Saturday, February 28, 2015

Of Firemen And Flying And Snowfall: February IS The Cruellest Month

Scene opens on a living room. Nance and Rick are sitting on the couch watching a news story about a group of college students who are working as volunteers in one residential community. They are shovelling out fire hydrants which have been buried under icy four-foot drifts of plowed snow, presenting a very real danger in case of fire.

Rick: (outraged) That's just ridiculous. Why would you let that happen?
Nance:  Firemen have a lot of downtime. Why isn't there a team of firefighters going around, shovelling out those hydrants? Lots of them are just lolling around the firehouse playing cards and inventing chili recipes.
Rick: (if possible, even more outraged) Nance, they can't do that! They'd have to send out the whole truck with all the guys. What if there was a fire someplace? Those guys would be out someplace shovelling out a hydrant, and the rest of them would have to wait or go pick them up. It just doesn't work like that.
Nance: (losing interest now) I guess. The whole thing is a mess.
Rick: It should work like the emergency exit on an airplane. If someone wants to buy a house on a lot with a fire hydrant, they should have to agree to shovel the snow around it in the winter. You know, like the way the flight attendant asks you if you agree to be in charge of the emergency exit in case of a sudden landing and all that. If the homeowner can't handle it, then that's it--no sale.
Nance: (perking up) That is genius! It's perfect.
Rick: Have you ever sat in the emergency exit aisle?
Nance: Heck yes. And I was fully prepared to haul that door off and take control. Absolutely.
Rick: Did you ever see anyone refuse?
Nance: Yes, a frail little old lady, and I was glad that she did. We would never have gotten out alive. And I once saw a woman with a kid sit there briefly, and I knew there was no way in hell that was good for me. She'd get so wrapped up in finding a sippy cup or a blankie that we'd all die.
Rick: This is what I'm talking about. Only responsible people should have these hydrants in their yard. It's better for everyone.

End scene.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fireside Chat: Chapter Four of Watching And Thinking Of Blueberries

In spite of the snow and cold, the restaurant's closed-in porch was warm and pleasant. Surrounded by windows, we could see traffic churning at the busy intersection while the snow fell in fat, wet flakes. One absurdly tiny woodstove was keeping us all warm. It seemed impossible.

"Nance, we saved a seat for you right by the fire," someone said, and Rick and I took our places after a bit of requisite mingling. It was, after all, a company party, and the long table would keep most of us apart during dinner. I found myself next to the boss's wife, whom I like very much, but then, I like everyone with whom Rick works. She had recently lost her father, quite unexpectedly, and a party was the last place she wanted to be. In an effort to help them both, she had brought her mother along, and they were clearly struggling in this festive, happy environment.

In her grief, her mother could not sit still, but wandered back and forth behind the table. She stopped by the stove, trying to stay warm. She seemed distracted and flighty. Marielle, the boss's wife, drew her over and introduced her to me. As is often the case, I was her nephew's teacher. He is now a greatly successful financial advisor (mine, in fact). She was so happy to talk about him and his accomplishments. "Let's get you a chair," said Rick. "You can sit right here at the end of the table by the fire for dinner. Stay here and talk with us."

She did. She never left that chair. She could not eat very much, but she talked at length about her husband, being alone in her big house now, her plans, and what she does to fill up her days. "One thing I do is to volunteer out at Wells Glen. I go out there and run an exercise class for the old people. I--"

But I had stopped truly listening as soon as I heard "Wells Glen." I looked up at Rick, heart hammering. Tish lived at Wells Glen! He smiled. I waited patiently for a chance to ask if she knew of Tish, if she had any information at all about my former neighbor. She paused for a moment, chuckling a little about the ladies at Wells Glen doing their exercises.

"A former neighbor of mine lives at Wells Glen now, " I started, "and we've been wondering about her. Tish Cash, do you ever see her? The last we heard was--"

"Oh, Tish! With her glorious silver pageboy! She's great! She takes my class, and she goes to the beauty parlor every week. Her son...ugh. But yeah, she's fine. Her son took her car away, and she's a little forgetful, but she's great. She has a lot of friends and when the weather is good, she goes outside for her walks. She plays cards and all kinds of activities. You should come and see her. Yeah!"

It's entirely possible that she never noticed my eyes filling with tears during her entire recitation. Rick did, of course, and patted my hand throughout. I know I thanked her for telling me about Tish's life now and for setting my mind at ease; that we had no way of finding information and did not want to impose on anyone's privacy. That it was happy and reassuring news she had brought us about Tish.

