Wednesday, December 31, 2008


She was the wife of my mother's dear friend Dick from childhood. Somehow the two couples from New Jersey ended up living in the same apartment house in Queens. They were close friends, and when I was small we were in and out of each other's apartments. I adored Margie, and Dick, too. Eventually I'll come across a photo of the two of them, and I'll post it.

Margie was as warm and fun loving as she looks in this picture. She and Dick gave me a lot of attention. They were a big part of my life when I was little. Dick was my first piano teacher. Margie was a Type I diabetic, and the muscles in her arms had begun to atrophy. Every night, my prayers included, " . . . and make Margie's arms better." She and Dick weren't able to have the children they wanted, but eventually she and Dick bought a house in New Jersey and adopted two school-age sisters. Soon after, complications from Margie's diabetes made it impossible for her to care for them, and they had to give the girls back. It was a hard decision. Margie didn't live long after that. I believe Dick stayed in touch with the girls, though. I'll see if I can find out the rest of that story.

Here's a coincidence . . . except, as you know, I don't believe in coincidence. I was studying this picture of Margie the other day, and thinking how good it was to bring her to life in my memory after all these years, and how I would introduce her to my friends online. Later in the day I drove to a meeting, an audio book playing in my car stereo. In the story, a man drives up to a house and notes that it looks very much like the house where he grew up, in Closter, New Jersey. Closter, New Jersey? I thought. Where have I heard of Closter, New Jersey? Then I remembered: When Margie and Dick left Queens, they moved to Closter. I hadn't heard of it since.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Barbara Joan

She was my first cousin, but so much older than I that I'm not even sure we ever met. I think we must have, and probably more than once, but I don't have a clear memory of it.

Would this be her First Communion picture? She looks too old, but it would explain the clothes. I'm not even sure what religion she was. Her grandmother was a Catholic convert, but only temporarily. Perhaps this took place during the Catholic phase.

I do know that her mother was a celebrated beauty, but unhappy—as celebrated beauties often are. And her father had money but little else. When I look at Barbara Joan's face in this picture, I wonder if she's looking into her future. She died when I was a child, of something that wasn't talked about. I have my suspicions, though. Let's just say if Roe v. Wade had taken place decades earlier, Barbara Joan might have lived past age 20.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Envisioning Success

For a brief time this year, I was a member of a group that formed to discuss and implement the Law of Attraction. One of our activities was to make vision boards. I had never heard of a vision board until then, but I was intrigued by the premise. A vision board is a visual representation of things you hope to accomplish, or things you hope will enter your life. I also love to cut and paste, so I brought that enthusiasm to the vision board project.

My board has a number of pictures on it: Smiling people gathered around a kitchen island represent the entertaining I want to do. A photo of a gorgeous stone fireplace reminds me that I have a gorgeous stone fireplace, and if I put forth some effort my house can have that same warm, welcoming look. A photo of my own dining table, perfectly clear (the table, not the photo, although the photo is clear, too), reminds me that if I put forth some effort (there's that word again) I can keep it that way, along with the rest of the house.

A picture of a Mercedes convertible represents the Mercedes I've wanted ever since I was 14. Another picture shows a 1996 Chevy Caprice. I want one of those, too. The picture of a woman wheeling a wheelbarrow overflowing with money needs no explanation. A photo of a hooked table mat I designed reminds me a) that I love rug hooking and shouldn't abandon it, and b) to finish projects that I start. And finally, a photo of my grandfather, an opera singer, reminds me to keep music in my life and use my voice occasionally.

On top of all this, I pasted some words: YOU CAN DO IT, SWEETHEART!!! This bit of encouragement dates back to the 1960s, when I tried water skiing for the first time. We had to use a deep-water start, and although my husband got up on the first try, I wasn't so lucky—or skilled. Over and over, I wiped out before I could stand up. Joe suggested we try again another time, but I didn't want to leave the water until I'd succeeded. As the sun got lower in the sky, a stranger on the shore called out in a strong New York accent, "You can do it, sweetheart!" I can hear him still.

