Only Connect

Very soon, according to futurists, technology will have advanced to the point that life will be all but unrecognizable to us. Soon, whole phones will exist in their earpieces. Then we’ll be getting them implanted just under the rug of our scalps and be beaming our thoughts to everyone of our friends and voila! An end to individual consciousness.

And with that an end to all Envy, Covetousness, Anger and maybe the rest of the Seven Deadly Sins too, based as they all are in obsessions over who has what and how much we see as rightfully ‘ours’. Just think: mutual ongoing awareness of how it is for the other guy! All joy: shared! All sorrow: instantly felt! Birthday cards valentines, holiday cards: no longer required! Sounds like the afterlife eh?

In the meantime though what can we do to feel less marooned, each in a slowly failing vessel, each trapped in the present moment, this one, then this one and this one?

Well…. we can talk to one another.

Here are three super-short exchanges I had in just in the last 24 hours:

  • At the fast food joint, the young woman waiting on me breathed deeply, then kind of lifted her ribcage up out of her lower torso. “Does your back hurt?” I asked her. “Ugh, all of me hurts! I play sports. But yes, my back does hurt. They say I have scoliosis” she said, making a sad face. “A surprising number of people have some degree of scoliosis but they can do much these days.” I said back. “Plus you’re finding out about it good and early.” “I know! I just have to finish growing and then they’ll see” she said with her dazzling young smile.
  • An hour later at the electronics store the man processing the paperwork for my new TV looked up when a small child trotted past in a pair of twinkling light-up sneakers. “I want shoes like that!” he said. “They’re all I’ve ever wanted!” “Me too! For those special nights out!” “For tripping the light fantastic!” he said. “But they STILL don’t come in my size!”
  • And an hour after that I was in line at the Post Office and called out to Wendy (at the window on the left) to ask how her beloved birds were. She called “Hi Honey!” and gave an upbeat answer. Then, when I brought my package to Sam (at the window in the middle) he shouted, “TT! How you doing TT?!” because he knows that’s what my family calls me. He knows because I must have told him once.

It’s good to tell things, I think. I say let yourself be known, by as many people as you run into in the course of your day and you’ll feel just fine and dandy – until that great new era comes when we experience the Spock-like ‘mind-meld’ said to be just up ahead and waiting. And then: Heaven itself! (maybe!)

Vulcan mindmeld time

Healthy as a Horse

Sometimes you just don’t want to get on that treadmill. Most times actually. I can think of a thousand other things I’d rather do than get on that thing. Yesterday for example I sewed up a hole in the fingertip of some gloves I never even wear – they smell like onions no matter how much I wash them – and THAT kept me away from the treadmill for a whole hour.

They’re great gloves and I have like eight pairs of them, bought on the Internet and hoarded away because I’m pretty sure they’re no longer making them.  I also love the way you’re supposed to clean them: you just put ’em on and then wash your hands in your favorite liquid detergent. It’s as easy at that and every time I do it I think “THIS is the way to bathe a baby: just figure out a way to put the baby on like a hand puppet!”  Or even if they just came with a terrycloth handle on the back.

These are the things that are too weird for me to say in the paper but there’s evidently nothing you can’t say in The New Yorker. In the latest issue here’s Tiny Fey using the F-word right alongside all the fancy ads like the one for that mystery camp that shows a close-up of a 12-year-old boy staring fixedly into the middle distance. The F-word! In the piece she’s agonizing about whether or not she should have another child and finally says “Maybe I’ll just wait ‘til I’m 50 and give birth to a ball of fingers.”

See, she’s funny AND she’s willing to put herself in a bad light: a girl after my own heart. I tried to take up swearing ten or 15 years ago but I was too old for it; couldn’t get the hang of it at all. Plus it wouldn’t really fit with my image as a person who only uses the Mother Teresa stamp on her bills and letters…..

I could go on but I turned the treadmill on like 40 minutes ago and then wandered away to get a bottled water before getting sidetracked by you guys here, and that’s sure a waste of electricity! Better go turn it off and read more of this New Yorker. 🙂

(Note the old guy in the background. Dangerous practice!)

