Sunday, November 27, 2011

Putting Off Until Tomorrow...

There are lots of things I want to do around the house but never seem to get around to doing. I am a class-A procrastinator when it comes to home work. I am not sure why.

We moved into our new home (new to us; the house is about 60 years old) a year and a half ago and there are still boxes stacked in the garage to be unpacked.

There are boxes of pictures waiting to be sorted, placed in frames and hung on the wall or inserted and carefully arranged in albums, telling stories of kids, holidays, vacations and assorted other events. I admit these boxes predate the move. But then I was working full-time…

Silver pieces inherited from my grandmother and aunt sit in a box or stacked on a shelf begging for cleaning and a place of honor in their new abode.

My office is a jumble of large plastic storage boxes, assorted files and papers carefully arranged in piles on the bed. Whenever we have guests – as we did this past weekend – I swoop up the papers, place them in a bag and eventually reassemble the piles, once the holiday bedlam settles, on the bed once again.

Summer dishes – plastic ware used for backyard barbecues and by the grandkids indoors and out during their summer stay – remain stacked on a shelf. There is limited storage space in the house, and there are cookware items piled somewhere in a closet or garage waiting to return to their proper shelf and use. I think my crockpot is one of these items. Unused in summer, I have been thinking about making soup and other slow-cooking comfort foods as the weather begins to cool.

After only a year and a half my clothes closet needs a good cleaning and de-cluttering.

I am getting depressed thinking about all the things I should be doing NOW. But I am not doing any of them. I do not have the ambition.  Only the guilt. It is much more fun to write, blog, read, go to exercise class, travel and partake of other non-house-related activities.

Maybe I will do things when I am housebound in a snowstorm this winter.  Or home with a bad cold.

Or maybe most things will be placed at the bottom of my to-do list until some future time when staying home doing home-related endeavors has more appeal. I love my house, but I do not particularly like home beautifying, decorating and enhancement kind of activities. For now I will do the laundry and (some) cooking; the rest will have to wait.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Can Your Thanksgiving Top Ours??

Here are pictures of the wild Thanksgivings experienced by my family, year after year. I challenge anyone to top this...

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Friends and Family Day and Night

Last Tuesday a friend, currently living in Las Vegas, visited family in my old hometown. After comparing calendars, three old friends arranged for an afternoon and evening of food, fun and catching up. I planned to depart early enough to meet another friend for lunch before our rendezvous.

I left home not quite at dawn but soon after. That is not as bad as it sounds – dawn is late in November. I packed a small gym bag, planning to stay overnight and leave early the next morning.

The three-hour trip was uneventful except for some traffic through the city. First stop was lunch. Just as I pulled up to my friend’s house the cell phone rings. My niece, living in town, pregnant with her first and due November 20th, was at the hospital. They would keep me posted.

Immediately after hanging up, the phone rings again. Hub was on his way to the train station and had locked his keys – car and house keys – in the house. Luckily he had his briefcase with him. He could not reach the only other person in town with a house key. We had talked about putting a key somewhere around the outside of the house just in case this scenario played out, but had not gotten around to it.

Hub took the bus to the train station, the train to the city and continued to his evening appointment. He then had two choices, two directions – take the train home and hope to meet our key-holder to get into the house, or continue on to the old hometown and see the newest addition to our expanding family of grandchildren, nieces, nephews, great nieces, etc.

My friend and I enjoyed a wonderful two-hour lunch, caught up with family, friends and work and parted ways.

I picked up my Vegas connection. Unable to contact the baby-waiting contingent, we made a quick detour to the hospital. Mother and father-to-be, grandparents, aunt and cousin were in various stages of anxiety awaiting the new baby. I said hello, goodbye and good luck and moved on.

Friends for decades make up for time apart quickly. We chatted about family, friends, new lives in retirement and semi-retirement and travel. We attempted to solve the country’s problems, the problems of education (both were teachers), and assorted other dilemmas. We enjoyed dinner with wine, shared courses, and finally, reluctantly, parted ways.

During dinner hub called. He was going to catch the last train from the city, see the baby – still unborn – in the morning and we would drive home together. I would pick him up at the train station at midnight (12:09 a.m. to be exact).

Meanwhile the news from the hospital was unsettling. After hours of labor the doctor had decided a C-section was in the baby’s best interest. I decided to return to the hospital. My sister-in-law, mother of the soon-to-be new Mom, was now a basket case. She had been fine until the doctor said C-section.

The baby was finally born at 10:30 p.m. Both mother and baby boy were fine. After an hour of anxious waiting, Mom and baby were moved to a room permitting visitors. A newborn baby is a beautiful sight.

Meanwhile hub was finally about to board the train. Two minutes before boarding the dreaded sign went up – delay.

We made alternative plans for him to get to our temporary lodging that evening, or rather early that morning. First he was to call our brother-in-law, still up and about in the middle of the night. If unavailable he would try a cab. If both alternatives failed, he would call me. I left my phone next to the bed, ready to jump up (not really, more like grudgingly move) and drive to the station.

