Oh, God. Yes, Christmas.

I am thinking about Christmas.

Yes, I know Hallowe’en was just a few hours ago – I still have bags of Swedish berries and gummy bears to prove it.  Give us until Saturday and they’ll be allll gone.  Unless, of course, we stock up on half-price Hallowe’en chocolates and candy.  Which we have been known to do.  Sigh.

Anyway, I have now seen three different major retailers’ first Christmas shopping ads on television.  The first (Best Buy) I actually saw on the 29th!  Different kind of sigh.  I know that businesses often live and die by the holiday season, I get that.  But seriously, unless you sell things that can be given away as Hallowe’en loot too, I don’t think you’re doing your corporate image any good by starting the commercial Christmas season so early.

Beyond the advertising, a facebook friend posted a notice last week that there were only 9 more Mondays to Christmas.  Like Mondays didn’t have enough issues….

However, all this was a good kick in the butt to remind me that annual Christmas letter has to be done.  You’re all going, no! no!  not a Christmas letter! but yes, we do have one. This is because we are incredibly lazy sods who don’t do a better job of staying in touch with friends and family during the year.  To our credit, I think, we don’t do a lot of bragging about our achievements through the course of the year, which could be in part because we don’t actually achieve that much any more, what with getting older and all the stuff that goes along with that.  I mean, no one really wants to know we both managed to sleep through the night without visiting the head at least 10% of the time, do they??

It also reminded me that I need to do a “Dear Santa” list.  I’ve been doing these every year since Year One.  I don’t remember actually mailing any letters to Santa, but I knew then, and I know now, that the spirit of the letters would reach Father Christmas just fine.  I also don’t remember having extravagant lists as a child, but I have veered into fantasy on my adult lists for quite awhile.

For example, for about 20 years, I would ask for Al Pacino for Christmas.  Just for Christmas, or maybe Boxing Day, but not any longer than that.  I didn’t want to keep him, I just wanted to play with him for a while.

(And no, not that way.  Jeez, my friends have prurient minds.  I wanted to talk about acting and life in New York and “Dog Day Afternoon” which movie I will never get out of my mind.)

I often ask for Paris now, and one year I wanted Marc Anthony while just recently I was hoping to find Dame Judi Dench’s phone number in my Christmas stocking, so I could call her and we could chat about the diversity of acting in the UK, about riding elephants, and does she think ribald English humour translates well to America (I think we Canadians get it, but I’m not sure about Americans; I’d like to hear what she’s heard).

However, on the more practical side, my gift list is about books.  There cannot be enough books in my life, and this year there seems to be an even larger pool from which to choose.  I just saw Charlie Rose’s interview of Nancy Koehn and her book, “Forged in Crisis”.  She’s a professor at Harvard and not only did her interview with Charlie inspire me to seek out her book, but I want to audit her classes!  She was so fast in her responses, so well-spoken, thoughtful, erudite, and not a ‘you know’ or ‘like, um’ in the entire 20 minutes!

My twitter friend, Hope Dellon, who works at St Martin’s Press is away from her desk for a little while, but I hope she’ll be back in time to search her brain for other book ideas… not all necessarily from St Martin’s!  She and I share a taste for crime novels, especially written by women, which makes sense as she’s Louise Penny’s editor.  And there’s another bunch of books I want – to fill out the gaps in my Penny/Three Pines/Armand Gamache collection.  Hope and I also enjoy Dorothy L Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey novels; I only have three in hand and could stand to round out the collection.  Anyway, keen to. hear what she thinks should be on my list.

I also want to find a copy of “Winnie The Pooh” that DOESN’T have the Disney illustrations!  I’d like every book both David McCullough and Doris Kearns Goodwin have written, even the ones I’ve read.

I’d also like “The Cambridge Companion to Alice Munro” which is edited by my (older) cousin, David Staines, as opposed to my other cousin, David Staines, or even my brother, David Staines.  She is a favourite author, but I don’t want this particular book just because  David edited it; if someone asks me about it, spotting it in my hands or on my bookshelf, I will have a chance to tell my ‘how I met Alice Munro’ story all over again.  Good story, that.

Anyway, it’s a balmy 63/17 degrees right now, so I’m hard pressed to get into Christmas thinking… maybe if I make some gingerbread men… or put on some carols!  Giant sigh….

How many Mondays now until Christmas???

