Running Free

Running Free

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stop, Look and Listen

As I was trolling the web- web trollop that I have become, I came across the following and found it to be a wonderful idea. I share it with you my loyal readers as a way to reconnect and remember what can be all too fleeting a moment. So, this day of giving, remember to stop and listen- and maybe make a tape or video of those you love while they are here to help edit…
NEW YORK (AP) -- After 25 years of marriage, there are still too many stories Gail Ostrow and her husband haven't shared with each other.
She hasn't heard the whole truth of what it was like in Vietnam. Or why, after the war, he retreated to 240 acres in Wisconsin to live without electricity and water. Or how he felt about not raising his son from a previous relationship.

''This is the man that I have lived with and loved and slept next to and been through some really great adventures and been through some really hard times together,'' the 64-year-old college professor said. ''But there hasn't been a lot of talking.''

''There are things that I want to know about him that don't come up in conversation.''
So on the day after Thanksgiving, Ostrow will sit down with her husband at their Bridgeport, Conn., home to interview him and record his words -- joining thousands of people nationwide who are participating in the National Day of Listening.

Launched by oral-history organization StoryCorps and scheduled for a day when families are more often dashing to take advantage of Black Friday sales, the event seeks to give people a reason to sit down with friends and family and have intimate conversations that can be preserved as heirlooms.

''Stopping on Friday the 28th and taking an hour to interview a loved one is the least expensive but most meaningful gift we can give one another,'' said StoryCorps founder Dave Isay, who said the idea was a response to the financial turmoil faced by so many Americans this year.

''This is the kind of project that can help us through difficult times by remembering what's really important, and that all of our lives matter,'' he said.

The national event is an outgrowth of Isay's StoryCorps program, which since 2003 has helped people record nearly 25,000 interviews at stationary booths in New York and with mobile operations traveling around the country. Participants receive a CD of their 40-minute interview, and all recordings are archived at the Library of Congress.

The memories and thoughts recorded Friday won't be stored so permanently -- Isay says StoryCorps simply doesn't have the staff and resources to make that happen -- but the real point, he says, is to allow families to preserve the recordings for themselves.

Such a do-it-yourself approach is more accessible than ever. People who may not even realize it often have digital recording equipment among their gadgets. Many computers can record sound directly, and even iPhones and some iPods can be used to record interviews. Participants can burn their own CDs of their conversations, or they can post them on online audio-sharing sites.
The experience creates more than a historical record to be shared with future generations. It can break down barriers and provide an opening for otherwise reserved participants to clearly voice their emotions.

When 29-year-old Seth Fleischauer recorded his interview with his grandfather, he heard the older man speak emotionally about their connection.

''I don't think that, up until that point, he had expressed his intimacy for me in that sort of way,'' Fleischauer said. ''That was a really important bonding experience for both of us.''

Now the New York schoolteacher sees the National Day of Listening as an opportunity to mark a milestone with his fiancee, as he interviews her following the first Thanksgiving that they host together as their own family.

And hundreds of miles away, 14-year-old Ally Stein will be interviewing her grandfather, hoping to repeat the experience she had last year when she quizzed her mother about her childhood as part of a StoryCorps-inspired school assignment.

The first time around, Ally got some surprises: Her mother, it turns out, was something of a troublemaker as a child, and she had stories about crushes, and boyfriends and mischievous antics.

''I did get closer with her,'' the eighth-grader said after class at her Fishers, Ind., middle school. ''I can tell her things now that I thought I couldn't be able to.''

The chance to preserve memories and emotions has proven a powerful draw. When the National Day of Listening was announced Saturday on National Public Radio, which has broadcast edited StoryCorps interviews for years, the Web site promoting the event quickly crashed as tens of thousands of people attempted to view the site.

It's not an unusual response, Isay says, noting that StoryCorps' traveling recording booths, which typically offer 100 interview slots per town, are frequently deluged with requests.

''We will often see 5,000 or 6,000 requests for interviews within the first three minutes,'' he said. ''We'll see people traveling hundreds of miles to come and record, and people showing up ten hours early for interviews. And I think it's because people think of this as an opportunity to leave a legacy.''

It is that wish to leave a mark that led Gail Ostrow's husband -- after repeated requests -- to finally agree to be interviewed, she suspects. ''He has a little more of a sense of his mortality'' after an emergency surgery this year, ''and maybe there are things he'd like to say,'' she said.
For Ostrow, always the quick talker and the interrupter in the family, it's a good chance, for once, to step back and let her husband take center stage.

''I'm really good at finishing his sentences, and this is an opportunity not to do that,'' she said. ''I know these stories are important to him. And I want them to be recorded. I want to sit there and I want to hear them, and I want to be able to give this to his son.''
On the Net:
National Day of Listening:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Oblivious to Oblivion

Recently, the happy trio of Dear Husband, Dear Son and yours truly went out for dinner. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was still an outing.

The place we went to is liberal with the use of sawdust- on the floor that is. And when one is waiting for one’s meal there are lots of shapes and designs that can be imagined in the hay colored flakes.

On this particular trip we managed to get a waitress with too many tables and not enough time. So, we waited. And we waited. And we waited.

My husband and son began chatting about the merits of a horse and mount for some game whose name I think was Oblivion. I tuned out after the second reference to morphing and found myself looking at a unicorn, grizzly bear and one giant llama all squirreled away within the carpet under my feet and around the table.

I wonder how much sawdust it takes to actually cover the floor. This I thought to myself.

For those of you who may not be initiated into the ways of the game let me give you a brief overview, courtesy of my trusty friend Wikipedia.

Oblivion is a single-player game that takes place in Tamriel's capital province, Cyrodiil. You are given the task of finding the hidden heir to a throne that sits empty, the previous emperor having been killed by an unknown assassin. With no true Emperor, the gates to Oblivion (the equivalent of hell in the world of Tamriel) open, and demons begin to invade Cyrodiil and attack its people and towns. It's up to you to find the lost heir to the throne and unravel the sinister plot that threatens to destroy all of Tamriel.

Sounds a bit like what is happening all over the world in my opinion. Which is what I was thinking when I noticed a bit of sawdust in the shape of the peace sign, the circle with a line dividing the circle in equal halves with two smaller lines one coming off each side of the line and making an upside down “V” shape of sorts.

As we waited ever so patiently for our food to arrive and my son and husband became even more animated over various elements of the game I thought to myself, “Why name a game oblivion?”

According to the online Merriam dictionary: Oblivion is the condition or state of being forgotten or unknown.

Hm…kind of like what we are to our waitress - her hungry, patient, paying guests. Now that I think about it, kind of like me…sitting quietly unobtrusively making pictures in the sawdust while talk of the Elders and weapons of destruction are gleefully discussed by my dinner partners.

Here comes our food…Oblivious to the state of Oblivion in which she our young waitress has left us, we forget talk of war and give thanks for our food being hot.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Junk in the Trunk

If you were to look in the back of my car you would notice a motley collection of things: tennis rackets, Trader Joe bags, a blanket, a first aid kit, flares, a yoga mat and swim kit complete with extra goggles and swim caps.
Indeed, it would constitute what I would collectively refer to as “Junk in my trunk” (JIMT).

So, imagine my surprise when my ten year old son came home from school and referenced the term ‘junk in the trunk’ but with a rather different meaning. He was sitting in the kitchen having the requisite afternoon snack and we were having one of those special mother-son bonding moments.

Trying to stay hip and cool I asked what he meant by the phrase ‘JITT’. He explains it as follows:

“It means too much in the backside,” he says munching on a cookie.

“Backside? Too much what?” I naively ask.

Taking a gulp of milk he looks up at me with his newly minted white moustache and smiles, “You know mom, when you have a butt that shakes and is really big and jello-like.”

“Uh huh,” says I completely trying to grasp what I have just heard my innocent little guy share with me.

As a mom in the year 2008 it is important that I try and stay au courant and be aware of the influences on my young son as he maneuvers the waters of prepubescence. So, I take a deep breath and ask in as nonchalant a voice as I can, “And what other terms are the children at school fond of these days?”

I explain that when I was in school a million years ago, peace signs and flower decals and hip huggers were the rage. It was groovy to be alive and every little thing was hip or gross or way out. I explained that the really big thing was to make chain bracelets out of gum wrappers.

