Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Blustery Day

It was a dark and blustery day!  When I took Margaret out in the morning, there were even (horrors!) a few snowflakes flittering down.  Pauline and I asked one another – did we really want to venture forth in such ominous weather?  We did.  Our trip to the museum got off to an inauspicious start when our bus broke down and we had to transfer to another.  The other was not actually going where we wanted to go, and the driver, who assured us that it would all be okay, had a convoluted solution which involved the bus tunnel, several escalators, and then another bus.  We decided to risk being blown off our feet, and to hoof it, despite the weather and the seediness of the area. We arrived at the art museum intact, and ready for culture! 

This exhibition was, I think, my favorite of those Pauline and I have seen lately.  “You liked it better than the Picasso?” my friend Mia gasped when we met her on the bus going home.  I have to admit that I did.  I have long loved Picasso, and have not been particularly wild about Gauguin – until now that is.  I had always thought of him as a ribald boor, trotting off to foreign lands to paint naked ladies.  There were indeed lovely sloe eyed naked ladies, but their sad serenity and otherworldliness gave them a sort of magical purity. Perhaps their sadness was because they knew that the world Gauguin was painting was one that had already disappeared. 

Obviously, not Gauguin
Afterwards, we had an artistic lunch in the museum cafe.    We ordered our usual – our favorite – tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.  Yum.  True comfort food for a blustery day. 

Also not Gauguin!
This one reminded me of one of those New Yorker cartoons with the little old ladies from the outback gaping and wondering if this could truly be art.  I guess Pauline and I were those ladies today.  We didn't get it!

Notice in the SAM ladies' room
It was like trying to decipher those mysterious words so that you can leave a comment on a friend's blog!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Radio Days

Mary Bambi and Mary Margaret

When I was wee, there was no television!  Can you imagine?  I always enjoy those photos of the happy family gathered round the radio, (no doubt advertisements for the latest Philco,) but this never happened at my house.  I don’t recall my parents ever listening to the radio, but I do remember  sitting on my grandfather’s lap sometimes when he listened to the news.   Occasionally, I secretly listened under the covers after I was supposed to be asleep.  My favorites were Ozzie and Harriet, and The Lone Ranger.  Earlier, when I was younger, my mother turned on Big John and Sparkie for me every Saturday morning.  This show, which I adored, had a lasting impact on me in several ways.  The theme song was The Teddy Bears Picnic.  I loved it, and sang all the time.  I was an only child, and my teddy bears were my special friends.  Especially one named, not too imaginatively, Teddy. 


By the time I was six, Teddy had very little of his original self left.  As you can see in the photo, the eyes were the first to go.  My grandmother was the surgeon, replacing bits of him as they wore out.  My second favorite bear was Mary Bambi. (Don’t let her know she was not my first ursine love.) She was a gift from my grandmother, and this photo, taken on my grandmother’s porch, may have been snapped the very day I got her.  In the top picture, you can see a bald spot on her ear.  This is where I gently nuzzled her with my nose.  This nuzzling was always a great comfort in times of stress.  

That is probably Teddy lying on the step behind me.  One day, my mother gave me a record of Teddy Bear’s Picnic.  I listened to it all afternoon.  (See if you can listen to it without smiling!) When I went to find my bears, quelle horreur! They were gone.  “They’re at the picnic,” my mother told me.  Later, in the evening, they came back – all but one.  Poor Teddy had stayed at the picnic.  This was over half a century ago, and I have to say that I still harbor some bitterness about it – my first real emotional trauma. 

Big John frequently read stories to us, and one of them affected and disturbed me deeply. I brooded about it for a long while afterwards.  Although for years I thought about it and the intense impression it made on me, I didn't know what it was.  One evening, at least two decades later, when I was in graduate school, I took a break from studying to make myself a piece of toast.  I grabbed one of Rebecca’s story books and opened it up at random to read while the bread was in the oven.  I read one sentence, and was stunned.  I instantly knew it was the story I had heard so many years before -  The Happy Prince, by Oscar Wilde. It still makes me teary.  You can read it here

One morning as my then husband was leaving for school, he asked me to give him a short story to read to his class.  “Read The Happy Prince,” I unthinkingly said.  When he got home that afternoon, he was a little cranky.  “You did that on purpose!’ he growled.  “What?” I wanted to know.  “You gave me that story to embarrass me.  I read it to the class, and started crying.”  That would be embarrassing.  I assure you, I didn’t do it on purpose.  I just thought it was such a nice story. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ash Wednesday

New Life, New Creation!

