they had called back, I would have listened sympathetically and maybe offered suggestions.

But I must confess I was kinda glad neither of them called back. It was nice to have a weekend where the only drama was at the movies.

*I saw from Reg's Facebook post that he got to lose the boot.

†Though I don't know why she can't buy a two or three bedroom condo. It would still be considerably more economical than the 6BR, 4 1/2 bath house the two women currently share.

She's adorable!

Remember when you were watching Steel Magnolias and thought the girl who played Shelby was a charmer? In a movie filled with established stars like Sally Field and Shirley MacLaine, she stood out. You'd never seen her before, but you knew you wanted to see Julia Roberts again.

Or when you first started watching Friends and were charmed by the one with the hair? The spoiled, spunky one? You knew you liked Jennifer Aniston.

That's how I felt when I was watching If Beale Street Could Talk. Veteran actress Regina King is getting a lot of gold and glory for her performance as the mom, but I sat there in the audience just waiting to see KiKi Layne again. She plays Tish, our protagonist and narrator. She is open and authentic and simply darling.

Do we have an opening for America's Sweetheart? If so, I nominate KiKi.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sunday Stealing


1. The strangest place you've ever been. I never considered it "strange," but I remember seeing raised eyebrows when I went to Hot Springs, AR, year after year. It boasts nice, affordable -- if not luxurious -- spas, good food and some wonderful natural wonders. For example, I love this waterfall. The water flowing over the rocks is just naturally 143ยบ, which accounts for the steam. It's completely enchanting.

2. Unusual food combinations you enjoy. I prefer ketchup on my fish to tartar sauce. Don't judge me.
3. Your best cure for hiccups. Waiting them out.
4. Something you have never done but would like to try. A horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow.
5. A routine you do every day without fail. I cleanse, exfoliate, and moisturize my face each morning. (I wish I was as dedicated to skincare at night.)
6. Something new you've recently learned. I'm reading a book about Princess Diana, a memoir by her personal secretary. I didn't realize how much behind-the-scenes diplomatic work the Royal Family does for the UK. They are very effective trade ambassadors, and their overseas trips (like Megan and Harry's recent jaunt to Australia) do benefit their subjects.
7. Your keenest sense. Righteous indignation.
8. Whether you prefer cooking or cleaning up. I don't mind doing dishes.
9. Where were you the last time you saw the sun rise. At the airbnb suite I stayed in while my bathroom was being remodeled. It was right here in my hometown, but the windows face east whereas mine here at home face west. It was something of a revelation to see the sun go up over the treetops.

10. A recent time you were embarrassed. In June, I literally walked into a glass wall. I'd been taking painkillers for my kidney stone, but thought I was OK. I kinda wasn't. I should have worked from home. My cheeks still burn when I think of it.
11. An everyday sound that delights you. Cat purr.
12. The last conversation you had with a stranger. I enjoyed chatting with my Uber driver yesterday.