Friday, November 30, 2012

HANDS DOWN

Son-One recently became engaged to a most wonderful young woman.  They met through mutual friends of co-workers at Starbucks.  (Another reason I love Starbucks, actually.)   To announce their engagement to friends and family near and far, my future daughter-in-law (DIL) posted a photo on Facebook (naturally) of the two of them, her hand prominently featured to show off her glittering new engagement ring.

And her hand is beautiful.  Her fingers long and slender.  Her skin flawless.  Her nails beautifully shaped and natural.  I am in awe of beautiful hands.  I notice.  I envy.

Somehow, upon my father's death...and later my mother's...my hands turned into his/hers/theirs.    Farmer hands.  Factory worker hands.  Beautician hands ravaged by harsh chemicals.  Genetically rather short and stubby, ruddy of complexion, dry, wrinkled, now a bit blotchy and splotchy, thinning skin, prominent veins.  Nails that never grow evenly and cuticles that encroach readily.

Admittedly I don't pay much attention to my hands, so mainly I am to blame for the results of this lifetime of neglect.  I really dislike getting professional manicures (I've had maybe 3 in my life).  It seems a crazy waste of money to me.  (Not to mention feeling so silly sitting there while a bored manicurist tends to my fingernails, as if this has any impact on world peace!)  And while I love buying lotions and cremes that smell heavenly, I mostly forget to use them.  Also, my health-nut friends tell me I don't drink enough water to hydrate my skin adequately (I'm working on that one).

Often, when I am aware of them at all, I feel embarrassed by my hands.  I have been known to "hide" them strategically at times inside pockets, folded demurely in my lap, snuggled in gloves.  But sometimes I gaze at them, often on the Yoga mat where my hands are RIGHT THERE UNDER MY NOSE, and I feel a grudging sense of pride and familial connection.

My parents were hard workers.  They grew up with their hands in the soil and on a plow handle in rural areas of Illinois and Indiana in the 1930's where, with their parents and siblings, they toiled to literally scrape a life out of the dirt.  They moved to the city as a young married couple and went to work in the textile industry -- Dad dyeing canvas cloth for manufacturing awnings and tennis shoes (Keds!) and Mom sewing Maidenform bras and girdles in near sweatshop conditions (occasional needles through fingers a workplace hazard).  Later she opened her own beauty shop, exposing those hands to the chemicals needed to color and curl other women's hair.  They used their hands to cradle babies, lay wood flooring, remodel houses, work on cars, repair, paint, wallpaper, cook, clean, wash, landscape.....

The hands I see on the ends of my arms are a history of my parents... and of me.  They may not be pretty, but they represent a nobility of character, I think.  A history of toil, of experience, of love.

Still, I will encourage DIL to drink plenty of water, use lots of lotion, wear protective gloves and try to take care of those lovely hands better than I have mine, but to also know they will not be perfect forever.  She has already bathed her child hundreds of times, washed stacks of dishes, wielded a hammer in their new home, planted a flower garden, steamed espresso, carried trays of food to waiting customers, and now works in a clinic where hand-washing rituals are obsessive....time will take it's toll.  And her hands will tell a story, too.

At least, that's the view from here....©


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

FROM TEA CAKES TO STARBUCKS

My maternal grandmother lived with us while I was growing up, having lost her husband to heart disease two years before I was born.  When I was a kid, I recall her sisters and often their daughters (my mom's aunts and cousins) occasionally coming for a weekday afternoon visit.  My maternal relatives all were of Norwegian descent and devoutly Lutheran.  So there was no foolishness, swearing, or outrageous behavior.  There was, however, genuine delight in being together, chatting about family and health and the fate of that summer's crops, this being rural northern Illinois and a family of current and former farm folk.  

Around 3:00 Mom would set out "lunch" which was really an afternoon snack, consisting of maybe little tuna sandwiches (no crust), a relish tray, crackers, cheese, and of course, a pot of coffee (Folger's or Maxwell House, brewed) to go with the tea cakes.  This was the best part of the visit from my perspective.  A tablecloth appeared, the good dishes were used, and a small vase of flowers or greens sat as a centerpiece.  Everyone was in jolly humor, joking and laughing about old times and people I didn't know and complimenting Mom on her "lunch".   It felt very feminine -- like a tea party.  It was a time out of time, a break from housework and routine -- a dress-up day for accepting visitors.  I haven't thought about that in years.

But today at Starbucks, it all came flooding back for some reason.  I think it had something to do with the Elder man in front of me in line.  He had the most engaging smile and intense curiosity about this place he found himself frequenting at 2:00 on a rainy Tuesday afternoon.  He had a million questions about the "menu" and some difficulty hearing the young woman who was working the espresso machine.  By the way, these "youngers" need to speak up!  The machine was noisy, the overhead Muzak was loud, other conversations were going on all around us....