Ash Wednesday, one of the three most popular holy days among church going Catholics, has crept upon us once again.  In church attendance, it is surpassed only by Christmas and Easter. What is its appeal?  Father Ryan’s homily suggested that it was a chance for “a new beginning.”   This is surely so. The imminent coming of spring, the opportunity to “clean up your act,” to atone for recent indiscretions and start once more -  there is all that about Ash Wednesday and Lent.  But Rebecca and I have long held that the true allure for so many is the charm of “Free Ashes.”  Who can resist the prospect of having a black smudge on your forehead for the rest of the day?  The church was indeed packed.  As expected, there was standing room only.

The coming of Ash Wednesday also means that one must decide what to sacrifice for Lent in order to prepare for Easter.  In my youth I always gave up candy.  This seemed pretty standard among my contemporaries.  And it was indeed a sacrifice.  I went to the movies every Saturday of my young life, and an important part of going to the movies was the candy.  Fortunately, there was still popcorn, but it's not the same. 

This year I am giving up playing Bridge with my computer, and I can assure you that this is a sacrifice.  I love it, and waste many hours with it.  I plan to do something positive in the time saved, but I have not quite decided what that will be.  Usually, I try to read nursing articles, and probably that is what I will do again, but I want to so something else as well.  I will report back if I think of something good.

During Lent we are also supposed to fast – one real meal a day and two tiny ones, and abstain (no meat) on Wednesdays and Fridays.  The latter is no problem, as I abstain every day of my life.  But the former……   I had planned to do this, but got off to a very rocky start.  It is not required for old folks like me, but I thought that for the first time in my life I would actually consciously do this.  I had never paid much attention to this rule in the past, I have to confess.  I got up, had some tea.  Tea is not eating, so it doesn’t count.  After a while I had a nice date biscotti.  This will usually carry me through till lunch, but in a very short while, I was starving.  So I had another.  Then after a tiny bit, I was starving again.  So I had a dish of cottage cheese.  Cottage cheese seems like the sort of food that doesn’t really count, don’t you think?  By then it was nearly lunch time, and of course I was fainting from hunger, so I had some yogurt.  This didn’t last, and so I had an couple of crumpets to tide me over till dinner, which was after Mass.  The heroine in the book I was reading ordered a bowl of olives to go with her coffee.  Suddenly, I had to have some olives.  I just had to. After that, I noticed a packet of Dots.  These had been sitting in my candy bowl for about two years and had never tempted me. Now they were screaming, “Eat me! Eat me!”  I obeyed.

After Mass, I had a huge Indian meal with Samos at a favorite restaurant.  Not only was I not going to be eating all day because it Lent and fasting time, but I had planned to save my appetite for this meal so that I could be a piggy with less guilt.  I was a piggy anyway, despite not having saved my appetite at all.  Then, the final downfall – Samos handed me bits of a chocolate bar during the film.  I totally forgot my resolve, and savored them fully.  Oh well, I can begin again today.  Things are going better so far, because I haven’t been thinking about not eating.  That makes it a lot easier to not eat. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Doggy Day