 

 

 

 

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Bliss

As summer rolls to a close and I’m starting to think warm and cozy thoughts about sweaters and mohair throws on the chesterfield, I also started thinking about how summer feels different in this fourth quarter of my life.

When I was a kid, summer was all about the cottage, swimming and playing Red Rover on the beach.  It was about riding bikes down the winding gravel road to McKenzie’s for an ice cream cone (and a couple of hours’ peace and quiet for my mother).  It was about fishing on the weekends with my father so that we could have fresh-caught bass, fried in butter, served with hash browns and scrambled eggs, crispy bacon and about a loaf of bread, toasted and slathered in peanut butter.  It was about catching frogs and trying to catch lightning bugs.  It was about lazy hot afternoons lying in the shade of the birch tree reading “A Boys Own” that once belonged to my father.  It was about endless games of “May I” and Sorry, and trying to avoid playing Monopoly with my capitalist brothers.  It was about finding a snake in my underwear drawer, a bat in our sleeping cabin, and the dog discovering skunks are not great playmates.  It was about roasting wienies and marshmallows until burnt and then promptly burning the roof of your mouth, on each one!  It was about being blissful, even if you didn’t know what bliss was then.

I didn’t really have a summer last year, or not much of one any way, so I had looked forward to this one quite a bit.  In many ways, it didn’t disappoint – we spent several weekends at the lake and to my joy, Jeff caught a very large bass which we shared with family for breakfast one morning.  And I did the summer things I used to do with my mother – strawberry jam in June, pickles in August, with mustard relish and chili sauce to come this week.  But it all felt… different.

For one thing, there’s the matter of “other things to do”.  We had to re-arrange schedules a little bit for one weekend visit.  Nieces and nephews are busy with jobs and not at the lake all the time.  Nor are my two brothers and sisters-in-law, and even my aunt & uncle have moved into ‘town’ from the lakeside.

For another, instead of the utter peace and calm of almost every day and evening of my childhood – other than the noise of children playing and fighting and doing other non-mechanized childish things – our summer visits this year were filled with noises of motors and fireworks and raucous, drunken laughter into the early morning hours.

I’m not turning into a cantankerous old lady (I hope!) when I say this but there is much to be cherished about the unfrenzied, unplanned, mostly unplugged summers of my childhood.  I think it’s rather sad to see today that there are so few long, lazy days of summer for children.  Or adults for that matter.  I think we would all do well out of having many more long bike rides down winding gravel roads for maple walnut ice cream cones, putting a few fireflies in a jar, roasting a few marshmallows on pointy sticks around a small bonfire, watching the sun set.

We could all do with a little more bliss.

A Moment on Appreciation

You will notice I did not title this “A Moment FOR Appreciation”.  No, this is about appreciation itself. Because I believe we do not, generally speaking, appreciate enough.

We don’t appreciate the things, the experiences, the tastes and textures which all enrich our lives.  And for sure we don’t appreciate the people in our lives – certainly not as we should, on a regular, warm, expressed basis.

I bring this up because I stuck another note in my (sort of) daily appreciation jar this morning – two days late – about the platform Jeff built for me, for the front-loading washer and dryer.  He bought a couple of sheets of plywood, scrounged around the workshop for still more leftovers from his dad, put in a few hours, and ta-da… the machines are up off the floor and doing laundry is just that much easier. I mean, I giggled pulling clothes and towels in and out of the machines, that’s how much easier it was.

I appreciate the time and love that went into building the platform and how such a simple thing has made one of my chores almost fun to do.  And I have told Jeff so.

But I haven’t always told him how much appreciate the little things he does.  The big things, yes, always, but the  little things? Not so much.  For example, he always brings me coffee in the morning.  Wherever I’m standing, trying to break through the haze of the first of the day, there’s coffee in hand. And he’s the one who remembers to put the winter-time washer fluid in the car.  And he’s always there to help me put on my left boot.  (Yes, just the left boot. The right one slips right on but apparently I have a vastly different left than right foot.  Sigh.)  I appreciate all those things and more, and I’m making an effort to keep the memory of them alive in my jar.

So what else do I appreciate and need to express?

I appreciate the family I married and the family into which I was born.  They’re quite different from each other in many ways but there are essentials which are alike.  They are fierce in their love for each other, quick to point out the others’ flaws but willing to live with them, keen to spend what precious time can be carved out of busy individual lives for a few hours’ family companionship. I must tell them all, tell them each, I appreciate their love, time and support.

