Friday, December 26, 2014

State of the Union according to Google

(This is a re-post.  It first appeared in January of 2013 but not much has changed.)


The president will soon deliver his State of the Union address so I decided to check the State of the Union according to Google.

Google knows how the citizens are doing.  It has saved all our questions, all our searches, all our subjects and sub categories, We only have to prompt it with a word or two and it shows us where we have been, where we are and where we need to go.

My job is:
killing me
makes me depressed

My wife:
doesn’t want kids
doesn’t trust me
doesn’t love me anymore
doesn’t listen to me
doesn’t respect me
doesn’t support me
doesn’t like me anymore
doesn’t like my family

My husband:
is gay
got a family
cheated on me
is mean
hit me
hates his job

I lie:
about everything
too much
all the time
to myself

My house is:
on fire
making me sick
in foreclosure

I’m happiest when:
I’m alone
Happiness is:
a choice
like a butterfly

My health is:
better in November
not good
going down fast
getting worse

Government is:
killing us
watching us
lying to us

I worry about:
everything all the time
money all the time
my boyfriend
my boyfriend dying
I hate:
my job
my life
everything about you

How do I:
put this gently
get pinkeye

God bless you all and God bless America

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Dentist

(I was about to make an appointment to go to the dentist but then I read this and decided to put it off.  This post received many "troll" comments from dentists who thanked me for the good information.)

Here’s me at the dentist.  If there was a balloon over my head it would say: Dr. Dellasandro is going to be shocked when he looks in there.  Maybe he will scream.
I’m a decent caregiver to my mouth but the dentist never says anything good about how I care for my teeth.

The conversation goes like this:
Total (judgmental) silence as he inspects my mouth.
How many times a day do you brush?
Morning and night. (I'm tempted to say 'only when the moon is waning').
Do you floss?
How often?
Every day.
How many times a day?

Total (judgmental) silence.  I’m telling the truth but it feels as if I’m lying (through my teeth).   I expect him to tell me I don’t deserve to have teeth and that the starving children in Africa would be thrilled to have teeth to care for.

"Do you know how to brush properly? Show me how you brush,” he says.
Balloon:  Uh Oh.  I surmise that he has found a wrecked mouth and will send me home disgraced. Often when I’m brushing, I think about this dentist because I can’t quite accomplish the technique he has recommended (and also I’m sleepy) and I know what it will lead to.

I demonstrate a clumsy maneuver that was demonstrated to me on my last visit.  It involves using the brush at an angle so the edge of the bristles can be wiggled where your teeth meet your gums.  This is a maneuver that is only popular in the last five years.  Prior it was starting at the gum line and brushing down, as if you are sweeping all the debris down your throat.   With all these maneuvers it only works on certain areas because it is physically impossible to get that brush to angle on edge on the back of the lower teeth. Or the back of the upper teeth.

He doesn’t respond as to whether this is right or wrong.
“Show me how you floss.”  He hands me a few inches of waxed floss that frankly I think is counterproductive.  I use the unwaxed kind and in a pinch some polyester sewing thread. (I once sent this as an “aha” use to Real Simple magazine.)  I floss a couple of teeth.  Total (judgmental) silence.

The dentist hauls out his big demonstration teeth and his big demonstration brush and shows me an even more awkward brushing maneuver.  Then he flosses the big demonstration teeth. (It reminds me of how my gynacologist would haul out his demonstration uterus and show me how it could press on my bladder and cause me to urinate every five minutes during pregnancy.)  

My balloon says:  Oh sure, I could do that kind of brushing on those teeth that are not inside my mouth.  While Dr. Dellasandro gets his gear together, I see that all the decorative accessories in the room have a single motif.  A potted plant sits in a gigantic molar, a diploma is framed by a border of incisors. There’s a framed cartoon that shows a patient saying: “Oh, it hurt, doc, but I’m not going to scream until I get your bill.”  Why should I let this man cower me?

After all the talk and demonstrations, he cleans my teeth with an apparatus that must be a little like waterboarding.  A sharp needle scrapes along your gum line while a torrent of water cascades down your throat and almost drowns you.

