Wednesday, April 10, 2013

There Is Not a Witch In This House!

Chebbles (my daughter via Shaken Mama) validates
 my Teddy love, circa 2009.
I must have been about 5 when I learned I was going to die.

Not then, thank God! I mean, eventually.

Along the road to that revelation, I experienced vague "memories" of having been a giraffe before I became me, and somehow having lived with my "grandmother in Florida." (My grandparents died before I was born and I've never been to Florida.)

Turns out these types of "memories" are not uncommon in kids. Past lives? Well, that's fodder for another post. I often have been called an old soul, after all. Though my personality much better fits the mature soul profile ... but I digress.

Ever the journalist (you know how we enjoy breaking bad news), I apparently felt the need to broadcast this new death-knowledge to my younger neighbor, Ginger. "That's right, Ginger, WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE! AGH!" You can imagine how that went over. (When I learned about sex, I also broke that news to my younger playmate across the street. She was satisfyingly horrified. I don't know why anyone let their children play with me.)

Anyway, one day after I reached this age of reason, I was in the kitchen with my mom, and she asked why I was moping around.

"Well, I'm going to die," I said as she prepared one of her myriad culinary feats.

"Why are you worried about that?" she asked.

"What about Teddy?" I said, referring to the stuffed bear my brother had given me one Christmas and who immediately became my constant companion. "What will become of him? I'll miss him if he isn't put in the coffin, but I don't want to have him buried with me when he's still alive."

"That's morbid. Stop worrying. You're not going to die for a long, long time," she said. (Note how she didn't dispute the fact that Teddy was flesh and bones.)

Sound advice.

Reminds me of how she quelled my fear one night  that a shadowy figure in the corner of my bedroom was a witch. I hijacked Mom on her on her way back from the bathroom to her bedroom to share my suspicion.

"There definitely is not a witch in the corner of your bedroom," she said.

I was relieved. "But how can you be so sure?"

"Because if there was a witch in your room, don't you think she would have gotten you by now?"

I kind of wish for her counsel now, as I wait in coming days to see if medicine can manage my rescue Peke's newly diagnosed severe heart disease.

I would very much like it if she would say, "That's morbid. Stop worrying. If there was a witch in your house, don't you think she would have gotten her by now?"
Step off, witch! Sadie Marie is mine!

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

This Is Your Mother's Nail Polish

What are you looking at?
Growing up, my best friend Lori and I had virtually matching sets of toys: Fisher Price Little People and accoutrements, Baby Crissy, Quick Curl Barbie (without Mod Hair Ken), etc. (Looking back, I'm struck by the veritable childhood riches.) I feel like plucking the Barbies from my garage right now and heading over to my sister's house toute de suite. If only it weren't too late for me to go outside and play, the streetlights having come on and all ...

In fact, after I rented this house, I had to wonder how much of my decision stemmed from it reminding me of my first Little People residence. Then I drew some rugs on the floor and plates on the table, and I was set!  OK, I'm joking, but wouldn't that be funny?

Anyway, my mom was faced with a dilemma: When she called me home for dinner, how was I supposed to figure out which toys were mine, and which were Lori's?

Quite simply, she dabbed a spot of nail polish on the bottom of my toys.

Fast forward a couple or three decades.

Following my dad's death in 2005, I found myself with a few pieces of my mom's china, but not enough for a table setting. So I took to the vast promise that is the Interwebs and tracked down as many pieces of the Silver Clover design from Japan (is anyone else tickled by china coming from Japan?) as I could find.

I thank my OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) for this. Also in the name of OCD, after it all arrived, I felt the need to set Mom's "real" china apart from its step-family.

What do you think I did?

And that's how polish made an authentic Polish Easter dinner for my brother, sister and me.
Mom's china on the magic table

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Girl Just Hangs Out With the Governor

Me and my boots! (Oh, and the governor
 there in the background) 
A new project at work necessitated a meetup with the governor this afternoon. 

I'm used to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, with their super-sized egos playing limbo with the doorway to the publisher's conference room, while their hard-muscled body guards skulk in the lobby. Statesmen overseeing more than 38 million people (the population of Poland) in 58 counties and 29 area codes.

Comparatively, Delaware has fewer than a million residents -- about the same governed by the mayor of San Francisco -- who I  ran into daily when I worked in City Hall covering the Board of Supervisors for the Chronicle. (And whose security detail includes my SF condo building's co-owner, who saved my life ... but I digress.)

