Your Kids: They Judge You

Soap-bubbleTell you what: Admit nothing to your grown children, for they will surely judge you. Here’s a scene that took place at my house last weekend:

It was midnight up in the country and my grown child and I were just straightening things up after watching a House of Cards episode when, standing under the light that hangs over the dining room table, he suddenly went “Whaaaat?”

What what?” I said.

“What is THAT thing?” he said, indicating a tiny sphere bobbling about in the warm currents of air. Think of a snow globe that a home-décor-minded mouse might set out in his hole come the holidays.

 “Is it alive? Is it attached to something? The ceiling?” he said. He passed his hand above it. No thread, or web, or filament held it.

He let it land on his hand and touched it. “It has… body. And – ew, it feels greasy. But it’s not a soap bubble….”

Just then it burst, as I was trying to take it from his hand into mine and we knew that’s exactly what was.

“But what’s a soap bubble doing way over here? And at this hour? I mean where is it FROM?’

I swallowed. I knew what was coming and so armed myself in my breeziest manner:

“Oh earlier tonight before you got here I just put a bottle of Dawn in the blender.”

There was a silence followed by that mild look of incredulity your grown kids always give you when they question your choices.

Why?” he finally managed to say. “Why did you put a bottle of dishwashing liquid in the blender?”

This time I went for a jaunty matter-of-factness. “I was dyeing it,” I said.

“Dyeing the dishwashing liquid? OK, Mum: This is a whole new level of crazy, even for you.”

“Not at all,” I countered. “I dye all my liquid soaps if I don’t like their color, hand soaps, bath gels, all of them. Dad bought this transparent dishwashing liquid and it just looked so dull to me and I mean, who wants that? I want a dishwashing liquid with a nice deep-amber color. So I add food coloring, one drop of red, two drops of yellow and there we are!  Only tonight they didn’t mix right in the bottle so that’s why I poured the whole thing in the blender.”

“But what happened when you did THAT? It didn’t spill over?”

“Oh it got a little foamy. And when I poured it back into the bottle it had this ‘head’ at the top, like you get with beer: just this layer of tiny peach-colored bubbles. So I left the cap off and I guess that’s how one bubble got to where it was still floating around two hours later and 20 feet away.”

 I smiled at him, with my most confident smile.

“I don’t know, Mum,” he said, shaking his head.

I suppose the guy does realize that I’ve been dyeing my hair since he was in kindergarten but maybe not, and who knows? By the time I’m on my deathbed I may also be found to have a giant tattoo splayed all across my midriff. I may just.

 But hey, I say we should all ‘decorate’ any way we please, because it’s so cheering. 

Just ask that mouse with his little snow globe. 

Don’t Let Go Girl We Got a Lot

World Premiere Of "The Hulk" - HollywoodThis last was a week when I was really dragging myself to the finish line, but then as if waking from a long bad dream, I suddenly woke up to find myself at a concert by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

The ‘Seasons’ themselves, those handsome lads in their clingy black tees, weren’t even alive in ‘70s, whereas ol’ Frankie came into the world LONG before that – he turned 80 this past May – and as I peered down at him through the swivel and play of lights all I could think is I’m watching Al Pacino prowling the sage as Richard III. 

Seriously? I thought. That’s really his voice? Doing the stage patter between songs he was now and then gulping bites of air but then when it came time to hit the rafters in that high falsetto he seemed to be doing it.

Or maybe he wasn’t doing it I don’t know. Milli Vanilli you could be mad at for lip-synching that album; it was right that they got laughed off the bus, but who could be mad if a guy 80 used technology to add the more curated version of his voice or the mix, tracks laid down in some studio when he was in vigorous mid-life.

Anyway they were great. Any crowd anywhere loves What a Lady what a Night. A beefy 40-something guy in front of me kept leaping to his feet and dancing a happy arms waving jog that from the hips down was strangely dainty and ballerina-like. Mean people shouted at him – I guess they thought it wasn’t that kind of concert  – and certainly his little ten-year-old looked embarrassed but I liked the guy and admired his zeal, every time he stood to do his little jig, only to sit down again, looking pained and embarrassed by the cruel shouts directed at him.

I finally patted his shoulder by way of reassurance. I couldn’t help it. Though I am no longer much of a stander OR a dancer at concerts these days. I was once, I remember that. I remember at my first Elton John concert with my hair down my back in a kind of Princess Leia-style full-length dress I had just bought to accommodate that first baby, quietly growing inside me. 

Big Girls Don’t Cry was great, and Sherry Bay-ay-bee Sherry was too of course. But for me the night hit its peak when Frankie took the mic and sang his first solo hit My Eyes Adored You, which made me think how we were all young once, and how someplace, on some other plane just out of the range of our dim, dim sight, we all still are.


Posted in Uncategorized

Get Up. Get to Work

writers-blockHere’s another kind of call to arms, as rousing to me as that guy in the last post warbling out his a cappella version of the Marseillaise. I saw it yesterday on Brain Pickings Weekly, a wonderful site that serves up great plate of food for thought every Sunday. Go here to see.

