Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Warning: Do Not Get Sick on a Holiday Weekend -or- How Latex Glove Balloons Saved the Day

If you like this, don't forget to click on this link (in gray) for my most current post......a snarky review of this year's Grammy Awards 2014!

There are many things that possess medicinal qualities but are not listed in the journals of the AMA, stuffed into the cases of friendly pharmaceutical reps or discussed by Dr. Oz on afternoon TV.

Every ethnic group has specific remedies, herbs and techniques that they use to heal their sick. Garlic is said to be a natural anti-biotic, salt water works wonders for a sore throat and when I was little and had an upset tummy, my mother would run to Bernie's Candy Store and return with several squirts of coke syrup in a coffee cup to mix with water and have me sip for relief.
Hungarian penicillin

I, for one, always prefer a natural or home remedy if I'm unwell and am famous for having to be approaching death at a steady canter before I will go to a doctor. 

I make no apologies for having been raised in a home where an actual doctor visit was a last resort. Once I had my own children, I combined a bit of the old world with enough medical science so they know when to seek professional help and when to take care of business with herbs and chanting.

So, it was with great consternation and a sense of defeat that I recently accepted the fact that no home remedy would do the trick--I was sick and in serious need of an antibiotic.

It was, however, a holiday weekend and my choices were limited.

I could either visit the local ER or an "urgent care" walk-in facility a few miles away. Unpleasant choices both, but I opted for the walk-in, thinking the wait time would be less.


After three hours of sitting in a packed, stifling, unventilated waiting room, surrounded by an assortment of horrible, phlegmy and flushed weirdos who all -- men and women -- appeared to be dressed like Stevie Nicks, I sensed I'd made the wrong choice. 

Could there have been some sort of epidemic at a Fleetwood Mac convention, I wondered as an endless succession of "Say Yes to the Dress" episodes mercilessly blared from a wall-mounted TV, its volume level set permanently at "wake the dead." 

I soon became seriously nostalgic for the assorted vomiters, schizophrenics and gun shot victims I remembered from past trips to ER.

Once I was finally ushered into an exam room (temperature, approximately 140 degrees fahrenheit--an ideal climate for the exponential proliferation of
bubonic diseases), I was interviewed briefly by a stupendously disinterested "nurse" and left to wait another 45 minutes before a toddler wearing scrubs came in, claiming to be a doctor.

While I wanted to shout obscenities into his stethoscope and wrap the blood pressure cuff around his head, I feared such behavior might cause more waiting (at the police station) so I acted sane enough for him to listen to my symptoms, thump me around a bit and promise a prescription.

And then -- surprise! --more waiting.

It appears that doctors no longer write prescriptions in your presence.

The moment of victory -- when they pull the little pad from their pocket, scribble a bit and tear off that little white paper square with a flourish, handing it to you as your prize for proving that yes, you actually are sick enough, is gone.

Instead, they disappear for another half hour to do God-knows-what...but I bet it might be something with the disinterested nurse based on their previous eye-contact. 

The prescription is then presented, not unlike the holy grail at the last supper, by someone in scrubs who, judging by her demeanor, could not have cared less if she had found me stone cold dead on the floor of the examination room.

I have to admit I kind of respected her for that...after all, who the hell am I, anyway? Just another annoying sick person seeking aid. Big wubs.

I filled the last remaining increment of waitage by stuffing my pockets with latex exam gloves which I planned on inflating later to bat around with Seth once I felt better...plus as many "clean catch" sterile wipes as I could cram in with the gloves. I intend to make good use of those next time we go out for hot wings.

I had been feeling so lousy that Seth drove me but being rightfully terrified of the coughing, spitting and sneezing Stevies in that plague incubator of a waiting room, he chose to wait in the car....for nearly four hours.

He was frozen stiff and starving by the time I emerged, prescription in hand.

Thinking ahead, I'd already blown up an exam glove and presented it to him in gratitude for his patience.

I sat, glassy-eyed, while he got the pills and felt better soon after.

While I strongly suggest that you do not get sick on a holiday weekend, we did have had lots of fun later tossing around the glove balloons.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Cyber Monday...If You Survived Black Friday, That Is...

No thanks.
I just spent some time watching videos of what went on all over this country on Black Friday, the notoriously crowded shopping day immediately following Thanksgiving.

I watched huge crowds (the kind that become mobs--which, by definition, are dangerous entities) gather strength like tropical storms that, after lingering over warm ocean waters, become hurricanes.

