Saturday, September 24, 2011

I Wanna Grow Up…

A Buddhist monk in New York City walks up to a hot dog vendor, hands him $20 and says, “Make me one with everything.”
The vendor pockets the money and hands the monk his frank. After a short while, the monk says politely, “My change?” The vendor smiles and says, “Change comes from within.”

Today is my nephew’s 18th birthday. Whoa! I need to say that again. Today is my nephew’s 18th birthday.
I can’t believe it. I remember when he was so little that he could fit into a large turkey pan and I – affectionately, of course – called him, “Oven stuffer roaster.” (My sister wasn't too pleased with that moniker, truth be told….)
I feel like I blinked and 18 years flew by.
Fast forwarding a bit, continuing the transformation begun when I got my hair styled for the first time in 2½ years, two weeks ago I got glasses. I look undeniably “hip” (C’mon folks, humor me here…) but as I take in my new look, a voice says, “You’re getting older.”
Sadly, I’m not yet at that age where I can say whatever I want to and everyone will have to find it charming…. Of late, however, I am more of a curmudgeon than I used to be, especially when watching television, which, it seems, I have less and less interest in each day.
And there’s that little voice again saying, “This is how old people act.”
I feel like I’m being bombarded from every direction with signs that I’m aging and in the immortal words of Peter Pan, “I don’t wanna grow up.”
But then I stop and think about all the exciting aspects of growing up:
·         I can eat dessert before dinner!
·         I don’t have to eat my veggies if I don’t want them (although that’s never happened…)!
·         I can stay up (and out) as late as I want to without breaking curfew!
·         No more homework!
 Y’know what? Growing up is okay. In fact, there are lots of things I like about it. 
My absolute favorite thing about growing up has been living on my own, by which, I mean with my husband. Despite the presence of more gray hair, less patience, more aches and pains and less resilience, in the past six years with Gary, I feel like I've gotten younger. So much so, that yesterday I fairly leapt out of bed at 5 AM to get Gary ready for an early morning on the job.
I don’t typically jump out of bed at “o’dark thirty,” but yesterday was special. At 5:05 AM autumn officially began. At 5:06 AM I celebrated the arrival of autumn by dragging out my slow cooker.
Change definitely comes from within. In my case, within my stomach, and it’s all good. 

Written for The Writers’ Post weekly blog hop # 15. Theme: “Changes”

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bugs in My Britches

The Ant by Ogden Nash
The ant has made himself illustrious/Through constant industry industrious.
So what?
Would you be calm and placid/If you were full of formic acid?

In a recent post, I wrote about being raised in New York City. People take from that that I’ve never seen a blade of grass or a tree. Lemme tell you, more than one tree grows in Brooklyn…
Seriously though, growing up in “the cement jungle,” where roaches were abundant (ick!), I never got very comfortable with bugs.
My antagonism presents a problem these days, because I’m a gardener. Not only do I care for the land around my house, but, my husband and I are so enthusiastic about gardening that we rent a public plot from the county parks department. 
When one rents a garden plot, much like renting anything else, one must adhere to certain rules regarding maintenance/upkeep. Recently we were notified that it was time to start cleanup and prep for the fall growing season.
This has been a tough year for us. As an at-home wife, one of my regular chores is tending to our garden plot, but I was unable to get there for more than a month this summer while recovering from surgery. Since Gary (aka “the husband”) was occupied with looking after me, he, too, was unavailable to weed, pick, water, etc.
Then a super-hot spell, which kept us away, was followed by heavy rain, prompting the weeds to really take off. When we finally got out there, we had a daunting task in front of us. But we enjoy the yield (This year we had peppers, melons, cucumbers, asparagus, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, fennel and tomatoes) so in spite of it all, we set to cleaning up. 
I’m suppose I’m kidding myself if I think gardening is going to be a bug-free activity, n’est-ce pas?
Case in point…
This morning, while weeding one of six beds, I disturbed a colony of ants. In short order, they were crawling on my shoes and, because I was wearing short socks (stupid, stupid, stupid!), making their way onto my legs where (with nothing else to do, I guess) they began stinging me.
I looked a bit like this minus the cute dress:

I can just see my niece and nephews’ reaction after I share this story with them. They’ll say to their friends, “Have we told you the one about the ants in our aunt’s pants?”

