Thursday, March 18, 2010

All I Wanna Do Is Have Some Fun

Dear Mr. Obama,

In the words of one of your supporters, you don't bring me anything but down. I am tired of hearing about health care reform and financial bailouts and unemployment, and I am especially tired of all the ridiculous spending and tax hiking you and your Democrat compatriots are pushing on the people like hoodlums congregating around the corner from school, waiting to sell cigarettes and pills to vulnerable children. But as long as you seem hell bent on spending money, I have an idea for you.

It came to me one day when I witnessed some strange things. I saw a neighbor, who I'd heard had recently lost his good job, riding a bike. I suppose he could have been gritting his teeth against the wind and incoming insects, but I rather think he was smiling.

That same day, I was doing a little grocery shopping, trying to save money on special deals and making sure I was using my coupons wisely, when I saw a grown man pushing a shopping cart, in which sat another grown man. They looked like ordinary guys, not people with some sort of disability. They were laughing.

And then, on my way home from the store, I saw another man riding a bike. He was pulling one of those bike trailers for kids. But there wasn't a kid in it. There sat a grown woman, her hair blowing in the breeze. I kid you not. The man was looking back at her, and she returned his gaze. They were both smiling and laughing.

At first I was convinced the world had indeed gone mad, good material for another Stephen King book. But then I realized that in spite of, or perhaps because of, all the bad news bombarding us every day, these people had simply released their inner children for a few moments or a few hours. Recession regression, I suppose you could call it.

And that's what inspired me to make a recommendation to you: mandate that all Americans are required to have some fun.

You could simply pick a date on the calendar (perhaps your birthday, or - better yet - mine) and declare it to be National Fun Day. But I suspect that would be far too easy, and inexpensive, for your taste. It might be better if you establish a Department of Fun, and install a Secretary of Fun with a sizeable staff. They would be charged with determining how often we Americans are required to have fun, and legal definitions of what constitutues fun, and I'm sure you could squeeze a few billion into one of your House bills to support our cost of fun. Maybe even issue fun vouchers for those seriously in need of R&R.

I'll let you figure out the details, but I do have one specific request. I would like to see a regularly scheduled moratorium on bad news. It might be one hour a day, or one day a week (whatever works best for you) but during that time all news media, corporate PR firms, and other bearers of bad news would be prohibited from discussion or disclosure of anything depressing unless it was a natural act of God. Of course, you'd need to create another agency to enforce this, like maybe a National Fun Guard, with special ops troops dressed in clown suits and toting AK47 water pistols, posted at all major news, internet, and financial corporations just to be sure there are no leaks of doom and gloom. And to pay for this you should probably tax all the naysayers out there. You know, a fee of some sort for every time somebody whines about the economy, or something like that.

Okay, I think I got my point across. I'll let you figure out the rest, like how to define act of God when you can't really mention God in the law, and who's going to write the bill (it should be written by someone who actually knows how to have fun - good luck on that one) and what you're going to do about people whose definition of fun is something that could offend others; we don't want to have the ACLU getting involved here. I'll let you do the rest because right now I've got better things to do. Right now, all I wanna do is have some fun.

With utmost respect from one fun-loving citizen.

PS Thanks to for that great photo of you and Sheryl.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

After You're Dead

I had a record number of views on my blogs this past Monday, which is my usual day of posting. But I didn't post that day so it makes me wonder why so many viewers. It's almost as if I have more readers when I don't have anything to say. Hmmm.

It could be a case of absence making the heart grow fonder. Nobody cared about Van Gogh till after he died, and we sure all forgave Michael Jackson his transgressions once he passed on. And then there's Bill Clinton and he's not even gone yet.

I know plenty of mothers who reminisce about how wonderful their children were when it's common knowledge they were, in fact, holy terrors.

There's something about human nature that makes us care more about the individual after the fact. When someone we had right in front of us disappears, we then decide how valuable he or she was and are willing to forgive and forget.

It'll be interesting to see how many viewers I get when I go to the great beyond. They'll probably be clogging up the virtual airways for days. But until then, I think I'll keep yapping about who knows what, knowing full well nobody will care about it for (hopefully) a very long time.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Upside down

Sometimes things look better when they're upside down. Remember when, as a child, you'd lie with your head hanging off the bed and look up at your mom or your sister or your dog? They'd look weird; their mouths large and distorted, their words even coming out upside down...but it always made you laugh?