Just a few days ago I was reminded of why I appreciate my sister-in-law Karen who makes her own greeting cards for all occasions and skews them for the recipients.  Our Valentine’s card had symbols of Paris on it because she knows I’m stalking Paris.  I must tell her I appreciate that thoughtfulness.

I appreciate my writers’ group because they are helping me keep my nose to the grindstone, more than they might think, although perhaps not as much as it should be kept.  They’re smart, funny, good writers, and I appreciate their support, their critiques, their writing and their friendship.  I must tell them that.

I appreciate my Facebook friends.  Of course, I appreciate all my friendships, but when one is far from home, or where home used to be, and far from many of the circles of friends made over the years, having Facebook as another way – a quick, witty, silly way – to keep the friendships warm, that must be appreciated.

One of my friends – on fb but also in real life – posted something the other day that made me feel just so much… warmth.  We had worked together briefly, gotten to know each other fairly well in just a few months, and when I left our place of employment, I wasn’t sure that anything I had done there would be remembered well.  He told me at least one thing was, so now I need to tell him I appreciate that remembrance.

I appreciate the kindness of strangers.  I was leaving the library last Tuesday night and felt a back cramp start.  I bent over, holding on to a tiny tree in the tiny front plaza of the building and this kind man stopped and asked me if I was alright.  I told him I had gotten up from two hours sitting at a desk and moved too quickly out into the cold without doing any stretching and my back was reminding me it wasn’t as young as once we were, but I was fine.  He asked again, just to be sure, and then went on.  I should have told him I appreciated his stopping to ask; I will next time a stranger is kind.

On a physical level, I appreciate the smell of fresh spring flowers, especially lilacs, because they are smell of renewal; I appreciate the bittersweet taste of a really fine dark chocolate for the pure pleasure it offers; I appreciate the sparky bubbles of an ice cold champagne for delight of tickles in my nose; I appreciate the infinite soft warmth of a mohair blanket on my naked toes; I appreciate the beauty and skill in the painting hanging in my house (and try not to envy the artists’ talent) because they enrich me every time I stop to really see them; I appreciate hearing Jeff practise violin because it gives him pleasure and makes me feel “homey” inside; I appreciate the memories of past loves because they helped me become who I am at heart.

hearts

 

I think my Appreciation Jar will fill up faster now.  And I can appreciate that, too.

 

 

 

 

Six Months… What Goes Through My Mind in Six Months…

I should kick myself in the arse for being so… well, indecisive about continuing this blog.  Not because I don’t enjoy writing, because I do.  And not because I don’t appreciate the generally positive feedback I get from it, because I do.  But maybe because of two people and one idea.

The two people are ghosts from my life and while I try to ignore them or pretend they have little, if anything, to do with my present, they always seem to just pop up and annoy me with their ghostly presence.  They are likely see this post and knowing that – again –  I’m sharing something of myself with them is, well, icky.  But the reason for even establishing this blog was to bust some ghosts and mostly, I’ve done that.  Mostly, I’ve learned to step back and breathe, to take a second or third or tenth look at a problem and then either write about it OR accept the fact that some things in life, baby, you just can’t change.

The idea is different.  The idea was that maybe now I’ve busted those ghosts I can move in another direction.  What that would be, I wasn’t not sure but still….

But there’s more to writing this blog than just exorcising some bad ideas, some bad relationships. I write because I seek inner clarity.  I write as a way to express myself, and find myself, and be myself in a world where sometimes the masks are pretty heavy, stuck in place.  Of course, sometimes I write just pap and crap, and that’s okay!!  I love a good gossip or picture magazine at times.  But sometimes, I need to find words to figure out what the hell I’m feeling, and to get rid of the bad ones, and snuggle up to the good ones.

I’m keep a gratitude jar this year.  The idea is to jot down one small thing every day that’s made you feel grateful or happy or some other positive crap, put the notes in a jar, and at the end of the year, count ’em all up.  Well,  30 days does not make 30 notes but there are some in the jar, and there will be more than 185 by the end of the year (that’s more than 1 every other day, fyi for my arithmetically challenged friends!)

Maybe it’s been the jar, maybe it was getting a letter today from someone I did NOT expect to hear from, maybe it was a lot of PMing with a long-time colleague that just turned into silly fun… but I’m feeling really positive and lucky and peaceful this week.  A feeling which will last if the Seahawks win on Sunday.

Anyway, I’m back. I’ll be here a lot.  I hope to hear from you soon.  And I hope all the monsters under your bed are gone!