By the end of the evening, many jackets had been shrugged out of and sweaters slipped off shoulders. One little woodstove had created enough warmth to comfort the entire room, and then some.

There will be no trips to Wells Glen for me; I was not a visitor in Tish's life when she lived across the street. We would have nothing to talk about, and I would struggle to keep from telling her about her driveway adrift in snow, her uncurtained, unblinking windows, the sad fate of her redbud tree. No, instead I will smile, knowing she is warm and happy--in her home.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Breaking Up And Stuff
Forgive my absence. Winter is unrelentingly harsh; life grows a bit lumpier; the February Theme has become, for me, uninteresting and unwieldy. The thrumming under my skin has started, and I am feeling as if I might fly into a million tiny fragments if I don't escape to a place that is, if not warmer and less snowy, at least NOT THIS.

I know I am not alone, but that knowledge is unhelpful.

Pressing on.

I'm going to abandon this Theme. I'm just not Into It, Not Feelin' The Love, Not--all puns intended-- Enamored With It. Maybe it's not even the theme, you know? Hey, Theme. It's not you, it's me. Things just didn't Work Out. It's better we go our separate ways, and I hope we can still Be Friends.

Breaking up is always a shitful part of relationships, and I have to say that I did try to be a good Breaker-Upper. I did not have extensive Boyfriend Experience, however, so I cannot be too self-congratulatory. I did have a couple of young men who thought they were my boyfriend, only to find out that they were not. If passing on that information counts as Breaking Up, then maybe I had more experience than I originally thought.

But I digress.

Sometimes I wonder if Breaking Up is so lousy because of the Love part or because of the Fear part. What are some of the very first things you hear a person say after a breakup? "What will I do now?" "I don't understand." "I feel like my whole world has fallen apart." Every single one of those statements is completely understandable and appropriate, and every one expresses Fear. Aside from horror movies and maybe roller coasters, no one truly likes to be scared.

And so much baggage! People to tell, stuff to give back or throw away, explanations to go through while you relive the details over and over again. It's like a Death. No matter how you spin it, Break-Ups are awful. Part of me wishes it were customary to do it surgically, like a subpoena is served. Someone shows up with a document, hands it to the Break-Upee, and walks away. The End. I think I would feel better if on the receiving end of that. Maybe.

But we all know what a Sentimental Autistic I have become. I am thinking now of my wedding dress, still in its huge box, supposedly preserved, someplace in our crawlspace. I haven't looked at it since the day I took it to the cleaners about 34 years ago. I could drop it in a Salvation Army clothing bin tomorrow and not care a bit. What do I need it for? It seems a terrible waste of money now. (Why is it that men traditionally rent their wedding clothes, but women buy theirs, anyway? I wonder if brides-to-be are suffused with some sort of biochemical cocktail which makes them eschew the very idea of renting a gown, even if it could be a designer gown of their dreams.  A quick search tells me that this is now available; the comments on the story tell me that it is also not new for large cities.)

I've already tossed all of the other wedding tchotchkes I thought I'd save forever and forever. The handmade ring pillow (our rings fell off of it, prompting a mad search by the best man), the wedding "unity" candle, the dried-out remains of my bouquet... oh, all sorts of things which had nowhere to be. Why save them? We're married, we're together, we have kids for heaven's sake. I don't need any other mementos of our marriage.

I broke up with that Stuff.

It was, if you'll excuse the reference, Hard To Do. It made me feel guilty. It made me a little afraid. I knew it could be seen as if I didn't revere or respect the Past, like I was trashing the memory of our wedding.

It isn't that at all.

When I throw away or donate things that I no longer need, it's for that reason. I no longer need them. I don't need Things to remind me of how much I love my husband or our life together. I don't need baby shoes to remind me of my sons or how much I love them and the human beings they've become. I can't live a full, wonderful life of Now if I have it crammed full of Then. Our story is rich and ongoing. Every day I celebrate Us. I go on, making room for new chapters.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Different Kind Of One And Only
It's Friday The Thirteenth and my house is overrun with somewhat inept painters who, apparently, fear The Boss and are hell-bent on finishing this job today, even if it means that the interior of my house looks like a third grade class went at it for a School Project. I'm trying to be pleasant and sympathetic while still insisting that my house look better than it did when they started; surely it should look no worse.