He looks at me with his big brown eyes and raised eyebrows.

"That was a long time ago Mom.”

“Oh I know that,” I respond.

But I can share with him how hip I am when I think about my own upbringing which would have included a rinsing of my mouth with soap for even referring to the body in such a less than decorous manner. Now here I was having a conversation and discussion of the merits of the vernacular of body parts with my ten year old.

I was beginning to feel pretty in vogue.

“I even know what a grill is,” I told my son with a hint of pride.

“What is it then Mom?” my son asks as he stuffs a cookie into his mouth.

“It’s when rappers and other cool cats place a strand of metal across their teeth for some reason beyond fathom,” I reply.

Chipmunk cheeks and all my son smiles and shares his half chewed cookie. “I am not sure we would use the word ‘cats’ Mom” my son chastises me gently.

Taking another milk swig of milk, my son then swallows and asks, “That was my grill – pretty cool huh?”

We giggle.

And for those of you who may be interested. There is a website called urban dictionary which helps take the mystery out of words such as “grill” “tight”, “ice” “bad” and of course the legendary phrase “junk in the trunk.” I have provided just one of the choice definitions to be found on this very riveting website.

junk in the trunk … used to describe a female with a disproportionately large gluteus maximus region in relation to the rest of her body. Scientists have discovered that, in this condition, any food eaten by the afflicted turns immediately to fat then migrates rapidly to the gluteus maximus. Research has found that this ailment is widespread throughout many areas of North America and is oddly prevalent in African-American females. While there is no known cure, as long as there are males of the species and alcohol remains readily available, these females are still well-received in society.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sympathetic and Undercooked

Sympathetic but undercooked – this is how I would refer to my most recent attempt at domesticity and such. Read on dear reader and you too will see why it is that I and almost anything to do with domestic tasks are such awkward mates. I am seriously beginning to think I need to go back to work full time. If any of you happen to know anyone looking for a writer who cannot cook…

Twice a year I undertake the task of buying bags of potpourri to place round the house - to make it smell fresh and awake. I like a house that is alive and not stale.

So, in an effort to undertake this leviathan task I recently made a trek to the neighborhood Home Goods for discounts on the pricey smelly stuff as my DH and others of his ilk sometimes refer to my attempts at making our home appear warm and comforting.

To my utter surprise and joy, I secured said potpourri without too much of a hassle and was on my way toward the exit when I happened upon some baking sheets stacked several feet high.
They were snuggled very closely together. And while previous entries on this blog have chartered the landscape of my limited baking abilities, I was nevertheless in need of a mini loaf pan – I had this grandiose plan of making such loaves for the teachers this holiday season.

So, being the bull in the china shop that I apparently didn’t know I was – I attempted to remove a pan from the top of the stack – not the middle or the bottom- that would be a disaster waiting to happen. The top of the stack is safe- or so I thought.

One minute, I was standing next to my cart brimming with bags of potpourri in spice and orange clove. The next I was knee deep in pans and bric a brac of every variety, shape, size color and clangability one could ever imagine. And I couldn’t escape. The nasty beasts of Teflon in pie pans, cake pans, muffin pans and things to which I cannot put a name were clonking me on the head and shoulders and landing in a very unceremonious pile at my feet.

Needless to say I stood there. Like a statue. Like a child ready to accept the yet unnamed fate of the nuns in the black capes and penguin gear prowling the hallowed halls rulers keeping time in the palm of their cold thorny hands and ready to pounce (I am dating myself here since I doubt such prehistoric teachers religious or otherwise exist anymore – at least I hope so…)

Thus I stood, a Rodin model in the making, gently rubbing the sore spot on my elbow where a lovely colored bruise of lavender was already beginning to show itself.

“May I help you ma'am?” I felt a warm breath smelling of peppermint on my neck.

I turned to see a short, wider more than tall middle aged man with a scruffy white beard standing with his hands on his hips and a grimace on his brow.

“I am so sorry,” I said in my most contrite and truly mortified voice – a cross between a squeal and a yelp.

“I was trying...”

“I can see what you were trying to do,” he said in a manly voice. He scooped up several of the pans and tins scattered in the aisle as if to get me and my cart out of there as quickly as possible.

I knelt down and handed him several of the pie pans and he thanked me and then took my cart and me and guided us toward the cashier.

“Have a good day ma'am, and ...”

I was sure he was going to say something like don’t come back again. Instead he said, “and be careful.”

I guess it is a pretty good idea – in my case.

The most unfortunate part of this whole event is that after all the hoopla of cooking paraphernalia everywhere- not a single mini loaf pan to be found. Not a one.

There is a reason cooking and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Baker's Daughter

I wish I could lay claim to the fact that I was a baker’s daughter and had all the wonderful skills that I presume come with claiming the DNA of a man who can cook and bake and tell the difference between a clove and a clump (as in garlic.)

But since I am a humble housewife of truly tiny domestic means, my baking has its limits – severe limits. Homemade flambĂ©, tarts, chocolate mousse, pies and other such calorically rich creations will never grace the corner - never mind the table - of my kitchen.

I need to stick to what I can manage with the help of a Betty Crocker box and maybe an egg or two and a bit of water and oil. Anything else is really raising the bar to unforeseen consequences. Even with the cake mix coming from a box my abilities are truly challenged. I get the Tbsp and Tsp mixed up all the time...

It doesn’t mean I don’t try. I do. After all, what respectable mother doesn’t want to try and make cupcakes for her child’s classroom birthday bonanza? What doting wife doesn’t want to surprise her significant other with amazing treats that are out of this world and well…

As I mentioned, my baking has its limits. You may be wondering: Why is she bringing this topic up? Well, today being Monday, I decided to be a good mother and respectable wife and in addition to doing laundry, folding it and actually finding the mates to all the socks in the white load this time, I decided to make some gingerbread squares for my family.

I started with a package of gingerbread cake mix from the aforementioned goddess of goodness, Dame Betty. I read the side of the box to gauge the additional ingredients: 1 egg (large), 1/3 cup of oil, 3/4 cup of water and the gingerbread mix itself.

I opened the box and lifted the bag containing the cake mix out of the box. I used a pair of scissors to snip the top of the sealed bag in which the said mix was safely ensconced. I then attempted to pour the mixture into a ceramic mixing bowl. And as I delicately and ever so carefully attempted to pour the powdery mixture into the bowl, I had an urgent need to sneeze. I turned my face far away from the food preparation zone and BAM! out came a sneeze of gargantuan proportion.

If any of you have ever tried to hold back a sneeze – well, you know exactly what I am talking about when I say that my sneeze was strong and steady and the violent jerk of the hand holding the said bag with cake mix landed well beyond the intended mixing bowl.

What to do? After managing to get the cake dust into my eyes and realizing that trying to wipe it off with my other hand was not the brightest of ideas, I managed to somehow salvage about three quarters of the bag and then began to hunt for a large egg. I looked in my refrigerator to find a brown egg nestled safely in its little egg holder on the right side of the second shelf.

It didn’t look especially large; neither did it look especially small. Given that it was the only egg in the refrigerator it would have to do. And thus, with a mutter of “Desperate times, desperate measures,” I carried forth in my domestic undertaking of being a goodly wife and mother.

I added the water and oil and secured a wooden spatula to help me mix the liquidy mess into a consistent color as directed by Dame Betty under the “instructions” section on the box – right next to the “What you will need" ingredients list.

Right about now I was beginning to think that what I needed was a cup of strong coffee and the assistance of Jeeves, the all –assuming butler to the P.G. Wodehouse character Bertie Wooster.

I next tried to break the said egg using the side of the ceramic bowl with a one-two-three – slam- there was a yellowish goop moistly in the bowl along with bits of shell floating carelessly along the stream of mocha colored powder.

I tried to remove the eggshells with a spoon and alas, that is when things really went north – or is it south? Those little devils evaded me every chance they could- If I dove left they scampered right. For every duck they had a subsequent weave.

I thought that if perhaps I stirred the concoction together I would be able to easily remove the shells since they would be inconsistent with the intended consistent texture I was about achieve with a few flicks of a wooden spatula.

