Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Heppy New Year (which is better than Hippy New Year)

Everyone I've read today is doing retrospective posts. They are fine pieces of writing, florid at times (and at times, not) that offer substantial summing up of 2008 (and at times, don't).

Don't worry: I have no such offering here.

I'm not one for looking back--or for that matter, forward. It's enough for me to concentrate on just what is right now. How absolutely, awfully, disgustingly Zen of me. Not to mention only true for this precise moment.

So at this precise moment, I'm feeling quite content with my lot in life, such as is it, ta dum ta dum. Here's what I'm liking, at this precise moment:

1. I FINALLY found the absolutely perfect template for MidLifeBloggers. It is installed--sort of. That means, that not all parts of it are operational, but they will be soon if not sooner.

2. This, the finding and installing of the template, is an excellent thing because until I did, I was ready to shitcan the entire site. IT WOULD NOT DO WHAT I WANTED IT TO. Not to mention that IT WAS STARTING TO BORE ME. And if it bored me, its mama, just imagine what it was doing to the rest of the world. But the thing was, I just didn't care. Because I COULD NOT GET THE SITE TO DO WHAT I WANTED IT TO. But now I can and, ergo, we're in business again. Sans orange...or as one of our regulars said, "so you've folded the orange tent." Yes, I have.

3. I'm feeling at peace with who I am, for the first time in I don't know when. How long this will last, I'm not sure. Just mark that on December 31st, 2008, I liked me.

4. Here's a pitcher of Julie, Max, and Brit on the boat fishing. Notice the life jackets, please. Julie and Mark (the photographer) are nothing if not perfect parents.

Friday, December 26, 2008

It's Boxing Day in Britain

You may believe the folklore that that's the day the Brits give their help their Christmas presents. That may have been true, oh a million years ago, or maybe even now for a Very Small Number of Brits who have 'help.' For the rest of the country, though, Boxing Day is when you have a hangover from the excesses of Christmas Day. Here's what I recall of Christmas Days when I lived in England.*

Hamish and I were visiting our friends, Bunny and Ray, somewhere in the northern reaches of England. I can't remember the actual city, but it had to be one where there was a rep company, because Ray, like Hamish, was an actor. And Bunny, like me, was a wife who worked. I've arrived on Christmas Eve, because I had to ply my secretarial trade that day. My boss, the porcine Mr. Platt, in his best fatherly fashion, had dragged me and my huge sacks full of Christmas gifts in a taxi to the train station. Mr. Platt was porky; he was also a Republican; and he was also very kind.

When the train chugged it's way north, I drank coffee and ate a stale British Rail cheese sandwich. The former was poured from two pots, one containing coffee and the other hot milk, at a great height, say 2 feet or so, by the porter. Without spilling a drop--quite a feat. The latter was, as were all British sandwiches then (and now?) composed of a single slice of cheese between two buttered slices of white bread. Yum. If you were lucky, there wasn't any green on the bread.

When the train pulled into the station, Hamish and Ray and Bunny were waiting for me. Or maybe it was just Hamish and Ray. Or perhaps just Hamish. I can't remember because, frankly, the coffee was the last non-alcoholic beverage I drank for the next 36 hours. Each of us had laid in a store of our Christmas drink. I don't remember what the others had, but mine was a pitcher of gin martinis, light on the vermouth, kept chilling the refrigerator. We drank. We ate. We watched endless variety shows on TV. And we drank some more, and the next day, Boxing Day, we had to drink again, because without Hair of the Dog, none of us could put one foot in front of the other.

The cast of characters changed over the six or so Christmases I spent in England, but the activities never did. We drank, we ate, we watched bad TV, and on Boxing Day we recovered.

*Which was, admittedly, some time ago, so maybe they have become more civilized since then.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Happy Anniversary to Me

Actually I'm a day late--and some might say, a dollar short--because yesterday, December 13, was the fourth anniversary of ByJane. That first post was on LiveJournal and my avatar was a photo of Molly that I can't even find now. I had great expectations for the blog; two years later, I was somewhat chastened. Not to mention disappointed. And at times pissed off. But I persevered and here's what I was promising on December 13, 2006. I was a tad ambitious, perhaps, and--as has been my wont before--promised more than I provided. Still, some 645+ published posts down the road, I'm proud of what I've wrought: it's been me up-close, sometimes uncomfortable and sometimes goofy. But that's Jane.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Still Futzing with the Template

Can you tell? Probably not, unless you're refreshing frequently. Or were hovering over ByJane about 6:30 this morning. But that would be 9:30 East coast time, so maybe you were. Or maybe I'm delusional.

Yes, I got out of bed in what is to me the wee small hours to futz with my template. I cannot help myself. It makes me feel like I'm achieving things. It gives me a purpose in life, a something to do NOW, IMMEDIATELY. Because I know that the reason my stats are so puny is that my blog is more than relatively unattractive. It has nothing to do with what or when I post, I'm sure of that, because my words--they're always pearls, right? So I'm convinced that there is a blog design that will suddenly--hail all and eureka!--cause the heavens to part and the multitudes to reign (or is that rain?) down on ByJane. Complete with winning comments.



Oh yes, you wanted to see my hair. Okay:Here I am shorn.

And off I go, to futz again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Merry Ho Ho Ho--and a Bah to you too...

Don't know what you get your honey for Christmas? Don't be looking here for any ideas.

It's not that I don't love the holidays. I do I do! I love tinsel and glitter and the smell of [real] pine (the fake stuff, not so much). I just got back from the supermarket and my nose is twitching because I spent a full five minutes with it buried in the evergreen wreath display. I didn't buy anything; I just soaked up smells.

I love wrapping gifts, making like Martha with the matching paper and ribbon. See--this is from a couple of years ago:
This year, though, I'm eschewing all attempts at gift-giving jollity. I refuse to participate in that Times are Tough so Look Happy That I Bought You Toilet Paper--and stuck a fuckin' bow on it. I will not indulge in an orgy of fake bling exchanges. If I can't trade the real stuff with my nearest and dearest--well, then I won't.

I come from a family mired in giftgiving bullshit. Did I say that nicely enough? My sister, bless her little heart, loves to give presents and she will give them to you whether you want them or not. I'm not sure why she loves to give presents. What's the exchange there for her? It's not that she treasures hunting for the perfect gift, because more often than not, unless she's been given a list (which her kids learned to do when they could barely write), she will give something that she likes without a thought that you would not be caught dead in it. And it's not that she's found that perfect something for you on vacation last year and tucked it away till the holidays. If she did, she can't find it. And if she can find it, she is pleased to tell you she can't remember what it is. This is, one might say, passive-aggressive gift giving honed to a fine art.

Consequently and as a result as well--I tend to view gift giving as a chore that causeth me to break out in hives. If I were, that is, a hive-y sort of person; which I'm not (although I do have a few sneezing type allergies). Thus, this year I am declaring that The Economy Is Too Bad for me to even consider gifting others (you like gifting as a verb? how about toileting as a verb?). And next year? Perhaps I'll still be recovering from this year.

News bulletin: I had just about put the period on that last sentence when my doorbell did ring and who should appear but a friend bearing a frothy golden beribboned package. Well, shit--.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Win A Book To Curl Up With on Christmas Eve

Here's the bookand here's part of the back jacket copy:

Gracefully capturing the strange alchemy of people and places, Kaya McLaren's story of redemption and rediscovery will inspire readers to find the magic and power in every day shared with the people they love.

Here's what you have to do to win it:

1. Write in a comment why you want to win it. Why should you, of all my millions of readers, be the one to curl up with Church of the Dog? Make me laugh; make me cry; make me want to spend the postage to send it to you in time for Christmas Eve.

That's all. Nothing magical. Just a comment. From you--to me....

