Monday, December 27, 2010

The Art and Craft of Anticipation

First, we lost a great fellow this past week when my Uncle Lenny passed away. He fought this battle longer and harder than anyone I’ve ever known. His memory will always be a blessing for us, his family, and his friends.האמת  ברוך דין

Onto the blog:

Every week, my dad (who will be 90 in January) sends a letter out to our family. Each household gets a copy. It almost always arrives on Friday, occasionally on Saturday, and always contains news of the week’s events, the bowling scores, and it’s always signed,

          Be of good cheer and all the jazz.
          Miss you, miss you,

Those letters, started back when I was in grad school, used to contain a copy of the Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle and a fiver; now there's a ten-spot for each of the grandkids tucked into their letters. Of course, no one regularly writes back despite periodic grumbling, but that may be because we talk on the phone all the time. Still, those letters have become the archive of our family history and I have every single one.

Recently, I found myself with the opportunity to hand write an actual letter. This was not to be an email or a scrawl on a card, or even one of my little “informals” on which I’ve been writing thank-you notes since I could hold a pencil. The letter would accompany a package, and while a little post-it stuck to the item might have sufficed, it was, when I looked at it, inelegant and unworthy of that which I wanted to express.

Waterman Laureat - my implement of choice

I could’ve just emailed and said, “Hey! Package en route,” but that seemed cold under the circumstances. I could’ve written it on the computer, put it in a scrawly font, and print it, but that, too, seemed perfunctory. I rattled around on this for a bit, then decided this might be the first real, handwritten letter my friend has received in a zillion years. And it might be amusing. So I dug out the ol’ Crane’s blue banded, water-marked stationary and checked the ink level in my fountain pen (yes, I use a fountain pen….okay?) Then I drafted the thing in Word until I was satisfied. I read it over, set it aside, and began to write.

It’s been a long time since I’ve handwritten more than a couple of lines. I worried that it wouldn’t be legible. I worried that my friend would think I’d taken leave of what is left of my senses. I worried that getting a hand-written letter might be overwhelming. But I pushed aside the worries.

I had not considered how freeing the act of hand-writing could be. I felt as if the ink flowing through the pen nib was coming directly from my brain.  There were no smiley faces, no emoticons, no acronyms. Nope. Only real words in real sentences in real ink. It was elegant as well as it was cathartic.

But here’s the kicker. When I got an email letting me know the package had arrived, there was but a brief mention of the letter. Not that I expected anything, but I found myself experiencing a bit of disappointment. Nothing major, but just enough of a twinge to make me think: is getting a handwritten letter more commonplace that I thought?

Oh, to have a grand correspondence like that between Mrs. Patrick Campbell and George Bernard Shaw! Oh, to have a reason to write in longhand again and have to read it as well!We have lost something of our ability to express ourselves amidst the brevity of email, IMs, and texts. Gone is the learned art of patience while awaiting a response, not to mention that anticipatory moment of envelope opening. It's a about savoring a single moment then cherishing the experience.

Instant gratifiation is highly overrated. There are lessons to be recalled (if not learned anew) about patience. Sometime the waiting is good. And the art of letter writing is not just about words; it is as much about the craft of placing those words on a page.

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
A little slow-speed connection is not the worst thing on the planet.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Job Intersection

Like every artist, I have a day job. I try not to let it intersect with my real life, but on occasion, the two meet and that just happened to happen this weekend. 

What I do at my day job is to stuff people into little silver tubes and launch them up into the sky. Once they’re airborne, they often go to exotic places like Columbus (Ohio), Vienna (Austria), Wenzhou (China) or perhaps, Kabul (Afghanistan). No one ever says: send me someplace warm. Nope. My people are corporate wanderers and I get them where they need to go in efficient and economical ways. Usually it’s pretty routine, and it’s easy to fall into a rut where you are, in essence, asking, “Do you want fries with that?”

I happen take stuffing people into those little silver tubes and launching them into the sky very seriously. I worry about them, especially the ones I regularly send to exotic places where they do things that often make the difference between whether some people live or die. Really. They do. They enable some pretty major behind-the-scenes things to happen.  I rather like being a very tiny cog in this large machine because I can convince myself what I do ultimately matters.

And for the price of a postcard, you get a pin in the map over my desk AND your very own Jewish mother sitting in Minnesota not just worrying about you….but worrying with the ability to change your flights on a moment’s notice.

Alpine Hike - July 2011
No joke, I do get postcards: there’s the card from the two guys who decided (in the dead of winter) to fly to Barcelona, then drive cross the Pyrenees into France and on to Tarbes. (I asked if they ever heard of Hannibal.) There’s the postcard from Baghdad that everyone wanted to see, postcards from the backwaters of Africa, and from the world UNESCO World Heritage sites in China. Sometimes they send pictures.  I  mean, who wouldn't want to remember that day hike in the Alps? The snaps are great, and I am always glad to know a moment has been taken to appreciate being someplace else!

