Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Today is the final day of November and I can't remember, in recent years, a month flying by as quickly. Thanksgiving has come and gone and Black Friday (second year in a row where someone has ground a stiletto heel into my foot without an apology--come on, mister, where are your manners?) and Cyber Monday are behind us. Trees are starting to twinkle in front windows and I am already starting to tire of the song, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."

Christmas specials are popping up on TV and I've received a few holiday cards in the mail (thank you--the kids have gotten so big!) Another more unusual manifestation of what could be early holiday stress seems to be that professional football players seem to be getting a little crazy. Calm down, men. You don't have to bake sixteen cranberry-white chocolate chip loaves for your neighbors, do you? 

The White House is in a tizzy, too. A pre-occupied President Obama--shooting hoops with friends--gets whacked in the mouth because he's obsessing about what color sleeveless sweater he will purchase for Michele this year. His aides have been affected too--they set aside one hour for an important sit-down this morning meant to ease tension between Republicans and Democrats. One hour. That's not enough time to shake hands and compare power ties (and certainly not enough time for the thumb wrestling portion of the meeting). But, I suppose, they all want to get to the malls and start shopping.

I don't get all that stressed out about the holidays anymore. Sometimes I pretend to so I can feel like part of mainstream America. What I am most concerned about right now is the passage of time....it's getting away from me. Did anyone notice November sneaking by? I plan on digging my heels in a little as December rounds the corner--let's try and make the most of the one month of the year where friendship, amity and peace are official policy. 

So, "Susan Says..." is taking action, officially declaring tomorrow, "Lets-Not-Get-Too-Stressed-Out-In-December-So-We-Can-Actually-Enjoy-It-Day." Whichever holiday we are preparing for, let's wisely budget our time, money and sanity so that we can put less rum in our eggnog for medicinal purposes and more actual cheer in our hearts.

See you at the mall--I'll be the one returning your smile.  Just watch that high heel, please....

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lesley and her Hair

It’s Sunday. The house is warm and cozy. The cats are spread about sleepily--two on the couch, one on a chair--as I make my way downstairs to join Seth for our ritual of watching Sunday morning news shows—This Week, Meet the Press and, depending on our levels of masochism or whimsy, either Chris Matthews or the McLaughlin Report. I greet Seth, who responds with a pleasant nod over his coffee mug and I sit, the morning's peace like a blanket around me.

Not for long. The guests on the first show have been announced and my normally serene husband has begun his routine. He opens with a snort or two. As the interviews unfold, the snorts increase in frequency and volume, morphing into jeers, ultimately working themselves into derisive hoots and enraged accusations. “Nobody ever answers the question,” he will shout followed by “That bum hasn’t paid his taxes, why is he even on here??” or “Why doesn’t she stop interrupting?” or the ever popular, “Get your facts straight, buddy!” Soon he will be on his feet, pacing or walking in small, tight circles until he completes several pirouettes, finally flinging himself back into the recliner. His wrath has turned. He is exhausted , despondently announcing—head in hands, “This country is going down the tubes.”
This takes place, without exception, every single Sunday.  Afterward, he is useless for the remainder of the day. Small projects begun in previous weeks go unfinished as he recovers from the physical and mental demands of the outburst. The cats, who disperse when all this begins, start to creep back downstairs to arrange themselves upon his reclining form, settling comfortably in the folds of the faux fur throw from Costco because they know their master is down for the count and they’ll be undisturbed for a few hours. I’ll drift off to the supermarket, do a crossword puzzle, refashion something from earlier in the week into an acceptable supper and venture downstairs where Seth is stirring, gearing up for the next round of rage and bluster---60 Minutes is about to come on.
First, he hates the new correspondents….either they’re too young, have unimpressive journalistic credentials, too many wrinkles, silly accents, are smartasses or dumbasses or have no asses at all. When Lesley Stahl appears on screen with her haystack of preposterous hair and giant plastic earrings, he marvels as if he’s never seen her before, “Doesn’t she use a mirror?" “Why do they let her on camera like that???” Or, my personal favorite in its despair and simplicity, “IS SHE CRAZY???” Andy Rooney gets it, too--”Why do we care about his collection of nail clippers?” “Why is he talking about pancake mix?” “Why doesn’t he trim his eyebrows?” “HOW OLD IS HE???” The cats have scattered again, I am in the fetal position sucking my thumb and he, suddenly feeling energized and refreshed, vaults up the stairs to take inventory of all the projects he “really should” take care of next Sunday...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Here's a very useful link!

If you don't have time to slog through a daily newspaper but want to know what's happening in the world in a quick five minutes (you'll be able to drop pithy facts at work, on a date, at a party and have a real grasp of what's going on every day), sign up to receive a short and sweet daily newsletter called College Daybreak (but it's really for everyone). It will arrive in your inbox by nine in the morning and you will be up-to-date on current events in less time than it takes to read this rambling endorsement.  I've been loving it all week: http://bit.ly/d1sLKf

Some Totally Unfunny but Totally Helpful Baking Tips!