Ha! It is now 3:15 p.m. in the afternoon. I have managed to bake the gingerbread squares and now have twelve little pillows of egg, oil, water and mix cooling downstairs in the kitchen. While I was able to remove the biggest shell offenders, there were several ruthless nits for whom the bell now tolls. Sigh…I figured a little extra protein never hurt anyone.

Maybe I will give a prize to whoever gets the first crunch- an extra kiss to my husband or son…who shall it be…stay tuned…
p.s. Lest you think that the accompanying photo is what my gingerbread looks like..HA! I 'borrowed' this lovely pictures from the website:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Stumbling toward...

I stumbled across the advertisement above the other day and found it to be of interest for a couple of reasons.

1. The allocation of the big big billion dollar number for the bailout of financial institutions is just that – a big number.

2. There seems to be a gap between where and how the allocation and approved funds will be used within the financial sector as recently as yesterday.
3. The monies are available but it seems that perhaps there is a lack of folks to oversee and figure out how to use the approved funds.

4. I wish I was able to beg for money, get the money and then worry about who would oversee its use after I had it – which means theoretically I could use at least part of it at my discretion and worry about the consequences or figure out a way to justify the said use at a later point in time….

Maybe I am just a tad cynical…I am sure all of the funds will be properly and appropriately dispersed in due time…

The terms accountability, integrity and reliability are not exactly terms I have associated with the financial industry, but I suppose I should broaden my horizon.
BTW, do you know anyone looking to buy ice in Alaska…sand in the desert perhaps…

Thursday, November 13, 2008


My son and I were in Target the other day, when we noticed a young girl looking rather swollen sitting in an electric wheelchair with a striped cap on her head and a tube snaking across her lap.

She was with an older woman who was walking beside her talking about various gift ideas for the holidays.

When we had safely gone out of earshot my son asked, “Mom, did you see that girl in the wheelchair?”

“I did,” I responded.

“What do you think is wrong with her?”
“Well,” I answered. “I am not sure honey. I can guess that she has that cap on her head because she has undergone some kind of chemotherapy or radiation and her hair may have fallen out.”

My son grabbed my arm and looked piercingly at me with his cocoa colored eyes.

“Is she going to die?” he asked.

“I don’t know dear. Hopefully she will be cured, but who knows?”

We were in the toy section of the store and the shelves were bulging with items: Legos, dolls, blocks, Nerf guns - the supply and the shelves seemed endless. Things and more things. Brightly colored boxes enticingly calling to children big and small: “Buy me.”

“That must be really sad for her mom,” my son said in soft voice.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, I am sure it feels really bad for the little girl. I mean she looked about my age Mom. But imagine how a parent would feel watching their child suffer and be so sick. I think it is harder for the parent.”

I looked at my son, tousled the top of his toffee colored hair and gently kissed him on the cheek.

“You are an amazing little boy _____________.” I said to him. He looked up at me and gave me a smile.

We finished our browsing and made our way to the exit. We saw the girl once more and she had several toys on her lap and a smile on her face.

My son and I looked at each other and instinctively reached for each other’s hand as we walked out into the early morning sunshine.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Did You Know...

It is that time of year, when sugar plum fairies start dancing way too early, Jack O’Lanterns go bye bye and too many poor turkeys are given last rites. The post box is stuffed with a myriad of glossy papers all designed to seduce and wrangle hard earned dollars from tight fisted old ladies like me. And given the economic free for all that Wall Street had with what pennies were once in the stock market, well, let us just say that catalogue reading is truly an experience not to be missed. And it can be very entertaining. So sit back, grab a cup of tea or lemon spritzer and enjoy, enjoy…and keep your hand firmly on your wallet…

(As taken from the holiday catalogues gorging themselves inside my post box…)

Did you know…

…Personal Luxury has finally reached its peak?
Centrally located, just steps from the Eagle Bahn Gondola, the Arabell at Vail Square takes luxury to a whole new level…to its butler service, ski nannies and ski valets. (I have heard of ski bunnies, but ski nannies is a new one on me…)

… that you can discover the magic of the vines. The ultimate pairing of luxury and science in skincare. (The almighty vines – so much for the grapes of wrath…)
…Introducing le coffret d’initiation allows you to experience the powers…for the first time…(imagine that…)

…Regent luxury has arrived in style…in a place where timeless memories and contemporary indulgences are part of every day, the idea of luxury is only the beginning, at the Regent Bal Harbor Resort the pinnacle of contemporary indulgences has been reached…(and here I was thinking a cup of hot coffee was my decadence…)

…Any television can change channels. This one completely changes television…(I had no idea!)

…Now you can experience the future…Cellular cream platinum rare precious skincare for the precious few (what about the rest of us plebeians- guess we will have to settle for a few parchment lines and hope for the best…)

…at the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains the transformation begins (to what? A toad? A princess…curious plebian minds want to know…)

…that nothing comes between you and the ocean but the 16th fairway (I read that as freeway and was a bit concerned…)

The privilege of privacy has found a home along the glorious white sands of Maui’s south shore…(and here I thought privacy was a part of the bill of rights – silly me!)

…that after seven years of research Guerlain unraveled the enigma of the extraordinary longevity of the orchid to create the imperial orchid molecular extract…and now we can discover the “world’s most exclusive secret” (sheesh, to think I have been in the dark all these years…)

Three things Elizabeth Locke cannot live without: “Red lipstick, my cabochon emerald ring, and my laptop.” (And here I am happy with a tissue, a lip gloss and a stick of gum…)

The following adjectives were pulled from the pages of thebook. We will leave it at that.

You open thebook and on one page are the words: in red 18 point font (I am guessing it Times New Roman but this is only a guess):

SO radiant!
SO natural!
SO brilliant!
SO handsome!
SO timely!
SO perfect!
SO bold!
SO dramatic!
So chic!
SO memorable!

I am often perplexed by how these drop dead gorgeous models look to be in sheer agony as they stare at the reader with droopy lids a pouty mouth and a handful of jewels or purses or shoes or clothes draped on and over. I know that if I ever had that much bling etc. in my vicinity I would be grinning from ear to ear, left to right, top to bottom…

Time to go check to see what treats the post person brought me today…

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Day In the Life of...Me

I love reading The New York Times and seeing the daily nuances of politicians and celebrities: what they had for breakfast, what size coffee they drank whether it was black, de-caf, specialty; who they spoke to, what they did, what they bought at the grocery store, what they wore - I mean it is truly an exercise in riveting ribaldry when I look to find news and other worldly elements and well, I am given an education on the names of the rabbits and the kinds of dogs celebs and polits are looking for. Who woulda thunk? On the front page of a paper no less.

So, in the jest of a good humor monologue, below is a day in my life, me: c.a.thorson, part time pr gal, part-time cook and scullery maid, full time mom and woeful wife, part time launderette with a really bad track record on socks and a host of other sundry job titles.

My day:

First off when I pop out of bed it is probably pretty frightening. It was a bit cool last night so I pulled out all stops and put on my polar bear flannel PJs – doesn’t get more seductive than that let me tell you. I think my husband had stripes on his flannel PJs- we are truly a hot fashion forward flannel family here. So after hopping out of bed, with associated creaks of various joints I might add, the snap crackle and pop of the rice crispy cereal has nothing on me, I made my way to a quick stop at the loo. We will leave it there.

Then there is a two minute gargle with Listerine (Are you not just engrossed in this amazing minutiae of details- aren’t you just riveted by this point?) Then my day really kicks into high gear:

6:00 a.m. up with the birds, morning sun salutations and deep cleansing breaths, a few downward dogs and cobras to get the blood flowing.

6:30 a.m. Pack lunch for Dear Husband (DH). Dear Son (DS) has a four day holiday – which means no school today or tomorrow which means no need to pack a lunch.)

6:45 a.m. – empty dishwasher and put clean dishes and cups and cutlery away.

7:00 a.m. – sweep floor and remove chairs from kitchen in order to prepare for the task at hand: Washing the floor!! It doesn’t get better than this folks. I love love love having a clean floor and it is well past time. After three buckets of steaming hot water I declare the floor clean. I should add that my entire downstairs consists of travertine which looks nice when it is not replete with sticky spots of Gatorade, dried bits of lettuce and who knows what else.

