Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I sure hope my friends and family don’t mind naked….

One month until we leave Edinburgh and as David is ultra-organized  (thank goodness one of us is or we would still be sitting in a train station somewhere in France trying to figure out how to negotiate the eurail-debacle and appease the Blonde British Border Bitch ) we are beginning to pack. Toby’s room is spic-n-span and David has laid out each of our hugemongous suitcases so that we may begin to put things in them that we aren’t planning to use before we go.  Problem is, I am planning to use everything before we go so nothing seems to be moving toward the suitcases.

Please keep in mind that all l I have with me is clothes, shoes, some jewelry, makeup and toiletries, a corkscrew and several framed photographs of T&T (and a drawing of Madison)  I guess I can pack the pictures - definitely not the corkscrew as the one provided in the flat may the worst corkscrew I have ever encountered.  Since arriving here I have acquired a tiara, a wonderful pen and a small pin, a scarf and a few articles of clothing form a thrift store.  I might need to wear the tiara again before June 15; one often  never knows a bout those things until the last minute. We will leave behind the Scottish guidebooks just as we left the French ones in France and the Mexican ones in Mexico  along with a great Rick Bayless cookbook that I thought would be of more use to the next residents of the casita than to me.  Once I make a dish I rarely consult the recipe again but tend to improvise based on memory and taste - well, except for Jane’s Pork Tenderloin which I can never seem to remember and always have to call and ask how to make and oh yes, the corn pudding, also.

We sent a duffle filled with formal wear back to the States with a friend after the QM2 crossing and it now resides in a closet in West Virginia. I left things to donate in London and tossed a few things in France. When we left Florida in October we stashed two bags of summer clothes with David’s sister in Tallahassee.  Hence the naked issue.

Today I look really cute in a  black burnt-out velvet skirt, double layered shirts black over white, black tights, a drapey black Donna Karan wrap thingie and scrunchy short suede boots.  Perfect for the 48* weather with rain predicted later.  However, no matter how cute,  this will not do in 80*+ NC and FL June weather.  I know. I know, everyone is complaining that it has really cooled off there today but we all know that this is a tease and the heat and humidity will return before anyone is ready for it again. Unless of course they have beach reservations.

So I have with me -- one short khaki skirt, one jean skirt, two linen shirts and a pair of flip-flops.  Otherwise everything is either wool, cashmere, long sleeve or corduroy.  All my shoes are black and clearly designed for winter or boots - which people wear in Scotland year round but would look pretty stupid on the beach. And I plan to leave a lot of stuff here that  I am just sick of looking at.  There is a great Cat Rescue thrift shop just downstairs.

So I will wear one of my two outfits (actually they are not even outfits but with some jewelry I think I can make it work although I won‘t look as totally cute as usual)) with each different group of people I see once we arrive back in the good ole USofA.  However, vanity prevents me from wearing the same thing twice with anyone within a week’s time and since my mother would be the first to complain about such a faux pas and she is the person likely to see me most often while I am in NC, it is the elderly residents and their visitors at Carillon Assisted Living who are most likely to see my naked body first.  Yippee for me!  That may be one of the few places on earth where I will have fewer wrinkles and less cellulite than the people staring at my naked sagging tushy and perky reconstructed ta-tas.

So here’s the warning.  If  between June 15 and 22, you have seen me twice since my arrival in the Old North State you may want to avoid seeing me again until my next visit. Understand?   Wink wink.  I’ll do laundry and then David and I will have two days in St Petersburg before we will be required to drive to Tallahassee to liberate my remaining summer clothing.  As we leave the condo,  I’ll wrap my naked self in a blanket to get down the elevator to the car for fear of someone seeing me in what I was wearing the day before.  There are entirely too many 20-something tight tushys and flat tummys there for me to waddle around sans culottes.

Monday, May 3, 2010

How Beltane got me to thinking about death

Warning:  If reading about death or funerals gives you the heebie-jeebies, you might want to skip this post.

For all sorts of reasons - my Mother’s failing health, the fact that I fell on Friday night and hit my head on a rock, all the weird health issues we both confront every day, attendance at a huge ancient and very spiritual Celtic/pagan ritual that had us both thinking about our heritage, and other things - David and I were discussing our personal funeral preferences on Saturday night.  Weird I  know.

 It wasn’t morbid in any way, but a desire that someone understand each of our personal ideas about transition, death, and funerals so that whoever has the responsibility  might try to implement them in the best way possible.  Sort of funny when you think about it since neither of us holds a traditional Christian belief in the after-life or resurrection or any of that nonsense (yes, I called it nonsense for that it was I believe it is - no more factual than the belief of some cultures that I might come back as a cat or even more farcical that there is some great being that actually has the time and desire with all the vast universe out there to care what actually happens to little ol’ insignificant, dot of dust in the cosmos, me.)

Both of our most recent close experiences with death ritual, my father’s and David’s mother‘s funerals, were troubling, unsatisfactory and definitely not comforting for either of us.  Well, except for David finally having an opportunity to say in public during his mother’s eulogy that she once threw a plate of spaghetti at him and then became angry when it hit the wall instead of his head and to tell the story of how she was braless in the photo of her high school softball team. Both good sharings of stories of her life and neither dwelling on whether her death had meaning and if so, what it was.  Oh, but there was a lot of that on either side of the eulogy.   It was like a visit to Southern Baptist heaven - definitely not a place  I would want to spend eternity. 

 As we talked about it we both realized that the best funerals, if you will, that we had ever attended were celebrations with good memories, lots of laughter, sharing, caring, meaningful music ( which generally means music that had been meaningful to the person we were remembering) - in short, about our loved one rather than those left behind to mourn or about religious myths or beliefs that may or may not be shared  by everyone sharing the death experience or concentration on what’s next other than wonderful memories, or anything like that.  Certainly the lost friend or family member will be missed but wasn’t it great when they were around?  Hey, do you remember when….?  Those are the things that bring about true resurrection of the soul - those times that were shared that will be forever memories.

Our discussion  got me to thinking about my Dad’s funeral and doing that always puts a knot in my stomach.  I miss him very much and I think about him often.  I haven’t had a desire to talk to  him since I don’t believe there is anyone to talk to and I definitely don‘t want to go to the cemetery where his rotting body is entombed in concrete and some kind of once beautiful wood with brass handles that by now are certainly green.  But I do often ask myself what his thoughts or advice would have been during his life. When I think back on his funeral all I remember is how very uncomfortable I was during the entire experience --  People filing past the flesh and bone casing that had held his soul, his energy, his spirit, looking down at that pasty, makeup covered face not knowing that beneath his clothes were bare spaces where bone and tissue had been removed, the only parts of his body we were able to donate, his organs too badly damaged by his stroke.  People I had known all my life touching me in mourning , talking to my mother who was too confused to comprehend fully what was going on, most there because they truly respected my Dad , some there out of responsibility, some there from curiosity having heard stories of how emotionally difficult things had been in our family in the past few years.  I hated it all.  Nothing of what I think, feel or believe was represented in what for me was a grotesque ritual that did nothing to provide any true comfort to the living and sure as hell ain’t doin’ nothing’ for the already dead.

In fairness, there was one good point, the eulogy provided by the minister of the small church where I grew up, a church where my great-grandfather had been a stalwart member, where my dad still attended and where the board of trustees at the time was probably wondering what they were going to do to replace Dad’s rather substantial monetary contributions.  The minister had been a friend of both my sister and me in college and she (what a hoot it was when dad found out he was going to have at one time not only a female minister, but a Black superintendent and a female Bishop.  He must have felt that his soul was totally exposed to whatever forces of evil he might have believed were out there because he surely believed that none of those three second class citizens could do much to help him, being the superior Southern white male that he was.)

Despite that, the minister and Dad had developed a good relationship over time, often joking at coffee on a  Thursday afternoon that having seen her he needn’t show up at services on Sunday to which she would remind him that would be OK if he just gave her his offering plate contribution then and there.  Their relationship was not so unlike the one he had with me. Strong women, particularly if they had any direct intersection with his perceived perfect existence, made him nuts!  I never doubted that he loved me dearly and that he would always be there for me if needed, but we had difficulty sitting in the same room without arguing, sometimes changing sides in the midst of things, just to keep from agreeing I think.