It featured Leonard Cohen and his work habits as a songwriter, which were are interesting in themselves – but what I really liked was the trouble the website’s authors took to gather up what other writers and musicians have said about so-called inspiration:

Composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: “A self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood.”

Novelist Isabel Allende: “Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too.”

Painter Chuck Close: Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

Author and essayist E.B. White: “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope: “My belief of book writing is much the same as my belief as to shoemaking. The man who will work the hardest at it, and will work with the most honest purpose, will work the best.” (And may we correct the old notion by adding the woman who will work the hardest will also work the best.)

The dailiness of writing – and I write every day, for publication may seem to some like a terrible burden. And sometimes when I am in one of my sad places, it seems that way to me – until I sit down and start tapping away when, like a sweater pulled over the head and quickly turned inside out , it becomes not even just a pleasant task but a pure and certain joy.    


Let’s Go INFANTS! (as an American Might Translate It)

IMG_3416♫ Allons enfants de la Patrie, Le jour de gloire est arrive ♫

My 84-year-old friend Lois threw a Bastille Day party last Monday, which was attended by seven brave people capable of generating enough gill action to swim through the air as thick as wet clay to find their way to her house. They were: the friend she met at Oxford in the summer of ’52 and her nice husband, on the board of a nearby Art Museum; the teacher whose classroom was right next to Lois’s in their years at the local high school; a professor from the local University; and Lois’s nephew who was visiting for a few days on his way to the can-only-get-there-by-boat island off the coast of Maine where his family has been going for decades.

One guest brought a dozen note cards imprinted with a moving photo of a crowd surrounding General De Gaulle in Paris 1944 after that amazing city had at last been taken back from the Nazis. In this picture everyone in the picture looks deliriously happy, even the General himself with his long cowcatcher of a face. Lois had three kinds of wine, a chicken salad and a potato salad she had made herself. One guest brought a large bowl of cut-up fruit so colorful it looked like a mound of precious stones. Another brought a peach-ish velvety fruit punch that made your taste buds cry out with joy, which was a good thing since the improvised limeade I made and brought tasted like battery acid.

And then there was this lovely cake.

The wine didn’t see that much action where it was so hot out, and in spite of the window unit in the living room, most of us were sweating like teacakes, as Harper Lee said regarding those southern ladies come summer in To Kill a Mockingbird.

We sat in chairs around the table instead of at the table, kind of up against the walls, which gave the thing the feeling of a visitation as much as of a meal. Actually it felt like a salon as we spoke of books and art and French history. My sole contribution was to recall the first chapter of A Tale of Two Cities where Dr. Manette gets released from his miserable cell in the Bastille –   only I couldn’t recall a single other thing about the man afterward except that he was the father of Lucie Manette whoever she was, my mind being such an echo chamber of forgetting lately. 

Then at Lois’s instruction, copies of the words to the Marseillaise were distributed. She started us off in her bold alto voice and away we went. We got clear to the second verse, and, finding us wholly unfamiliar with words and somehow the music as well, declared the effort a success and went at the cake.

Good day. Good company. Now let’s hear this lovely version and count our joint blessings as co-believers in 
Liberté! Égalité! Fraternité! (and possibly have some cake if we can find any equal to this gorgeous one pictured above.)

Hit the Floor!

1 out coldIt’s fainting weather again.  

If you’re an old fainter like I am, you’ll TRY blaming the weather when you faint anyway, even knowing perfectly well that there are other factors leading to your smackdowns.

If you’re a fainter, you know that you can faint under all kinds of conditions: You faint if you get too hungry. You faint in religious settings, whether it’s the airlessness in the place or the staying in one position that turns the world so suddenly black. If you’ve been fainting since childhood, you will remember how quickly you became a small rumpled pile of clothing under the pews, and how large male hands would haul you out by your armpits and make for the door as your little feet dragged on the floor behind you.

It gets embarrassing if you’re still fainting well after childhood of course, and the memory of this embarrassment is so vivid that each time you start to feel even a wee bit odd in a public place, you’re sure you’re about to go down like the Titanic.

You also faint when you get scared. That’s what made me faint at 14 when a mystified old-time doc, believing he knew how to remove my two very small warts, drew a small blowtorch from his bag and came at me with it. He burned twin holes on my forearm whose scars I have to this day. Plus, it hurt like crazy, so add that: You faint when you’re in pain. You faint at bad news.

And you really do faint when the weather gets muggy, as I did in a department store at age 19, only to wake and see that all new male strangers had dragged me away by the armpits – because you can’t have insensate young women interfering with commerce.

There’s a predictable physiology to the faint, naturally: You faint due to a reflex caused by one of the above-mentioned triggers. Then the blood vessels in your lower extremities dilate, and blood pools in your legs. Then your heart rate slows, your blood pressure drops and – boom! – you have left the premises, or your consciousness has anyway. it seems that this vasovagal syncope as such fainting is called, only happens when you’re standing or sitting upright. It never happens when you’re lying down.