Situations like this make me wonder if I'm The Only One anymore. Am I The Only One who sees that this looks like crap? Am I The Only One who expects quality? Am I The Only One who thinks it is rude to have strangers come into my house and blast loud music without asking and for the whole day? Am I The Only One...well, you get it. Lists like this are truly Endless.

But as I made my rounds of The Interwebs this morning, I came across something else that made me wonder if I was The Only One again, this time in a far more humorous instance. Or...maybe that's not the exact word I want.  You can decide.

By now all of you are aware of the scandal in which Brian Williams, NBC news anchor, is deeply embroiled. Because he was found to be heavily embellishing a story about being in a helicopter while reporting in Iraq, a lot more of his reporting and his basic truthfulness have been called into question. Thanks to social media, everyone has been able to weigh in on this story, and people have lined up on either side as supporters or opponents. As is often the case, it is surprising to see who says what.

But no one could have prepared me for this, a letter of support for Brian Williams written by Charlie Sheen. I am including it here for you to read, exactly as it was posted to Mr. Sheen's Twitter account. Get through it, and let's discuss.

Dear Mr. Williams,

Sorry to bother you during this most surreal, unjust and mercurial moment in your awesome life.

First off, THANK YOU, for 24 years of inimitable professionalism and top shelf brilliance, as a stone cold passion driven and (PERFECTLY) fact based journalist.

Secondly, Thank you “squared” for delivering not only the news on a nightly basis, (PERFECTLY) to myself and my family.

But for every other person alive, (with a TV) who relied and still do,on your poetic, insightfuland NOBLE sacrifices,that made our longest nights shorter,and our shortest nights safer.
You good sir, are a hero in my “Entire Library”

Lastly; you are clearly the victim of a transparent and vile witch hunt! Erroneously “staged” by hooligans, non coms, cowards and oligarchs, who’s only desperate and hideous goal is to discredit the genius that they relied on for almost 3 decades!

Now and forever you are a true Patriot and a Hero of mine until the day i leave this star crossed imperfect Rock we call Earth…

Mr W: respect love hi 5’s and refuge! (if you need it!) I remain humbly and on dangerous standby at your service….

I am;
the MaSheen….

At the risk of overusing my Rhetorical Device from above:

Am I The Only One who is stunned and mystified by absolutely everything in this letter? (But let's start with "poetic, insightful and NOBLE sacrifices." Brian makes 6 million bucks a year. What "sacrifices" has he made, really, that he has not been handsomely compensated for? I'll let Mr. Sheen have his own interpretation as to the level of their nobility, insight, and poetry.)

Am I The Only One who is still trying desperately to figure out how BW "made our longest nights shorter and our shortest nights safer" by reporting the news? Can anyone give me an example of anything that has done or is doing that so as to help me understand?

Am I The Only One who wonders if being a hero in an "Entire Library" is a sort of mixed metaphor or if it's really, really creative?

Am I The Only One who is laughing (hard!) at the series "hooligans, non coms, cowards and oligarchs" and wishes it wasn't too long to be the name of a really awesome band? (If I were still teaching, I might address my class that way. "All right, you hooligans, non coms, cowards and oligarchs, let's grab the vocab books and get going." Okay. Maybe not.)

Am I The Only One who reads the last "sentence" as a sort of jumbled command that then devolves into a sort of closing, like: Mr. W, Respect love, hi 5's, and refuge! If you need it, I remain humbly......?

What is "dangerous standby?"

And, finally, Am I The Only One who thinks that it would be great if someone like Patrick Stewart would read this aloud?

I remain on dangerous standby, awaiting your comments.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Valentine's Day: Memories Of Love
Valentine's Day is a Hit-Or-Miss Holiday with Rick and me. Sometimes he brings home a bouquet of carnations for me; sometimes I make him a heart-shaped meatloaf. More often than not, we end up saying at some point, "Oh yeah. Happy Valentine's Day!" Usually this realization occurs when we get the mail and there is a card from St. Patsy, Obsessive Greeting Card Sender (And Underliner).

My mother loves to not only shop for greeting cards, which can, according to my brother, take her hours, but she also loves to underline key words in their sentiments. All of her kids and grandkids now hold One-Upsmanship Sessions in which they compare not only the number of words underlined, but the amount of times the words are underlined. Reading her cards aloud with the underlining is hilarious:

Wishing YOU, DEAR daughter, the BEST Valentine's Day EVER
because YOU are LOVED.
and ALWAYS!!!! (Adding extra exclamation points is new.)

