Milestone Post

This is my 1600th post and well… I just did the math: At the rate I have slowed down to, it will take me ten whole years to get to 2,000. Would it be worth it to reach for that goal? I still can’t tell. All my life I have suffered from an odd affliction in that once I even start thinking about achieving some crazy goal or doing some wildly ambitious project, I almost literally can’t NOT begin upon it. Yet milestones like this one do get a body thinking.

This coming October I will have completed 35 years of weekly column-writing. Shouldn’t I stop , and have pity on those poor readers who might appreciate a fresher voice? I started in 1980 for God’s sake when we didn’t even have faxing!

Back then I looked like this. (I’m the already-haggard looking brunette making the sad-cow face on the right, not my sister-in-law, the blonde beauty facing the camera.)

carr wellesely grad'n051

The blog of course is more recent. The blog I started in the fall of 2007 but by mid-2008 I had decided I had to write every day. Every day! What tripe appeared under my name! I wrote from the heart a lot but in many posts I was also just appealing to popular culture, which anyone can do God knows, God knows. Search on my site for the word ‘underpants’ and you’ll see.)

Now after all this time I look like this, dye-job and all. ( I know I know. I’ve discovered minimizer foundationwear since this picture from last September.)


 Sigh. At least I’m smiling this time.

Smilin’ on the outside anyway.

And it’s not that I’m cryin’ on the inside but I’ll confess that I have lost the old merry trait  that made me think absolutely everything was funny, a trait that got me in a world of trouble with my teachers all along the way.

So it’s my 1600th post and my 1800th column that I’ve been working on this morning. I love to write still but I love a lot of other things now too, so how it will all play out I don’t yet know. A woman from a church group just wrote me to see if I still do public talks. I  haven’t written her back yet but I do think I’m done with public talks. 

Anyway, stay tuned if you care to.  Now let’s all go out and sniff some of that downy spring air !

This Old Thing?

my bangsI was giving a ride to a young friend the other day when he suddenly caught sight of himself in the passenger-side mirror. “Man, I just pray I never go bald!” he said. “I have such a weird-shaped head!”

“What are you talking about? You do not!“ I said back. But then instead of modeling a more self-accepting way, I went foolishly on. “I know what you mean though. I wear bangs because, well…. really I’m kind of homely and I always figure bangs might help.”

It was a pitiful exchange and one that had me thinking yet again that if we could only stop fretting about how we look, or how we come across, or what they’re thinking of us NOW, we‘d be so much more open to the present moment.

We’d be better able to notice things I mean: Like nature. Or other humans, who are just so funny and brave, and kind for the most part too – and what a shame to miss catching daily examples of all that. 

When you spend your time fixed on your own ‘image’ it’s like going to see some great movie but then missing all its bright beauty because you’ve spent the whole time in the theatre’s dim little bathroom critically regarding yourself in its dim little mirror. I mean, didn’t we all do enough of that in Seventh Grade?

It isn’t easy to be self-forgetful, God knows, especially in this Internet culture where everyone but your pet hamster maintains a carefully crafted public ‘profile.’ Then too there are those things your parents were always saying to you when you were young, like “Stop that awful slouching!” and “Get your hair out of your eyes, can’t you?”

When I was in high school, I was always pointing out the run in my stockings as if it had just then appeared, when in fact I knew very well it was there when I put the stockings on that morning. And what kind of strategy is that, pointing out your defects to others before they can point them out to you?

People do it though. Compliment a woman on her hair and half the time she’ll say “Oh it’s all crazy today!” Compliment her on her dress and she’ll call it ‘just an old thing.’

Men do it too. At one point in my career I was considering whether or not I should sign a deal with a literary agent I had been talking with for the better part of a year. I remember closing one jaunty exchange with him by saying, “Well, it would be great if we could work together. Among other things, I like your teeth.”

“My teeth?“ he cried with true alarm. “My teeth are the first thing I’m going to change when I’ve saved up enough money!”

Oops. I should have remembered then that passage from Alice in Wonderland that I’ve always been so struck by. It comes when Alice first meets the Mad Hatter before sitting down at his tea table.