When the minority wins the race, it feels right.
But it also feels right when the politician falls off his rung...
When the banker goes bankrupt...
When the underdog wins the medal...
When the world gets turned upside down, even just a little.

I think science has it all wrong; the world isn't round. Round suggests things are equal, fair, balanced.

I think it's a lopsided world, and it needs to be shaken up every now and then.

That's why, when my cat chases my dog, I cheer.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Am Sick of Doom and Gloom

Okay, I said in my last post that I was returning to battle because that's what I'm drawn to, that's what I know. But you know what? I am sick of doom and gloom.

I am tired of winter and clouds and ice.
I am weary of broken teenaged hearts and missing assignments and technoholism.
I do not want to see anymore burned out light bulbs.
I wish I could stop worrying about aging parents and pets.
I don't like backaches.
I refuse to read any more poems, for a while, about grief and illness and lost love.

And most of all, I want a break from all the bombardments of economic doom and gloom. It's in the papers, on the internet, and overheard in every coffee shop. Friends need jobs. Panhandlers need money. Creditors need bills paid. The government needs more taxes. Chickens are running in circles proclaiming the sky is falling, and I don't want to hear it anymore.

I want to stick my head in the sand, but I know I can't really do that. Still, enough is enough. I don't need this shoved in my face every day, day after day. I get it. I understand. Now instead of bitching and moaning, let's do something about it, people.

Sometimes it doesn't matter what you do. Just do something. I tell my son that the best way to get over a broken heart is to immerse yourself in other things. Distract yourself with activity. For arthritis, take some medicine for crying out loud. If you don't like the way bigger things are handled, like government spending for example, then get involved. Do something. Just stop whining and stop pointing to all the storm clouds on the horizon.

My father used to say it doesn't pay to worry about what might not happen tomorrow. I like that. He didn't mean ignore risk; he just meant don't drive yourself crazy with doubt. If there's a cloud out yonder, then close the shutters and take shelter, but also have patience and hope. It could be a deluge - that you're surely going to survive; we always do - or it could miss you altogether.

The point is that life isn't all doom and gloom. There are things, even little things, worth celebrating. The sun still shines on occasion, the dog still wags her tail. The birds still sing in the morning. The river still runs. And my coffee is still warm and smooth.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Drawn Into Battle

I went away. Checked out. Got the hell out of Dodge for a while. We all do it, or at least we all need to. It was heaven: warm and quiet, a Hawaiian womb.

But now I'm back. And what I want to know is: why do things always seem to change while you're gone? The air grows cooler, damper. The list of to do's grow longer. Frazzled relationships are even more frayed when you return. Re-entry is impossibly hard.

I saw The Hurt Locker while I was gone and (spoiler alert) the protagonist found that he was drawn back to battle because it had become the only truth in his life. I wouldn't begin to suggest that my life compares with what our soldiers see, in reality, but as an analogy it's applicable. The battlefield at home has become my truth.

Like the moth drawn to the proverbial flame, and like some soldiers, I am drawn back to battle because it's what I know. The difference for me is that, unlike my winged or uniformed counterparts, I know I'll have the privilege of returning to my flames over and over again.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Power of Purging

A couple of months ago I spent a few minutes cleaning the old baking products from my pantry: cake flour, baking powder, etc. I was inspired by a spill I discovered after a few teenagers had a craving for homemade pie and took it upon themselves to make a crust from scratch. For some reason I felt really good after I cleaned that shelf. (Am I weird or what?) I later hinted to a few friends that maybe I'd start a new blog ala Julie and Julia; each blog would discuss and explore the value of cleaning. But I couldn't come up with a catchy title; somehow Gail & Heloise didn't have the same ring. And besides, I don't really like to clean.

To me, cleaning is boring. When I have to clean, I do the bare minimum, sort of like one of my kids approaching a history assignment. You do what you have to do (and I certainly don't like things dirty), but eventually it gets boring and you wander off to something more fun, like eating chocolate or going for a walk. The good news, and the bad news, is that the cleaning project is always there waiting for you when you return.

But every once in a while, I do like to purge, which in my mind is different from cleaning. And that's what I really did in my pantry that day anyway. I purged powdery substances. Then, last week I purged a whole lot of shoes, which was horribly painful, but in the end, when I looked at my less-cluttered closet, I realized it was a cleansing ritual and I felt okay.