Is a good deal on yoga pants really worth it, people?

These scenes, for the most part, took place between the hours of ten p.m. and midnight...soon after dinner.

Automatically eliminated then, I assume, is the best part of Thanksgiving---hanging around. 

Talking, embarrassing each other with inappropriate stories, reviving ancient tribal rivalries, fanning the flames of sibling disgruntlement, reawakening jealousies that sit just below the surface of our tender psyches and can easily be summoned by too much sweet potato casserole and repeated poking with a toothpick....what could be better than this?

Oh, Shaun...!
Fueled by sugar and vino, we chat as dishes pile up on counters and the cats circle what's left of the stuffing and gravy. Some even fill a plate for a second round while, stoned on turkey, the rest of us listen as a cousin describes how she used to lick the shiny off her Shaun Cassidy poster back in the 70's.

This kind of family bonding cannot happen if you're planning to barrel through the entrance of Banana Republic at ten o'clock hoping to snag a pair of half-price khakis and a new belt. 

At the mall, far from the ramblings of the remorseless overeaters left behind in your living room, is a new world where people are literally trampled, punches are thrown and lunatics pepper spray fellow video-game shoppers at Walmart (although that really was a great idea, wasn't it?)

Please don't misunderstand. I share America's lust for a bargain but I'd rather both give and receive refrigerator magnets made out of macaroni and bottle caps than risk my life in a Black Friday mob.
Alive and well at 90!

Not to mention, I can barely scratch my nose after having cooked and served a Thanksgiving meal.

This year in particular, unaware that I was "coming down with
something," (don't ask) the idea of going anywhere after dinner, other than the local ER, was unthinkable.

Sluggish, stuffed and vaguely uncomfortable, my attention numbly drifted from the remnants of pie left out on the table to the conversation in the corner where a trio of cider-addled relatives was trying to decide whether Abe Vigoda is still alive.

But getting back to the crowds--they scare me. 

I have ventured into them willingly only upon a few occasions....memorably, once as a young woman, to stand beneath the Brooklyn Bridge on its birthday gasping upwards at Grucci Family fireworks. And, again, as a giant preggo, taking the Staten Island Ferry home at the height of the rush hour.
Not fun at rush hour.
The episode under the bridge began peacefully but turned foul once the fireworks were over and the crowd, now impatient to get home, went nuts and people began to push and climb on the hoods of cars.

The ferry was even worse. Thrown out of whack by third trimester hormones, I suffered a full blown panic attack and had to be talked out of jumping overboard by my cousin Julie who also had a good grip on my wrists as the packed boat carried us past the Statue of Liberty and back to the terminal at St. George.

To join a mob to shop is unthinkable. Terrifying. Simply not worth it. For me.

If you joined the Black Friday crowds -- cranberry staining your lips and nutmeg on your breath -- as long as you didn't push, bite or mace your fellow shoppers, I salute your courage.

I, for one, will start gluing pasta to magnets for your Christmas gift as soon as I finish off the pumpkin pie.
Or, how about a nice past necklace?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Make This Dip! I Insist!

If you never make any other recipe I suggest or take any other advice, this is the one you SHOULD NOT IGNORE--everyone I know loves it.

This is an easy (although you have to do a teeny bit of chopping) dip recipe that you will want to eat by the spoonful and will be requested again and again.

It's origin is that after having a salad that included all these elements, I thought it would work in dip form and it does.

It's best with a crisp cracker or sturdy chip because it's chunky. I serve it with Wheat Thins and provide a small spreader for slathering.

You can make it with the lower calorie/fat versions of the ingredients, too and it's still fabulous.

Susan Says' Chunky Dip
One cup crumbled bleu cheese
One cup crumbled feta
One Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
One can Water Chestnuts, chopped
3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted (see note below)
One cup mayo
One cup sour cream

Combine all ingredients and start eating. It will keep in the fridge for abut a week but it will never last that long!!

You can adjust the mayo and/or sour cream to taste. Some people use all mayo or all sour cream. I like the combo. You can also add or subtract it depending on your texture preference.

To toast pecans....first chop 'em. Then place in dry skillet on low to medium heat for about 3-5 minutes. That's it. This will bring out a nice, toasty flavor in the nuts.
Oh, sorry. I thought you said chunky cat....
See you all after the holiday! XXOO

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Home for Thanksgiving, Part II

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. 
For me, it all started here.
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.