8:15 a.m. receive morning kiss from DH before he trots off to work. DS has been diligently working on a study guide for an upcoming test on the human body and its various systems. In between the slosh of the water in the bucket I feign interest in knowing what the purpose of the skeletal system is: "Support" is his answer. All I can think of is creaks. I keep this to myself however. "What is the purpose of the respiratory system Mom?" He asks. "To prevent me from having a heart attack?" I question as I attack a stubborn stain at the bottom of the kitchen sink.

"Um, no, it is to help you breath - take in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide," he informs me. "Good to know," I respond.

I could go on with the extremely fascinating take on my day, but I think you all have pretty much zoned off…sweet dreams dear readers…sweet dreams.

I am off to attack a few porcelain pots….

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Wrong Direction

We had a swim meet today. It is usually guaranteed to be a half day event. Which leaves the other half of the day to complete chores: grocery shopping, laundry, miscellaneous errands - like the dry cleaners and holiday preparation – in this case preparing for Thanksgiving and the family and friends who will help us share the day.

My hope was that my DH (Dear Husband) would happily escort me on my trip to the lovely large warehouse known as Costco in this part of the world. It is such a huge place that I need the support and encouragement and raw brute strength of my dear dear husband in undertaking this task.

As host and hostess we are in part responsible for beverages, which means cases of things like water and soda and perhaps a bit of alcohol. In other words, heavy items: that need to be picked up, placed in cart, placed in car and then transported to home and into the house and disseminated. This fair maiden requires Sir Galahad and his steady hand.

So I had these big plans. I hoped to get a head start in the myriad of things that need to be done to help celebrate this happy and enjoyable day. So I thought. So I hoped.

While I was getting laundry started (necessitated in part from the swim meet where towels and bathing suits sometimes as many as four or five depending on how cold it is outside (we can’t have our child stay in a cold suit when it is cold outside) require a washing.

Well, after starting the aforementioned load and then turning my attention to my husband who was I thought, changing his clothes after a long warm morning in the sun, I entered the bedroom to find him not in the right direction. I mean, I was hoping to find him ready to undertake the outing I had planned for us- which as my dear dear husband he should be able to read my mind. The fact that I didn’t mention my plans to him does not count. I am a female. Enough said.

But alas, his direction was anything but vertical – more along the planar – one dimensional horizontal frame one could say. With the most curious of sounds emanating from his blow hole – excuse me - nose.

If I could have figured out a way to record said sounds and upload them to this website I would have….

Alas, the right direction – out the door, off to errands and productivity was not meant to be.

What is it with the male species and directions? Whether asking or following…questions to be pondered…perhaps as we stroll the aisles of Costco we shall discuss and dialogue – assuming he ever wakes up from his slumber….

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's the thought that counts

It’s the thought that counts…Or that’s what we are taught as youngsters - to say thank you and please; be polite and do kind deeds for others.

Remember birthdays with a card or in these days, even an electronic email or text message. When someone is ill or under the weather, let him or her know you are wishing them good wishes. It is the thought that counts.

So we are taught, and so we would like to believe.

These thoughts were running through my head as I made a list of the upcoming birthdays in November and December: twelve. So I am not sure where exactly my thoughts were when I unlocked my car door the other morning after a quick cup of coffee at a local Peet’s. As I tossed my purse onto the passenger seat and sat down in the driver’s side the reality that I had forgotten my sister’s birthday echoed loudly in my ears: “Don’t forget L’s birthday!” (Make that thirteen birthdays in November and December.)

Sitting in the driver’s seat looking out the front window I noticed it was covered in what looked like honey colored glue – sap - a bit strange given that the car wasn’t parked under a tree. It wasn’t even parked under a lamp from which a rogue crow could drop his bombs. Bits of yellowish goop in the oddest shapes, one looked like a candy corn, another like a pee-tinged boot in miniature. I didn’t remember my windshield being so dirty.

As I stared out the filmy window I glanced over where my purse was lying on the seat and wondered what had happened to my car seats, which were leather- albeit a tad bit worn, but leather - at least the last time I had looked which had been a mere thirty minutes ago. These were a beige fabric of some kind. Definitely not my familiar leather seats, milk stains and all.

Then it hit me, as in really hit me. My head started pounding and my stomach started a topsy turvy “uh-oh” dance. I realized that I was sitting in the wrong car. I grabbed my purse and keys which were still in my hand and scooted out of that car as fast as I could. I used my remote keyless entry button to try and locate where my car was since this car wasn’t it.

“Beep Beep.” There it was. The familiar sound.

Two cars down – there was my trusty jalopy which from the outside looked like the one I had just exited. Had I looked closely though I would have noticed my car had a slightly dented front door from a too friendly shopping cart.

I digress. I was discussing the importance of good thoughts and kind wishes.

Which brings me back to the point at hand.

In my attempts to be thoughtful and remember birthdays and other events, I am prone to a state of multitasking madness. Recently, for the above mentioned sister who shall not be named, I did manage to get her a card and a Starbuck’s gift card. I did indeed manage to get the card in the mail and delivered to her on time. She of course emailed me to thank me for the kind thoughts and the empty Starbuck’s envelope. This message was delivered via text with a frowny text face that looked something like this: -(

In my haste to make the post I neglected to actually put the Starbuck’s card inside its respective envelope. Sigh…my heart is in the right place. It’s just these bits of grey matter that sometimes get tied up in knots of the most horrific proportion and well…

Another time I was trying to send a birthday card to my DH’s (Dear Husband for those of you just joining) younger brother. I had bought him a hand-made chocolate bar that read Happy Birthday. I had planned to mail this along with an actual card. At the same time I needed to send a Get Well card to a friend of the family’s who had been in a bad car accident.

I had bought her a chocolate Get Well bar and again with nothing but best intentions did the unimaginable. You can guess what happened.

The birthday boy got the Get Well chocolate and the under the weather gal got the Happy Birthday chocolate.

Of course my DH's mother was kind enough to let me know of my unfortunate mishap. I ended having to send apology cards to both folks for my mistake. At least each of them got chocolate – at the end of the day- who cares what it says- at least that is what I am told by those I know who are chocolate aficionados (of which I am not.)

Now that I think about it, I better make sure that congratulations note I planned to send to a local city official on winning re-election didn’t actually receive the condolences card intended for my work colleague….where did I put that envelope.

After all…it is the thought that counts.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A New Day...

The United States elected its 44th president and he is a black man. He is a Democrat….His name is Barak H. Obama. And he was chosen to lead the American people on Nov. 4, 2008.

We have reached a new point in time where black and white can truly be considered brothers and sisters. Amen.
I am proud to say for the first time in a very long time - that I am an American - for the fact that the U.S. has taken down yet another barrier, removed the blinders and let a man speak and stand on his own regardless of his skin color. Regardless of his religious views. Regardless of his purse strings.

For this I am proud. This doesn’t mean that we have reached a grand state of Nirvana. But rather, a new plateau. A new opportunity. And for better or worse, experienced or not, we have a new elected leader who promises that change is a good thing. I agree that change and hope are linked irrevocably.

I stay away from politics. It is too messy and thorny an issue for me. However, historically, a landmark has been achieved. I want to bask in the feeling and let my son realize the significance of what he is witnessing in his lifetime.

We are turning the page and are about to enter a new chapter that has not yet been written. That has not yet been documented. And we together as members of this society can help write it. That is an exciting concept.

May the hope and inspiration that has infected so many of us continue to be contagious and buoy us through the ups and downs of the coming months. We are witnessing a change that is truly a step in the right direction.

Next it will be a woman and then it will be….

Hope will carry the day….

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Etiquette of Potty Politics

Recently, my son came home from school and asked me who I was planning to vote for in the upcoming US Presidential Race.

At the time of his question I had in my hand two socks that were not original mates. I was standing in the laundry room - my second home. And I was futilely trying to match up pairs of socks that had gone into the washing machine as happily married couples and now were in a serious state of dryer divorce and I was trying to play family sock mediator…


My son dropped his backpack on the couch and came over to plant a wet kiss on my cheek. Bits of dried grass were stuck to his forehead.

I kissed the top of his sweaty head, and removed the dried strips of mottled grass and decided to not ask how nature’s blades had glued themselves to his forehead. Some things are better left unanswered.

