Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
More to the point of this entry, however, are my parents, and how current events are making me miss them more than ever.
First, my dad was a political sponge. He taught me to vote, every time I had a chance. This will be the first presidential election for which he will not be around to vote. And damn, I miss what he would have to say about it. Surely, he would be attracted to the idea that Joe Biden (my take on him here) finally made it on the executive ticket. But would it be enough to sway the vote of my WWII veteran father?
Secondly, though my lovely mom passed away in 1990, I can't help but feel her presence as I contemplate the Phillies entering the first World Series since 1980, whose games I watched with her on TV.
Mom, Dad -- I don't think either of you realized how much love you sowed. I miss you. But you are still with me.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Here's the weird thing: I feel vaguely guilty about the whole thing! Is it my Catholic upbringing? My lingering Polish pessimism?
I mean, it just feels so weird to have undergone such a -- really -- miraculous transformation in literally less than 15 minutes.
I'm waiting for the other cornea to drop ...
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Here's what I gleaned: Mom's dad was from Minsk, now in Belarus, and her mother from Vienna. They came over on "the boat" when he was about 17; she was several years younger. I have no idea if they knew each other before they sailed, or met on the vessel. He apparently was illiterate, and an agent at Ellis Island gave him his last name, I imagine based on how he pronounced it, as it would have been written in Cyrillic.
My dad's mom was born to Polish immigrants; his father came from Warsaw. My dad knew Polish. I never learned, but he was proud of his heritage, and early on I became familiar with the Polish eagle, which adorned his license plate (in Delaware, you are only issued a rear plate and can put whatever you like on the front). A miniature Polish flag flew on my dad's desk and his tie tack. I joined my parents on annual pilgrimages to the Shrine of Czestochowa in Doylestown, Pa., and shared "oplatek" on Christmas Eve. You can imagine my father's pleasure at the election of Pope John Paul II, the first Polish pope.
On my recent trip to visit my sister, we made a pilgrimage to the Shrine and fell in love with it and all things Polish. Separately, apparently, my brother also had been investigating his Polish roots. And, he placed me on the mailing list for a catalog of all things Polish. How convenient.
I began this post with my reverance for my Polish roots, because from here on, it's going to sound like I'm poking fun at them. But only in the "I-can-make-fun-of-my-sister-but-you-can't" kind of way. Because while I find these things about the catalog hysterical, they endear me even more to my people, because this makes it even clearer that Poland is from whence my DNA came.
I will start with the date of the catalog I just received: Winter 2007/2008. It's August. Well, I figured, it is rather an arcane subject; perhaps they just don't publish often. So I looked on their Web site*: There was an Easter 2008 catalog. Which they didn't send me; instead, shortly after receiving the first catalog from last winter, I received another one. For last winter.
This catalog is so juicy, I spent several minutes on the cover alone. Beginning with the free gift for those who order at least $100 worth of items: A Polska dog tag, retail value of $14.95. Limited to the first 750 orders. Now that, my friend, is an incentive to purchase!
Then there are the hand-painted turkey eggs, which, the catalog says, are "Made from real turkey eggs!" (Well, I wasn't inclined to doubt you, but just the same, glad to know there's truth in your advertising ...)
Being a religious culture -- and, well, it being the (last) Christmas catalog and all -- in addition to the egg ornaments, we have our pick of a variety of creches (that would be a manger scene to you uninitiated). Ah, here's one now, perfect for the eco-obsessed Californian: A creche handmade out of natural products. "The artist uses wood, plaster, paper, bark, moss and selected grass planted for hay." That suits me -- I can't tell you the number of hours I spent in my childhood picking plaster. Good times.
As you may or may not know, Slavic folks tend to be a tad pessimistic. (As my father used to say, "I'd get excited about this good turn if I didn't know the other shoe was going to drop.") Hence, the "Typhoon sub clock," originally made for the Soviet Navy's nuclear subs and warships -- until the Reds fell on tough economic times. The catalog folks "cajoled" the factory into making "a few just for us," and voila! you, too, can own a clock that can "survive depths to 2,000 feet" as well as "depth charge concussions." That takes a load off my mind (you who have heard me snore will understand).
Indeed, there are a number of military replicas -- some authentic -- including "East German Police Submission Handcuffs" (incidentally, now banned for German police use). Ah, the good old days! When these cuffs were used to subdue "troublemakers" by "non-lethal" means. "With a quick flick of the wrist and a sharp twist, even the most obnoxious hooligan comes along quietly." Come to think of it, these might be of use on my reporters ...