Thank you all for reading. I'm taking tomorrow off other than to post the single most delicious dip recipe ever for those of you who have been asked to bring a pre-meal nibble to your holiday destination.

I will see you all after the holiday but want you to know how grateful I am for your continued readership. This blog has given me discipline, brought me new friends and reacquainted me with some old ones. So thanks for stopping by, signing up and for the comments you make.

Happy, healthy Thanksgiving to all with love from "Susan Says..."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Home for Thanksgiving

Tommy is home.

Enthroned upstairs at his laptop, he is working from here for the week and I am flitting back and forth bringing him things to eat and drink despite his desperate pleas to "Just leave me alone, for the love of God, Mom!

I cannot.

In the spirit of my Great Uncle, who used to think that the funniest thing on earth was to wake a soundly napping family member and ask them, with great urgency, if they were thirsty or hungry, I must run about on bent legs and offer snacks if you're peckish, sweatshirts if you're chilly, hot tea if you're parched...you get the idea

If you're bored, I will also perform a stand-up routine that I practice on the cats but they'll laugh at anything, so it might not be very good. Plus it might contain a few jokes too many about raw fish and dead mice.

In view of all this, I am re-running a Thanksgiving post from last November that no one read because this blog was so new. I hope you enjoy it....
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.

You remember this...

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.

Me and the cook.

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.....)

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Movement is Born: Occupy IHOP, America!!!

If you know me well, you are aware that my favorite restaurant on planet earth is IHOP.

I would rather eat at an IHOP than the fanciest, most elegant, trendy or highly-touted dining spot available--even if you're paying.

Bring me that carafe of hot, delicious coffee. Let me fiddle around with the sticky array of syrup dispensers (original, blueberry, strawberry and butter pecan) and observe -- with rapt interest -- what delicious things sail by in the practiced grip of the pleasant wait staff on their way to other people's tummies.

Give me the five to ten minute wait on a weekend morning where I feign annoyance as others are called first but secretly enjoy the delay as anticipation builds.

Hand over the towering menu packed with glossy photos of breakfast, lunch and dinner although breakfast is on the agenda no matter the hour of the day.

Show me the clean, shaved necks of the burly men crammed into booths with their wives, children and mothers-in-law because it's Sunday and that means, if you're damn lucky, a delicious breakfast out.

If we are at IHOP, we're not on home turf because there is no IHOP nearby. We're usually down south or far up north where, as proud ambassadors of urban pancake lovers, we unconsciously soften the edges of our city accents in order to blend in with the locals.

The closest IHOP to me is about an hour's drive despite my regular entreaties to corporate. No, I don't bombard them with email (once or twice per day is sufficient) but I have repeatedly threatened suggested  that an IHOP would be most welcome in my neighborhood.

Now, I read that IHOP is expanding with a new chain of fast-food restaurants where you order at a counter and sit at sterile little tables under bad lighting. 

While I should be thrilled, this is not the IHOP I recognize. While pancakes are always good (even a bad pancake is a good pancake) the very nature of fast food will compromise the quality.

Plus, I would miss the thrill of having our name called by the smiling hostess as she leads us to our freshly wiped down table, the fake leather of the cozy booth, the amber water glasses sliding off the tray and into formation before us and the blissful moment of decision: a country omelet -- hold-the-sour-cream-please -- with a side of pancakes or a stack of originals.


Yes, their portions have recently shrunk. Yes, they eliminated my all-time favorite breakfast of banana nut pancakes served with that weird but delicious banana syrup but, after extensive therapy as well as a white-hot love for the franchise, I have accepted it.

Now they are talking treason with something heinous called a "Cup o' Pancakes." Add to this the new concept of an "interactive syrup bar" and, we now have a reason to organize and freakin' take back IHOP!

Are you listening, America???!!!! We are rooty tooty fresh and fruity not going to take this!

I ask you to join me as I "Occupy IHOP!"

Please urge everyone you know to drop whatever they are doing and clog the entrances, dawdle in the booths, and if necessary, erect tents in the kitchens of your local IHOP restaurant.

Let them know that purists will not be toyed with.  We will not accept such a major shift in focus brought about by corporate greed, decisions made by men in suits who have lost touch with the essence of THE PEOPLE.