Here, we've got three counties, ONE area code and no need to add letters to our six-digit license plates. (I bet if you check you can get your first name on a vanity tag.)

In short, it's hella fun!

Here's how the intro went, more or less:

Our exec editor: "This is Suzanne Herel, recently from San Francisco, but she's a native Delawarean ..."
Guv (interrupts): "Oh! Where did you grow up?"
JAG: "The Binns."
Guv: "The Binns! Did you know ..."
JAG: (Thinking: He's going to bring up Ken Burns)
Guv: "Ken Burns lived in The Binns?"
JAG: "Yes, three doors down. He played baseball in my backyard with my brothers."
(Sprite, sitting next to me, whispers, "You know Ken Burns?!")
Guv: "He comes back now and again, he just lived there for a short while ..."
JAG: "Yeah, I think he moved away when he was 12. ... And you went to Newark (High School) with my sister."
Guv: "She was in my class?"
JAG: "Yes. In fact, she was in here earlier this week. You've had two Herel women in one week!"
Guv: "My mom still lives in the Oaklands, I grew up in Windy Hills."
JAG: "Oh yes, of course."

Then we got on with our program.

You cannot swing a toothpick in this state without hitting someone who knows someone you know.

Loving it.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

News in, and of, My Life This Week

"Sometimes, you can just smell a
shitty day week on the way, can't you?"
I started my work week last Tuesday morning by accidentally dropping a capped plastic bottle of diet Dr. Pepper on the floor of my cubicle and then -- mistakenly thinking it would be safe to open since it was half-empty -- spraying my entire desk with soda.

It was pretty impressive, actually -- it spewed in a beautifully symmetrical arc. What could I do? I threw back my head and laughed. And then went to grab paper towels.

Sadly, I returned to find my ergonomic keyboard on the DL.  I unplugged it, drained out the Dr. P. and placed it, in a hopeful manner, upside-down to dry out, while turning to my laptop to work. (UPDATE: The "o" key stopped working. Who knew the utility of a full keyboard would be dependent upon a single letter? One reporter (O'Sullivan) suggested it was a conspiracy against the Irish.)

Apparently, this set the stage for my week.

Wednesday morning, as I was putting on my makeup, Bear cat jumped up on the vanity and, with a flick of his tail, upended my container of loose dark brown eye shadow. Onto my white tile floor. Did I say brown? And white? And loose? Right.

I wiped it up, set off for work ... and got lost.

I was daydreaming, I guess, taken by this random cemetery located on a splinter of land in Belvedere. (Not to be confused with Marin County's town of the same name.)

Upon arriving at the office, I passed one of my favorite reporter's desks and said, "Sprite! [Really, I'm not a soda fiend; she's truly a legendary elf-like creature.] I got lost on the way to work!"

To which our new hire from Louisiana responded, "I feel your pain."

Sprite piped up and said, "No, she's FROM here!"

"But I've been gone for a LONG TIME!" Hrmph.

Meanwhile, I was dealing with an ever-worsening sinus infection (collateral damage from the eye-gouging scene of the Oct. 10, 2009, drama, "The Man Who Tried to Kill Me"). What's that? Go to the doctor, you say? Well, I would, except I just signed up for benefits and my health insurance has no record of me yet.

Oh, and then I get an e-mail from my SF tenant saying he'll be leaving my condo. Holy mortgage payment, Batman!

But enough of this woe-is-me. Because first of all, the above-mentioned thriller reset my "Delighted to be here, God, thanks again for that" attitude, and I'm really just having fun with it.

Secondly, I delighted in my reporters this week. I was thrilled that my nomination for an in-house quarterly award was endorsed for the teamwork of Esteban (Stevie P.) Parra, Melissa (Swell Mel) Nann Burke and Sean (Gumshoe) O'Sullivan in their tenacious ongoing coverage of the so-called Courthouse Shooter.

Thirdly, I was reminded that serious horrors befall other unsuspecting people every day.