Anyway, he ordered a mocha, but wasn't quite sure what he actually received once the drink was in his hand.  He asked what the difference was between an "Espresso Mocha" and "Frappacino Mocha" and did they have both chocolate and coffee in them and why did they come with whipped cream?  The barista was less patient with his questions than she was eager to find out if he also wanted a pastry or something from the cold case.

I guess that's when the vision of my mom's old percolator popped into my head.  I can just imagine Aunt Amy or Aunt Ellen standing at Starbucks in their sensible shoes and cotton print dresses, little straw and net hats perched on their blue/gray heads wondering what in the world had become of "lunch" time?

Now the afternoon respite is a quick meet-up with a friend at a chain store coffee shop, all basically with the same decor, the same menu, the same barista staff trained to ask the same questions, the same hubbub going on as some semblance of conversation takes place in fits and starts amid environmental distractions and cell phone interruptions.  It's what we call "normal"now -- even pleasant.

I don't really harken back to those summer afternoons at my mom's dining room table.  I love Starbucks, actually.  But I could understand the gentleman's confusion and could imagine myself in his shoes.  Actually this is exactly how I feel in the Apple computer store, shopping for the latest technology -- friendly, eager to learn, slightly confused, yet willing to give it a try, and having a hard time hearing and understanding as the young expert at the "Genius Bar" glosses over my questions with a burst of jargon that sometimes sounds like Swahili to my 60+ year-old ears.

So, seeing this fellow ready to leave without ever understanding the difference between a hot mocha and a mocha frap, I stepped forward to explain it to him.   He was most appreciative.  We both decided the occasional addition of "whip" is a good thing.

At least, that's the view from here....©

PRETTY IN PINK

Trucks, cars, Legos, balls, Transformers, Ninja Turtles, jumping, punching, slamming doors, hurling stuff.....

I raised boys.  Two of them, although at times it felt like twenty.  The house was always a whirlwind of toys and noise and half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches smeared on the upholstery.

So when Son-One grew up and started dating a beautiful young woman who had a beautiful 10-month old daughter, I felt we'd both hit the jackpot.  Him for falling in love and me for finally getting the chance to experience life with A LITTLE GIRL!!!

It has been fabulous.  She's three now.  She loves to jump, run, play hide-and-seek, sing songs, and color.  She sets out dishes for tea parties and takes tender good care of her "babies".  She builds amazing towers with blocks, writes her name, counts to 20, and remembers EVERYTHING!

She also dances.  There's the usual "Ring Around the Rosie", and spontaneous "dance parties" in the living room when a song with a good beat comes on the stereo.  But now, well, she has advanced beyond all that.

She is a ballerina.

Being social and smart and obviously uniquely talented, her parents decided to sign her up for a beginning ballet class through the park district.  Problem, it starts at 5:00 -- just a smidge too early for them to get her there on time after they get off work.  Ivy to the rescue!  "I'll take her!"  I declared, hardly able to contain my pleasure at the prospect.  I assumed all was ready last week, for her first class.

Then I got a text mid-day...."We just realized she needs a leotard, tights, and ballet slippers...do you think you could pick those up and we'll pay you back?"

What sort of language was this?  Leotard?  Slippers?  Tights?  That sounds nothing at all like cleats, balls, and batting gloves!  Where does one even start to shop for this stuff????  I had a moment of panic before coming to my senses and signing onto Facebook.  Soon I had a string of comments from moms of girls telling me where to go and what to buy.  Easy, breezy.

Angel and I had a terrific shopping expedition.  She was happy to try things on, but not as thrilled with the simple black leotard as she was with pointing to a multitude of bright, sparkly tutus she wanted as well.  ("Another time, sweetie....maybe next time....").

At class, she was shy at first.  And why not?  She and another little girl were the only "new girls" -- the other six girls had already been together for one previous session.  But brilliant child and phenomenal dancer that she is, she soon joined in and was the star of the class!  Yes, indeed, she pirouetted and plie'ed, and grand jete'ed with abandon.  Perhaps she was a bit eager to "beat" the other girls across the room -- we will discuss the non-racing aspects of ballet with her.  And we will suggest that going potty half-way through the 45 minute class (with the requisite completely disrobing to do so) is maybe not the best use of her time or her parents' money...but it seemed to be a trend with about half the girls, so maybe she just didn't want to feel left out.

As for me, I didn't cry, which is my usual response to uncontrollable waves of joy and delight.  I just watched her with a smile full of pride and a heart full of gratitude for this little Angel in my life.  And when her parents arrived,  my heart swelled even more to see the love and pride they took in watching their little girl take first steps into a new, bigger world.

Just like when I watched Angel's daddy take his first swing at a ball on a tee.  OK.  Now I'm crying....and it feels so good.

At least, that's the view from here....©



Thursday, November 8, 2012

CARROTS AND COWS AND SNICKERS, OH MY!