The Root of It All…

Root vegetables.  The staple of the winter dinner table.  Those vegetables which grow late in the season and keep well in the root cellar.  Those vegetables with the best price at this time of year, as hot house or tropical vegetables command prices well above their taste.

Carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions, turnips, beets, squash after squash variety.  And let’s add cauliflower and cabbage into the mix as well, even though strictly speaking they’re not ‘root’ vegetables.    Vegetables that roast well and enrich stews and make hearty soups.  Still, by the time you get to the end of February… aren’t you just the tiniest bit anxious for spring and summer vegetables fill up your plate?

Asparagus!  Snappy thin stalks of emerald green asparagus with their purple tips.  Barely steamed, drenched in lemon butter served hot, or dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette served cold, either way reminding us that, oh thank god, spring is fully here.

Lettuce!  Soft, tender leaves support a dash of lemon juice, a swish of olive oil, and enliven a slice of roast chicken in a most temperate way, another gift of spring.

Tomatoes!  I want tomatoes that are heavy and sweet and make juice run down my chin when I bite into them.  The best of the locally-grown tomatoes is months away but they’re not the only, local, fresh vegetables for which I long.

Sparky scallions, crunchy pea pods and tender peas, the first crop of radishes, the first burst of spinach, tender baby spinach meant for salads, not older spinach in bags perfect for creaming and serving with (again!) root vegetables.

Even potatoes taste different in spring and early summer, when they are those lovely little nubs of tiny new potatoes, potatoes that are perfect for a pot of salty boiling water, cooked to tenderness, squashed open for a pour of parsley butter, a twist of fresh ground pepper.  These are not merely spuds, they are the taste of spring!

All this ruminating about root vegetables is a sign, I think, of how long this winter has been.  How long and cold and snowy, with little sunshine and seemingly no hope that we will ever see grass, or asparagus, again.  I pull dirt encrusted potatoes and parsnips out of burlap bags.  I go through my cookbooks once again, seeking another way to make a silk purse out of sow’s ear or, in this case, a delicious gratin of carrots and parsnips.  There is borscht one more time this winter, an excellent soup the first three or four times we slurped it down this season.  Roast cauliflower is coming to the dinner table this week, perhaps dusted with cumin and turmeric again.  Or perhaps smothered in a cheese sauce because everything, even root vegetables in March, taste better in a cheese sauce.

 Roasted-Root-Vegetables

Cooking inventively is the definition of cooking well with root vegetables, and certainly in the winter months, I think it’s definition of cooking inexpensively. Perhaps our mothers, definitely our grandmothers, knew this sort of cooking, in an age when there were few hot houses, little transportation from Florida or California, and really no food coming from Chile or Israel or Australia.  So perhaps, because they were not tempted by tomatoes both over-priced and also, sadly, mealy, or thick stalks of Mexican asparagus that has woody ends and the lingering hint of illegal pesticides, or bags of baby lettuce for seven dollars and no guarantee it would not wilt before you got home, perhaps without those temptations, they would continue to cook and enjoy root vegetables.  Perhaps it all comes down to the fact that our mothers and grandmothers understood and lived better with the cycle of food that our four season climate gives us.

Whatever this malaise that might affect my taste buds by mid-March, I will rally.  I will roast beets and roast onions to go with the pork chops and sauerkraut for supper. I will make another batch of carrot-ginger soup. And I just might “borrow” Neil Perry’s idea for squash pancakes and try a version of these unctuous and savoury treats for myself.  All of these choices will be delicious and nutritious, and because they are seasonal also inexpensives.  And I will try to remember that last summer, in the middle of corn and tomato and watermelon season, I scrubbed some new beets and roasted them, along with the some potatoes, to round out a barbecue meal because, as I said, “roasted beets are so yummy!”

 

Robert W Mols

As my mother-in-law says, getting old is not for sissies.  But if you’re lucky enough to age with the support and love of family and community, it can be done with comfort and grace.

Dr Robert W Mols Musician, Conductor, Composer, Teacher Husband, Father, Grandfather, Great-Grandfather

Dr Robert W Mols
Husband, Father, Grandfather, GreatGrandfather… but also a gifted Musician, Conductor, Composer, Teacher

 

Jeff and I decided more than two years ago and seemingly on the spur of the moment (but with much talking and questioning for some months before hand) that we would move to Buffalo and be here for his parents.  At the time, they were 90 years old and mostly healthy but still… they were 90 years old!  It was time to get serious about end of life concerns. So we packed up and moved out and found ourselves here, Jeff’s hometown and my second favourite city in the U.S.