I know I don't usually post on the weekend (and Buzzy gets a day off, too) but I'm baking today and came across these very useful tips that will help you both in the baking aisle and in your kitchen once you drag your groceries up the stairs and get down to business.

Not Your Typical Equivalents:
  • A 1-pound box of Confectioner's Sugar=4 cups
  • A 1-pound box of brown sugar=2 cups, packed
  • A 5-pound bag of all purpose flour=20 cups
  • A cup of cake flour=7/8cup sifted, all purpose flour
  • A five-pound bag of granualted sugar=10 cups
  • A 1-pound box of raisins=2 and 3/4 cups
  • Six extra larger eggs=eight large eggs=10 to 11 medium eggs=11 to 12 small eggs
  • One Goodfellas+ One Casino doesn't even equal One Godfather
Happy baking (and movie watching after you're done), friends!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

I wonder if Kate Middleton's parents know, as the media recently reported, that they are "kicking in" some cash towards the royal wedding this spring. I would have liked to have been a British fly on the wall when they, lounging in their jammies, sipping tea and watching the morning news, learned of this development. Crumpets, undoubtedly, were tossed about.

Perhaps they weren't aware that the Queen of England needed financial assistance but, hey, the economy has hit us all. Perhaps she will have to pry a jewel off that crazy Cinderella carriage she rides in once a year, waving imperiously through its' recently installed bullet proof glass.

The emphasis, apparently, is to try to achieve some sort of normalcy for the nuptials. Good luck with that. Prince William, is reportedly behind a plan to distribute one hundred or so "golden tickets" which will enable regular people to attend. He also, according to the CBS morning news, is thinking of including a number of Britain's homeless to join the invited guests (kings, queens, presidents, etc) for the event. Oops--normalcy just flew out the window. Let's all do the royal wave as it disappears over the horizon.

Everything else aside (and "everything" encompasses an awful lot in this case), inviting the homeless alone, immediately catapults these plans into the realm of the surreal. My compassion and desire to help the homeless is quite sincere but I would not be putting them on the guest list of a family wedding and, I daresay, this applies to most of you as well. 

Of course, normalcy is relative. What's normal for me is not for the royal family (big surprise). If you want to include "commoners" with a lottery, go for it. The closest my family gets to royalty at a family wedding is if the DJ spins a record by Queen Latifah. Maybe this is why the Middletons will have to chip in---to pay for the vetting process and security detail now needed for the "normalcy" factor. 

I don't think the public wants you to scale back, Royal Family--that's why they keep you around. They seem to love the spectacle, the tradition, those crazy hats with their sprays of ostrich feathers. They want something to marvel at and buy collectible souvenirs to commemorate--fussy little porcelain teacups, perhaps, emblazoned with the image of the happy couple to set on the shelf next to the one they bought when the nasal Charles wed his ill-fated Cinderella thirty years ago.

I look forward to following this extravaganza on the telly. It will provide distraction for me in a world where the nightly news doesn't provide much light-hearted fare. It will also be fun to add my two cents to the babble now and again. Rest assured, America..."Susan Says..." is on the job.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Old Homestead
Thanksgiving.....Part Two

Fast forward a few years. The cast of characters in my life--and, likely, yours-- has changed but the love between us feels just as good. 

Some of us have far less collagen and our estrogen is getting low. Out in the world, people are in their underwear at the airport and someone named Justin Beiber is on the radio....so much has changed but nothing is different. We all still want the same things--our collagen and estrogen back, to fly with just the good, old-fashioned fear of mechanical failure and Justin Beiber off the radio and back in nursery school where he belongs. 

We're all wishing for good health, an end to war, birds not coated in oil on our nation's shorelines, people in warm homes with full bellies instead of sleeping in doorways and safety for our children from the many dangers that lurk every day. Our hopes and wishes are, while slightly tweaked, the same as they ever were.

Mahatma Ghandi once suggested that we "be the change we want to see in the world." That's harder for us than the Mahatma but it's a good start. Being a person is very hard...we want things, enjoy naughty stuff (gossip, junk food,The Real Housewives of New Jersey) and, in general are very imperfect beings. It's also very easy to be a person...it's easy to love our family, enjoy beauty where we--often unexpectedly--find it and return a kindness and a smile when it comes our way. 

The support I was given as a child by the cast of characters in that brownstone has matured into the gratitude I feel today. I will spend Thanksgiving appreciating the people around me as well as the ones who shared their table many years ago--familiar faces, smiling at a little girl who grew up to cook similar food, inherit their values and raise children of her own, never skimping on the ancestral tales of their predecessors' struggles when they arrived here, passed through Ellis Island and fanned out across the tri-state area to become members of the greatest society in the world.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Thanks, too, for reading.  See you back here on Friday.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving....Part One
Me and the Aunts
I grew up in a Brooklyn brownstone crammed to the rafters with family. Maiden aunts downstairs, their apartment was my destination for endless games of cards and hide and seek. Two old ladies with infinite patience and endless cans of fruit cocktail lining their pantry shelves, they served the syrupy treat in fluted pink glass dishes and would always spoon over their maraschino cherries to me, the only child in the house.

