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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

P Is For Painting

"We can't put it off any longer," Rick said about a month or so ago. "This is the year we have to paint the front porch. It should have been done years ago, and it looks terrible. No furniture out until it's painted."

What happened next was Profound and Fateful, and quite possibly some of the Stupidest Things I Have Ever Said In My Life. "Okay," I agreed. "Not a big deal. I can help. I'm home all day. I can paint the railings, no problem. That way, all you'll have to do is paint the floor, and we'll be done!"

What a Gargantuan Idiot I am.

Painting is an awful, tedious, horrible job. Painting spindles is the Epitome Of Awful, Horrible Tedium. Painting eleventy thousand spindles white is actually prohibited by the Geneva Convention. Painting eleventy thousand spindles white, upon railings which are at the level of a five-foot, four and a half inch woman's mid-thigh is one of Dante's Circles Of Hell.

Do you know that it is entirely possible to lose one's place whilst painting with White Semi-Gloss paint when it is very breezy and everything looks the same and it is BORING AND TERRIBLE AND THE PAINT DRIES IMMEDIATELY AND YOU START HATING EVERYTHING AND YOUR BACK AND NECK AND SHOULDERS AND KNEES HURT? And that you realize that you have been holding the paint brush as if it were going to start slithering around and trying to bite you?

Holy crap.

At one point, my cousin Ann sent me a text message. I told her I was Painting and Miserable, and I immediately offered her a Billion Dollars if she would do it for me. Before she answered, I had time to feel Ashamed, Humiliated, and Embarrassed because Ann does practically Everything, not only Painting, but sewing, quilting, rebuilding and refinishing furniture, wallpapering, canning, ceramic tiling, and cloning pets and prehistoric animals. Okay, not that last one, but she probably could do it if there were instructions on the internet and she felt like it.

Anyway, my point--and I do have one--is This: Ann said, "I would come paint your porch for a billion dollars."

And I paused for More Than A Moment to actually think about whether or not I could come up with the cash.

Honestly, how do any of you do it, this Painting? It's horrid and awful. I've done it Twice now, and I've already told Rick that my Painting days are Over. "You did a great job!" he said, encouragingly. "You are slow, but neat." Which is a nice way of saying that it took me ten hours to do what he did in two hours when he got home from work, and that includes swiping away a few smears with some Goof-Off.

Heavy Sigh.

Painting. What was I thinking?

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

O Is For Oreos

Oh, Oreos. Whereas once you stood for Childhood Simplicity itself, now you are nothing more than a blowzy, tawdry tart looking to go home with anyone who will give you a ride. Why, Oreos, why? Instead of being True To Yourself, you try to be Everything To Everyone.

What a Shame.

When I was a kid, we rarely got Oreos. My father disliked them, probably due to their intense sweetness, deep dark color, and more practically, their price. He was the sole breadwinner of a family of six, and our cookies were usually generic and whatever he liked since he did the grocery shopping on Saturdays. I recall mostly Maurice Lenell pinwheel cookies (which I loved), and huge boxes of almond crescents covered in powdered sugar, which I disliked. Occasionally, Fig Bars appeared, I think, and I liked those, too. But St. Patsy baked something every weekend, so we did just fine with her pies and cakes and strudels. My father was not a chocolate baked good fan, so Oreos were not ever On His List. Once in a while, some vanilla and chocolate sandwich cookies appeared, called Duplex Cremes or something like that.

But back to Oreos.

My friends across the street, who were often my source for All Saturday Morning TV Ad Foods, always had Oreos. And Spaghettios and PopTarts and Lucky Charms and all that stuff. Lisa would often bounce out of the house with a whole package of Oreos, sit on the curb, and twist them open, licking the creme out, only to discard at least half the chocolate cookie. It was easy for her mom to catch her since the evidence was all over her mouth. Oreos leave your teeth black if you don't have that milk to wash them down. And if Lisa's teeth didn't give her away, her sister Laura was only too happy to since it would get her out of trouble.