Another tempting item is the "2 way Polish Army telephone," with whose discovery I began to doubt my dad was really Polish, as my engagement wasn't really necessary for most of our conversations. But I digress. If you choose to purchase one of these items for $29.95, be assured that, "All phones are used but are in good condition. These are probably in working order but are not tested."
Again, being a religious culture, we have our page of rosaries. The descriptions make it easy to pick which one I want: Only the Amber Rosary can be used "for all your praying needs." I, for one, am tired for having a separate rosary for everything.
And what's a rosary without a rosary box to keep it in? May I suggest the "Mary feeding" motif? Yes, that would be Mary breastfeeding the infant Jesus. (If you are taken with this motif, but already have a rosary box, you might want to take a look at the silver-plated wall mounted icon of the same theme.)
But let's get down to brass tacks, so to speak, and flip to the crucifix selection. Here, I am happy to report that two of the three models offered are "ready to hang on your wall." Which is a relief, as it was a real downer to have to hammer in the nails myself on my old one.
But wait, there's more. I would say in one-quarter of the items, the catalog either ask you to "please allow us to select a color for you," or -- in the case of hats -- a size. After all, "Who am I to know what I want, or expect to get what I pay for?" (said in Eeyore voice.)
Indeed, the catalog pulls no punches; it even warns that your item -- once they pick it out for you -- might not even arrive intact. Take the "Spider of Straw" decoration. "Although we pack carefully to minimize movement, some crushing may occur," the description reads, adding, "Size is approximately 16"x 28", but may be different." ("I'm lucky to get what they give me," my inner Eeyore intones.)
Then comes the order form, which addresses "limited quantities and copy errors," advising that "All prices and discounts listed may change at no further notice," but you're responsible for whatever the "correct" price is.
Oh, and all defective merchandise? Must be returned in "factory condition." Um, if it was in factory condition, I wouldn't be returning it! Of course, in any case, expect to pay a 15 percent "restocking fee." To put the defective merchandise back on your virtual shelf, to sell to someone else?
The takeaway: Choose what you want; you might get it, might not. It might work, might not. Might be at the price listed, might not. Might fit, might not. And if they permit you to send it back, you'll have to pay them.
As my friends and I say ... Only a Pole.
Still, I can't wait to see what they pick out for me.
* What, you think I'm going to give you the URL? And have the first 750 Polska dog tags gone when I order? What do you take me for? A Pole?
Monday, August 04, 2008
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Roo: "Is Moam a mommy?"
Roo: "Is she a grandma?"
Roo: "What IS she, then?"
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Sunday, June 15, 2008
It was a very hot August night in Boston, and all of our friends in the Emerson College graduate writing program had been waiting in my tiny, un-airconditioned studio apartment for several hours for us to return from our yummy Ethiopian dinner. Apparently, there had been several false alarms, upon which dozens of party-goers had rushed to hide in the bathroom, a la clowns in a Volkswagen. Did I mention it was hot? Well, there's a reason that aggressive crimes increase in the heat.
By the time we arrived at my place and I lured her inside saying that my cats had a present for her, the guests were ready with some hot, pent-up aggression.
SM walked in to hordes of people screaming "Surprise!" over and over in the same tone one would yell "Hang 'em high!" Flash bulbs erupted, and one of our dearest friends, whom we affectionately had nicknamed "Stinky Boy" or "Stinky" for short, given that he smelled like antiques, accosted SM waving a wooden spoon in her face.
(Don't worry, she got me back on what I believe was my 35th birthday, when she arrived at the restaurant with a specialty cake in the shape of a clock. A biological clock.)
In any case, I digress. This post is about my most recent foray into surprising the crap out of people, in particular my wonderful sister, D., whose birthday was June 6. I had decided to fly back to Delaware to surprise her, knowing she would be home that weekend because she was having work done on her house. But I wasn't sure of two things: 1) How would I get her to open her front door around midnight? and 2) Would she consider having me around for four days a desirable surprise?
My brother, always up for a clandestine adventure, fetched me from PHL, and we hurtled toward our target in his delightfully airconditioned Tahoe, accompanied by the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack.
When we arrived at D.'s neighborhood, I called her on my cell phone, ostensibly to share a silly cat tale, for which she didn't have a lot of patience, as it was late, she was tired, in bed and would have to get up early to greet the contractors. I got out of the car and began walking toward her house.
Sensing my window was short, I asked her if she had received my birthday delivery from UPS. No, she said. It's really small, I persisted -- maybe it was put inside her screen door or in the mailbox? I just checked the Web site, I said, and it listed it as delivered. And I don't want it to be out all night -- it's something of Mom's.
OK, OK, she said. Let me put some pants on and go look.