I lived on the middle floor. Sharing the "railroad flat" with my mother and my grandparents, I snuck Hershey's Kisses from the "chocolate drawer" and spent endless hours reading by the bay window which looked out on the most beautiful street in New York City--simply by virtue of the fact that it was my street. My best friend and playmate, Wendy, lived on the corner. My grammar school was a block in the other direction and my world was small and insulated. I had no concept of the stresses my mother dealt with on a daily basis--money worries and a violent ex-husband, large among them. 

Upstairs, on the top floor, lived my uncle and aunt. It was there, through my Tia Maria, that I learned to love Spanish tele-novelas (even though I had to deduce the story line solely from the eye-brow arching and musical clues), fried plaintains and jibaro music from the hills of Puerto Rico. Their apartment, filled with cats and sunshine,was another safe haven for a little girl.

On Thanksgiving, everyone would convene downstairs at what appeared to be a huge table. If you looked closely, you could see that its' expanse was pieced together from several tables of almost imperceptibly varying heights and widths. Covered with table cloths--some brought across the ocean from Hungary in huge steamer trunks, the irregularities didn't matter. And, when piled high with the culinary efforts of several different participating cooks, you couldn't tell at all. 

My grandmother did the lion's share of the cooking. There is no one as patriotic or as determined to celebrate an American holiday as a grateful immigrant who owed her life and ensuing progeny to the beneficence of an adoptive land. This was grandma..and she'd start cooking days before the big event. The meal started with soup and went on to include turkey, chicken and brisket, three or four types of stuffing, cranberry sauce from a can at which we all would marvel due to its texture and jiggly nature and mountains of fluffy mashed potatoes. Overflowing its bowl, Hungarian cucumber salad, vinegary and tart, made us blink and green glass bottles of soda punctuated the already colorful spread. We'd all eat like we were proving our right to citizenship with every delicious mouthful. Dessert was homemade strudels--apple and cheese--made upstairs on a small formica kitchen table from dough stretched thin enough so that through it, newsprint could be read. Coffee was drunk light, cigars were smoked indoors and I often fell asleep, leaning against my mother's cool arm, tummy stretched to bursting. I enjoyed the snug sleep reserved for lucky children.

I was thankful then, only I didn't realize it.
(to be continued.....)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Today, while on line at Shoprite, I watched the man ahead of me unload a brimming cart. His purchases included lots of fruit and vegetables, a three-pack of sippy cups, whole grain bread, diapers, a few “green” cleaning supplies and a pie. He turned to put the dividing bar between his purchases and mine so the cashier wouldn’t mistakenly start to combine our orders but I waved it away and pointed out how no one could miss the difference between our groceries. Mine included Peanut M&Ms, the National Enquirer, a 30-pack of cold beer, a package of paper plates and some drain cleaner. Good and evil were both as clearly represented on that conveyer belt in Shoprite as they are on the conveyer belt of life. And, you can see which side I was on.

I made a little joke of the difference between our groceries, referencing my theory of good and bad, but he was not amused in the least. In fact, he looked a little scared. This made me want to throw my head back and howl like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. The conflict of good and evil swirls about us every day on TV, movies and even in our homes: Jay Leno and NBC vs. Conan, the bitchy Scarlet O’Hara vs. saintly Melanie Hamilton in Gone With the Wind and even me and Seth, sitting here in the family room.
Case in Point: I recently forced Seth to watch Oprah’s “Favorite Things.” Those familiar with the talk show queen know that this is her annual holiday give-away and I love watching the people in the audience go absolutely berserk when presented with free stuff. They actually have paramedics on hand in case anyone keels over from excitement. Thousands of dollars worth of merchandise—things Oprah, herself, loves— is distributed to the lucky crowd. Originally, the audience was just a random bunch of lucky bastards. In recent years, Oprah hand-picks an audience of people she considers worthy of this bounty. One year, it was teachers. This year, it was community acitvists. I have been waiting, in vain, for the year of overweight, middle-aged women who love Cash Cab but it seems that this demographic has been cruelly overlooked. As they squealed in happy excitement and were showered with things like diamond watches, cashmere sweaters and fancy cameras, Seth was smiling. He was truly happy to see these people enjoying this unexpected extravaganza. I, on the other hand, spent the hour scowling at the television and kicking at the cats as they passed on their way to the litterbox. Where were my $90 be-jeweled ballet flats? Where was my panini press? The year the crowd all received stainless steel refrigerators with TVs in the doors, I almost needed a paramedic.  Good (Seth) vs. Evil (Me).
I don’t make a habit of tripping orphans or disturbing birds nests but I was unable to enjoy the elation of the audience. I buy the National Enquirer to gloat over celebrities cellulite and bad plastic surgery. I pick all the mini-Snickers out of the basket of Halloween candy, leaving only the rolls of Smarties and the new, weird green Twizzlers. I don’t bring my shopping cart back to the special designated area in the parking lot when I’m done with it. I don't even think koala bears are cute, for the love of God! Where will this end? What else am I capable of?
The audience on “Oprah’s Favorite Things” all got a cruise to the Carribean this year. That had to have irritated even you a little bit. Admit it. Here, have a mini Snickers—it’ll make you feel better.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The green seats. We sat up in red.
Bud Selig has announced that there will be another change in baseball soon, an additional wild card position in the play-offs. It must be good to be Bud Selig, a small god in a small cosmos where grass is very green and hot dogs, although sold for a king's ransom, are extra delicious and a cold beer washing them down must be what heaven is like.

