Saturday, December 30, 2006

Mama Has A Brand New Blog

Lots of people have been requesting some recipes I've mentioned here over the months, so I created a new blog: The Need To Feed. It will contain recipes and some food talk. Let me know what recipes you'd like from what I've mentioned in this blog.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Year-End Reflections

What I've found and what I've lost this year.

Found Things:
  1. Blogging: Can I write? Yes. Am I funny? Occasionally. Am I the talented writer my parents think I am. Probably not, but I do always have opinions on things. At the very least, blogging has allowed me to express my opinions and frustrations without being castigated for them. A "thank-you" goes to The Family Blender for inspiration to write on a daily basis. Her voice is confident and funny. I'd like to be more like her when I grow up.
  2. Maturity: Wizard is growing up to be a fine young man. He took an etiquette and dancing class this fall, and he shined like a star. He had wonderful manners, great dance rhythm, and handsome grooming. He is brilliant, creative and funny. I am proud of him, and I should tell him so more often.
  3. Youth: Countering Wizard's maturity are Wild Thing's and Moose's boundless, youthful exuberance. WT often goes running through the house whooping and yelling like any normal boy. It often annoys me, but it's a joyous force to be reckoned with. Moose ran into my room this morning and flung himself into my arms for a hug. Not just a 2-second squeeze but a 5-minute cuddlefest that could have gone on and on. He won't put up with that forever, but how sweet it is now.
  4. Love: My husband is the best thing that ever happened to me. We are a great team in marriage and life. I respect him more than anyone, and I love him for his intelligence, his humor, and his strong moral code. My boys are my greatest achievement. They are wild and destructive, but they are fiercely loyal and loving. All my men are my knights in shining armor.
  5. Friendship: I am reminded what good friends I have.
  • When I had to rush to my father's side this year, WineGuy's nurse stepped right in and helped out with the boys. Her job is to work in the doctor's office, not for his wife or kids. I know that, and I am grateful for her kindness. She was fiercely protective of WineGuy when he returned to work after his illness; she still is, and she keeps tabs on him for me!
  • You read about my good friend, Calvin, who came and watched my boys without a second thought. She's always available for a morning bagel or a last-minute movie, and I love that about her.
  • I haven't spoken much about my BFF (best friend forever). I need to think of a good pseudonym for her. Our friendship is much like that of Barbara Hershey and Bette Midler in "Beaches". She is Barbara: brilliant, insightful, serene, even-tempered. I am Bette: loud, brash, outspoken, volatile. She is the "wind beneath my wings," yet she says the song reminds her of me. She keeps me grounded. She keeps me sane. She counsels me and raises me up. I do the same for her, and I always will. We met in law school 20 years ago.
  • Spy. He has been my friend for over 30 years. I met him in 7th grade Spanish class and had a crush on him for a couple of years. He knew it and wisely avoided it! We have remained steadfast friends over the decades. He is a man of great knowledge and few words. We share a love of travel, politics, and DC humor. Some day I'd like to compete on "The Amazing Race" with him. Between us, we've traveled most of the world, and we speak a few of its languages. We'd have a great adventure.
  • Twins. The longest friendship I can proudly claim goes back over 40 years. LM and LK and I met when we were 4. They lived across the street from me from Kindergarten through high school. They moved back to California when I went off to college, but they always stayed in touch. We may not speak often, but we keep abreast of each other's lives. It's amazing to witness the longevity of this friendship. When I'm old and gray, I'd like to retire to their neck of the world, Sonoma County.
Lost Things:
  1. Invincibility: WineGuy and I were mistaken to think that we would always be healthy and here for our children. His illness shook me to the core of my being. I had a vision of a world in which he no longer existed, and it was frightening. It was enough to spark him into changing his life. I need to find my own motivation now.
  2. TimO: The loss of my friend's husband was devastating. His death not only rent a whole in his family but represents a loss of innocence in my own.
  3. Youth: Wizard is growing up so fast. At age 10, he looks like he's 12 and speaks like he's 16. Most of the time, he strikes me as mature, particularly when compared to his cousin, NephewB, who is 7 months younger than he. But, see Found Things #2.
  4. Consistency: I am organized, yet I procrastinate. I want things done, yet I don't complete tasks in a timely fashion. These are the paradoxes of my life. Maybe I'm ready to confront them. Committing to blog daily in NaBloPoMo showed me the inner discipline I have and should use consistently. Committing to continue that process in Holidailies led me to burnout and disappointment in myself when I failed to do so. I like following the quotidian details of my blog-friends' lives. Maybe they like the same of me and are equally disappointed when I don't write regularly.
  5. Motivation: A few times in my life, I lost a significant amount of weight. Whether I did it myself or as part of some program, I was diligent for a while. I never kept any of that weight off for any length of time. The last success was a little over a year ago, spurred on by Connecticut Mom. I blew it when stressed out over Wizard's extended illness and school problems last year. I need to find that muse who says "eat right," and "exercise" and enjoy it all the same.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Holiday Gift and Shopping Meme

Since I actually had something to say yesterday, I moved the meme to Tuesday this week. It's all about holiday gifts received. As always, I tag any of my readers who are willing to reply.