These days, however, Oreos can be eaten in relative Safety, thanks to all of the New! Exciting!(and Not Blackening) Flavours. Now that I'm old enough to buy and enjoy my own Oreos any old time I want to, they've decided to chase the marketing demographic segment who are so fickle and distracted that they have to have something New! and Exciting! every time they go into the grocery store (or go online to order groceries or ask Siri what groceries are or something).

Excuse me while I go yell at some kids to get off my lawn.

Anyway, I digress.

My point--and I do have one--is this: Oreos just plain Overdid It. Rather than remain pure and trade on their Legacy as America's Favourite Cookie (retail), they went plain batshit crazy. They cheapened their History. They took their brand and turned it into one of those sad knock-off characters who roam around Times Square offering to take a picture with you for a few bucks. I mean, just look at this partial list of Oreo flavours:

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Oreo
Chocolate Oreo
Strawberry Milkshake Oreo
Golden Oreo
Double Stuf Golden Oreo
Oreo Heads or Tails
Creamsicle Oreo
Oreo DQ Blizzard Creme
Double Delight Oreo
Cool Mint Creme Oreo
Peanut Butter Oreo
Pure Milk Chocolate Covered Mint Oreo
Banana Split Creme Oreo
Brownie Batter Oreo
Sugar Free Oreo
Reduced Fat Oreo
Halloween Oreo
Red Creme Oreo
Birthday Cake Oreo
Candy Cane Oreo
Candy Corn Oreo
Gingerbread Oreo
Lemon Twist Oreo
Neapolitan Oreo
Berry Cream Oreo
Ice Cream Rainbow Sure, Bert! Oreo
Banana Split Oreo
Limeade Oreo
SpongeBob Oreo
Fruit Punch Oreo
Cookie Dough Oreo
Caramel Apple Oreo
Pumpkin Spice Oreo
Red Velvet Oreo
Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Oreo
Cotton Candy Oreo
S'Mores Oreo
Root Beer Float Oreo
Key Lime Pie Oreo
Marshmallow Crispy Oreo
Cookies 'n Creme Oreo
Toasted Coconut Oreo
Cinnamon Bun Oreo

And these are just some of the ones sold in the United States. Internationally, Oreos are cheapening themselves, too, with such iterations as Green Tea Oreo (Japan), Blueberry Ice Cream Oreo (Singapore), Coconut Delight Oreo (Indonesia), and Chocolate and Dulche de Leche Double Delights Oreo (Chile), among others.

And! Let's not forget that Oreos, in their neverending quest to Be All Sweets To All People, also come in:

Double Stuf Oreo
Football Oreo
Big Stuf Oreo
Mini Oreo
Triple Double Oreo
100 Calorie Pack Oreo
Mega Stuf Oreo
Oreo Thins
NASCAR Oreo
Fudge Covered Oreo
Oreo Cakesters
Oreo HandiSnax
Oreo WaferStix

to name but a few.

Oh, Oreos. Your sad Fall From Grace reminds me of a little piece in Edith Wharton's novel The Age of Innocence. In this scene, the hero Newland Archer is talking to the Countess, an outsider, after a huge high society party given in her honour. He explains to her what a Big Deal the event was, especially since it was given by the most prestigious and influential family in New York.

"The van der Luydens," said Archer, feeling himself pompous as he spoke, "are the most powerful influence in New York society. Unfortunately--owing to her health--they receive very seldom."
She unclasped her hands from behind her head, and looked at him meditatively.  "Isn't that perhaps the reason?" 
" The reason--?"
"For their great influence; that they make themselves so rare."

There is a great lesson in there for you, Oreos.


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Monday, May 09, 2016

N Is For Normal

I can't remember exactly what precipitated it, but in a moment of frustration early in his childhood, Jared (my eldest) landed this salvo, "Can't you just be Normal like other mothers?!" He was of elementary school age--that much I do remember--so his need for acceptance was understandable. The fact that it was in the Early Nineties makes it even more poignant for the both of us, that decade being the beginning of Organized Play Groups, Smothering Parental Involvement, and Mumsy and Popsy sticking their tentacles into every nook and cranny of their kids' lives until they became one huge being of KidParent with no discernible end of one and beginning of the next if it were in any way possible.

Even if the parents worked, which, of course, Rick and I both did.