Anyway, at his funeral, the minister gave a wonderful description of my Dad.  It was clear that she truly loved and respected him, as did so many others, and those words she said about him didn’t necessarily give me comfort, but made me proud to have had him in my life and helped me feel the sadness that he was gone.  But that was all.  Nothing about the scripture or the hokey, though beautiful, song about the streets of gold that my nephew sang made me anything but angry.  I looked around and most everyone else seemed to be buying into what was going on - a celebration of my Dad’s ascension into heaven.  All I wanted to do was get out of there as soon as possible.

So, now, we were discussing our own burials and I can’t seem to wrap my head around anything concrete - except that I know for sure that I DO NOT want what is left of my body placed in a concrete vault six feet under ground.  I have not nor do I  plan on committing any crimes  that might require my exhumation for criminal analysis purposes and that is the only reason I can figure for that man-made cave.  Nor do I want to be embalmed.  After that it gets fuzzy. 

David knows that he wants to be cremated and preferably have his ashes scattered on Doune Hill in Scotland.  If that isn’t possible he wants his ashes sailed out into the Gulf Stream somewhere and left to float there until a big storm comes and the boat carrying them sinks.  (Actually he wants a Viking funeral like in that movie with Burt Lancaster and McCauley Culkin where the kids shoot  arrows to ignite a boat carrying the body, the flames turning it to ash as the boat sinks slowly on the horizon -  but neither of our boys is very good at archery so I think the fire will have to come first)

As I work through my own ideas I keep coming back to one very troubling point.  I know that my sister and the rest of my family will want a funeral for my Mom very similar to the one for my Dad - and I want no part of it, no part of it at all.  It is already difficult as we lose Mom bit by bit to dementia but the thought of having her embalmed and laid out for people to stare at and then pretending that she is somewhere out there a whole person again makes me ill.  I do not want to be there but I am not sure I am strong enough to endure the criticism and bad feelings I will create if I am not.  Hopefully, I will have a lot more time to visit her in life before I have to deal with the death thing.

And, I’m thinking maybe I  want to give my body for research at a medical school. Heaven knows (pun intended), that there is enough medically going on with me to make it interesting.  Oh, I know the stories about how badly med students treat cadavers but it is only a shell, the energy that comprised my consciousness will have already merged back into the universe. Oh, and I want people to dance around a bonfire in both a clockwise and a counter-clockwise direction while having one hell of a good party.  Getting naked and painting your bodies vibrant colors is optional.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Toby's Spring

Toby is sleeping in the other room and like the mother of  a newborn I keep quietly opening the door to check on him.  I guess, really, to just look at him and take comfort that he is there.  He leaves tomorrow, very early and I am trembling at the thought.

 He and David will get up at 4 AM for the airport bus to arrive in time for the two-hour check-in required before an 8AM international  flight.  There is a 4 hour layover in Dublin before Toby re-boards with all the Irish folk returning from a visit to  the homeland or headed to the US to see long-lost cousins or grandchildren not seen in at least a year.  He is most excited about the layover and plans to have a couple of pints of Guinness for breakfast.  The idea of drinking Guinness in Dublin inspires him as it would most 20 somethings - or his father.  I almost wish David could travel along to share the experience except that I will probably be a slobbering mess when they leave and will be happy when David returns to the flat to keep me company.

 Tavish, having studied in Dublin for a semester, has most certainly already had Guinness for breakfast, lunch, dinner and about any other time he could break away for one.  Within hours of first arriving at the college there, the students were taken on a bus to the distillery for tours and tastes, most likely in an ill-conceived plan to get the desire out of their systems.  I suspect it only threw gas on an already burning fire.

From Dublin, Toby will fly directly to Chicago where he  already understands all the twists and turns of the El and should easily, if not so quickly, make his way to the apartment on the north side of the city that he will share with  5 friends, all actors or students.  He has a job to get started while he looks for something a bit better and has already arranged for some standup gigs.  He is well on his way.  And I am sitting here bursting at the seams with pride, filled with excitement for his adventure and feeling like I will collapse into tears at any minute.

I feel all soft inside like the first time I held either of the boys.  It is strange to feel this way having said goodbyes with both of them so often over the years - summer camp, boarding school, college, travels.  Of course, I cried each of those times, usually big gasping sobs, but only always after I was out of their sight fearing that seeing their Mom in such a state night make them homesick. It was a silly worry as they each seemed to embrace  every new experience with gusto.  Oh, there were occasional difficult or teary times, of course, but many fewer than the norm I think.  My boys are resilient, inquisitive and if nothing else, fearfully independent.

 But somehow this is different.

This time I know Toby is going out on his own and  will never again live with us as our “little one” which I have always called him even though Tavish is much smaller.  Toby is the youngest and therefore by default perceived to be the most fragile, Mama’s little boy.  He is neither of those things.
 These six months, despite our almost constant disagreements, have been a gift.  I have watched him continue to grow and change in ways I didn’t expect.  And I have watched as he gained about 20 pounds, filled out, grew a beard and now looks much more like a man than a boy.  Fortunately he still gives me hugs without which I would surely collapse.  Perhaps that is what I most fear - losing the goodnight hugs, knowing he is safely home.  I will never have that again.  He is most surely now responsible for himself in ways I was not prepared to accept for another few years.

This is Toby’s spring.  The air, nature, even the length of the days are drenched in hope for his future.  I am in the late summer or perhaps even early fall of my own life - leaves a little droopy, too tired somedays to feel like doing very much other than just sitting and feeling the warm moist air around me.  Toby is like a new bud popping out of the ground, looking around and screaming, “Yippee!!  Look at all that room around me to grow into.  Wow, smell that air.  Hey, roots, let go.  I’ve got things to do.”  As Leo Tolstoy once wrote , he is “…a plant that has just opened and spread its leaves among all the other plants and is going to grow up simply, peacefully and joyfully…”  Well, that is what I hope for him.  There are sure to be some trials.

“Make way for this wonderful plant that is filling out its buds and growing in the spring”  Look out world,  her comes Toby. He is loved, and supported and will be missed terribly - but  he’s got a lot of living to do!

"You should always be excited about the next chapter of your existence" 

                               --- Toby McMullen

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dear Banana - or birthday advice to a 15-year-old that a lot of us could use too

A few weeks ago, the Princess to whom I am Fairy godmother, celebrated her fifteenth birthday.  I sent her a tiara.  It is time for her to learn to wear one properly.  Besides I spent nearly a year in Mexico watching many, many 15 year old girls celebrate their quincenearas and I learned a lot about the importance of a fifteenth birthday, and the tiara.

In Mexico and many Latin cultures, the fifteenth birthday is a celebration of a young girl’s continuing growth from childhood to maturity.  If only the young girls waited that long in the US.  During a quincineara celebration, the father removes his daughter’s flat ballet-style slippers as replaces them with high heels in a symbolic gesture of her growing up.  Unfortunately for my tastes, I’ve seen way too many twelve-year-olds already in high heels for the transition to have much American meaning.

The celebration includes religious customs, usually a church service, and extols the virtues of family traditions and social responsibility. highlighting God, family, friends, music, food and dance.  The Quincineara is surrounded by a Court of Honor of her closest  girlfriends and usually 8 boys, her Chambela’n or Escorte.  In San Miguel de Allende, we would often see them all lined up for pictures on the church steps in their formal wear, the birthday girl looking like a bride, flowers and family all around just before climbing into limousines for the drive to the venue selected for the big party.

There was no religious component to the Princess’s celebration , for which I was exceedingly glad (even though I was thousands of miles away at the time).  I held her for her Christening 15 years ago after the  priest, in his role as representative of the Church, had accepted my involvement as a non-Catholic.  At that time, I personally accepted my role as her Godmother during the ceremony.  However, as the years have passed my discomfort with the Church has increased and finally when the news broke about the Pope’s personal involvement in the sexual abuse scandal I felt I could no longer condone my involvement, implicitly or explicitly, in the Princess’s association with such a misogynistic, greedy, misdirected and blatantly un-Christian organization as the Catholic Church. 

So I resigned  as the Princess’s Godmother. 

Whew! That really pissed off her Mom, my BFF and I definitely “had some ‘splainin’ to do” But as I said then, I can no longer in good conscience, or as an honest example, accept a role of encouraging the Princess to be part of the Church even if that is her parents’ wish, but I will always be her Fairy godmother (lower case ‘g’) with all rights, privileges and responsibilities thereto assigned.