After the picking, the waterboarding, the scraping and the polishing with a ghastly sweet sandy chemical paste, he declares me done.  Then he does something that erases all the bad stuff from memory.  He gives me a brand new toothbrush.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Standoff: Me vs CVS

Every week, CVS and I have a standoff - they want to see how much merchandise they can foist off on me and I want to see how I can resist.  They know we are at war but instead of shooting me, they offer me ExtraBucks.  And who doesn't want extra bucks?

Here is what CVS wants me to buy to  "Bring The Magic Home."

A Nutcracker figurine
A Northpole Family Storybook
A Magic Mechanical Santa's Checklist
When I look at this list I think "What the heck is wrong with America?"

Those who know me know that I barely tolerate Christmas.  I treat Christmas the way I treat other people's dogs.  I wouldn't hurt them if we met but I wouldn't invite them over either.  But CVS has a  dossier and they see a different Consuelo.  They have my BUYING HISTORY which is to say they have my soul.  Mike Wallace once did a 60 Minutes segment on how you could completely know a stranger by reading the items on his credit card bill:  you knew if he liked to eat out, if he gave to charity, if he went to the gym, if he had ongoing dental problems. CVS knows I love almonds, hot pepper flakes, Tom's toothpaste, dried mango chips, those little tiny toothbrushes that go between your teeth, pore strips and the occasional extra strength headache meds. They know I need eye drops and buy super strength Retin-A They know that I snack, get headaches, have decent hygiene and worry about my complexion. They extrapolate and come up with someone who is weak-willed and indulges in magical thinking,

I guess CVS is the Big Brother George Orwell was warning us about in 1984. CVS is the enigmatic dictator of Oceania.

Oh? Too harsh?  Think about it.  CVS uses the most psyche-invasive kind of marketing. You could say it's also cheap therapy.  CVS is to me like what clear lake water was to Narcissus. who fell in love with his own reflection not realizing it was water.  Narcissus drowned. That is what CVS wants me to do.  Look into their e-mails, see all of my favorite things, reflections of myself, dive in and drown.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Clean up in aisle three - uh ... and four

(I wrote this post last Thanksgiving.  I think it holds up so here it is again.)

When Oprah tells me to do something I do it. Okay maybe not her fiber fat flush.
When she offered me a 21 day meditation challenge with Oprah and Deepak* and it was free I thought, why not? At the very least it will quiet my restless mind.  Oprah is not to be taken lightly and she doesn’t have to do this stuff with us.

The first day, Oprah and Deepak asked me to identify my DEEPEST desire.  They said that if I asked my heart and was alert to my daily life the answer would come. Usually when I’m asked this question I close my eyes and the first image that comes to mind I take as a metaphor for the answer. The image was a lawn chair.   Even as a metaphor - a modest chair, a resting place in a big expanse - a rest stop in a safari?- I couldn’t cram my usual superficial desires into the image.  Deepak and Oprah said not to worry.  They said to continue meditating and asking. The answer would come.  I chanted the mantra and minded my breathing for eleven days but nothing came.

It was the meditation on Surrender that began to turn things around. I do not like to surrender to anything. I’d rather control things even if it means not going anywhere or doing anything or engaging with the rest of the world.
After the meditation on Surrender, I had the ‘new to me’ idea to surrender to a couple of things. This might sound lame but it was a new thought, a thought I would not have had before.  The trick to surrendering is to catch yourself getting ‘your back up’ which means ‘defending’ yourself or your ego against something you perceive as threatening to the status quo.  We just adore the status quo (even if it’s not that great.)

During the gratitude meditation that Oprah swears changed her forever, she quoted Meister Eckhart an old German mystic priest that I had read a long time ago. I trusted him.  He said if you only say one prayer in your life let it be ‘thank you.’

Normally I would make fun of this to entertain myself.  Really?  Just say thank you? After years of looking at my life and shouting: Clean up in aisle three, uh and four the Universe is suddenly going to say: Polish the trumpets, somebody had an aha moment?  Maybe. 