My victory was shortlived, however, as she peered out her dining room window, caught a shadow of me and said, I think my neighbor's out there having a smoke or something. I don't want to open the door.
Just then, my brother walked up. Should I knock on the door? he mouthed. Yes! I nodded.
Now someone's knocking at my door! my sister said. Crap.
Why don't you answer it? I asked.
That's easy for you to say! she said, clearly peeved. You're in San Francisco. I'm all alone.
I'll wait on the phone and call the police, I said.
Crap, crap, crap, she said. All right. Stay on the phone.
Of course, I said, switching positions with my brother.
The outside light turned on, and I trained my video camera on her door, which opened slightly.
Surprise! I yelled, and began laughing maniacally. At which point, my intentions of preserving her reaction for posterity crumbled, as I forgot about the camera in my hand and started flailing my arms and stamping my feet, thus capturing the reaction of her mailbox (upside-down), the bottom left corner of the threshold and everything except my sister's face, in an uncanny resemblance of the Blair Witch footage.
Saturday, June 07, 2008
What Delaware has all over San Francisco:
* My sister, the birthday girl
* My dad's old temperamental cat
* Hot weather and sunshine that can actually tan you
* No sales tax
* Parking places
* Bing's Bakery
* The Italian Festival
* OLD cemeteries
* Brick buildings
* Grotto's Pizza
* The Deerpark
* Dunkin Donuts
* Long, loud freight trains
* Some of my favorite friends
Speaking of ...
Yesterday, I met my old friend Moam (who is the coolest, she's a probation officer AND mother of 3) for lunch at Applebee's in Middletown and she brought her adorable daughter Roo, the one who nearly lost her life to neuroblastoma. (Pictures of Roo and Moam to come when I return to SF.) Whereupon Moam shared this exchange that made me laugh so loud I think I embarrassed her. (Sorry, I can't take me anywhere! At least I didn't snort iced tea out of my nose...)
Roo is 5 now, and lately she's been asking her mom questions about death, which -- given that she was so close to it two years ago -- were more poignant for Moam than the average mother.
As related by Moam, an exclusive Roo moment, brought to you by JAGID, a subsidiary of JAGISF:
"Mommy, where we go when we die?"
"We go to be with Jesus, honey."
"Oh. So, we go home?"
(At which point Moam is touched and impressed by Roo's precocious understanding of a spiritual "home.")
"Yes, honey, it's like going home, being with Jesus."
"NO, Mommy! I mean, when we're done dying, do we come back to our house?!"
Monday, May 26, 2008
My girlfriend Kathy and I would ride our bikes up to the Unitarian Church the Girls Club rented, an airy space set back under a cool canopy of trees. Later, it moved across the street into some classrooms at West Park Place Elementary School, where I had attended kindergarten. Still later, it raised enough money to build a brand new facility not far away.
As I grew from a girl to a teenager to a college student, I went from being a member to a counselor to a part-time employee. I won writing contests there that helped finance my college tuition, took me to New York (where I kissed a mime, but that's another story) and gave me an opportunity to run with the Olympic torch.
I'm still on their mailing list, which is how I came to know about a book called If I’d Known Then: Women in Their 20s and 30s Write Letters To Their Younger Selves. Generally, I don't truck with these type of Chicken Soup for the Soul genres, but after checking out some of the women interviewed, I was impressed with some of the wisdom it had to impart. And it put me to thinking about what I would have to say to my younger self.
Knowing the stubborn girl I was, I feel a bit better knowing I wouldn't have listened to myself anyway and would have made the same mistakes. But maybe the exercise will channel my 60-year-old self (if I am fortunate to live that long), or at least remind my 40-year-old self of what I think I have learned that makes my life so fulfilling. So here goes, in no particular order.
Life isn't fair. That's not a good thing or a bad thing; it just is. The sooner you come to terms with that fact, the sooner you will appreciate your life for what it is, and stop judging it by its inadequacies.
Pray every day, even if sometimes you're not sure who's up there. And when you do, start off by saying "Thank you" before asking for anything.
You are beautiful. Trust me.
You are smarter than the average bear.
You are entitled to nothing, but you have the privilege of becoming anything you want to be.
You are younger than you think you are, and you are never too old to learn something new.
More people love you than you think.
Forgive yourself. No one is perfect, but believe it or not, your frailties make you loveable.
Delete the word "should" from your inner dialogues. Replace it with "can."
Wherever you go, there you are. It's just different scenery. And speaking of scenery: Pay attention to your surroundings. At best, it will help keep you safe; at the least, you might see something interesting.
Don't ever do something just for the money.