“So Mom,” repeated my DS (Dear Son for those of you just joining this very merry bat channel of blog-lite). “Who are you going to vote for?”

What to do…how to answer.

“Well,” I began a bit hesitantly…"Voting is a very special privilege as you know. Our forefathers fought long and hard wars so that we could have the right to vote in a county where we could voice our support or dissension without fear of retribution. It is an honor to be able to vote.”

My son, with freckles sprinkled across the top of his nose like bits of cinnamon on whip cream didn’t like that answer. He wrinkled his brow and said, “Well, that’s all great Mom, but who are you voting for? All the kids at school are saying McCain should win or we will have higher taxes.”
“Really?” I looked at him and my reunited socks and said, “Who is talking about voting at school?
“Everyone,” he said.

Frankly I was shocked. Call me old fashioned. Heck, call me prehistoric; archaic. My son is ten. T-E-N. He isn’t even old enough to vote. Of course he is starting to pay attention to what happens in the world besides who won the baseball or basketball game. But as a parent, I believe he needs to be able to make informed decisions with good facts and information that he is rationally able to process.

Now he is a smart little guy but he is still just that – a little boy. I am in no hurry for him to grow up and establish the jaded sense of the world that follows when one talks politics.

“A lot of the parents are telling their kids that McCain has to win because he is the better candidate for us,” my son stated.

“Indeed,” said I.

“So Mom, who did you vote for?”

“Well, you see dear, voting is a very special honor and privilege. But it is or at least it should be a private matter, like going potty. For example, when you go to the bathroom do I ask you if you went poop or pee? Or how was your bowel movement?”

By now my son has managed to finagle a bag of pretzels from the snack cabinet and was sitting on the couch happily munching and reading a book called “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” his momentary interest in my political leanings long forgotten.

“I don’t need to go to the bathroom,” he said. Selective hearing had taken over.

Kind of like in politics. Everything is a bit selective. And best left within the privacy of the loo- if one wants to have any friends – at least in my case…

Don’t forget to flush…

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Twas the Night...

'Twas the night before election and all through the city
were mumblings and grumblings - some actually quite witty
“I don’t like her teeth”
“I don’t like his smile”

Nothing was sacred, all was up for debate.
Hair color, skin tone, a candidate’s weight…
And on they did ramble and on they did grouse
Alto and Soprano - more lion than mouse.

From every nook and every cranny
The folks they did come
An untapped potential, a candidate uncanny
They came short, and tall
They came one and all…

The eve of the day when a new chief would be named
With a new set of shoes to be polished and blamed:

For the world as it was, for the world as it should be
For the things they would and would not do
It was the time to pass the torch from zero to one to two...

And from my perch high in the window I watched the sight unfold
As the muted and the silent came face to face with the bold:

There was Palin and McCain and Biden and Obama
There was donkey and elephant and even a llama
But wait who is this? Nader and Gonzalez
Barr and Root…

Has my brain gone soft have I somehow gone moot
As in moot for a point whose sharp tip I can taste
Here’s McKinney and Clemente and Keyes and Drake
Think quickly, make haste…

Peace and Freedom ring in my ear
Green, Independent, Libertarian - now I can hear
The hope that maybe just maybe
Ezekiel and Jonas have nothing on me
And this graveyard of politics someday find the key
To set us free…


Friday, October 31, 2008

Harvest Time

October 31st means two things in our family: a pillowcase full of candy and an opportunity for me to share the importance of etiquette with the neighborhood children.

My husband is chartered with trolling with our son and several other family friends here in our little corner of the world. They try and scheme to figure out how many houses they need to hit in order to reach a sizeable mother lode - and that changes by the year. I haven’t been keyed into this year’s expected return on investment (ROI.)

I on the other hand, am placed in the all-important role of dolling out treats to good little witches and goblins. I have a plastic cauldron that I stuff with every imaginable sugar treat known to the shelves of Target, our local retail community. And for the next two to three hours I will answer a series of doorbells and knocks and feign fright and plop a handful of sticky, chewy, gooey, chocolaty candies into waiting containers of every shape, size and color imaginable.

I generally enjoy seeing the faces and costumes of the children. As long as they say, “Thank you” all is well. If in their exuberance of the moment they forget their manners, I am of course more than ready with a smile and a gentle, “You are welcome” which usually elicits the intended if not belated, “Thank you” that is sheer music to my ears.

Needless to say DS (Dear Son) and DH (Dear Husband) are far far away trekking through the hinterlands of the neighborhood with pillowcase and gruesome masks whenever I am on Halloween duty. They think I am the wicked witch of the east and the abominable snow monster all rolled into one.

Why do I take such effort to help pass along the good graces to the next generation of potential parents? Well, I will tell you. Several years ago a little girl of eight or so dressed in a confectionary blur of blue and pink that I believe was supposed to be a princess outfit, rang the bell and instead of saying, “Trick or Treat” as is the generally accepted and established custom here in Southern California, proceeded to try and place her hand directly into my cauldron -- which I quickly moved out of her reach.
“Excuse me,” I said in a humorous voice. “Aren’t you supposed to say something first?” She gave me a look. It was a look as if I had green mucus spewing from my nose or something.

“Give me my candy,” was her reply.

“Indeed.” I said looking down the pathway to see whether her accompanying parent or handler might nudge this woefully off the path child back toward the center.

No such luck.

What to do? I pondered this as a gaggle of ragged looking six year-olds dressed up as a band of pirates ran up the walkway threatening to knock over the etiquette-challenged little girl.

“You are supposed to say, ‘Trick or Treat,’” I shared with her.

She looked at me big eyes the color of Blue M&Ms.

I placed a handful of candy into her pintsized yellow purse.

Well, this child may not have figured out how to say ‘Trick or Treat’ but she had no problem demanding in a loud voice, “I want more.”
Not seeing any parent willing to claim this child for their own and within a few feet of being torn apart by a fierce looking group of pirates about to embark upon a mutiny -with me as their intended target I did what any sane and rationale person in a similar situation would do.

I turned the young lass around and sent her back from when she came.

And so this year, I am armed and ready.

I have a sign that reads: PLEASE REMEMBER TO SAY “THANK YOU”- IT GURANTEES A HIGHER RATE OF RETURN…I figured if the little ones don’t get it then the parents responsible for these little ones will and will pipe up with, “Don’t forget to say thank you Junior….”

Did You Know that…
  • Halloween did not become a holiday in the United States until the 19th century, where lingering Puritan tradition restricted the observance of many holidays.
    American almanacs of the late 18th and early 19th centuries do not include Halloween in their lists of holidays.
  • The transatlantic migration of nearly two million Irish following the Irish Potato Famine (1845–1849) finally brought the holiday to the United States.
  • Scottish emigration, primarily to Canada before 1870 and to the United States thereafter, brought the Scottish version of the holiday to each country.
  • The main event for children of modern Halloween in the United States and Canada is trick-or-treating, in which children disguise themselves in costumes and go door to door in their neighborhoods, ringing each doorbell and yelling "Trick or treat!" to solicit a gift of candy or similar items. (CAVEAT I would like to add that children should say thank you when they receive a treat.)
  • Scottish-American and Irish-American societies held dinners and balls that celebrated their heritages, with perhaps a recitation of Robert Burns' poem "Halloween" or a telling of Irish legends, much as Columbus Day celebrations were more about Italian-American heritage than Columbus per se.
  • Home parties centered on children's activities, such as apple bobbing, and various divination games often concerning future romance. Not surprisingly, pranks and mischief were common as well.
  • At the turn of the 20th century, Halloween had turned into a night of vandalism, with destruction of property and cruelty to animals and people.
  • Around 1912, the Boy Scouts, Boys Clubs, and other neighborhood organizations came together to encourage a safe celebration that would end the destruction that had become so common on this night.
  • School posters during this time called for a "Sane Halloween." Children began to go door to door, receiving treats, rather than playing tricks on their neighbors. This helped to reduce the mischief, and by the 1930s, "beggar's nights" had become very popular. Trick-or-treating became widespread by the end of the 1930s.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Antique Shop

Soft golden sunlight peeks
through a moon shaped window
tucked high in a corner of the room.
Outside, a rooster cock-a-doodle-doos.
Inside, dust sprites land silently
on the honey colored oak tables.
Old and scuffed,
they sag
under the weight
of candles, plates, spice jars
and other bric-brac.

