Thursday, August 31, 2023

Me and Roger

Just had my meet'n'greet with Roger, the new minister. I feel good about it.

Our lead minister left, and not by choice, back in 2021. There was a ton of drama attendant to it. Church employees felt misunderstood, overworked and underpaid. There was undoubtedly fiscal mismanagement (though it was inadvertent and not criminal). Some parishioners felt ignored. Others, on the other hand, considered him their spiritual leader, cared about him deeply, and were sad to see him go.

Our interim minister didn't stay in her lane. She tried to make changes when change wasn't what we needed. We needed placidity. 

So our congregation has been a mess for nearly two years.

I don't go to church for drama. I don't even go for community. I go to church because I want to feel closer to God. I want to put my faith on its feet and do good in the world. It's hard to do that when we're surrounded by upset and upheaval.

I liked what Roger had to say this evening. I appreciated how chill his manner was. He laid out his vision for the congregation. He was straightforward about the fiscal hole we're in but promised to keep the lines of communication open. I hope he will be motivating to me spiritually.

But I'll be grateful if I can just feel a sense of sanctuary within my church again. I think Roger will provide that.

Photo by Stephen Radford on Unsplash

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 31

My 2023 happiness icon

Today's Happiness: "Love you, Gal."

I ended up on the phone with Reg. The first time in more than 9 months. He stopped communicating with me directly and was just all-around pissy and self-centered. He was also furious that I didn't come to Key West for Christmas. I wanted to but I had been misled about Henry's hospitalization. Here's the post about that painful blow up.

Anyway, Henry called me tonight and impulsively handed the phone to Reg. He started chatting with me amiably, as though we talk all the time and nothing bad has happened. He ended with, "Love you, Gal."

I don't know how healthy any of this is. I don't know that I can honestly say I love him. But I am glad the big freeze between us has thawed. I do love Henry as much as ever, and knowing I can speak directly to Reg if something goes wrong comforts me. Peace is lovely.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Thursday Thirteen #324

Why I still have cable. Yes, I know this makes me a dying breed. 56% of households have cable, but that's down from 76% in 2015. Yes, I know it's expensive. But it's so easy!

There are so many streaming services available. Many of these services have different plans to choose from. Figuring out the best way to get my favorite channels seems like an awful lot of work. Thanks to Xfinity, I just say what I want to watch into that lovely voice remote and it appears.

Here are the 13 most popular streaming services. It's so overwhelming that I almost miss the days of 5 channels when I was a kid.

1. Netflix

2. Hulu

3. Amazon Prime (I pay for this one but to be honest, I got Prime for the free package delivery)

4. Disney+ 

5. Apple TV

6. Max (formerly HBO Max)*

7. YouTube TV

8. Peacock*

9. Paramount

10. Sling 

11. Fubo*

12. Tubi*

13. Pluto*

Please join us for THURSDAY THIRTEEN. Click here to play along, and to see other interesting compilations of 13 things.

*Included in my cable package

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 30

My 2023 happiness icon

Today's Happiness: Back to school

Today when I was running errands I happened past the junior high. Some students were tending their "habitat" (i.e. garden). The sky was blue, the weather was lovely, and they seemed so earnest out there among the sunflowers and whatever else they've got. I enjoyed seeing them.



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

PS I can no longer participate in WWW.WEDNESDAY via that link because her blog won't accept Blogger comments. I mention this only to save you the frustration I experienced trying to link up.

1. What are you currently reading? Murder at an Irish Wedding by Carlene O'Connor. I'm back to Kilbane, the Irish village at the center of this series. A fashion model has chosen this picturesque, secluded spot for her wedding. Our heroine, Siobhan O'Sullivan, is very involved: First, because her family business is catering the affair; second, she's attending because her fella is in the wedding party. Naturally, when someone gets dead, she can't help but investigate.
The characters are warm and witty and this book aspires to be no more than entertaining, which is nice after I endured the following.

2. What did you recently finish reading?  Jackie: Public, Private, Secret by J. Randy Taraborrelli. What a hot, steaming pile of crap this was. I have no one to blame but myself. I know J. Randy Taraborrelli writes breathless hagiographies and I know he recreates scenes and dialog he can't possibly substantiate, yet I picked it up anyway. So shame on me.
It's the disinformation in this book that made me want to scream. For example, Jackie's kid sister, Lee, is portrayed as receiving treatment for anorexia in the 1950s and again 1970s. I recently read a biography of Karen Carpenter that revealed how woefully ignorant doctors and mental health professionals were of the disease in early 1980s. Karen Carpenter was a celebrity and a multi-million dollar property who had medical teams in New York and Los Angeles working on her case, but I'm supposed to believe that somehow a socialite managed to be diagnosed and treated for this misunderstood disease decades earlier? Bullshit.