Saturday, December 06, 2008

I'm Housecleaning, dum de dum

Not in my house, dummy. Here, on my blog. It's coming up to the anniversary of ByJane and I thought--ya know, Jane, this blog looks like shit. So I'm sweeping with new brooms and swabbing the decks and whatever else I get the notion to do.

Meanwhile, Liz over at Inventing My Life tapped me for a meme. At first I thought--oooooooooooooohhh nooooooooooo. But when I read her responses, they were so interesting, I got inspired (I think there are too many clauses for one sentence there, but whatever...). So, here's the program:
1) Link to your tagger and list all these rules in your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.

3) Tag 7 people at the end of your post by including links to their blogs.

4) Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Random Weird Facts:
1. I invest all objects, living and not, with feelings. Today at the drugstore, I picked up a small poinsettia that had been knocked over. I had the same feeling doing it as I would have picking up a small child that had been knocked over. More, maybe, because the small child would probably have others to care about it, but the small poinsettia? Who does it have but me?

2. I stay up late and I sleep late. That embarrasses me because I know I live in a world of early risers. I'm working on accepting that these are my natural rhythms. So shut up if you're judgmental.

3. I DO NOT LIKE TO CLEAN. Have I mentioned this before? Only ninety million times. I just never got the cleaning gene...what can I say? So shut up if you're judgmental--or don't come over...or prepare to listen to my endless excuses.

4. I would give up my talent at writing if I had an equally good singing voice. I don't. But I do so love to sing. But you would not love to listen to me.

5. I am lactose-intolerant but every night I have a glass of milk when I'm reading in bed. I can, because I live alone. Maybe I live alone because I can and do. Ya think?

6. My feelings get hurt so fast it would make your head spin. My mother kept trying to get me to get a "thicker skin." All I got was an ability to look and sound like I don't give a shit, when inside I'm dying.

7. I'd rather laugh than anything else. The most important A#1 thing about a friend to me is--sense of humor. If you ain't got one, we're not gonna get along.

Seven People I've Tagged:
1. Margaret at Nanny Goats In Panties
2. Fran at Merlot Mom
3. Shani at Rat Phooey
4. Karen at MidLife's A Trip
5. Susan at StonyRiver Farm
6. KJ at Nana Diaries
7. Ellen at Girl's Garden of Menopause

Whew! Am I done yet?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

"Hurry Down Sunshine" - Making Sense of Senselessness

There is no hard and fast test for mental illness. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), which is the bible of the mental health field, can do no more than categorize the propensity for certain symptoms as being probably indicative of certain conditions. If the fellow down the street has at least two of the following—delusions, hallucinations, odd speech, odd behavior, or seems emotionless—chances are he may be schizophrenic. Or maybe not.

This is what makes mental illness such a will ‘o’ the wisp within the medical profession. And what makes it so frightening to those of us who view it from near or from afar. Michael Greenberg, a widely published writer who lives in New York, has had the near and up front view. When his daughter, Sally, was fifteen, she, seemingly without warning, suffered a psychotic break, or as Greenberg puts it, she was “struck mad.” The official diagnosis ultimately was bipolar disorder, manic depression as it used to be known. Hurry Down Sunshine is Greenberg’s retelling of that break. It is unique in that it focuses not on Sally so much as on her family, on what mental illness looks like from the other side of the dinner table.

That this memoir is well-written goes without saying; Greenberg’s publications include the Times Literary Supplement, The Village Voice, and The Threepenny Review. What fascinated me about it, however, were not the stylistic qualities nor the psychiatric specifics. Rather, this memoir brought front and center the ways and means in which we all will go to avoid reality. Even when mania is blaring in our faces, there is a human propensity for explaining it away.

How we do that is, it seems to me, a function of our cultural biases. One of the courses I had to take when I was doing my Master’s in Psychology was called “Human Diversity.” There I learned that our ideas of what psychological health and illness are vary from community to community. This is fascinating when we’re talking about the ways in which non-Western cultures name mental illness. In Southeast Asia, for example, there is a condition called koro, in which the sufferer believes his penis is shrinking and disappearing into his stomach. In Mexico, they have susto, a soul loss disorder caused by a sudden shock. So crucial is understanding the cultural vagaries of mental illness that the DSM-IV lists these other such culturally specific mental illnesses as diagnostically important.

However, what Hurry Down Sunshine reveals is the cultural biases within the Western world. How we approach—and deny—mental illness is a function of our particular world view. How important is it to us that behavior be consistent and explainable? Is there a god or a spirit or a something-else-inside that guides us? What guilts follow us through our life and how do we assuage them? These are all things that affect how we—and Sally’s family—view her breakdown.

The Greenbergs are, in the main, of that particular genre of New Yorkers who are intellectual, spiritual, and burdened with questions about the meaning of meaning. Woody Allen has done the type very well, but Hurry Down Sunshine is real life, not film script and as such, it begs to be taken seriously. Thus Sally’s mother smuggling a homeopathic remedy called “Skullcap” into the locked psych ward and measuring drops of it into her daughter’s mouth is not some out-of-touch New Age weirdo, no matter how easy it would be to explain her away as such. Rather, she is a tortured mother who only has her own belief systems to draw on to help her daughter. And Greenberg himself, who has, by his own admission, “a high intolerance for aberrance”—was this what enabled him to miss his daughter’s impending psychosis, or is it what gave him the grit to remain with her throughout her ordeal?

That I had these and other such thoughts as I was reading Hurry Down Sunshine is testament to how adept Greenberg is at drawing the reader into the their world. We all, characters in the memoir and reader, are constantly asking: why did this happen? Who was at fault? How can we avoid it in the future? What Greenberg has so ably portrayed and evoked is our intense discomfort with mental illness. When faced with it, we are driven to explain, to blame, to conjure cures and might-have-beens. What we’re driven to do, actually, is to make sense of senselessness. An impossible task, that, but one we all face at one time or another, even if it’s just with the babbling fellow we see down the street.

Hurry Down Sunshine
A Memoir
By Michael Greenberg
Published by Other Press
September 2008;$22.00US; 978-1-59051-191-6

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

Everyone seems to be doing Gratitude Posts this Thanksgiving, so what the hell--I'll give it a shot.

I'm grateful for the post-modern broken home where being together as a family is still on everyone's agenda.
The boys and their father....

The daughters-in-law, who may look serious at the moment I took this, but it was a break in the non-stop laughter and talk.

And the mother-in-law in the mirror.

The granddaughter building a magnificent gingerbread house with Aunt Julie...

Oh, and the pecan pie (among others...)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Of Hair and Other Such Man-Made Disasters...

This is not the first time I have written of such subjects. See here and here, if you will. My quest for a decent haircut NOW THAT I LIVE IN ELK GROVE has taken me on another journey. This time I went to a stylist recommended by two friends of mine. I like their haircuts. They touted this stylist as one who is au courant, not to mention up to the minute on the latest hair tricks and styling whatnots. They also said her salon was a bit...well, I didn't really hear what they said. I was so taken with an au courant stylist within a five mile radius. Not to mention one who charges $35 a cut.

The salon: took me a while to find it. Kept driving by it because it is in the back of some huge government building where they pass out visas to barely legal aliens, or some such thing. When I finally found it--and it was in the back, down a long lonely corridor--I passed two women on their way out. They had perms. Those kind of perms that makes one's hair frizz and kink and resemble rusty brillo pads. But I persevered, because I trust my friends and they both swore by this stylist.

