The things that matter
I was on the phone to Clara yesterday, discussing my upcoming visit. Asked her what she wanted me to bring her from America, beside the usual blue boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese.
“Uhh, hemmm, well, uh. Uh Grandma,” she stammered. “Are you bringing your snowflake pajamas?”
And my heart melted.
The pajamas themselves are nothing special. Soft blue cotton with fading white snowflakes. Very old and comfy.
The magic starts when I put them on. It’s a signal that it’s time for Clara and me to crawl into our beds, plump up the pillows, and settle in for long chats, bedtime stories, lullabies, and an occasional Bon Jovi tune. We read books, sometimes to each other, sometimes separately. It’s the enchanted time that spawned the Princess Clara stories when she was four and the Super Clara stories when she was six.
And twelve-year-old Clara was asking without asking if she was too old for the magic, if I had forgotten our connection, if things had changed in the many months since we had spent time together.
“They’re already in my suitcase, sweetheart.”
Spent some time at the Barking Spider last week. I guess this funky old converted carriage house/tavern has been around for a while. I first visited a few years ago to listen to a friend of a friend sing his songs of love gone wrong and existential angst set to catchy upbeat melodies. Loved his Paul Simon-ish vibe and have been back to see him a number of times.
Back to the Spider. This place is tiny. Ten tables, a bar, and an empty space against the wall that serves as a stage. I’ve never been there when it’s been above freezing outside and a large portion of the heat in the place comes from the 1960’s vintage metal fireplace in the corner (think gigantic upside down funnel painted orange.) No table service, a menu that consists of bagged chips and, well…more bagged chips. Beer, wine in small Solo cups, hard cider, and sodas complete the offerings. Oh, and then there’s the dogs. Don’t leave your chips unguarded or they’re gone.
The food and the ambiance are not the attraction at the Spider. Music, that’s the draw. Musicians go on at 8:00 and 10:00. Every night. Every single night. They play their music, sing their songs, chat with their friends and fans, and someone always passes the empty coffee can. Nice.
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. I’m here to talk about a small incident that began at the Barker last week, and is haunting me still. Let me explain.
While at the Spider last week, I ran into one of daughter Katie’s friends. Angelisa and I don’t know each other well, but she recognized me from my stint as the token old person at one of Katie’s gigs with the all-girl band. Angelisa was the group’s drummer.
The day after our meeting Angelisa mentioned it to Katie and said (I can hardly type this) that I was adorable. Yes, 63-year-old me. Adorable.
Apparently I have moved firmly into Betty White territory. Bummer.
Things I learned (or relearned) in 2012
You don’t want to use a box of hair dye that you got for a dollar on your own actual hair. Trust me on this one.
A two-year-old boy will get the best of a grandma every time. Don’t even bother to try to resist his charm or energy.
New experiences and activities can have a big payoff in life satisfaction and enthusiasm.
Air travel is simply an endurance test, straining patience, physical ability, and sometimes sanity. Still, I’m grateful for the opportunity. Most days.
Doing a simple, mundane thing with a friend can be so much more fun than the most highly-touted entertainment experience advertised.
Time is running out. Do it now.
Getting a pedicure can be a mystical experience. I never had one until December 2012 and I now regret every month of my life that I could have had a foot massage and toenail painting and didn’t.
Sometimes stuff CAN make you happy. Case in point, my beautiful SLR camera.
Beet salad rocks. Who knew?
That’s it. I only learned (or relearned) 9 things in 2012. But that was enough.
“So shines a good deed in a weary world” …Roald Dahl via Willie Wonka
I’m not sure what I expected when I walked into campaign headquarters for the first time this afternoon but a small room with a few older (my age) women facing computer screens and making phone calls was definitely not it. My understanding of the political process is informed mainly by old episodes of West Wing and I think I was expecting lots of young, snarky interns buzzing around doing, well, doing important stuff.
Cait and Dave, the young un-snarky staff members who greeted me were probably doing important stuff, but the action was definitely with those three women in front of the computers as they made “get out the vote” calls to senior citizens.
As a first-time volunteer, I was assigned to the phone bank, too. My first order of business was to listen to the phone conversations taking place around me and get a feel for how it was done.
So I listened. And this is what I heard:
Volunteer: (Into the phone) I’d like to ask for your support for our candidate on election day.