Similarly, I always knew former Senator John Kerry once dated Jackie's youngest sister, Janet Auchincloss. It was when they were both at college, and he has always been self-deprecating about how little he meant to her. This book not only has him snatching Janet's virginity but also involved with the extended Kennedy family during -- wait for it -- THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS! Yeah, J. Randy, that happened.
This book is 500 pages long and I bet I could come up with 100 ridiculous passages. Do not read this book. It is worse than a waste of time.
3. What will read next? I don't know.


Tuesday, August 29, 2023

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 29

My 2023 happiness icon

Today's Happiness: "Hey, Chicago, what do you say? The Cubs are gonna win today."

My guys stopped the Brewers winning streak at 9 and tonight it looks like there will be playoff baseball here in Chicago this season. Go, Cubs, Go!


August Happiness Challenge -- Day 28

My 2023 happiness icon

Today's Happiness: Supporting small business.

There's a little independenly owned pharmacy on the other side of town.  The big chains around here -- Walgreens and CVS -- don't compound medications for pets so in 2021, when Reynaldo needed a special cream to treat his thyroid, I ended up here. They always provided reliable service and free delivery and even occasionally included a toy for my Rey-Rey. How could I not love them?

Unfortunately, insurance wouldn't allow me to use them for my own meds. My prescription plan insisted on a specific mail-order pharmacy for medications I took regularly and "preferred" Walgreens for prescriptions that needed to be filled immediately.

But with Medicare I was able to choose my own prescription plan and found one that let me use this little pharmacy. Monday I refilled my epipen and it was delivered, for free, natch. I was happy to repay their service with my business.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Noir City Chicago, 2023

Oh, how happy I was Sunday!
I was among my people -- the classic movie faithful -- inside a venerable old movie palace -- Chicago's Music Box Theater (built in 1929) watching murder and mayhem at the Noir City Film Festival.

It was great to see members of my own little movie group in person (hugs all around, and I was happy to field questions about my Connie cat and why I wasn't wearing my usual: a Cubs t-shirt). Then we saw two not-often shown films from 1948 -- The Velvet Touch and The Big Clock. How exciting to see Theater #2 filled with Chicagoans enthusiastic about b&w films celebrating their 75th anniversay.

Two of my favorite things: Eddie & the curtain at The Music Box.

Best of all, I got to meet Eddie. SQUEE! Eddie Muller, TCM's Czar of Noir, spearheads the restoration of these classic dramas. And he's my TV boyfriend. I have a massive crush on him. I got Betty from movie group to take our picture together (she's a shameless star collector and I needed her to give me courage) and afterward, Eddie and I talked ... and talked ... about TCM and the corporate takeover. He was cautiously optimistic and I was beyond delighted to hear that. Even better, I was the one who cut the conversation short because there were other fans waiting to talk to him. Eddie thought I was smart and interesting! (Eddie liked me! Eddie liked me!)

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 27

My 2023 happiness icon

Today's Happiness: Elaine was annoyed with me.

After spending the day together at the Noir City Chicago film festival, Elaine offered to drive Will and me home. It saved me more than $20 and the time I'd have to wait for the next train,* and I was grateful. 

Will and I were yammering rather enthusiastically about the movies. She was quiet, and when she did talk she was snappish with me. Me, not Will.

Was I talking too loud or too fast (I learned the latter especially annoys my Cousin Rosemary)? Did she feel excluded? Was she just fucking sick of me? After all, we also saw each other on Thursday.

I don't care. I was delighted.

Elaine is human, after all! This was the first time she's ever been short with me, and I loved it because she gets on my nerves after prolonged exposure. Nothing serious. She's a lovely woman and a good friend. But she can bug me, and until Sunday night I never saw any evidence that I could bug her. So until Sunday night, I felt a little bitchy.

I love this evening of the playing field. In classic movie terms, Sunday night was proof no woman is ever all Melanie Hamilton or all Scarlett O'Hara.

*Now that I'm a retired lady on a fixed income, I no longer just reflexively summon an Uber. I'm back to my twenty-something self, always carrying a book in my oversized purse to amuse me while waiting for the next bus or train.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 26

My 2023 happiness icon

Today's Happiness: My bootheels were wandering.