Makeup or No Makeup

It’s probably best to let yourself be photographed warts and forget all vanity. My Sixth Grade school picture showed me with such a bad case of chapped lips I looked like a circus clown. I didn’t care. I had just gotten a dog  and that dog was all I thought about.

I think of Martin Schoeller who does these outsized close-ups of people, using none of the tricks photographers usually use to soften the blunt facts of the human face. They’re fascinating. Take a look at Christopher Walken here. The key to so many of his roles has to be that upper lip that Nature hiked up crookedly on him.

And was Bill Murray actually trying to be funny in all his movies or did we laugh because of the odd mixture of that tentative smile and a certain hapless look signaled by the tilt of his eyebrows?

I put Martin Schoeller’s photo of Brad Pitt up here a few days ago and now here’s his lady:

Look at that face! She is one beautiful woman and kind too, as I hear (and to  those people who nastily suggest  say she is working out old issues in rearing six children under ten I say  what is anyone doing but exactly that?) As a child she wasn’t all that pretty as you can see . It just goes to show you: by the time you’re a grownup you really DO have the face you deserve.

A Family’s a Family

A heavy news week, from the earthquake in New Zealand to that crazy despot with the bad perm firing on his own people in Libya, but then came word  that the government will no longer pursue the fight to ban same-sex marriage. I have to say that made my day.

A full year before equality in marriage became the law in my home state, the church I belong to declared that same-sex couples were more than welcome to their have nuptial ceremonies  in our sanctuary. This vote, to be what the United Church of Christ calls “Open and Affirming,” was unanimous and heartfelt, a milestone that had special meaning for David and me especially since not one but two members of our family were to be the first to take our church up on its offer. The place was packed as these four took their vows, two brides exchanging rings with each other and two grooms doing the same.

When, in time, I wrote a column about the day I received almost 100 letters, a good 97%  of which were positive. One person wrote, “When people of good will stand up for love and family, oppression will subside and love will flourish.” Another confessed that there were times when he still “found it hard to conquer [his] prejudice.  As the discussion on gay marriage went on I was in support of civil unions only. I did not want to ‘demean’ my own traditional marriage. But the more I thought about the gay people I know, including friends and family, I knew that I was not being fair.”  I still have the transcription I made of all these letters, pages and pages of them.

The photo above is from the little jewel of a documentary  A Family is a Family is a Family. I challenge you to watch this 47-second clip from it and remain unmoved. Talk about “A little child shall lead them”!

Just Keep Eating

I finally realized what the party-hearty Spring-Break college students remind me of: little kids. It’s all the throwing up that comes with the  body shots and drinking games. The Technicolor Yawn, that’s what they call it when someone vomits.

Just now I was rereading the diary I wrote when my kids were little: Technicolor on every page. In one 24-hour period when our oldest was in nursery school she threw up  12 times between 10pm and 2:00 the next afternoon. According to the diary she was still so miserable that night that we set up a card table in the living room so we could be right beside her while we ate our supper. She snoozed away there on the sofa in her Strawberry Shortcake Nightie, rescued in this way from the terrible isolation of the sick.

She’s a big girl now of course and I just wrote her an email to report this fascinating bit of  news from the 80s.

She wrote right back.  “Yes, I’m afraid David gets his propensity towards throwing up from me,” she said. (David is her youngest child, age three, while his older brother Eddie is a just-turned seven.) “He sometimes throws up at the table, then keeps right on eating. Eddie freaks out.”

“Ha ha ha, REALLY?” I wrote right back. I love stuff like this.

“Yup. Eddie runs away from the table screaming as you can imagine.”

You forget when you’re sitting around deciding whether to read yet another dry article in Newsweek or go start the darn dinner what life is really like for the parents of small children, but old diary entries and news reports like this sure bring it all back.

Part of the time it’s like this.

But a whole  lot of the time it’s like this.

No Fool Like an Old Fool

Around 5 o’clock on Monday Facebook decided it was sick of me and my stupid  birthday. Up until then it was meekly reporting that this one and that one had written on my wall and I’d go and read “Happy Birthday Terry!” again and again and how nice was that? Later it just seemed to be saying, “Okay 60 people wrote on your wall, all right? Can we just leave it at that?”