And they were right. She is absolutely au courant, having just taken a class in texturing from some Hollywood bigwig. She textured the absolute shit out of my hair. I thought texturing was the new word for layering. But I think they use the word texture because whatever they're doing to your hair gives it a really weird texture. In the normal course of events, I have really thick hair. It's very shiny, healthy, and is a point of pride being my crowning glory and all that. Here's what it looked like in high school--okay, the face is different, but the hair, really the hair is pretty much the same, with the added bonus of a streak of silver.
I no longer have this hair. I, who used to be the envy of all thin-haired girls, now seem to have thin hair myself. I have been textured into near baldness. My ponytail droops, a hundred hairs shy of its former self. And now way could I wear my hair down; there are no more thick waves to flip up at the ends. Well, there is on one side, but the other, near baldness. My glorious silver streak has been textured into salt and pepper. When I get up in the morning and see myself as I brush my teeth, I'm scared. I look like a hag. Frizzy and frizzled and thinning and--oh woe. Oh woe. I've already cut the back myself. Grabbed two handfuls of hair and chopped of an inch or so. It is marginally better. By a very slim margin.

When I spent that six weeks in the hospital after having a cerebral aneurysm, my hair showed the consequence of all the drugs and disaster. This time, I didn't have to spend six weeks in the hospital to get a similar look. And I only paid $35.

Yet again and still forever, I am twisting my hair up, shoving a clip in it and thinking--oh, well, who was I wanting to impress?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Jane's Award-Winning, World-Famous, Best-Ever Pecan Pie

I'm reposting this recipe from a couple of years ago. It is the single most Googled post from ByJane (although French Pedicure and Tidy Whities are running a close second and third). I notice that this year all the cooking sites and magazines are offering tips on how to make Thanksgiving in this time of foreclosures and economic funk. I would like to point out that the only truly "expensive" part of a pecan pie is the pecans. And my pecan pie demands that you NOT use whole pecans. Chips, bits and cracked up nuts--these are the ones that are the cheapest to buy, and these are what Jane's Award-Winning, World-Famous, Best-Ever Pecan Pie requires.

The awards were all self-given. But truly, this pecan pie is the best ever. I make it every year at Thanksgiving and every year, people go nuts (!) over it. It's truly easy and almost foolproof. I tried to find a photo of it from T'givings past, but I think it disappears too quickly to be memorialized. One year I made two, but that was the year an alleged gourmand* came and inhaled the second one all by himself (gourmand = pig, as far as this fellow is concerned.)

Okay, gather 'round while I give you the secret to Jane's Awarding-Winning Best Ever Pecan Pie: it's in the pie plate. Don't use a regular pie plate. You have to use a fluted tarte pan with a removable bottom.
and you'll need
1 unbaked pastry shell (You can make your own, if you like, but Martha and I, we prefer the Pillsbury pre-made dough.)

Now, take your pie dough round and lay it on top of the tarte pan. Gently, gently pat it down in into place, so that there is dough in all the flutes. Cut off the excess bits all the way around. Place the tarte pan on a cookie sheet for ease of handling.

Now, go forth and make the pecan stuff.


1 C granulated sugar
1-1/4 C dark corn syrup
4 large eggs
1/4 C butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 C pecans, broken
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

1. Oven gets preheated to 350.
2. Cook sugar and corn syrup in a pan until the sugar dissolves.
3. Beat eggs lightly and pour into syrup mixture gradually and keep on beating while you do that (or else the eggs will scramble in the corn syrup).
4. Add the butter while beating (I cut it up before hand into bits so it melts easily)
5. Stir in the pecans.
6. Stir in the vanilla (did I mention that you should never ever use anything but Real Vanilla as the Imitation stuff tastes like shit and why would you want to spoil your cooking thusly?)

Here's the second part of my secret: You're not going to use most of the syrup. Yes, it will pain you, as it does me, to throw that which you have labored over away, but that's the trick of the trade. So, to continue

7. Use a slotted spoon to transfer all the pecans to your waiting pie crust.
8. Ladle the syrup onto the pecans until it just tops the crust.
9. Balance carefully on your way to the over and bake for about 45 minutes or until set.

Cool pie. Remove the pie on the removable tarte pan bottom and place on a serving plate. Maybe put a doily under it. Maybe not.

Serve with whipped cream (the real stuff, not the aerosol shit). Portion numbers depend on how big you slice it, but this is an 8 or 9 inch pie.

*Said gourmand is no longer in the family, but he is still, I think, running a major American cooking school.

Whew! That was not easy. My hat is off to cookbook writers. It takes less time to make the damn pie than it did to give the instructions. Next year, photos will accompany each stage.**

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Marriage, Death, Kids and Family

1. Twenty years ago today, I got married. Not to the English actor; this was to the California country boy who I met in a bar in the foothills of the Sierras. We didn't meet cute or neat or however Hollywood calls it. I was in the bar with friends; he was there for a beer after work. I can't say I was bowled over, but I kinda thought I knew him from somewhere. So we talked, and he thought so too, and I gave him my number. He called that same night. We went out the next weekend. I still wasn't bowled over. There wasn't that instant chemistry that I knew from other relationships. There was just something about him that I couldn't stay away from. It wasn't sexual. I didn't understand it then; I just went along with it. Three years later, we were married. Now, twenty years later, we're not. I am better off for not being with him now, for all sorts of reasons. But that something about him that drew me to him then? It still exists. I don't know why. I still don't know what it means. I guess I just have to live with it.

2. This summer my cousin got married. He and his wife were expecting a baby in the new year. Last Sunday, they were having a meal in a restaurant. My cousin got up to pay the bill, turned around to look at his wife and watched the life leave her eyes. They couldn't save the baby either.

3. Today I had a conversation with a young woman I love who has two children. First, much talk about the cousin and his wife. Then much talk about the young woman I love and her pregnancy. Then I sang Happy Birthday to Son #1 and listened to Son #2 babble to me. Then the young woman asked how I was, and I started to tell her. She is one of the few people in my family who hears me. But #1 and #2 were hungry and cranky and wanted their mom's attention. So before I really got into anything important to me, she had to get off the phone. The feeling I was left with was not unlike what happens when you've been making out with a guy, he comes, and then says I gotta go, finish yourself. I know the young woman I love didn't mean for me to feel that way, but I did.

4. This afternoon I went shopping for light bulbs at the hardware store. I love hardware stores, but today, today it made me miss my dad. He kept me furnished in tools and up-to-speed on how to use them. I still have the love of all the gadgetry, but without him, I'm not sure what to buy. He was another of the few people in my family who could hear me. And my mom. As I wandered around the lumber department, I thought of how my parents had spoiled me. Not with gifts or money or any of those things. They liked me and they wanted to know what I was doing and thinking and wanting and knowing. So they spoiled me for this time when there really aren't very many people around who feel that way.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Night Sky Facing West, Elk Grove

I suppose all West-facing skies are gorgeous. I can't imagine that it's just the ones I see from my backyard. One after another, they are glorious and I've taken shot after shot of them. I don't get tired of looking at the pictures and I don't get tired of looking at the reality. If there is nothing else that says to me this world is bigger than my life, then these West-facing skies do the job. This one is another shot just from outside my backdoor. With my crummy camera. Would it be any more glorious if I was working with something good?

The next two are also West-facing, but I took them down the street a bit at the railroad tracks. Can you see the train going by?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Past is Still Too Much With Me...

The strain of remembering my illustrious past, not to mention digging out photos of same, was too much for me. I have had to recline on my camp stool these past few days and fan myself.

What an image, no?

Like this skirt?

What about this one?

Actually, they're the same skirt. Tis a reversible number that I bought last year at a CAbi party.

Never heard of CAbi? Carol Anderson By Invitation--get it, CAbi??? Think of it as Tupperware to wear. You get invited to the party by someone you know who puts out some crackers and fruit, a bit of wine and cheese, and allows a CAbi salesperson wheeling giant clothing racks to turn her home into a Lohmann's sale. Hoards of women, the invitees, descend on the clothes and strip off to try them on in whatever room is available. It's exciting. Really. And also exhausting in some ways. The sight of all those women trying on this that and the other made me DETERMINED TO BUY SOMETHING. Anything. Like the above-pictured skirt.