Once we caught our breath, we could see his father, in fact, was growing noticeably slower, aging quickly before us, showing signs of both physical and mental challenges. As the months went on, Jeff wound up doing more and more for them. Not leaving his sister and brother out of the picture, but they had (have!) lives that are more complicated than ours in many ways so it was simpler for Jeff to take on more of the little things that could be done.

Earlier this fall, after a difficult summer, and with his parents’ cautious agreement, Jeff moved in with them and was there 24/7 — except for Thursdays when brother Robin would stay for 24 hours.  Being there, being available to support his mother and physically help his father with day-to-day needs was not just necessary for their being able to live at home, but for Dad to be able to die well.

When I would call, to see how things were going, or stop by for a game of cribbage and maybe supper, I would ask how things were, what were they doing with their time.  Jeff’s first answer was always “We laugh!”  Over meals, they would share memories of people and places from his parents’ childhood, from Jeff’s childhood, about the suburban neighbourhood they moved into as “pioneers”.  They watched a few football games and a few hockey games, and Jeff suffered the Texas Rangers losing another run for the Series, and they listened to a lot of music.

With Jeff, with all my in-laws, it always comes back to music.  On October 20th, the Amherst Symphony Orchestra opened their season by playing, amongst other pieces, the first movement of Robert Mols’ Symphony No. 1  Fortunately, with the support of family and friends, Dad was able to attend, to hear his son play his music, to hear the heart-felt welcome and appreciation the movement received from the orchestra and the audience.  That evening created a memory we will all treasure forever.

From there, Dad’s decline speeded up a little more with every day, until there came the day when he went into hospice care.  We cannot say enough about the concern and caring shown by everyone who is part of the Hospice Buffalo team.  They made Dad as comfortable as they possibly could.  Almost more importantly though, they made the family comfortable too, as comfortable as possible with the idea of having someone deeply loved, deeply admired, dying and moving on.

Dad slipped away in the middle of the night, quietly, peacefully.  The way we should all die I think.  Another member of the Greatest Generation gone, but his gifts of family and humour, of friends and responsibility, and especially of music, will linger for as long he is remembered by those who loved him.

Senescence, or Seriously, How Did I Get Here?

I have been thinking a lot about ageing this week.

My birthday is Saturday and that always makes me think about ageing.  When I was a child, it was exciting to grow older, to be one step closer to adulthood and all the fun I saw come with being grown up.  When I was a teenager, it was still exciting to grow older, to start having some of that fun of being a grown-up but also to start shouldering some of the responsibilities that come with years.  When I was a young adult, it was still exciting to grow older, because the possibilities of my youth were coming true, so I was having that adult fun and yet also being An Adult and carrying more responsibility and obligation around with me. And now I am in well into my middle years, well into them, and I still love birthdays (most especially mine) but they’re not so much exciting now as they are nostalgic, sometimes Romantic, always emotional.

I must have an angel food cake for my birthday.  This is because my grandmother, Grandma Gert (whose name was really Hazel Isobel but we called her Gert), would bake one for me every summer.  We would troop up to their cottage, eat barbecued hot dogs, corn on the cob and angel food cake with a kind of inner ‘moat’ of mixed whipped cream, sliced bananas, mandarin oranges and tinned pineapple.  Sort of like this:

angel-food-cake-3

Having an angel food cake like this meets all my late middle years birthday needs. It is emotional and nostalgic, remember my grandparents and the fun having those birthday lunches with my family always meant. And now an angel food cake is Romantic because Jeffrey (almost always) bakes one for me, foregoing the ‘moat’ to make the cake last longer for just two people, but serving the whipped cream and tropical fruits on the side. The down side of having this angel food cake birthday was the location.

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I loved the cottage life, and I loved spending all summer, every summer, at the cottage, but I never had a birthday party like my friends at school did because I was never around my school friends.  I was at the cottage!  And as much as I loved my family, it wasn’t the same thing, having hot dogs with them and not my friends.  So the year I turned 9, I decided to have a party for my cousins and “summer cousins” at the cottage.

Probably should have told my mother I wanted to do this BEFORE I invited everyone but… it all worked out in the end.  My grandmother came to the rescue with a cake, we had a field’s worth of corn on the cob, played silly party games, went swimming, and I got presents!