But I digress.

Valentine's Day. Rick and I aren't exactly dismissive of it; we just don't Do It. We have our anniversary, and that's our Personal Valentine's Day. We figure February 14th can be everyone else's Day For Celebrating Their Love.

When I was little, Valentine's Day was a much bigger deal and a lot more fun. We bought the whole-class box of valentines, there was a class party with treats, and my mother made sure I had red bows in my braids. I would sit at the kitchen table the night before and put way more thought into who got which Valentine than I did into my Social Studies chapter questions. Especially the boys' valentines.

At school I was always astonished at the valentines I received that had a lollipop skewering through them. Although I had never truly wanted for anything as a child, I knew those had been expensive and were not something I could even have asked to hand out. Sometimes, I didn't even eat the lollipop. I saved it and saved it, only to throw it out later after it got broken or forgotten. How silly.

My parents both were enthusiastic celebraters of Valentine's Day when we were children. The very first flowers and heart-shaped box of candy that I ever got for the holiday were from my father. He always made sure that Patti, Susan, and I got a Valentine present. My mother, I'm sure, was in charge of Bobby's, but Dad's fingerprints were all over ours.

One of my father's great joys was to get in the car and simply go. My mother hated it because often, she would send him on an errand for an item she needed for her dinner preparation. Hours later, Dad was nowhere to be found, and in the age before cell phones, he was unreachable. Half an hour before dinner, he'd pull up in the driveway, placid and triumphant, and Mom would be harried and beyond irritated. "Honey! Where have you been? I'm waiting on those potatoes!" she'd say, exasperatedly.

My father would ease out of the car, look surprised and a little sheepish. "Oh! Doll, I forgot all about those potatoes. Let's just have rice. But take a look at the chair I got in the scratch and dent at Penney's. Only a hundred dollars. And I hit it really, really good at the driving range, too. Really loosened up my back."

In his travels my father would frequent small, family-owned florists and garden centers and find little vases or containers in sets of three. Each one would be a little different, either in colour, shape, or something. He'd then have the florist put a flower in each one, add a ribbon, and bring them home. We girls would come in from school on Valentine's Day and find them with our card and sometimes, our candy. If Dad had been downtown, we'd get a little tiny heart box of French chocolates from Faroh's, and we knew that meant he had a secret stash of the same someplace. Oh, those French chocolates from Faroh's. Divine and beautiful.

Mom and Dad exchanged cards, but that was it. The kids were the ones who got actual Valentine's Day presents, now that I take the time to think of it. Again, I am astonished at how oblivious I was growing up. Everyone in my family said I constantly had my nose in a book. It's clear that they were not exaggerating.

I still have one of those little vases that my father gave to me as a Valentine. About four inches tall, it is the only one to have survived not only several moves, but also the capriciousness of my feelings. Safely tucked away in a cupboard, it has weathered fits of temperament, organization, streamlining, and independence. Like Valentine's Day, some things are just for Love.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

The Things We Love
I could do with some Light And Fluffy right about now, couldn't you? Let's put the Serious Love Stuff aside for the moment and look at something more...cotton candy-like.

At the risk of trivializing The Word, there are lots of Things We Love. The second definition of the word Love is, after all, "warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion." So here's a random list of

Things I Love, Grouped, And In No Particular Order

1. Names: Annabelle, Samantha, Boris, Tristan, Roberto
2. Foods: Butter, Basil, Olive Oil, Pasta, Duck
3. Activities: Going On Drives, Exploring Civil War Sites, Spending Time With Zydrunas, Teasing St. Patsy
4. Thingies: Mascara, Rick's Old White Tees, Boots, My GPS
5. Places: Niagara-on-the-Lake, Gettysburg, the lakehouse, To Dinner with Rick at Nemo's

Technically, I suppose some Persnickety Readers could snort and snark and say, "This could be termed A Favourite Things List, you know." Well, to him or her I would say this, "Did you get up on the wrong side of the day?" (That, by the way, is a direct quote from my niece Alexis, who had about eleventy thousand of those in her early childhood, and all of them were far more intelligent and sensible than the originals.)

But I digress.

1. Some of you may wonder why neither Jared nor Sam ended up as a Boris, Tristan, or Roberto. In a word, RICK. I was smitten by the name Tristan from the James Herriot book series from decades ago. Come to think of it, I got the name Boris from that, too, and the song about the spider by The Who.