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Buildings as Babysitters, Family and More

Ten years ago today, I was a newspaper reporter, living in Schenectady, NY. That day, there was a primary election in my coverage area, which meant a late night and hence, a late start.
Not quite ready to start my day, I was watching cartoons in bed when my phone rang. I picked it up and it was my Dad, who said, “I just want to let you know that Mom and I were attending a program uptown and we’re okay.” I had no idea what he was talking about. He went on to tell me how a plane had accidentally flown into the World Trade Center.
I immediately switched channels only to see the rest of the horror story that wasn't fictional unfold.
I have strong feelings about the loss of life that occurred that day, but on a more personal level, I was affected by the loss of the physical buildings. It sounds odd, but they played a big role in my life.
For 18 years, growing up in Brooklyn Heights, I looked out on those towers from my kitchen window. They always delighted me. A hundred and ten floors! Wow! (It’s still pretty awesome, truth be told ….) But what meant more was that I could see them from my house. (Y’know, like “someone else” and Russia?)
When saying you were from Brooklyn merited a “Where’s that?” it was pretty darn cool to know how close I lived to “The City.”
But I’m more closely “related” to the towers through my paternal grandparents.
In 1977, we celebrated their 49th (and last) anniversary, at “Windows on the World,” a gourmet restaurant on the 106th and 107th floors of the north tower with sky-high prices to match. I remember everyone being so warm and friendly and looking so festive. Today, most of the people at that party are gone, making the memory even more poignant and special.
The north tower also boasted a 727-foot communications antenna on its roof. Returning from college in St. Louis, we’d often fly over NYC on approach to La Guardia Airport. One exceptionally gray day, the clouds were super low. Just before landing, I saw this spike sticking up into the sky, coming seemingly out of nowhere. It was so surreal it scared me. It took a minute to realize that it was the antenna. It was awesome to realize in that moment that this building literally “scraped the sky.”
But what I remember best is going with Grandma to a kite exhibit on the tippy top floor of the north tower. I’d guess I was six or seven years old. In those days, going to Manhattan was an occasion that warranted dressing up for. I recall standing in the foyer of my parents’ apartment – the one with that really cool view – while my grandmother “fixed her face.” All of a sudden she turned to me and very seriously inquired in her high-pitched, nasal voice, “Do I have on enough lipstick for this occasion?”

Written for BFF inspiration 122, Theme: Time Traveler

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Time to Tinkle

Exactly four weeks from today a gal pal of mine is getting married. I can't tell you how thrilled I am. But not necessarily for the reason you think.
Well, lest you think I'm completely irascible and cynical, I am happy for her. But here's the thing: I'm also overjoyed that the whole affair will be over in exactly four weeks. Allow me to explain....
Back when I got married – six years ago – Facebook didn't exist. I wish I could say I'm disappointed....
Over the course of the last year or so, I've been "treated" in acute detail to what stage A. is at in her wedding planning. In the last few months, it's gotten really "interesting." I know who's RSVP'ed; how the pumpkins are doing (I concede I have no idea what they're for...); when A. has her next dress fitting and on, and on, and on....
Some of the details are cute, some should be filed under "I'm sorry, but why do I care about this?"
I've asked myself again and again why she's sharing all these details. The answer I keep coming up with is that she's nervous and as such, isn't thinking straight, because I think she knows better than to share all this inconsequential information. I just hope she doesn't feel the need to "tweet" as she walks down the aisle....
Seriously though, I can relate to being nervous about getting married. Before my wedding there was so much to do and I was so uptight that it was all I could do to remember who I was and who I was marrying. Y'know? Good ol' what's-his-name, sitting next to me here on the couch... 
Truth be told, I almost missed my wedding because of nerves.
For those of you who've gotten married, attended a prom or had a coming out party you know what it's like to use the "little girls'" room in your dress. It requires at least two people.
C'mon, admit it. You couldn't really manage all that fabric and the crinolines by yourself, could you? I swear I couldn't have had fewer than four layers going on below my waist...
So I'm standing at the top of the aisle, my parents on either side, video camera trained on me. Everyone else has had his/her moment and now it's my turn to "walk down" and wow everyone and all I can think is, "Oh my God, I need to pee! Any chance we can stall while I use the ladies room?"

