Sunday, October 19, 2014

What would Daniel Tiger do?

Daniel Tiger an unexceptional wimpy cub has been sucked out of the cast of the beloved Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and repurposed as a stand alone TV guru who helps toddlers navigate life's vicissitudes. 

Daniel, like Tony Robbins or Deepak Chopra is all about putting out a bible for living that will get the little ones emotionally fit.

I would not have singled out Daniel out of Mr. Roger's troupe.  I might have chosen passive-aggressive Henrietta Pussycat who felt jealous and threatened by others but liked to take care of people. Or the cynical Lady Elaine Fairchild, who, in pre-TV life operated the Rapid Walking Beauty Counseling School.

Here is some of Daniel's misguided advice (annoyingly sing-songed so it stays in your head forever):

1.  Grownups come back. 

Grownups sometimes never come back.  Grownups can get fed up and move to Costa Rica and take your stuff.  You know what else doesn't come back?  Your favorite Lululemon hoodie that cost $109 and they don't make anymore.

Remember that carpenter grownup who was going to fix your porch rail?  Did he come back? Did your materials deposit come back?

2.  Rest is best. 

Rest (unless you are in a medically induced coma) is never best. Too much rest is what gifted you with fifteen extra pounds. Sitting, as you've been told, is the new smoking. Even by-pass surgery patients are up and walking as soon as they can tell you the name of the current president and their home address.

Mom, is that you?
3.  A new baby means more love in the family.

A new baby as any moron knows is most often a chaos machine and mom's hormones are so unreliable she reacts like a detonated watermelon just because the toast got a little too brown.

4. On loaning toys: You can take a turn and then I'll get it back

Even if you sing this totally misleading rule, it does not guarantee that Prince Wednesday will give you your tigertastic car back or if he does it will be in good condition.  That's why people leave a damage deposit.

How about a couple of kisses?
5. The toll to drive your car over the bridge is three kisses.

This is misleading on so many levels.  If you try that on the George Washington Bridge, they will possibly haul you off to jail.  Kisses will not stand-in for money when you apply for a mortgage.

Daniel Tiger could take a page from a French Tiger Mother's playbook:  chin up, no sniveling and give me a perfect three times table.

N.B. There is a reason why the book "Go the F**k to Sleep" is still a best seller three years after publication. The New Yorker (yes, The New Yorker) said: "Nothing has driven home a certain truth about my generation...quite like this."

Friday, October 3, 2014

Wait. What?

I read an article today titled, How American parenting is killing the American marriage. It says that American society has made parenting an unyielding religion that punishes the heretic.  If you just jerked up in your seat and said, Wait. What? I'm right with you. If someone offered that thought at a ladies luncheon we would all stop eating and stare open-mouthed because it is the thought that can't be spoken.

Below is a quote from the article and the link.

The origins of the parenthood religion are obscure, but one of its first manifestations may have been the “baby on board” placards that became popular in the mid 80's.  Nobody would have placed such a sign on a car if it were not already understood by society that the life of a human achieves its peak value at birth and declines thereafter. A toddler is almost as precious as a baby, but a teenager less so, and by the time that baby turns fifty, it seems that nobody cares much anymore if someone crashes into her car. You don’t see a lot of vehicles with placards that read, “Middle-aged accountant on board.”

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Oh sheet! No really, I mean Oh sheet.

Every so often I get the idea that I'm going to trick my subconscious into making me neat and organized.   At that time, I take on a low level task.  This week it was to catalogue all of the cotton sheets I have collected over the years with a zeal most reserve for religion or charity.

When I was a young wife, cotton was out of favor (shocking , no?) cotton clothing, cotton tablecloths and cotton bed linens were nowhere to be found in middle class stores.  We were offered no iron fabrics that were the texture of thread laced packing tape. If you exuded one drop of perspiration the fabric smelled like a used tire factory.  We were uncomfortable. This was a dark era in American Life.  I was disconsolate and often sang out my dilemma to the tune of Imagine (Yes, I am committing a travesty.)

Imagine there's no cotton,
It's hard but let's just try. 
No terry, lisle or flannel 
Your linen's gone bye bye.

Imagine there's no oxford for hubby's workforce shirt, Uh uh uh uh uh
You may think I'm a weeper but I'm just one of the wives.
who prays each day for a reunion with the fabric of our lives.

I won't bore you with how they were accumulated but I have three large storage tubs of cotton sheets and pillowcases.  Like Scarlett O'Hara, I'll never be hungry for cotton again.  This stash of bed linens are not differentiated.  I have to unfold eighty-seven sheets before I come to the ones that fit my bed.  I have sheets with hemstitched borders, with scalloped borders, with plain but wide hems.  I have 300, 400, and 600 hundred thread count sheets.  I have serviceable muslin sheets that must have been made for a penitentiary or correction facility.  Their no nonsense off-white sturdiness fairly screams "I'm an overrun from a batch of prison sheets." I have flannel sheets imprinted with tiny wales, penguins and fluffy clouds.
I'm the upper crust of sheets - hemstitched!