What is the best present you received this year?
  • The best tangible present I received this year was the 50th anniversary edition of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift From The Sea. It was a touching and completely unexpected birthday gift from RadioMom. She started out as an Internet friend and became a dear, personal friend. The best holiday gift was the ring to match my birthday necklace. WineGuy decided, after all, that he liked the pendant but preferred it on a chain instead of a wire. I exchanged the wire today at the store and purchased the matching ring. The best intangible gift was mending the rift with my husband.
What is the worst present you received this year?
  • The worst presents received this year were actually for the kids. Several people gave Wild Thing "Marshmallow Shooters" for his birthday and Chanukah. WineGuy and I hate them and anything else that's gun-related. We donated them to the local holiday toy drive. The other lousy Chanukah present was the GeoSafari laptop given by one family, who shall remain nameless, for all three boys to share. It's too juvenile for Wizard and of no interest to either Wild Thing or Moose. They like it because it's like a computer and makes noise, so I can't really return it either. The gift-giver clearly put little effort into this gift, while I, OTOH, spent a lot of time, thought and money on their kids' gifts. Hmph.
Will you shop the after-Christmas sales?
  • Yes, I need to go to the mall to exchange pants for WineGuy, who's getting skinny! I also want to buy him a new briefcase, which he has requested. I hope to return an expensive Christmas gift he received. It came from an exclusive jewelry store whose prices are notoriously high. I'm going to end up with a store credit that I intend to use up then and there.
What is still on your wish list?
  • A smaller, healthier body! I don't really need anything.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Holiday Drivel

So much for Holidailies. I guess I ran out of steam in December. Today's installment is a bunch of this and that.

Department of Humor:
  • We were driving along the main road in our city, passing by a steakhouse. Wizard asked what the quality of the food was. Wild Thing chimed in "Is it better than Outhouse Steak House?" Bwahahaha, he meant "Outback Steak House"! How appropriate.
  • Yesterday, we spent the day on the East Coast of Florida visiting my parents and WineGuy's parents. As we drove through my in-laws' senior citizens community, we got "stuck in traffic" (you should pardon the expression). On the minimally-trafficked side road that leads to their condo, we got stuck behind a geezer on a tricycle, riding slower than a Galapagos tortoise down the middle of the road. He had oversized mirrors on each side of the bike and was wearing glasses. Somehow, he failed to see or hear my full-size minivan behind him. Once we stopped howling, I politely asked him to pull over so I could pass him. My MIL informed me he's a close friend of theirs. OMG.
Department of Health:
  • We visited my parents yesterday. My dad doesn't look so good. He's more decrepit than when we saw him in rehab in September. I don't think he's eating well enough or getting nearly enough exercise. However, he was sharp as a tack when discussing my new birthday necklace with me. [NB: WineGuy was baffled at the high-level jewelry talk. My parents had their own jewelry store for many years. My mother's father and great-uncle were in the business. When I ran my parents' stores, I was 4th-generation in the business.]
  • I finally sat down with WineGuy last night. We had a frank discussion about his health and the Thanksgiving drama. We straightened things out between us, and the world is right again. We talked about what happened, how he would have preferred I handle things. I laid out my fears, and we agreed to learn and move forward. BTW, he's feeling much better, and he looks great. He's trying very hard to lead a healthy lifestyle, and he wishes I would, too. One of these days....
Finally, I owe a debt of gratitude to my dear friend, Calvin. She is a fellow attorney with her own practice. Her boys are the almost the same ages as Wild Thing and Moose. I called her at the last minute on Friday night to see if she could go to the movies. Calvin jumped at the chance, and we went to see "The Holiday" with Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Jack Black. It was a real chick-flick, a romantic comedy, and just what we needed. The price of admission alone was worth it to look at Jude Law for 2 hours. Afterward, we went out for a late supper. We had a deep and meaningful conversation about forgiveness and understanding. We enjoyed a vicious little discussion about a nasty case she took on this week. It felt good to exercise those my legal muscles, but it felt better to talk personal things over with another intelligent woman who's married to a proud yet private man.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Cute Things They Say

Moose provided us with a little levity at dinner tonight. We were talking about our cats when he stood up from the table.

Me: Where are you going
Moose: To the litter box!
Me and everyone else: hahahahahahaha

We needed a little laughter around here. It reminded me of some other classic sayings that came out of my boys' mouths when they were younger.

From Wizard, age 2 and in diapers: When asked if he was stinky, he replied, "No, it's just grass, Mommy." WineGuy loves that one.

From Wild Thing, age 3: When asked how to do something, he replied, "It's very twicky. Very twicky!"

From Moose, age 3: When asked to say the word girl, he said, "Grliller." And squirrel was "skwliller." I still can't reproduce those words correctly.

Gotta love that babytalk, sometimes.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Here and Gone

Yesterday, my dear friend's husband, TimO, died. Eighteen months ago, he was diagnosed and successfully treated for melanoma and lymphoma. TimO received a clean bill of health and went back for a check-up this past summer. They did a CAT scan and found metastases to the liver and the brain. Not good, really not good. TimO worked as long as he could, but in the last couple of weeks he deteriorated rapidly: loss of cognition, voluntary movement, and bodily functions.

I called my friend, Sulialto, yesterday morning around 9:00 a.m. to say hello. She sounded tired but alright, accepting the fact that TimO was almost gone. She kept him at home, with wonderful help from family and friends. I offered to bring her dinner last night, and she gratefully accepted. At noon, another singer friend, Birdy, called to tell me that TimO died at 10:45 a.m. I could hardly process that TimO had been alive at 9:00 and gone just a few minutes later.
So sad.