Written for The Writers’ Post weekly blog hop #13. Theme: Thoughts on Time

Friday, September 9, 2011

An Attitude of Gratitude: The Liebster Award

It takes a LOT to render me speechless. A few days ago Susan Dusterhoft darn near got me to that point, by selecting me for the Liebster Award. 
The award, which got its start in Germany (according to the translation I found, Liebster means "favorite") is designed to highlight blogs with fewer than 200 followers. I have five followers (C'mon people! Just kidding.) so it appears I qualify.... Seriously though, regardless of how many readers I have, I'm thrilled that a fellow writer would deem my "product" worthy of recognition. I am grateful indeed, Susan. 
As an award recipient, it is now up to me to "return the favor" by bringing to your attention five blogs I find myself returning to again and again. 
My first nominee is (drum-roll please!) Laura Hansen. Love your work, Laura and the photos are delightful.  
Nominee number two: Autumn Saylor. A "wickedly" funny and most informative blog, Autumn. Love it!
The third slot goes to: Lisa Marie Earnest. Lisa, your blog has a refreshing honesty to it. Very nice work. 
My fourth shout-out is for Ashley Ormon. Those are inspiring words you write, Ashley! Great job. 
And my final award goes to my wonderfully creative college pal, Jennifer Zander Wilck. Jen, what can I say? You are inspirational and I'm so, so fortunate to know you. A terrific writer and an even better person. No wonder I want to hear everything you have to say, eh? 
Ladies, now it's your turn to "pay it forward" (and backwards). Please find five blogs you each can't live without reading and let your readers (like me!) know about them. Be good enough, too, to give me "props" for selecting you for the award. (I'm not sure why you have to do that, but it's "in the rules," so...)
I can't wait to hear what each of you has to say next. Congrats and, all of you, keep up the great work!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Planet Janet

When I’m not engaged in blogging, gardening, cooking, eating figs or a host of other seemingly routine activities, I volunteer.
Since leaving my (detestable) job in 2009, I've been working two days a week as a job seekers’ writing specialist at a local one-stop career center.
About 99½ percent of the time I love what I do. Then there are those moments when I think that it’s fortunate I have really thick hair, ‘cause that way no one will notice if I rip some of it out. Today was one of those days.
Meet Janet – a middle-aged woman with a master’s degree who held a job as a clown. That just about says it all, doesn't it? As such, Janet’s reputation precedes her.
Today Janet asked for my input on a resume. After looking it over, I concluded that what she thought she’d written and what, in fact, she had written were two different entities.
During the discussion that ensued, she got visibly upset. When I asked why, she said I’d been needlessly abrasive 90 minutes earlier. It seems it takes a while for things to register with her….
I conceded that I had been snippy adding, “But, I confess, I was confused. Why ask me to review your work and then, in the next breath, say that you don’t want to use it? That’s not an effective use of my time.”
Forget the fact that she wanted to use the same resume for two jobs: (1) a social worker and (2) a meter maid. Yeah, they use a lot of the same skills….
So, after sorting things out, we went on to discuss resume formats and what would work best. 
Now, my “best practices” MO is to ask lots of questions. I admit I don’t remember what I asked, but at some point, Janet said, “I’m applying for government positions because I want a job that’s not stressful.”
Wow. A government job with no stress. A social work position, no less, with no stress. 
No comment. 
I’m pretty sure the waterworks would have begun again, if I’d articulated what I was thinking: “Tell me, please, what color is the sky on Planet Janet?”

Written for BFF inspiration 120, Theme: “You Color my World."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Project 2996: Staff Sgt. Maudlyn A. White

"Project 2996” is a tribute to the victims of 9/11. In 2006, more than 3,500 volunteer writers came together on September 11, each to blog in memory of a single victim. Once again, we pool our collective talents to remember and honor the men and women who were lost.

Staff Sgt. Maudlyn A. White is described by those who knew her as a quiet, independent woman. Even so, she touched everyone she came into contact with. A colleague of hers during an assignment in Frankfurt, Germany, said, “You showed me how I could be a strong person. You influenced my life greatly…”
At almost six feet tall, Staff Sgt. White’s friends and co-worker literally and figuratively looked up to her. “You made me the soldier I am today. The best NCOIC [Non-commissioned officer in charge] I ever had.”
However committed the 16-year Army veteran was to her job though, ultimately her life revolved around her young daughter, Vielka. The two were more than mother and daughter – they were best friends. The joy Staff Sgt. White felt at being a mom was not something she kept to herself. Friends say it could be found in her “big beautiful smile with the whitest teeth ever,” and the way she laughed.
Staff Sgt. White, 38, born in Montserrat and raised in St. Croix, sought knowledge wherever she went and shared it liberally, giving her best to everyone.
She rests now in the shadows of the Pentagon where she was working that day.
It has been inspiring learning and writing about this stalwart “Lady Solider.” She will never be forgotten by those who knew and loved her or by me.  