I was trying to show one of my work colleagues a picture of my darling Margaret, and I realized (with embarrassment) that I had many pictures of Tobias, and few of Margaret.  This is not because I love Margaret less, but rather, because she doesn’t actually do much.  She is sixteen after all, and is slowing down.  Her favorite activity is napping, followed by following me around wherever I go.  She sobs at the foot or head of the stairs if I forget to carry her up or down respectively, she being too old to navigate the steps.   This, of course, is not a favorite activity, and not even a frequent activity, as I am pretty vigilant about not leaving her behind.  She naps in the bed if that’s where I am, under my desk chair when I am busy playing Bridge with my computer, in my reading chair when I am there reading – and that’s where we both are now - I typing, she snoozing.  When I am cooking, she stands by, giving sage advice, and keeps a sharp lookout for any crumbs or scraps that may drop her way. She is a real little Hausfrau, helping not onlywith the cooking, but with the ironing as well.  Whenever I get the iron out, she is there – with her little bottom pointed towards the heater in my sewing room and the rest of her keeping watch over …. I don’t know what.  But she always helps in exactly the same way, standing at my feet and giving moral support as I press those pillowcases.  In fact, she gives me moral support all the time, with her beautiful doggy soul and loving heart. 

Margaret helping with the ironing

Tobias, on the other hand, is a little short on the moral support, but he is always doing clever and amusing things – like sitting on the book I am trying to read, getting in the washing machine as I try to load in the laundry, lounging in the bathroom sink, stalking across the stove, walking up and down my back in the morning when he thinks I should be waking up to fix his breakfast, putting his hand on my nose when that doesn’t work, dipping his tail in my salad and getting dressing all over it, as he did this evening.  (Of course, I don’t allow him on the table to keep me company at dinner and to have the occasional bite of whatever I am eating!  This was just an isolated aberration.  Cats on the dining table! The very idea!  Disgusting!) 

They both help me with my knitting and reading, each in his or her own special way.  They are indeed my two little darlings.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

An Important Birthday

Dickens is 200 years old!  And what a marvelous gift he was to the world and to us!  Truly a day to celebrate this amazing man!  And to commemorate the important event, The Twins had a Dickens High Tea Party.  

We each had a place card with a character most representative our inner natures, or perhaps what we would like our inner natures to be.

Corinna was Little Dorrit.  

This is very apt, as Little Dorrit was unassuming, but strong and saintly, carrying her family through every crisis, and nonetheless always underappreciated.  

Maria was Tattycoram.  

I’m not quite sure how apt this one is, as Maria is saintly too, and Tattycoram was definitely not saintly.  If you look closely, you may note the cross look on her face.  She was a self-willed, dissatisfied trouble maker, although she eventually recognized the error of her ways.  She was also one of the more interesting Dickens female characters, of which there is a sad dearth. 

My favorite, and the one whom I would most like to see myself as, is Aunt Betsy Trotwood, the true heroine of David Copperfield.  Fie on saintly, silly Dora and saintly, sensible Agnes!  Betsy Trotwood is where it’s at!  Kind, intelligent, far-seeing, loving, generous, but still a little quirky!  Does that sound like me? I guess not.  But I can strive.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Beautitian's Day

Tobias in the salon chair
I had a big agenda for myself today, and I actually managed to do most of my planned tasks. One of the most onerous was the opening of a little beauty shop in my kitchen. The shop provided hair care, manicures, and pedicures.  I had two clients, one concerned about personal grooming – at least the hair portion of it, although not so much the manicure.  The other was enthusiastic about none of it.  One client was well behaved, and the other quite naughty.  I’ll bet you have ideas about which was which, and chances are that you are mistaken.  Tobias, although a cat, loved the initial part of his beauty treatment.  He purred and rolled around on the salon chair, made his nether parts available to me so I could brush and furminate them, and was, all in all, a good shop patron.  He even behaved reasonably well when I gave him a manicure.  He made clear that he did not think he needed a manicure, but even then, was slightly cooperative.

Margaret looking resentful after her ordeal

Margaret, on the other hand, was resistant to the whole procedure.  She needed to be plied with treats if she was to be even the tiniest bit obliging.  She particularly did not like her manicure.  It took a treat per fingernail.  Fortunately, unlike Tobias, she is quite motivated by the prospect of a morsel of something tasty.

They both looked good, he handsome and she very pretty, after their ordeal.  Margaret is vain, and does like to look attractive, but she is not willing to sacrifice much for beauty.  Tobias is a GQ cat, and will put up with much to look his best.