The rest of the day found me in the kitchen, cooking and packing up food to take to Sulialto. Birdy told me, "She said she needed some good Jew food today." Jew food? Pretty funny. I didn't have Jew-food ingredients readily available, but I did make her a turkey meatloaf, homemade mashed potatoes and lemon bars. I brought a salad and some dressing, too.

I picked up the boys at school, dropped Wizard at Hebrew School, and drove back across town to deliver the food. Wild Thing and Moose were with me and helped me bring the things in. I told them to sit on the couch and wait for me. They sat like perfect gentlemen; no one realized they were there until I went looking for them. [puffed up and proud] "They" introduced themselves to Sulialto and her family. Sulialto's mother, MJ, was wonderful and showed the boys the Christmas tree. That tree absolutely enchanted them; they had never seen one up close before.

We fought rush hour traffic and arrived home to find WineGuy knee-deep in grated potatoes. He decided to make latkes for dinner ... without telling me of course. I cleaned up the mountain of dirty dishes and pots I'd left earlier. Then, I had to turn around and pick up Wizard from Hebrew School and make a stop for more oil for the latkes. Finally got back home and had dinner -- but I wouldn't eat the latkes. I turned in early last night.

I am struck by the evanescence of life. TimO was here one moment and gone the next. WineGuy was fine one day and nearly had a stroke the next. So, why doesn't he appreciate how fragile life is? Why does he have to be so bull-headed about what we all went through? I wish I knew.

Requiescat in pace, TimO. Sulialto, Flute Girl (her daughter), and MJ, may you all be comforted in your grief and commended in TimO's dignified death.

Funny Food Songs

I was perfectly content in my grumpiness today when I stumbled across a (part of) a blog that had me rolling on the floor laughing. Adam Roberts, author of the food blog, The Amateur Gourmet, has a whole playlist of funny food songs. These are popular and Broadway tunes for which he has written new food-related lyrics, like "Suddenly Salad" (tune of "Suddenly Seymour" from Little Shop of Horrors) and "Chick-EN" (tune of "Hey-Ya" by the OutKast). When you go to The Amateur Gourmet, click on Thursday Night Dinner Songs and have yourself a good laugh. What he lacks in pitch and vocal technique, he more than compensates for in creativity and humor!

In The Amateur Gourmet, Adam Roberts, writes about cooking, food finds, food trends, anything foodie, especially in and around New York City. He has written an article for and also creates this hybrid comic book-cum-food blog for another food blog, Serious Eats. Take a look at the most recent entry, "Good Take-Out Vietnam".

Monday, December 18, 2006

Weffriddles, Batch 1

I began Weffriddles, Batch 1, on December 13, 2006. I finished Batch 1 (level 30) today, December 18, 2006. This is a time-consuming, mind-boggling, excruciatingly challenging waste of time. And, I love it.

Monday's Meme 12/18/06

This week's meme says to reach for the nearest book, turn to page 123, find the fifth sentence and post the next three.
"And finally a new development puzzles me: that after so many years, and such great achievement by women, my book should continue to be read. Why should Gift from the Sea, after all we have undergone in these tumultuous twenty years, have any validity for a new generation of women. To look back on those years is a sobering experience. We have lived through the terms of four presidents and the assassination of one."
This passage is from the 50th Anniversary edition of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea. It actually appears in a new chapter called, "A Gift from the Sea Re-Opened". I discovered this book sometime after college, maybe even after I was married. Whenever it was, it affected me profoundly. Finally, I had found an author whose voice echoed my own.

As fate would have it, I now live a few distant miles from the beach that inspired and gave birth to this little book, Captiva Island. Captiva is a small, barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Fort Myers. The dear friend who gave me this prized edition lives in Fort Myers. Captiva, the island, is a metaphor for Lindbergh's life: exclusive, isolated, vulnerable to the fickleness of weather (Hurricane Charley). I wonder whether I see myself in there as well.

I tag any of my readers who wants to take a moment and share a snippet of their literary world. Thanks once more to Stunt Mother for a little inspiration.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Science Project - Day 2

(continued from yesterday)

Wizard claims to have completed all the written work. He will not allow me to proofread his logbook, so who knows what he's done or how well he's done it. He claims to have drafted all his sketches for his presentation board. I haven't seen them, and I know they're not ready for mounting because he hasn't printed anything on the computer.

He thinks he's finished with the project and can have his privileges back, but he's wrong. His teacher gave him until January 3 to complete the project. I told him his privileges were suspended until the project was turned in. I also told him he better damn well get it finished this week, before break starts. I don't want it hanging around over us for two weeks. He's trying to weasel computer-time, and he even lied to MIL about the work being done.

At this point, I'm angry, frustrated and hoarse. Wizard's trying to do his usual half-assed job. He's been fighting with me about everything -- from his dinner last night to the work he's done. I've been screaming with a voice that's already strained from too many concerts in the last two weeks.

I went to WineGuy's office party last night and didn't feel social at all. I even started the party with a very strong drink, which is totally unlike me. After the alcohol and a little food, I felt better. I went around and thanked everyone for being so kind when WineGuy got sick. I danced and sang too much, and now my throat is worse for the wear. Will I ever learn?