That morning, feeling a bit dorky, I said thanks for the hot shower and for my strong legs and the warm and sunny weather in November. I continued with the meditation challenge and repeated my mantra even though pronouncing Om Vardhanam Namah for twenty minutes takes some doing.

During the gratitude meditation it came to me. It was such a jolt I had to open my eyes and begin to write this post.  My deepest desire was UNDERSTANDING. That was the only desire I needed because it would lead me to everything else.

This is not earth shaking or even exciting.  BUT to receive an answer to a question you’ve posed to your heart and mind and be CERTAIN of the answer is a pretty good discovery.  I could use this method -  surrender, alertness and gratitude - to get an answer to other things.

So what do we have here? Surrender to what comes your way (well, not a runaway bus), be alert to your daily life and say thank you (yes even for your annoying friend Delores who rants against the government non-stop). You can’t go wrong.  

Happy Thanksgiving. 
I say thank you every day for the people who read this blog. I am in your debt.

* Oprah & Deepak Meditation <>

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I'd like to buy your book. I can't sell it to you.

Facing launch day for Three Daughters got me to thinking of the days of being trad pubbed when I had the great Michael Korda as my editor. Michael was the nephew of Hollywood royalty, Alexander Korda, the movie director who married Merle Oberon (the Angelina of her day). I had been summoned to see him on the basis of an Op-ed piece I had written for the New York Times.

Michael is a small man and, as a child, he claims to have been pudgy.  Lord have mercy (it's fitting to borrow from the old South here) if there was anywhere a small, pudgy child should not go it is to that bs lockjawed citadel in Switzerland, Institut Le Rosay, where the uber rich park their children.  You know Switzerland, right? It's small, neutral, icy and unforgiving.  Remember Switzerland is the place where a salesclerk threw shade at Oprah.

Michael survived. He read history at Oxford, served in the Royal Air Force and ultimately landed at Simon and Schuster, where he worked for over forty years, a good part of that as editor-in-chief. (The only part I don't quite believe is 'the Royal Air Force.)

Besides me, he edited both Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and a long list of celebrities and best-selling authors.   I was not his usual charge - a homemaker from Long Island recovering from four pregnancies and three children under five.  What the pregnancies hadn't sucked out of me, the suburbs had taken.   I had no reference for the slick hushed offices of Simon and Schuster much less it's already famous editor in chief. 

Michael was not only the top editor, he wrote at least a dozen best sellers including POWER, what it is and how to get it.  One of the tips on "how to get it" was putting your desk on a platform so that no matter who came to your office you where above them.  The day I walked into his office he was lying on the floor.  "This is for my back," he said.  "I horseback ride every day in Central Park and I've hurt my back." He could have been hanging on a tree by one arm and eating a banana.  I was already on overload and my five year old was waiting in the lobby probably playing with the elevator and yelling all aboard when the doors opened.

Here's part of the dialogue.
Michael: Would you like to go out to lunch?
Me: No, thank you.  (I had one kid going bonkers in the lobby and two waiting at home with 14 year old Tara who let them eat frozen berries in my bed.) 
Michael: I'd like to buy your book.
Me: I haven't written it yet.
Michael: I want to buy it on the basis of the Op-ed piece 
Me:  I can't sell it to you.
Michael: Why not?
Me: Suppose I write it and you don't like it.  That will be devastating.  Why don't I write fifty pages and then re-submit it. 
He agreed, got up off the floor and ushered me out. 
I collected my five year old and left for the chaos at home.

I did sell the book to Michael Korda about a month later and it was mildly successful.  It was my start down this long road.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Anticipation abounds!

As I reported last April, one of Amazon's imprints, Lake Union, bought my novel, Daughters.  On the brink of a re-launch, here are the details of what's been going on in the last seven months.  Daughters was originally published by Delacorte Press and had professional editing and proofreading but there were still many glitches in the 720-page manuscript.

1.  The first step was the long process of re-editing.. The re-editing was not for narrative content but for inconsistencies within the narrative of historical references, dates, inconsistencies in the story lines of each character, etc.