Here are the tools of the trade, displayed along with the fruits of my labor – if you can call fluffs of hair a fruit.  I guess you really can’t.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A kittenish day

No intriguing story today, as today hasn’t really happened yet, and yesterday was very humdrum.  But I was sure you would like to see this picture of my darling kitty with his new toy, a gift from his friend Peggy.  He loves it.  He grabs it by its tail and tosses it in the air, chases it, catches it, slobbers on it a bit, and then caresses it.  A few months ago, he had another one which he promptly lost.  I am awaiting the day when I move some item of furniture and find a little cat toy cemetery, as his favorites always disappear.  The time this takes is inversely proportional to his love for them.  Or perhaps the Borrowers get them?  I actually do clean behind most of my furniture at least occasionally, and I feel that I should have found this depository by now. 

By the way, when admiring the picture of Geoffrey Tobias, take special note of his exquisite grey lips.  And his cunning little chin!  Such an adorable fellow!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Slightly Bizarre Day

Yesterday was a fun day, but it had elements of weirdness about it.  For starters, it was Tuesday, and, while on some level, I actually knew that it was Tuesday, I was convinced that it was really Wednesday.  (And consequently that today is Thursday.)  My work schedule has nothing definite about it, the only constants being that I work every other weekend, and never on Thursday. Other than that, it changes every week. This can lead to confusion, as there are some almost–but-not-always “not quite constants” about it.  One of those is that I usually, but not always, work on Tuesday.

I was having that delightful pair, The Twins, for dinner, and I must have checked the calendar at least three times to reassure myself that I was on track.  I kept telling myself, “Although you seem determined to have it be Wednesday, it really is Tuesday.”  At one point, I called Rebecca to confirm our movie plans for the next day (Thursday,) and then told her – “Oh, I forgot that it’s Wednesday and you’re working.”  Then this morning I waited and waited for her to call to tell me what time we were leaving, and finally called her. She said that she was at work, and had gotten the message about the Wednesdayness of that Tuesday, but figured that I had by this time figured out that it really was Tuesday. And that I was going to work, and not the movies.  Well, I hadn’t.  What a good thing it was that I called up a well informed person. I might have gone to the Family Kitchen and choir practice instead of work. Actually, at three ten, I would have gotten an outraged phone call from my job asking where I was.  I have gotten this phone call several times in the past, and I hate it. Once I had copied the schedule wrong and the other time, they had changed my schedule without mentioning it to me!!!!

On the evening previous, my kitchen light had been flickering, so in the morning I ventured out to Home Depot so as to be prepared when it actually did go out.  Not unexpectedly, I got lost – but only a little lost. Home Depot is near the Starbucks main office, and the mermaid can be seen for miles around.  This was a good landmark.  When I got home with my groceries and light bulbs, I was overcome with a nap attack.  I carefully calculated how long it would take to cook my dinner, decided I had time for a nap, set the timer for an hour, and then Margaret, Tobias and I settled down for a snooze.  I awoke an hour later, refreshed, and assembled my ingredients for the meal.  I was making Chickenless Pot Pie, and a jar of pimento is a sine qua non of this dish.  I knew that I had a jar in my pantry, but when I got it out, it looked strange.  When I opened it, the jar lid didn’t pop, and the pimento was a vermillion slime. Aaaak!  What to do.  I considered, and decided that there was time to walk to the store.  I didn’t think the closest stores would have pimento, so I had to go further afield.  The day was fine, and it was a pleasant walk.  I arrived home with my pimento and barely enough time to be ready when The Twins were due to arrive. I set to work chopping and stirring when, as I had feared might happen, the light went out.  Bummer!  Fixing it was a two person job and  I was only one person.  Also, it required a ladder and I was not sure where mine was.  This light event was sort of mystic because the very same thing had happened a few days ago when The Twins were preparing dinner.  Same sort of light bulb even.  We calculated that this bulb had lasted seven years.  So the odds were against both of our bulbs going at the same time.  I probably will be eating by candlelight for the next few days until I find my ladder and an assistant to change the bulb.  How many Joannas does it take to change an overhead kitchen light bulb? More than one!

Update:  Yay!  It's fixed.  A tall friend stopped by and did it.