Wizard needs to finish this project and turn it in. I'm so sick of him, I can't stand to be in the same room with him. All he can say is "What did I do to you? Why are you so mad at me?" Because you are a lazy, self-centered, spoiled brat with the motivation of a three-toed sloth.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Science Project - Day 1

Wizard got off to a slow start this morning with his science project. True to form, he wanted to ditch his original idea in favor of something else. WineGuy and I agreed that he had to finish the project as originally planned. Wiz was not happy. I finally dragged him, whining and moaning into the den to work this morning. He did work, though.

We sat together for two hours and brainstormed about the project. I made him follow the outline and draft some answers. We did a little research online -- of course, he was more interested in Googling than going to a store and doing actual research.

(to be continued ... had to go to an office party tonight)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Dirty Tricks

Wizard is up to his old tricks again. The Moms will remember the problems we had with Wizard beginning exactly a year ago. For newbies to The Zone, here's a quick recap.

In December 2005, Wizard came down with a nasty virus that kept him home for a couple of weeks. He got sick right before his winter break, so many of his grades were incomplete until he returned to school in January 2006. Apparently, the antibiotics he took for the illness irritated his intestines and stomach. He suffered with intermittent bouts of vomiting and diarrhea for 2 months and lost a lot of weight. We took him to the pediatrician, had him endoscoped and colonoscoped. No one found anything wrong. Then we found that he had been sneaking food upstairs into his room and eating all sorts of crap. There were boxes and containers of you-don't-want-to-know stashed in every conceivable corner and receptacle in his room. In the midst of this larcenous stage, he also decided not to do his schoolwork. He lied to us about his work. He lied to his teachers about doing his work. We were getting calls and emails daily from his teachers asking for his assignments. We cracked down on him hard and got him caught up on his work. He finished the year with respectable grades but not the stellar grades of which he is capable.

Fast forward to this school year: he made all As and one B in his first report card. Dean's List and all. We were so proud of him, and he was so proud of himself. Some of his interim grades came home 2 weeks ago. Most of them were good, but he was missing an important Science assignment from the science camp he attended at the end of October 2006. The work had to be done while he was at camp and could not be made up. That grade was a bomb. Last week, there was a science fair for his grade. The kids were supposed to present an invention assigned -- wait for it -- 10 WEEKS AGO. He was supposed to have a model and a presentation board done. Did he have a model? No. Did he have a presentation board? No. Did he ever tell us about the project? No. Did he ever tell us about the science fair? No. I saw the announcements in his planner, but I thought they were for a voluntary science fair.

Two days ago, the science teacher called me, asking about the project. She starts describing the research he did with her at school. I had no idea what she was talking about, and I told her so. She starts describing Wizard's idea, again.

Teacher: Wizard and I did research on the Internet about the scented projection candle.
Me: What are you talking about?
T: Wizard's invention project that was due this week.
Me: What invention project?
T: The one we've been working for 10 weeks.
Me: I have absolutely no knowledge of this project. I never saw a written assignment, nothing.
T: He has a red folder in which he was recording his progress in researching, creating, and describing his invention.
Me: (getting sterner by the minute) I've never seen a red folder, and I don't know a thing about this project. Is that what the science fair was about?
T: Yes, he told me he didn't have a model b/c you wouldn't let him use candles. He said he almost burned the house down.
Me: No, he is not allowed to use candles. Yes, he almost burned the house down, but that was a year ago. He's lying to you, and he's definitely been lying to me. That's why he didn't tell me about the science fair.
T: This really hurts me. Wizard is the brightest student I've ever taught. He can do brilliant things. He would have been selected to compete in a regional science competition had he done his work. Right now, his grade is [below failing].
Me: How do you want to handle this? As far as I'm concerned, if he didn't do the work, then flunk him.
T: Is that what you want?
Me: I am too angry to know what I want right now. Let me talk to his father.
T: I will speak with the head of the Intermediate School and get back to you tomorrow.

I hung up the phone and felt my blood pressure skyrocket. I was standing in the school parking lot ready to murder the lying wretch, but I used my one rational brain cell. I called my MIL, a former teacher and a reasonable person. I explained the situation to her and put her on the phone with Wizard. I picked up Wild Thing and Moose from the playground and came back. Wizard was nearly crying but still on the phone with his grandmother. He handed me the phone, and MIL laid out her plan. It made sense and pretty much jived with what his teacher proposed the next day: submit the model before winter break and turn in the presentation board after break. WineGuy and I discussed it later. We agreed that Wizard has to do the work and turn it in. The teacher can grade it or penalize it however she wishes; she will not give him full credit, however. I put my foot down and told Wizard that he WILL turn in his model and presentation board to the teacher before winter break.

In the meantime, I suspended all of Wizard's privileges: no TV, no computer other than for research, no playtime with his brothers: lockdown. It is upsetting because Hanukkah starts tonight, and there are presents for them all. Wizard can open his, but he can't touch them or play with them until his project is completed.

One false move, Wizard, and you're toast.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Happy Birthday to me.
Happy Birthday to me.
Happy Birthday, dear me-ee.
Happy Birthday to me.
(Hopefully, I'll hear this in 8-part harmony and sung by 100 voices at my chorale concert tonight.)

Today I went shopping, first for WineGuy's nurse, then my hairdresser, and then for me. I got the better end of the deal. The nurse will get a cashmere sweater. The hairdresser will get a gift card to Saks. I got a Linda Lundstrom jacket and a fabulous new necklace! It's a cinnamon zircon (real gem, not zirconia) set in 18K rose gold and surrounded by diamonds, which are set in 18K yellow gold. The pendant hangs from a gold wire neck instead of a chain. When I see WineGuy later, I'll tell him what he bought me for my birthday.