That day, I did get up and ski before the sun set. These days, exactly what is it that Sweetheart is supposed to do? Keep a neater house. Invite friends over more. Write more. Get paid more for writing. Make more progress processing my dad's old photographs. (It's not on the vision board, but it needs to be done.) Hook rugs. Sing.

Yesterday, I found a strip of paper on the floor. I picked it up and read two words: YOU CAN. The vision board now reads, "DO IT, SWEETHEART!!!" I don't think this was accidental. I guess it's time for Sweetheart to Do It. Sometimes we need a cheering section, and sometimes we do better with a direct order.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Why Do I Like Indigo Bunting??

I just read Indigo Bunting's "Girl" post, and the earlier one that I missed the first time around, and realize that aside from some editing skills (hers more pronounced than mine) we have nothing in common.

For starters, I have an overabundance of maternal instinct. I gave birth to three children, and wish I had five. Or maybe seven. Seven is a nice number. I have two dogs and three cats, and that is minimal compared to how many we used to have.

I like makeup, and I love my hair. I sew and bake and hook rugs. I like to cook, especially for other people. I'm a passionate gardener. (I'm not a good housekeeper, but we don't talk about that.)

Thanks to being largely raised by a single dad, I have plenty of boy genes to go with my girl genes. I achieved fame in high school via my ability to throw perfect, long, spiral football passes. A little later, I lightened numerous wallets by betting that I could beat people (all guys) at bar shuffleboard. I played volleyball until my joints got too old to handle it. When I was young, I wanted to grow up to be a woman like Carole Lombard: equally at home in a flannel shirt and jeans or a slinky black gown.

Anyway, getting back to our friend IB, accessories don't do a thing for me. I do like jewelry, but necklaces are my hands-down favorite. I have only one watch. After all my gold and gemstone jewelry was stolen, I started collecting silver and natural stones—jasper, agate, fossils. One does not find these at estate sales. EBay is my store of choice.

I would never ever pay more than 40 bucks (on sale, on clearance, or online, but 40 bucks nevertheless) for a handbag. I cringe at the thought.

Yet, I enjoy IB's blog. A lot. I've always enjoyed it. And I'm always happy to see her comments on mine. Maybe people don't need common ground to like one another. Or maybe the common ground is broader—things like being smart, being funny, being kind. Indigo Bunting is all of these.

Now that I think about it, my beloved daughter Suzanne thinks she's nothing at all like me. I disagree with that assessment, but there are certain areas in which we have no overlap whatsoever. For instance, she skis. She went sky diving, and wouldn't mind doing it again. And probably right at this moment she's out riding around on a snowmobile. I have but one word for all these things: Oy.

Cheers, IB!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Winter Would Be More Fun If . . .

. . . we didn't have to drive.

Here's the current weather bulletin for my area:

Snow Will Overspread The Region Between 7 PM And 10 PM This Evening. Snow... Moderate At Times Will Continue Past Midnight Before Mixing With And Changing To Sleet And Freezing Rain In The Pre Dawn Hours Of Wednesday.

I work from 4:00 to 9:00. So, if this forecast turns out to be accurate, I'll be undertaking the mountainous, winding, 45-minute (on a good day) drive home in the middle of it. It's not that I'm worried about deep snow; this storm doesn't sound like it's going to amount to a lot. But some of the slipperiest driving conditions I've experienced have involved a very small amount of wet snow. And then, of course, there's ice.

This is yet another reason why I wish I'd become a best-selling author. A reclusive best-selling author.

I wonder if J. D. Salinger was nervous about winter driving. And I wonder why the National Weather Service types its bulletins with initial caps.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Maybe Some Christmas Music . . .

. . . would remind me that there's more to life this month than working evenings and trying to get enough sleep.

With a fond nod to Quiet Stars, my old song blog, here are a few good ones.

Renee Fleming sings Panis Angelicus. (Don't let anyone tell you it's not a Christmas song.)

The White Christmas of my childhood.

All I Want For Christmas is You. Go, Mariah!