Actually, the skirt really is quite pretty. It's some sort of filmy, floaty fabric and descends in tiers to what I believe may be called a handkerchief hem (or maybe not--someone with a better sense of such things might know better). I had great fantasies of it being the foundation of my winter wardrobe--until I tried it on.

It looked like shit. On me, that is. On someone else, it would look terrific and would indeed be the foundation of their winter wardrobe. So I'm selling it on eBay. Go have a look. Bid it up. Save me from myself.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Come All You People Now, Smile on Your Brother...

A Story in Several Parts, not to be sung:

1. Not so long ago in a town far, make that: a long long time ago in a town not very near, I was a young bride. Not so much a blushing bride because this was post Sexual Revolution, or at least the start of it, so when I married to my college sweetheart, I was neither technically nor actually a virgin. However, I was a Nice Jewish Girl who aspired to matching Garland sweaters, A-line skirts and circle pins. I married an actor, an English actor,and post wedding, we hied to England so he could go to drama school.

2. The actor, a fine and handsome young man as you can see, was admitted to that bastion of British Acting, The Central School of Speech & Drama (known also as the Central School of Screech & Trauma). I, as befitted a young wife of that time, worked as a secretary. All of you post-feminists should know that back then EVEN WITH A DEGREE IN PHILOSOPHY, secretarial positions were the zenith of one's expectations, unless one was a teacher, which I refused to be (a story for another time). So, by day my hunky husband lounged about the halls of Central, mixing with all manner of other hunky people. And I toiled on Great Titchfield Street, typing the inanities of Mr. Platt, Vice President of Foreign Operations for Associated Dry Goods.

3. Was I a happy camper? Noooooooooo. But it is beyond the scope of this simple blog post to elaborate and enumerate all of the reasons why. Suffice to say, I was dependent on my mate for ALL of my social needs. Fortunately for me, people seemed to like him (he was quite hunky).

4. One of the people in his year at Central was Dave Clark, of the Dave Clark Five. You know, that Dave Clark Five. Not the Beatles, certainly, but the DC5 was hot shit to some. Dave was seeing the wrong side of his career as a teen heart throb, so he enrolled at Central (one presumes he did not have to audition) to try and get up to speed on an acting career. And Dave, Dave really liked my hunky husband. Consequently, I, that is we, spent an amazing amount of time with Dave and his posse. Ah, the stories I could tell....

5. This particular album photo was actually the cover for a single the DC5 put out sometime in the '70s. "Love One Another" was the song, and Dave thought it would be a cool idea if all you people was actually his friends from Central. We traipsed off to a recording studio somewhere and for an entire evening sang over and over and over again
"C'mon you people now,
Smile on your brother,
Everybody get together,
Try to love one another
Right now...."
over and over and over again. Dave and Mike Smith and the others of the DC5 did the verses. We were the chorus, and while we were singing our blessed little hearts out, someone was taking photos. Did I know that we were going to be featured on the cover? No, I did not. I had come straight from work and that outfit I'm wearing? It's a sweet doubleknit suit, pleated white skirt and navy jacket. My hair? It's up in a secretarial top knot; you could probably find a pencil in there if you looked hard enough.
6. When I look at this photo, I think what a fish out of water I was. All those drama students and me, the secretary. But you can tell that I sang away for all I was worth, and as I recall, a fine time was had by all. I think we even made an appearance on Top of the Pops, so the DC5 could promote the record. For that, I was dressed more appropriately, but I don't have a photo (and I don't remember what I wore), so you'll have to take my word for it.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Remembering The '70s...

I was actually more of a Beatles fan, but you see that girl in the front with the white skirt? That's me.

Is this a story I have to tell?

Friday, November 07, 2008

My Drug of Choice: Chocolate

I use it as an upper when I need some extra energy. I use it as a mood elevator when I'm bummed about whatever. And every night before I turn out the lights, I let several pieces of chocolate melt in a mouthful of milk as my sleeping pill. I am, you might say, a chocoholic. I am also quite an expert on the topic.

However, I am not selfish so when MomCentral sent me five big bars of Ghiradelli Luxe Milk chocolates to try, I did not hoard them all for myself. Instead, one evening I took them over to Knitique, my local yarn shop, and enlisted my fellow knitters in a Chocolate Tasting. You can see there in the background the project I'm working on: a gorgeous sweater for 5 year old Kaitlyn that may be finished in time for her grade school graduation.

I broke the five bars up on separate plates with their wrappers hidden underneath.
and sent them 'round the table. I don't think I expected the seriousness with which my fellow knitters took the job at hand. Here are two, (Sharon Jane on the left and Debbie on the right) debating the merits of several bars.
The results were as follows:
  • Favorite of all: Ghiradelli Duet, a sandwich of milk and dark chocolates. I don't think my tasters realized that milk chocolate was involved because they all expressed amazement that it was so "smooth...and didn't bite like dark chocolate usually does."
  • Least favorite of all: Ghiradelli Crisp, milk chocolate with "lightly toasted crisped rice." My tasters did not think the rice was lightly toasted enough. Comments were "the crispies take over the chocolate, as does the toast flavor....salty, sharp and hard on teeth."
  • Split verdict: Some liked the Ghiradelli Almond; some felt the almonds overwhelmed the chocolate (however, this was the only one where there was no samples left at the end of the tasting). Others preferred the Ghiradelli Hazelnut, expressing surprise at the smoothness of the hazelnuts and the way it blended with the chocolate.
  • No Opinion: Ghiradelli Milk. What can you say about milk chocolate? It's a winner every time.
I brought the remains of the evening home (just so I could make sure my notes were correct, I assure you) and tonight I will return with them to Knitique for the monthly Knit n Nosh. We all thank you....

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

My Brain's Connected to My Femoral Artery...

When I had that ruptured cerebral aneurysm six years ago, I got lucky because the neurosurgeon who would normally have gotten my case was on his honeymoon. So another guy, the radiologic neurosurgeon got to ply his trade on me. That meant a number of things: My head wasn't shaved and my skull wasn't sawed open to fix the aneurysm. Instead, the doctor pushed a wire with a titanium slinky at the end of it into my upper thigh (well, okay, it's my groin, but that sounds so, I don't know, dirty or something), went into my femoral artery and snaked the whole business up into my brain, where the slinky was deposited to fix the aneurysm. I had no scars. My glorious hair was intact. And my recovery did not include the rigamarole of brain surgery.

I thought of this the other day when Mom Central sent me some information about minimally invasive gynecological surgery. Did you know that according to US News & World Report 85% of all hysterectomies are still being performed with the old slice 'em open and clean' em all out abdominal surgery instead of the well-proven laparoscopic procedure that leaves the ovaries and cervix still there? That was the case with my friend Wendy last year. She had a history of heavy periods and major PMS. The doctor convinced her the cureall was to have everything removed. She did and she was in the hospital for almost a week and off work for a month or so.

I wish I'd known then about AAGL, an association of laparoscopic surgeons, who have a web site that offers a lot of information about less invasive procedures for gynecologic procedures, so that I could have sent Wendy there to at least find out what her surgical options were. Her doctor, being a cutter, gave her no choice. As my doctor, being a cutter, would have given me none with fixing my aneurysm. How do I know that? He told me so.

Doctors do what they're trained to do; it's up to us not to take their word for it.





Monday, November 03, 2008

Vote YES on Prop 2

I was going to write a well-reasoned, journalistically sound, philosophically adept (and adroit), not to mention incredibly convincing post about why everyone in California should do as I'm doing: Voting Yes On Proposition 2.

However, to do so would require that I carefully consider the opposition's point of view. This I cannot do. I know what they're saying; it just pisses me off so much that I tend to start flailing about and screeching obscenities.