2.  The second step was proofreading.  This step included English usage, grammar, awkward phrasing, etc.  I had mis-used or omitted about a gazillion commas.  (By the way, the rules of comma use are so long, complicated and open to interpretation they are useless for normal writing.  No.  Really.  They.  Are.)  I had paid particular attention to the use of which/that but the proofreader shut down all my "thats" and changed them to "whichs."  

3.  The third step was selecting and approving a cover.  I have to applaud Lake Union for including the writer in this process.  In traditional publishing they can put Hitler's Baby on the cover and you have nothing to say about it.  You see the cover when it's done.  Lake Union allowed me to reject designs, images and typeface during several rounds.

4.  The fourth step was jacket copy.  Again Lake Union allowed me to approve, re-write and suggest material for the jacket copy.   We also decided on a title change because the publisher didn't feel that the original title conveyed the depth and reach of the novel.  "Three Daughters" is the new title.

5.  One day in September I heard from a man in Michigan who was going to direct the audio version of the novel. (Amazon has its audio book studios, Brilliance, in Michigan.)  The novel is set in Palestine and there are many foreign phrases and accents in the book.  This dedicated man had researched every non-English phrase and wanted me to confirm the pronunciation. The actress selected to read all 19 discs (23 hours of listening) was excellent.

6.  One evening two weeks ago, the UPS man left several big packages in my vestibule.   My son, who was visiting, opened one box and found copies of the first printing of "Three Daughters."  It was nice to have him there to show all the proper emotion because I'm a dud at showing proper emotion.  Besides the paper edition, there is a digital edition, MP3 edition and an audio book.

7.  After a conference call with the head of marketing and my author coordinator, I am awaiting the official publication day next Tuesday, November 25. 

Anticipation abounds.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hard hats, big boots and black boxes with needles.

If you ever want to get anyone's attention pronto (and we know how hard that is) tell them you suspect a gas leak. Not much else invites such an immediate and generous response. Even with a bleeding head wound you still have to give the emergency room nurse your date of birth, your social sec. #, the deed to your house.

Without any interrogation the gas co. operator said, "We'll have someone there within the hour." She didn't ask for a credit card number.  She said get out of the house, don't turn on any lights or electrical appliances, don't light any matches, open all the windows.

I don't know what the life of an "I smell gas" investigator is like.    I don't know in what state of excitement he finds the smeller. The term "blow up" might be on their minds.  I think my computer is going to blow up if I fill the box marked "agree" on any internet interrogation.  

I smelled the gas in the little cottage in back of my house as I was about to get on the train to leave for a four-day trip.  For those who know me through this blog, I hate to leave my house.  I will do almost anything to avoid going far from my domicile and you would think a gas leak was a perfect excuse to abort the trip. I had already locked the front door and the back door of my house and getting the keys out of the suitcase was difficult.  I walked away from my property, the gas, the gas smell, the brain disorder (mine) and continued to the train that happens to be at the end of my block.  With every step, the words "blow up" clippety-clopped right alongside. On the train I had a stern talk with myself. I said, this is a chance to compartmentalize events and put them in perspective.  You opened the windows and shut down the in-take lever. Go on your trip and forget about the gas leak.

When I returned, I made the call and the gas team arrived 47 minutes later. The men (there were two) were tall and rotund. They wore hard hats and big boots and held black boxes with needles. They said, "When we leave there will not be a shadow of a doubt that it is safe."  How often have you heard that only to have the thing blow up the minute the truck pulls away?