Anyway, back to Jared's Wish.

I remember feeling both surprised and terrible. I had no idea he was feeling ashamed or irritated regarding my parenting, which had always been a source of pride for me. Like Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, my parenting role model, I never lied or talked down to my children. I held them to a standard of honesty and character that was high but reasonable. Whenever possible, I waited for their better natures to assert themselves and allow them to do The Right Thing.

But I'm sure Atticus Finch didn't, for example, make up The Underwear Song and sing it so loudly that a neighbor called to request an encore, along with a reprise of The Bug Killing Song. I'm sure he never drank beer out of a water bottle in right field during a Little League game. Or let his kids quit Little League because they were so damn miserable. Or say to them, "Go ahead and fight like hell, but just so you know, the winner gets grounded for two weeks." Or, when they were bored, let them draw all over each other (and me) with washable markers. (Full disclosure: Sometimes, during Sam's naps, I would draw elaborate pictures on the bottoms of his feet. I once wrote his letter to Santa on his back.) Or go shopping at Toys R Us, stopping first to put the five-foot stuffed Clifford in the cart with absolutely no intention of ever buying it. Or announce to the entire family gathered at Thanksgiving one year that Jared was getting pubic hair.

Yeah. That last one. I Know.

But anyway, back to Jared's Wish.

As soon as he said it, "Mom, why can't you be Normal like other mothers?", I felt sad. I felt terrible and sad. Because Jared was my First One, and I had been such a crappy mom, I thought, for so many of his earliest years. I was scared and overwhelmed and tired and really, he didn't do anything any of the books had said he would. But he and I had Hung In There, and we were good buddies overall. Beyond being my kid, I really liked him. He was funny and smart and thoughtful. But, apparently, I was failing all over again. "Oh, Jay," I said. "Do you really want me to be like that?"

I'd like to think that he's as grateful as I am that he said No.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

M Is For Migraine

Lynda Robinson

Migraine has been a part of my life for almost forty years now in varying degrees. My Migraine history predates my marriage, my children, and my career. It predates the NBA careers of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, the major milestones in the political careers of William Jefferson Clinton and George H.W. Bush, the Oscar win of The Deer Hunter, and the legal career of Sonia Sotomayor. It's older than the entire casts of movies anymore, and certainly older than the playlists of most radio stations.

My point here is--and I do have one--that like most people with any sort of Overarching Thing In Their Lives, I've simply Lived With It, and done so for a Very Long Time.

It is astonishing, however, how much of one's life can revolve around That One Thing.

Migraine has been a part of my life for thirty-nine years. It astonishes me to say that, but it's a Fact Undeniable. I got my first one while I was away at college, and it has been with me ever since, stealing entire days away from me, days that add up to more than a year of my life, and those are only the Headache Days. Sometimes there are Pre-Headache Days, and always, always, there are the Recovery Days. Migraine is the worst kind of thief.

Because along with stealing days, Migraine steals parts of Me, too. After fighting Migraine for so very, very long and losing, I feel at times like a Failure. Each headache feels like a Defeat, a Loss of the Battle to me. Like I'm not Trying Hard Enough. (And that nudges my old Catholic Guilt, which we all know I've railed against for ages.) Between my neurologist Dr. B. and me, we've tried so many things, and I've become so cagey in my strategies against Migraine. I study the isobars on the national weather map; I Never Go To Bed On A Red (wine); I only drink when I have something in my stomach and some water along with it; I gave up my treadmill for a recumbent bike; I manage what little stress I have; I get plenty of sleep; I avoid artificial sweeteners...the list is endless. But Migraine always defeats me in the end.

In my search for a magic cure for Migraine, I had to endure some frightening and awful side effects while my body became accustomed to what eventually became my Wonder Drug. Some of the effects are, unfortunately, long term, but they are not nearly as serious as the earliest ones. They pale in comparison to the more frequent and debilitating Migraines that I used to get before being on this medicine.

To call Migraine a headache is like calling Godzilla a lizard. During some episodes, I have lost all or part of my vision, vomited, sleepwalked, had vertigo and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. I have felt and heard my blood throbbing in my ears and temples. Even though I would run a low-grade fever, I would be freezing. I would be confused and unable to articulate what I needed or wanted. And on top of it all, always the excruciating pain.