The Himalayas - April 2010

So on Sunday afternoon I had the unique privilege of actually meeting one of my intrepid road warriors. Afghan Man and his wife are here in Minnesota visiting family and we managed to get together for coffee. What a delight to meet the guy that I routinely send to terrible places! I wanted to apologize to his wife for aiding and abetting his constant foray into harm’s way.  We talked, we laughed, we learned a bit about each other. It occurred to me after the fact that maybe Mrs. Afghan Man worried a tad less because there was someone on the other end of the wire who worried with her. They were such a nice couple. And he is such a nice guy! This will definitely make working with him even more fun.

The Kabul rug merchant - look closely
2010 is drawing to an unceremonious close. This year, I have lost two of my favorite “problem kiddies” due to regime change, but their spots have already been filled with two other guys who were happy to be adopted under the SPP (Susan Postcard Plan.) So long as I have my “problem kiddies” to send to strange and exotic places, I think I’ll keep this job. It can, on good days, be fun.

The Wifely Person’s Tip o’ the Week
If you travel, do everyone a favor: make sure your IDs all have the same name.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Spartacus in snow gear.
Any thoughts I had about writing on topics other than the immutable proximity of weather disappeared under more than 2 feet of snow. Yes, that was 2 feet in less than 24 hours. Let’s just say I did the deck …then called my landscaper guy and asked him to put me on his plow list. When he stopped laughing, he said, “Okay, Spartacus, you’re on the list.”

The Spartacus moniker is, of course, well earned. Every time I accomplish some task once the domain of my late husband, I assume the muscle arm pose and shout “I AM SPARTACUS!” Okay, it makes me feel better. Everyone else thinks it’s just 

Yes, that's the RX-7~Radish Rocket
But Spartacus had waded out onto the driveway with the best of intentions and realized that the snow was drifted over her knees and big, giant, snow blower or not, she was not going to make headway in that wind. Calling the plow guy was the right thing to do. 

Made the tactical error of telling junior son (who was out skiing through the unplowed streets of Minneapolis) and he promptly gave me an argument. “Why did'ja do that? You have a big snow blower. You coulda gotten through.” I thought he was serious. He claimed he was kidding. I was too frozen to tell.

I still had to blow out the walkway and shovel the steps, but I was much relieved not to be out there fighting that bitter wind, getting the snow blown back in my face, trying to break through the ridge at the end of the drive left by the street plow. 

Remains of the drive.
Sunday, I awoke to sunshine and blue skies. But one look out the window and I knew I was in trouble. The air was sparkling, never a good sign. When I took the dog out, I  realized it was worse that just trouble...the temperature was below zero and the wind chill was about -15F. Everything I’d done was undone and then some. Plus, the pile left in front of the driveway by the snow plow was higher than my waist. My very kind neighbor who had already broken through the plow row spotted the look of abject horror and ran to my mailbox to grab the Sunday papers. I think he thinks I'm just one of those frail widow-ladies. 

I guess I'm not barbecuing tonight.

I got the snow blower going and managed to redo the front walk. The deck, however, has drifted over and after fifteen minutes of shoveling I couldn’t feel my fingers. It will wait until tomorrow or the next day or the next time it’s above zero with wind chills above -15F.

But y'know, even looking out the dining room window makes me cold. Granted, some of the snow pile in front of the window was the result of snow-blowing and wind, but it really is depressing in its own stark magnificence.

Good thing the Winter Solstice, with its renewed promise of longer days, is just a week away.

Wifely Person Tip o'the Week
If the snow is above your waist, call the snow plow guy.

Wifely Person's Bonus Tip
Every day brings us one day closer to summer. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sense and Snowability

First and foremost: Chanukah Same'ach! Tonight is the 6th candle.

By the time you read this, I’ll be back slogging through snow on the tundra, but at this very moment, I’m sitting in my parents’ kitchen in sunny Flah-rida, waiting to go take a walk through one of my all time favorite places: the gardens at the Morikami Museum.

I need a schvatzeer through those zen gardens after a long weekend at octogenarian central. It’s not like there’s anything wrong with anyone, it’s just that at my age, being the youngest person in a twenty mile radius is a bit depressing. Instead of feeling spry, I feel ancient and decrepit, two things I definitely am not!