That was my last birthday party until I turned 18, which happened when I was in Australia, and then the next one after that was 30 and then 40.  That last one (a party planned by me but turned into a surprise by Jeff & my parents when they made it all happen a week earlier than I thought!) was especially lovely but also, in retrospect, sort of sad.  My mother was not feeling well and sort of held herself away from the crowd.  As it turns out, she really wasn’t well and died before my next birthday.  And that was when I started marking birthdays not just a matter of getting older but also of change.

This birthday brings more changes and more ageing, not so much for me, but for my in-law family.  My parents-in-law are just weeks away from their 92nd birthdays and 70th wedding anniversary, but both are facing the many changes and challenges of ageing, especially my father-in-law.  I watch them, I see how Mom deals with Dad, her impatience sometimes but mostly, especially, her love and devotion, and I feel so blessed to have them in my life, to have had them welcome and value me in their lives.

Wikipedia sugggests that ageing well consists of doing so with a low probability of disease or disability, enjoying high cognitive functions, and having an active engagement with life.  In other words, you’re healthy, your mind still works, and you’re out there having fun.  Okay, I’m three for three so far.  Well, maybe 2.5 for three, but let’s not quibble.  And I am grateful for ageing well, as opposed to badly, and especially as opposed to the complete alternative.  But still, this birthday reminds me I am ageing and while I have always changed with age, for the first time, I am seeing those changes, or more accurately seeing those changes more clearly, and some of them are… well, let’s just say I wish one needn’t see them quite so clearly.

I have a copy of the Musselman family tree (as of 20 years ago) and almost all of my mother’s father’s relatives on that very large and well spread out tree lived long lives.  I mean, long lives.  Even back in the 17th century, my ancestors lived long lives, and in the 20th, very long lives and apparently mostly healthy ones.  My maternal grandfather, who was born in 1899, once told me he wanted to live to be 101, because that would mean his life would touch three centuries; he missed by three years.  I think I am more Musselman than Staines; goodness knows I look like a Pennsylvania Dutch/Swiss farm peasant!  Perhaps this means I will enjoy that lifespan too.  I don’t know.

In biology, senescence is the state or process of ageing.  In life, the process of ageing is about grace.  It’s about facing what you have and who you are, it’s about enjoying those things you still can and remembering those things you cannot, it’s about family, still with us and still with us only in our hearts. Ageing is also another angel food cake, a bottle of champagne and a few birthday cards.  It’s also a little time reading old diaries, leafing through a few photo albums, and then enjoying a day with family and friends.

For Robert DeNiro, Mae West, Davy Crocket, Jim Courier, Belinda Carlisle, and especially for my dear friend, Richard Prazmowski, this wish for us all….

Birthday-Candles3

A Seriously Sad Cat

If anyone ever asks you if an animal has an emotional life, tell them about The Grey Cat.

She has one human.  He’s at music camp this week.  She misses him.  Oh, god, she misses him.

He had packed the car in a few trips, one bag or box at a time, trying to look like he wasn’t, you know, LEAVING.  Because The Grey Cat is a very smart cat.  She understands perfectly what bags and boxes mean — someone is leaving!  And if there is a soft-sided black bag with screening on two sides, she’s leaving with the human(s) which is much better than being left.  Only this time, no soft-sided black bag with screening on two sides so some surreptitiousness was called for.

By Sunday at about 10pm, she’s in the window sill, sitting there, watching, waiting.  She knows the sound of her human’s car very well.  A most distinctive diesel engine.  Oh, she knows the other car two, but her human’s car?  That one she picks up a half block away.

By 11pm, I’m in deep doo-doo.  She’s stalking me, as I close up for the night, meowing (which she hardly ever does), almost begging me to tell her where the hell he is.  Sadly as smart as she is, her human vocabulary is limited to ‘treats’ and ‘brush’ and ‘no’ — at least, when she wants to stay out of serious trouble.

Monday morning, it’s breakfast time.  I give her fresh water and food.  I offer to brush her.  She RUNS AWAY!  She loves to be brushed but apparently only by her human.  Who is not me.  Oh, I’m worth a good nudge at midnight, get the ears scratched, asked one more time “What the hell did you do to him that he’s not home with me?”, but I’m  not him.

And she misses him.

So, to make the days go faster, she’s sleeping a lot and ignoring me more.  I’m hoping that the little calendar I made for her and posted by her litter box helps.  I’ve circled Sunday in red.  ’cause I miss him too.