If you're unhappy with your situation, change it. Don't stay with a partner, a job or a living setup that is bad for you. Before you know it, you will have spent more years unhappy than you were happy with it. And you're not doing anyone else any favors -- they have a right to pursue their happiness, too.
Enjoy the ride, not just the destination. And take pictures.
If you are ever absolutely convinced of something, consider that the opposite might be true.
You are all you have. Learn to love yourself, and the rest will follow. The universe doesn't care whether you are happy or sad. So why bother feeling sad?
Laugh a lot, especially when you want to cry.
Walk on the beach, dip your hands in the water and taste the salt.
You will fail. People will leave you by dying or walking away. You will have moments of great sadness when you feel you can't go on. You can, and you will. And don't let the specter of loss keep you from trying or loving.
Life is short. Appreciate the small things. Breathe, and be.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Knowing that my ex-husband and an ex-boyfriend worked at Wired, I didn't have to hook up a newer ex-boyfriend with the older ex-boyfriend to get hired on there as well.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
If this chick tried to do this sitting next to me, I'd wrap the cord around her neck, saw off her hair with one of the plastic knives that accompany the overpiced Sky Chef repasts and steal her bracelet before being tased by an air marshal.
The airline industry appears to be unclear on the concept of its core mission: getting passengers from point A to point B, preferably on time and with working toilets.
I don't need to check my BlackBerry, or play a video game, or talk on my cell phone or style my hair. And I don't want any of the other sardines in the can to do anything, either, except sit there quietly, keep their kids away from me and refrain from farting.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Saturday, May 03, 2008
My dad, who was Polish, admired Pope John Paul II, the first Polish pope. Somehow, between the myriad pictures and literature I grew up with in the house, and the fact that my dad and the pope kind of looked like each other, I felt their fate was intertwined. When the pope became ill, I felt a strange sense of foreboding. When he died on April 2, 2005, something told me my father was not long behind.
For my dad's birthday a month later, I wrote in his card, "Isn't this cool: You're 83 and I'm 38!" When I spoke with him on the phone he said, "You know, you're wrong -- I won't be 83 until next year."
I had a superstitious pang: He wouldn't live to be 83.
That June 6, my sister's birthday, she took my dad to the doctor because he was so weak, he couldn't get out of bed. Four days later, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer that had started migrating up his esophagus. The doctors told him he wouldn't live more than six months.
I was shocked. I shouldn't have been -- after all, at 82, my dad had outlived the average life expectancy, as well as everyone in his immediate family. But he just always seemed too damn stubborn to die.
Growing up, I didn't like my dad much. He was eternally pessimistic, seemingly unengaged with my life and always said "no" to whatever I wanted permission to do. He could be manipulative and mean. In general, not a pleasant presence to be around. I wondered what my mother -- who I viewed as a saint -- ever saw in him.
After my mom died in 1990, my dad started to change. It wasn't overnight, and he remained set in his ways til the end of his days. Or maybe it was I who changed, and stopped wanting to force him into the mold of the father I had in mind, and instead started to understand and appreciate who he was.
Whatever I did, he supported me. When my boyfriend moved in with me in North Carolina, he simply said, "You know I don't agree with living together before marriage, but I'll always support you."
When I moved to Boston for grad school, when he would have preferred I move closer to home, he lent me money and support. When I announced my engagement to the boyfriend I'd lived with in NC, he opened up his checkbook and happily paid for my modest wedding. When I moved to San Francisco, he told my sister that he didn't want me to feel lonely, and so dropped notes in the mail to me every week; my favorite ginger snaps at Halloween; Valentine's candy; and my favorite Reese's peanut butter eggs at Easter.
He would end every phone call with, "If you ever need anything, you just let me know." He nicknamed me "Bootsie" (with the emphasis on the "Boot") and liked what he called my "big laugh."
A wise professor at Emerson College, poet John Skoyles, once advised: "Whenever you think you are absolutely sure about something, consider that the opposite may be true."
And so it was: After a life of missing and mourning my mom, it turned out that my dad -- who I had so many arguments with, who I disrespected, who I tried to change, who I couldn't understand -- became the man of my dreams, the man who I would admire out of all men, and who I would miss, every single day of my life.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Not valuable items, at least in the monetary sense. But objects that anchor me to my life, and more particularly to my past -- a past that I feel some kind of need to prove existed through a daisy chain of tangible objects.
I bury my face in a pink velour robe -- which still has a Hall's cough drop in the pocket -- that hangs on my bathroom door and think, "I had a mother. She wore this robe."
I sit in the teal blue 60s armchair my dad had in his bedroom and think, "My father sat in this chair in the morning and read the Bible."