On Thursday, we got word from the state police that two girls, ages 14 and 15, had stuffed an 89-year-old woman who'd been kind enough to give them a ride into the trunk of her own car, where they kept her for two days before letting her out -- in a cemetery, where she was found crawling on her hands and knees because she was too weak to stand.
Margaret "Bad-Ass" Smith

A lively debate ensued among the editors about whether we should name the juveniles. Even though the police do, The News Journal doesn't, except for egregious crimes.

There were five in all: Two boys had joined the two girls, and then another girl had been picked up after they let the woman go. No one was older than 17. One of the boys had prior charges (in fact, was on probation) for a home invasion last summer. [An aside, what the hell is it with these kids? And should their parents be held accountable?]

My stance: Hell, yeah.You want to act like adult criminals? You get treated like adult criminals. Name the suckers.

Our executive editor agreed. The only girl we didn't name was the one who was picked up by her friends after all the mayhem had gone down.

So, that was my week. Always trying. Never dull.

And increasingly delighted to be Just a Girl in Delaware.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Some Small Things to Notice About a Small State

On the right track? One hopes so.
It's not that I don't miss San Francisco, especially my friends, the food and the pool atop UCSF Bakar Fitness Center. But after spending seven years feting the city in this blog, I feel compelled to spread the love. 

With that lazy introduction, some observations about my "new" home:

1. It is blissfully quiet.

My first apartment in SF was directly across the street from an active firehouse (don't get me wrong, LOVED the firemen), and above a stop sign on a diesel bus route (that roar of acceleration, not so much).

And while I delighted in the moan of the fog horn at my most recent place, I never have had a chance to appreciate such quiet. The two things I hear, I love: The sound of trains clacking by up the street, and the chime of church bells on Sunday morning.

2. People -- not just men -- hold the door open for me. Everywhere I go, I find this. Why it is, I have no idea. But since it's a pet peeve of mine when people don't look to see who's behind them, I appreciate it.

3. Fresh mushrooms. No, not those! The regular kind. I always know they're local.

4. Plain old 'room! I have so much space in this house that I can lose things, or misplace my jacket, or have to look for the cats. My sister can't even hear me calling to her sometimes to tell her to do something for me in another room. Well, maybe that's a drawback ...

5. Which leads me to No. 5: my sis and bro! It is an unprecedented decadence to be able to drive by my brother's street on the way to work, and my sister's on the way home. (Ever have that feeling that going one way to someplace is the shortest path, while returning in another is the best way?)

And that is something that would have tickled my parents. And so, on the 23rd anniversary of my mom's death, today, I offer up this post as a small thank you. For everything.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ladybug, Ladybug, Fly Away Home ... Oh Wait, That's Here!

Your house is on fire!
OK, first of all I feel compelled to point out the horror inherent in Mother Goose nursery rhymes, Grimm fairy tales and other bedtime fare  employed to "soothe" our entry into this world.

We had shoes serving as Section 8 housing for women with scads of children,  little match girls freezing to death on the street because if they went home, their fathers would beat them and -- lest we forget -- babies being rocked in trees ... until the bough broke, when everything went to hell.

But I digress. And thank the authors of these tales for my ensuing affinity for such shows as "Tales from the Crypt" and "Night Gallery." And don't forget the John Saul and V.C. Andrews books ...

But I digress. Again. Damn it!

Must be the ladybugs.

For Pete's sake, does Delaware have to be so cute? I just want to squeeze its toes sometimes. What's our state bug? Yeah.

Ever since 1974, when second-grade teacher Mollie Brown heard that neighboring Maryland had a state bug, and the fight was on. Deciding among crickets, mosquitoes and ladybugs, the kids went for the spotted beetle, and House Bill 667 legalized their preference.

I happened to be in second grade at the same time, just some miles north in the same state, so I missed the vote.

But now I'm living the history.

Instead of roaches (thank god) or ants (at least not yet), my new home is shared by ... ladybugs. It truly puts me in the mood of A (Disney) Smile and A Song when I am greeted by one of these buggers while I'm doing dishes or brushing my teeth.

One of my (I know it sounds cliche but I just love them) wonderful reporters, Molly Murray, explained the phenomenon. While the ladybug *is* our state bug, the Japanese C7 invasive species has horned in on the honor. And they bite! And look for cracks in your house to crawl in.

I should have noticed when they went after my sushi.


I don't like sushi.

I actually don't care where they're from, I still feel like dancing around the house in a dress borrowed from Disney. NOT Mother Goose. I don't have a death wish.