Okay, I’m not the youngest person….my little cousin is visiting her grandparents (my aunt and uncle), so that makes her, a college sophomore, the youngest person in a twenty mile radius. But I think for her this is more of a novelty than anything else. For me, it’s a sign of scary things to come. If I hear one more “she has a boyfriend and he’s only 92 and he still drives!” story, I’m going to throw myself off the Wakodahatchee Wetlands footbridge. 

Good thing I went to the Morikami with my friends Michelle and Randy. At least they weren’t be yelling, “WHAT? WHAT?” every time I said something. Its so nice to have a conversation in hushed tones that doesn’t include either of the phrases “do you need a sweater?” or “have you eaten something?”

I’m pretty certain I sound the same way to my kids, and I’m pretty certain they get about the same annoyed as I get with my mother. Still, I am thankful my folks are still around to annoy me even though there are moments I would like to wish myself away. It’s hard to be an adult for 360 days a year, and be expected to be a child for 5 days on demand. I do find myself bristling at the nagging and the cheppering; and, there are moments when I do respond as a child would. I try to keep those to a minimum, but I swear, it’s harder than it sounds. We used to joke that when you got to our house back on Long Island, you unscrewed your head and stowed it in the foyer closet. Unfortunately, there’s no foyer closest here.

But back to the Morikami for a moment. Ah, the Morikami. What a delightful place! Strolling the gardens was heavenly, as was the conversation. We talked of all manner of things, and enjoyed each other’s company. [Shameless plug: If you make it to the Delray Beach/Boca area, make it a point to visit the Morikami; it’s well worth the price of admission.]

My suitcase is packed….well, except for the pound of pastrami sitting in the fridge. That’s the thing about coming down here…I always run amok at Glick’s Kosher Market to bring home exotic things…like real pastrami and homemade lamb sausage. It’s tough not to buy out the store!

And so, as the sun sets in the west, I prepare to depart the warmer climes. As much as I love the warmth, as much as I love the idea that there’s a beach to comb just a couple of miles from the kitchen, I am smart enough to know I’m not ready for this life  quite yet.

There’s a snow blower with my name on it sitting in the garage.

When visiting parents, always remember to unscrew head 
and stow in nearest closet.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Invasion of the Weebles

Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away this Queen of Not-Ever-Shopping needed a day job and found it at the local department store. Part time, short hours, and downtown denizens… what more could a writer want? I didn’t even mind going to work at 4:00 a.m. on Black Friday in a fun, twisted sort of way. It was all fodder.
Not too long ago, in this galaxy, I was invited to a baby shower and for reasons which are clearly unclear, forgot to obtain a baby shower present, therefore forcing me to shop on Black Friday. So I girded up the loins and went to…to….I’m still shuddering….Mall of America, a behemoth temple to consumerism here in Minnesota that happens to be the mall closest to my house.
Okay, I’ll admit it; there were coupons involved, and I needed a couple of chick things. I mean, really, how bad could it be? It’s not like it’s not going to be busy between now and Christmas.  It is. And there will always be lousy parking and crowds. But Macy’s is the only place that carries Jockey Classics for women...
I got a parking space close to Macy’s almost immediately. So far, so good. But once inside the glass doors of that Homage to All Things Made in China, it was as if I entered a sardine factory. As a member of the under 5’2” set, I was just not visible. Dropping into New York mode, I elbowed my way through the store and into the mall itself.
It’s easy to be swept along in this sea of marginally washed humanity, but I confess, I keep one hand on my purse. It’s not that I don’t trust anyone, but…I am, after all, a New Yorker and I have to imagine the pickins’ are pretty ripe here.
Rip tides are easier to navigate. Crazed fathers pushing strollers weave their way through the lanes as if they’re Indy drivers viewing the rest of us as obstacles to be tagged when passed. Oversized teenagers in clothes clearly meant for someone half their size clog the escalators then stop to get their bearings at the top, thereby causing pile ups. And can someone please explain to me how rolls of flesh, visible through your clothes, and hanging over the top of your pants like some muffin gone horribly awry is attractive? The guy in the couple ahead of me on the escalator has his hand wedged between two of those rolls, and I’m completely grossed out. And let’s not even mention the little silver hair ladies stopping mid-sidewalk to dig cell phones out of purses large enough to hold a couple of VW Beetles.
These aren't people, these are Weebles, oblivious to anything around them, clutching their bags of who knows what, weebling from one store to the next, crushing anything that gets in their way. The waddle factor is enough to put me off food for a month!
I got that baby gift, I got the chick things at Macy’s and I got the hell outta there as fast as I could.
Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Week
If you have to charge it because you can’t pay for it outright, don’t buy it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Tale of Two Pities: Moss and Vick

Several weeks ago, when the Vikings announced they were bringing back Randy Moss, I considered going out to the cemetery to see if my husband had clawed his way to the surface crying, “Noooooooooooooooooooo!” The man detested Randy Moss; said he was bad for the team and bad for the town. Both concepts Moss proved over and over to be true. When he tried to run over the meter maid in 2002, Steve thought he shoulda been thrown in jail for attempted murder of a police officer. He never could decide who he hated more: Moss for being a flaming asshole, or Denny Green for allowing, if not encouraging, the bad behavior.