Now I'm hooked, and today I decided to attack my spice cabinet. Fortunately, I didn't have any more old McCormick's spice tins (if you do, your spices are more than 15 years old), but I know some of mine were seriously aged. Depending on who you believe, herbs and spices can last from 6 months to 4 years. Whole/dried herbs last longer than powdered ones. Of course most spice brands don't bother putting an expiration date on the jar, and of course I have not been very consistent at marking the date purchased when I buy them. So I had to resort to the tried-and-true method of determining whether they were salvable...the sniff test, and when in doubt, taste.

Turns out I was able to save more than I'd expected, but I dumped a lot too, from bay leaves we brought home from Grenada several years ago to the orange peel I rarely use. The onion powder was clumped somehow, so that had to go. The ground thyme and sage were actually dated, by me, and the year of purchase was, well, too long ago to mention. And then there was the mace. Who uses mace? Why did I even have it in my pantry? I have no idea when or why I bought it, and the sniff test was inconclusive (what the heck is mace supposed to smell like, anyway?) so out it went.

One thing that came of this project is that I now get to replenish, and although I don't like to shop for most things (other than shoes and boots), I do like to shop for spices. I love those pretty glass jars lined up in alphabetical order in the store, filled with gold and red and green leaves and powders and pods, with names that evoke images of faraway places, like Jamaican ginger and szechuan pepper or madras curry or zydeco dust. And this exercise of going through the spices also brought back memories of parties and people of my past, like the thyme, sage, and poultry seasoning in Grandma Ruth's Thanksgiving dressing recipe and the sesame seeds in my old favorite hummus recipe that showed up as an appetizer numerous times. But the best part of today's purging exercise was getting to sniff and taste all those spicy, pungent, aromatic leaves and powders. Wow, what a rush.

So now the spice cabinet's clean, and the baking product shelf is orderly, and there are no longer jumbles of shoes in my closet. I feel a little cleaner, a little lighter. Life looks a little clearer now. But I'm afraid I am hooked. Hi, my name's Gail and I'm a purgaholic.

I look around at my kitchen, my closet, my office (oh dear), and my kids.

The question now is, what's next?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Terror in the Shoes

I am not Imelda Marcos, but I did have 56 shoes at last count. I am not Richard Reid, but I am a bit of a shoe terrorist.

You see, I had a plantars wart. There, I said it. It's so hard to admit; sounds so ugly. But it is a pretty common problem, I've learned. It started out as no big deal, but last year it started to mutate into a giant alien. My podiatrist and I waged a ferocious war, knowing full well it was a weapon of mass destruction that must be destroyed. After several months, lots of money, a fair amount of discomfort and much inconvenience for my entire family, it seems that the monster has left my body, although I don't want to jinx anything so I won't say that aloud or even begin to celebrate.

Besides, I don't feel much like celebrating because I'm in mourning. My podiatrist suggested I throw away all my shoes just in case the HPV that causes plantars warts lives on, even without a host, in my footwear.

Throw them ALL away?

You've got to be kidding. There are thousands of dollars wrapped up in those babies, and furthermore a lot of them are actually comfortable. They've traveled to China and Alaska and Chicago with me. They've attended weddings and parties and school plays. They've been splashed by chlorinated water in Idaho and they've been sucked into quicksandlike mud in Texas. It's not that they're gorgeous Prada creations; most of them are actually Danskos and Merrills and Ariats and Uggs and Keens. But they're mine, all mine. They represent me.

They've been loyal to me; I've been loyal to them. They're like kids but they don't talk back. (Okay, some of them do, and that's why I never wear them. And those are the ones I don't mind pitching.)

Yes, I'm attached to my shoes, but I was also raised by a survivor of the Great Depression and I'm living in the midst of the Great Recession, which means I don't like to throw away anything, least of all fantastic shoes in great shape. But I can't donate them because I can't bear the thought of passing on the alien HPV to an unknowing victim.

So I've spent the last few days dividing them into categories: the ones I never wear, the ones that can be washed in hot water, the ones whose insoles can be replaced. The ones I can bear to part with and the ones I can't let go of. The ones I know were never exposed to the wart and the ones who have been intimate with it. And then I recategorize them again, and again, trying to find some way to save the favorites from the dump. All the while, the shoes are lined up one next to the other, looking all innocent, but I know that at least one of them, if not more, is a terrorist waiting to attack once again; like a little rogue band, plotting to reinfect me and recreate yet another episode of podiatric terror.

So here I am, mourning the loss of my little terrorist wonders, waiting for the strength or divine intervention to let them go.