The air is wrapped in a blanket of
lavender, lemon and rosemary.
The doorway, framed with gnarled
and knobby beams,
the color of ash,
holds plump and prickly reed baskets
hanging from big black nails.

Mounted to the ceiling
a wrought-iron chandelier
looks down with crystal snowflakes
scattering rainbow flecks here and there.
The walls, the color of ochre
cool to the touch,
display strands of yellowed parchment:
birth certificates, diplomas, wedding licenses -
framed in glass, hung on hooks
beckoning one
to stop and remember.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Royal "We"

My son came home from school yesterday with his usual chipper self front and present.

“Hello Mama” he yelled in a loud and clear voice. I was upstairs in my office and looked forward to this afternoon ritual and music to my ears- as clichĂ© as it may be.

“Hello Nana,” I answered dutifully. We were prone to using nicknames for each other. Mama stresses the accent on the second syllable – try it- you might like the way it tumbles across the tongue versus the more staid Mama with the accent on the first syllable – a more lummox like gait across the plain of the tongue.

“How was your day?” He asked before I got a chance to ask him first. I skipped down the stairs to greet my 52” package of wholesomeness.

“It was fine,” I answered. “How was yours?" I asked.

There is such comfort in the regularity and the rhythm of what we so often take for granted in the routine of everyday life. And I am guilty of sometimes forgetting just how wonderful these tidbits can be.

I was expecting him to reply with his usual “It was wonderful...”

So I was thrown a bit when he responded with “Well, it was great but we forgot that it was oral speech day for me. We need to sign this slip for Miss A.”

“We?!” I asked in a rather incredulous voice. “We?!” I repeated.

“Well you know mom, you always help me find a topic and remind me to practice,” said my experienced son of making his mom feel guilty. My son gave me a Cheshire cat grin. When did he get so tall I thought to myself? He was now up to my shoulder. Was I shrinking?

“Uh huh,” I said in a rather ruffled feather voice.“Miss A. was surprised that I forgot to do my presentation; she says I am always so on top of things.”

“You mean “we’ are so on top of things don’t you?" I asked. By this time my son had tossed down the twenty pound hernia producing backpack that lay with its bulging belly on the couch while he was rummaging through the refrigerator for an afternoon snack.
“Do we have any cheese sticks?” He asked grabbing a bottle of water from the top shelf. I went over to my sweaty dog little guy and planted a kiss on his moist cheek red as a cherry tomatoes from his speed drill ride home on his bike.

“Do we have any cheese sticks?” he repeated for my listening pleasure. There it was again - that little two letter imp of a word - a vowel and a consonant – a very rigid first letter coupled with a circular fluid second letter: W-E.

Did you ever imagine that two letters could have such a multitude of meanings? I thought to myself. My son was humming to himself as he plopped down on the couch and picked up the book he had been reading at breakfast, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”

“Don’t forget we need to send back my permission slip for the field trip on Thursday,” my Dear Son – heretofore known as DS reminded me in his 'I am in control of the situation’ voice.
“Yes dear,” I sighed and went in search of a cheese stick in the refrigerator.“WE” was particularly useful when applied to anything remotely related to homework. There are a plethora of examples that come to mind:

1. “Mom, we need to do my spelling definition.”

2. “Mom could we go get a milks shake before swim practice today?”

3. “Mom, could we work on my social studies tonight after dinner?”

The list goes on and on.The word “We” however is anything but regal when the she-monster of the house – aka – me – Mom- tries to finagle a culture enrichment out of the young lad and his dad – heretofore known as DH – as in Dear Husband.

The eyes roll back in the head and mysterious aches and pains suddenly take hold whenever I mention a family outing to the Getty or the Simon Norton or even a fun adventure filled place like the San Diego Wild Animal Park.
Suddenly, the almighty “We” of fame to matching socks and lunches and afternoon snacks and evening vittles is a solo party of U-N-O– a three letter sad word – whether in English – one – or Spanish – uno – and probably a host of other languages the meaning is clear.
The royal “We” has an audience of one.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sleeping Beauty

I do not sleep well. Never really have. It is something I have learned to accept. I mean, I prefer to be busy and not have to be lounging around anyway. But I do need a few hours every night to refuel if you will. The challenge for me is getting to that wonderfully deep state of REM. ‘Calgon take me away...’

Imagine if you will being propped up in a nice big cloud of pillows and a few soft lights with the television in the armoire at the other end of the room perfectly positioned so really one just points and clicks and voila the magical squawk box starts squawking. There am I on my side of our California King and my husband is on ‘his’ side and usually in charge of the remote control. For good reason as will become clear in a moment.

“He who shall not be named” – aka my better half- recently has taken to watching a truly riveting series that makes one think. The problem is that when he is ready to sit down for a nice evening of intellectual stimulation I am ready to hit the land of feathered fluff and try and grab a few hours of hopefully uninterrupted sleep.

We both begin the evening after the dinner has been prepared and consumed, after said cherub has been bathed and has completed his homework and has been tucked safely into bed. Now here we are ensconced in our bed. Me in my extremely seductive flannels and my husband in his nightwear which shall not be named....

After a few spontaneous yawns I do a few cleansing breaths to get me to a calm and centered point and sometimes resort to planning the next day’s riveting schedule of cleaning, laundry, working and general maintenance issues. And usually, within an hour or so of truly deep thoughts I am able to sleep for a bit.

But sometimes, my brain just doesn’t want to cooperate. The old gal has a mind of her own and while my eyes are brick heavy and unable to budge; all my brain matter is full throttle all circuits open and speeding down the highway of overactive imagination and to be done lists or what to worry about now lists. It means, the brain is endless in what she decides to concoct at the end of the day. I am too busy doing something close to nothing most of the time but somehow when I am weary and looking forward to some unrequited down time- forget it. A grim outlook for sleep indeed....

Well, thanks to the efforts of my darling husband I found a cure almost a guarantee to a restful few hours of sleep. It comes in the form of a talking head and is better than any sleep aide I have ever come across. Of course a glass of wine in addition to the aforementioned talking soothing head is a most delicious combination.

I speak of a show that my husband stumbled across in his web browsing. He web browses like I window shop – but somehow my window shopping is so much more fun. To each their own- caveat emptor. With all due respect to the narrator of this riveting show called “Connections” the synapses in my brain have begun to connect much quicker to the land of slumber. I owe the man a debt of gratitude.

Without fail, as soon as the brilliance of the narrator James Burke begins his soothing explanations of why we have levees and why sand is important, I simply try and focus on what he is saying and all of the amazing factoids he is passing on. But alas, the only connection I am able to make to his impressive narrative is a one way road to a deep slumber – including – ahem- the occasional deep sounding sleep as my husband is fond of sharing with me the next morning after a restful night of sleep.

What is exactly is Connections you ask? Well, let me share....according to the all knowing websute wikipedia describes Connections as follows:

Connections was a ten-episode documentary television series created and narrated by science historian James Burke. The series was produced and directed by Mick Jackson of the BBC Science & Features Department and first aired in 1978. It took an interdisciplinary approach to the history of science and invention and demonstrates how various discoveries, scientific achievements, and historical world events built off one another in an interconnected way to bring about particular aspects of modern technology. The series is well-known for Burke's impeccable narration (especially its dry humour), historical reenactments, intricate working models, skillful use of classical music (most notably Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi, or "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana), and shots on location as far afield as Penang (Malaysia). The popular success of the series led to two sequels, Connections² in 1994, and Connections³ in 1997, both produced for TLC.

For those you hungering for more....All three Connections documentaries are available in their entirety as DVD box sets.

And should you still be hungry for more.... Burke also wrote a series of Connections articles in Scientific American, and published a book of the same name, all built on the same theme of exploring the history of science and ideas, going back and forth through time explaining things on the way and, generally, coming back to the starting point.

A Myst-style computer game with James Burke and others providing video footage and voice acting was released in 1995.

Burke produced another documentary series called The Day the Universe Changed in 1985, which explored man's concept of how the universe worked in a similar way to the original Connections.