Okay, let me see if I can calm down a tad. But first, an illustration:
Proposition 2 is the "standards for confining farm animals" initiative. It's basic tenet is that cows raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be kept in cages that allow them to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely. That means that right now, these animals are being kept in cages that restrict their movements.

Like that pig above, the one with a bunch of piglets feeding at her. Here, have another look:See those bars. Their purpose is to stop the sow from standing up. Because she might step on one of her wiggly little piglets. And that would be very bad for the economy, because that piglet is MONEY IN THE BANK FOR THE PIG FARMER. Not to mention cheaper bacon and pork chops in the stomachs of American consumers. When I queried the UC Davis vet techs at the State Fair where I took these photos, they seemed quite proud of this contraption. Before someone came up with this pig prison cell, you have no idea how many wiggly piglets were lost to mommy-stomping.

I am voting YES on Prop 2 because I am absolutely certain that our humanity, and therefore our success as a nation, is tied to the way we treat animals. The connection between violence to animals and violence to humans is well-established. We're understanding that where our family pets are involved, but farm animals? Nope. Why bother about some dumb animals. Dumb doesn't mean stupid here; that phrase is using the archaic word for inability to speak. Those pigs can't cry or complain. Animals can't communicate in our language so we feel quite comfortable in doing with them as we wish. Until recently we did the same to human infants. Since they were pre-verbal and thus assumed to be without memory, we performed surgery on them without anesthetic. Now we know better. The inability to communicate in spoken language does not equal the inability to think, to feel, to need, to want.

Okay, now I'm going to be calm and speak to the opposition's arguments: I can't. They have everything to do with food production and food prices and California's egg industry. Frankly, my dear, I give a shit about any of that. I'm far more concerned with the production of our morality, of working to recreate an America that is not the font of corrupt capitalism (hello, Wall Street..hi there, sub-prime mortgages).

There is no question that this election is a watershed one for us as a nation. We have the chance to return to being a people of hope and promise, to be the country the Founders imagined when they saw this land as the City on the Hill. Vote to give us back our humanity.
Do it for this pregnant pig.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

NaBloPoMo? No! No!

I'm not doing NaBloPoMo this year. I simply haven't the lust for whatever NaBloPoMo is supposed to give me. Certainly not the prizes because I never win anything--and I didn't in the past two years. I suppose I have gotten some traffic from it, but these days I'm all "Traffic? Meh!" I may be one of the few nonBloPoMos this year because I've gotten some group grope emails from Eden Kennedy in which she talks of Ning being overwhelmed, as is she, with the response. So go elsewhere to read the daily posts of my fellow bloggers. Here you will only find the daily posts of those of us still doing Blog365...well, almost daily.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween 2008

We have waited for this day. Our costumes are ready.

The Devil Dog waits for the leetle children to come trick or treating.

Instead, this is the day that the rains came down...

and we are left with this deal with on our own. Not the Devil Dog, because chocolate is poison to dogs....but the Witch. She will have to deal with the detritus of Halloween 2008. Now.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

When I Was A Girl, I Could Read Two Books in a Day

Now that I'm a woman, all grow'd up, I wouldn't even think of it.

Is this a non sequitar? No, it's a continuation of a conversation going on over at Mad Madge World about our changing reading habits.

There was a time when I inhaled books. My delight was in going to Crown Books (remember them?) and buying $30 worth of paperbacks, which was at least six or seven books. When I got home, I wouldn't know which to read first. I don't do that anymore. For one, Crown Books is gone and $30 buys me a couple of trade paperbacks. For another, I'm just not into that kind of reading anymore. What kind of reading is that? Escapist.

When I was reading two novels in a day (DH Lawrence, if you don't mind), I was a miserable coot stuck in a cold flat in a country where I didn't want to be. So I read. To get out of that flat. Obviously if I was reading Lawrence, I wasn't as concerned with getting out of the country.

I think another reason I don't read so much anymore is that--sigh! I've read all the great ones. Okay, that's not true, but you can't have completed the course work and exams for a PhD in English Lit without knowing, and I do mean knowing, most of what the Western world considers great literature.

All that reading spoiled future literature for me in several ways. For one, I can't turn off the critical faculty that was honed in grad school. In some ways, I know too much--about the genre, the author, the culture that produced it. So I'm never reading just for plot and the writing has to be stunning for me to notice it.

With contemporary fiction, I am most often disappointed. I've just finished The Secret Life of Bees. Eh. A bit simple. Innocuous. Sweet. Etc etc etc. Thinking that, I'm wondering what was in the contemporary fiction that I read in my twenties and thirties that was so dynamic: ah, that was the second wave of women coming into their own as novelists. Didion, Jong, Drabble, Lessing: even the mediocre books had some breathtaking piece of wisdom for me. I was learning how to live, and the novels I read were my guidebooks. Now? I guess novels can't do that for me anymore. It's not that I think I'm done learning how to live, but that the majority of the books that I see today are guidebooks for a younger woman.

Therein, I think, lies the issue: it's a midlife thing. The coming of age story or the young wife battling for her independence--they just don't have relevance when you're in midlife. I don't want to know Jo March's story; I want to hear Aunt March's version.

DeMille Dwellings: The Guy Who Lives In The Garage.

He prowls at night, that I know because I see him when I'm taking my garbage out. The first couple of times, he scared the living bejesus out of me. It was a dark and stormy November night…. (no, actually, it was April. I told you I have a weird predilection for overplay when it comes to language).

Whatever--it was night and dark and I was out back dumping my trash. This being an apartment complex of sorts, we don't have normal cans. We have the supersize bins with the lids that require brute strength to tip up. The kind where bodies and hacked limbs are being found. Every week the garbage master comes around with his huge truck, from which he thrusts two vicious metal prongs into slots in the bottom of the dumpster, which is then hauled up skyward until it is just hovering over the gaping maw of the truck, when the lid flies open and there is an avalanche of big black bags and medium white bags and little beige bags from the grocery stores along with tiny bags of dog shit and candy wrappers and snot rags and rubbers (the condom kind) and the aforementioned body parts and who knows what else, and then ever so gently, like a tender lover after he's finished, the metal prongs move the bin down, down, down until it is resettled on the ground and the prongs recede and the truck drives away and that is garbage collection for another week.

The Guy who Lives in the Garage watches TV on a 5" portable he's spliced into one of the fuse boxes out back. I've watched him watching. He's partial to I Love Lucy reruns and he seems to lose himself in them. He'll hunch forward on his chair as if to get right into the screen. When the payoff comes, he'll scoot back and throw his head up and his laugh both looks and sounds like a braying donkey.

Last night he entertained a guest down there. It was The Waif from across the way. She's a pathetic little creature who barely has the energy to breath vital air. She's all promise and no realization.

Monday, October 27, 2008

DeMille Dwellings: The Narrator

You are probably wondering about me. Who I am. What my story is. And so you should. But you'll find that I'm far less forthcoming about myself than I am in my opinions of others. Perhaps it's that I know myself and therefore know the complexity that underlies all of us. I can reduce the others to if not caricatures, then exemplars of a type. I can't do that to myself; there are too many ifs, and, buts, and maybes to simplify my own self-portrait. So you will have to discover me on your own and perhaps in the end, that's what I'm wanting you to do. For me. So that I can know as well.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Feeble Friday

Not what you were thinking, right? Especially you over there with the potty mouth, Miss MerlotMom.

Today is Feeble because--well, because I say so. And I'm the boss of me, and therefore of this site, and therefore of you, should you be one of the three people still reading it.

I'm TARED. TARED as in, my dog kept waking me up this morning. Not to go out. No, Madam Molly the Cast Iron Bladder Dog never has to go out first thing in the morning or last thing at night. What she does insist on is a belly scratch or rub or both preferably, two-handed if you please. And if you're not doing it just right or in the perfect place? She kicks. Like a baby having a mini-temper tantrum. Not hard. Not painful. Just enough to WAKE ME UP. Again. And again. And again.