I look at the Fisher Price Little People police car and its driver on my computer at work and think, "Once, I turned 6, and I had a birthday party, and my parents bought me the Little People village."
I look at this picture of my brother holding me when I came home from the hospital and marvel at the fact that in my home now, I have that end table, the mail rack on the door and the black ashtray there by the lamp.
It's the same reason I love going to the flea market -- to see the things that other people carried, and compare them with my own.
So maybe I'm not talking about things in the dictionary definition. Because these material objects do harbor life and consciousness -- my own.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
"I have determined it is your responsibility to go with us on our road trip up to Oregon because it's your fault that my child is so afraid of flying -- out of nowhere. Why is she suddenly afraid of flying? I know! Because she's YOURS!"
Saturday, April 12, 2008
* I painted the town fuschia with niece Katie and her friend Kurt last night. She was born the summer before my senior year in high school. That feels like yesterday, and yet, now I'm partying with her in North Beach! She is the most delightful girl, a nanny in New Canaan, Ct. My sis done good. After dinner at Figaro, we hopped to Specs with some of my friends and her very cool companion, Kurt, then ended up in the middle of a lively police situation (as spectators, silly!), before I put them up in a nearby hotel. I, myself, conked out at my friend's pad in North Beach (he who dubbed me Stella Haven!) and had a pretty freaking amazing breakfast with a bunch of denizens of Caffe Trieste at Mo's. Then I picked up the Portable Dorothy Parker at City Lights bookstore. Sweet. Meanwhile, Katie and Kurt ambled down to Santa Cruz to dance on the beach.
* The temperature was in the 80s today. I ran for an hour on "my" beach (which was crowded with too many muggles for my taste), then washed my car and took a nap. Ahhh. Now, I'm waiting on a pizza!
* I admit it, I'm addicted to Facebook. But now, I also have fallen prey to catster.com. Where I have set up a profile page for one of my cats (Stosh will get his, don't worry). And guess what? Vesper's already been FRIENDED. What's up with that?
All right, gotta run, pizza's here!
Monday, April 07, 2008
* My cat Stosh's head tips to the left, so that he's always looking quizzical. So much so, in fact, that the cat rescue named him "Tippy." He also has a funny meow that sound more like "Ayow." Add to that the fact that he does not like to be picked up, and gets antsy when I move to pet him with two hands, not just one, and I have come to the theory that he was injured by someone clenching his throat in their hands. How lovely is it, then, that he actually seeks out my hands, to rub him on his snout. (Just one hand, though. Two, and he knows he can't escape, might even be picked up.) I love that he trusts, and even is drawn to, the objects that may have caused him harm in a previous life.
* After running for an hour on the beach this a.m., I went to Louis' for some French toast, scrambled eggs and a vanilla malted milkshake. And I swear I wasn't imagining this -- the very cute cook, who is quite YOUNG and is a cross between James Dean and Willem Dafoe, was flirting with me! Could I possibly be a cougar?
* I woke up this morning at 8:37, which is my favorite time in the world because 837 is my favorite number in the world, because 837 Lehigh was the address of my childhood home. I have the number plate from my dad's house on the inside of my front door, and I look at it when I'm stretching in the morning to run.
That's all, folks. Sorry, V.L.!
Saturday, April 05, 2008
As I did so, it struck me: I was placing a smart phone in a pocket that was created when cell phones and the Internet didn't exist, at least among the common population.
It got me thinking back to that year, when I was a junior at the University of Delaware studying English literature and journalism and working as an intern at the Wilmington News Journal. I was living with V.L., the earwax artist, in Southgate Aparments, and having one hell of a time.
Imagine being a reporter before the age of faxes and cell phones and the Web. Yeah, we actually had to go get documents, call information, knock on doors, track people down.
In 1988, I had a Radio Shack Tandy that had no hard drive; I inserted a floppy disk to install a word-processing program every time I used it. It was connected to a daisy wheel printer that never worked quite right.
Our phones had cords; CDs were new, and mostly we listened to cassette tapes.
And I had dreams.
I was to be a magazine editor in New York, with a red convertible '67 Mustang.
Previously, in my adolescence, I had aspired to be (in no particular order) a go-go girl (I didn't know what it meant, but saw the sign on the way to visit my aunt in the city); a nun; a spelunker (before I realized I was claustrophobic); a jet pilot (before I realized I was afraid to fly); a cop; a firefighter; a cosmetologist; a best-selling author; and a stay-at-home mom with lots of kids.
In high school, I realized I could write. And I realized that the only sure way to make money at writing would be to become a journalist.
So I did.
But now, I can't help wondering where the life I dreamed of went.