Volunteer: Thank you so much. Our candidate will work hard for you and your family.
Volunteer: (With concern) Oh really. I’m so sorry to hear that. What happened?
Volunteer: Oh dear, how long has it been?
Volunteer: That must be so difficult. I really am so very sorry.
Volunteer: Take care of yourself. Please have a blessed day. Good-bye.
Over and over I heard these empathetic women interact and sympathize with the voters they were calling. People poured out their stories of financial hardship, medical problems, and worries about family and the future. Time and again the volunteers responded with sincere concern and a kind word. I was blown away. Reminded of our connection to one another and our responsibility to honor that connection.
Ps. A new computer has not fixed the technical problems I have been having with the website that hosts my blog. Please excuse random spacing and format problems. I’m still working on a solution.
At the end of a good day
It’s evening and I’m celebrating. Wondering if I put enough Bailey’s in my Irish coffee to negate the effects of caffeine this late at night. Perhaps just a splash more will do the trick.
I got good news today. Very good news. After six months of wondering and worrying, holding my breath and not really making any long-term plans I got word that there hasn’t been any change from the suspicious, hinky mammogram I got last spring. No changes! No growth! Who knew those words could be so sweet.
Cancer. It hangs over the lives of us survivors, keeping us slightly off balance and extremely insecure about the future.
Tomorrow I’ll book a fight to my sister’s for the holidays. But tonight I celebrate. It’s been a good day.
Book lists and more
Some more fun booklists. Also, you can read a former blog post of mine at the Elder Storytelling Place http://www.ronnibennett.typepad.com/elderstorytelling/
Jamie’s book list:
At one time in my life I read 6 books a week, now I am lucky if I read six lines but I do have a list of sorts. I managed to read one trashy novel, “Forever” by Lori Foster, one tween book “Max, the dog who refused to die” and every “Handyman” magazine that showed up in the mail (that was about 3). The only reason I managed to read the novel was because the flight to Las Vegas is long. God Bless all of you who read for growth and wisdom, I just read trash to relax. Maybe next summer I can work on growth and wisdom…or not.
Renee’s book list:
Shoemaker’s Wife Adriana Trigiani
Marriage Plot Jeffrey Eugenides
A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty Joshilyn Jackson
Waiting for Sunrise William Boyd
The Lost Saints of Tennesee Amy Franklin-Willis
The Tiger’s Wife Tea Obreht
No One Here Except All of Us Ramona Ausubel
The Expats Chris Pavone
The Newlyweds Nell Freudenberger
The Life Boat Charlotte Rogan
Another round of book lists
Today I have lists from Penny, Becky, and Sarah. There’s still time to send your list in. email@example.com
Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades Freed by E L James
Ruby Slippers by Jonalyn Fincher
Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom
Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Perish Twice and Night And Day by Robert B. Parker
Smokin’ Seventeen and Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich!!!
More summer reading lists
Today I’ll share lists from Rebecca and Marilyn. I’ve got more for tomorrow, too. If you haven’t sent me your list yet, there’s still plenty of time. firstname.lastname@example.org One book or twenty, I want to know what you’ve been reading this summer. I’ll email you a bookmark for your effort.
This was a summer of random reading…some library books, some from my “never-got-around-to” stash, a few from the exchange at my Curves (why do these women prefer romance and violence?), and one I actually bought at Sam’s Club. Here they are with brief notes:
Where Angels Fear to Tread by E. M. Forester …stash book; probably not worth the time. It was his first book and shows his promise as a writer but not much maturity in character understanding.
Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close …exchange book; good description, little plot, totally unrelatable characters.
S is for Silence by Sue Grafton …library; usual formula mystery, well-crafted and a quick read.
Smokin’ Seventeen by Janet Evanovich …exchange; even more formula, predictable, quick and mostly mindless. Amusing, not engaging.
Death Comes to Pemberly by P. D. James …library; OK, I loved this mystery. The only follow-up to Pride and Prejudice that retains the character and mood of the original…and I didn’t figure it out until nearly the end!
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy …purchased; the title intrigued me, the book enthralled me, the subject was so foreign that I was challenged to understand. It is an account of life in India and a trauma that changed many lives, but the book’s value is in the evocation of a place and time I will never encounter.