Currently she is snoozing, curled up with her body on the carpet (yes, the stained carpet of several posts ago) and her head on the tile floor. Soft body; cool head. Dogs are perfect examples to humans of how to go about getting what you need in life. Just go get it. And if you can't, curl up and snooze.

I am so tempted to go take a photo of Molly to illustrate this post, but I'M TARED. So lookee at this one instead.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Turdy Thursday

...not really, but I'm all about alliteration after my go at Wordless Wednesday yesterday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wordy Wednesday

What is it with this Wordless Wednesday business? Does anyone not get that it's a con. Shove a picture up on your blog and you've done your Wednesday duty? I don't think so. Be that as it may, I'm willing to go along to get along (ha!). So here's my offering for Wordless Wednesday. Except, of course, it has words. Because, people, this is a BLOG! Not a photo album.
This is a photo of my lunch. It is, some of you might recognize, a concoction from WeightWatchers frozen meals. When I was on Weight Watchers oh those many years ago, I lived on this stuff. And it wasn't bad. Either I've changed or they've changed, because this Chicken Mirabella was Mirabad. For one, the pasta, which was about ten stages past al dente, was coated in a gelatinous, yet incredibly taste-free sauce that had an odd shine to it. Almost a glow, in fact. And see that piece of chicken in the upper right corner of the dish? That was one of two--count 'em two--chunks of chicken in the dish. Since the box cover showed FIVE chunks of chicken, I believe I have the makings of a truth in advertising claim on Weight Watchers. Of course, if I won, they'd probably award me a lifetime supply of the stuff.

Fashion is the topic again on MidLifeBloggers. This time it's about the dreaded trip to buy bluejeans. Go have a look.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Where oh where has my allergy medicine gone?

...Drixoral is suddenly and without any warning Missing From The Drugstore Shelves. I have taken Drixoral for oh--mumble, mumble--years now. Every since the nice little allergy doctor scratched the skin on my back and told me I was allergic to household dust and mold.

Back in those days, Drixoral was on Prescription Only. Then it moved to the OverTheCounter section. Then it got very popular with the Cooking Crank crowd. Then it got moved to behind the pharmacist's counter and I had to proffer and sign several documents to get my monthly dose (Ritalin was much easier to obtain--go figure). Then suddenly, apropos of nothing, it was gone. And no one knew why.

Since then I have been suffering with my odd assortment of allergy symptoms: itchy eyes, such that I'm rubbing my eyelashes into oblivion. Itchy throat, such that I am forever trying to scratch it with my tongue, a maneuver that is more attractive (and less effective) than you can imagine. Hideous fits of incessant sneezing.

So when I learned from MomCentral that there was a new allergy spray on the market, I said Yes, indeedy, send it over. It came FedEx, which you know makes me feel important and like I'm getting a wonderful present. And I tried it toute suite, which means right away (although my genders may be off because all those details to learn in French? Just too much pour moi).

It's called anywhere, because it's an anti-allergen fabric spray that you can put on anything. I elected to spray my pillows and my bed, or at least that part of it closest to my nose. As I sprayed my feather (yes, I know!) pillows, I thought out you damn dust mites; begone you household mold. At first I was a little concerned because anywhere is made by Clorox and eau de bleach was quite apparent when the fabric was first sprayed. But it dried with no odor and I took to my bed that night anticipating the first allergy-free sleep since Drixoral disappeared.

Which is exactly what I enjoyed.

But--there's always a but, isn't there?--anywhere cannot take the place of my beloved Drixoral, since I would have to spray my entire house and all therein, regularly, and constantly, and zealously. But--here's the good but--for those of you who have localized issues with allergies, dog and cat beds and the like, I do think anywhere can be the exactly right product in the exactly right place at exactly the right time.

Monday, October 20, 2008

On The Road Again, ByJane's Version

...which is basically you stay at home and fantasize about trips you would take. I spent a lot of time doing that the summer of '06, better known as the summer in which I was suddenly no longer married. On the one road trip I did take, accompanied by my trusty sidekick, Molly, I thought what a wonderful life it would be to just hit the road with her and go wherever. I spent a fair amount of time on Interstate 5, driving from Sac to Seattle and back again, checking out the RVs I saw. This, it seemed to me was the perfect way for Molly and me to go. Driving down the byways and highways in our own little home, two turtles sharing a single shell.

I haven't done it for a simple reason: I lack the courage. To drive one of those behemoths, to travel endlessly and aimlessly as a single woman alone, to go into the unknown. So when Robin of MidLife On Wheels got in touch with me, I knew I had to publish her story on MidLifeBloggers. Go have a look at MidLife Crisis? Take A Trip. Does what she's done make you as envious as it does me? Anyone wanna join Molly and me in a roadtrip somewhere?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Not In the Kitchen with Gwyneth and Mario

There are carrots and potatoes and maybe a head or two of garlic roasting in the oven. I've tossed them with olive oil and lightly sprinkled them with sea salt and ground pepper, the four variety kind. To what end, you ask? I'm not sure. They were what was in the refrigerator--you may remember them left over from my last culinary adventure--when I got VERY HUNGRY watching Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow in On The Road Again in Spain.

This is an odd program. The premise seems to be that chef Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow are on a culinary road trip through Spain. The purpose? Well, there is a lovely cookbook that they're flogging at the end of the show, written by Mario with assistance from Gwyneth. I don't think of her as being a particular expert on any cuisine, let alone Spanish. Doesn't she exist on a macrobiotic diet? Or love alone? But, no, Mario has told Oprah; Gwyneth has a healthy appetite. Is that sufficient expertise? What do you think?

They are, at least in the episode I watched, accompanied by a middle-aged man who seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn't place him, and a lovely young brunette, whose sole purpose seemed to be to offer a visual contrast to Gwyneth. The foursome drove for a while and then dined for a while. Driving and eating, this is the stuff of great drama.

Actually, it is unscripted television at its most banal, and I'm someone who loves reality shows. But the ones I watch are produced by people who understand arcane dramatic concepts such as story arc and dialogue. The successful reality show are cast so there there is a variety of personality types and edited so there is a narrative line throughout. But the characters in On The Road Again are, with the exception of Battali, bland, insipid, a bit like rice pudding without the raisins. Further, there is no story and the dialogue--well, think of the talk at your dinner table when everyone's mouth is full. All the four can offer is a variation on the theme of "Mmmmmmmmmm."

So in some way this is a gentle form of porn, watching Gwyneth Paltrow put things in her mouth and lick her lips and moan appreciatively. Perhaps that is its purpose after all. But on PBS--isn't that too cheap a thrill?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Great Minds Think Alike--or, I Don't Own My Words

Years ago, another lifetime ago, I wrote a book. It was about kids in commercials and it was published by Doubleday. Cool, right? Eh, not so fast. My title, The Commercial Kids, was axed by the sales staff in favor of How To Get Your Child Into Commercials and Modeling. The former was kinda cute; the latter was to me, a serious journalist, an embarrassment. But at least in those days, Doubleday did not give mid-list writers much choice. Grin and bear it, I was told; bend over and smile--all the way to the bank. But that trip to the bank never came, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that after my book was published, a deluge of similar works came off the presses. I tried to ignore them; what else could I do. But I would check each one out as it was published and one day I picked up the latest version and started to read the Introduction. And the words sounded familiar. Very familiar. I'll never forget that kick in the stomach feeling I had when I realized that my words, my writing had been stolen. First, I was incensed. Then I felt the futility of doing anything about it. And then I was depressed because not only had my book turned into an embarrassment for me, but it had been plagiarized. Talk about a double whammy. I could have gone through that second book, highlighted every sentence that duplicated one in mine and taken it into a court of law. The choice not to sue was mine, and I made it because I didn't want to spend an inordinate part of my life looking backwards and being bitter. So I said, "Whatever...", hoped the second book would tank (it did, they all did) and marched off bravely into the future. I haven't forgotten, but I have moved on.