When I was a little girl, my world was Shea Stadium.  Attending my first baseball game when I was 11, I arrived on the No. 7 not unlike an early immigrant approaching New York Harbor, craning to catch sight of the Statue of Liberty. I'd been fashioned into a Met fan by my grandpa and uncle whose reactions I'd learned to mimic while watching a game on our black and white TV. There was great rage, complete disgust and, only rarely, true elation. So, on my first visit, my heart was aflutter as I emerged from the beer-soaked, concrete innards of Shea to see the shockingly green expanse of the field for the first time. I think, for a baseball fan, that first moment of seeing the field open up before you in all its' verdant glory, is a memorable one.

Gil Hodges managed then. And my heroes' names--Tommy Agee, Cleon Jones, Bud Harrelson, Jery Koosman, Don Clendenon--still evoke a nostalgic mist when I recall their postures at the plate or on the mound. My mother, eternally in mourning for the departed Brooklyn Dodgers, and I would eat a big breakfast before setting out for Shea so we weren't tempted by the treats that even then were so expensive that I didn't eat a hot dog at a ballpark until I was an adult.

I still haven't visited Citifield because I am still mad at it. I still can't fathom why a perfectly good stadium would be exchanged for a new, snappier but less historically impressive stadium--- it has yet to witness anything truly great or spiritual.

I will miss the smells of Shea-- beer, pee, a whiff of cotton candy as a pink tuft is passed down my row to the kid on the end. I will miss the sounds--the organ, the voice of Bob Murphy on the radio in the lap of the guy a few seats over and my own heart beating as a ball sails over the wall for a home-run. I will miss how you could be cool in the shade yet looking just one or two rows ahead at people still roasting in the sunshine. Will it smell,  sound and feel like that in Citifield? Maybe. Will it mean the same to me? Nah.

Fall is a funny time to be thinking baseball. But there's something in the air today. And with Mr. Selig's recent fiddling with the sport, I am inevitably lead to thoughts of simpler days. The game has become so much more complicated with its rules and categories. I burrow deeper into my sweatshirt as the almost-winter chill reminds me that baseball is still many months away. Maybe this spring,
I will forgive Citifield for existing.

Until then, I thank you all for reading--and reacting--this week. Have a wonderful weekend.  See you right back here on Monday!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I don't know about you, but I'd rather get felt up than blown up. 

I hate to fly. In fact, I really, really, really hate to fly. When the kids were little, I used to sip red wine from a plastic dinosaur canteen that I wore around my neck so that I'd have the courage to simply board the plane. Once on, I'd sip until take-off, drift into a drunken stupor and sleep my way to our destination. If Mickey Mouse had smelled my breath at the arrival gate, he would have put his four fingers over his snout in horror.

Then I discovered Xanax. I've learned to time it properly so I can force myself to walk down the metal tube that leads to the smiling flight attendants into whose eyes I stare pitifully for some type of spiritual reassurance that never comes (it is also here that I assess the pilot for sobriety and stability--as if  I, myself, am an example of those characteristics--ha!).

For me, that windowless "tube" is the most challenging part--- after all,this is the moment you can still turn and flee. Once you're over the threshhold, you have made your choice to actually fly. Especially these days when any kind of aberrant behavior (ex.wildly clawing at your collar and rolling your eyes---my un-medicated airplane demeanor) may cause leg irons to drop from the ceiling along with the oxygen masks.

People are complaining bitterly about the new methods of keeping us safe. I have serious doubts that these methods are fool-proof but the memory of 911 is fresh enough for me to accept that more thorough means of protecting airplanes are definitely in order. Do I want the full body pat down? Only if Clint Eastwood (yes, even at his age) is administering it. Will I submit to it, absolutely. It's over in a minute or two. There are far greater humiliations out there...and ones that take much longer. 

Do I care that some TSA agents may be stifling hysterical laughter behind the screen if I choose the body scan? Sure, but not enough to refuse on moral grounds. If anyone wants to put scanned images of my 52 year old you-know-whats on the internet or print out a copy to keep in their wallets, clearly the psych evaluation they were given before being hired failed to pick up that they are totally loco and need a different type scan or two (and a straight-jacket) themselves. In other words, I'll be uncomfortable and then get over it.

