Monday, August 30, 2010

Up, Up, and Away

Not too long ago, a friend who has known me forever asked why I thought my “helicopter-in-every-garage” theory failed. Granted this theory was from fourth grade, but she remembered it as a hallmark moment in our speculation on the future.  Our teacher, Miss McAssey, had asked our class what differences we thought there would be in the year 2000. 

Now, this was in the fall of 1961. Alan Shepard had gone up, but John Glenn hadn’t gone around yet. The year 2000 was 39 years away; we’d all be pushing 50. That was very scary stuff for a kid who was just about to hit a double-digit age!  When it was my turn, I said that by 2000 we would all be driving helicopters instead of cars.  I believed this. I continued to believe this. When the whole Y2K thing was going on, I kept saying how disappointed I was that I hadn’t gotten my helicopter yet. Disappointed, but not without hope. I still believed that it was coming. 

Dutifully, I repeated the husband’s theory that helicopters fly, and cars drive. If your car breaks down, you are more likely to survive by pulling off the road than if your whirlybird falls out of the sky. Still, that never dissuaded him from saying things like, “you can’t fit your ‘copter in that garage if you don’t clean out the junk.” (Just for the record, I would like to point out that the junk in the garage was not, at that time, technically mine, although I suppose you can say it's all mine now. I wasn’t the one with the table saw, 3 ladders, the extra car, and defunct tools yet to be tossed. Oh, you know how that works.)

Anyway, I digress. I was talking about the helicopter-in-every-garage theory. Now, here’s the good news. 

It may be closer than you think. In July, Sikorsky Aircraft unveiled the Firefly, a full electric one-seater helicopter.  It runs on 2 lithium batteries, and right now, can fly for about fifteen minutes…more than enough to get me to the office and back. But just as cell phones once came in metal Halliburton cases, this will improve and I’m sure that they’ll add a little trunk in the back so I can pop over the Byerly’s for groceries after work.  What worries me most, though, is getting the guy who puts in bags in the trunk to grok the concept of weight distribution. I’ll have to watch him carefully. 

Meanwhile, I think it’ll fit in the garage, right beside my PT Cruiser. I may have to move the John Deere over a bit, but it looks like they’ll all fit…and I won’t even have to sell the RX-7 Radish Rocket to do it.

Yep, I am definitely making plans for my Firefly. I wanna be the first on my block to have one!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Turn, Turn, Turn

Let me begin by saying the weekend was a smashing success and I had a really good time on the Mississippi River cruise Saturday night. It was a picture perfect evening: balmy temperature, an almost full moon, Summit Red Ale, and lots of laughter. No one to dance with, but it turned out to be okay.  The kiddies dancing away on the upper desk had a really good time, too. And gee, wasn’t that the point? Oh, yeah; I should probably admit that I wore a black dress. It was cute. No babushka, though.

Now, on to the more serious business for today: the coming of Rosh HaShannah.

When I was a kid, the High Holidays always meant a couple of new dresses and a pair of shoes that were never broken-in enough for the mile walk to shul. The first day of the holiday was synonymous with heel blisters. Despite that, I really loved the walk, though. I loved to stop on the bridge over the parkway and count cars with my dad and brother. It was as much a part of the ritual of Rosh HaShannah as the sneezing from the goldenrod that grew everywhere. You walked with your family, even if your best friend’s family was walking 10 feet ahead of you, and somehow, you didn’t mind so much.   

Once you got to shul, however, any thought of staying with the family disappeared. Knots of kids hung around on the front lawn….usually looking for fallen chestnuts still in their spiny shells. Older kids sat on the metal staircase on the side of the building. Boys chased boys, girls screeched, and adults shook their collective heads, but still managed to smile at all these remarkable signs of life. You see, this was in the 50s and 60s, not all that much after we learned about the ovens of Auschwitz and Dachau.

I think getting ready for the High Holy Days was a much different experience for our parents and grandparents. They were still trying to come to some sort of terms with the death and destruction that was the Holocaust. We children were not unaware. We knew. I think I was six the first time I heard the name Eichmann. And we knew we were special because we were born, we lived, we breathed, and perhaps most importantly, we laughed. Not a day went by when we were not reminded that we were lucky to be alive and Jewish in America.

Getting ready for Rosh HaShannah this year, I wonder how much of that appreciation of being alive and Jewish in America has been retained, and how much has been squandered. As parents, did we do enough to instill in the boys the need to cherish the freedom that they have? Have they retained enough of their Jewish education to make wise choices in their observance of mitzvot?  I have to acknowledge that as much as I would like to know the answers to those questions, I really do not know how to ask them without it sounding intrusive, which is not the intent. I only want to be reassured that they know they are the inheritors of a line that goes back to that moment at Sinai when we all signed on the dotted line.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but this year, I definitely need to take a  turn inward to take a read of where I am and where I am going. I’ll let you know if I figure it out.

Tip of the Week
Always break in your shoes before Rosh HaShannah.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Next weekend, I will be attending a social event on my own. This will be a first.

You really can’t count the junior son's wedding. That was in a class of its own. Nope, this is an honest to goodness social event to which I've been invited, and  rsvp'd "yes" to the Saturday night Mississippi River cruise. I’m publishing this so that next Saturday afternoon when I’m standing in front of the mirror looking for signs of cholera or black plague I will be unable to come up with an excuse not to go since all of you, gentle readers, know I am committed to attend.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about this uncharted territory. My first inclination is to wear a black dress with matching babushka like those women in ZORBA THE GREEK. That way, everyone will say, “oh, there goes a widow,” as opposed to “oh, that’s just some woman who can’t get a date.”