As one who has spent the better part of her life as a writer, I have some fond, perhaps archaic feelings about my ideas and the words I use to express them. Before the internet existed, before everyone and their uncle was a blogger, that had some meaning. Now? Not so much.

A couple of years ago I wrote a post in which I took the words Blogito Ergo Sum as my motto. Since then I've used those words and/or their translation, "I blog, therefore I am" as a constant on my site. I was a Philosophy major as an undergraduate; Descartes was drilled into my head and so it was not all that creative when I gave his words a spin because they said so perfectly what I feel about my blogging. But I went a little nutsy the other day when I saw them as a title of a session at BlogHer DC. Obviously I was not one of the panelists and obviously there are a lot of other former philosophy majors out there, but still--

Another instance: A month or so ago, I wrote a post called John McCain versus the GOP. In this week's Newsweek, Jonathan Alter has a column called, "Crushed by the Elephant." We both said pretty much the same thing. My line was "John McCain--the Hanoi Hilton didn't break him; the Republican party did" and Alter's was "a man who survived five and a half years as a Vietnam POW and a thousand political battles is being crushed by a dying elephant." Did Jonathan Alter grab my idea? Don't be ridiculous. I prefer to think of it as, great minds think alike.

The good news about blogging is that it has given a voice to me and many others who would stand shrieking in their closets if not for the internet. The bad news is that a lot of other people can hear you now. That means that ownership of ideas is impossible. I'm sure a mathematician could come up with the odds of how many people would have the same idea at relatively the same time. I'm seeing the Alter-ByJane coincidence as a teachable moment for myself, one that's allowing me to put the I blog, therefore I am incident into perspective.

Yet, there are definite consequences in the marketplace. For one, Alter got paid for his column and umpteen thousand readers (Newsweek hopes) read him, while I got bupkus and my stat reader rarely goes above double digits. But I don't think there's anything to be done about that, short of deep breathing, marching bravely into the future, and moving on.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Midlifebloggers: Fashion for the Forty and Over Set.

What's your opinion on that? I've been reading More magazine and frankly, it's pissing me off. Last month Lesley Jane Seymour devoted her Editor's Column to dressing one's age. She described standing behind a woman at a hotel in Hollywood and trying to figure out how old she was by the visual cues: long blonde hair meant 40, mini skirt pushed it to 35, and bright colors signalled "under 30, for sure." Then the woman turned around and revealed
"(cue screech music from Psycho) a woman of a certain age who was trying desperately . . . to avoid looking a certain age. . . .Being of a Certain Age myself, I felt terrifically sad that this woman had gazed out over the fashion landscape and seen no appealing style stops between Thirty-Five and...Dead. . . .deliberately dressing 20 years younger than your birth date is setting yourself up to commit a kind of sartorial shock and awe."
It's taken me a month to stop sputtering at the slings and arrows that Seymour was flinging at me and every other woman who doesn't fit the New York fashion world's version of what she calls "Age Appropriate Style." What does that mean, anyway? Seymour asks us these questions: "If you have great legs, should you still show them off at 60? If your arms are trim and fit, can you go sleeveless at any age?" Hell, yes, I say. I certainly don't want to scare Seymour (or anyone else who is standing behind me in line), but my hair is long and my skirts are not because that's the way I want them. I have thought both issues through and I'm sure of my reasoning, and it has nothing to do with trying to look younger.

What bothers me so much about Seymour's edicts is that More is the only mainstream publication that focuses consistently on midlife women. They do a good job of offering articles that encourage us to take chances, break out of the box, go for as full a life as you can possibly imagine. But this encouragement clearly doesn't extend to our physical selves since the magazine offers a steady round of stick thin models wearing designer clothing. I don't know about you, but this midlife woman hasn't been stick thin since she was in her thirties, and she cannot afford, especially in this economy, $1500 dresses and $800 shoes.

So here's my challenge. How are you dressing these days? For comfort? For fashion? For yourself or your significant other? Think about it; maybe you have some photos to share. I'll publish all that I get on Let's turn that into the fashion magazine for midlifers, the one no one else is publishing.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Stone Grill Restaurant in Sacramento

It was good. Better than good. The meat, Kobe beef, was tender and flavorful. This restaurant, which is either a chain or a franchise, has a gimmick of sorts which almost works. It's called the Stone Grill because they serve your protein on a stone that has been heated to 700plus F. degrees. The heat from the stone, which lasts a llllooonnnggg time, then cooks the protein and you eat it right from the stone. A new kind of do-it-yourself, I guess.

You order your steak or seafood or fish--in our case, it was a couple of NY strips and an order of scallops--and it arrives in front of you raw on the stone. The stone is set into a platter, which is obviously heatproof since the food is already sizzling. The platter includes a section on each side, one for the cooked potatoes and one for the raw veggies.

Up to this point, life is good and the food is wonderful. The aroma of sizzling Kobe beef, just imagine...are you drooling yet? You cut off a perfect piece of steak. Well, perfect if you like your beef rare. Which I do. So perfect for me; never mind about you. Pop it in your mouth--ooooohhh, hot hot hot. Too hot for my delicate mucous membranes. Okay, we can work around that, cut another piece and blow on it. Better, but still uncomfortably hot. Meanwhile, the rest of your steak is still sizzling away. So if you do like it rare--well, them days are gone for this piece of beef. I didn't finish my steak--I never do, should you be buying me dinner--and it was a lovely pinkish medium when I ate it at home for lunch today. However, if I had eaten the whole thing at the restaurant, by the time I finished it would have been shoe leather.

Meanwhile, over at the giant scallops stone, they're sizzling away and getting a nice carmelized crust on them. Grab them now, because in another thirty seconds or so they're going to be OVERCOOKED. Fish, seafood is funny that way; any chef will tell you that cooking it to the right consistency requires a delicate hand. I know this, so I take my scallops off the stone and plunk them in my potato area. Where they sit for a while...and get lost among the fingerlings.

And then there are those lonely raw veggies. I don't know about you, but I don't care for asparagus and mushrooms grilled dry.

So here's the thing. They've not taken this idea far enough. They're assuming everyone has (a) an asbestos mouth, and (b) eats faster than a truck driver on speed. Those of us who dine at leisure--well, we must resign ourselves to overcooked, and therefore tough, food.

One of my dinner companions, the lovely Nanny Goats In Panties (wearing black slacks for all of you who are curious) suggested the one should cut up one's meat all at once, as if one were feeding the two year old, and fling it onto the side where the veggies are. One should. Our host, Mr. Mudpuppy, did not complain. Nor did he eat his mashed potatoes, which left all the more for me--nah nah nah. I can, therefore, recommend the steak and mashed potatoes. And fling--or eat fast.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The John McCain I Might Have Voted For...

...made a brief appearance at a Town Hall meeting in Minnesota yesterday. That was John McCain, man of honesty and integrity and honor. That was the John McCain who drove the Straight Talk Express and was, in fact, a maverick because he said what was true for him, even when not politically expedient. We could trust that he'd tell us when the emperor was wearing no clothes, because he'd done it before, and that meant that we could send him out in the world to do right by us, even when we didn't so much like the sound of it.

Then he lost his viable bid for the presidency to the dirty tricks of the GOP in 2000. That hurt him, and eight years later, we know how much it hurt the United States, not to mention the rest of the world. But now, in 2008, it's his last chance to do for his country what he believes should be done. The Maverick is driving the Straight Talking bus again. Except, the Dirty Tricksters are now whispering in his ear. He may be working the pedals, but they're steering the course. And he's letting them. Which is understandable for a only-too-human man, with a Top Gun ego.