2. As far as foods, those are my constants and will probably not change. Even lobster has disappointed me every once in a while, but these are always True.

3. I don't have a ton of activities that I truly love because so many of them feel worky to me, even writing and now, even reading. It's a concentration issue. But all of these listed bring me such joy. Despite the incredible amounts of nibbling and slobber, time with Zydrunas means unfettered energy and love. That dog loses his mind when I arrive, and it is such a lift to be greeted with unabashed adoration. Jared and Sam do not jump as high as my head, flip themselves into a comma, and wag their back ends until they fall down, even when I bring a pie.  But Z does, every time.

4. While I fully realize the Transient Nature Of Things, I can love some anyway. I have a torrid love affair with boots, which comprise 90% of my footwear during the months of October through March, with a week or two of September and April as necessary. Here in NEO with the snow, freezing rain, slush, and uncertain terrain thanks to the aforementioned, boots are a stylish and lazy-easy way to look decent and get through half the year. I have four or five pairs in various colors that I can slide into and not even have to worry if my socks match (although you know, of course, that they do). And if you buy a good, leather pair and take care of them, they can last for years and years. And if you don't buy leather, you don't worry too much about wrecking any that are cheap. Win-win.

5. Finally, these Places I Love, I really do love. They are all places that I can go and relax, watch my husband relax, and/or do things I truly love and enjoy. They are places where I can commune with the Best Parts Of Me.

I can't wait to see your lists of Things You Love in Comments!

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Find Out What It Means To Me (And My Father)

When my father used to talk about the kind of husband my sister Patti and I would eventually find and settle into happiness with, he often described a sort of professorial man of academic bent who would be a hybrid Philosopher Poet, probably another English teacher or even a writer or college instructor who would be quite similar to us. He may never have said so, but I got the impression that this man would also be older than us as well, though not by too terribly much, and down-to-earth, but certainly not earthy or crude, my father's most hated personality trait.

As you can probably guess, neither Patti nor myself married such a man. Her husband is a business manager whose politics have always run somewhat counter to those of my late father, a blue-collar union man. Their discussions used to get passionate and heated, and my mother and Patti would practically have to drag in firehoses or, at the very least, send in the children en masse armed with storybooks and Overwhelming Cuteness to defuse the situation. My husband Rick is a carpenter by trade, and he has probably read a handful of books all the way through in his lifetime without growling, none of them recently.

It is important to note here that my father graduated high school, was drafted, and afterward went to college briefly on the G.I. Bill. He did not stay long. After the War, college felt alien to him, I guess, and Getting On With His Life meant something else entirely.

Anyway. The husbands/sons-in-law.

Both of them were obviously not what Dad had intended at all. But both of us heard, via our mother (Dad's favourite conduit) that it was okay. I can't speak for my sister in this case, but I can, of course, say plenty with regard to mine. My dad never doubted for a moment that Rick and I loved each other; I knew that. And even though we were So Incredibly Young (eighteen when we met; twenty-two when we married!), it was clear that we weren't making an impetuous decision.

No, the big factor for Dad was Respect. "Your father can tell that Rick really respects you," my mother said to me. "He can see that he cares for you, yes, but it's the way he listens to you and looks at you when you talk. He knows you're smart, and he's not intimidated by that. He treats you like it's a partnership. That's what's really important to your father."

My father was terribly hard on all of us kids as we were growing up, and there were times that I used to stomp upstairs to my bedroom and hate him mightily for hours, days, even weeks on end. It wasn't that I didn't understand why, either. He always made sure we understood exactly why he said what he said or was disappointed in or angry at us. (We were never hit, ever.) That didn't mean we didn't think it was stupid or ridiculous, or unfair, or so Not Like Anyone Else's Parents. But we did always feel loved, valued, and above all, respected our entire lives.

I'm glad. Respect should be an enormous part of Love.  I'm grateful that my parents taught me that and modeled that for me, and I hope that I have effectively done the same for Sam and Jared.  I hope I did as much for my students, too.  

image modified from

Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Heresy Of Young Love
Love was always one of the most popular topics of discussion to arise in my classroom. Believe it or not, my sophomores, juniors, and seniors were desperately uncomfortable whenever sex crept into any conversation, moreso when I brought it up. (And I often did, especially when teachingThe Catcher in the Rye.) No, Love was the discussion winner by far, and everyone usually had something to say about it.