Thankfully, because of my Wonder Drug, many of the most severe Migraine symptoms are rare now. Mostly, I get more manageable Migraine Episodes, and thanks to Dr. B., I can truly manage them. I think of Migraine now as a little more like a Caged Panther--still dark and wild and dangerous, but I have the whip and chair and bars to my advantage.

And, unlike some Migraineurs, I've met with nothing but kindness from other people, whether they were fellow sufferers or not. No one has ever said to me, "Take some Advil" or "After all, a headache is just a headache" as I've heard in some cases. Many people have offered remedies they've seen or heard in an effort to be helpful, a habit that can often irritate and frustrate other Migraineurs who have been on this journey for as long as I have, or longer. I am always appreciative of those who want to help, but I will say that the number of herbal supplements and junk remedies and homeopathic treatments claiming to relieve or cure Migraine is ridiculous and annoying. Kale and ginger smoothies will not cure a true Migraine. A cup of chamomile tea and a valerian root capsule will not stop a real Migraine.

I once begged my doctor to remove several vertebrae at the base of my skull if it would stop my Migraines. Do you think some cucumber-lime smoothies and a drop or lavender oil on each temple is really getting it done?

yourhealth.net.au
I think I've made my point.

While Migraines are Part Of my life, they are Not My Life.  And it is important to me that I always remember other people are dealing with far greater challenges, and dealing with them Every Single Day.

M is for Migraine.  But it's also for Moving On.

Lynda Robinson's work featured here

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

L Is For Lots Of Things, So Here Is A List

Oh, hello there. Life--another L Word--got in the way for a time, and things sort of Got Away From Me. Then there was a little Jaunt northward, some Wine Loveliness, and here we are. How about a little

List Of L's

1. Liver
2. Long Hair
3. Lemon Meringue Pie
4. Loneliness
5. Lake Season

Alrighty then; shall we on?

1. It is a small and continuing Sadness in my life that even though I truly love Liver, I only get to eat it once or twice a year. I grew up eating Liver at least once per month, expertly sauteed in gorgeous caramelized onions and served with mashed potatoes. Often, it was accompanied by my other Food Crush, big fat lima beans doused in butter, salt, and pepper. All of this was lovingly prepared by my mother, St. Patsy, much to everyone else's chagrin, at the request of my father, who also loved liver. Now, no one cooks it since Dad has been gone for 16 years, and everyone else hates it except me. Happily, a restaurant in Niagara-on-the-Lake that we like does it wonderfully (mashed potatoes, even!), so I can at least get it there occasionally.

2. After the Pixie Debacle, my hair has grown out past my shoulders and I could not be happier. Actually, that is A Lie. I could be a teensy bit happier: my hair could stop being recalcitrant and obdurate and, overall, an asshole. But I am trying to Be Mindful and Remember My Growing-Out Angst. I also want to mention my continued impatience? bemusement? overall wonderment? at the (largely male) reactions to my husband's very Long (and always well-kept) silver-streaked Hair. No,  everyone (Men), he is not in a band. Sigh. Wow.

3. Oh, Lemon Meringue Pie, I fear that I will have to break up with you. No one else loves you the way I do, and even when I buy the smallest size of you at the pie shop, I struggle to eat you before you become yucky. And, let's face it, I do not ever eat the Meringue (who does? ugh). What I need is Just The Lemon Part, in jars, and with a shelf life of several weeks. I know--lemon curd--but I want it to be Pie-Perfect.

4. While I was teaching, I found it very necessary to keep my Work Life and my Real Life separate. I was also very Private. I needed that for my sanity and to minimize my stress. And it worked pretty well. I left Work at Work, and Home was my sanctuary and never the twain met. Unfortunately, the Flaw in that plan has come to light now, and that flaw is that sometimes, I get a little Lonely. Teaching--at least for me--was such an intense and intensive career that I didn't make many Outside Friends; certainly not while I was actively raising my boys. Now, with Rick at work and me at home, there are times when, unless I make witty observations to the cats, I go the entire day without speaking to anyone. Please don't suggest a part-time job or volunteering. Both of those would certainly want me to follow a schedule, and I am not going to do that. Honestly, I just can't.