Monday, September 5, 2011

Putting the Cart Before the Horse…

In 2000, after living on my own in various boroughs of New York City for several years, I got a boost in my career as a newspaper reporter and moved to Schenectady, NY, which is a hop, skip and a jump north of the state capital, Albany.
Though I’d been living independently for more than five years, I’d never been so far from my parents. Now I was really “going it alone.”
That meant that household chores and repairs which I’d once left to Mom or Dad were mine to manage. Chief among them, was grocery shopping.
I was well equipped physically to take on this task germane to running a household – I had money and a car – but mentally/emotionally, I’m not sure I was ready. You be the judge….
One day, after having purchased my food and sundries for the week, I was in the store parking lot when I saw two boys, each around 17 years old, walking in my direction and talking.
I couldn't make out exactly what they were saying, but as they got closer, the salient point of the conversation became clear. One said to the other, “… and I’ll take her cart.”
My big-city living reflexes kicked into high gear. Holy cow! These kids were going to steal my groceries in broad daylight and what’s more, they were being totally blasé about discussing their crime!
I was furious and terrified at the same time. So, mustering every ounce of courage I had, I crossed my arms over my chest and, eyes flashing fire and ice, took a step towards them. In my hardest, most fear-inducing tone of voice, I said, “Can I help you?”
It took a moment for my challenge-cum-threat veiled as a question to register, but when it did, one of the young men said, “No Ma’am, thank you. We’re here to help you. After you've unloaded your bags, we’ll take your cart back to the store for someone else to use.”
After breathing a sigh of relief, I couldn't help but laugh out loud. Talk about putting the cart before the horse!

Written for The Writers’ Post weekly blog hop # 12. Theme: Use the word “salient” along with the photo entitled, “Fire and Ice."

Sunday, September 4, 2011

From the Department of Bushwa

The acronym BUS stands for a lot of things. Basic Urban Services; Building Use Studies; Bargaining Unit Status; Brown University Swimming; and Boston University Shuttle, to name a few.
I’d like to add one more entity to the list. Read on for more (pointless) information…
Yesterday while driving home from grocery shopping, my husband and I got into a discussion about the relative nutritional value of chicken at KFC compared to a mini muffin (I’m scratching my head trying to remember what, exactly, prompted the conversation…).
Anyway, the conversation included Gary saying, “You really don’t think they shoot their chicken full of chemicals and ….”
To which I said, “Maybe now they do, but I’m sure it didn’t start out that way. When Colonel Sanders started, it was probably just breaded, fried chicken.”
This prompted Gary to say, “Well, anyway, Harland Sanders lived to be 90, I think. Yes, 90. He died in 1980. He lived from 1890 to 1980.”
Okay, I’m richer for knowing that, I guess….
We continued on, eventually passing a McDonalds. When we did, Gary offered up this jewel: “Look, Daph, you can see the sign advertising the Tuesday special meal deal.”
Why does he know that it’s only on Tuesdays and since we almost never go there, why does he know about this special meal deal at all and what makes him think I care about it?
Whatever. I don’t care that he knows about it nor do I care if he goes to get it and since I married him for better or for worse, I’ll listen to him prattle on….
Truth is, I’m completely amazed by and caught up in his knowledge of utterly random, inconsequential information.
For the record, Gary works at BLS – the Bureau of Labor Statistics (which is a division of the Federal Labor Department) and he’s quite invested in his job. Heaven knows however, that the government collects all kinds of data that, when released, makes us wonder, “What were they thinking when they commissioned this study?”
I think they need a new agency called BUS – the Bureau of Useless Statistics. Should they ever create such a group, I’m going to recommend Gary for the job of commissioner.
What unimportant information do you pride yourself on having and sharing?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Stormy Lovin'!

Me, red meat, mega high-calorie sweets, me, high temperatures, stormy weather and me.
These are some of the things my husband loves. Did I mention he loves me?

When I was single, I would get very scared and upset in storms because of the noise and uncertainty of what might happen. Would I lose power? Would I be okay? I always wondered until the storm ended.
When I was a newspaper reporter, it was especially scary, because bad weather often preceded a call from my editor saying, "Daphne, get out there and check out the damage/the accident/the resulting conditions/etc.and report back."
One of my scariest post-storm assignments was after a heavy snowfall. I was ordered to check out a car that had gotten stuck on a set of train tracks after sliding on ice and was subsequently clipped by a train. Thank God no one was hurt. The idea to me though that I was going to have to take my car onto that same icy road... Yikes!
These days, as an at-home wife I wonder what the storm will "bring" ... in the way of behavior from my husband. Without getting graphic, he makes them so exciting!
When Hurricane Irene passed by us, we lost power for about 15 hours. The lights went out shortly before 9PM on Saturday. When they did, I turned to Gary and said, "What should we do?"
His reply: "We could do some kissing!"
It brings to mind an incident from several years ago when we were dating.
One morning, after a rather intense overnight storm, Gary was moving particularly slowly. I, who typically sleep like the dead, asked him what was going on and he said he hadn't slept well.
"Why Dear?" I asked.
"Because of the storm," he said.
"But it's not like this is the first storm you've been in. Surely you aren't up for all of them?" I said. I don't think I ever could have guessed what came next ...
He said, "Yes, that's true, but this was my first storm with you!"

Posted for BFF Inspiration #119 - Stormy Weather