I got very popular very quickly when I aired my view that, yes, Teenagers Can Be In Love. I respectfully disagreed with Other Adults, often some parents, who dismissed this notion. "How can a teenager know what Love is?" was the inevitable question, followed by protests like, "They have no idea. They're too young! They aren't mature enough! They're full of hormones and ridiculous images from the media. No one at that age has the slightest idea what it even means to be in Love. Most of them are still lining up for Disney films. They can't even look past themselves, let alone truly care about another person."

My students would tell me all this, naturally, and they'd carefully and earnestly watch my face as they did so. (You know, I don't think I ever really got used to that--all those eyes on me at once used to regularly freak me out when they were expectant like that.) They wanted to see if I was going to stick with my Dangerous Opinion under the barrage of Grown-Up Fire. I would listen as they wore themselves out and had their catharsis; I really did understand what they were up against because I heard it from parents during conferences and phone calls all the time.

Once they let their last dogs loose, I explained myself, and the smart ones added it to their arsenal, saving it to use later, and then only in the calmest and wisest way.

Teenagers Can Be In Love. I believe it sincerely. Children, if they are raised well and correctly, are raised in a loving, caring, supportive environment. They are surrounded with demonstrations of love from their parents, siblings if there are any, and extended family. Love is modeled for them, and they know what it feels like to be nurtured, valued, supported, and cared for. They know what it feels like to want to do that for someone else. They have given and received affection and known the rewards of that reciprocity. They experience Love every single day.

I think it's incredibly arrogant and dismissive to say, then, by virtue of their age alone, that teenagers cannot be In Love. It's more of a disparagement of the parent/adult saying it than it is of the teenager. We expect our kids to learn from us; we are supposed to be role models and serve as their best mentors of how to get on in later life. Aren't we teaching them every single moment how to Love?

Being In Love is quite different than Being Ready To Do Something About It. That is a huge qualifier. But to tell Teenagers that They Are Not In Love because they are only something-teen years old is ridiculous. That's like telling a baby he's not hungry because it's not two o'clock yet. Or saying that it can't snow in NEO anymore once Spring starts on March 20th.

If you were not In Love as a Teenager, maybe you were So Hoping To Be In Love. But you certainly knew what it meant to be In Love. Growing up didn't really change that, did it?

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Making The World Go 'Round, It's All We Need And A Many Splendored Thing
Love--one of the Suggested Themes--is an awfully big Thing To Write About. For some reason, this word is fraught with peril for lots of people. It's heavy with baggage in budding relationships, and some people think we toss it around like confetti or sea salt. "Love should mean something," I heard some serious-looking blonde say in close-up on one of St. Patsy's soap operas one day. "Oh, hell," I think I said at the time.

Because, really, the point is Love means a lot of things. And don't you just hate that stupid quote from the book/movie Love Story: "Love means never having to say you're sorry"? What in the hell does that even mean? Does that mean that if you love someone, you're automatically forgiven for all of your boneheaded screwups, so no "I'm Sorry" is necessary? Or, does it mean that if you love someone, you automatically don't screw up where he/she is concerned? Either way--STUPID AND NOT ACCURATE, so...what a waste of Ali McGraw's eyebrows and all of our time.


Love means a lot of things. Let's think of some.

Love Means

I put his slippers on to warm before he comes home.
I buy his favourite cookies at the store.
I carry dog biscuits in my car even though I don't own a dog.
I don't say to St. Patsy, "You already told me this."
I don't care that Piper weighs 20 pounds.
I cry when Jared and Sam are sad.
I bought Zydrunas a coat for Christmas.
I still want him to sing to me even though he can't carry a tune.
I don't say It.
I cry with you.
I let the Past stay there.
I make the cream sauce once a month.
I shovel the driveway as a surprise.
I bring chai tea for St. Patsy.
I meet him on the deck with wine.
I laugh with you.
I put up with the dog and cat hair.
My heart is full when the boys are here.
I sometimes have to be The Bad Guy.
I cook and bake with less salt.
I take the fish off Sam's hook.
I always answer their calls and texts.
I call you on your shit.
I am always, always within a call or drive.
You can tell me anything and I keep it close.
I try to help.
I don't say I'm Sorry--I try to fix it.

Tell me what Love Means to you in Comments.

(PS.  Today, I put out a nice thank you note for my mailman and a bottle of water in celebration of Thank A Mailman Day.)