Why doesn't WineGuy buy these things himself? Because I was raised in the jewelry business, and I have very specific taste. When we got engaged, he told my dad to let me choose what I wanted. I designed my own ring, and I always choose my own jewelry. However, I always run it by WineGuy so he has some say in the matter. I am a spoiled brat ... like my children.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Do you want something to drive you absolutely bonkers while you're online? Then head over to Weffriddles. It's described as a "puzzle challenge". It's much more than that. It's a numerary, literary, extraordinary waste of time, and it's addictive.


Don't miss it!

P.S. Don't blame me for this distraction. It's all Stunt Mother's fault.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pablo Neruda

In my own stream of consciousness, I surfed from As The Tumor Turns to one of her favorite blogs, The Cheerful Oncologist. CO posts a poem every Sunday night, and this week's entry was from Pablo Neruda, one of my favorite Latin American writers. It is fitting to honor Neruda today, on the death of Augusto Pinochet. Neruda died of heart failure in his beloved Chile, mere days after Pinochet overthrew the government of Neruda's ally, Salvador Allende.

Reading Neruda in translation -- like García Marquez and Borges -- is like eating diet vanilla ice milk when you know there's French Vanilla Haagen Dazs around somewhere. How I do know? I've read and experienced all these in their original language. I ran to my bookshelf and found my favorite volume of Neruda poetry, Crepusculario (Poemas 1920-1923). "Crepusculario" means "dawning". It was Neruda's first book of poetry. Symbolist in nature, this early work was part of the Hispanic modernismo (modernism) movement, which
was a rejection of the materialist world of the day. Modernist poetry was equivalent to today's fantasy genre in fiction, wherein authors create exotic and distant worlds ... escapist writing. Comparatively, Modernism was a short-lived movement in Hispanic writing. The ugly realities of World War I and Latin America's defiance of colonialism gave rise to new generations of writers compelled to comment on the social, political and economic turbulence they witnessed. Neruda's subsequent writings reflected the burgeoning 20th century: erotic love poems, surrealist poems, historical epics, and political manifestos.

To whet your appetite and to challenge my brain, I present you wth Neruda's "Sensación de dolor" in its original text and my own translation. The poem speaks of how something as fleeting as a scent can evoke memories both painful and wonderful. Apologies to Ricardo, may he rest in peace.

Sensación de dolor

de lilas ...

Claros atardeceres de mi lejana infancia
que fluyó como el cauce de unas aguas tranquilas.

Y después un pañuelo temblando en la distancia.
Bajo el cielo de seda la estrella que titila.

Nada mas. Pies cansados en las largas errancias
y un dolor, un dolor que remuerde y se afila.

... Y a lo lejos campanas, canciones, penas, ansias,
vírgenes que tenían tan dulces las pupilas.

de lilas ...

"Feeling Pain"

The fragrance of lilacs ...

Limpid afternoons of my distant childhood
that flowed like a stream of tranquil water.

And later a handkerchief trembling in the distance.
A star titillated under a silken sky.

No more. Feet, tired from endless wanderings
and pain, the biting pain of extraordinary effort.

... And in the distance bells, songs, grief, anguish,
virgins with such sweet eyes.

The fragrance of lilacs.

For my grandmother, Frieda (z"l), who was the scent of lilacs and roses.
She brought me the gift of another tongue.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Monday's Meme 12/11/06

For some reason I find my authorial wellspring dry most Mondays. A meme is one way to get my juices going again. Here are this week's questions:

What is the "turning point" in your life?
People have more than one turning point in their lives. My first turning point was the loss of my first love. He really broke my heart and broke my spirit. It took me months to overcome the depression I felt at that rejection. The next turning point came when my brothers accused me of being "just like my mother". At the time, that wasn't something admirable, and I knew it. So I worked on myself, trying to grow into a positive likeable person. Another turning point was when WineGuy brought love into my life. The whole world opened up, and my life changed direction again, for the better. I've been through another turning point recently with WineGuy's illness. My life and my health are finite, and I need to pay better attention to them.

Is there a promise that you keep making to yourself? If so, what is it?
Yes, I keep promising myself that I'm going to lose a lot of weight. I need to. I've gained and lost many pounds over the years but have never successfully maintained a significant weight loss. If I don't get my health in order now, I will face most of the health crises that have affected my father in the last 20 years: high blood pressure, vascular disease, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis.

Is there a time in your life that you've been given a second chance?
Yes, although the subject is not one I can or will discuss publicly. I am grateful for being shown a better way to live my life.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pets' Names and The Zone Animals

How did your pet get his name?

I'm pretty clever when it comes to naming pets; I always have been. Years ago,
a friend had a really clumsy female kitten. I named her "Gelsey" after the ballerina, Gelsey Kirkland. Another time, I gave a kitten to my BFF. He was a pretty stupid cat, so we called him "Einstein". A Chorale friend bought a pure-bred Vizsla puppy a couple of years ago. It's a Hungarian breed, so she wanted a Slavic sounding name. I named him Tobias, called Toby for short. She's bringing home a female Vizsla later this month and again asked for help with a name; same requirements, plus it had to go with Toby. The new puppy will be Natasha, Tasha for short.