Around the same time, Michael Vick was already involved with dog-fighting and other behaviors unbecoming a member of the NFL. Granted, that last statement gives you pretty wide berth, but even in the NFL there’s a limit on how much of an asshole you can be and still manage to play. Dog-fighting was not the only line on the  guy's rap sheet; there was also drug distribution and theft, as well as crimes against society like spreading genital herpes and shooting the bird to Saints fans in New Orleans. These are not the acts of a mature, responsible adult.

Michael Vick went to jail, but Randy Moss only went to Oakland for a season where they couldn’t get rid of him fast enough, and then to New England. One might surmise that doing time would only harden one  but that being passed around like a cheap date might give one some time for serious introspection. But one could be wrong.

I happen to catch Michael Vick on a chat show the other morning. I was surprised at how carefully constructed and, well, elegant his answers were. They were expressive, lacking the ums and uhs we usually hear from professional jocks across all sports. I knew he'd been playing well for the Eagles, and that he was experiencing a new kind of success in his life, but it sounded to this mother’s ear as though someone had finally gotten through to this kid. But more about that in a moment.

Randy Moss, on the other hand, continues on as the poster child for morons. If you want to aspire to being a jerk, wear a Randy Moss jersey. The guy doesn’t just lack class; he’s sewer spew. He brings petulance, poor sportsmanship and bad attitude wherever he goes. He’s been an embarrassment to every team whose colors he’s donned. And whatever talent he did have has been squandered. And once again, playing the mother card, I  have to ask, “Where is his mother?” Is there no one who can reach this guy and put a stop to this narishkeit?

Clearly, someone did get to Michael Vick, and from all indications, it was probably Tony Dungy. Mr. Dungy has a long standing reputation as a stand up kinda guy, one who brooks no nonsense and fosters loyalty from his teams. Whatever methodology he employed seems to have paid off in rerouting this juvenile delinquent into a productive member of his team and his community. Read about Vick and you’ll know it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t overnight and there were plenty of missteps. But it’s pretty easy to see that this kid is not stupid in the least. He just needed a chance to figure out that he wasn’t a moron and there was no need to behave as one. He's on the long road to redemption; there's no guarantee he's not going to stray, but right now he's headed in the right direction.

I hold no such hope for Randy Moss. His latest performance in the Vikings organization is testimony to his lack of even rudimentary sense. Unless he falls down some rabbit hole big enough to accommodate his head, and has a magical mystery epiphany, he will end his days as a broke moron. More’s the pity on this one; he’s a vastly talented player who has yet to contribute positively to a team. He’s been ill served by the sycophants with whom he surrounds himself. Unfortunately, he’s too much of a self-aggrandized moron to figure that out.

Good luck, Mr. Vick. May you continue on this new trajectory, and may you continue to remind us that redemption is possible. 

The Wifely Person’s Tip o’ the Week
If you screwed up, apologize…and mean it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Minnesota, Hats On To Thee: Snow comes to Ski-U-Mah

Well, the City of Mendota Heights has yet to write back to me about the matter of voter privacy. I've sent a second email. And yes, I will let you know as soon as anything happens.

Meanwhile, winter has come to Minnesota. Sorta. We’ve had the most amazing autumn; warm and fairly dry. The harvest came in without a hitch. The leaves did their thing. And it was a beautiful season. But it’s now November and all bets are off. We plummeted from 60 degree weather to about 30 in the space of 24 hours. And then it snowed.

Now, Thursday afternoon, I came home and did a last leaf-mulching pass with the tractor. Oh, I suspected this might be my last tractor ride for the season and I’ll admit, I was a little sad. But, all good things must pass and autumn was doing just that. I could almost smell the snow; it was out there, not too far away, and it was coming.

Friday, the sky never lightened much after 8 a.m. It just was the soft grey kitten color. It beckoned you to reach up and touch it to feel how soft and fluffy it was. It wanted to lull you into thinking it was going to wrap you in cloud of softness and cuddle you.

Ha! That sky was just jerking our chain. Late on Friday night, it started. This was no Dance of the Snowflakes. These were giant suckers, like genetically engineered snowbombs designed to cover a square foot of grass with a single detonation.