That was unnecessary. Hub arrived 2:00 a.m., although I cannot necessarily vouch for that. I was sleeping and never stirred.

The following morning we went to the hospital. Mom and baby were doing well. After getting an opportunity to hold the newborn (yet to be named), we finally headed home.

Friends and family. A Hallmark card for the holidays. Only this was the real thing.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Dude in the Pink Shirt

Hub attended a business meeting this past week out of town. The company sponsoring the seminar urged participants to wear a pink shirt for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

We had a few days to buy a pink shirt. There was not one pink item in hub’s closet – not a pink shirt, tie, t-shirt, or even one pair of underwear or socks a shade of pink from melding with red garments in the washing machine.

Shopping for a shirt was not a hardship. Hub could use an extra shirt or two and we are a couple of miles from an outlet complex. Last weekend we drove to the outlet and spent a couple of hours roaming the stores. It was a pleasant afternoon, we had nothing else on our agenda, and we were on a mission.

Few stores carried men’s pink shirts. I guess it is not an ‘in’ color this year. I was hoping to find a pinstripe; hub would be more amenable to wearing it again. Most of the stores carrying pink shirts were high end – or at least, more high end than our budget allowed.

We finally found a pink dress shirt at Van Heusen. The shirt did not necessarily have to be a dress shirt, but long-sleeved pink polos were hard to find; it was too cold for the short sleeve ones on clearance.

A couple of days later hub packs his meeting uniform – jeans, a grey vest and the pink shirt – and embarks on a flight to Chicago. The following morning he gets up early and attempts to get dressed, only to discover the store had forgotten to remove the nonremovable plastic whatever-it-is-called from the shirt to prevent stealing.

We had paid for the shirt, the cashier then placed it in a bag and we walked out of the store. Neither of us remembers the alarm going off as we exited.

Hub could not remove the nonremovable. There were a couple of hours before the meeting. He had two choices. He could wear the shirt he had worn the previous day (not pink and not necessarily clean) or buy another shirt. He chose the latter plan of action.

Dashing into a clothing store he purchased a bright pink pullover. He donned the jeans, pink pullover and grey vest and proceeded to the meeting.

Only a minority of the attendees followed the suggested dress guidelines. I guess they did not own a pink shirt and did not want to buy one, or did not care.

I now own a pink pullover; there is no way hub will wear the shirt again. It is a women’s shirt; he could not find a men’s pink garment in the store. But that is a secret…

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Life A.I. - After (the Creation of the) Internet

Can anyone remember life before the Internet? It really is not that far in the past, but I sometimes wonder how we survived and thrived. I realize it is a ridiculous notion, but my life currently seems to revolve around the computer, and I know it is the same for a lot of working and non-working adults of all ages.

My part-time income nowadays relies on the Internet. As a freelance writer my pieces are posted on websites. I owe a lot to the Internet; after leaving my financial career, I decided freelance writing would be my next profession. I had no portfolio or credentials. The Internet offered a navigable route that has allowed me to create a portfolio, establish credentials and experience and provided a part-time income.

The Internet is not only utilized for work. I have reconnected with friends not seen or heard from in decades via Facebook. I am not a true Facebook fan – I do not post stuff, but look at pictures of the grandkids and have sought out old friends from school and other connections.

The ability to look up just about anything and have that knowledge at our fingertips still astounds me. And the information is usually up-to-date. The accuracy cannot, and should not necessarily be accepted unquestionably. I cringe when people without a second thought believe what they read because it must be so since it is written down – on the Internet…

Then there is Skype, that wonderful tool where I can video-visit the grandkids living hundreds and thousands of miles away. I can watch my grandson read Good Night, Moon to his youngest sister, and I can witness him and the middle child fight for camera-time. I can see my newest grandchild, just three months, sitting on her parent’s lap, eyes wide open, making baby sounds.

On cold winter days I do not have to leave my warm house, yet can visit with cyber friends, old acquaintances, and friends living next door, across the country or anywhere in the world. Then there are the more mundane activities such as paying bills, reading junk emails and catching up on the news.

I believe the Internet will be a boon to older retirees, their caretakers, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Many older folks today are not computer and internet-savvy. But more and more are logging on everyday; my 86-year-old mother uses e-mail, makes plane reservations online, creates all her greeting cards on the computer and recently joined Facebook to see her great-grandchildren’s pictures.

We of the boomer generation will move into our elderly years with computer or other internet-connected device in hand. We will sit in big, comfortable chairs or wheelchairs and, although limited in movement within our immediate environment, remain connected to the outside world. That may be the greatest gift modern technology bestows upon us.

Friday, November 4, 2011

First Sightings, or How I Met My Mother-in-Law

I have written about my mother-in-law in previous posts. She is a unique personality, and there are a number of family anecdotes illustrating her approach to life. This is one of those stories...