We have two seal-point Siamese cats here at The Zone. I wanted names that reflected something of the breed's Thai origins, so I went flipping through pictures of our trip to Bangkok 11 years ago. Inspiration! One cat has a very loud purr, which reminded me of the loud, sputtering motors of the little taxis known as tuk-tuks. That cat is Tuk-Tuk. The other kitten, a littermate and brother, would hide under the bed and observe everything. He was pretty aloof towards me, so I named him Buddha.

This is Tuk-Tuk.
He is leaner than is brother but is far more vocal. He's a real "meezer". He responds when you talk to him. He gives head-butts when he wants your attention. He'll stand on the newspaper when I try to read it. He'd sleep on my belly, if I allowed him. He follows me around like a dog. I call him "my dog."

This is Buddha. Bored is what he does best.Buddha is the alpha male. He is usually the one to initiate fights with his brother. I often find Buddha sitting on Tuk-Tuk, biting him. He reminds me of Bucky Katt from the "Get Fuzzy" comic strip. Buddha is Wizard's "dog". That cat doesn't give a lizard's posterior about anyone else in this house. If Wizard is around, the cat is with him: on his bed, on his laundry, on his lap, on his head for all I know. When Wizard heads for the stairs at bedtime, the cat races ahead of him and goes up in a flash. Buddha always sleeps in Wizard's room. Rarely, if Wizard is out of the house, Buddha will come looking for me. Many times, however, he'll sit on the wall at the top of the stairs and yowl for Wizard. I trained the cats like dogs, to come when I whistle for them. Buddha always runs right to me; Tuk-Tuk shows up at his leisure.

The cats know they're not allowed in the master bedroom at night. Last night, Tuk-Tuk meowed and pawed at the door for a few minutes. He finally left when we wouldn't let him in. Undeterred, he was back at 5:00 a.m. He threw himself against our bedroom door -- he and Buddha broke it once -- and yowled to get my attention. That bad cat woke me out of a sound sleep. I didn't go to bed until nearly 1:00 a.m., so I was bleary-eyed. I opened the door to walk out, and he ran in, purring LOUDLY. I dragged him off the bed and went to sit in the La-Z-Mom chair. Tuk-Tuk stood on my thighs, my belly, and my arm until he finally found a comfortable position and went to sleep. I fell asleep until about 7:00 a.m. when I went back to my own bed.

WineGuy was very nearly opposed to our getting these cats. His family never had pets growing up. None of his family likes animals too much. My family, OTOH, always had a dog or two. I believe children should have a pet. An animal teaches them to care about something other than themselves. Caring for the animal teaches them responsibility for another living thing. But, the greatest gift of all is animal's unconditional devotion to the child. It's wonderful for the child's self-esteem and stability.

An enduring image in my mind's eye: when we moved to Florida, we dropped Wizard and Wild Thing off at their grandparents' house for a couple of days. It was an arduous trip and Wizard fell asleep almost immediately that night. I have a picture of him fast asleep with our old cat, Cosby (a black Siamese-mix), curled up in a tight ball by his side. Utter devotion.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

'Tis The Season

While the rest of you are busy preparing for Christmas, I am busy preparing to sing in Christmas concerts. Many Christmas concerts. Kind of ironic for a nice Jewish girl to be singing lots of Jesus music, but 'tis the season.

I am a member of the chorale and chamber choir of the local performing arts center. This is our busiest time of the year. Take a look at my schedule for this past week and next week:

Tuesday: Rehearsal (3 hours)
Friday: Dress rehearsal, winter concert (3 hours)
Saturday: Performance, winter concert
Sunday: Off, but Wild Thing has his school choir concert this night
Monday: Dress rehearsal, holiday pops concert
Tuesday: Performance, holiday pops
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: Performance, holiday pops; my birthday
Friday: Performance, holiday pops
Saturday: Matinee performance, holiday pops;
not singing evening concert b/c it's WineGuy's office party
Sunday: Performance, holiday concert

I'll be exhausted after that last concert. I'm already feeling run down again, and my throat is tired and raw.

I don't want to hear another jingle, ring, or ding-dong! Where's my dreidel?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Linda Eder

WineGuy and I went to see Linda Eder perform last night. I had seen her perform earlier this year with Michael Feinstein. She was phenomenal that night, and he was fair, although his musicalolgical knowledge of Gerswhiniana is unequalled.

Tonight, however, Eder's performance was quite lacklluster. It felt like she just "phoned it in" from her home. She clearly stated, repeatedly, how much she missed her kid, especially during the holiday season. Her diction was sloppy. Her pitch was quite often flat, and on those atmospherically high notes, that's painful. Her repetoire was boring, filled with blowsy, overdone arrangements of particularly crappy Christmas tunes. Yawn.

We had seats in the third balcony, so we could really see her well. Too well. She came out in some brown jersey beaded gown that either required a seriously fit body or a serious foundation garment. She had neither. She had a thong. I could see the panty lines from my seat. I could see her thighs wiggle and jiggle with every step. It was distracting. It was awful. It was funny! Every time she turned a certain way, I started to giggle. WineGuy kept shooting me nasty looks until I discreetly explained the problem. We couldn't stand it anymore, so we switched seats at intermission. Thankfully, Miss Eder changed her gown, too. We were far enough back in the loge that all we could appreciate was her black gown and her too-white leg through the thigh-high slit.

She finished her performance and gave an obligatory encore. It was a nauseating, over-produced rendition of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" Three bars into the song, we left. We'd had enough.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Food Is Love

When I was in Maine, the San Diego Mom observed that cooking is one way I show love to my family. She is wise. I was reminded of that fact this afternoon.