“Your hair wants cutting,” he nervily remarks.

“It’s rude to make personal remarks,” she tartly replies.

And she’s right, our little fictional Alice. Just ask very tall people how they feel about hearing all those “How are the weather up there?” cracks.

No, we’d best not be talking about one another’s looks. Doing so just sends us all back to the sad little mirror in the movie theatre bathroom, there to miss, on the big screen just down the hall, that dazzling feature film called Life.

the mad hatter & alice


Drool on It All If You Like: It’s Your Stuff

plastic covered couchFella comes to our house, wants to clean a rug that lies on the floor of a room where a zillion dust motes dance in the golden bars of daylong sunlight but the minute he walks in, his face goes pale.

“What have you done here?” he cries. “Your rugs are all faded! “

I look and he is right: The rug he has come to clean had been red, tan and navy when we bought it. Now it is rust, cream and baby blue.

“This rug is losing RADIANCE! “ he yelled.

“I’m losing radiance myself, “ I say. “It’s fine. It doesn’t hurt. “

“Here’s what you have to do, “ he goes on, ignoring me. “Pull down the shades. Draw the drapes.” He bustles around doing this until the room that has dazzled with sunlight a moment before looks ready now for a séance.

“But we love the sun!” I tell him feebly. We sit in this window seat here, and-”

“Then at least take a sheet and cover the area of greatest exposure!“ he snaps.

“You owe it to your rugs,“ he adds, scooping up the carpet in question and hurrying out the door.

I have thought a lot about this scene since that day. This is the man who sold us our rugs in the first place and I was sorry to let him down, but I just can’t run a house his way, keeping the rugs bright by locking the sunlight out. Keeping things perfect under plastic. Pleasant under glass.

I used to visit houses like this when I was a kid and they made me feel as though silken cords were stretched across the chair arms, and velvet ropes were hung across the doorways.

I vowed I would never run my own house that way.

And I don’t. We live in our house, dammit. We live all over those velvet sofas in the living room, which are only velvet because velvet is the toughest fabric there is.

But now the upholstery man has just gotten after me too. He came here once for the Victorian sofa I had tried reupholstering myself a decade ago that ended up looking like a lumpy pink bed with a person sewn inside it. He took that old thing out and turned it into a pale-blue dream of perfection.

Then this past month, a small visitor set her tiny bones upon a sofa even older than the Victorian one and blam! one Duncan Fife leg – ball, claw, and all – shot straight out from under it. So the guy was here now to perform diagnosis on the break.

But his gaze fell first upon toddler who was clumping quietly around in his little white shoes. 

You let your CHILDREN in this room?“ he squeaked, his voice ascending the scale of disbelief.

“Sure, “ I answered, as the child in question smiled sweetly and drooled a little onto the velvet.

“On THIS couch!? “ He squeaked. “MY couch?! “

“It’s going to lose radiance!” I could all but  hear him say next.

He didn’t say that though. Instead he picked up the most recent casualty and started for the door. “It’s your house, “ he shrugged washing his hands of us all.

“You bet!“ I called after him.

Because really it’s fine by me if our stuff is too worn out to pass down to our kids one day. What I would much rather pass down to them is permission to enjoy the beauty of their surroundings; permission to fade, as we all must fade, gloriously, in the sun.

Silliest Come on Yet

IMG_2687The surgical department here named is one of the best. They dug a basal cell carcinoma out of my own little shin two autumns ago and within the year, the wound was almost invisible.  What looked like an elliptical scoop- mark, made as if by an oversized grapefruit spoon, is now a faint and slender line, scarce visible even to me, never mind casual observers.

They’re the ones who sent me this promotion  last week.

The lady is pretty and I guess I get the sentiment but when you say that aging simply won’t do you might as well say you’re ready to reach for the hemlock.

We age. Period. You can suck out and pin up all you want but look around the whole perimeter: Are your two feet the smooth little darlings they once were? Are the backs of your hands freckle-free? Don’t look now, but something is sure happening to the skin at the base of your glutes and I’m not talking about cellulite.