My close friend Shaken Mama and I have an inside joke where one of us will say, "I thought it was different!" And the other will say, "No, it's just like this."
I recall a wonderful piece that was published -- I thought it was the NYT but now I can't find it -- by a woman who married a man who developed a brain tumor and died. I read it about the time SM and I were deciding whether I should accept Mark's offer and move to California and get married. This author said she didn't think she would ever get married, and she felt like her alter-ego, the woman who didn't get married, was the persona stuffed into her back pocket.
I have often felt that way: There's me, and then there's where I thought Me would go.
I thought it was different.
But no, it's just like this.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
I had just returned without incident from lunch and was about to enter the building. I reached out to open the door and an opportunistic gust of wind lifted my skirt to the heavens.
That's right, lunchtime at Fifth and Mission. Total Marilyn Monroe. What could I do? I laughed.
Two reporters were coming in behind me (emphasis on "behind"), and we had quite a chuckle. The male reporter lamented that it was all too quick to catch on his camera phone.
Thank god I didn't do laundry last night, or I would have been wearing one of my new thongs!
Sometimes it pays to be lazy.
Monday, March 31, 2008
She began fading for me when I was about 10 and she was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, a condition of which I knew nothing until a few years later when she began losing her ability to do things, like walk and talk and maneuver silverware at the dinner table.
Looking back, I remember her getting the call from the doctor on the black rotary phone in the den, which was mounted on the wall by the cellar door so that one could stretch the phone cord into that area with the washer and dryer and pantry and freezer and shelves of old toys and Christmas decorations if one wanted privacy. She did. Then she came back to the couch where I was watching TV in my pajamas, to the sofa upholstered in beige fabric adorned with vibrant bluish-purple grape vines and green leaves and tiny flowers.
I remember her hands.
I can picture her crocheting on the end of the couch, with my head in her lap, watching Laverne & Shirley or Happy Days or Bosom Buddies or Nancy Drew or the 11 o'clock news with funny weatherman Jim O'Brien (who would die on a skydiving outing and whose daughter would play on Frasier).
Mom (or Marmee, as I called her, inspired by Little Women) would take a skein of yarn, wind it into a ball and place it inside a tupperware container, threading the end through a hole she would cut in the lid to keep the yarn moving freely without tangling as she crocheted afghans for each of her six kids. When she was through, she would sew a tag on the corner: "Made with love by Mom."
I slept under mine last night. It's my cat's favorite item; we call it "Nana's afghan."
I have her hands. I crochet, and I look at them and think, these are my mother's hands.
When she wasn't crocheting, she would rub my back as I lay with my head in her lap, listening to the noises of her stomach. She would scratch my back with her strong, long nails painted rose pink and then pull down the hem of my top when it rode up.
If you look at your left hand and can see the veins, you'll see they make a "Y." Mom's veins on that hand were raised, as are mine, and I would press my finger down the stem of the Y to make the veins part and then fold back together. It made me laugh, and she liked that.
My mother was no stranger to hospitals, which she hated. Whenever she was in the hospital and visiting hours were over, my sister and I both wanted to be the one to touch Mom last. This led each of us to "forget" something in the room that we had to run back for until we reached an agreement: We would both put a hand on Mom and then say, "One, two, three!" and raise our hands together.
When Mom died, and at her viewing it came time for me and D. to say goodbye, we knelt on the kneeler, looked at each other and put our hands on Mom. "One, two, three!" we said, and laughed a tight laugh with tears in our eyes.
These are the things I remember about Margaret Sczubelek:
She liked Chuckles candy. No matter how bleak the situation, she found something to laugh at. In tough situations, I was always to remember that it would be over. And to always do something constructive while waiting. She let me have licorice for lunch. She liked black, pink and yellow jellybeans. She answered the phone by saying "Yallo." She liked crossword puzzles and mysteries and adored us kids. And she was very proud.
Before she died in 1990, when she was in a coma, I had a dream that I was at her bedside. She was telling me that she wasn't afraid of dying, but that she would miss me so much. And she worried about me.
I told her I would be OK. And I was.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
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And you are the only person I know who might appreciate it! I enjoy cleaning my ears with Q-tips – I admit it. I’ve noticed that my left ear has been “gunky” the past few days. And then today, when I cleaned it, I pulled a big glob of brown stuff out of it with what looked like a gnat in the middle! It was fascinating, albeit gross.
So – any interest in getting together Saturday night now that you know about my
Friday, March 21, 2008
(Added bonus: The Pinto in the background and the Phillies fan on the bike. You just know he had a mullet.)