The boys were snooping through the pantry, trying to discover today's grocery booty. Wild Thing stumbled upon the Pinwheels® cookies I bought specially for him. He and Wizard whooped and hollered and jumped all around the kitchen when they found those cookies. I loved seeing them so happy over cookies! It is no secret that WT loves marshmallows and chocolate; last week's epicurean revelation was Mallomars. He did a comparison study today and decided he likes Pinwheels® better. They remind him of his favorite chocolates from Purity Candy, in Lewisburg, Pa. (where he was born).

After the Pinwheel epiphany, they asked what was for dinner. I replied, "green stuff filled with brown stuff." Dead silence ... (wait for it) ... "STUFFED PEPPERS!!" My boys love my green peppers stuffed with ground lamb, veal and brown rice. Wizard desperately wanted to help me cook, so I said, "Sure. I'm glad for the help." Wizard washed and cleaned all the peppers, making very sure he kept the tops with their bottoms. Then, he helped me fill the peppers with the meat and rice mixture. He was full of questions: "Is the meat cooked? Why does it smell so good? What seasonings did you use? What's the cheese for ? What are the eggs for?" We stood together filling peppers and talking about how we make the dish. Moose showed up after a bit and wanted to help, too. Wizard's natural response is "forget it," but I found something for Moose to do. He poured beef broth in the bottom of the baking pan. Then I lifted the top of each pepper, and he poured a little broth in each. [He actually read the words "beef broth" on the container; he's so smart.] It was comforting to make comfort food with my kids.

Of course, when it came time to clean up the cooking mess, the three boys evaporated into thin air. All I saw was the trail of smoke in their wake as they ran out the door. In their defense, I did throw them out of the house to take out the trash and go play before dinner.

I am the quintessential Jewish mother who is sustained by feeding her family. Scary to think a woman so allegedly modern is quite old school.

Food is love, but is love food?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tale of the Swale – The End

As fate would have it, The Hillbillies wanted to move in around Thanksgiving. The scare with WineGuy really put things in perspective for me, so I decided to just settle with the neighbors. Most people told me to stand my ground and make them pay for their error, but Rambling Mom gave the most sage advice. She reminded me that we were going to be neighbors for a long time, and that I should find a way to compromise and be done with the mess. She was right.

When I got back from the ER, I drove up to The Hillbillies and worked everything out. They filled the swale and graded it properly. They're moving and fixing the sprinkler heads. They're putting new sod down. And, we'll see how everything works when the rainy season returns next summer. The 'Billies will put in extra drains or pipes if needed.

In the meantime, I got a tour of their house ... ugly, totally overdone, badly laid out, esp. for having triplets. But, they were kind enough to give me a tour. They had assumed that I, like every other nosy neighbor on the block, had walked through the house. Nope, not me. I told Mr. 'Billie, "It's not my house, and I wouldn't go in unless invited." That's when he gave me the tour.

The 'Billies seem to be nice people. Mrs. 'Billie is pregnant with fertility triplets. They have a 4 y/o boy, whom we have not met. Moose would love to meet him and have carte blanche to the Country Jamboree playhouse. Hillbilly contractors certainly have been reasonable to deal with, too, which is surprising. Maybe I need to be more trusting, like my dad, instead of always suspicious, like my mom.

One good note: they painted the exterior of the playhouse dark brown. It is far less offensive now than that horrible blue. I'll post a photo later.

Maybe it's the spirit of the season ... maybe it's the reality check WineGuy and I just had ... but I'll live longer if I am nicer.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


It's better than that drug with the moth. It's better than Ambien. It's better than Sominex or any other OTC sleep aid.

It's my husband's recliner chair.
[Here's a photo of a similar chair, but that's not me.]

Every time I sit down in that thing, I doze off. Comatose, absolutely snoring. It happened again this morning. I came home from driving the kids to school and sat down to read the paper. The phone rang. I sat up with a snort, and 40 minutes had passed. I was so out of it that I don't fully remember the conversation I had with WineGuy.

Those La-Z-Boy people have got it all wrong. They could sell tons of furniture to women if they'd re-market their recliners as La-Z-Mom. Well, what would you call it?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Monday's Meme 12/4/06

Yesterday's post was crap. I intended to write more about the music, but I was interrupted, and I never got back to the computer. Garbled crap.

I find myself with no topic to speak of today, so I went trolling for a meme. Here's what interested me today:

Random Joy

1. What was the best thing that happened to you last week? The best thing that happened last week was the dinner out with my friend and the concert we attended.

2. At what age does one become a cougar/dirty old man? I have no idea what a "cougar" is. A man becomes a DOM at age 65.

3. What would be your "American Idol" audition song? Oooh, tough question. I'm thinking Bonnie Raitt's "Nick of Time", or Norah Jones's "Don't Know Why", or maybe Bette Midler's "Do You Wanna Dance?" If it had to be a Broadway tune, "Turn Back, O Man" from Godspell.

4. Who is the last person on Earth you would expect a phone call from? My former best friend from college, Audrey. We were closer than sisters, and I walked in her wedding. She had a child and went off the post-partum deep end. She pulled through it and got back in touch, and then she never called me again. It made me sad to lose this friendship.