When the kids were little we did a lot of driving. We drove to Chicago and Minnesota and before I was married, I took a bus home from Phoenix, Arizona to avoid the flight and this was long before scanning--or substantive security measure of any kind. I flew a few times before all this hoopla and, despite my anxiety, airports were fun back then. The atmosphere was usually one of pleasant anticipation and even though I was far, far from my comfort zone, I kind of got into it. Now the predominant feeling in airports seems to be fear---of terrorism, blood clots, sitting next to a jerk, getting trapped in the bathroom, feeling cold, feeling hot, retaining fluids from the peanuts and looking puffy--it's a veritable smorgasbord of anxiety.

I will always hate to fly. It's an unnatural action....aerodynamics make no sense whatsoever and you know I'm right. It's pure magic every time a plane lifts off the ground and any flight that lands with its passengers and crew alive, qualifies as a great flight as far as I'm concerned.

I will always avoid air travel if possible and continue to advocate the building of a tunnel between Brooklyn and the European continent so I can, one day, see the sights over there without having to board a plane. Until then and as I mentioned before--I'd rather gelt felt up than blown up. Safe flying to you all.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The elections are still fresh enough to easily recall the sheer annoyance caused by the countless political calls that jammed the phone lines in the weeks before-hand. Here's a recent column about that very subject....

Who's Calling

Recent Scenario:  After tidying my home, starting a load of laundry and vigorously petting the cats, I sit--with the lunch I’ve prepared--by the window to soak up some sunlight and relax for a few minutes. Cat Numero Uno curls up across my knees. Numero Dos settles by my side while I balance my veggie burger on the arm of the sofa, placing my iced tea on the window sill. I note, with fleeting concern, that I’ve forgotten to locate the portable phone. Then the phone rings.

Since it could be one of the boys needing advice (Can I wear this shirt with these pants? How much do I tip at a buffet?  What is the meaning of life?), I pull myself to my feet, dispersing the cats—one of whom knocks my veggie burger to the floor. The sound of shattering crockery alarms the other cat who leaps to the ceiling, up-ending the iced tea which then soaks my newspaper. I stagger to the phone, my lips already forming the pearls of wisdom I will dispense, but, upon lifting the receiver, hear only, “Hi, this is Linda McMahon….” Or, “This is—insert the name of one of a dozen candidates who’ve been bombarding my home recently with obnoxious recorded messages. Or it’s their wife, child, left ass-cheek, pet or transsexual lover who wants, in additional recorded messages, to tell me why their daddy, mommy, wife, husband, etc. is the perfect choice for the job. Unfortunately, there’s no one at the other end at whom to howl obscenities. So, I shriek them into the unresponsive receiver, impressing none but the cats (who’ve heard it all before) with my dazzling, yet disappointingly unmarketable, natural ability to string naughty words into extremely complex sentences.
Don’t these politicians see that this harassment isn’t an effective way to commandeer votes or rally a constituency? At least, not in my opinion, it isn’t. I’ve long treasured the privilege of voting but was so disgusted with these calls (plus the relentless negative ads on television combined with a scarcity of decent choices) that, this year, I considered getting a pedicure instead of casting a ballot.
Not to mention, I miss the old voting machines. I don’t trust the new ones.  How could it not matter whether we insert our ballots face up or down? I think the new machines might actually be shredders. Right, Bridgeport?
I read that Linda McMahon’s campaign made 400,000 phone calls during the weeks preceding the election.  I seriously think she made them all to my house. When I heard the staggering amount she spent (45 million American dollars) on her campaign, I had to lie down with a cool rag across my face and a bag of peanut M&Ms by my side. What colossal ego is capable of such self-promotion? But then I realize that colossal ego is what drives many politicians seeking high-profile positions.  Certainly the desire to serve exists but it can’t outspend Linda.
The election is over but I’m still receiving calls. Now, mostly, from gutter installers, chimney cleaners and dozens of charities and organizations who think nothing of calling on a Sunday morning at 8:30 or a Friday evening after nine. I struggle to keep my head from exploding as I respond politely. After all, these are people trying to earn a living. If my hormone levels are in flux or I’ve been rudely awakened, I’ve been known to behave less cordially.  Afterward, I worry that, with the click of a mouse, a caller seeking revenge and possessing computer skills could skew my credit rating or place me on the no-fly list, so I try to control my ire. It does seem, however, that since I signed up with the “Do Not Call” registry I’ve been receiving more calls instead of fewer.  Perhaps, I accidentally added myself to the “Please—I beg you!!—Call Me” list in a moment of delirium.
So, if any telemarketers, candidates, or pollsters are listening, I don’t want to hear why you’re right for the job, change my cable company or donate money. I want my phone time reserved for chatting with family and friends, ordering pizza or directing the confused driver of the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol van to my door. Other than that, consider me unlisted.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010


That kid Zuckerberg is going to screw me up good. I am a newbie to this crazy world of "social media." My Facebook account only extends backwards for a few months and was born in the dark despair of a sleepless night when my hormones were telling me to creep out and terrorize my neighborhood with an air horn and a Sarah Palin mask. Instead, I became just another decimal point in the largest demographic-- women in our fifties--currently signing up to join the tsunami that is Facebook.