Here are some random thoughts on food:

1.  Hub brought home a FULL-SIZED (no Halloween whimpy mini) Snickers bar from work a week ago.  That's right...A WEEK AGO!  It is still sitting on the kitchen counter.  Just goes to show, my respect for what belongs to another person trumps my usual very poor willpower over chocolate and nuts.  For a week anyway.  I think beyond that, come Saturday, I am declaring it abandoned and available.
2.  I've never felt right about eating animals.  At least those that walk on land.  I do eat mussels, shrimp, oysters and clams with abandon, although shrimp do sort of have a face.  I also eat fish.  I'm sorry, but I just do and I love it.  Chickens and turkeys are technically "foul" and have wings, so I guess I don't count them totally in the land animal category, but of course they are most of time.  I only eat them very occasionally.  Cows and pigs:  Now those are really difficult for me to eat so I very, very rarely do. (Well, unless in the form of extra crisp bacon every once in awhile).  You see the problem here -- I'm obviously not a strict vegetarian, so the whole thing causes me some angst, because I really like the idea of being a vegetarian.  I once was -- didn't any eat meat at all for over a year back in the 70's.  Then I slipped up with a killer Klondike burger at the infamous Come Back Inn in Melrose Park, Illinois.  It was all over.  These days, you can offer me a smoke or a drink and the answer is an automatic no.  No thought required.  But this land animal meat food still gives me pause, especially when a guest in someone's home.  I will eat what they serve.  In my own home I mostly don't eat land animal meat.  Also not in restaurants.  I'm not sure what this means....just that I'm doing my best to be healthy and ethical.  And I worry about Karma.  One of those poor beasts may be holding the Karmic soul of someone potentially great and they deserve to live out this life fully without my intervention just cuz I had a hankerin' for a Rib-Eye.

3.  I anthropomorphize vegetables.  If an animal's Karma keeps me from eating it, veggie Karma seems to insist I devour it as its highest calling.  I'm afraid to even admit this, but I have rescued errant hunks of diced carrot from the lip of the garbage disposal in an effort to "save" them and allow them to be eaten.  I think I hear them calling, "Don't leave me behind!" when all the other little carrot hunks are already swirling in the pot happily ready to be cooked.
Anyone else share this slightly OCD predilection?  No?

Hmmmmm.....now I just feel weird.

At least, that's the view from here....©

MONEY CAN'T BUY ME GOV

It's over.  Most of the people I know are happy, relieved, and hopeful again.  No one is gloating.  For all of the vitriol that was flung this way and that, it seems no one really wants to live that way.  There are scores of Facebook posts, blog entries, op-ed pieces all calling for unity and an end to lies, distortions, and blame.  Can't we all get along?  I guess time will tell.

As for me, I think the president was re-elected due to my silent 3-day Obamathon on Facebook.  I had every intention of backing off political posts when it got to the point that people were begging for it to stop in general.  But no one could really stop.  I thought, "I can!"   Yet I couldn't either.  But I also saw no reason to continue to post the obvious with charts, graphs, outrageous quotes, reasonable lines of thinking....it had all been said ad nauseum.  So I took to posting different photos of President Obama every few hours for 3 days pre-election day, with the status update, "Obamathon".  Many of my FB friends thought it was great and I got lots of "Likes".  Son-Two, however, threatened to "un-friend" me (he is the "not political" one in our family).  It was fun to just silently and visually state my support for President Obama, over and over, like a FB mantra.

Election night was sort of stunning.  Many are stating it more eloquently than I, but basically....Holy Shit!  Romney got 61% of the white vote.  He lost.  Our politicians can no longer play the "race card" and expect to win.  (Take that! you who made attempts at voter suppression in swing states with large non-white populations, and those who want Hispanics to "self-deport").   Women surged in the Senate -- including an openly lesbian woman (Take that! all of you with the stupid talk about what is and isn't rape, and what is and isn't equal pay, and what is and isn't a woman's right to choose, and what is and isn't "natural").  Bazillions of dollars and distortions and outright lies were hurled back in the faces of those who were cynical enough to believe that a majority of Americans would allow buying and lying to win an American presidential election.

In 2008 I was elated beyond any sort of reasonableness that Barack Obama won the presidency.  I remember sobbing almost uncontrollably when it was announced, so happy was I to have witnessed it. In 2012, I was more quietly happy, shedding some tears, but mostly relieved, rapidly commenting on FB and answering texts with friends across the nation as we had watched "together" via our now ubiquitous internet connections.  It is only now, a couple of days later, that I feel a swell of pride.  I feel that sense of patriotism that always brings a lump to my throat when I realize, again, that good people will do the right thing and that our system, no matter how battered and broken, will prevail.

I know that millions of people who voted for Romney and embrace that world view are feeling bereft.  But even so, their fight will continue to be a war of words, protected under our constitution; there is no threat of military insurrection in our democracy.  We will continue to disagree and that is a good thing, if done with civility.  Because we are sick to death of name-calling, conspiracy theories, and lies.  My hope, my prayer, my mantra is that this election has shown that "we the people" want to move forward with leadership that is steady, focused, compassionate, and inclusive.

At least, that's the view from here....©

"We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America.. . . What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth, the belief that our destiny is shared -- that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations.”  -- Barack Obama 11/6/12