Grey Cat on Love Seat

 

It Was Meant As a Joke. I Didn’t Get It.

I was never cool as a kid.  I didn’t get the inside jokes most of the time, and unless it was a literary reference or involved movies or music from the 30s and 40s, I rarely understood pop culture references.  I was middle-aged before my time, and I’m not getting any younger.

That being said, I still sometimes try.  For example, I am enamoured of Twitter and so witnessed the trending of what seemed to be an impossible film.  I gave in to my need to be cool:  I watched the re-run of SHARKNADO on Thursday night.

I am not proud of myself for doing this.  It was a dreadful, dreadful movie that the director and others have said was meant to be a bloody, gory, inside joke about horror films.   It took 18 days (that many?  given the quality of the appearance of the movie, I would have said 8 tops, and 3 in post-production) and a million dollars to make (or maybe two, depending on who you read in researching this) and earned lousy ratings (maybe up to 1.4 million people on the debut night) for the SyFy network.  Still, the network and everyone involved in making this piece of purest schlock says it was a hit! People loved it! They’re looking at a sequel, maybe with Johnny Depp!!

If you saw it and enjoyed it for what the network and movie makers say was its purpose — a light-hearted albeit gory summer movie — then good for you.  I have other movies, better movies, with which to take a break from the summer heat, starting with another movie about sharks, a cheap-to-make but easy to look at and frightening as hell little number called JAWS. Still, if SHARKNADO rocks your boat (or your Hummer or your helicopter or your chain saw or your frickin’ bar stool) then… yea??

The thing about jokes is, they’re supposed to be funny.  And inside jokes are supposed to be presented with a wink and a nod to the audience.  Yes, I got some of the references to other movies (not least, JAWS, when they paraphrased “I think we need a bigger boat”) and a couple of other pop culture toss-offs, but it wasn’t enough.  Every plot contrivance possible was built into the story: separated young-ish middle-aged couple with conflicted adult children; slightly crazy best friend who becomes hero blowing up a Hummer & dying; drunken friend who becomes hero saving dog & dying; idiot boyfriend of wife who just dies; orphan waitress, former shark victim, whiz with a shotgun, with crush on husband; bus filled with stranded children; old folks’ home — at an airport!! — in danger of sharks in their swimming pool; husband as Jonah but with a chain saw.

All those stories, with completely mis-matching footage, cheesy special effects and at least six actors who really ought to look into real estate as a different, wiser, career path all added up to 90 minutes of my time I will never get back.  Still, I did learn a couple of things I want to share:  inside jokes are great fun, as long as you’re already on the inside.  They’re not meant for outsiders and it was foolish of me to think I could be one of those people.  And the other thing I learned is

whale shark

when the life guard — or a surfing champion named ‘Fin’ — says get outta the water, get outta the water!!

(photo of whale shark from National Geographic)

Porn? I Asked Bing for Porn?

I’m writing a novel right now.  It’s kinda just pouring out of me and I’m loving the process even if I have no idea what I’m going to do with it.  A couple of people have read the couple of chapters just to help me be sure that I’m right, it’s pretty damn good reading. But this is what I’m writing about, actually complaining about:

WHY DOES PORN SHOW UP WHEN YOU’RE DOING RESEARCH THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SEX?

I’m a little pissed off about this because a) there are times when I enjoy erotica (not stupid and/or violent porn) very much and these images just showing up are a significant reason why people protest against ALL sexual expressions and b) I’m trying to actually work not wank and this slows me down.

You may or may not have heard about a children’s book that’s actually meant for adults called “Go The Fuck to Sleep”.  I am referencing it in my book and wanted to be sure I got publication dates, history, author’s name and so forth all correct.  So I Bing’d the title and these admittedly blurry images showed up.  Good for Bing for blurring them but even so, apparently all it takes for porn to show up is the word “fuck”.

It’s a great word.  I myself have used it with great feeling and import as noun, verb, adjective and in adverbial form.  It’s also a great recreational activity but again, not when I’m working.  More importantly, and I know I’m being very naive about this, but sometimes it really is just word and should be treated that way. Leave the pictures for those who actually ask for photos.  Leave the pictures for those who pay for them.  Leave the very good word for those of us who use words to enhance our pleasure.

But were I to need a picture “to go the fuck to sleep”…. this what sends me off….

now this...

Hope y’all have sweet dreams tonight…