In other words, I gotta help her grow up right.  And that includes how and when to wear a tiara --- and a lot of other things, as well.  I will only talk about that church thing if she brings it up. That is my compromise with her mother because I really want to tell her  all the reasons for my action.  That will come in time.  Anyway, all she really cares about at fifteen is the presents I send ( though invariably late), the summer vacation with me and that I am someone she can bitch to about her parents and know I won’t tell.  I hope she also feels that way about talking to me about boys.

I think as part of this growing up process it is time I begin to impart some wisdom.  There will certainly be more throughout the years and some of what is here falls more into the think- about it, or plan-for-it realm than the do-it- now phase.  More importantly, I want these to be some of the things we talk about while she is visiting in Florida this summer.  Well, that and a lot of BASEBALL!!!!

Oh ,and there is no rational order of these tidbits of wisdom and advice.  Just how things popped into my head.  Comments are welcome.

Dear Banana,

Happy birthday, again.  Here are some things I want you to think about.

You live in a man’s world and unless things change a  whole hell of a lot over the next few decades, which certainly has not been the case over the past millennia, you will continue to do so.  Just get over it.  Men, for the most part, are not very bright when facing a cute woman so, if necessary, make him think it was his idea, but never hesitate to get what you want.  As Maureen Down said, “I succeed in a man’s world  living by man’s rules but  I never forget that a woman’s first role is selecting the right shade of lipstick” (or something like that)

Always own at least one tiara, and never be afraid to wear it.

Always have your own money.

Save at least 10% of every single dollar that comes your way.  Starting today! Get a piggy-bank and always put all your coins in it. (Coins do not count as part of the 10%, they are “gimmes”)

Wear gloves.  Warm ones to keep your hands from getting chapped and classic ones on other occasions.

Develop a personal style - classic, bohemian, preppy, fashionista, outdoorsy, girly, dressed-up, dressed-down - but NEVER only dress in that style.  It is good to shake things up once in a while.

Have one trademark item that if left at a crime scene would immediately implicate you
- eyeglasses, a pen, a pin. a piece of jewelry, a hairclip, your gloves, a beautiful notebook, your phone, your wallet, a linen hanky you always carry - you’ll think of something.

Know what colors are flattering to you and don’t bother buying anything else.  This  makes shopping easier and keeps you from standing in front of the mirror for hours in that really cute top that just doesn’t look right for some reason.  Choose a basic “background” color and build around it  -like black, brown, navy, ecru, white.

Never wear white next to your face unless your teeth are at least as white as whatever you are wearing.

Less makeup is always more.

Whenever you leave the house - even if just for a quick errand - wear lip gloss and perfume.

Choose two personal scents - one for every day and one for more dressed up.  And be sure to re-evaluate every few years as your scent should grow up as you do.

Take care of your hair.  Don’t over process it and never change anything about it unless you are in a very good mood at the time.

Take advantage of every learning opportunity you are given - school, theatre, music, lectures, travel - whatever - Soak it in!

Never get bored and, even  more importantly, never ACT bored.  It is unbecoming.


Find an activity that you enjoy and can do throughout your whole life -  tennis, chess, backgammon, squash, cards, sewing, knitting, painting, drawing, photography, bird-watching……

Have at least one interesting topic of conversation for someone to whom you have just been introduced, your parents‘ friends or your friends’ parents.

Swear only when you intend to and make it count. And always use good grammar unless you are making a point.

If you don’t know how, learn how to play with kids.

Don’t  get drunk in public.  A little tipsy can be charming but drunk is just ugly - and dangerous.  Remember what Dorothy Parker said” One martini is nice, two at the very most, three I’m under the table, four I’m under the host.”

ALWAYS have a glass of water after each drink before you start the next.  This will allow you to “keep up with your friends” without getting sloppy or sick.  And if you really do this you may never have a hangover.

Never drink a lot of sweet alcoholic drinks of any type.  Stick with beer or wine to be safe. One shot is safe - after that it gets sketchy.

Get as much sleep as possible.

Develop a good skincare regimen and never ever go to bed without cleaning your face.

Wear comfortable shoes.  They don’t have to be ugly.  Remember no matter how cute a pair of shoes may be if you can’t stand up in them for an hour or walk comfortably for several blocks DO NOT BUY THEM.

Buy trendy clothes in trendy inexpensive shops.  Shop at thrift stores and consignment shops - especially for day-to-day things or the one- time wear stuff.   Save the big bucks for investment purchases.

If you shop wisely and take care of handbags and shoes they will last for years!!!

Know how to do your own manicure and pedicure but pay for one when you can.

If your budget permits choose waxing over shaving and laser over waxing.

Get your eyebrows shaped by a very good professional.

Eat your vegetables.  Skip bread and dessert whenever possible.  Women have eaten that way for centuries and stayed thin.

Get over over-consuming.  Want and waste is a bad model to set for your self and even worse for the world.  The less you can live with the more you can enjoy life.  Really, Trust me on this one.

Always have at least one outfit, a hairstyle and quick makeup routine that will have you dressed and looking cute in a flash.  A famous designer once said that  the difference between true beauty and just too-high-maintenance was the ability to get drop dead gorgeous in less than 15 minutes.

Don’t have sex until you are ready.  That means the first time should not happen just because everything gets hot and heavy and you are convinced he is the love of your life or definitely not because he tells you that is how to prove you love him (tell that guy to fuck off!)  When you feel like you can’t stand it unless it happens right now, STOP!  If you wake up tomorrow and still feel the same way then the two of you should plan a perfect time and place.

As soon as you even start thinking that you might  be gonna have sex get on birth control.    Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  Your fairy godmother has been pregnant 4 times and these were the ONLY times I did it without birth control and your mother got pregnant on her honeymoon.  This is not something you should mess around with.  Being smart should never be embarrassing. Ask me for help if you need it.

Always, always, always use a condom.  Get together with your friends and practice putting one on a banana.  Seriously. If he won’t use one - lose him!

Do not do drugs.  Period.  They make you stupid and vulnerable.
Also, understand that I do not consider marijuana a drug.  It does however reduce your inhibitions so be very careful when, where and how if you choose to use it.

NEVER NEVER get into a car driven by someone who has been drinking, smoking weed or doing drugs.  This includes family members and yourself.

Keep your “space” - room, desk, handbag, book bag, whatever - neat and orderly.  It reduces stress in your life in so many ways,

Learn to meditate.  Seriously.  Look for a teacher.

Learn to appreciate different kinds of music and art. Study it.  Read about it.

Learn to dance both popularly and properly.

Look people in the eye and speak up!

Stand up straight.  Nothing exudes confidence more than good posture.  And this includes sitting properly too.

Learn how to properly use a fork and knife and what the other utensils are for.

Avoid any group or activity that purports to make you more popular.  It is always bullshit. No exceptions.  Popularity is over-rated anyway.  I mean, do you even like those people that everyone is trying to be like?  You are so much nicer as yourself.

Depend on your parents.  They are your allies and always have your best interests at heart.

Do risky stuff like drinking or smoking weed with you sister and/or brother first.  They will look out for you.  They will also laugh at you if you over do and never let you forget it.

Learn to plan an amazing party.  I am EXCELLENT at this.

Learn to cook.  I mean really learn to cook.  It is fun and everyone always appreciates it.

Read good books - not just junk fiction (although junk fiction is also good too, just not as the only thing you read)

Read a newspaper every day  - and on Sundays, meet some friends at Starbucks and share the New York Times.

Learn how to properly order a drink, a beer and most importantly wine.  You can drink legally at 16 in many European countries and it is awful to look like either a stupid American or an unsophisticated clod.

Learn to read menus in French, Spanish and Italian - and ,of course, English.

Travel everywhere you can.  Each new place will teach you something about the world and something about yourself.

More will come as the time goes by.  I love you.

Your Fairy godmother

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I Should Be an Upper Class Brit…..

I love hats.

Haves you ever seen a good British, or better yet, Scottish, wedding?  ALL the women wear hats whether or not they are in the bridal party.  Of course, the bridesmaids will all be wearing head coverings ranging from huge and patently absurd to small and dainty depending on the location and the time of day.  Like in many American weddings, shoes will be died to match dresses which will be matched in color with hats.

Stand outside the church, hotel or hall and observe the guests as they exit the venue to stand around waiting for the bride and groom.  Yes, stand and observe, it is part of the custom.  The wedding is like a well orchestrated show for all to see, even those that weren’t invited.  Feel free to gawk, make quiet comments or even snap a few pictures.  I think this is all the result of  years of practice observing royals do various things.