Princess Chunk
Celebrities who have already expressed an interest in joining our cause are Kirstie Alley, John Goodman,Wendy the Snapple Lady and Princess Chunk, the Cat.

This movement is guaranteed to spread like wildfire across the land. Join us now so you can tell your grandchildren, as they sit in pleather booths eating their pancakes on plates  instead of styrofoam cups, that you were a part of saving a piece of American so precious to one courageous woman that she gave up everything and devoted her life to a cause greater than herself....pancakes.

Have a great weekend, America and thank you.
It's coming, America. Are you prepared?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Zooey Deschanel Effect

Zooey Deschanel has been confusing me for some time now.

It appears that her deer-in-the-headlights, childlike yet deadpan delivery and perpetually popping eyes have an intense effect on the male species.

Ever since I took Sociology 101 and our highly educated professor delivered the earth shattering news that "different people react to things in different ways" suggesting that, as an assignment, we crawl across the floor of a subway car and monitor the variety of reactions from other riders, I have been interested in this sort of thing.

And, no, I never crawled across the floor of a subway car...not a single girl in the class even considered it but several guys did and were completely ignored by New Yorkers who had, more than likely, been subjected to this type of experiment before.
Show surprise, Miss Deschanel.

After all, there are a lot of colleges in NYC.

But, in any case, here comes Zooey with a big head of hair extensions, wearing very short skirts but trying not to be overtly sexy. Apparently, however, she is very sexy in that avantgarde, icky child/woman way that makes adult women gag slightly but makes men a little too happy.

Case in point: My sons and husband really like her. 

Her stumbling dorky innocence, her well-intentioned but ill-fated hijinks plus that voice (interpreted differently by the male ear than the female) that seems to emanate from under a pile of wet leaves at the back of her throat, cause men to fall under some sort of spell.

"Do I want to spank her, protect her, perform a duet with her, help her with her homework...or, well, you know..." they wonder aloud as they stand in tight circles by water coolers all over the American continent.

The words quirky, cute and different are used when describing Zooey. She typically appears in roles where she is the droll, best friend or the oddball ingenue who bewitches the slightly cerebral leading man.

Fair enough...someone's got to do it.
Now, show anger...

In order to get to the bottom of the "Zooey Deschanel Effect" (known from this point as the "ZDE"), I watched a few episodes of "The New Girl."
Show sorrow....
and decided to try out her style at home to see if it would have any affect on Seth.

I spent a good part of a Saturday morning with my eyes really wide open, walking with slightly stiff legs and trying to talk in a deep voice but cut it short when I overheard Seth place a quiet phone call to tell Charlie, "I think Mom may have had a slight stroke."
I also read a little about her before writing this and learned that she will be appearing in a bio pic as Janis Joplin in the near future.

Janis Joplin--a woman of intense, if drug-fueled, musical range, known for genuine emotion which she channeled into some of the most memorable performances ever recorded?

That Janis Joplin? Sure, that makes sense.

Director: I'm making a film about Janis Joplin, man.
Casting Agent: Wow, you'll need someone really authentic and capable of great and varied emotion, dude.
Director: Nah, I'm taking an alternate approach to depicting her character, man.
Casting Agent: Wow, great idea, dude.
Director: I think I'd like to hire a deadpan actress with a limited vocal range who rarely blinks and appears really robotic, man.
Casting Agent: That's Zooey Deschanel! She's incredible, dude.
Director: You are so right, I love her, man.
Now, please show passion...

I am sure that this post will elicit angery responses from those experiencing the ZDE as well as from females who are trying to emulate her. *

I will be compared to Scrooge, accused of being a snarky, wrinkled, dried-up, cat-hoarding bitch who is twisted with jealousy now that my estrogen levels no longer leave a foot print in the mudroom.
Hi, I'm Nigella.

I will be attacked as I was by many (all men) after I dared question Nigella Lawson's erotic approach to cooking and it will be suggested that I might likely harm a puppy or knock an ice cream come from the sticky hands of a toddler.


And, this is often the point where I come around and agree that I actually do find --fill in the blank -- kind of appealing and admit that I am really possessed with affable jealousy over so and so's charm....but  I'm not really feeling it with Miss Deschanel.

I do think, based on the responses of the slobbering men around me, that she has a solid career ahead of her and, judging by Hollywood's overreaction to bio pics, will receive an Academy Award for the film about Janis, enchanting America as she stumbles adorably down the red carpet wearing a pinafore with stilettos.