I strolled the mile to a new-to-me restaurant for lunch with my friend Nancy and her husband Paul. I saw a part of town I just never visit otherwise. That's one thing I like about retirement. I take things slower and notice more.

Lunch was delicious but unwise. I had a nice big breakfast -- eggs, bacon and pancakes with powdered sugar and syrup. Then, since it was right up the street, we went to Paul's favorite ice cream shop. That was simply too much sugar for my gut and it rebelled.

But that's a minor quibble. It was a lovely day. I like being with Nancy and Paul. They're happily married, smart, funny ... and they like me! YAY!


Friday, August 25, 2023

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: My Sharona (1979)

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


1) The Knack's lead singer Doug Fieger wrote this song for his girlfriend, Sharona Alperin. That's Sharona on the record sleeve shown here. Who took the most recent photo of you? One of the other guests at the birthday party I attended a couple weeks ago.

2) Today Sharona Alperin is a realtor in Southern California. (The photo on her website is more demure than the recored sleeve.) She specializes in high-end properties. Have you ever attended an open house, not because you were interested in purchasing the property but because you were curious about the inside? Yes. I didn't realize this was a thing until I visited a coworker who had moved to the Dallas area. He and his wife did this every weekend and invited me to go along. I thought it was a little weird. I mean, I had no intention of moving to Dallas and even if I did, the luxury abode of my dreams would be a high rise with a nice view of the city, not the sprawling suburban behemoths we toured. But when it Rome (or Texas) ...

3) Doug Fieger's brother is Geoffrey Fieger, a prominent attorney in Detroit. Have you ever consulted a lawyer? Yes, regarding my mother's final affairs and my own will.


4) The Knack's record producer was Jimmy Miller, who also worked with The Rolling Stones. What's your favorite Rolling Stones song? I'm not a big Rolling Stones fan, but I love this very short (barely 2 mins.) song from the album Tattoo You. Every once in a while you just gotta say what the hell and hang fire.

5) In 1994, more than a decade after its initial release, "My Sharona" became popular with a new audience because it was included on the soundtrack of the movie Reality Bites. What's the most recent movie you watched? The Best of Everything. It's a melodrama from the late 1950s about three girls who come to New York in search of adventure and love. It's soapy and absurdly dated and I love it. 

From an early scene of The Best of Everything. Love Caroline's gloves.

6) President George W. Bush said he loved listening to "My Sharona" on his headphones while riding his bike. Do you often have music on when you exercise? Well, they play music in the yoga studio. I don't like it -- it sounds like wind-chimey spa music -- but it's on and maybe it does relax me.


7) In 1979, when this song was popular, the CBS TV show Alice was a hit. It was about a widowed mom who made ends meet working in a diner. Have you ever worked at a restaurant? Nope.


8) Also in 1979, the Voyager spacecraft sent back photos of Jupiter and its rings. Without looking it up, can you name all the planets in our solar system? Mercury, Earth, Saturn, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Uranus, Pluto (or not). How did I do?

9) Random question: If you could erase your most painful day from your memory, would you do it? No. I certainly don't want to relive it, and I'm glad I got past it, but it helped me make me who I am.

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 25

My 2023 happiness icon

Today's Happiness: 22º.

That's how much cooler it was today and oh! It made all the difference in the world!

All my systems -- internet, landline, TV (!) -- were down for a few hours while Xfinity did an upgrade. I took the opportunity to get outside and run errands (the bank and the big grocery store on the other side of town). No way I could have done all that in 100º heat. I feel so fortunate that this gruesome hot wave only lasted two days.

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 24

My 2023 happiness icon

Today's Happiness: Easy.

I needed a diversion from all the Trumpy drama. Plus the mercury hit 100º and I'd rather have -10º than that kind of heat. So when my friend Elaine said that she was going to be in my neighborhood on an errand anyway and wanted to meet me for pastrami at the deli around the corner, I was in.

That's one of the things I appreciate about Elaine: doing things with her is easy. It isn't that I don't love my oldest friend, I do. But she hurts my feelings and our relationship is fraught because of her very real emotional/physical issues. 

It made me happy to just enjoy a smoked turkey sandwich and some light, drama-free conversation with Elaine.



Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Thursday Thirteen #323

About our 13 most recent First Ladies.The role of First Lady fascinates me because it's so undefined. Each woman who has held it has fulfilled it in her own way, and in doing so I think she reveals a great deal about herself and her times.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive. It's just a quick snapshot of how each woman handled her very public role.