It came down and stuck to everything. The warm ground couldn’t keep up with it and as it piled up, that warmth created an underlayment of slush. Walking the dog was like slogging through a granita; she was not happy. In fact, I think it's safe to say my delicate Perach was totally  grossed out by the experience. 

We call this heart-attack snow. This stuff was lead weight heavy. I had trouble just lifting a shovelful off the deck. I ended up having to use the little blower to move the stuff. As for the drive way, oy! Forget it. I knew I had to fire up Big Red, the killer snow blower.

I checked the gas, I checked the oil. Okay, it took me a couple of tries to remember to make sure the little red switch was in the “on” position, but remember I did and the thing fired right up. 

Of course, now they're saying it's gonna be a warm couple of days and everything will be gone by mid week. Oh, well. 

This year, with the noise canceling headphones, I could actually enjoy the snow blowing experience. There’s nothing like holding on to a running machine that's almost as big as you are and makes your whole body vibrate. You feel like someone on one of those old belt-on-the-butt jiggling exercise machines. Plus, you keep vibrating long after you turn the thing off.

But if I can’t mow, I may as well blow. Bring it on, Minnesota, L’Étoile du Nord . I’m ready fer ya!

 The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
It's never to early to make sure the snow blower starts. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Minnesota Quadrille: "Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, won't you join the dance?" *

Well, another year, another recount. This one is not at all surprising here on the tundra. At the end of election day, about 8000 votes separated the two leading candidates for governor, and that translated into less the .5% which by Minnesota state law requires a recount. This is a reasonable thing. We are now waiting for the official certification of the inital vote count which will be published on November 23rd, then, let the dancing begin!

I will continue to hold out hope that certification will go smoothly, that no one will have anything to gripe about, and that we’ll have a governor in place before the first of the year. It’s a nice dream. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, there’s another minor political storm brewing in this household. It’s about the violation of my father-in-law’s civil rights. The more I think about it, the madder I get.

Okay, here’s the story: my father-in-law is pretty much blind from macular degeneration.  He can see well enough to sign his name, and he can read Power Ball numbers with the aid of his enlarging machine. But filling in little circles on a ballot is beyond his ability.

When we got to the polling place, we had to sign our names on the voter registry . I signed mine, then held my finger in place to guide my father-in-law to the line where he would sign. The election judge watched silently.

Sez me, “Doc is pretty much blind.”
Sez she, “That’s okay.”
Sez me, “No, not really. He will need help filling in his ballot.”
Sez she, “Oh.”
I waited a bit, then asked, “Am I permitted to assist him?”
Sez she:  “Sure. Just go take a booth; you can both use it.”

Rickety things in a line
Booth is a misnomer. There is no booth. There’s a rickety thing with plastic sides, with very little space between it and the other rickety things. There can be no expectation of privacy whatsoever. I filled out my ballot first. Then, laying my father-in-law’s over mine, I began to read aloud the offices in as low a voice as possible, considering he doesn’t hear nearly as well as he thinks he does.

This would’ve been okay but for the man at the rickety thing to my left who decided he needed to make sure I was doing my job to his specifications. He leaned so far to his right that I thought he was looking over my shoulder. I cleared my throat a couple of times, and glared at him, but he seemed not to care. Blissfully unaware of the intrusion, my father-in-law repeatedly said, “Make sure you’re voting xxx down the line. Vote the line. Make sure you only fill in xxx votes.”
Ethiopian voting booths

Afterward, I didn’t think much of it until I saw an article on Ethiopian elections, and I noticed their voting booths had drapes. They may have been ragged, but there were drapes! Hey! Where’s my privacy?

I miss the old booths with the big board and the lever. There was a physicality that went with the thud of the curtain lever when you closed it. A feeling of empowerment when you opened it again and all the little levers resumed their neutral state. You had the feeling that you were casting a vote. It made you important.  The experience on Tuesday made me feel marginalized.

I have filed a complaint with the city. I promise to let you know what happens. 

Wifely Person's Tip O'the Day 
Rickety, inconsequential voting booths degrade the gravitas of the act of voting.  

 (*Thank you Lewis Carroll for that astute observation about Minnesota politics.) 

Monday, November 1, 2010

We the People...Is it Wednesday yet?

Well, there’s just one more day left until election day, and let me tell you, I will dance for joy when it’s finally all over. I am so totally disgusted by the electioneering process that I may vomit.

Notice the word electioneering. You know other words like this: buccaneer, privateer, puppeteer…pirates, mercenaries, and manipulators, oh my! Gee, do they have anything in common? This is not disgust with the election process, this is revulsion at the way the parties, all of them, have abused the national tolerance for bad taste with an endless barrage of lies, damned lies and statistics. (Thank you, Mark Twain, for bringing that phrase back from England.) What we have witnessed is the debasing of the fundamentals of democracy though abuse of the media. And what’s worse, the media has aided and abetted in that exitium veritas.