In all fairness, she did a pretty good job, singing the National Anthem at a recent World Series game...

*It was pointed out to me a few moments ago by a reader that girls genuinely love her, too. This expands the ZDE dramatically. Plus, I want to thank the reader for not verbally abusing me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Age 16
Tomorrow I am planning to spend the day with my Aunt Alice.

Alice just celebrated her 92nd birthday and, in the past year, has lost much of the zest and sparkle that set her apart from the other old ladies she hung around with, many quite a bit younger than she.

After her party, on the way home, I became very sad about this faded version of my aunt but Seth reminded me what a full life Alice has led.

He is absolutely right.

She kept the home fires burning during WWII for my Uncle Ed who was overseas and, upon his return, enjoyed the life of a wife and mother in a world where you weren't self-conscious about telling people that this is what you did when they asked you what you do.

She bowled in a league, played canasta with the girls, learned to make jewelry, read mysteries, enjoyed the theater, was a fantastic dancer and looked great in the sparkly silver sari she'd had made while traveling through India.

Oh, did I mention that she traveled? Well, she did. She and Ed saw the world, made friends everywhere, brought home  treasures and told fascinating stories about their adventures. She never forgot to bring me a doll, dressed in the national costume, from every country she visited.
How about those socks?

She collected jewelry made from volcanic lava and had three cats. She talked on the phone with friends every day, making plans and laughing.

She used a long cigarette holder when she smoked and once answered the door stark naked when Jehovah's Witnesses came to call.

They never returned but tried to save her soul by leaving copies of The Watchtower in the mailbox every once in a while.

She would also ask people who called to try and sell her things over the phone (long before they became telemarketers with automatic dialing and robo calling), "How dare you interrupt me when I'm having sex?!?"

Although, she was not that polite--opting for a grittier version and laughing after they'd gasp and hang up.

Alice was a fearless cook, imaginative and experimental. She ate enormous portions yet remained slim and gleefully introduced the concept of fondue to a table of stunned relatives who could not fathom why they had been given plates of raw meat.

She introduced the avant garde concept of salad dressing to her greenhorn family who only knew to put mayo on their greens and enjoyed hot dogs from a cart after a movie in the city.

She whipped up favorite dishes for her family but thought nothing of cooking for a party of 60 people. She loved to entertain and could make conversation with anyone.

She preferred modern design and her favorite colors were blue and green. She never colored her hair, had long nails, wore eyeliner and used a brush to apply her lipstick.

She loved puns, did the New York Times crossword puzzles with ease and, in the early 1940s, almost became a traveling singer with a big band. Her mother, who rarely said no to her only child, put her foot down and forbade it. She listened to rock and roll while other women her age were tapping their toes to Lawrence Welk.

She could follow complicated knitting instructions with ease, churning out elegant sweaters, vests and afghans for everyone she liked. She was a little flirty but was a devoted wife and was married to her husband for 63 years before he died and she's managed since then, although she misses him terribly.

People wanted to be around her.

Alice had charisma. When I was little, she would always make sure that I sat next to her at the long family table at Thanksgiving but would become annoyed if I kicked her chair. I was very careful not to do that because I didn't want to blow this great gig as her dinner companion. She didn't treat me like a kid and made me feel very special.

She taught me how to be a good hostess, how to present a meal, make people feel welcome, set a table with lots of forks and spoons and introduced me to Szechuan cooking when all I'd known was Cantonese.

She made me my first iced coffee and took me to my first French restaurant. She showed me how to eat an artichoke and kept a laquered tray with fresh fruit on the counter. Her refrigerator was always jam-packed with delicious leftovers and you could pull out anything you wanted and eat it.

When Tommy was born and I'd used up the good will and stamina of both my mother and mother-in-law, I went to Alice who walked the floor with the colicky newborn while I slept deeply in the guest room.
Alice and me, 1962.
I still have the same hair-do.

Today she is more of a shadow than Alice--kind of like the one Peter Pan wanted Wendy to sew back on in the story and her rich, vibrant, nuanced life has become quiet and slow.

When I get melancholy after seeing her in this late stage of living, I will remind myself that Alice really, really lived. She seized the day every day and looked forward to new experiences, meeting new people and still has the hots for a few of the pro dancers on Dancing With The Stars.

Rock on, Alice. See you tomorrow.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How to Make People Remember You at the Mall

Did anyone catch Melissa McCarthy recount a hilarious story about her experience with Spanx the other day on Ellen?