As the guests emerge it looks like a box of crayons -all brightly hued, mostly solids, in jewel tones.  Even the female guests are dressed in ensembles of matching shoes, frocks and hats, standing in contrast to the dark suits or dinner jackets of the men. Often , the hats are HUGE, with veils or other embellishments as though at Ascot or a Derby party where a prize will be given  for best chapeau.  One wonders if these hats will be worn only once as they are so striking as to be noticeable should they reappear at the next function.  Perhaps there is a “Great Hat Exchange” that I have yet to stumble upon.  In any case, the guests create the peacock’s plumage around the bride dressed in white or ecru ,a meringue of tulle and lace or yards and yards of soft flowing embroidered silk, wearing a tiara and elaborate full, fluffy veil or a graceful hat cocked to one side to which a veil is attached.

Only at a full Scottish wedding is there competition  - from the groom and his men in kilts with proper cravats and  chalk striped morning coats or  short black Prince Charlie coatees with silver buttons catching the light.  Even the bride can sometimes pale by comparison.

Once back from the honeymoon the bride and groom take up residence in their new home. Although more often than not these days they would have been living there together for months or even years prior to the wedding.  Each will have his or her own room and this is where I think upper class Brits have really got it right.

David and I have often discussed the relative merits of separate bedrooms.  Now let’s be realistic people.  We have been married for almost 30 years and are way past the fucking like rabbits stage, so sleep is the goal here.  It is easy enough when planning sex to decide in whose room it should take place - if not on the kitchen table any  longer.   We do like to cuddle or spoon but inevitably as soon as one of us begins to drift off, the other moves  away and rolls to the other side facing away.

We have friends who never had a particular side of the bed on which each slept.  They had been married for years and each night whichever got to the bed first just took the side that seemed most comfortable.  I think that is weird!  This couple is now divorced and I have to believe that this is at least part of the reason.  I mean if you haven’t even staked out your side of the bed how in the world can you negotiate anything else in the relationship?

But I ramble…

I sleep on the left side of the bed (right if you are  facing from the foot) even when I sleep alone.  If  I am on my left side I expect to be facing the wall or door. On my right, I either have a vast expanse of bed available to me, if alone, which is rare. or I can feel David’s breath on my face.

Now here’s the rub.  He snores.

I know lots of people snore and lots of others sleep though it  but I am a well-tuned Mama-Machine and since the birth of my first child 25 years ago I startle at the slightest noise during the night.  And after the 1:30 AM call from Detective Fazio of the New York City Police Department while Toby was living alone in NYC when he was 17, it has only gotten worse.  So every time David huffs, or snorts, or blows out a long sigh, I wake and have to try again to sleep. Last night I did not sleep at all.  That tends to happen at least once a week these days.

At this age sleep evades most women on a regular basis.  We do not need the added disruption of a snoring bedmate to disturb our precious, coveted ZZZZZZs.  So when David and I arrive at the comfortable 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo in Florida that our dear, wonderful, amazingly generous, awesome, spectacular (you get the point) friends are letting us use from late June through November, I will be claiming one of the bedroom as my own.  David can choose the other room or the sofa, whichever he prefers.  If this works out, where we go next will be required to have two bedrooms.  A second bath is optional - I like double showers.  Besides it saves water.

Oh, and Madison will be sleeping with me.  I actually prefer not to sleep alone and, like a good, well-bred, upper class, wee thing,  she doesn’t snore.

Thursday, April 15, 2010



I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Monday, April 5, 2010

To Infinity and Beyond.....

The Space Shuttle Discovery blasted off this morning with seven astronauts aboard.

As a life-long space junkie, I was watching for the story and barely found it mentioned on NPR. However, the BBC carried a video of the blast-off with a story alongside that Soyuz had lifted off from Kazakhstan on Friday. Both stories.  Hmmm, must be space envy.

Discovery is hauling equipment and supplies to the International Space Station in one of its last missions before the program is shut down at the end of the year. In a rare and wonderful sight, the space station passed over the launch site about 15 minutes before launch and was easily visible as a bright star passing by the moon.  I am so sorry that I wasn't there to see that.  David and I have observed several shuttle launches from our balcony in St Petersburg all the way on the other side of the state from the Space Center.  It is is a chilling experience every time.

Soyuz docked with the ISS yesterday and apparently three astronauts, including one American, have transferred to the station for several months where among other things they are working on experiments left there by the Japanese.  Apparently, two of Japans three astronauts are in space at this time.
I find it interesting how we can cooperate on the exploration of space and yet seem to have so much difficulty working together on the problems of earth.

There are no plans for what to do after the shuttles are parked for the last time - no proposals, no budget, not even much discussion.  POTUS is planning a trip to Florida while the shuttle is still in orbit to look things over and discuss options, but he is pretty much already on record that this is waaaay down on his priority list.  His trip is most likely related to addressing the 6000 jobs that will be lost when the program is ended.

Too bad no one has considered expanding the program and inviting say, Iran, North Korea and Pakistan to participate.  Maybe if we were all working on the space program together we could start a dialogue that would teach us how to talk to one another about other things.  I mean if it worked with the Russians, who knows? And hasn't anyone in charge of all this ever watched Star Trek?

For the first time ever there are three women on this shuttle flight that will rendezvous with a fourth woman on the ISS  That is quite a change from the days of Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldren or even Sally Ride, and the sad loss of Christa McAuliffe and the astronauts on Challenger and Columbia.

A few nights ago I watched a documentary about the wives of the Apollo astronauts.  I had forgotten that the disaster that took the lives of Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chafee was the first planned three man mission in a series designed to take man to the moon.

The fire occurred during a pre-flight test.  Subsequent investigations indicated that the accident was likely preventable but much was learned that allowed NASA to meet JFK‘s call for putting a man on the moon within the decade of the 1960‘s. If you are interested in how truly screwed up all the planning and processes around space flight have been and continue to be I recommend reading The Challenger Disaster.  If Obama is putting off further funding until the problems with the system are fixed then he is correct and I hope we can re-instate a well planned and expertly run program soon.

Did I tell you that I have always been a space flight junkie? 

I remember watching breathlessly as John Glenn circled the globe for the first time and cheering when it was announced that he was going up again in his 70s. I wish I had grown up even 10 years later when someone might have encouraged my math and science capabilities and suggested that I could strive to be an astronaut rather than just an astronaut’s wife (although the latter was never on my wish list either). Or at least a flight controller or meteorologist who helped plan the launches.  Yeah, that is what I should have been - a way to combine my fascinations with weather and space.

Roger Chaffee’s widow was one of the women interviewed for the documentary (her first name was never shown)  She was amazingly supportive of the other wives and space travel in general considering that her husband had been turned into toast in the capsule before his mission even got off the ground.
This was all that was left after the 100% oxygen environment ignited .  The remains of the capsule have never been displayed and are warehoused near the launch site at the Cape.  The  launchpad itself still stands, deserted, as a grim reminder of the terrible events of that day. There is some discussion of burying the capsule there.
As I watched and listened to the film of these strong women I kept thinking how much the success of the space program had depended on their commitment to the program and to their husbands.  Before the end of the Apollo program more than 75% of the astronauts’ marriages had ended in divorce, generally with the men leaving their wives for younger women.

Those were heady times for the space cowboys and many chose to take advantage of the women and even men who offered up themselves for the cause - if you know what I mean.  Apparently the high oxygen filled atmosphere around all the training centers fueled lives of partying , fast cars, sex, and high risk.  And through it all the wives stayed home, raised the children and kept themselves looking just right for the many TV interviews that they were expected to perform. They were even given instructions on just how they should appear at all times.  No running out for milk and eggs unless your hair was done and you were wearing makeup and nice shoes.

The Apollo wives lived at a time when men could be men because the women were women in a defined, accepted and expected way.  I can’t even imagine standing six miles away and watching as my husband sat atop a bomb and was blasted to god knows where while I held the hands of our children - children who by the way were afforded only standard military pay, benefits and pensions regardless of consequence.  But the wives knew they had each other and that the American people were behind the extraordinary efforts that they and their husbands were making.