Oh, okay, I’ll admit I did ask a very old friend who lives way across the country, but also happens to know the thrower of said event. He politely declined and equally politely refrained from asking if I’d lost my marbles, although I could sense that was what he was thinking. Another friend pointed out that not only were the odds of his agreeing to come on such short notice were slim to none, she suspected that the short notice just may have been unintentionally intentional on my part. Maybe. Maybe not. I'm not sure.
So someone tell me, what’s so scary about going on my own? I know who’s going to be there. These are not strangers; in fact, there will be other widows in attendance. But what is the protocol for outings such as these? Is there an etiquette book for new widows? Do we sit together at a survivor’s table? Do we dance with each other? Or are we supposed to wait to be asked to dance?

Wait a minute! I got it! It’s junior high redux! What if….what if…..what if????? This is theme and variation of same idiotic questions I had in 7th grade! Good grief! What’s going to happen if someone asks me on an actual date?

Who needs this nonsense? I am way too old to care about this stuff. I am WYSIWYG! Take it or leave it! I am going to this fiesta and I am going to have a perfectly good time.

Now, where did I leave my babushka?

The wifely person’s tip o'the week:
Don’t dye your hair unless you are willing to commit to doing it 
for the rest of your life.

Monday, August 9, 2010

What You See Isn't Always What You Get

The other night, I saw this back-to-school advert showing a kid with buds in his ears, texting away, whilst walking through his school...oblivious to everything around him.

I didn’t think much of it at first, but later I realized this ad really bothered me. The kid was totally disconnected from his world. I’m guessing he was “communicating” with his friends via electronic media, but how the hell was he ever going to have a successful personal relationship with anyone if that is _all_ he did?

It’s like putting televisions in the backseats of cars to amuse the kids. What happened to looking out the window? Or having a conversation? Or, on long trips, playing “I-spy” games? How are they going to know what a cow looks like if they don’t ever look? Even if you’re bored and  looking out the window, you’re seeing something live and in person.
And what’s wrong with us if, as adults, all we do is stare at screens and not talk to our partners? To be sure, I do my fare share of screen staring during the day at work. And yes, these days I’m an email junkie at night…but hey! I’m a widow! I don't  have anyone to play with after dark! 

The husband and I learned, through painful experience, to turn off our boxes. However engrossed I was in writing the next great American novel, I stopped when he yelled “NEWS IS ON!” That was our cue to go sit on the couch and make rude comments about the state of state's affairs. That couch time was precious during the week. The kids ….and later his father….were in bed and this was our alone time. We could talk amongst ourselves and be frank. No secret signals, eye wiggles, or ear tugs…all parts of MLSL – married-life-sign-language…just words strung into sentences punctuated with laughs, sighs, and the occasional snog. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that you do not understand the depth of missing these things until they are gone. 

People on the other side of electronic media won’t care/notice/give-a-rat’s-ass if you shut down at a decent hour. and go sit on the couch. No one out there is depending on you for conversation. No one cares what you tweet or post or comment. In cyberspace, not only can no one hear you scream, they don’t care if you do. 

No one cares if I write this blog and I’m okay with that. For me, it’s cathartic. If you read it and get something out of it, great. If you don’t, no skin off my nose. But in this particular case, if what I wrote rings even remotely true, you might want to go sit on the couch for a while.

 Tip o' the Week
If you are not getting regular, significant face time with your significant other,
STOP what you're doing right now and go set some boundaries.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Girl's Best Friend

A while back, the husband bought a lawn tractor. I was vociferously against the purchase, pointing out that marching behind the mower was pretty much the only exercise he ever got, but he was not to be dissuaded and soon enough, a John Deere was parked in the garage next to the Rx-7. At the time, I had asked to learn how to drive the thing, and was told  I would not enjoy the experience.

A little more than a year ago, it became pretty clear that there would be no more mowing for my husband. The junior son and I were going to be taught the art of the tractor by the master. The kid learned in 10 seconds. I didn't.

My first mows were tentative and uneven. I think I cried as much as I mowed. Eventually the satisfaction of seeing a tidy lawn coupled with aroma of new mown grass had me its clutches. I was actually enjoying this.

I knew, however, I was in serious trouble on a very snowy day when, as I was brushing the snow off the other machine I could now operate with ease, I caught sight of the tractor waiting patiently for spring, I said aloud, “I wonder when I should start tuning up the tractor?”

Yes, gentle readers, it's true. I am a tractor addict. I worry that if it doesn’t stop raining I won’t be able to mow. I am scrupulous about grass height..never too short, or the grass will burn in this heat. Too long and the lawn looks unkempt. Line up your wheels, and stay as straight as possible. And if you’re real lucky, it looks like a baseball outfield when you’re done.

Heaven is the tractor purring like a lion cub, me at the wheel, a symphony on the iPod and the noise cancelling headphones over the ear buds. I am transported to another world where, even if just for a little while, I float above it all.  

Ultimately, there is art in the precision of all those lines, not unlike the sand patterns made in Buddhist gardens. There is a beginning and there is an ending; it’s all very tidy. So few things in life are ever really like that, and I’m at a point where precision, beginnings, and endings are all desirable traits. Order amidst the chaos is a good thing.

On the other hand, there is something to be said for Jackson Pollack.

Tip o’ the Week: 
If you live on a pond, always leave a natural buffer zone 
between your lawn and the edge of the water.