Understandable, yes, but not allowable if, that is, we want to cut the free fall into disgrace of our nation. When John McCain picked Sarah Palin to assuage the GOP base, he sold himself out. In so doing he forced himself into a situation where he had to claim that the empress was, in fact, wearing clothes, and that he liked her gown very much. This is not a criticism of Palin; it is a criticism of McCain himself. They say that every person has their price, and winning the election was McCain's, I suppose. Except he probably won't win now (barring an Al Quida crisis, something I can't help thinking the Dirty Tricksters are praying for, if not outright planning. Remember Wag The Dog, won't you).

I have found it increasingly difficult to listen to McCain. He sounds like a parody of a person running for office: "my friends...." is how he begins too many statements that are clearly sound bites. I'm not your friend, John, I want to yell at him. I'm an American citizen who wants the best of and for her country. Fomenting class and race wars--that's not the best; that's the worst. The pundits are saying that McCain has no choice but to go 'dirty'. It's his last chance to change the topic of this conversation to one that suits him better. Then the pundits correct themselves to say, "well, he does have a choice, but this is the direction he's going in."

Yes, he did have a choice. If he wanted to appeal to many independent voters, the ex-Hillary voters, the Purple State Voters, it was only going to happen by virtue of our belief in the man himself. That meant not pandering to the lowest of the Conservative base, not accepting as fact that he could not win without them. If all the Rovian Republicans had stayed home, what difference would that have made in this campaign? Might John McCain be in a different place now if he had maintained his integrity and trusted himself?

That integrity was on display yesterday in Minnesota when he took the microphone from a woman who was calling Obama an Arab. "No, ma'am," he said. "He's a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with." But the rage at that Town Hall meeting, rage he tried to calm, is a product of his campaign. It's the consequence of going dirty. It made me sad to see the McCain I thought he was on display again. I thought of how much was wasted in the name of political expediency. And I thought too of how John McCain has forever besmirched his good name by sending the Straight Talk Express down that rutted, potholed, axle-breaking shortcut.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Motherhood At MidLife

I'm not talking about mothering at midlife, raising the kids that you had when you were in your twenties or thirties. I'm talking about becoming a mother at midlife. According to Newsweek, the number of women over forty who have given birth has doubled in the past twenty years. Well, yes, of course, the advances in fertility treatments being what they are. Not to mention the blooming of Hollywood's maternal imagery machine (and, hello, isn't it cute how the fashion world has lately allowed all of us to wear what just several years ago were clearly maternity smocks).

However, motherhood at midlife happens in a number of ways, not the least of which is by adoption. It's a choice a number of couples make. Even more, it's a choice a growing number of single midlife women are making. In fact, I must confess that every once in a while, I check out the on-line adoption sites. Just testing the waters so to speak.

Thus, when I came across Liz who is chronicling her trip to adoption on her blog, Inventing My Life, I was intrigued. I asked her if she'd be willing to allow to come along for the ride, and she agreed. Today we're publishing the first in the series of her posts. Right now there are seven in the series, but she's not even halfway through the process. I can't wait to find out how it goes for her.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Monday Monday -- I Like It Like That

My dark and woeful mood has lifted somewhat. I think it is the weekend that does me in. Seems to me that I've spent a lot of Saturdays over the past year or so sitting on the sofa and watching movies during the day. Maybe other people do that all the time, but me--no, except on these Saturdays when I can't think what else to do with myself.

Sunday is my Food Network Day. That's an allowable excursion into TV Land, mainly because I don't do it sitting on the sofa. Rather, I'm standing in the kitchen, cooking up my own Food Network show. Yesterday I did some conglomeration of bacon and pork and onions and greens. It was what I had in the refrigerator.

Please do not tell God that I had all that pork, because we're right smack in the middle of the Days of Awe. If God gets mad at me, he will not write me in the Book of Life for 5769 and consequently I WILL DIE.

So not only is the American Stock Market continuing to tank, but the rest of the world's as well. If I am not going to die this year, then I WILL NEED AN INCOME. Anybody out these hiring a good, marginally shop worn writer????

And what about them Cubs. Or was it the White Sox? Twitter is all a-tweet with the boys watching the game. Or maybe they're watching football. I'm not quite sure, because I haven't paid attention to boy-talk about sports, like ever. Even in high school, when I had to seem to listen, I'd really just perfected a round-eyed, rosebud mouth, "Oh really? Fascinating. Huh. That far." God knows what they were saying, because my ears were elsewhere, and you know something, no one ever called me on it. This is not a special talent that I had; it's one that most girls learned quite early. Think of it as the precurser to the "ahu hu hua ha hu hu eeeeeeeeeeee" in When Harry Met Sally. You know, the line that provoked the response, "I'll have what she's having."

Sunday, October 05, 2008

What's On My Mind

  • I am battling a case of the blahs. In technical terms, that's a touch of dysthymia. I know it and--I just can't get myself to care much.
  • Last night I dreamt I woke up in bedroom that I hadn't been in for some time. A large room, I had evidentally lived there or spent much time there in the past. And then I left, moved out, and thought it was now empty. But much to my surprise, when I started looking behind the furniture, I saw all sorts of stuff that hadn't been thrown out: golf clubs, for one, and other sorts of guy stuff. Was this D's stuff? Yes, I think so. Except that when I was talking about him, I kept referring to him as H (my first husband), something I never did in life. When I woke up, I thought--whoa! it doesn't take a Jungian scholar to figure that one out.
  • I'm worried about the economy, my economy that is, which unfortunately is badly impacted, or so I feel, by the nation's economy. Maybe it's not and maybe I'm just reacting to the incessantly dire headlines.
  • And this election has me twitching. I hate the way people are so nasty about it. I hate the way it makes me so angry and wanting to be nasty to people.
  • I came back from the conference in Vegas with all sorts of good ideas for "growing" MidLifeBloggers. I can't remember any of them now.
  • I can't focus on one thing to do, so I do nothing. Not nothing, because I'm not capable of just sitting. But I fritter...I knit a bit and I blog a bit and I cook a bit and I craft a bit. But all those bits don't add up to a feeling of accomplishment such that it will push me out of the blahs.
  • I'm off right now to cook...and then garden...and then--I don't know.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The VP Debate: Palin and Biden

Yeah, they sure did--debate that is. Well, maybe not debate actually, because--correct me if I'm wrong--but that word actually implies a topic that both debaters are speaking to. And Governor Palin made absolutely clear, she said as fact, that she was not going to speak to Biden's arguments or the Moderator's questions (which, ummmm, again correct me if I'm wrong, are supposed to set the topic of the debate).

No, the Governor was going to say what she wanted to say, directly to us, the American People. Which she did, with far too many winks and nods for my taste, but that's just me. I had high hopes for her when she started talking. When she is serious, she comes off as strong and intelligent, someone I'm proud to have representing me as a woman in politics. I feel like she could kick butt with the big boys. But then her inner Tina Fey kept slipping out and I wasn't sure if I was watching the VP Debate on NBC or Saturday Night Live. When she wasn't channeling Tina, she was good. Except when she was channeling Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality. "Yes, I am for World Peace, Gwen--and see how perky I am and how charmingly I smile."

And then there is the curious thing of her appending the Joe Sixpack name to all Americans. Or was she only speaking to the guys in the audience? What about Wendy Winecooler--is she not deserving of the GOPs attention as well?

Overall, though, I thought she did "not bad"--that's seven out of a total ten for me. I did wonder if her feet were hurting. Mine would have been after a couple of hours standing in 3 or 4 inch heels. And I wish they would leave the baby at home for these late night programs. We get the point--special needs child, integral member of the family--but really, he should be in his crib asleep at that hour. The way he gets handed around--well, it makes him seem sorta like a prop. Ya know?