Sleeping Beauty never had it so good....

Monday, October 27, 2008

Open Letter to My Magic Carpet

Dear Magic Carpet:

I had faith in you. I trusted you. I mean, I really trusted you. I couldn't read a map if I tried and there you were, a beautiful shade of ruby red promising to take me on the whirlwind ride of my life. And I fell for it - you with you satin ways and soft silky tassels.

You said not to worry - you were a pro, you had been in the business for decades. I was young - I should live a little. See the sights, see the world. "Enjoy the ride." Those were your exact words. You would be my personal chauffeur.

I knew I should have checked out your references. I should have stayed where I was. At least I knew where there was. I was spitting out news releases and coaching wayward executives on not what to say to the media. I was in control of my life. I had a career. I was on the fast track and then - Bam! Splat. You came along and said you had a great idea. I would have to let you drive but hey, since I was always a better back seat driver well, why not I thought? What did I have to lose? Hindsight…oh for a bit of hindsight.

"Hop on," you told me. "The time is now. The world is your oyster and it is yours for the taking." Was I gullible! I'm allergic to oysters - I should have known better.

What about maps or directions or planning I asked. You laughed and told me not to worry. You would take care of everything. All I had to do was jump aboard, hold on and we would take flight- you and me - we would seer across lands and oceans and I would view the world as never before.

So much for reading maps. I mean, at least when I get off the main road I can find my way back. But you- you - well you certainly did take a wrong turn. And what a doozy it was.

Boy, did you pull the wool over my eyes. No pun intended. Could you perhaps at least have given me a bit of notice? A bit of warning that we - or me to be more exact - was coming in for a bumpy landing?

Suddenly, my journey toward corporate career success was waylaid. You, my trusted Magic Carpet unraveled on the branch of an oak tree and left me stranded in the middle of motherhood and middle age - without a manual.

Sheesh. One moment I was helping management get the egg off their face for saying things that they were told not to say and the next moment, I was changing diapers, tackling mountains of laundry. Soiled miniature shirts tattooed with the most curious of colors and designs - it is enough to make one color blind. And on top of this I had to try and figure out how to get a sock on a ten pound bald, squirming, toothless little person.

Boy oh boy, was I wrong about you Magic Carpet !! Did you ever give some thought to auditioning for a Hollywood movie? You would be perfect - you can tell a lie in any shade of grey, white or black and still look amazing. You are ready for Hollywood my friend.

The next time - if there is a next time. I am staying firmly on the ground. Leave the magic carpets to the genie in the bottle and the cat in the bag. No more up in the air rides for me. I am keeping my feet planted.

Speaking of which, don't look to me for a reference. I've got my hands full with trying to help my son figure out how to attach this fiddly bit to this other gadget and then make the 1,000 piece Lego creation work...


Lost in Legos

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Place that Lives

If I close my eyes and breathe deep, I can return to a place that lives - for the moment - only in my mind. And if by chance, you find your way in this magical place, please give my regards to the inhabitants of the city of Cortona located in the heart of Tuscany. Tell them La "Signora Americana" sends her regards.

I can, for a moment, pretend that I am back in this charming medieval town tucked into a corner of Tuscany where it has remained unscathed by modernization and technology. Perched high on a hillside, this walled city claims to be 3000 years old. It is a small tight knit community of 1,600 that proudly traces its ancestry back to the time of the Etruscans; a place where tradition and art blend together in a delicious gazpacho.

I imagine that I am back at the Hotel San Luca with its wrought iron black gate and welcoming windows. Small and cozy, it is my respite from the daily grind of life as I know it here in the States. From my bedroom window I can see red tiled roofs that seem to climb on top of each other rubbing shoulders with turrets and bell-towers in a span of a few meters. The old and the new - side by side.

I can recall the voice of Vincenzo, the caretaker of the grounds, who greets me every morning me with a "Buongiorno Signora" and a steaming caffe latte. "Grazie mille" I answer with a smile and grateful outstretched hand. He is a wizened little man with deep jowls, an easy smile and the bluest eyes I have ever seen.

Often Vincenzo can be heard humming or whistling Italian ballads. His voice is sweet and rich. Vincenzo knows I am a strange bird, a solo bird really, who prefers to take her morning caffe out in the Piazza Garibaldi rather than in the parlor with the other guests. He and I have come to be friends and every morning I count on this Italian relic for a smile and a warm drink. He knows I write - or pretend to - and he actually helped me translate from English into Italian a little piece of verse I had composed. It was a small poem I had written about the allure of Cortona and how something about the city just seemed to tug at my soul then and now.

Usually mornings find the city shrouded in a blanket of grey mist that moves slowly and dreamily across the sky. The sun tries to peek through but without success. By afternoon however there is a stage before the eyes with enchanting views of the landscape surrounded by Lake Trasimeno and the Apennines.

One sees a vast and beautiful patch work quilt of green fields, regal Cyprus trees standing at attention and purple and yellow valleys swooping gently across the land. As I sip my hot drink, I hear strands of Italian music and morning greetings of "buongiorno" and "ciao" wafting through the air. I smell the rich aroma of caffe floating by on an invisible cloud. Fresh bread beckons from la panetteria around the corner. I look at my hotel from across the Piazza and see the green clapboard shutters being thrown open here and there like eyes suddenly opening wide ready to take in the adventures of the day.

A sleepy tabby cat guards the entrance to the hotel. I watch all this and feel as if time just saunters, softly, quietly, dreamily. Sitting on one of the old stone benches in the Piazza Garibaldi I watch the city wake up. The mothers - in three inch stilettos - take their children to school, walking easily across the cobbled stones and plant generous kisses on cheeks and head of tussled-hair cherubs.

Old woman in bright colored kerchiefs, handmade sweaters and support hose, wheel little carts effortlessly through narrow streets on their way to market. Large men with big bellies and bigger voices make their way to the nooks and crannies of the city where they will spend hours reading newspapers and nursing a caffe with il panino. There are a few cars small and compact that make their way up and through the Piazza but it is mostly feet and strollers that one notices in the early hours of the morning.

Sipping my caffe latte I listen to the chatter of the birds clearing their throats in the boughs above me. Everyone seems to know everyone here. Mid morning I take a stroll through the city's narrow, stone-paved alleyways down to the city's main street, Via Nazionale. It is here in this main square with its impressive medieval town-hall that much of life in Cortona takes place. Here people shop for groceries and chat without ever stopping to look at a watch. The tower bell in the Town Hall will ring when it is lunch time. Life here rolls across the landscape. Every morsel is tasted and remembered.

I watch a teenage boy with droopy lids and baggy pants give his father a big hug as they cross through the square. In turn, the father plants a kiss on his son's cheek. It is not a sight I would find easily in the States - a teenage boy hugging his father in public.

The history of thousands of years still present and part of people's lives; respect for things old, wearing wrinkles with pride- nothing plastic- authentic - real- fresh bread- nothing bought in a bag from a store pre packaged- (well some things like paper goods) - the simple act of just being and enjoying the moment - seizing the moment. This is what I love about Cortona. This and the little things that mean a lot. I can see and hear little children running around the square chasing pigeons and skipping across the brick sized cobblestones.

Each stone is a timepiece unequalled. Centuries have crossed this square and still, the echoes of laughter fill the air, music to the soul really. I walk along and see the pigeons paying little heed to me- I have nothing to offer. I dream and wish I could be there tasting the sweet butter with il pane in my la pasticceria.
I wish I could sit high on the buttressed wall in the square of Via Nazionale and listen to the children coming home for lunch laughing strolling arm in arm fresh-faced and young and care free. But now, I must open my eyes, take another breath and return to the laundry and the grocery shopping in the real world of the moment. Tomorrow perhaps I will plan another visit to la dolce vita.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Roderick the Fowl Beast

I have heard of the chicken that wouldn’t die but I have not heard of the chicken that wouldn’t cook. Yet, that is precisely what happened to me not too long ago.

I had decided to try and ‘cook’ a meal for my husband and son: roasted chicken, summer squash and small baked red potatoes. I put the chicken in the oven at 4:00 p.m. The instructions on the bag in which said chicken came suggested baking at 350 degrees F for approximately one and a half hours.