I read all this on the web just last month in a posting that said how useless it is for people to try holding you up, even IF they add in the additional treatment of yelling in your ears or slapping you. It also said that trying to fight off the faint “by forcing yourself to remain upright, willing yourself not to pass out almost never works out very well.” 

Get down before you fall down, in other words. And so I’ve been doing that, and also elevating my legs once I’m down there, which is also helpful evidently.

I get leg cramps at night, see. So now instead of leaping up and making desperate pogo-stick-like hops around the room, I plop down on the floor and put my legs up on the bed.

Last weekend, when I did this for the first time, my bedmate woke and saw the soles of my upturned feet by his ribcage. He peered over the bed’s edge at me.  “What on earth are you doing now?” he said in his mild way.

 A good long time we are married but still: he will never truly comprehend the swoon. So I just smile dup at him and said, ‘Oh nothing. It’s fainting weather is all.”



The Hunch

I’m at the office of the massage therapist who has started by placing me face down on the table and running the heel of her hand like a plow-blade around the edges of the two kite-shaped ‘angel wings’ we call the scapulae. And in fact I do feel like a patch of plowed-up earth, the way she digs into me, but finally she stops. “There!” she finally says with satisfaction. “NOW your shoulders are up on your back again where they belong!”

I’m calling today’s post ‘The Hunch’, for what we’ve been doing to our poor bodies ever since we first stood upright and began sashaying around on two legs. 

Once our ancestors spent their days running across open spaces and handing themselves along among the tree branches. Every day they reached high above their heads, shoulders back and chests open. Today by contrast, at work and in leisure-time both, we spend our days hunched over screens and devices. Our arms in front. Our shoulders rolled forward. Our backs, quite noticeably, hunched. Right?

hunched againAnd our bodies pay the price,  as I am learning on this table.Twenty minutes in, with my dorsal side ironed flat, the therapist flips me like a pancake so I’m now face up. Then, coming in from the side, she begins working her way through the filo-dough of tissues under my left arm to address that strong rubber band of a muscle known as Teres Minor.

She presses. I leap like a fish. It’s worse than electrolysis. Worse than getting your mustache snatched off. Worse even than that time in childhood when, on a dare, you popped a wad of  tinfoil in your mouth and bit down, just to see how it felt on your fillings.

While a person generally signs up for that last experiment only once, with massage therapy you’re there as often as you can scrape together the dough, the  ‘vividness’ of the experience notwithstanding.

Deep work on little Teres Minor can be tough to receive, sure, but really? It’s worth the pain. As with the other three muscles of the rotator cuff, it lets us circle and swing our arms, while still keeping them attached to our bodies  – and a good thing too, because how would it be if people were all accidentally flinging their arms off every time you turned around?

“Ah now, this is good,” the therapist is now saying in her calm soothing voice. “This way when you reach for that vase high on the shelf, you can just shoot an arm up without the rest of your body having to come too.” Then she works on my neck a while, so that I won’t have to  turn my whole torso to look behind me before pulling out into traffic.

And by gosh, it all works. When, with the session over, I pull out of my parking space, I can keep my body facing forward while I turn my head practically clear around.

I feel like an owl. A happy owl at that. Then once home, I try that other thing:  I reach a vase down from its place on the shelf using one of my newly mobilized, strangely longer arms while the rest of my torso, earthbound, taking things easy down below.

In fact I’m looking at that vase as I dot these last i’s here, because as soon as I’m done I believe I’ll fill it with flowers and run it over to her office.  Then, on the way back to my car, shoulders back, and head high, I may even reach up to those pretty trees lining the sidewalk and swing from some low-hanging branches myself.


Holiday Weekend

This past weekend when I realized i was really NOT at the center of things, my time was marked by all I did not do.

I didn’t help put up the new basketball hoop.

photo (1)

2014-07-05 17.30.38

I didn’t hold the toddler so she wouldn’t get hurt as they hoisted it.

2014-07-05 17.34.29

I didn’t even so much as hold a screwdriver

callie has the tools!


I didn’t go out and get the fireworks 

2014-07-05 17.31.39

AND I didn’t prepare any meals…

Really I just worked at my work and folded laundry.

Oh and I took these pictures. This is our oldest, Carrie, who had more sense than I did and more energy too. She was a key part of the basketball-net-hoisting duty AND  she, wise girl, got out on the deck.


It’s Ok I think. Summer is just starting, right? It is, right? Isn’t it? Someone tell me it’s not a sin to waste a Sunday such as we just had!


Poem for a Quiet Weekend Day

Here is the amazing Mary Oliver with a poem I don’t think I ever really felt the truth of until today. It’s called Wild Geese and it goes like this:

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers,

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear blue air,

are heading home again,

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –

Over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.