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

February Survival Guide: Pick A Holiday And Celebrate The Hell Out Of It
"February is merely as long as is needed to pass the time until March."--Dr. J.R. Stockton

Certainly Dr. J.R. Stockton could benefit from a little history lesson highlighting the Romans, namely King Numa Pompilius and Julius Caesar, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he was being snidely metaphorical. A lot of us know that March is just as bad, climatologically speaking, as February, with the added bonus of being even longer. We might say, even, "March is merely as long as is needed to pass the time until April."

But I digress. (Big surprise.)

My point, and I do have one, is this: February has some Image Problems, and being The Home Of Valentine's Day doesn't solve them; ask almost any male in A Relationship. Thankfully, I have an Excellent Readership here at the Dept., and because of their inspiration, we can not only help February, but also survive it.

Dear Reader Shirley from gfeeasily commented earlier that she is "one of those girls who just throws everything in the mix and cheers for it all", a trait that I find both useful and endearing. It sounded somehow familiar to me, and then I realized why. It complements perfectly a sentiment that Dear Reader J. over at Thinking About has shared often: "Life can be really hard sometimes, so celebrate when you can."

To that end, I present to you a list of Holidays in February far beyond what we usually associate with the month. Here is where you can discover the Origin of each of the Holidays, but personally, I don't care. To paraphrase Shirley and J., February sucks, so I'm just going to mix them all up and celebrate whatever the hell I want.

February is also known as:

American Heart Month
An Affair to Remember Month
Black History Month
Canned Food Month
Creative Romance Month
Great American Pie Month
National Cherry Month
National Children’s Dental Health Month
National Grapefruit Month
National Weddings Month

Here are the

Official February Holidays:

1 National Freedom Day

2 Groundhog Day

2 Candlemas

3 The Day the Music Died - Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper died in a plane crash in 1959.  We will commemorate, not celebrate.

4 Create a Vacuum Day--I'll just run the one I have, thanks.

4 Thank a Mailman Day--I will set out a nice card!

5 National Weatherman's Day--Grrrrrrrr.

6 Lame Duck Day--Do I send President Obama a note, or do I increase awareness about gimpy waterfowl?

7 Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day - first Saturday of month--I may have to add a scoop to my coffee.

7 Wave All Your Fingers at Your Neighbor Day--I think not.

7 Send a Card to a Friend Day--eCards do count; I give you permission and the environment thanks you.

8 Boy Scout Day

8 Kite Flying Day--Maybe where you live...?

9 Clean out Your Computer Day - second Monday of the Month

9 Toothache Day

10 Umbrella Day--I feel like this should be in April, really.

11 Don't Cry over Spilled Milk Day--Oddly, I like this.

11 Make a Friend Day--I'll let all the FB people do this.

11 White T-Shirt Day--My standard for jammies, so every day is this.

12 Abraham Lincoln's Birthday--I always read The Gettysburg Address. Often aloud.

12 Plum Pudding Day--In February? Have any of you had this?

13 Blame Someone Else Day - first Friday the 13th of the year--I choose...republicans.

13 Get a Different Name Day--I will always choose Samantha.

14 Ferris Wheel Day

14 National Organ Donor Day--All of us at the Dept. are donors!

14 Valentine's Day

15 Candlemas - on the Julian Calendar

15 National Gum Drop Day--Absolutely celebrating this one!

15 Singles Awareness Day--Kraft American for grilled cheese.

16 Do a Grouch a Favor Day--DOING THIS!

16 Presidents' Day - third Monday of month

17 Random Acts of Kindness Day--I feel like no one ever has randomly performed an act of kindness toward me.

18 National Battery Day--Check your smoke alarms again!

19 Chinese New Year - Year of the Goat. Don't trust goats.

19 National Chocolate Mint Day--St. Patsy's favourite ice cream.  I might take her some.

20 Cherry Pie Day--I will take a trip to the pie shop for this.

20 Hoodie Hoo Day--NOT even saying this. Ever.

20 Love Your Pet Day--This is every day. Come on.

21 Card Reading Day--I used to cast and read rune stones. Don't judge. But not cards. I'll read your business card or greeting card!

22 George Washington's Birthday--GW never did it for me. I don't find him as fascinating or compelling or wonderful as AL or even TJ.

22 Be Humble Day--Humility is admirable any day if it is genuine. Don't fake it just for the day.

22 Walking the Dog Day--Never could do this yo-yo trick well. Real dog--Zydrunas is too strong for me to walk him; he is dog-reactive.