But I was still happy. I loved getting all those greetings even thought by rights birthdays should  bring up weird stuff  for me what with that  phase I went through at 18 where the worse a guy acted the more determined I was to learn his birthday and send him a card. Who knows what I was trying to do there. The only thing our mom ever told us kids about our long-gone dad was that he let his brother use him as a doormat so maybe it was the doormat gene coming through. What can I say? I was young and trying to improve the whole universe through outlandish gestures of maidenly love.

But back to Monday: The birthday greetings that really killed me came from two former students: One said “Happy Birthday Mrs. M! Still a babe!” (So chivalrous and so untrue!) He was a boy taller than all the doorways with wonderful blond curls. The other came from this kid always loping in late to class, pushing his glasses up on his nose and smiling like it was Christmas morning. His comment: “Happy Birthday! Thanks again for friending me!”

But oh, you Boy-with-the-Glasses I am so glad I found you again! And you, Chivalrous Tall-Man! And you Marianne from the fourth seat in the middle who found ME! And you Christine in the row by the clock and you Jean with your delicate bones and you Sharon who I never actually had in class and you Paul and you Tom who went into the Air Force and of course you Michael who could tell even as young as you were that under my brave teachery line of chatter I was as shy as you were.

Sigh. I’ll admit it: I cherish  my friends on Facebook, which is probably silly. I know it’s all supposed to be light and fun and ‘omg!’ and ‘lol!’ but there it is. The more greetings came in Monday the more “seen” I felt – and accepted and yes even understood . I just loved  everyone’s shout-outs and especially the ones from  those former students to their teacher in room 334, who never found another job she loved as much.

even now when I drive by I want to go in  and teach a class

Hi-Def Birthday

I had a birthday and got an actual TV as a present; went and ordered it Friday and here it came last night. It’s for the kitchen, to help me get through the next 40 years of meal prep. The delivery guys tromped in and set it up when we were all digging into Chinese take-out. “This is so exciting!” our visiting First Grader kept saying to them. “Sure is, Sport!” said the really muscular one in the watch cap and earring. They had been going since 6 o’clock that morning they said and here it was 13 hours later – and they still had two more deliveries. They took the old 1985 set and boy was I glad to see it go. It made me feel like I was already on my deathbed the way I could never get it loud enough; the way it was slowly dimming the picture down to cocktail-lounge level all the time.

My daughter-in-law Chris programmed the sleek new baby and that was a present right there.  Programmed it, set up the DVD player, the VHS player, the Super Nintendo from 1991 which brought the two TV guys to the brink of nostalgic tears. (Please no laughing at my ancient technologies!) Chris and Carrie gave me a gorgeous scarf, Annie gave me some tall rubber boots that are cool and practical which I wore all day today right in the house and the little guys made me a hand-lettered card that looks like a ransom note. David went to two different Chinese takeout places to satisfy everyone’s whims and here I am the morning after in my awesome boots and my scarf ready to cook up a storm in front of a televised image so sharp and clear all the men on the screen look like they need to quick go shave again before the paparazzi show up and paste their poor ruined faces all over the news.

Here’s one of them now, a less ruined specimen than some. And under him, well, that’s  me in my new boots and my latest dye job . I never got dressed the whole day. 🙂

Mama Bear on the Move

Nature, that big old mama-bear, is starting to wake up. Who can doubt it hearing those winds? It was almost 60 for two whole days around here last this week. Not much melted. The picture here on the left shows the view from our kitchen window after this latest dusting last night.

And this is the view from inside the Pilates room at the gym I go to four times a week. We’re still cave dwellers there as you can as you can see. It’s often hard to see progress but I guess that doesn’t mean  there isn’t any; the parents are the lasts one to know when their child has grown an inch, right?  It’s because they’re too close.

Anyway by the weekend temperatures had dropped 30 degrees so we felt less teased.