Not only was it laugh-out-loud funny but it was a perfect example of how an experience can be so colossally embarrassing that, in a strange way, it becomes not embarrassing at all. It just cancels itself out.

Take a moment to enjoy it:
It happened, it cannot be undone. It's the just-get-on-with-your-life type of embarrassment. Has it ever happened to you?

Here is just such a story, totally true but the names have been changed to protect the innocent from her angry and humiliated children...

Once upon a time there was a young mother who breastfed her babies but was very self-conscious about it.

She had friends who were totally comfortable about whipping out their "equipment" willy nilly in any and all public places but were sufficiently adept and coordinated to strategically drape both themselves and their babies under receiving blankets so that nothing was ever seen by unwelcome eyes.

The heroine of our story, due to her extreme self-consciousness, used to procure what the baby needed with an electrical torture device (try that at Gitmo, boys--they'll beg to be water boarded) and brought bottles with her when not at home.

One day, however, she left the bottles behind on the kitchen counter and found herself at a distant and fancy shmancy mall in New Jersey with a hungry baby who was too young for a Snapple and a hot dog.

With true fear, she realized that she was going to have to feed the baby in public.

Having no idea where the damn bathrooms were in this enormous mall and since the baby's howls were now reaching epic volume, the young mother sat down on a bench in a quiet corner and layered up with so many receiving blankets that she feared the baby might suffocate.

But she was confident that no one would see her "personal lactation accessories" and proceeded to do what needed to be done.

After a successful feeding -- her first out of the sheltering privacy of her home -- she sat on the bench and beamed with joy at the world.
This Madonna...

She had not only proven to herself that she, too, could discreetly feed a baby in public but now felt like a total earth mother, a sacred fountain of life, a peaceful madonna who sat basking in the glow of her maternal ingenuity.

Life was good.

So, the young mother undid the tangle of protective bunting, folded the sweet little blankies and snapping herself back up, settled the now content baby back into the cozy nest of his stroller. 

Mission accomplished, she stood up to continue her travels around the fancy shmancy mall.
...not this one.

As the young mother strolled about, she noticed that everyone was staring at her with expressions of total shock, but, still a-glow after her recent success, misinterpreted this as public support and acknowledgement of her fabulous mothering and maternal serenity.

We never said this woman was not somewhat delusional.

So, the young mother smiled beatifically back at the wide-eyed, stupified starers and gapers not realizing that she had neglected to conceal one boob and it was totally displayed for the entire universe to see.

It wasn't until the young mother felt an unusual cool breeze on her skin that she looked down and beheld THE HORROR.

It was so awful, so mind-blowingly unbelievable, so cosmically mortifying, so beyond everything and anything that the young mother had two choices but since she had a baby to nurture into the charming thug he eventually became, suicide was not an option.

So, our heroine did the only thing she could do. She simply snapped herself back up and, with head held high, continued onward.

This mother now found this funny and laughed to herself for the remainder of her trip--thus completing the image of total insanity: first appearing indecently exposed at the fancy shmancy New Jersey mall and now, apparently, laughing at nothing.

All in all, it was a perfect day.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I am Not A Hoarder. Yet.

A rare treasure.
Seth did it again.

He accused me of being a hoarder because one of the kitchen drawers had become stuck due to overcrowding.

It turned out to be a naughty set of tongs that chose to open on their own, necessitating a horrific operation that required everything but a blow torch to get the drawer open.

I then, in an act of martyred protest, went through all my kitchen drawers which had, mysteriously filled up again since the last time I'd dared look into them.

Here is a repeat of a post that ran when this blog was such a baby that it needed its diapers changed and all of 12 people read it. If any of you were in that brave group of pioneers, thanks for sticking with me...and I hope you'll enjoy it a second time:

I have attempted to write a shopping list with a tire gauge for the last time.

Has anyone else grabbed for a pen and come away with everything from a rectal thermometer to a cake tester instead of a functional writing implement? 
Who doesn't have one of these?

Am I the only shlepper around here with not one but several junk drawers crammed with ancient tubes of crazy glue and seed packets from the Paleozoic era? If so, you are like me--a creative genius motivated to excel by surrounding herself with clutter. Just kidding…you’re a mess. The line forms to the right.
Now that the house is occupied only by two adults (of admittedly questionable maturity levels) and several cats in various stages of hairball distress, the time has come to conquer the clutter. 