Those early space wives stuck by each other, providing support during the long months of training and the anguishing days when the men were in space.  Americans held ticker tape parades and greeted the men as heroes and applauded the sacrifices of the wives.  And today I can’t even tell you the names of the seven astronauts that are hurling through space much less whether they are married, single, gay, or divorced.  In the early days knowing all of that and more was always a part of the package and after what I can only assume was space insanity that drove what’s-her-name-the-astronaut-in-diapers to drive all night to hunt down her husband’s lover, it continues to fascinate. It points out how truly stressful preparing for going into space is for both the women and men whether you are the one training to be shot into the darkness of space while strapped aside a fuel-filled rocket in an airplane covered with faulty heat- resistant tiles that are as likely to fly off as to do the job for which they were intended -  or you are the one staying home to help re-pack the suitcase upon your partner’s return.

Too much has been invested and sacrificed for the space program to just S.T.O.P.

It has filled the imaginations of millions. led to amazing discoveries and holds promise for so much more.  We need to go back to the moon, and beyond, and if our recently-proved- to-be-totally-stupid-Congress can’t understand it from that perspective, perhaps they could be persuaded to fund NASA out of the inflated Defense Department budget with the idea of promoting peaceful cooperation among partners on earth toward a mutual goal in space.  Maybe it is time that Obama proposed a “Prime Directive"

In words similar to those of the mission director this morning,

"It is time for [us] to rise to orbit.  Good luck and Godspeed."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bangled, Tangled, Spangled and Spaghettied!

Gimme a head with hair, Long beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming. steaming, flaxen, waxen
Gimme down to there hair
Shoulder length or longer
Here baby, there Mama, everywhere Daddy Daddy

Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it. .Show it.
Long as God can grow it! My Hair!

The revival of Hair is moving from Broadway to the West End next week and I so want to see it.  Reviews indicate that it has survived the years and seems particularly relevant today even though the few seconds of nudity are no longer shocking.

I saw the original production in New York sometime around 1970.  I thought I was so cool.  I went to a Broadway theatre in my ragged bellbottoms, a t-shirt with no bra (not that it mattered that much), my hair in braids and barefoot.  EEWWW!!!!  Barefoot on the streets of New York.  Even at 15, what was I thinking??

When the cast entered from the rear of the theatre and tumbled, jumped and swung from scaffolds into the audience and then onto the stage, one of the cast members stopped in front of my seat and handed me a daisy.  Obviously he did that because I was clearly one of the coolest people in the room.   At least I was able to hold on to that fantasy for oh a couple of days until I returned home from Model UN and realized how totally impossible it was to be cool when living in a small Southern town and leaving three days later for church camp and going into 11th grade in a school that didn’t even require that we read Catcher in the Rye or anything by Kurt Vonnegut.  I bought a book of poems by Lawrence Ferlingetti while I was in NYC and that was the only tiny little element of coolness I retained.  I pressed the daisy between the pages of that book.

Since we’re talking about hair I must admit that I have never had cool hair.  The closest I ever came was not too many years ago when I cut it off very very short and died it red.  That sort of spiky look appealed to the slight personal rebellion I was trying to mount after leaving my job.  But when we started traveling, David asked that I grow it out. I tried for a while and then cut it again and he asked again.

 What is it with men and long hair?  I would suggest  some sort of connection with short hair and homophobia if I hadn’t started writing this post about a bunch of long haired hippy freaks  - and the fact that  David sued the Commandant of the Marine Corps over the hair regulations - and lived to tell about it (He won the lawsuit BTW) and I have photos of him with long hair in the 1070’s so it must be some sort of hangover from that time which probably also explains why I gave in and let it grow.  Well, that and I have always thought grandmothers with hair long enough for their grandchildren to braid were kind of cool in an 80-year-old gray-haired sort of way.  But Toby swears he is never having kids and Tavish has too many things to do before he even starts to think about it (and I think those are good and proper attitudes for both of them)  And my hair is growing so slowly that it may never reach my shoulders much less hang down my back in a braid.

In the meantime, my hair is thin, fine, stringy, styless and as far as I’m concerned, just plain ugly.  David compliments me on it frequently, I think more to keep me from cutting it than because he really thinks it looks good just now - or perhaps he looks at me through the memories of our early years together when my hair was long, my face was a lot less wrinkled, my butt was a lot, well, narrower and I still had my real boobs.

While, as I said, my hair has never been my best feature, I think some of my current hair issues are related to living in Scotland.  There is a commercial on the telly  with a woman in a red dress wearing 5-inch stilettos  that she clearly can’t walk in.  I know she can’t walk in those shoes because she is photographed lying on her stomach with her feet kicked up in the air behind her, never standing - of course, this also provides a nice view of her ample cleavage and she is talking in a posh Scottish accent about how when you live in Scotland your hair is dull, limp and lifeless.  Apparently the water is very soft and certain expensive hair products are required if I want my hair to look like hers.

 I am sorry but ever since I read an interview with Kristin Chenoweth where she admitted she never appears in public unless she has at least THREE hairpieces pinned in because apparently she has dull, limp and lifeless Scottish hair, even though she lives in the US… anyway, ever since I read that I do not believe for one minute that the women in hair product ads have hair that looks at all in real life like it does in the commercials.  I want to see one of  those women just after she has walked in out of  the rain or, better yet, when she first wakes up in the morning.

I stood in front of the mirror this afternoon and contemplated cutting my hair again.  I had just showered, shampooed and completed the blow dry and my hair still hung there - dull, limp and lifeless - but I decided that at least it was there since very short, dull, limp and lifeless hair would only make me look like a crazy old lady who doesn‘t care anymore. SO, tomorrow I am going to buy some of that stuff the “we girls in Scotland need to have full, beautiful, bouncy hair.”  I hope it works without the stilettos.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Eat More Lunch.

If there is one thing I have learned while traveling in Mexico, France and the UK during the past two years, it is that the locals do things right at midday.  Lunch is a time to be enjoyed. A great respite in the middle of the day.  In Mexico, the kids take two hours off from school for it.  In France, even the most humble of local bistros serves a three or four course affair that everyone from workers in muddy boots to the local ladies enjoy with a free flowing bottle of wine that is placed on the table when you arrive.  In Britain, weekday lunch is just as likely as in the US to be a pre-wrapped sandwich or a take-away carried back to your desk from the local fast food shop but it can also be a relaxed time at a pub with friends over cottage pie or fish and chips and a pint , or a nice business oriented sit-down affair in Edinburg or The City of London with wine and all the trimmings.  And Sunday lunch, particularly the traditional Sunday Roast, is almost sacrosanct. The point is that in most cases lunch  is still taken seriously.

My grandmother began cooking lunch just as soon as the breakfast dishes were cleared.  There was generally a main course of some sort of meat, and potatoes or sweet potatoes, sometimes both, or maybe beans,  at least one green vegetable and usually some stewed fruit or a Jell-O salad ,and maybe even  macaroni and cheese or chicken and dumplings.  A big pot of vegetable soup filled with chunks of beef was always a favorite.  Homemade biscuits were alongside with butter and molasses, an extra one often serving as dessert.
On Sundays there was always a special cake or pie as well.  Dinner was that big meal served on Sunday and supper each night was whatever was leftover from lunch  Lunch was often referred to as dinner even on the weekdays.  Only on Saturday might a sandwich be considered adequate at noon.  And then supper might be oyster stew or fried fish or a time out at my grandfather’s club.

In the Sunday London Times, AA Gill, wrote in his regular “Table Talk” column that “We are all remembered and revitalised by food.”  Having just attended the funeral of a restaurateur friend, Gill posited about food that is comforting, satisfying and evokes memories, particularly a good lunch, and he got me to thinking.

Food is all about memories for me - my grandmother’s table, the recipes my family shares, how can I adapt something I loved as a kid to fit my new healthier and perhaps even vegetarian eating preferences.  Food is emotional.  Just like Jews set a place at Passover for the prophet, so are each of us joined by those who came before when we sit at table.  Shared food is communion.  And during this week called Holy Week, Christians the world over celebrate the sharing of food at “The Last Supper” in many ways - festivals, feasts, sacraments, pageants, family dinners.  Everything we take the time to put on our table says something about our heritage, our ancestors and even what we want to pass on to those who follow.  Food is our history and our legacy.  It is emotional, and metaphysical as well as sustaining.

So, as Gill says ,we should all “Eat more lunch.”  Take that time to stop and savor what is going on around us.  Listen carefully to what that co-worker or friend is really saying,  Hell, give yourself time to hear what you are really thinking.