Call me a naïf, but I used to believe Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, and David Brinkley told it to us straight, without rancor and hyperbole; unvarnished truth even when we didn’t want to hear it. The news was delivered without bias; you could listen, hear two sides, and make up your own mind.

Enter the opinionators. What they offer is not news.  I don’t need shrill screed pouring out of my television to know that there are differing opinions in America. I don’t need the verbal assaults of Glenn Beck or Chris Matthews to know that they are both twisting the truth, if not lying outright. They are not about electing the best possible candidate; they are about influence peddling. They are clearly not interested in reality; they are only interested in self-aggrandizement at the expense of our democratic souls. 

Because we have permitted those pseudo-journalists to twist and turn every utterance, the electioneers have used that vituperative, vitriolic meanness in an unceasing barrage of negativity concentrated on slander, obfuscation and prevarication, treating us as if we are too stupid to understand the basics of economic theory and practice.  

But we are not too stupid. In fact, most of America is pretty smart…or at least we’re smart enough to know when our chain is being jerked. And to that end, I would make the following statements for the benefit of the others who haven’t figured it out:

  • Anyone who thinks that the Federal budget can be balanced without raising taxes should think about what alternate mode of transportation he/she is going to use when there’s no money to maintain the crumbling interstate highway system.
  • Anyone who thinks fighting two wars didn’t cost our country billions in squandered resources, both human and financial, has never given much thought to where his/her tax money  goes…and doesn’t go.  
  • Anyone who thinks we need less government oversight of industry has never heard of Toyota, Wright County Egg, Enron, BP, or thalidomide.
  • Anyone who thinks that this nation’s economy can be turned around on a dime has forgotten that it took 8 years of reckless economic policy or lack thereof to get us here in the first place, and it’s going to take some time to staunch the bleeding and begin the hard work of economic repair.
© 2010, Emma E. Simon

This is no longer about being a Democrat or a Republican. This is about being an American. If we fail to let our would-be elected officials know this is unacceptable behavior, we get exactly what we deserve. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were right: stopping this insanity is up to us, We the People.

We the People have two years until the next presidential debacle. Let us use this time wisely; let’s make sure the unelected electioneers know we’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Week
It’s just that simple.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Burning Candles

Since starting this blog, several people have asked if I would write one especially for them. That’s a hard thing to do, and my standard answer is, “let me mull it over,” which is my version of “maybe” which is mom-speak for “not happening in this lifetime.”  And just as I say that into my life an exception must fall.

A friend sent me his version of a story he heard from another friend. This conversation, he wrote, “just hit home and I don’t know why.” And he asked if I could “do something with it.”

The story told was of a truly good woman. She and her husband were just beginning that phase when all things are new again, but instead of setting off on that next adventure, she was diagnosed with ALS. The disease has progressed more rapidly than they hoped, and the adventure she is facing is not the one she and her husband had eagerly anticipated.

While visiting this good woman, and in the course of conversation, they spoke of all the candles the friend of my friend had given her over the years, ones brought back from world travels. And the good woman said, “I should have burned your candles.”

Truth is everyone has a candle that should’ve been burnt long ago, but sometimes you can’t bring yourself to do it. Perhaps the candle is too lovely. Perhaps it evokes a memory. Perhaps it’s just comforting to see it sitting in the same place waiting for just the right moment that never quite arrives.

It would be far too easy to pen some stale platitudes about wasting time or having bucket lists; I suspect the lady’s comment speaks to a different issue. It’s really about not using what we’re given. Whether it’s the gift of a candle, the gift of song, or even the gift of friendship, we often subvert the intent of the gift. We smile, we say “thank you,” then tuck it away. We hide behind the exterior loveliness, afraid we’ll use up that which has been handed to us.

Given trust, we repay with suspicion. Shown daylight, we linger in the shadows. Extended friendship, we mirror antipathy. When our heart of hearts recognizes a remedy proffered, we rarely accept it without first looking for attached strings. Given a candle, we put it on a shelf and never get around to lighting it.

The interesting thing about candles is that while they burn, they provide light, warmth, and if we’re very lucky, a bit of scent to spirit us away to another place. Lighting the candle and allowing it to burn is a commitment to letting the candle to do its job while giving ourselves permission to enjoy the experience.

With all my heart, I hope this good woman has enough quality time to burn every one of those candles.

The Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Day
It is easy to hoard things for a rainy day, 
it's difficult to determine when a day is rainy enough.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Thoughts while sitting at the bottom of a ski slope in autumn.