Diana Krall sings Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. No visuals with this one, but who needs them when you have sound like this?

The Priests rehearse O Holy Night

Herbie Hancock and Corinne Bailey Rae doing Joni Mitchell's River

Baby, It's Cold Outside, by James Taylor and Natalie Cole.

Please Come Home For Christmas. Bon Jovi and Cindy Crawford?? Good song, although I'll bet the video isn't his wife's favorite.

A very scaled-down version of Panis Angelicus, featuring Pavarotti and Sting. One can never have too much Panis Angelicus. In fact, you could say that when it comes to Panis, bigger is better.

Monday, December 08, 2008

One Good Cat Story . . .

(thank you, Helen) deserves another. Although I have many good cat stories of my own (stay tuned), this one comes from a friend in Florida—a woman, now in her eighties, who lives next door to the house that used to be my parents'.

Felicia and her late husband, Sam, took a car trip to Virginia a decade ago, stopping at a motel in North Carolina. On their way out to dinner that night, they came upon a cat walking down the street on his hind legs. He was emaciated, and covered with grease and dirt. He walked up to them as if he knew them—which, as it turned out, he probably did.

They bought some cat food on their way back to the motel, and fed him that night. The next morning they were back on the road, but they talked about him all the way to Virginia. Once they arrived, they called the motel in NC and asked the manager to feed the cat and keep him there. They would pick him up on the way home.

And that's what they did. Back in Florida, the cat—now named George—went directly to the vet. When he emerged with a clean bill of health and a clean coat, he grew into a gorgeous Persian.

Here's where the story gets fuzzy. Felicia said he grew into a gorgeous calico Persian. Calicos are females. Only females, as far as I know.

But I seem to remember that Nancy Drew had a girlfriend named George . . .

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Question: Delete or Not Delete?

The issue of hate ignorant mail discussed below raises the question of whether or not to delete obvious hate-mongering when it arrives in our Inbox.

I'm torn about this. On the one hand, my instinct for self-preservation urges me to delete. Deleting would keep my blood pressure on an even keel. I could probably say the same for my blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, and thyroid hormones. Out of sight is out of mind. If I don't see their revolting diatribes, they're not sending them.

On the other other hand, my instinct for self-preservation urges me to read them. Even a quick skim through the lies and sickening illustrations may skew the results of my blood tests, but if I don't know about these things, how can I counter them? And if no one counters them, they will proliferate unchecked. If we never think about them, don't we become part of the problem?

So I read. And then I try to breathe.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Hate Ignorant Mail

Maybe it's because I didn't get enough sleep last night, but an email I received this morning thoroughly pissed me off. It was sent by a religious acquaintance to a slew of her religious friends (how I got on the list I've no idea), telling everyone not to buy the USPS's Eid stamp.

It comes complete with a long list of atrocities committed by Muslims, and says in part, "How ironic is this? They don't even believe in Christ, and they're getting their own Christmas stamp . . . " How stupid is that? It's not a Christmas stamp, it's an Eid stamp, you dumbass.

Worse, I think, is this part: "To use this stamp would be a slap in the face to all those AMERICANS who died at the hands of those whom this stamp honors."

So . . . if you believe this email, the USPS has created a stamp to honor terrorists.

Any hope of laughing this off was extinguished by her next email, which arrived two minutes later. This one was a Power Point presentation on remembering the Holocaust. I have strong feelings about the Holocaust and absolutely want it to be remembered--but not by sending around emails containing very large, extremely graphic photographs of the piles of the dead, along with "patriotic" propaganda.

Accompanying the photos was an old lie. The slide show contains the "information" that the United Kingdom has banned teaching about the Holocaust in schools to avoid offending Muslims. That story's been around for years. I sent her a link to the article on the subject, and to her credit she passed along the correction to everyone on her list.

Speaking of lists, I took her off my Christmas card list. Yeah, she got credit for making that correction, but it wasn't enough to justify mailing her a card. Although I might have felt differently if I'd had an Eid stamp to put on it.