22 International World Thinking Day--Primarily to think about global women's health issues. I will fit it in while humbly walking the dog.

23 International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day--I appreciate how slipping my Dog Relatives these speedily ingratiates them to me.

23 Tennis Day--Very hard on my knees, this sport. Plus, why must the women wear skirts? Quite sexist.

24 National Tortilla Chip Day--Pass me the guacamole.

25 Pistol Patent Day

26 Carnival Day

26 National Pistachio Day--These are too pricey and worky for me. More for you.

26 Tell a Fairy Tale Day--Once upon a time the republicans listened to reason...

27 Polar Bear Day--I remain an avid Polar Bear enthusiast and supporter.

27 No Brainer Day--Sadly, an everyday holiday for so, so many.

28 Floral Design Day

28 Public Sleeping Day--Celebrated in classrooms daily.

28 National Tooth Fairy Day - and/or August 22--What? Santa Claus, a major International star/celebrity, gets ONE holiday a year. The Tooth Fairy gets TWO?

There is no February 29th this year, so we are spared an extra day of winter.  Next year we have Leap Day, which some people also call Sadie Hawkins Day, Opposite Day, Backwards Day, or any other sort of clever Anything Goes kind of classification.  I never understood any of that, but I did know someone born on February 29th who delighted in dividing her age by four and alternating between February 28th and March 1st for her birthday celebrations.  In most other areas of her life, she was quite joyless and plodding, so this tiny bit of capriciousness was a rare charm.

Which of these Holidays might you celebrate?  Are you embracing the new February Philosophy?

Monday, February 02, 2015

In Which I Teach You Some Climatological Geography And Ask For Your Assistance

Welcome to February in NEO.  Watch your step!

What we've lost in degrees Fahrenheit, we've gained in inches of snow. Yesterday, we leveled off at 32 degrees and picked up over a foot of new snow. It just kept coming and there wasn't a single solitary thing I could do about it. Rick went out twice and threatened it mightily with the snowblower, but it continued on and on and on, well into the night and through the early morning when he left for work at 6:15, shovelling a path to his car. It finally stopped at about noon, but not until it had left us all in a snowy oblivion with temperatures of 17 degrees and winds blasting us from the north.

I wanted to tell you so that you knew there could be Winter Storms in places other than Boston, Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C. Certainly you would never learn it on The News. Actually, it's probably better that you don't hear too terribly much about NEO/Cleveland right now. You'll all be getting plenty tired of hearing about it come July of 2016 when it becomes the Home Of The You-Know-Whos since it will be hosting the republican National Convention.

All of that aside, even though there is a plethora of blog fodder in the present field of republican candidates that is just clamoring for space here at the Dept., I do want to do a bit of Brain-Picking for a moment with you as, Pickees. February is a shorter month--even shorter now since I am making this appeal on its Second Day--and I would like to try to post every day or every other day for its duration. This would be infinitely easier were I to have a Theme. One of my readers with whom I correspond regularly suggested Love and Romance, in honor of Valentine's Day being in the month. We could all discuss things such as our first date, first kiss, wedding(s), wedding dress, honeymoon, things like that. And we could, but some of those topics necessarily exclude my readers who are unmarried, had/have unsatisfactory stories of any of those, or are simply Private about such things. I can understand that; I know that, personally, I may not want to discuss some of those things here, and that some of those things would not, in my case, make a good post to read.  Yet, some of the ideas will be a Basis for a post, but not in the Traditional Manner.

Lots of things can fall under the category of Love And Romance, and I know some of you might have some ideas for me. Still others of you may have some other ideas for topics to discuss or that you'd like me to write about or even revisit. I'd like to hear from you. My email link is still in my sidebar, or you can offer ideas in Comments.

For right now, I am not loving this weather. Or the fact that My Friends In Canada are sending us another Alberta Clipper on Wednesday. And Thursday. O, Canada! We stand on guard for thee.

The groundhogs of the world had better watch out. Not Feelin' The Love, as my students used to say. Right now, I'm going to put Rick's slippers on the furnace register to warm for him. He'll come home, fire up the snowblower, and have to find someplace to put all this snow. Again. But when he comes in, he'll Feel The Love from those toasty slippers.

I look forward to your ideas. Thanks for your help.  And I have to remember to tell Rick about this thing.

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