On the appointed day I dragged the storage tubs to the middle of the floor.  I had sticky labels, a good pen and a measuring tape.  Yes, in my obsessive way I was going to measure and segregate my sheets in size piles so I could choose the ones I needed with certainty.
Really? We're organizing sheets?

After measuring three sheets I realized that no two twin sheets are the same size.  There are long twins and short twins,  The fitted sheets vary, some have elastic and some do not.  Some have expandable webbing at the corners and fit all the way under the mattress.  I quickly became imprecise and let it go.  After a couple of hours, I bundled up piles of twins, fulls, queens and kings.  I wondered who named all these bed sizes.  I guess twins were meant to be placed side by side, identical.   Fulls are not really full enough for two.  Queens and kings?  Really.  A bed is all it takes?  

I did not have any California king sheets which are sheets that could cover the state of Delaware.

The only value of this post is to make you feel better about whatever you did today.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

If life was perfect, we wouldn't need irony.

If life was perfect we wouldn't need irony.  God gave us irony to deal with a reality that is sometimes intolerable and often annoying.  

What is irony?  Here are some dictionary definitions:

  1. The expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.
  2. A state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.

For the true ironist that doesn't come close. Good irony is a powerful weapon. It's a stand-off.  You on one side - the offending reality on the other.  You say, "I'm going to take you down."

If we had the time to sit around and think about life, some of us would be a little bitter.  God didn't want a group of bitter people so He thought,  I'll give that group irony.  If they can make fun of everything they'll be fine. What do I care?  I made them, too, you know.  So who is the ironist here?

The dictionary gives these synonyms for irony: sarcasm, cynicism, sardonicism. I don't think so.

Sarcasm is crude.  Irony is exquisite.  There is no hope in cynicism.  Irony on the other hand is optimistic.  It's problem solving.  Look,  here's a way to turn this around and make it fun.

Sardonicism a word only used in old historical novels, is more like sarcasm.

There are people who never use or have a need of irony.  They see life as a sunny, faith driven garden of delight.   I don't discount this one bit.  It can happen. I know how to talk to these people and even like them.  I park my irony at the door and engage sincerely.

On the other hand,  when two ironists meet and recognize each other, it is a  sight to behold. They will go back and forth, giggling and nodding.  I have a friend who comes to my house when he can't find irony anywhere else.  It's like going to your favorite pizza joint.  You need a fix, a compass point, to set your path and send you back into the world.

There is a store near me called The Irony.  It's on a highway and not easy to visit but I wanted to see what I would find there.  Would there be bins with menus of ironic statements for all of life's vicissitudes? Alas, no.  They make decorative fences, gates and objects out of metal.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

What I did on my summer vacation

I've done a lot of reading this summer on my Kindle.  I've discovered Live-brary and have  gobbled up Michael Connelly's crime novels.  Connelly writes two series The Mickey Haller series about a lawyer who works out of his Lincoln and the Harry Bosch series about a police detective who is a cranky loner but ultimately solves crimes.

I've tried to analyze why I favor Haller over Bosch.  What is the profile of a protagonist that takes charge of your attention and like my boarding school Mother Superior holds you on a tight leash and tells you when to look down and when to look away.

The main character, good or bad, has to be likeable.  Mickey Haller, of the Lincoln Lawyer series, is a likeable "bad" boy.  He sees the reality of a situation and is not timid about pointing it out and then using it to his advantage.  The way he points it out makes the reader agree with something that goes against values and ethics.  Here's how he opens The Brass Verdict, the second book in the Lincoln Lawyer series.

Cops lie. Lawyers lie. Witnesses lie. The victims lie. A trial is a contest of lies. And everybody in the courtroom knows this. The judge knows this. Even the jury knows this. They come into the building knowing they will be lied to. They take their seats in the box and agree to be lied to.

Mickey has a great support system including a second ex-wife who handles the details of his practice with efficiency and uncanny insight. She has moved on but still likes him.   Mickey also employs her boyfriend, Cisco.  I got to like this little family of realists. Mickey's first ex-wife is not on the Mickey train but she lets him see his daughter and even has dinner with him once in a while.  Mickey's clients are sometimes guilty and he knows they are guilty but as he often says, "I'm not here to prove their innocence, I'm here to disprove the case against them and find reasonable doubt.

I do not feel as connected to the prickly Harry Bosch.  Harry Bosch will bypass the law to get what he needs but not with the same sarcastic confidence as Mickey.  With Harry, a lot of bad stuff has gone down in his life and without even knowing what it is you feel a shroud of somberness surrounding him. You know this guy has not had a good laugh recently, if ever.

This summer, I tried to read Gillian Flynn's two early novels (before the blockbuster Gone Girl).  I say "tried" because hey are both creepy but not in the same stylish way as Gone Girl. Also there's not the thrill of discovery. I know now that Ms. Flynn is going to give me something very noir.  Sharp Objects is pretty good with lots of twists that kept my attention but I skipped some parts.  There is a point where the author could have introduced something wonderful and redemptive, but she chose not to.  Dark Places is relentlessly dark in both plot and circumstances.  By the way, the author of these disturbing novels, Gillian Flynn, is gorgeous and young.