I used to fear that I was a borderline hoarder until I started watching "Clean House" when, not only did I learn that I want to be Neicie Nash when I grow up, but that people have far worse issues than I.

I forced my husband to watch an episode so he would finally stop tucking flyers from junk removal companies under my pillow and he was silenced by what he saw. While this could have bought me several more months of accumulating empty shopping bags and old TV guides, I decided to take action before I ended up on the Discovery Channel.

I started in the kitchen. 

Sitting at the table with a glass of ice water and a portable phone in case I needed the police, I pulled out a drawer and began sorting. 

After a few exhausting minutes, I had no choice but to take a break to call everyone in my address book, watch Dr. Phil, search Facebook for the kid who sat next to me in tenth grade biology, check the battery in my carbon monoxide detector, give the cats flea treatments and review all my past mistakes from birth to the day before yesterday. 

Then it was lunchtime.
It took another few days to work out an organized system.When Seth came home on the day I’d begun, he was so grateful to see progress that he was happy to eat three bananas for dinner so as not to compromise my momentum. 

I made piles of receipts, filled baggies with rubber bands, erasers and old tokens from the batting cage. I tossed out forgotten pocket combs, broken nail clippers, old batteries and multiples of take-out menus. 

I combined photos in envelopes (without stopping to pore over each one) and found a bucket for loose change which I later rolled and counted only to discover that I was $112.38 richer. I stacked pads of post-its, chucked pens that didn’t write and chargers for phones I no longer own.

I did, however, keep the pencil sharpener in the shape of a nose.  I’d been looking for that everywhere.
Motivated by Seth's grateful weeping, I hit the closets in our bedroom and am happy to report that I located Jimmy Hoffa. 
And you thought he was buried in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
I said goodbye to winter jackets that don't fit and packed up old belts, bags and enough single gloves for an army of Michael Jackson impersonators. 

I also found a stuffed doggie sewn for me by my grandmother when I was three years old and had no choice but to sit on the floor, surrounded by the debris of my life and sob for about a half hour. It was very cathartic.
By the time the closet debacle was complete, I had several huge garbage bags divided into appropriate categories and the stuffed dog was enjoying a sunny spot on my bed. 

Seth was delirious with joy. He favors the spartan decorating style of a prison cell and foolishly thought that I finally shared this viewpoint. I had to snap him back into reality by menacing him with several sets of chopsticks still wearing their festive wrappers.
Never will my home be a show place. It will always look as if a quirky family lives within its walls. Books lean and tilt on jam-packed shelves. CDs and DVDs fight for space in the den and the boys old games still occupy the cabinets because God forbid they come home hoping to play Battleship and I have just thrown it out. 

My drawers and closets will eventually fill-up again and my home will indicate the presence of life in all its disorganized glory. 

As for Jimmy Hoffa, he was so happy to get out of here that he didn’t even say goodbye.     

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cujo and The Girl Scout

I knew something was up. But what?

It was an exceptionally beautiful day. Soft and golden and all fuzzy around the edges, the unseasonable warmth was a welcome guest as it melted the vestiges of last week's snowstorm.

Why then did I feel nervous and short tempered, behave aggressively in traffic and feel like bursting into tears when "Uptown Girl" started playing on the radio.

While I am not a huge fan of that song, it's certainly not that bad.

Why, as the shadows, in  deepening shades of mauve and gray, draped themselves around the shoulders of my well-meaning little town did I very nearly start a brawl with a girl scout no older than 11 or 12 as she sat at a table at our local polling place and asked me if I wanted to buy cookies to help support her troop?
Happy, patriotic and innocent.

So what that she asked me once on the way in and again on the way out? The girl scouts do good things and help make the world a better place. 

And why am I getting all angry again now just remembering it?

Why was I so sure she was trying to mess with me instead of just realizing that she didn't remember that she'd already asked me once?

And why didn't I just ignore her instead of snarling, "Didn't I tell you I didn't want any cookies?"
Chapter 13: How to deal with the insane

Why did it get to the point where Seth had to dig his fingers into my arm to prevent me from yelling, "Hey, you want a piece of me?" at the happy little girl in her little green vest.

Was it the vest? Do I hate vests? The color green? Maybe it was the sash? Or the little hat and badges?

What was happening??