I have to interrupt this banal post for important breaking news. I took a peek at my news feed and see that a probe has landed on comet 67P in a space first.  I just nailed down info on comets this weekend reading The Magic School Bus to my granddaughter.  (I also learned that 1.3 million earths could fit inside the sun - a fact that somehow scared the heck out of me.  The sun, unlike the Jimmy Dean Sausage man, is not a small friendly warm thing.  It is a vast, vast sociopathic star that makes everything else revolve around it.) Scientists hope the lander, equipped with 10 instruments, will unlock the secrets of comets -- primordial clusters of ice and dust that may have helped sow life on Earth. It is disturbing to hear that dust, my constant nemesis, also presents in space. When I hear ice and dust, that sounds disgusting but if it is going to unlock secrets, I'm all for it.  I wouldn't have thought that comets would be part of the big bang theory but that's just another surprise in the never-ending surprise factory that is space.  When the lander started talking to the scientists they were so happy they were dancing around acting all teen-agey and high-fiving like crazy.  Good for you scientists - it must have been a huge relief to get that first message.

(btw, the gas smell was due to a faulty pilot light in the stove.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I don't like my pasta al dente.

Call me bourgeoise. Call me low class.  But don't call me for that bs that has been foisted on us for far too long:  pasta served al dente or as I like to call it al tough and tasteless.

The name should give you a clue:  to the tooth.  Since when do we cook for the tooth?   What about cooking it some more and calling it al lingua, to the tongue.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

How do you feel about money?

A successful friend sent me a link to a webinar on wealth and abundance and because I respect her judgment I participated.

I went in a skeptic yet found some sound and useful  ideas that  I will share with you.

1.  We each have a "set point" about money that determines how much our subconscious decides we ought to have and we unconsciously structure our money activity to accommodate that set point.

            a) Our set point, a vibration level that we use to calibrate how much wealth we should have is dictated by the sum of our hidden ideas, absorbed from mom and dad and any other influences in our childhood before we could differentiate between a sound idea and a bad one.  We loved mom and dad and depended on them for our safety and wanted to imitate them.   

2. It is these subconscious ideas and attitudes that define how we regard money, how easily we get it and how we use it.

            a) If mom thought you had to work hard to earn money then you probably work hard to earn money.

            b) If dad mismanaged money or lost it in the stock market, then you probably find a way to waste money or use it in ways that do not make it grow.

            c) If dad or mom had something against wealthy people - they were superficial or obnoxious or just plain bad then you are conflicted about wealth because wealthy people are bad. 
            d) If your parents thought that money was "the root of all evil" then it stands to reason you would not want a whole bunch of it.

Most of us don't know we have a subconscious roadmap for wealth.  We feel our money journey is just a product of bad luck, lack of opportunity, ignorance, poor education or the economy.

I know that I used to mirror my father's attitude about money.  Dad liked to hoard money - put it away somewhere and think about it.  It made him feel secure to have it but he didn't want to USE IT.  To him, money was something physical to stash somewhere.   He didn't see it as a tool to enhance his life and circumstances.  He lived nicely but not well. He swept his own shop instead of hiring someone to sweep it for him.  He stayed close to home and never learned to drive.  He traveled by bus.  (Guess who else likes to travel by bus and mows her own lawn?  Moi.) 

One of my father's younger brothers, my uncle Charlie, had the opposite wealth profile.  He was a bon vivant who, at one time, employed a butler.  I remember that butler because I lived with Charlie at the time.  Mr. Vitezy looked exactly like Albert Einstein.  His wife was the housekeeper and they lived in an apartment over the garage at Charlie's Bethesda, Md. house.  To Charlie, money was energy and freedom.  Both brothers were equally wealthy.  The other brothers in the family were divided between spenders and hoarders but no one came close to my father's extremes

Although we think it is hard to change our wealth set point, it probably isn't.   It is hard to discover what the hidden ideas are but once they are out in the open the opportunity to topple them is possible.  If you sit quietly and ask yourself what money means to you, you'll find some interesting answers.

Maybe you feel just right about your wealth status.  I'm almost satisfied with my wealth level but upon examination, I realize my dominant habits of spending, using and making money are directly attributable to my parents.  Just knowing that has resulted in some really big changes in my money habits recently.

Start out by asking yourself some very simple questions.
How do I feel about money?  
How did my father or mother feel?
Do I see money as a tool to be used or as a physical item to be put away and accumulated?
Do I see money as an enemy or a source of freedom?
Do I see wealth as something out of reach?

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.