(Time out...I'm in my fifties?? When--and how--did this happen? I was just, very recently, nineteen...and by the way, who is that woman in the mirror who keeps showing me her teeth?)

I can't deny that I'm having fun. I have not only reconnected with people from my past I thought I'd never, ever talk to again (or, were in jail) but I've been happy to see how fabulously you're all doing as well as how the bastard who teased me in junior high isn't looking so good these days. I 've gotten in touch with far-flung family members,"friended" my son's cat, spied on my children and, in general, felt a little less alone in this scary world. I've also learned to be wary--Facebook is kind of like the subway. You can choose to be anonymous or interact. Just be careful if you choose the latter: there are lunatics who want to be your friends and you have to be able to recognize who they are. 

Mr. Zuckerberg now wants to make some changes, choosing to listen to high school students who feel that email is "too slow" and "too formal." First of all, it's a terrible mistake to listen to high school students. They are all crazy what with their new-fangled ideas and tight pants...and second, email is not formal, Mark.

Even my increasingly creaky generation doesn't know from formal. Ever hear the expression "calling card?" Once upon a time, people used to give them to the butler who would then present them on a silver tray when visiting a friend. But seriously, kids, do you even know how to address an envelope?  Quick, where should your glove size appear on the envelope?  That was a trick question, obviously--the envelope only requires your shoe size.

My point is that the world high schoolers occupy is pretty darn informal already. So, please don't confuse me too much, Mr. Zuckerberg. Be gentle with your mother's generation, we're just getting used to this means of communication. Be a good boy and finish your vegetables before you go changing anything too drastically. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

My older son was home visiting this weekend and, among many other things, the conversation included my parenting style. We both agreed that yes, I was a strict mama but definitely took my foot off the brake a bit with his younger brother. I was reminded of a column I wrote about the young girl whose parents allowed her to sail around the world alone some months ago.  I hope you enjoy it.

Mother May I?

Child:  Mom, can I sail around the world alone in my own little sailboat even though I’m only sixteen?
Mother:  Are you insane?
Child: But you might stifle my initiative if you don’t allow it?
Mother:  Consider yourself stifled.
Child:  I might have to act out in some self-destructive if way if I’m stifled.
Mother:  Just try it.  No.
Child: But my sense of self might be compromised. 
Mother:  Your sense of self? Hahahahahahahahaha.  No.
Child:  My ego is still in its inceptive phase.  If I don’t  sail around the world alone, I might be forever damaged.  
Mother:  Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.  Still no.
Child: How can you deny my dream?
Mother:  Easy.  No.
Child:  How can you negate my psycho-social need to need to separate from you, my uterine hostess, and be my own person? 
Mother: Your uterine hostess says no.
Child:  Mom, if you don’t let me I will run away.
Mother:  Okay.  But don’t forget to leave your clothes, wallet, car keys, collection of super shiny lip glosses, I-Pod and phone behind. Dad and I own them.  We just let you use all that stuff.
Child:  Fine!  But I am very mad at you. 
Mother:  Congratulations.  I’m mad at you for being crazy.

This is how the conversation should have gone in the Sunderland home when sixteen year old Abby suggested she sail around the world by herself—at any age. If there are other kids at home in that family, they should immediately be removed from the household lest any nine year olds request to parachute from the tip of the sphinx’ crumbling nose after backpacking across the universe, alone. 

I have seen interviews with Mrs. Sunderland before her daughter was found in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  She was as calm as a bowl of fruit soup, saying she had faith that her daughter was fine. Clearly, this woman does not like this girl. Perhaps childbirth was especially painful or her stretchmarks  particularly awful or she just wants one less kid on her car insurance.  But she doesn’t like poor Abby one bit.    

Now it comes to light that Mr. Sunderland had a reality series plus a host of other money making schemes up his sleeve. This makes it far worse. We now understand that they were willing to put this child in harm’s way for a potential pay-off. Maybe I should try to market my daily life as a reality show. Cameras  would capture me talking to cats, feeding  cats, administering hairball medication to cats, making veggie burgers for lunch and neglecting the ironing and laundry. No wonder they had to send that poor kid out to sea by herself, real life is very boring.

I fully admit that I was the mother who didn’t allow her boys to do stuff and, to some degree, regret the limits I put on them, especially Tom who was older and lived the difficult role of being the test case. I was afraid that the minute I looked away they’d be abducted, so I kept a tight rein. I was often told “BUT EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING IT!!!” I may have been too rigid, but I would have been confident in my decision had the request  been to sail around the world alone.  Unless, like the Sunderlands, my plan was to market a line of tee shirts.