This weekend, I went to a wedding.

I’ve been to lots of weddings, some in synagogues, some in cathedrals, some in clapboard chapels, some on the beach. This one happened to be on the side of a ski hill….a very particular ski hill.

Ziggy - spring 1975
I didn’t realize where I was going until I was driving down the gorge to the chalet. And it wasn’t until I was shown to my seat that I looked up…and my breath was sucked right out of me. You see, I knew this hill. Back in the day, when I was the one with the car and my buddy Ziggy wanted to go skiing, I used to pack my books, and sit in the chalet with a hot chocolate, pretending I was studying but really watching out the window to see him swoosh down the hill, his long hair flying, doing that  hip thing he did.  I was so tolerant of his dragging me out to Afton Alps so I could sit like a latke while he went up and down that hill.

It was hard to sit there and focus on the wedding when, in my mind’s eye, all I could see were those swiveling hips. And they were cute. Trust me. I married those hips. They were cute right up to the end.

Anyway, onto the wedding. I was very excited about attending this wedding and not just because the groom is one of my favorite people…as well as my go-to guy for Greek translation of the Septuagint. These two are the poster children for gorgeous. They are devout in their faith and you knew that every syllable of that wedding would be carefully chosen. I was anxious to see how they made the ceremony their own.

And that’s what confused me. There was so much talk of death and dying in the prayer songs they chose and in the pastor’s sermon that I was almost depressed! I understand the part about Jesus dying on the cross, but for a wedding I wanted the minister to talk about how they are now charged with bringing faith and grace into their new life together. I wanted him to tell them their home should be a place of life and joy and light.

Seated with groom’s family at the reception, I learned I was not the only one who noticed the death and dying part… which made me feel at least a little less weird. One of the groom’s aunts, a Lutheran minister, assured me that she’d not seen anything quite like this either. And the questions I asked were the same questions they asked.

There was great comfort in that; we all had questions about the ceremony. There was no rancor in the queries, no mockery, no judgment, only a real desire to understand the meaning I think we were supposed to get...but that some of us did not. The conversation at that table was spectacular: lively, forthright, and full of honest exchange. There was learning at that table, and I was glad to be a part of it.

I suspect this is the true meaning of faith. What one believes may differ from what others believe, but it is not for any of us to judge what delivers anyone into that place where our spirits are nurtured. That we care enough to want to understand is ultimately what binds us even when we do not share the belief; that we care enough to ask is the real kindness.

Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Week:

Confronted with something foreign and seemingly incomprehensible?
Ask a question.

Monday, October 11, 2010

We the People....part 2

“Blumenthal also demanded to know why McMahon didn’t create jobs in the United States instead of having W.W.E. action figures made in China. This was the moment when McMahon really should have promised a study. Instead, she claimed that the United States does not 'have the kind of policies in place here that are conducive to manufacturing,' citing, among other things, 'high labor costs,' which could not have been much of a comfort to the state’s workers.” 

Connecticut on the Ropes
The New York Times
Published: October 6, 2010

Wanna know what I wanna know? I wanna know what jobs they’re gonna train people for after they’re laid off their jobs.

© 2010, Steven G. Artley, ARTLEY CARTOONS.
I have this theory: if you don’t manufacture anything, you have no employment in the blue collar sector and all those people that had manufacturing jobs are now unemployed and can’t afford much more than groceries to feed themselves and the kids, but the kids still have to go to school so they go to Walmart to buy cheap stuff that’s manufactured off-shore, mostly in China, thereby sending their unemployment dollars NOT to an American factory that pays American workers but to a Chinese factory that under-prices and therefore costs more Americans their jobs so that those Americans are now sending their unemployment dollars to China which in turn causes more US factories to close….and on and on ad nauseum. And then, to add insult to injury, we reward companies that off-shore their manufacturing with tax breaks.

If I wasn’t such a Little-Miss-Sunshine optimistic sort, I might think that this is a global conspiracy to bring down the US. Pity that Ian Fleming isn’t alive to write this, and Lord knows, he would’ve done it justice and then some. He could’ve called it THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN WONTON. 

There are all these campaign ads promising new jobs and retraining, but I keep saying, “show me the factory!” I think we have enough burger flippers and besides, there’s no future in flipping burgers if no one has any income, disposable or otherwise, to spend on fast food with no nutritional value.

So now, you have no income, no money, but you still have mouths to feed, so you purchase inexpensive food that you can extend relatively cheaply: lots of pasta, potatoes, that sort of thing.  REAL juice seems expensive so you turn to “juice drinks,” soda, and flavored water. It’s easy. It’s cheap. And it’s much less effort than cleaning and preparing fresh fruits and vegetables. You and the kids just keep getting bigger and bigger because you’re just eating more and more over-refined sodium laden, nutritionally empty processed foods.