Ladies of Liberty by Cokie Roberts …stash; a follow-up to her Founding Mothers and an account of the lives of women who shared the
presidencies of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe. Yes, heavy history, but well-researched, well-written and right up my alley.
Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan …library; a collection of short stories about the lives of African children in the last century (An Oprah pick in 2009). Sometimes depressing, always moving in its view of humanity and resilience. Worth the time.
Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder …stash (originally exchange, I think); I am still “working” on this one. A translation from the Norwegian of an attempt to teach a history of the world’s philosophy to a 14-yr-old. The premise of secret letters to the girl from an unknown source delivered by a large black retriever is intriguing, the explanations are simple to follow, and I think I understand the writings ofSocrates, Plato, and even Spinoza a bit better…but you can only read so much at a time. This is why I didn’t get to 10, but I am still interested enough to finish it.
Thanks for the challenge; time to take someone else’s advice and read for pure escape, I think. Good reading ahead! Marilyn.
Here’s my summer book list:
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff by Christopher Moore
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
Isn’t It Obvious by Eliyahu M. Goldratt
Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson
8th Confession by James Patterson
Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James
Smokin Seventeen by Janet Evanovich
Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich
The Island by Elin Hildebrand
It’s only nine, but I still want my bookmark :)
Thanks for the Reminder, Mr. Clinton
In 1960, when I was 10 years old, I watched every night of the Democratic National Convention, mesmerized by the process, the hoopla, and the super-cute candidate JFK. I bought into Camelot hook, line, and sinker, and could hardly imagine anything more exciting or important than being a delegate.
At 10, I believed that we, as a nation, were capable of achieving unimaginable goals; working together to right wrongs, end poverty, go to the moon, and become a country of super heroes.
Last night, watching Bill Clinton’s speech, I felt a tiny sliver of that innocent hope and optimism return. I know Clinton is a flawed man, and that JFK was not our knight in shining armour, yet I thank Bill for reminding me of the the great things our country can accomplish with truth, hard work, patience, kindness and co-operation. Oh, and a whole lot of smarts and cold hard cash.
I’m here to say that I am a Democrat, always have been. I, like Bill Clinton, do not hate Republicans. I believe that most Republicans, like most Democrats, want the best for this country, the question of course is what is the best, and what means should be employed to attain it.
I’m not naive and much of what the Republican party is proposing in their platform scares me to death, particularly regarding health care and women’s heath issues. I will work to defeat anyone who would enact such legislation.
But last night I was called back to become reacquainted with my better, more innocent self. And 10-year-old Diane reminded me to keep the faith, work hard, tell the truth as I know it, and fight for the greater good. Nothing about hatin’ in that credo. Nothing at all
Summer Reading Program Finale
It’s Labor Day and the Summer Reading Program is officially over. Did you get to 10 books? 5? 1? A magazine article? How about the back of a cereal box? I read quite a few books early this summer, but recently I’ve been busy having fun or exhausted from having fun and my reading has slowed down.
I’m currently reading Anna Quindlen’s Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake and I’m enjoying it very much. Seems like a conversation with a friend.
So..send in a list of books you’ve read this summer and I will email you a fabulous momlinch original bookmark to download (as soon as I’m finished with the drawing.)
You don’t have to have read 10 books or 5 books or even a magazine article. Send me a list of books you would like to read, I’ll send you a bookmark. email@example.com
I’m planning on sharing the booklists unless you ask me not to. Here is one Cindy recently sent me:
Cindy’s list of books read summer 2012
The Space Between Us Really liked. Want to read more of her books.
Minding Frankie Mauve Binchy Does not turn out like you would think. A few catches just like real life.
The Girl Who Played with Fire and the Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest The last book of series best by far.
The Kindle Fire How-to Books x 3 Learned a few new tricks on how to do things on my kindle.
The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Alexander McCall Smith Love the whole Bostwana thing and Grace finally gets married.
Feast Day of Fools James Lee Burke He may be the best author ever in my book. Love his work.
The Alchemist Liked it alot. Want to read his other books too.
MOBY DICK Herman Mellville OMG but I read every word and it really was pretty good. Lots of insights into human nature.
Stone Kiss Faye Kellerman Ok Devona gave me 2 books I threw in my car. While at my dad’s I needed another book to read so picked it up and read it. A mystery and not bad. Can’t wait to see what everyone read. Cindy