5. If you were guaranteed a truthful answer to any question from anyone on earth, who and what would you ask? I would ask my husband if he still loves me.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

More Therapy

It appears that WineGuy's therapy is watching ACC basketball with his sons. The reality is that I chewed him out yesterday for wanting to go on some all day adventure completely contradicted by doctors' orders. So, he's sat on his behind watching TV all weekend. I suppose he's entitled. At the moment, all my men are planted like palms in front of the plasma television. Fine. Leaves me some solitude to post earlier than 11:00 p.m.

Last night's concert was fantastic. My friend and I had seats in the second row, right in front of the cellos and basses. The orchestra played two Slavonic Dances by Dvorak. Yawn ... they took less than five minutes; the compositions were unremarkable. Then came this phenomenal piece by Philip Glass: Concerto Fantasy for Timpani and Orchestra. From my vantage point I could see our resident timpanist playing his heart and soul out in this thoroughly modern piece. When I perform with the chorale, I'm usually standing behind the timpanist, often singing and unable to really watch him. It was an intense and moving to witness the orchestra playing such modern, complex music to accompany one of their own. I was captivated. When the piece ended, I jumped to my feet to join the standing ovation. The second half of the concert was Schubert's "Great" Symphony in C Major. It was beautiful and skillfully performed but something of a letdown after that timpani piece.

The timpani piece drew me in and held my attention rapt for its full 35 minutes' duration. I really needed something to consume me and spit me out, spent, after the week I've had. Pretty good therapy for a free ticket to the philharmonic.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

My Musical Brain

I am one of those loons with a musical memory. Given any situation, or just about any phrase, I can reliably dredge up a few words from an applicable popular song. Given all the homework I had to supervise and all the housework I did this weekend, I've had that 80s song "Workin' For The Weekend" in my brain.

Music is an essential part of my life. I have sung in community chorales and chamber choirs for many years. Those weekly rehearsals are my therapy: time for the mommy-mind to disengage and focus on notes and meter and diction and dynamics. Listening to music is cathartic for me: songs bring out all kinds of feelings and reminders of where I was in my life when a particular song was popular.

One of the wonderful benefits of singing with my current chorale is that, from time to time, we are offered free tickets to concerts presented in our city's 1400-seat theater. I got 2 free tickets to see such a concert this evening. It will feature works of Schubert and Philip Glass. The concert got a great review in today's newspaper. I can hardly wait to hear Glass's piece for 14 timpani (kettle drums)! WineGuy decided earlier in the week that he did not want to go, so I asked a friend, Wild Thing's first grade teacher, to come along. We're meeting first for dinner, and then we're going on to the concert.

I'm looking forward to filling my addled brain with some high-octane musical fuel tonight. I think WineGuy now regrets his decision. So sad, too bad. It's a Saturday girls' night out!

Saturday songs: "S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night," by the Bay City Rollers; "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting," by Elton John.

What's your therapy?

Friday, December 01, 2006


Today I've been thinking about what direction my life is taking. The image of "driver or passenger" kept running through my mind. As in, am I in control of my life or am I being driven along where life takes me? I am clearly at a crossroads, and I don't know how to proceed.

My husband was extremely ill last week, yet he continually denies me the right to share my concerns with anyone other than him. He yelled at me again this evening that I completely destroyed his privacy by talking to people (his office, his family, my family) about his being hospitalized with something other than pneumonia.

He claims he can no longer tell me anything because I blabbed his personal business to everyone. Yes, I did. I called his nurse to ask for her help in knowing what was happening with him in the ER. The nurse notified his partners, and they scaled back his schedule. He screamed about that. I blabbed to his family, telling them we couldn't join them for Thanksgiving as planned because he was in the hospital. Now, they're inquiring about his health and blood pressure, and he feels violated. I blabbed to my family because they're my family, and I know they'd do anything they could to help me. He told me he'd call from the ER. I was supposed to go home and wait by the phone for my husband to call me and tell me what to do. What if, G-d forbid, the worst happened? I would still be sitting by the phone waiting for a call that would never come. I did what I thought was right, and now he's punishing me for it.

Am I supposed to be the mindless, brainless, automaton, Stepford Wife that he can control? Or, am I supposed to trust my gut feelings and do what I think is right? My guts have never steered me wrong, but they might just break my heart. He thinks he's lost control of his schedule because I asked his partners for help. How would his schedule have been affected if he was hospitalized for a massive, debilitating heart attack, instead of pneumonia and other problems? Why is he blaming me for his failure to take care of himself?

The soundtrack in my head is playing an obscure little song by Mary Chapin Carpenter:

"The Bug"

Well it's a strange old game you learn it slow
One step forward and it's back you go
You're standing on the throttle
You're standing on the brake
In the groove 'til you make a mistake.

Sometimes you're the windshield
Sometimes you're the bug
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you're a fool in love
Sometimes you're the Louisville Slugger
Sometimes you're the ball
Sometimes it all comes together
Sometimes you're gonna lose it all

You gotta know happy – you gotta know glad
Because you're gonna know lonely
And you're gonna know sad
When you're rippin' and you're ridin'
And you're comin' on strong
You start slippin' and slidin'
And it all goes wrong because


One day you got the glory and then you got none
One day you're a diamond and then you're a stone
Everything can change in the blink of an eye
so let the good times roll before we say goodbye because

Sometimes you're the windshield
Sometimes you're the bug
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you're a fool in love
Sometimes you're the Louisville Slugger
Sometimes you're the ball
Sometimes it all comes together
Sometimes you're gonna lose it all

These days I feel like the bug, the ball, and that I'm losing it all.