Personally, I won’t go as far as Dr. David and advocate the return of the three martini lunch.  Although I do love a good martini - or two. Based on the thoughts of James M Schlessinger, Jr, “A martini is the staff of life.“  And former president Gerald Ford once said that, “The three martini lunch is the epitome of American efficiency. Where else can you get an earful, a belly full and a snoot full a the same time.”

Personally I would be more likely to end up like Dorothy Parker if I had martinis at lunch,

I like to have a martini,
Two at the most.
After three I’m under the table,
After four I’m under the host.

But I do advocate a nice glass of wine, or even sharing a bottle with your lunch companion as a way of better enjoying the food, opening up the conversation and perhaps lingering a bit longer at table.

Think of how much better all our lives would be if we took those two hours midday to unwind, breathe, relax and eat lunch.

As I continue to develop my new blog Ciel’s Vegetarian Pantry, I hope to concentrate on making food a memorable and important part of every day.  Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

It is all Marie Antoinette’s fault --or, Why I cannot be a vegan

I do not like breakfast.  Well, not at breakfast time anyway.  This is at least partly my Mom’s fault because she doesn’t like breakfast right after she wakes up.  She rarely cooked what most would consider a “proper” breakfast except occasionally on Sunday night for supper.  My Dad liked breakfast but he also liked having it in a local restaurant with some friends where he ate  things like livermush, grits and eggs and they discussed sports and politics, or after a few hours of driving at the start of a vacation, which was OK with us kids and Mom because that usually meant pancakes or waffles and chocolate milk after we’d been awake and arguing for several hours as siblings do on car rides.

On the rare occasions when we kids were younger and my mother escaped from home for a few days on a trip to the beach or some church women’s conference and we were left with my Dad,   all he knew how to cook was scrambled eggs - and fried baloney (When fried. it is definitely baloNEY and not boloGNA even if Oscar Meyer made it and quite frankly except for how cute that song is when little kids sing it in commercials I think Congress should officially change the spelling to baloney since even in the commercials for B-O-L-O-G-N-A, the words are “My BALONEY has a first name…..”  couldn’t some hot shot advertising exec find a word to rhyme with ‘Y’?)

But I ramble…..

On school days I preferred a few minutes of extra sleep to even a bowl of cereal and truth be told I’ve never really liked eggs unless hardboiled and mixed with exactly the correct amount of Hellmann’s mayonnaise and made into a sandwich on really good wholegrain bread with lots of seeds - and maybe a little lettuce.  Because my Mom didn’t care for breakfast either she was quite satisfied if we made a glass of Carnation Instant Breakfast or carried a fresh out of the toaster Pop Tart in the car on the ride to school.  We had to eat something!  No good mother would allow her children to go to school with an empty stomach no matter how much I might protest that if she made me eat something I was going to throw up in the car , or on the ball field during 10th grade when I had PE for first period.

How stupid is that for a 15 year old girl?  Gotta get up, get dressed, including hair and makeup and then go to school and change into a gross awful smelly gym suit that we were only allowed to take home to wash once a week and then get all sweaty playing some stupid sport that I always hated and then get dressed all over again in a steamy stinky locker room.  I really did want to throw up then.

But on test days - achievements tests, IQ tests, PSAT, SAT, things like that, - Mom always made us a full cooked breakfast of eggs, bacon, grits, toast, juice, and milk.  I probably associate breakfast with the terrible stress caused by those tests and that is why as soon as I got to college I gave it up all together.  It was only after I was out of graduate school and could pick up a coffee and danish on my way into the office in Manahttan that I started eating anything again before noon.

But what does all this have to do with being a vegan you ask?  Well, I have just completed the 21 Day Vegan Kick Start sponsored by Physicians for Responsible Medicine.  They do this several times a year and put helpful hints, menus, recipes nutritional information, doctor’s suggestions and the  requisite celeb pointers (I just ignored those because I. Hate. Celeb. Pointers. - especially when they don’t know one iota more about the subject than I do.) Anyway, I think the next challenge is in September if you are interested.   I am pretty damn proud of myself for making it through the 21 days.  I only slipped twice and on one of those times it was because how was I to know that vegetarian chicken strips have eggs in them (well, I guess I could have read the label before I ate them but who woulda thought it? I mean, what do eggs have to do with chickens?   Oh… well… now, that is part of the problem.

As I have mentioned before, living with Toby who has been a vegetarian for over 7 years convinced me that I should give it a try again.  And reading all about it convinced me that if I was going to make a commitment to not eating animals I should really let them off the hook entirely for my food production and should forego eggs, milk, butter and cheese as well.  Most of my friends predicted a difficulty with cheese, which surprisingly has not been the case.  The problem my friends is eggs, butter and milk.

 Actually, the problem is CAKE.

I am not a baker.  Believe me when I tell you that Marie Antoinette did not mean that even starving peasants should ever be forced to eat a cake that I baked. (It is not relevant to this argument whether or not M.A. ever really said anything about cake or bread or even realized there were peasants outside the palace, it just makes a good point OK? So let the historical accuracy slide Dr. David)

 If you want cake you should get may sister to make it for you, or her mother-in-law or any one of my friends Mary, Carol or Sarah, fabulous cake bakers all.  I just like to eat it.  For breakfast.

When I wake up I want a large cup of very strong (preferably Italian Roast) black coffee and a little slice of something sweet.  I do not like croissants unless they are pain au chocolate and in that case I’ll have deux, s’il vous plait,  and while good toast with excellent marmalade will do in a pinch it is never my first choice. 

The best breakfast cake  in the world is either Scottish Dundee Cake

                                                                      or Claxton Fruit Cake 

- well that is if you can’t get someone who really loves you  to make you a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting using Flossie Harwell’s recipe. 
 Now that my peeps, is pure chocolate heaven!

So you see my problem.  I can’t be  a vegan and have cake for breakfast and I can’t be a happy person eating something else - and as I have pointed out I am a disaster at baking regular cakes so trying to hobble something together without milk, eggs or butter is just wrong.  So I will be a happy vegetarian, but not a vegan.  Do not misunderstand me. I. Will. Never. Eat. Meat. (or any other animal) Ever. Again.  We’ll have to chat a bit about all of that at a later time.

But I will have cake for breakfast and every day I will thank the chickens and cows for their contributions.

Friday, March 26, 2010

My Recovery Plan

I am in a 12 -step program to overcome the stress created by the health insurance reform process or whatever this debacle we have just been through is called and invite you to join me in my move toward greater sanity.

Step 1:  Admit that I have a problem over which I have no control

Damn right, I have a problem and it is called idiots who listen to and watch political pundits on Fox News and similar outlets and actually believe what they hear.  Didn’t these people go to school somewhere that taught them how to evaluate information and form their own conclusions?

Step 2: I believe a power greater than myself can restore sanity.

And that power is the POTUS - Barack Hussein Obama.   If people will just shut up and listen to the man.  He is well- educated, brilliant, lucid and peace-maker.  They gave him a prize for that. Remember:?

Step 3:  I have decided to turn my will over to “God” as I understand “him”

This is a little tough because I don’t believe there a God that is a him.  However, I do think there is a lot of energy out there that is a lot bigger than me and I am spending as much time as I can focused on meditation and trying to pull in positive forces  and push away the negative ones. Take that Bill O’Reilly.

Step 4:  I have made a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself.

Yes, and I have discovered that my opinions on this issue are correct.  We need a single payer health care system, health insurance companies are run by greedy bastards and the basis of all our current problems is capitalism run amok.

Step 5:  I have admitted to “god”, to myself and to another human being the exact nature of the problem

See #3 above re: the god thing, #1 as to what the problem is and as for telling someone else, well you’re reading this.

Step 6: I am entirely ready to have someone remove all these defects.

Absolutely, and if Rush Limbaugh will just keep his promise and get the hell out of the country  -- and take with him Glenn Beck, Sarah, “Death Squad” Palin, that blonde crazy, what’s her name ,oh yea, Anne Coulter and while they’re at it, Dick Cheney and Jeb Bush (in case he gets some hair brained idea about  running in 2012) then we’ll be started in the right direction.

Step 7:  I humbly ask that the shortcomings be removed

See #6 above

Step 8:  There is a list of all that have been harmed and I am more than wiling  to do my part to make amends to them.

As I understand it, people who could not afford or be approved for health insurance can now get it and I think that is a great use for some of my tax dollars.