1. Jill Biden is the first First Lady to continue at her chosen profession -- teaching at North Virginia Community College -- while living at the White House. She uses her platform as First Lady to advocate for military families.

2. Melania Trump was only the second foreign born First Lady (John Quincy Adams' wife, Louisa, was born in England). Her "Be Best" campaign advocated against cyber bullying.

3. Michelle Obama was our first African American First Lady. She concentrated on family health by planting The White House Kitchen Garden (which continues to this day) and introducing Let's Move!, designed to encourage exercise and reduce childhood obesity.

4. Laura Bush is a former grade school teacher and librarian, and, as First Lady, organized the United States' first literary fair. Every year since 2001, The National Book Festival has hosted authors representing a variety of genres and offers programs to encourage young readers. It's free to the public and was held on August 12 this year.

5. Hillary Rodham Clinton concentrated on women's issues. In 1995 she told an audience in Beijing that there is no reason to exclude women from any discussion of human rights because "women's rights are human rights." She also wrote the best-seller, It Takes a Village, about the positive impact influences outside the immediate, biological family can have on children.

6. Barbara Bush embraced her image as America's Grandmother. She promoted childhood literacy by hosting a syndicated radio program called Mrs. Bush's Storytime during which she read children's books. She also wrote a popular children's book about the White House dog, Millie's Book. It reached #1 on the New York Times best-seller list and proceeds were donated to a literacy non-profit.

7.  Nancy Reagan is best known for "Just Say No." She maintained the first step to solving a problem is understanding it, so she focused on educating young people about drugs and the dangers of drug abuse.

8. Rosalyn Carter consciously eschewed glamor. The dress she wore to the Inaugural Ball was the same one she wore to the Atlanta balls when her husband Jimmy was elected governor. While she was First Lady, the White House Christmas Tree was decorated by school children with pine cones and home made egg shell ornaments. She also worked to remove the stigma attached to mental illness, saying it should be regarded as a health care issue, without moral judgement.

9. Betty Ford was the first divorcee to be First Lady. Known for her candor, she openly discussed her mastectomy in the hopes it would reassure other women. Like Hillary Clinton, she is perhaps better remembered for her work after leaving the White House, when she founded The Betty Ford Center for the treatment of alcohol and drug addiction.

10. Pat Nixon excelled at what she called "personal diplomacy." In 1969, she became the first First Lady to visit a combat zone when she went to Vietnam. She traveled alone and in non-campaign-related visits to 39 of the 50 states. She also went overseas without her husband to Guam, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Pakistan, Romania, and England. She insisted on a small entourage to save taxpayers money.

11. Lady Bird Johnson was a millionaire in her own right. Thanks to savvy investments in radio stations, she was our most financially independent and successful First Lady. As First Lady, she was involved in ecology and beautification. She was responsible for the planting of literally millions of flowers around Washington DC and even more with the 1965 Highway Beautification Act.

12. Jacqueline Kennedy is the one who started all this. Shortly after entering the White House she announced that she was concentrating on restoring it. Ever since, First Ladies have been expected to declare what their signature initiative would be. Though her legacy cast a long shadow across her successors, Jackie wasn't crazy about the title "First Lady." She preferred to be called, "Mrs. Kennedy." She wanted the public to remember that she was the mother to two very young children (Caroline was 3 and John was an infant when she moved into the White House) and they were her priority.

13. Mamie Eisenhower made the White House festive again. Because of the Depression and World War II, the traditional White House Easter Egg Roll had been suspended. She brought it back in 1953. Similarly she welcomed the press to see how the White House was once again being decorated for Christmas and Halloween. State dinners were colorful again, too, with lots of pink flowers on the tables. (Mamie liked pink.)

Please join us for THURSDAY THIRTEEN. Click here to play along, and to see other interesting compilations of 13 things.

August Happiness Challenge -- Day 23

My 2023 happiness icon
Today's Happiness: I can't choose!