In the old days, poor people were always skinny; now they are obese.  Shall we talk about the diabetic testing supplies and medication you’re gonna need even though your health insurance has run out and there’s no state or federal safety net for you, not to mention your kids because as a nation we cannot afford to provide basic medical care for our most vulnerable citizens?

Tax revenues are down because people aren’t paying income tax on money they don’t earn. The government has to make substantial cuts…social services, street repair, snow-plowing...pick a service any service. And the cuts come on the backs of the poor and middle class…all of whom are in jeopardy of losing even more jobs BECAUSE WE DON’T MANUFACTURE ANYTHING HERE.

There is an ongoing debate in this house and I have no idea if there is even an answer. If foreign-owned company opens a factory here, hires American workers and puts paychecks in American dollars into their pockets, banks, and tax rolls, isn’t that better for the country than outsourcing? 

So while I’m ranting away, I would pose the following question: 
  • If FORD manufactures and assembles a car in off shore in another country, and markets that car here, in the US, is it an American car?  
  • If TOYOTA or VW or any foreign auto maker assembles cars for sale in one of its many US assembly plants, does that constitute an American car?
 Or am I just being Pollyanna again?

Please send in your votes/comments/criticisms/witticisms to thewifelyperson or enter them as a comment. I will present the results in the next blog.

The Wifely Person's Tip o’ the Week
Thinking about shopping at Walmart?
You, too, can support Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo’s free room and board in his Chinese prison cell

Monday, October 4, 2010

Win-Win Situations.

Back when Ziggy was Ziggy and all was wright in my world, we would snuggle on the couch and watch the news until he would announce, “It’s time to make the donuts.”  He'd disappear into his study and write Ziggy’s Joke o’the Day, and then I would be summoned for the final edit.

Lying in state on the couch this evening, watching ANTIQUES ROADSHOW, I suddenly caught myself thinking it’s time to make the donuts.  Okay, then. This one’s for Ziggy.

There is nothing more challenging in the state of Minnesota than having to live with a displaced New Yorker. We are a surly bunch, feeling like we live in exile in a place where no one understands/appreciates/likes us. We tawk fuhnny, we wawk fast, we don’t put mayonnaise on meat sandwiches or eat hot-dish, and we know the differences between half-sour and dill pickles. We take our baseball very seriously, and we have a long standing love/hate relationship with ALL our teams, past and present.

My first love was Peewee Reese. I thought he was great. The BROOKLYN Dodgers were the best team on the planet. It was a personal affront when they went west, one which I will personally never forgive. Out of sheer four-year-old spite, I became a Yankee fan.

In 1969, the year of the miracles, I was in high school. I watched Neil Armstrong take that one small step for man in front of a teeny-tiny TV in Jerusalem. I listened to first hand accounts of the mud mess at Max Yasgur’s farm in Woodstock from my friends. But it was jumping up and down in the Wellington C. Mepham High School cafeteria when the Mets took the World Series in Game 5 that made me believe in miracles.

But the Mets are the new team, and they have their issues.  During the Subway Series in 2000, I bought a t-shirt for the senior son: THERE’S A REASON THEY CALL IT FLUSHING.  Need I say more? (Sorry, Dad.)       

Being a Yankees fan is forever. There is nothing to compare to going to the Bronx on a Sunday afternoon to sit in the bleacher cheap-seats of old Yankee Stadium where we could get a tan, read the Times, and occasionally crack a book. The game went on; we watched and we cheered as part of our very consciousness.  Life was on the field. And it was as close to heaven as you could get. You never lose the love for that bombastic, pompous, overstuffed pin-striped roster, and you just have to give yourself up to living with it. 

But here I am in exile on the tundra that is Minnesota, and you can’t help but love the scrappy Twins. An original Homer Hankie hangs in the study…even though one of the opposing Cardinals was a kid I occasionally babysat...and talked to on the phone right before Game 1 of the ’87 series.  They are so clean cut. One lives here in our little town; another I used to see in Lund’s supermarket in the Village where he always had time to reach cans on the top shelf for the little old ladies who knew his grandmother. They are nice guys, clearly good teammates, and community savvy. You want them for your neighbors.

I have always maintained that a Twins v. Yankees game is a win-win situation for me and any other New Yorker living on the tundra.  Either way, we see a team we love progress, and we have learned that here in the heartland of passive/aggressive to keep our otherwise acerbic opinions to our own small ranks. And that’s okay.

But I have to be honest, in my heart of hearts, in the deepest part of my soul, I hope they win.

Tip o’the Week
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