Why did I then holler at Seth in the car because he didn't agree that the little girl scout was trying to murder me by giving me the hard sell for something that would clog my arteries and cause premature dementia before I moldered away, alone and restrained, in a home reserved specifically for mean bitches who yell at Girl Scouts?

And then, mid-yell, I saw it. Up in the sky. 

The moon was just about full.

And Susan Says came dangerously close to joining the ranks of irrational lunatics who do bodily harm to themselves or others and flood into emergency rooms every month to have topical antibiotic applied to their wounds. It's no joke that people go nutso during a full moon.
Me, leaving town.

Had the confrontation with the girl scout (words I never thought I would ever type) gone on a millisecond longer, I would have had little choice but to leave town under the cover of night, never to return.

People simply do not act like that around here. Thank God.

I apologize to girl scouts everywhere and will be making a charitable donation to GSA as soon as the straitjacket comes off.

The actual full moon is tonight. Wish Seth luck.

        Come to think of it, the expression on Christie's face   while she's "dancing" might make anyone cry.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Year With No Halloween

This year we had no Halloween.

Yes, of course, the calendar provided us with an actual October 31 and, technically, it was Halloween for a period of 24 hours but our normally festive roads, streets and lanes were silent and pitch black.

Traditionally in our little town, all who wish to receive trick-or-treaters flip on their front light and are prepared with mountains of candy.

My neighborhood is particularly busy because, in this semi-rural community, the houses are often spread apart, secluded or hidden atop twisting driveways but the homes here are more accessible and closer together.

Not expecting the horrific snowstorm that befell us so unseasonably, I did what I always do: I bought enormous amounts of Halloween candy.

I go for a wide variety of the "fun" size candy bars and love hitting the stores, grabbing whatever strikes my fancy--emptying it all into a giant basket and sampling one of each as I go.
This year was a little different as I exhibited unusual will power due to my enormous ass and was somehow able to resist temptation. I ate nothing.

It was a Halloween miracle. 

I also counted on all the candy being distributed--planning to increase the amounts tossed into the plastic pumpkins and pillowcases as the evening wound down so there would be nothing left to tempt me. 

So, when it was established that Halloween would be skipping our town due to the power outage -- a blow of biblical proportion for the local vampires, hobos, ninjas and Princesses Jasmine -- and we shivered in the darkness of our freezing homes, the candy remained in its basket, uneaten.

Candy. Basket. RemainedCandy. Uneaten.

In recognition of the inevitable, I begged Seth to hide it.

By the second day, I started to look for it.

By the sixth day, I was at my wits end. Sometimes I'd catch a whiff on Seth's breath or the hair on the back of my neck would stand if I was getting close to the stash but I simply could not find it. 

Where in the name of Dr. Oz and his purple gloves was it?

Immensely impressed by Seth's accomplishment, successfully separating me -- a woman born with a shnoz designed to sniff out chocolate like a bloodhound tracks a scent -- from a massive hoard of delicious calories, I silently praised him despite my impulse to press a steak knife to his throat until he told me where it was. My pride kept me under control.

This is a huge aberration because I normally have absolutely no pride, whatsoever. I'm not even sure what the word means.

Defeated and confused, I ceased to search.

While I sensed the palpable presence of miniature Snickers, Milky Ways and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, I gave up. Mistaking self control for weakness, victory for defeat, sanity for blippity bloppity, I fell into bed with neither chocolate in my tummy nor joy in my heart.

I was Napoleon facing his Waterloo...Caesar, wounded by Cleopatra's rejection...any one of the Kardashian sisters faced with a two syllable word...

Well, I just found the candy.

Hidden in plain sight, it was in a closet that was so obvious that I never thought to look there. Upon inspection, I could tell that Seth had made inroads with the tiny Almond Joys and the baby Butterfingers. Sifting the remainder through my fingers, I could smell the nougat and caramel through their flimsy wrappers, detect their fat content and analyze the list of ingredients with just a sniff of my generous, candy-loving nose.

I will bag them tomorrow and have Seth take it all to work since I am not in the least concerned about the blood sugar levels and inevitable diabetic comas of his co-workers.

I did unwrap one Baby Ruth, though. Sniffing it like one might a fine cigar, I inhaled the aroma but then tossed it out of the slider into the snow from whence it could not be retrieved at 3 am.
The holy grail of Halloween candy.

Unless Seth has counted every piece in the basket, which is entirely possible, he will never miss it.