Step 9:  I will make direct amends to those that are injured except where to do so would hurt others

So, here it is.  I will put Tavish and Toby back on my insurance as soon as the Bank of America will let me.  I will pay my taxes and will contribute to the political campaigns of candidates who support  a single payer health insurance plan,  and  I will work diligently to defeat candidates who represent and cater to the ill-formed wrongly directed religious right, or the tea baggers and who take bribes in the form of contributions from lobbyists for Big Pharma..

Step 10:  I will continue to take personal inventory and admit when I am wrong

Yes, because I pride myself in exploring all sides of an issue before taking a stand and in a willingness to change my opinion when I have been proved incorrect through equally logical argument.

Step 11:  I will meditate as often as possible, at least daily, to improve my clarity and develop a clear mind so that I can carry out the  appropriate actions as needed  in a calm and thoughtful manner ,

‘Nuf said.

Step 12: Having had a clear acknowledgement through all these steps that the  idiots are still uninformed and acting and speaking in an irrational manner I will do my best not to hunt them down and try to change their minds because, obviously peeps,  stupid and uninformed is incurable.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I only have one spoon left today......

 I have started several new blog posts this past week but have been unable to finish any due to distractions caused by the healthcare vote - we all know it took almost every hour to keep up with that - finishing reading a couple of books I had started simultaneously, being told David and I  have no place to live this summer - three times! and having an extreme shortage of spoons.
Spoons you say.  What does that have to do with anything?

Christine Miserandino, who suffers with Lupus, developed The Spoon Theory and I credit her with brilliance in describing silent illness in a way that others can understand. Below is an excerpt of her theory with a few edits to make it appropriate for MS. (Christine's writing is in italics and my additions are not. Bold is also mine)

I am carrying around just one spoon today folks.

 Christine was sitting in a diner with a friend and in trying to discuss how her energy level works, the spoon theory was born.
I quickly grabbed every spoon on the table; hell I grabbed spoons off of the other tables. I looked at her in the eyes and said “Here you go, you have [MS]”. She looked at me slightly confused, as anyone would when they are being handed a bouquet of spoons. The cold metal spoons clanked in my hands, as I grouped them together and shoved them into her hands.

I explained that the difference in being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn’t have to. The healthy have the luxury of a life without choices, a gift most people take for granted.

Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities, and energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people. [Please all my sleep deprived friends, understand that I know that you start the day with fewer spoons than most as well]  For the most part, they do not need to worry about the effects of their actions. So for my explanation, I used spoons to convey this point. I wanted something for her to actually hold, for me to then take away, since most people who get sick feel a “loss” of a life they once knew. If I was in control of taking away the spoons, then she would know what it feels like to have someone or something else, in this case [MS], being in control.

I asked her to count her spoons. She asked why, and I explained that when you are healthy you expect to have a never-ending supply of “spoons”. But when you have to now plan your day, you need to know exactly how many “spoons” you are starting with. It doesn’t guarantee that you might not lose some along the way, but at least it helps to know where you are starting. She counted out 12 spoons. She laughed and said she wanted more. I said no, and I knew right away that this little game would work, when she looked disappointed, and we hadn’t even started yet. I’ve wanted more “spoons” for years and haven’t found a way yet to get more, why should she? I also told her to always be conscious of how many she had, and not to drop them because she can never forget she has [MS and might not be able to pick them up]

I asked her to list off the tasks of her day, including the most simple. As, she rattled off daily chores, or just fun things to do; I explained how each one would cost her a spoon. When she jumped right into getting ready for work as her first task of the morning, I cut her off and took away a spoon. I practically jumped down her throat. I said ” No! You don’t just get up. You have to crack open your eyes, and then realize you are late. You didn’t sleep well the night before. You have to crawl out of bed, and then you have to make your self something to eat before you can do anything else, because if you don’t, you can’t take your medicine, and if you don’t take your medicine you might as well give up all your spoons for today and tomorrow too.” I quickly took away a spoon and she realized she hasn’t even gotten dressed yet. Showering cost her spoon, just for washing her hair and shaving her legs. Reaching high and low that early in the morning could actually cost more than one spoon [a BIG problem for me], but I figured I would give her a break; I didn’t want to scare her right away. Getting dressed was worth another spoon. [see my blog post on the issue]I stopped her and broke down every task to show her how every little detail needs to be thought about. You cannot simply just throw clothes on when you [have MS]. I explained that I have to see what clothes I can physically put on and what I can tolerate.  If my skin is tingling I will want tights or something firmly against my body. If my hands are weak that day buttons may be out of the question. If my balalnce is off I will need to wear something that looks OK with sneakers - so much for cute shoes.  If it is hot I surely don't want to wear long sleeves, and if I have a fever from taking interferon the night before I may need a sweater to stay ward off chills and so on. If my hair is dirty and I don't have energy to wash it or I have dark circles under my eyes, I need to spend more time to look presentable, and then you need to factor in another 5 minutes for feeling badly that it took you 2 hours to do all this.

I think she was starting to understand when she theoretically didn’t even get [out of her bedroom], and she was left with 6 spoons. I then explained to her that she needed to choose the rest of her day wisely, since when your “spoons” are gone, they are gone. Sometimes you can borrow against tomorrow’s “spoons”, but just think how hard tomorrow will be with less “spoons”. I also needed to explain that a person who is sick always lives with the looming thought that tomorrow may be the day that a cold comes, or an infection, or any number of things that could be very dangerous. So you do not want to run low on “spoons”, because you never know when you truly will need them. I didn’t want to depress her, but I needed to be realistic, and unfortunately being prepared for the worst is part of a real day for me.

We went through the rest of the day, and she slowly learned that skipping lunch would cost her a spoon, eating might give her one back  if she selected her food carefully. Driving could cost two spoons if there was traffic or she might lose a spoon for standing on a bus or train, or even typing at her computer [or reading a book] too long. She was forced to make choices and think about things differently. Hypothetically, she had to choose not to run errands, so that she could eat dinner that night. Let's hope there is food in the cupboard.

When we got to the end of her pretend day, she said she was hungry. I summarized that she had to eat dinner but she only had one spoon left. If she cooked, she wouldn’t have enough energy to clean the pots. If she went out for dinner, she might be too tired to travel home safely. Then I also explained, that I didn’t even bother to add into this game, that she was so nauseous [from MS related fatigue], that cooking was probably out of the question anyway. So she decided to make soup, it was easy. I then said it is only 7pm, you have the rest of the night but maybe end up with one spoon, so you can do something fun, or clean your apartment, or do chores, but you can’t do it all. You are probably so tired that you will just fall asleep in front of the TV - often in your clothes . No spoon left to wash your face and brush your teeth.

I explained that some days are worse then others; some days I have more spoons. But I can never make it go away and I can’t forget about it, I always have to think about it. I handed her a spoon I had been holding in reserve. I said simply, “I have learned to live life with an extra spoon in my pocket, in reserve. You need to always be prepared.”

The hardest thing I ever had to learn is to slow down, and not do everything I want. I fight this every day.  Just ask David, he is a better observer of how many spoons I have in reserve than I am.  I hate feeling left out, having to choose to stay home, or to not get things done that I want to...I need to think about the weather, my temperature that day, and the whole day’s plans before I can attack any one given thing. When other people can simply do things, I  sometimes feel angry and I hate myself for that.. I miss  the freedom of never having to count “spoons”.

I do not see this as a blessing as some people would say -"Oh but don't you appreciate everything more."  NO! I have been forced to think about everything I do. Do you know how many spoons people waste everyday? I don’t have room for wasted time, or wasted “spoons”

 Once people understand the spoon theory they seem to understand me better, but I also think they live their life a little differently too. I think it isn’t just good for understanding [MS], but anyone dealing with any disability or illness or even a tough time in their life. Hopefully, they don’t take so much for granted or their life in general. 

In the next few weeks as David and I will plan what's next in this adventure we are on.   I will probably call on some of you for advice, ideas or even assistance.  Please do not think of me as lazy, incompetent or otherwise lame.  If I ask it is because I know that if I share one of my spoons with you I will get much much more in return.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Day the Earth Moved

When I turn on my computer each morning it tells me the time - the time in the Eastern US, that is.  David’s is set to tell Greenwich Mean Time, or the actual time shown  on the clocks here in Scotland.  Typically that serves us well and those of you who receive telephone calls from us, however infrequent, must certainly appreciate that it discourages us from calling you before the sun is awake in NC, FL, NY AZ or CA.  But this morning is different. Does anybody really know what time it is?