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
It is very sad. But a hell of a story! Not sure which has more "whoop" factor, the tale or the comments, which include these morsels:
Real country folks know that things can happen very quickly in a situation like this.
It would depend on what the person was doing with the goat. ... The thing I learned was that if you aren't doing something you're not supposed to be doing, there is very little problem.
Reminds me of one of my former editors here who used to joke that my goat "wasn't tightly tethered."
A colleague raises this valid question: "How the hell does a goat, with no opposable thumbs, hog-tie a human? ... Seriously, think what would happen if cats had opposable thumbs. It would be like raising a bunch of monkeys in your house."
While I couldn't find a photo of a true monkey-cat, this one that came up in a Google search struck me as cute enough to share.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Don't think I don't recognize what an assclown move it is to create a blog entry of my own based solely on someone else's humor. But I had to share this hysterical entry about why Peeps (which fascinate me) are evil. On other evil notes, I want to program my computer to say, "What fresh hell is this?" whenever I log on to my Match.com page to find that all the men who I've put my heart out on my "wink" for have viewed me and passed. As my colleague at work put it: "Online dating opens up a whole avenue of rejection." Whatevs.
All Peeps that die on Good Friday return from the dead Easter Sunday. Jesus Peeps? Hardly. They return as Zombies-Peeps. These Zeeps will hunt you down and eat your brains. And then, they will steal your eye. And look at you with your own eye.
In closing, I am off to the flea market before all the good fleas are scooped up.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
I go forward with the belief ... that as human beings, our greatest glory consists not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
I still love you, Mr. Spitzer -- and I'm tired of people criticizing well educated women for standing by their men. Life is complicated. Human beings are even more so. We've all wanted to do things we shouldn't. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't. But god, I sure would hate a world where everybody was perfect. How boring would that be? (Not to mention I'd be out of a job.)
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Meanwhile, if S.F. is ever annihilated, I hope special care is taken to preserve the couple of blocks around 21st and Geary Aves (because yes, the world revolves around me). It has everything I could ever want: Sakana Bune sushi with the floating boats (which I'm always tempted to load with a mysterious note for another customer down the counter); Moroccan treasure Aziza; Ton Kiang, where I first had dim sum on my first visit to S.F.; my current dim sum haunt, as it's cheaper, less crowded and just as good, Lucky Fortune; the incomparable Shlomit Heller and her Beauty Network; my favorite UPS store, where the owner recognizes me and all the crazy flea market finds (often military helmets) that I send my brother; and last but not least, the Moscow and Tbilisi Russian Bakery, where I snagged two cheese blintzes for $2 on a trip to the post office this afternoon to mail my sister's Easter goodies. Added bonus: All the cute Russian men in track suits that frequent this area. My Slavic genes salute you!
My alma mater, the Catholic Church, is continuing to bumble along in its attempt to win friends and influence people with its newest additions to the Sin List: pollution, mind-damaging drugs and genetic experiments. My laywoman's understanding of this -- with 12 years of Catholic school under my belt, mind you -- is that 1) Since you must be absolved of these sins by going to confession, you might as well rack up as many as you can before you take the time out of your busy day to enter the creepy confessional; 2) If you don't confess, you're destined to burn in hell; 3) Survey says 60 percent of Catholics don't go to confession. ... Which brings me to: Hey, Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti! Is there no more room in Heaven? Or are you shilling for the devil?
Monday, March 10, 2008
I bought "the boys" a window seat for Christmas and just this past weekend got around to installing it (hey, at least I'm not as bad as the neighbors who finally put their Christmas TREE out on the curb yesterday).
As soon as Stosh (the gray and white loller) began humping it, I realized I should have gotten two or None at All, so intense would be the rivalry of who gets to use it and when (the hours of sunlight being difficult to predict, this being the Outer Richmond and all). And the fact that -- who knew -- there actually is such a thing as having too much sun on the perch, at which time it becomes wholly undesireable to all occupants (at these periods, the jury is split over whether the earth-toned, geometric-patterned rug nearest the perch is preferable; or whether the rag throw by the sink is the place to be).
In any case, the boys have brokered a complicated peace agreement that should be envied by warring nations. It involves choreographed licking, synchronized napping and a short sprint through the apartment and into the bathtub -- where it is optional to deposit a cloth mouse or ball -- generally around 3 in the morning, a blessed hour when (usually) the amorous couple upstairs has finally fallen asleep.
In other Stella news ...