It’s gravity, baby. Gravity and wear-and-tear. When Aging Simply Won’t Do: Hah! What really won’t do is acting like you can beat the House when everyone who’s honest knows it: the House always wins in the end.


Blender Mishap

images-1So yes I’m on vacation but I drove 100 miles home yesterday anyway, for two meetings, one to be held at my house at 6:30 and another to be held at somebody else’s house at 8:00, both for the sake of this organization of which I am currently the president.

I scored some pizza and salad to serve to the people coming at 6:30 and while they ate, drank and talked I slipped into the kitchen to prepare the food I had offered to make for the second meeting at 8:00: a plate of fresh sliced peaches and two small bowls of luscious jewel-toned raspberries, with, I had promised, fresh whipped cream on top.

It was no problem arranging the peaches on a pretty plate.

And let’s face it there’s not much you can do to a raspberry to make them any more perfect..

Like these perfect rubilous orbs resting on somebody’s windowsill.

berries in the bowl
berries in the bowl

So all that was left was to whip the heavy cream… BUT ! I should maybe add that I had also driven into the city at 4:00 to see my doctor  and had also stopped at the wine store to buy a nice Chardonnay, so I was pretty wilted by the time I got home at 6:20, mere  minutes before my guests would arrive.

I bolted up the stairs and changed quick into this  navy dress with white polka-dots that I’ve owned since the mid 1990s, fluffed up my already fluffy hair…

me at 5 with my problem hair

…and went down to whip the cream.

But they were already here, all those guests! And I couldn’t find one of the beaters for my hand-held mixer! And I HADN’T chilled the metal bowl the way you’re supposed to do when you whip cream! So I dumped all 16 ounces of that pale velvety butter-fat into my blender and pressed ‘Puree.’

It looked pretty good, actually, but it needed just a little more whipping. Plus, I noticed, it had stopped churning and most of the already-thickened cream was stuck to the sides.

So I did what you’re never ever supposed to do: I opened the lid as it churned on and inserted the tip of a soup spoon to oh-so carefully liberate the cream from the glass sides – with the result that the blades hit the spoon, which SHOT out of my hand and up in the air while at the same time showering three cabinets and the whole of my dress with tiny white dots.

I came out onto the porch with the drinks a few minutes later.

“There was a small explosion in the kitchen,” I said.

My guests looked over. “At least you’ve got the right dress on” they said and went back to their socializing.The lesson I took from all this? what happens in the kitchen stays in the kitchen. Just keep bringin’ on the food. 🙂

Herb Alpert knows what I mean
Herb Alpert knows what I mean

Not For Kids

One of my favorite illustrators, the guy who drew this. Back in the 70s Wallace Trip did a whole book of nursery rhyme illustrations, each with tongue-in-cheek text like you see here.

“A Diller a Dollar a Ten o’clock Scholar” is one I faintly remember from a childhood spent in the same house as three individuals born in the 1860s and 1870s. Back in the old days people had all kinds of things committed to memory, not like now when if we’re really on top of our game we can maybe recall the words to a jingle or two. (Our brains don’t seem to store stuff anymore. We might as find a way to pop them out and use them to sponge off the counters.)

I bought the book this picture is from back in the fine old summer of ’78, after my first baby and before my second one when I had all those widely-flared hip hugger pants and hair like Farrah Fawcett’s (well, as long as it wasn’t raining.) I tried to read it to my 18-month-old. thinking the music in the nursery rhymes would be nice, but  of course the cartoons were totally beyond her. 

I still have the book and last month tried reading it to my little grandsons.  “We don’t like this book”  the seven year old told me in no uncertain terms.  Looks like his momma, my former baby,  remembers the book and having looked at it in adulthood, has pronounced its tone not fitting for little ones.

I’m looking at it again here, seeing what the little badger’s words are to the schoolmaster.  “Sir if I may be permitted to say so, sarcasm has no place in the classroom,”  he is saying. So it looks like irony has no place in the classroom either, still less the nursery. Live and learn I guess. Live and learn.