It was spring 1970.  The beautiful budding greenery went unnoticed by my friends and me that year as most people over the age of (probably) 12 became embroiled in the current events of the time. The events awakened the political interest of some, inspired many, and touched everyone, young and old, in every corner of the country, including students at a quiet women’s college and a technical university in an old, decaying, sleepy city along the river in upstate New York.

On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd demonstrating against the Vietnam War at Kent State University. Four people were killed and nine wounded. Controversy still surrounds the exact sequence of events. What is not questioned is the impact that episode had on our country.

Opposition to the Vietnam War was not new, but opponents were getting more vocal and angrier. The political powers at the time did not understand the movement or know how to handle young hippie-looking, politically aware and concerned young citizens.

Most college students were busily completing papers, studying for finals and generally winding down as the spring semester came to an end. Students were politically conscious, but spring in the United States was much closer than the fighting halfway around the world. The beautiful weather beckoned students outdoors and away from studies, and we sometimes complied. Thoughts and deeds centered more on dating and studying than demonstrating.

My college town and the small school I attended hugged the river.  The town rose steeply almost straight up a long hill. At the top of the hill was another college, a technical university actually.  My girlfriends and I had some contact with the inhabitants on the hill, sometimes dating the students, attending concerts and sports games, and visiting a particular dorm where my girlfriend’s brother and his friends resided.

One warm spring afternoon a few days after Kent State semester-ending activities were taking place on the hill. The football field was taken over by ROTC for their end of year ceremony. ROTC – Reserve Officer Training Corps – had in recent years become a controversial group as anti-war sentiment spilled over onto college campuses.

The bucolic campus was not immune to the problems sweeping the country. Although a conservative enclave, there were demonstrators eager to make their position known.

My girlfriends and I were invited to watch the ROTC ceremony; my girlfriend’s brother’s roommate was leading the parade. We walked up the hill and decided to watch the events from a knoll overlooking the football stadium. Three of us settled down on a grassy area. Before we knew it anti-war demonstrators surrounded us. We did not mind. We were happy to let them do their thing while we sprawled and did our thing.

ROTC activities began on the field, band playing, people marching, speeches given. The protesters intensified their efforts, chanting anti-war slogans and waving placards. It was all very civilized, non-threatening yet dramatic.

Suddenly in the midst of the demonstration a slim woman, about five feet two or three inches tall appeared. Dressed in a sleeveless dress, white with large colored polka-dots, she grabbed a placard from one of the demonstrators and began beating him on the head with it, shouting things like, “if you don’t like things move to Canada” –or something like that. I do not remember exactly what was said. I doubt anybody does.

Everyone froze. The demonstrators, otherwise known as the conservative, clean-shaven, short-haired, neatly dressed kids next door, well-behaved and non-threatening (future engineers), stopped walking around, chanting, talking. They just stood still and stared.

The woman stopped after a few minutes and stalked off. Who was that crazy lady?

The events on the hill went unnoticed by the folks on the field. The ceremonies continued, we watched, the events concluded, and we walked over to the dorm to meet the guys and tell them about our bizarre experience.

The guys were congregating in one of the dorm rooms. We entered and began in great detail narrating the tale of the peculiar woman who disrupted the anti-war demonstration. In the middle of our rant, a party of parents and children walked into the room.

The woman who appeared before us was the now-infamous crazy lady of head-bashing fame. We – the three of us gesturing and expressively relaying events that had just occurred – froze – again. We stared, our mouths open, at the woman in the polka-dot dress.

A couple of years later, in an official ceremony presided over by a rabbi, witnessed by about 120 people, she became my mother-in-law.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Notable November Event in Women's History

I was not sure how to title this post; my title really does not speak to the topic very well. I discovered an interesting piece of trivia that probably falls into the category, “We’ve come a long way, baby,” but not really. Although it does not have anything to do with the history of women in the United States, it says a lot about the morals of the 1890's era in the U.S. and how customs and behaviors were changing.

The event: The November 1896 issue of National Geographic Magazine included a photograph of a woman with bared breasts. This was the first picture of a woman's breasts to appear in a major publication. It was not a picture of an American or a white woman. It was a black African woman.

The Victorian sentiment of the era implied that obviously revealing (public) pictures of men or women were quite unacceptable. The photo caused a stir and was pretty sensational at the time. The magazine’s black and white picture of a Zulu bride and groom from South Africa was a milestone (colored pictures did not appear in the magazine until the early 20th century). Pictures of indigenous people untouched – showing their native dress (or lack thereof) – became the acceptable norm.

Here is the famous photograph:


An updated piece of information about the same subject matter: A recent research study (released in 2011) conducted in Germany 'discovered' that men who stare at women's breasts regularly have, "lower blood pressure, a lower resting heart rate and fewer cardiovascular incidences". The activity can prolong a man's life by as much as five years. All it takes is about 10 minutes a day of boob-staring activity.

So, readers, how many women out there are going to start their guys on a regular exercise regimen?