5. Spring has finally come to Ohio (but my snow shovels will stay on the deck until the end of April, just to be safe), but that last Winter Storm this month almost pushed me over the edge. Rick and I are even more eager for Lake Season to start, and I caught him leafing through a fishing lure catalog last week. There will be fewer snakes this year since all the shoreline bushes have been taken out, so my axe is retired. We became quite well-known last year for being The Ones With The Wineglasses On The Boat. (Why are we the only ones?)

Again, sorry for being so Late with the L's. Let's hear some of yours, or, as always, your Comments on mine.

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Monday, April 04, 2016

K Is For Khakis

If there were a sudden and inexplicable Khaki Pants Shortage, I would be unreasonably happy about it. Sharing my joy would be vast multitudes of school-aged boys as well, for Khaki Pants and Collared Shirts (aka Polo Shirts) are the standard school uniform in lots and lots of urban public and parochial schools. I currently own Zero Pairs of Khaki Pants, and I plan to maintain that total for the remainder of my life. If it were up to me, that would be the Current And Future Wardrobe Status of Rick as well.

Why all this Disdain For Khaki Pants? Did I have a Goat Episode, similar to one I described in this post? Did Something Bad once happen to me whilst clad in Khakis?

Nope.

As a matter of fact, I used to wear Khaki--the color--once in a while in skirts and shirts, and I even had a really great pair of Khaki cargo-style pants. It's not an especially great colour on me (some shades can make my olive skin look even more green), but accented with red, it can be a good wardrobe basic.

No, my anathema towards Khaki started when some men began wearing Khaki pants as Formal Wear, and thus began The Great Casualization Of America.

Perhaps it is Different where you live, but here in the Midwest, there is a sort of Anything But Jeans mentality when it comes to Dressing Up. As in, if you are Male, and you are Not Wearing Jeans, you are Dressed Up. (One exception to this rule is Jeans And A Sweater With A Shirt Underneath = Dressed Up.)   Footwear, sadly, does not even figure into this equation. Any sort of shoe can and will be worn.  (I. Know. )  For example, say you are a male of any age at all, and you are attending a 4 PM wedding in a church with a small reception immediately following. What do you wear? Why, your Khakis, of course! Oh, is it an evening wedding and the reception is at a swanky highrise? Well, then...better wear...Khakis! Going out to a play in the Theater District and then for drinks and dinner?

KHAKIS.

KHAKIS. KHAKIS. KHAKIS. KHAKIS. KHAKIS.

Just as I blame John McCain for legitimizing SPalin and begetting the present-day republican party, I blame Dockers for legitimizing Khakis and spawning the Downward Spiral Of Men's Dress. Don't most of us remember their PantsPantsPants commercials, like this one, which shoved Khakis and Khrotches into our Khonsciousness?



Holy Khrap.

Er...Crap.

Sorry.

I feel like it's No Accident that the word Khaki sounds like Piper or Marlowe yakking up a hairball.   That's pretty much how I feel about the pants.

Maybe, in the beginning, they were okay, but like so many things that seemed Perfectly Fine, they got Out Of Control.  Like Kudzu did in the South.  Khaki pants are Fashion Kudzu.  Or, like my Little Problem with Cheetos about ten years ago.  I could not be trusted; I ate almost a whole bag, and Rick had to hide them from me.  The difference there was, I got nauseated and sick from Cheetos and I learned my lesson.  Men are not Learning Their Lesson from Khaki pants, and instead, we are the ones ready to throw up.

Okay.  I think I've more than made my point.  Now go forth and purge Khaki Pants from the closets of all the men you know.


Monday, March 28, 2016

J Is For Jalopy


For most of my life, we had two cars in the driveway: The Good Car and Dad's Work Car. Neither one was ever a new car. My dad used his vast network of friends and family, former teammates and Army buddies, work and neighborhood relationships, as well as hometown politics to tap into a huge supply of used automobiles. Now and then, I would be roused from my Standard Oblivion of library books, Barbies, and schoolwork to hear Dad mention to Mom after work that he was in need of/getting/bringing home a car. Next thing I knew, there in the driveway or parked in front of the house would be the latest car. I rarely got excited or interested. After all, what difference in my life did it really make?