I didn't expect today to be such a happy day, but it was. So much goodness, so unanticipated, that I can't choose just one.

a. My annual escrow analysis came in and not only will I be paying a little less every month, soon I'll be receiving a check for the overpayment! This makes me feel better about the economy -- my personal budget and the nation's.

b. My first-ever Social Security check was direct deposited. I put much of it into my savings account, bolstering my dental work fund and life/long term care insurance funds. It's such a relief to know that, when those bills inevitably come due, I won't have to touch my retirement funds to cover them.

c. I went to the doctor today for my annual physical. First of all, I just adore her and her office staff. Secondly, my bloodwork came back pretty close to normal in all areas. Not bad for an old broad.

d. Anthony Rizzo was photographed at Yankee Stadium this afternoon with a bat in hands. He was cleared by his neurologist to hit off the tee. On the one hand, it breaks my heart that an All-Star and World Series Champion is playing tee-ball like a pre-schooler. On the other hand, it's progress and done after consultation with a specialist. It makes me happy to anticipate him well again.

I'd know my lefty anywhere


Tuesday, August 22, 2023


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

PS I can no longer participate in WWW.WEDNESDAY via that link because her blog won't accept Blogger comments. I mention this only to save you the frustration I experienced trying to link up.

1. What are you currently reading? Jackie: Public, Private, Secret by J. Randy Taraborrelli. Oh, I don't know why I'm reading this. I guess it's because whenever I hear about a new Jackie book I break into a trot, like a fire horse who hears the bell. J. Randy Taraborrelli is a popular, though not terribly respected, biographer who tends to treat the Kennedy family like celebrities, not historic figures, so I don't have terribly high hopes for this one. Yet I here I am!
It has started out promisingly, though. First Taraborrelli recounts his own dealings with Doubleday book editor Jacqueline Onassis. It's ironic since they are discussing his biographies of Diana Ross and why the second one was a better seller. Easy: it's more revealing and juicier. To hear one of the 20th century's most private women admit this so casually is jaw dropping. But, since it happened to Taraborrelli personally I don't doubt it happened. Plus her Doubleday coworkers recall her as a good teammate who appreciated the business side of publishing, so it squares.

Then it segues into John Warnecke's final memory of Jackie. It's 1994 and she knows she's dying. Warnecke was her lover for a short time, and now they're saying goodbye forever. Together they burned some of her personal correspondence in her fireplace. She was aware of her place in history and wouldn't destroy anything she wrote in her role as First Lady. But she didn't want her fame posthumously encroaching on the privacy of those who wrote to her. This, too, seems similar to the story told by Jackie's lifelong friend, Nancy Tuckerman, to biographer William Kuhn. 
So maybe this won't be a tawdry, trashy waste of my time after all. But I admit I'm still a little skeptical.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover. Tate Collins moves to a new city and stays with her big brother for a while until she gets settled. Pilot Miles Archer is her brother's neighbor and friend. They are instantly attracted, but neither of them is prepared for a relationship. Tate is juggling her busy schedule as an ER nurse with a heavy class load as she continues her education. Miles has a dark secret that has turned him off romance. So they settle for a purely physical relationship.

This book has more sex than I was expecting. Lots and lots of sex. In the shower and on a rug and in the cockpit of a plane and in the car and bent over the dining room table and sometimes even in a bed. At first the sex was sexy. Then it started to read clinically, like a how-to manual. Finally I just got curious about Miles, waiting for him to request a blow job as I've never known a man in real life who never, ever wanted oral sex. (I'm sorry, was that TMI? I'm just trying to emphasize that my mind wandered during the numerous sex scenes.)

It's weird because Hoover's best writing always comes after the sex. She expertly captures Tate's ache as she finds herself falling deeper in love with Miles.

I didn't hate this book. There was a plot twist I couldn't wait to reach and Tate seemed like a nice enough heroine. I just didn't like it. 
3. What will read next? I don't know.


August Happiness Challenge -- Day 22

My 2023 happiness icon
Today's Happiness: "We want you!"

So texted my friend Nancy. It was a light-hearted exchange. She wanted to know if I was busy "this weekend." I told her my Sunday was booked but on Saturday, "Nobody wants me. 😢"

I was joking while texting with Nancy but I admit I was feeling a little emotional today, too. Sometimes it feels like my oldest friend is going out of her way to make me feel unimportant. I know rationally she does this unintentionally -- she's doing everything she can to stay afloat while dealing with her very real medical/emotional issues. But still, no one wants to feel incidental.

So while Nancy doesn't realize it, she texted me about Saturday at the perfect time.


August Happiness Challenge -- Day 21

My 2023 happiness icon
Today's Happiness: Mild sauce on the side.

Today I treated myself to a carry-out chicken lunch. They forgot my cole slaw, but they gave me an extra mild sauce on the side, so I was happy. I don't like the sauce on the chicken, I use it for dipping the fries. 

I learned recently that the mild sauce I love so much is a Chicago thing. So here's a link