Incomprehensibly vast understatement : Being a parent is hard. Knowing where to draw the line, if you are even somewhat  sane, is very difficult. We are constantly tested by our children who want nothing more than autonomy. I remember challenging my own mother who wrote the book on being overprotective (“But, Maaaaaaaa! Be reasonable, I’m 35 years old!!!!) and my sons’ kids will challenge them.  If they ask to sail around the world, boys, say no.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I just plowed through a huge stack of magazines in the hope of eliminating some of the stultifying clutter that is about to suck my house into a giant black hole. I tossed countless women’s magazines, all with headlines insisting that I could lose 21 pounds in two weeks (without amputating one or more limbs), increase my metabolism by 500% by combining certain foods at certain times of day during certain months of a leap year but only on Thursdays at midnight. Or how,with simple mind control, I can remove all the calories from a bacon egg and cheese sandwich. Do you sense a pattern here?
Combine these with the stack of cooking magazines I’ve collected and there appears to be a vast conflict with my desire to both control my eating and cook things. Good luck to me.
I waded through countless copies of Gourmet magazine which recently stopped publishing--thank goodness, I say. If it hadn’t I might have had some sort of breakdown due to the pressure it's put on me over the years. Have anyone of you read the recipes in there or seen the pictorial spreads? It was enough to make me want to drown myself in the melted Velveeta I use in my macaroni and cheese. It took me years to realize that the incredibly gorgeous people seated at beautifully appointed tables at the water’s edge on isolated coastlines were models and not just really, really good-looking local villagers gathered for some chow. Not only that but the “gastriques, genoises and remoulades” were making me crazy. I don't know anyone who actually cooks like that.
All of this has caused me to work up an appetite so before I go forage for something in the kitchen, I want  to say a huge thank you to all my readers and wish you a great weekend---see you on Monday!!!

And a grateful shout-out to all of you who sign on to "follow" this blog.  I really appreciate it!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Today, someone selling e-readers on TV, uttered the words, "Books are no longer made of paper," causing me to run in small, tight circles in the kitchen. "Books," I spat back (truth be told, I whined back, but spat sounds plucky) are, most certainly--by definition--made of paper!" Unlike the soul-less gizmos with silly names flooding the market right now, books are, well, books

They smell like books--older ones, dusty and musty. New ones,crisp and fresh.You can rest them on your lap and drift into a reverie or hurl one in anger without causing it to whirr, shudder and go dark. I do realize that I am a dinosaur, a greying fart-ess with a grudge against technology. I'm also, obviously, a hypocrite as I blog daily, relying on technology to bring my words into your homes. It's a confusing time for my generation.

Here's a column that acknoledges that technophia is purely generational but also raises a question or two. I am very interested in what you think....

The End of Ideas

I am about to launch myself off into Candlewood Lake in a little boat where I intend to live, accepting only occasional visits from Seth who will bring news from home, 100-calorie snack packs, Diet Coke and crossword puzzles.The reason for this disconnection from daily life is due to something I learned today. There is, it seems, an I-Phone App (The “Cry Translator”) that will “listen” to and interpret the sound of your infant’s crying. It will then tell you whether the baby is hungry, tired, cranky or suffering from a full diaper. A phone. Your baby’s cries. Life of isolation, take me.

Who will get this app? If I am about to offend you, I will not be apologizing any time soon because if it's YOU, I think you’re nuts. It’s bad enough that you are never without your phone.That you keep it in your hand most of the day, checking it every few minutes for a new text or, worse, that you tippy-tap away while engaged in conversation with me. Sometimes you take a call while we’re together, pretending to care by asking me if I mind because “it’s important.”You don’t wait for my response and, actually, I do mind.    
I fully acknowledge that my discontent is totally generational. I recently read of a study that says people over 50 react far more negatively to this sort of thing. The younger set—my sons’ generation—appears to have been successfully indoctrinated into this new world. I rarely see a young person sitting idly anymore. While waiting for a friend or a train or the apocalypse, they are immersed in what’s happening on a tiny screen. Travelers in buses gaze upward at monitors over their seats instead of observing the world outside their windows. People walking on a city street or a country road talk animatedly while passing beneath blooming trees in spring and blazing trees in fall—glorious canopies of leaves or blossoms ignored while they chat, merrily gesturing to no one. Kids are pacified by videos in minivans as their parents drive. I suppose I can understand the rationale for this although we drove to Minnesota and Florida and Mississippi with two very small boys who entertained themselves with conversation, books and toys that required some imagination. When can we expect anyone to actually have an idea anymore—to muse, to dream, to have a creative flash or an inspirational revelation?  I’m scared that no one will ever have an idea again.
Not to mention, with video games that are marketed as good for your hand-eye coordination, my boys’ generation and those to follow may learn to expect immediate responses and gratification with the stroke of a key or the twirl of a joystick. I fear it may lead to a population which will expect that same immediacy from friendships, relationships and marriages.
Maybe I’m totally wrong. I hope I am because unless the electricity goes out permanently, God forbid, there’s no stopping this train. There will be I-Phone Apps that will pick your noses for you soon. Am I glad that my friend’s phone can instantly tabulate what each of us owes at the diner or that, at four in the morning, I can google how old Marlo Thomas is these days (she’s 72)? Yes. But I would forgo these cute little conveniences in order to return to a world that requires more thinking and fewer keyboards. 
When my generation is gone (our obituaries immediately circulated on screens that have been implanted in the optic pathways of our great-grandchildren's frontal lobes), the younger set can click away unhampered by cranky old witches like myself and hold up their magic little phones to their babies all they want. By then robots will be changing diapers and helping with homework anyway. I can be reached in the middle of Candlewood Lake for anyone who cares.  You’ll have to come out, in person, to talk—I’m leaving my phone at home.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cooking with Cleavage..or, a Series of Important Questions Regarding the Food Network


