Monday, March 31, 2008

I Miss My Mom

I don't remember much of my mother's physical presence.

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

Match.com, You're So Fired; Smoke Alarms Scare Me; Loose Nipples?

I am posting this quite recent photo of me (yes, it's in a bar during daylight hours, you have a problem with that?!) to assure you, dear reader (IS anyone reading this?) that I do not have a second head, nor a pumpkin-sized goiter and that, well, for 40, I must say I'm not a bad-looking gal.

So why is it that NO ONE is interested in me on Match.com, and more importantly, WHY are men in Egypt and India all of a sudden "winking" at me and wanting to make my acquaintance? (Oh, this is just so sad.) Take "Sasasababy," a 47-year-old man in Ad-Duqqi, Egypt, (who, by the way, is looking for women 24-35), who describes himself:

iam man wants agood woman like childrens and good housing very buity and no make any problems want to life in pease, ia good man high income and want to life in
smooth and comfortable , ai like childrens very mush.
As for his politics, he claims "ultra conservative" and as for his date, "I do not drink alcohol."

Hey, Sasasababy, did you READ my profile? Really.

In other news, I have consumed every single last black jelly bean in my Easter basket, sent to my by my sister, because only we know what a proper Easter basket consists of. I sent her one as well, and when she opened it while on the phone with me (she's in Delaware) said, "Hey! I know for a fact that Reeses peanut butter eggs come in a pack of six! There's only five here!" Well, of course I ate one, and felt guilty about it until ... I received my Easter basket (they crossed in the mail), which contained only four of the aforementioned sweets! "Hey!" I said. "I know for a fact these come in a pack of six! Did you eat two?" "Of course I did," she said.

Furthermore ...

I HATE having to get up early. I hate it even more when my smoke alarm decides to go off at 5 a.m. because the battery's dying. I climbed up on a stool, wrested it from its electrical connection and removed the battery. AND IT STILL CHIRPED! A dying little chirp til it finally fell silent, as I stared in horror. Clearly, smoke alarms are living, breathing beings, most likely alien (and most definitely evil), sent to spy on us (coincidence that they're often mounted in the bedroom? I think not). I mean, sure, they save lives, but at what price?!
Finally, an exchange. I won't say who with, but she roomed with me in college and lives out here, too, and her initials are V.L. A professional, sophisticated woman. From her I received this e-mail today, titled "Something I Need to Share":

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
ear?

I LOVE that she knew I would appreciate this. Thus ensued an IM session that went something like ...

Me: Hey!

V: Did you get my e-mail?

Me: Yes, I LOVE that you know I would appreciate that.

V: Yes!

Me: It's like a good poo!
V: Yes! Dinner Saturday?

Me: Yes! Pacific Cafe?

V: I am getting my brows shaped, I will want to show them off!

Me: Woo hoo!

V: About 7, 7:30?

Me: Yes, P.C. will be good, as it's in walking distance, and I'm sure to have taken a tipple by then.

V: I'll have to make sure your tipple doesn't turn into a topple!

Me: Or a nipple! I don't need a third one, afterall ...

V: Or a loose one.

Me: A loose nipple?

V: Yes, they're a real problem.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Little-Known Fact: I Participated in the '84 Olympics

Yep, that's your Girl, back when she was Just a Girl in Delaware. I won an essay contest at the Girls Club and got to run a kilometer with the Olympic torch. I still have it -- and that fashionable ensemble -- as you actually just pass on the flame. A rare shot of me with Marmee and Poppy!

(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

Preacher Dies in Accident Involving Goat

Bopping around other newspaper Web sites this a.m. for a project I'm involved in, I came across this story from the Tennessean.

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.

and
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

I Peeped And I Purloined

(Photo and theme boldly, unabashedly and unapologetically stolen from my new favorite blogger, "Anne Nahm," with inspiration credit given to Shaken Mama for turning me on to this brilliance.)

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.

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.

In closing, I am off to the flea market before all the good fleas are scooped up.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Ides of March

Today is the day, 18 years ago, that I got a call from my sister that my mother had died. She'd been in a coma since the previous Dec. 17. I will always "beware the Ides of March," the day Julius Caesar was assassinated.

Speaking of superstitions, did you know that Otis Elevator Co. estimates that 15 percent of its buildings omit the floor 13?

Be careful out there!

I miss you, Marmee!


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

People Are Lovable Because of Their Frailties

That's what Shaken Mama's sister told me once, when I was newly post-divorce, and feeling imperfect and eminently unlovable. In his resignation speech today, Eliot Spitzer said something that reminded me of this, which was:

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.)

He Ain't Heavy*, He's My Brother

*At least he better not be, or this mother's going down.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Thought Medley (No MSG)

Why can't I get Fergie's Big Girls Don't Cry song out of my head?



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!

And ...
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

The New Thing in the Haven Household, Etc.



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

Me & My Pleo

Well, actually, it's not mine, we'll have to give him back -- journalistic ethics and all -- but here, as promised, is the video of me and Pleo (I'm not "Hello" the kitty; I'm the technology editor):

http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docId=-5520145595364062386&hl=en

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

Thought Medley ...

I saw a video of myself today, interacting with the eerily lifelike Pleo. One of my reporters wrote a story about the new, pricey ($349) critter, and one of my other reporters (who's preggers! Yay, Ellen!) nabbed one from the flaky PR person to videotape with her cat (named "Hello"). It arrived yesterday, and we went into the multimedia room to "wake it up." Thereupon, my maternal instincts kicked in (who knew?), and I was quite the rubber-dinosaur-lovey-mommy. Ack. I can't help it! Anything remotely critter-esque or baby-like, and I'm like, "Ooooooh." Never one to shy from shame, of course I will post it here if my cameo makes the cut...

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?

Stay tuned.

Why Do Police Pursuits Happen Only in L.A.?

I can't help it, my eyes are riveted to the TV screen, which is showing a stolen white SUV running from the cops. It's all very polite and courteous, with the stolen SUV generally at least slowing at the stop signs and never speeding too far out of the sight of the pursuing police officers.

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!