Match.com continues to disappoint, but I have developed a wicked crush on a checker named Geff at the Safeway;
I found a 1928, hardback copy of Don Marquis' "Archy and Mehitabel" for $1 at the flea market yesterday. It's really hysterical -- the premise being a man reincarnated into a cockroach who lives in the New York Daily newsroom and at night jumps on the typewriter keys to create his lowercase poetry (he can't navigate the shift key). He has a friend, a cat named Mehitabel who also is reincarnated, and who he wishes would get on the stick and kill the rat that also inhabits this fanciful universe: a reincarnated poet who continually critiques Archy's work;
It strikes me that ants -- which I continue to battle -- are like children. All they want is the sweet stuff. No interest in eating their (or my) vegetables;
And finally, (remember, I love bad TV), I recently caught an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians (whoever the hell they are) in which the family is trying to quash some pictures posted on the Web of one of the teen daughters having sex with her boyfriend. The FBI is called (our tax dollars at work) and the scurrilous offenders are tracked down, much to the delight of the mother, who says to her girls: "We've learned our lesson. What is that? TRUST NO ONE." Um, how about, "When your sister asks you to take pictures of her and her boyfriend doing the beast with two backs, Just Say No"?
Friday, March 07, 2008
Sorry, can't get it to embed, but the link should work. Note: My hair is up, I didn't cut it.
Also note what Ellen, who is more than three months pregnant, offers the Pleo: A dry-erase marker. What do I offer? A boob. Girl, you're gonna have to get your maternal on! :)
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
In other news, my staff was tickled by my obsession with today's L.A. car chase. (I thought I was going to get fired for a) boldly moving our 2:30 meeting to the conference room next to my TV-enabled office and b) straddling the doorway as we talked shop so as to catch all the maneuvers of the purloined SUV.) One of my most dry-humored colleagues announced upon the chase's completion that a collection was being taken up to buy my me own "spike strip" with which to engage my fantasies of Saving Mankind...
Why can't Girl Scout cookies be available all year round? It would definitely be better for my figure to mete them out on a year-round basis...
I have a lunch date with my first Match.com fella tomorrow. Is it too scary that he revealed in our first conversation that he was taken by my TOES?
Then, of course, you have the helicopter cameraman following from above, and the commentators warning (dare I say hoping) that "anything could happen at any moment."
OK, WHAT is the guy in the SUV thinking? He's going to run out of gas SOMETIME. And police are like ants! Dude, there's not just one behind you, and they're communicating with each other. Your ass is so behind bars.
I have a lot of questions, people. Worse, I have a meeting in six minutes. HURRY UP AND CATCH HIM!
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
My sister and I still share horror stories about Dr. Collins. He made us fear the dentist so much that I went seven years without a checkup when I became an adult. (When I finally screwed up the courage to go to another dentist in N.C., that doc had to prescribe me Valium for all my visits.)
This was the man who filled my many cavities (my mom distrusted flouride treatments); pulled my incisors to give me braces (yes, I literally gave my eye teeth to this character); inserted painful spacers between my teeth; cemented on braces and then cranked them every few months; extracted my wisdom teeth; and did it all with a poor chairside manner and some foul breath.
Oh, and whenever I cried, he slapped me. Let me tell you, those lame little plastic spiders and whatnot he gave from the prize basket when you left were not worth it.
It didn't help that I had a wicked, unrequited grade-school crush on his nephew. Love -- and dentistry -- hurts.
My current S.F. dentist, who I adore, believes that the roots on my two front bottom teeth are dead because of the force with which Dr. C. "corrected" my overbite. Then again, I do like my smile, so I guess Dr. C. wasn't totally evil. Maybe he had some goodwill hiding in his pinky fingernail.
Anyhow, visiting the dentist for my six-month cleaning yesterday made me wonder: Why do I care so much about pleasing the dentist? I mean, every other doctor you go to, you go because something's wrong. My pee looks funny, I have a temperature, I can't stop coughing and, oh, what's this odd rash on my stomach? But no, at the dentist, you're supposed to show up perfect: brushed, flossed, rinsed. And if you're not, there's the interrogation: "How often do you floss? What kind of toothbrush do you use? Do you smoke? Hmmm."
Hey! I'm paying you! Only my personal trainer gets my money for giving me grief.
But because I seek to please everyone, regardless of whether I hate them, or pay them, or don't even know them, or even if they're dead, mind you, for the past six months, I've been using my Sonicare toothbrush (a gift from my brother for my 40th birthday, don't ask); flossing; and rinsing. I was ready.
For the first time in my life, I could report truthfully that yes, in fact, I do floss daily. And something I've been doing has had some results: my gums have gotten healthier.
Though satisfying, the visit was strangely anticlimactic. Deep down, I think I was expecting a little plastic token of appreciation from the prize basket.
If I need ya, Dr. C., I'll call ya!