Also the wind was so fierce it pulled the top one of our trees off hurled it like a javelin and planted it right-side up in the snow. See? It’s the spindly one.

But ah what the wind did with the last light dusting! 45 miles an hour and it waved those veils of snow around like an exotic dancer might do. Click on this and see if you don’t agree: that mama bear Nature may still be snoozing but she’s GOT to stirring now!


Happens to the Best of Us

Lately I’ve turned into some kind of softie; I don’t know why. Certainly in my days as a high school teacher I was no pushover. There was no mouthing off in any of my classes, no smirking, no muttered comments. And didn’t my husband and I make a solid no-nonsense parenting team when our own kids came along? But something has sure happened in the last few years and it seems to me it began around the time our oldest child began having children.

The two little guys were recently here for a sleepover. They arrived at suppertime.

First, at my suggestion we whipped a pint of heavy cream, ladled it onto some sugar-dusted berries and went to work with our spoons, only later moving on to the chicken, the veggies and the rice.  Then, after eating, they experimented with climbing the stairs toward bed by handing themselves along the narrow margin OUTSIDE the railing.

We did the bath and brushed our teeth, one of them standing on the lid of the toilet to do so. (That was the little one.) I then put him in his pjs, read him three books and tucked him into his crib.

There, I sang to him, kissed him and started heading back to the living room  – only to turn around and find him calmly following three feet behind me, his little blue blankie clutched in his hand. He had simply climbed back out; gone over the wall so to speak.

“Daaavid!” I called to my mate who was by then reading Harry Potter bedtime stories to the six-year-old.

“Let’s try switching kids,” he said and scooped up the escapee to bring him back to his crib, leaving me with the older boy who, sated for now with the hijinks at Hogwarts, fell to asking me a great many questions.

At one point he looked at me in a searching way and asked, quite out of the blue, “Where is YOUR mother, TT?” (He named calls me TT.)

“Ah! Well, my mom is gone now, but oh, she was a great one!”


“I guess because she seemed to get such a kick out of us kids. She was 20 years older than most of our friends’ moms and maybe that was why. She had ….perspective.”

“What’s perspective?”

“The ability to see things for what they are, sort of. Also she seemed to know when to let a thing go. Plus she never got mad at us, not really. Like this one time she tried chasing us with a hairbrush to spank us, though she’d never spanked anybody in her life.

“Around and around the dining room table we went – it was like a Tom and Jerry cartoon – until finally she stopped short.”


“Because she was laughing so hard. I think she suddenly realized how she looked, a woman 50 chasing a couple of little kids. ‘You young hooligans!’ she yelled and then laughed even harder, which made us laugh too.

“Also, when I grew up and had my own babies and brought them to her house? she sort of let them do whatever they wanted.”

He paused briefly, then said “That’s how YOU are,” in just that frank first- way and there it was, talk about from the mouths of babes: the change I could not until then identify with my dessert-first, use-the-stairs-like-a-jungle-gym, why-not-lie-around-talking-all-night ways.

It’s so simple, I now see. All that happened was…. I became a grandma.

Monkey on Ya Back

This faded old photo to the left is me trying to smoke on the last day of camp the summer I was 14. People were packing, and later, after the weepy rituals of Candlelight Ceremony and Good Night Circle, the friskier kids would climb onto the cabin roof and gorge themselves on contraband sweets obtained by “sneaking out,” darting down the road ducking behind trees and bushes to get to the corner store.

This was the only time I ever tried tobacco.

(I’ve cropped the picture to spare people the sight of a child coughing her lungs out.)

Since I seemed to be focusing on health topics here lately let’s round out the week with some observations on smoking from a site called here I learned all over again that smoking:

The funny thing is, in time all this happens to non-smokers too. I work so much with dyes and woodstains my fingers are always pigmented strangely and I have to tell you all of these other conditions are fast becoming mine as well.

To see pictures of all  of them just click on the colored hyperlinks above. Have a look, then ask yourself if  you wouldn’t just as soon stick with your more harmless obsessions like tweezing your moles and watching dumb TV.

(because it’s tough to have just one :-))

and because it’s not this easy to quit