Sometime during the night I can only assume that the United States drifted 600 miles to the east, making it 1 hour closer to us than when I went to bed a 11PM GMT (6PM EST) last night. 

When I awoke, the 5 hour time difference had somehow magically been reduced to 4 as if by divine legislation or something.  EXCEPT, I find that AZ was left behind during the shift remaining 7 hours earlier than here.  California however was dragged along and now there is only a 7 hour difference where once there was 8.  All very strange.

I wonder if expensive waterfront property suddenly appeared overnight in AZ?

Having also realized that this is Pi Day I  must wonder if there is some irrational numerical explanation for this phenomenon. Perhaps we should all spend the day writing poetry in Pilish as a way to appease the time gods.  Such poems are constructed so that the number of letters in each successive word is equal to the digits of pi.  One of the most famous of Pilish poems was written by an English (cough,  cough) physicist. Sir James Jeans (oh, perhaps we should all wear jeans while writing poems )

How I need a drink
Alcoholic in nature
After the heavy lectures
Involving Quantum mechanics

Oh how I need a drink, alcoholic in nature, after hurting my brain, thinking about all of this (don’t bother to count the letters, it is not Pilish.  I can only do that AFTER the drink!)

Or perhaps we should all bake pies  (while wearing jeans, of course) after which we can calculate their imprecise circumference as a ratio of their diameter.  You can never determine the precise circumference, your know - unless, of course, you just get out a tape and measure the damn thing!  And even then it is confusing as hell because as we all remember the answer to the quiz question is that “pies are square” when we all know they are round and perhaps that is part of the problem we are wrestling with here today.

Square pies must cause the earth to shift. This information might be a great help to the new Chilean president who should get his people out looking for the square pie baker -- pronto.  Perhaps he could send some help to Haiti for that purpose as well.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Be aware! Be very aware!!!

This past week has been MS Awareness Week.  I am pleased that the well-run and most helpful National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) conducts this week each year in an attempt to spread the word about this dreadful disease.

(BTW - there are several MS organizations out there but only the NMSS is legitimate.  The others are poorly run and spend little of the money that is raised on research or client assistance.  The NMSS is consistently rated as an excellent charity.  So give generously but be sure you give to NMSS)

Multiple Sclerosis is the most common degenerative neurological disease in the US and Western Europe.  MS primarily strikes people between the ages of 15 and 55 - the so-called prime of life and after 10 years with the disease, half of all victims are severely disabled.  I was diagnosed in 1983 at the age of  29 although now that I understand the symptoms I know I was sick in high school. 

After cheering at a football game, my feet would feel like they were on fire.  Mom would rub and rub trying to relieve the discomfort.  Once, during a game I just spaced out completely.  I didn’t have the energy to jump up and down, couldn’t remember the words to the cheers and couldn’t concentrate enough to even know what was going on in the game.  I just stood there sort of staring into space.  I didn’t even realize anything was wrong.  The following week the Pep Club gave me hell, all but calling for the forfeit of my varsity cheerleading letter because I wasn’t ‘engaged” in the game.  On an intellectual level I know it is silly but I still harbor an intense level of anger about that incident that  eats at me.  I want to go up to the major critics and yell, “ I have MS and you were a jerk! Apologize, dammit!’

Multiple Sclerosis means “many scars”.  Perhaps this is one of them.

Actually, the disease is characterized by multiple lesions on the brain, spinal cord or nerves.  The lesions heal and are replaced by scar tissue, hence the name, and the affected nerve function is severely impaired or stops completely.  Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to complete loss of use of limbs, loss of bladder control, vision impairment or even loss, loss of cognitive function, fatigue - a loss of energy so severe that it has to be experienced to be understood.  Loss, loss, loss.  It is all about loss.

For me it has involved loss of my ability to run outside and play with my boys when they were little, loss of vision (once completely in my left eye), loss of bladder control, loss of the joy of sitting in the hot sun (heat causes an increase in symptoms which for me means it gets really really hard to walk) loss of  the strength required to get the milk jug out of the frig, loss of the ability to process multiple stimuli which severely limits my ability to drive, loss of a job I loved, loss of the ability to concentrate, loss of the ability to be a 10 in bed, loss of cognitive function that was once good enough to get me classified, along with a bunch of wonderful NC friends, as “gifted and/or talented” and to get me admitted to MENSA, loss of access to the rolodex of names and words that used to be easily available in my brain, loss of energy to the extent that I can plan only one event a day and then hope that I will not be too fatigued to do it, loss of emotional control and EXTREME LOSS OF PATIENCE WITH THIS RIDICULOUS UNPREDICTABLE DISEASE.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

It’s All About the Tatties

In Scotland, everything is served with chips - well almost.   A few things come standard with a good mash but mostly, it’s chips.  And I don’t mean those thin crispy things Americans call “chips.”  In Scotland, those are properly called “crisps” and come in flavors you’ve never thought of before - prawn cocktail, tomato ketchup (no more need to dip), olive oil and balsamic, sweet chili,  sea salt and garlic - this list goes on and on.  Everyone’s favorite, of course, is “salt and vinny.”

But I’m talking about chips here - proper thick cut slices, not wedges, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, perfectly cooked fried potatoes.

Order a pizza - comes with chips.  Fancy a curry? Expect some chips on the side to dip in the sauce.  Breakfast?  Well, in addition to the bacon, bangers, haggis, eggs, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, butter and marmalade that are standard with a “full Scottish” you’ll generally find some chips or if not  you’ll most certainly be asked if you would like some.  Chinese food, Mexican food,  even Italian food, comes with chips.

David and I were dining in a rather posh Italian restaurant last Saturday.  At the table next to us a couple had mussels and soup as starters followed by a large shared salad (I always watch what other diners are eating for fear that I may be missing out on something wonderful) Then one had a pasta dish and the other risotto and, sure enough, there on the table between them was a huge bowl of chips. (David and I shared a cold antipasto and a risotto de la mare filled with all sort of shellfish, plum tomatoes and chiles)

Go to a pub.  Order a pint.  The bartender is likely to ask if you’d like some chips as a snack.  While I waited for take-away Chinese one night, four teenagers came in.  Each placed an order for chips with a different sauce for dipping - one sweet and sour, ane sweet/hot chili, one brown sauce and one garlic/chile sauce.  Ah, Scottish/ Chinese food.  Chips and Chinese-style sauce.

In the grocery there are likely to be more types of frozen chips than anything else in the freezer.  More chips than ice cream!  That is just wrong.  Even though, I place chips/French fries, pommes frites, whatever there are called in whatever country I happen to be, right up there with the foods of the gods, one of my absolute favorites and when on offer I can never turn them down.

(I feel in the interest of honesty here I must say that I DO NOT eat FREEDOM fries under any circumstances!  - coming up with that  name was just one step past ridiculous . Instead , the French should have stopped eating anything American because we were  the idiots who were out of line.  Oh wait. The French do not eat American food.  They eat wonderful fresh beautifully prepared luscious French food.  Sorry.  I still DO NOT EAT FREEDOM FRIES - and have been known on two occasions to walk out of establishments that called them that.)
But I ramble..

Perfect chips must be cooked three times.  First, peel the potatoes and boil them until just tender.   Drain, cool and dry well, then slice into thick finger-sized pieces (sort of like really thick steak fries in the US).  Heat some good non-flavored oil until hot.  If you want to pretend to make these healthier, use expeller pressed canola oil.  Actually, any good vegetable oil will do.  It is best to cook the potatoes in a deep pot or deep fat fryer  but they can also be cooked in a deep skillet in a single layer - but be sure if you choose this method not to overlap the potatoes or they will become soggy.  Cook the potatoes just until they just start to color.  Remove potatoes from fat, drain well on paper towels and allow to cool.  Discard the fat. 

At this point you may finish the cooking (see below) or store the potatoes.  They will keep in the frig for 24 hours.  Any longer and they oil will go rancid.  Or you can freeze them.

To finish the cooking  - heat some fresh oil and add the cooled or frozen potatoes (be careful of popping).  Cook until golden and crispy. I like them really brown.  Remove to paper  towels to drain and season with coarse salt.  Serve with ketchup, HP sauce, malt vinegar, garlic mayonnaise or salsa.

Guaranteed to be the best “chips” you’ve ever eaten.