Only one of Dad's work cars ever became interesting to me, and it soon captured the the interest of many of our neighbors as well. We had never had a car like it before, and trust me; after it, we never had another one like it again.

Dad had already seen the car, a stubby little  Rambler American (like the one pictured above) in the possession of some guy he knew named Eddie. Eddie was an aged Car Guy, and he already had our old 1952 Chevy sitting in his huge back field, silently rusting into Oblivion. Dad had pointed out some big rust spots on the Rambler's hood and fenders, among other things, and Eddie said he'd take care of them. I think Dad and he agreed on a price of maybe two hundred bucks.

When the Rambler came home, we couldn't help but smile. It was such a funny-looking car, so boxy and small. And Eddie had simply placed sheet metal over the rust spots, screwed it down with dozens of screws, and painted the patches with some blue paint that was as close a colour match as he could find. It was like a FrankenCar. But it was only Dad's Work Car, and it didn't have to be pretty to sit at US Steel or at the curb on E. 38th Street.

Pretty soon, however, the Rambler started having problems. Or, at least, Dad started having problems with the Rambler. On some mornings, it was difficult to start. He'd go out, try and try, but it would not turn over. He'd come in, fling down his stuff, and swear. My mother would say, "Let me try, honey." She'd go out, clad in housecoat and slippers, and it would start right up for her. Once in a while, a neighbor would be out getting the newspaper or letting his dog out, and offer up some pithy remark. Let's just say that those were not the Best Days.

Finally, the Rambler became too temperamental, and Dad began taking The Good Car to work. We were stuck at home with the Rambler, which had begun refusing to start even for my mother. Dad probably began working his Network at this point, but that didn't help me one evening when I needed supplies for a school project and Dad was on a 3-11 shift. Walking was out of the question: it would be dark by the time I got everything and started back. Mom would have to coax the Rambler into service.

With high hopes Susan and I piled into the car, and Mom ordered us to cross our fingers. My younger sister and I were bouncing on the seat, urging the Rambler to life. And it worked! The car sputtered and caught, and we drove on to Kmart, about two miles away. On our way, Mom explained the seriousness of our situation. "Okay, now, girls. Here's what we have to do. I'm afraid that if I park the car, I may not get it started again. So, what I have to do is this: I'll drive as slow as possible once we get there. When I drive past the entrance, you open the door and jump out. Hurry up and get what you need because I have to keep driving around and around the parking lot, waiting for you. When you're done, come out and stand right where I dropped you off. I'll drive as slow as I can, open the door, and you run alongside and jump back in. Got it?"

We Got It.

One of the things that comes to my Memory immediately about this Incident is not that it was stupid or inconvenient or even dangerous. It was all of those things, of course. It was. It absolutely was. But the thing that comes to my mind immediately is that Susan and my Mom and I all laughed and laughed and laughed together like maniacs the entire time. We were having so much fun. We were having the best time.

And Susan and I flew through that store. We were a team, and we knew our mother, the other part of our team, was out there, putt-putting around the entire stupid parking lot in that stupid stupid car, which might give out at any time, so we had better hurry up. I remember looking out through the enormous store windows as I stood in the checkout line and watching my mother in that ridiculous blue car drive past. And we waved.

We grabbed our bag and ran out to the edge of the parking lot, waiting for her to drive by. She slowed down, threw the passenger door open, and almost stopped the car. Susan and I flung ourselves into the front seat. Mom hit the gas, and we struggled to shut the door. We were laughing so hard that we couldn't even speak. We made it home, and Mom parked the Rambler in front of the house as if it had never left. Knowing her, I'm sure that as soon as she turned off that car, she tried to turn it over again, but I can't really remember.

No, we never had another car like the Rambler. The rest of the cars were much more reliable and much less adventurous. Times with my mother and my sisters, however, continued to be pretty much the same. Thank goodness.

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