Why does Giada DeLaurentiis smile so much while she’s cooking? Why are her teeth so white and her head so huge? Why does she cook with so much cleavage exposed?  If having lots of cleavage earns you a good kitchen, why is mine so crappy?  Why does Ina Garten laugh so much when anyone enters her home?  Why must she kiss visitors hello and goodbye when there’s only a few minutes between their arrival and departure?  Why must she make such a loud “smacking” sound when she kisses them and why does she pose so many compliments to her own cooking in the form of a question? Why are the Neelys so damn horny when they’re cooking? Why does Mr. Neely continually refer to himself as “Big Papa?” Do I really want the answer to that question? Why is Alton Brown so skinny? Does he not like his own cooking? Why are Sunny Anderson’s wig and ass getting so big? If big asses earn you a great kitchen, why is mine so crappy? Why does Sandra Lee insist on a different “table-scape” for each meal?  How many trips to the fabric store can someone make in one lifetime? Does she get a discount on remnants? Why do we accept “table-scape” as a legitimate term in the English language? Why doesn’t she wear a better support bra? Can’t she afford one?  Is she too tipsy from the cocktails she makes on TV to get into the car and drive to the mall to buy one? Where has Emeril’s neck gone?  If having no neck earns you a great kitchen, why is mine so crappy?  Why is Bobby Flay so smug all the time?  Who does he think he is to constantly challenge people with “throw-downs?” Why don’t they punch his lights out? If being a smart-ass earns you a great kitchen, why is mine so crappy? Why do we accept “throw-down” as a legitimate term in the English language? Why does Rachel Ray take so many things out of the fridge at one time? Why does she call sandwiches “sammys?” Why do we not storm the Food Network studios with torches and pitchforks because of this? If making up words earns you a great kitchen, why is mine so crappy? Why are Paula Deen’s sons always hanging around their mother’s house? Don’t they have jobs of their own? Why aren’t my sons here more often? Why does Paula wear so many diamond rings while cooking? Has one ever fallen into a pot? Has she ever baked one into a pie? If so, did anyone break a tooth? How come she never trips on that dog? Why have I never, ever heard anyone else with an accent like that? Is it possible she comes from another planet? How come on Chopped no one ever grabs Ted by the skinny neck-tie and swings him around a few times for being an annoying know-it-all? If being an annoying know-it-all earns you a great kitchen, why is mine so crappy? How come the losers always leave so docilely when they’re chopped? Does Anne Burrell stick her finger in a light socket to get her hair like that? Why did Tyler Florence’s marriage break up? Is he lonely? If being lonely earns you a great kitchen, why is mine so crappy?  Why is Robert Irvine so muscular? Who needs to have arms like to cook? Could Ina Garten take him in a fight? 

If anyone can answer any of these, please let me know immediately.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Keith Richards---Health Idol

There are certain symptoms of growing older that cannot be taken lightly.  So what if I need reading  glasses to discern whether that's  cous cous or quinoa on my plate?  Who cares if, upon first awakening, my joints creak and pop loudly enough to be heard down the hall?  Big deal. What I am most shocked by is my new-found love for Regis Philbin.  Suddenly I find that man engaging, charming and really very funny. My laughter at his comments resonates off the walls as I dress each morning and I turn to the cats, expecting to see them slapping their little haunches in shared hilarity.  I surely did not see this coming. But, more importantly, I wonder if Keith Richards loves Regis, too…
Keith, you see, is my touchstone for my very physical survival. A few years back during a cyclical phase (I am now trying to do better) in which I became concerned about my self-neglect (not scheduling age-appropriate diagnostic exams, consuming sugar and saturated fats as if I were training for the early death prelims of the Bad Eating Olympics), I read about Keith. He of the drug and alcohol-saturated decades. He of the ghastly pallor, the emaciated limbs, the unsteady gait.  He of the odd items, entangled and forgotten, suspended in his greasy hair. The piercings. The hollow stare. He who refused to stop drinking because he’s outlived the doctors who begged him to do so. He, who claims--during a bender--to have snorted a pinch of his cremated father along with some cocaine. Keith Richards, the very paragon of self-abuse is my health mentor... 
It dawned on me that if he’s still upright there is no earthly reason why I shouldn’t be, as well. And this has given me enormous hope for my own longevity. I have never taken drugs and do not drink.  My own periods of debauchery—involving  M&Ms  and full-fat mozzarella as opposed to unlimited Jack Daniels, heroin and cocaine—pale in comparison and Keith is still going strong. Now, of course, I worry terribly about him and keep a concerned ear turned to what (or, who) he’s snorting these days. I’ve learned  that he’s recently written an autobiography.  I intend to read it carefully for health tips and inspiration.  Viva Keith!!