Now this wasn’t an especially big chicken, it was not much larger than a hen actually. So, at 5:30 p.m. I took the chicken out of the oven to examine said poultry’s state of consumption-readiness. Using our trusty Sharper Image digital thermometer (with new AAA batteries) I stuck the aforementioned fowl to see where we were in the temperature department.

The instructions on the bag in which the bird came said that the internal temperature should be 180 degrees F. Much to my chagrin, the thermometer read a measly 140 degrees F after 90 minutes. I decided to stick the chicken back in the oven for another thirty minutes. At 5:55 p.m. my husband who has asked to remain nameless on this blog, breezed through the door with a pleasant, “Hello darling!”

Trying not to show my utter lack of control over the evening meal gave him my biggest grin. “You’re home early,” I squawked.

“A little,” he said. He planted a kiss on my cheek and then went to help our son with his homework while I prayed to the cooking goddess to hurry up and cook the bird to which I had now given the name Roderick.

Of course there was no real reason for constructing such a name, but I thought that by anthropomorphosizing (is this even a word? and if it is does it apply to once alive animals soon to be devoured by humans as opposed to the more typical assignment of humanistic characteristics to live animals?)

In any case, Roderick was the name I had given the bird in the oven that I was desperately trying to cook for my husband and son. Lest there be any doubt, this chicken was definitely male- I knew this much from our brief interlude.

Well, two hours passed and I took Roderick out of the oven to have a look see at his internal temperature - 152.7 degrees F. I was stumped. The potatoes were cooked- in fact they were rather shriveled and resembled dried figs more than roasted potatoes. But at least they were cooked! The vegetables were cooked, steamed to perfection.

But said Roderick- he was no where near being cooked- despite being poked and prodded in a host of different places, the thigh, the neck, the breast, the back- I began to feel like a mad scientist about to dissect a victim, except that I was losing my cool and beginning to curse at the beast under my breath.

“Okay,” I announced to the hungry lads playing a game of chess in the family room who were patiently munching on some carrot sticks and a few nuts to quench the thirst of salivation, “Just fifteen more minutes and we should be ready.” By this time our son had his finished his homework. The time was now 6:15 p.m.

Needless to say, fifteen more minutes did nothing to bring Roderick into the realm of ready for consumption. And by now I was about to cry. There was and is a reason I dislike the kitchen and this was just one more chapter to add to my horror stories of cooking.

Roderick was a big blob of gooey, liquid mush and rather unappealing. My dear husband being the kind and understanding man that he is came to my rescue with a “Not to worry honey. I still love you and I applaud you for trying.”

Talk about being made to feel worthless- a wife who can’t cook a chicken- a chicken mind you- not Chateaubriand or king crab - just a chicken....

Did I mention that I detest cooking? Did I mention that I have no appreciation for the supposed art of cooking?

Did I mention that the unsightly Roderick was quickly relocated (with the help of my husband) to a trash bin along with the rest of the proposed evening meal and that we went to Taco Bell?

The moral of the story: don’t pretend you can cook when the chicken won’t cooperate.

Vile beast.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


It began simply enough.

I said hello.

She smiled.

She had on a Juicy Couture black velvet sweat suit, with the familiar logo crest on the left pocket. I told her I liked her outfit - especially the shoes. They were pink ballet flats with satin bows trimmed with tiny bits of purples and iridescent green rhinestones that shimmered like fish scales in ocean foam.

She said thank you.

I was sitting on the ledge of a pock marked slab of grey stone beneath a pair of tired maple trees heavy with peeling bark and graying trunks. I sat there under the umbrella of leaves, in the soft strands of southern California morning sun drinking my habitual green tea. I was a teaching assistant working in a kindergarten classroom at an elementary school recognized as a national award recipient for academic excellence.

I told her my name.

She told me her name was Grace.

Her voice was soft and pert, like lemon drops, sour and sweet at the same time.

I asked her how she came by such a lovely name. She told me her mother named her after a beautiful actress who married a prince and became a princess. Just like in fairy tales.

My new friend sat down next to me. The smell of jasmine was everywhere. The bees in the nearby bougainvillea were grumbling. A rogue bee with a nail-sized tail the color of mud landed on my arm raising and lowering his backside and tickling the hair on my forearm. He looked like he was trying to unload a gift I was a bit hesitant to accept.

Grace had skin the color of fresh cold milk, with an almond shaped face that peeked out beneath a veil of hair the color of molasses. Around her neck was a heart-shaped silver locket. It was a Tiffany's necklace - I recognized it because I had longed for one in college.

He won't hurt you if you don't move she explained.

I tried not to think about the bee navigating my arm. As the creature moved its fine tuned legs up and down my arm, goose bumps popped up - little round hills of cold pink skin. I tried to keep my arm still so as to not frighten the bee and cause a startle reflex (assuming that bees even had such a reflex). I didn't want to chance having the visitor leave me with a nasty welt. Finding nothing to eat or pollinate, the bee flicked his wax paper wings and flitted away.

Grace dangled her long legs over the side of the planter letting the shoe on her left foot tap the dried leaves that had fallen off the maple tree. Her left foot was grinding the leaves into bits of brown and sand-colored flakes.

Ribbons of white streamers crested across the sky, piercing shade of blue. The smell of spring was teasing us with beach air you could almost taste. I breathed in deeply filling my lungs, closing my eyes.
From somewhere behind me I could hear the other children giggling and laughing. Two mop headed sprites with purple and yellow tights and red patent leather Mary Janes skipped up to me and threw their sweaty arms around my neck. They smelled of Play-doh and fruit loops.

The sticky arms caked with dirt and sand wriggled their way into my lap, which was not quite big enough to hold two sets of arms and legs and associated heads and other body parts.
I returned the hugs of Julia and Sophia, the twins, now taking up residence on me.

They called me Miss C.,short for my name, Miss Camerone, a bit of a tongue twister for little mouths. They asked what I was doing. I explained I was enjoying tea with a new friend. Their voices, like daffodils made me smile.

I introduced the girls to Grace.

The twins said hello and Grace smiled shyly but didn't say anything.

After a few more giggles the girls bounced off to play with Dominic who was taking a turn with the red wagon. I removed the grass bits and melted chocolate from my neck and cheek- gifts from my pint-sized pals.

I turned to Grace who was picking at an imaginary piece of lint off her shoulder. I asked if anything was wrong.

She gave me the look like you get from someone who is afraid to tell you the truth. Her eyes got big and glistened and her tongue licked the side of her mouth as if searching for something.

The wind was rustling through the leaves above us and not too far away a crow was announcing his imminent arrival.

Grace whispered that her stomach hurt; that today was her busy day. She shared with me that on Mondays she had ballet and piano and a language lesson. It was the way she said what she said - not so much the words themselves. The way the words stopped short on her small mouth, like wisps of pollen in search of a place to call home.

Her words were suspended somewhere between her and me. I could feel the knots of her stomach somehow gripping my insides. I looked at her staring up at me with eyes that wanted more than I could say or do.

And what could I say or do? What was I to think? I was little more than a cog in the educational web of what we consider to be mandatory academic preparation for our children. She was so small and tiny. I was so much bigger than her and yet, it was I who was the truly helpless one.

She reached out with her small pink tipped nails, took my hand and placed it on her chest. Inside, inside here is where it hurts the most she whispered. I let the sun reach the quiet shadows in my mind now growing darker with the heaviness of this child's burden.

I cannot tell my mother because she will be ashamed of me. And my father, he tells me to be good and I can have anything I want. But I have to be good. I have to be strong.

I didn't know what to say. So I sat there with a mouthful of dust and empty words that would do little to console this young child. And I felt empty, bone dry, full of chalky thoughts.

I had nothing to offer this young and trusting soul.

Her voice trailed off and I squeezed her hand as if such a gesture could do or change anything about her life as it was in the moment.

The school bell rang.

I stood up and gave Grace a hug. She clung to me with her pretzel thin arms and I choked back the tears threatening to flood the messy thoughts in my head. She let me go and walked slowly toward her kindergarten classroom.

My break was over, and I was that that much closer to the end of my work day.

But for Grace, a six year-old kindergartener in Orange County, California - it was just the beginning.