I always keep the crime novels of my good friend Sandra Scoppettone on my Kindle as emergency reading matter when I find myself waiting or on a trip.  Sandra has written more than twenty books, all of them excellent.   Her Lauren Laurano series are my go to re-reads when I'm caught somewhere without new reading material.  Here's a link if you want to check them out.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

10 simple rules for being a good dinner party guest

First, no dinner party is a real party. The word "party" implies fun, carefree antics, abandon and lots of merriment. None of that is true of a sit-down dinner party which is a sober, managed, time-sensitive event.  Remember what F. Scott Fitzgerald said of just such a gathering:  "The evening progressed from phase to phase with the sheer nervous dread of the moment itself."   Uh. Huh.

1.  Do not under any circumstances arrive early. Sit out on the sidewalk if you must. Most hostesses need every single minute to prepare for what is basically a staged and artificial situation:  a formal dinner party.  By formal I do not mean tuxedo formal.  I mean a situation where all the parties will check their bad habits, disappointments and marital bickering at the door and put on good public demeanor.
This is fun, right?

 2.  Do not bring flowers as a gift.  Cut flowers demand immediate attention and the last thing your hostess needs is the chore of finding an appropriate vase, clippers and moss to help the flowers stand up. Flower arranging is a tricky maneuver that sometimes demands a Martha Stewart video to accomplish.

3.  Do not under any circumstances arrive more than five minutes late.  The hostess has timed the dinner to be cooked and still edible by a certain time.  Being late messes up the timeline and makes the hostess anxious.  If you are late do not spend another twenty minutes telling her what happened to make you late.

4.  Do not take the hostess seriously when she says, "bring nothing." She doesn't really mean that.  A good bottle of wine will go a long way to making the evening bearable and possibly pleasant.  Yes, she has her own wine but inevitably guests will linger and that extra bottle will be helpful.

5.  Do not ask for hard liquor and proceed to get stinking drunk before the meal even starts. Liquor loosens the tongue and inevitably your "good public demeanor" will fall by the wayside and the real state of your life will be ruinously obvious, eliminating any chance of a pleasant evening.

6.  Conversely do not choose that night to stop drinking.  Going on the wagon will make you concentrate on your sobriety. Your scintillating qualities will evaporate leaving a cranky overzealous shell of your former self.

7.  Do not express an inability to eat anything put on the table. Do not say, "I can't eat shellfish," etc.  You should have mentioned any life-threatening aversions at the time you accepted the invitation.  Have a little sense for goddsakes. The hostess spent fifty dollars on those super jumbo shrimp and now they might as well be tattooed with a skull and crossbones.

8.  Do not pile your plate with all of the food you think will sustain you for the next month.  Take small portions until everyone has been served.  Judicious second helpings are allowable and show the hostess you liked her cooking.

9.  Do not offer help cleaning up.  Unless the hostess has both arms in a cast, she does not expect you to help with the dishes.  Dinner invitations are meant to give you a night of freedom from the daily grind of feeding yourself and cleaning up.  Accept it.

10.  Mail - yes, mail as in, with a stamp - a hand written thank you note to your hostess no later than two days after the dinner.  If you are so inclined, now is the time to have flowers delivered.  Your hostess has the time to arrange them and will think kindly of you each time she sees that lovely bouquet.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Couch and Me - together forever!

I cleaned the living room today.  I didn't just vacuum around the furniture.  I. Moved. The. Couch.  It's a big, low white couch.  I love that couch which I stole from the Bloomingdale's outlet store.  I use the word stole because there was a 93% markdown which I'm sure was a mistake made by a disgruntled worker.  The $2600 couch which was white and gorgeous and filled with down was marked down to $200.  No, it did not have a big red stain on it.  It had nothing but beautifulness and supreme comfort.

No matter how much money comes my way, the couch stays forever.  Today I took the couch cushions out on the deck and beat the dust out of them.  Then I vacuumed them with something called an upholstery attachment which I had to look on the internet to see what it looked like.  Yep.  I had three of them from various vacuums.

It was then that I decided to move the couch and take care of the space of floor under it.   Holy mother of god It was as if I had fallen through a secret door and gone to Narnia.  There was an entire universe going on under the couch. Stages of life lived and ended.  There was a cubic yard of dust that had height as well as width.   But Oh. So. Much. More.  There were pencils and quarters and Monopoly money and guitar picks and crayon stubs and the "shoe" and the "house" from Zingo. (You don't know Zingo? There was a tax bill several peanuts, a pacifier and four red paper clips strung together.

I don't have the gift of housekeeping.  I don't have the gift of shopping or cooking.  I'm not a visual person.  I'm not juiced up by sunsets or panoramic views.  However I do like to see a good result when I spend an hour cleaning up the living room and even though I had hand dusted the floor (after vacuuming) the room looked exactly the way it had looked before.   It looked exactly the same except I knew it was clean and slick under the couch. And the couch looked like it cost $2600.

You look marvelous, darling