Sunday, February 28, 2010

Acid Flashback Flashforward

The final day of February! My abbreviated birthday month. Valentines and cupids begone. Days closer to chartreuse feathers of new leaves budding fancifully on now bare branches. Bring it on! Snow melt and longer days. The annual verdant transition between winter's harsh bleakness and the lemony brilliance of summer. Solitude giving forth to merrymaking. Grey to kaleidoscope vibrancy. Insects awaken from wintersleep. March begins anew tomorrow. Time to get my ass back into gear as April edges into view. Make plans. Real ones. Forge ahead. A promise to me. Not be broken.

Wishful thinking spawns dewy-edged memories alive with promise. Hmmm. Cannot shake the images. All day. While walking through the village on this still cold, but sun-filled afternoon skirting snow drifts dotting the stick-strewn sidewalk, my underactive Sunday-relaxed mind whirs backward. Whoosh. In a snap I am back to the cusp. My cusp. The singular moment on the curve of my arc pushes headstrong through the cobwebs, emerging unscathed. Those heady days in the spring of my life rich in meaning, pregnant with hope. Silky memories. My budding womanhood glides easily across the decades.

Freshman spring. A pastel day. Reclining on newly mowed lawn in the courtyard outside Dow Hall, crossed arms support my head, chestnut hair fanned like a mantilla. Eyes closed. Frye boot, 501 fly-buttoned jean clad sweet baby James inches away. Strains from his acoustic guitar float through the warm air with ten miles behind him and ten thousand more to go. A song that he sings when he takes to the highway. A song that he sings when he takes to the sea. A song that is sung as pastures change with the seasons. Deep greens and blues. Wanderlust defined. Well for me anyway.

In that serene afternoon across the years amid budding tulips, zaps of high intensity colors silhouette my hands gracefully appearing larger than life. Twining delicate like a gorilla ballerina. I bottled that moment. Cucumber fingers, too. Delicious moments I visit often carrying me back to my innocence, my virginity and my life unfolding. The essence of spring. My spring. Magical. Anything possible. Everything possible. Tornadoes and demons off stage in the nonthreatening distant horizon. Not yet looming. James Taylor does that to me. Transports me effortlessly back to that day ... and forward to my travels yet to be. Hopeful. Unencumbered.

1970. Vietnam ripping our country apart. Polarization. Hard hats clubbing hippies at the ground zero construction site of the rising World Trade Towers. Foreboding. Those frenetic days following the harrowing events at Kent State. Red and Blue states start your engines. Jockey for position. Moms and Dads confused. Effete intellectual snobs we college students. Thank you, Mr. Veep for triggering the dumbing of America. Our schizoid Prez drips perspiration paranoid and corrupt. Bridge over Trouble Waters the Grammy song of the year. Kids gone wild? The taste of electric kool-aid dripping down our chins. Hardly. Flag-draped coffins. Our nascent Woodstock Nation devolving with the death of our innocence. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin. Jim Morrison. Violent storms ripped at the seams of our naiveté.

What the hell happened? We floated into the new decade long hair flowing in the breeze. Sixties flowers powering our ascent to quasi-adult beings. Peace symbols and flashes of fingers in Vs. Op art. Pop art. Soup cans larger than life. Effervescent. Restraints tossed casually into the air. Blowin' in the wind at our backs. Propelling us into lives filled with promise, intellect and most of all ... compassion.

It is still before me. On my radar screen. The dreams. My dreams. The roll-up-my-shirtsleeves, get-the-dirt-under-my-fingernails desire to offer my skills honed over a lifetime of privilege to an emerging economy.

Tomorrow. Monday. I continue my plan. Stay the course. Breakout the books. Prepare my CELTA application. Certificate in English Language Training for Adults. Vietnam. Hanoi. Near Diem Bien Phu. Contribute meaningfully. Teach English. Familiarize myself with this gentle culture, its ancient customs. Migrate into the business landscape. Microfinance. Reclaim from the once again leafy jungles those days of innocence where anything is possible ... and there is much to discover. To explore.

Cheers ... to renewed dreams and fearlessly imagining the possibilities!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

B and J: Textured

I don't even want to go there. A crone? Bah humbug. Marginalized. Cast to the side. Barren, unfruitful, disagreeable. A hag, no less. Well! I know better than most. That my mothering days are drawing to their rightful conclusion. A mama, yes. Just not needing to fuss. To nurture. Not nature. To love unconditionally as I puff his wings and give them loft.

But a dried up ol' prune? I am indignant. What happened to 'the new 40s'? That I was getting into. Really looking forward to ... reliving my forties with wisdom and a sense of adventure. Maybe that's it. The wisdom part. Not the disgruntled, wizened part. That's what I will glom onto. To raise my glass in good cheer ... a protective figure advising the young travelers of what lies ahead. A woman of the mist. Leading the way to good fortune. Wisdom. Yes! I'll buy that.

Even Tarot concurs. The High Priestess. My reading this morning.

[I know. I know. Throw the mystical deck far, far away! Seize the moment. Not the card. But somehow I cannot. I love the intrigue. Fitting the interpretation into this journey. Day by day. So shoot me. Or ignore me. Just know that I am gonna keep up with the occult. You just never know! And today's? Well it is a dead-balls accurate assessment of moi. And these, after all, are my musings.]

Anyhoo, it goes something like this: Feminine wisdom encompassing three stages of the life cycle - Maiden, Mother, Crone. Wisdom that considers all things, all religions, all viewpoints. Openness to the world view without judgment. Divine truth. The letters B and J represent two columns, one black (Boaz), one white (Jachin), in the Temple of Solomon, the wisest man of his time. Nothing is completely black or white. All things must be considered equally. A strong and wise female presence. Trust in intuition or gut feelings.

And ... I am not only trusting of my gut, my innermost analysis, but am a study in contrasts. A walking paradox. An oxymoron. Yin and yang. You know that about me. No need to elaborate. Been set forth multiple times since this wild ride began with the new year.
The I-Ching. Yin-yang. Composed of two Chinese characters. The second character means a book, a profound book. The first character means ease or change. "The Book of Ease" or "The Book of Changes". Nothing is easy for me except change. I relish it. Seek it out. Celebrate it. Life in chapters encompassing both sides of the coin at different times. Navigating the peaks and valleys with relative facility. I am happiest and most at peace in flux.

Rich coffers. Empty wallet. Highest honors. Underemployment. Masculine. Feminine. Unchanging rules within the cycles of the sun, the seasons. One cannot live without the other. One cannot experience the joys of life without knowing the depths of misery. Hand in glove. Seamless understanding. Shades of grey. Black as night. White as the brilliant stars shining.

Cheers ... to the dichotomies within each of us!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Bailey, I Have a Feeling We're Not in Maine Anymore

Wow. The winds shook my antique home in the village last night and it was scary. Very. Not since I moved back east from the edge of the prairie where tornadoes dropped out of the sky routinely have I been as frightened. Winds whipped through the aging walnut, pine and spruce trees planted precariously close to the house over a century ago. Branches and limbs groaned from the weight of the wind tearing at its joints. Cracking. Splintering. My heart beating as loud inside my head. Noisy.

A power surge popped through my television just as Kim Yu-Na from South Korea in her own power struggle with the favored skater from arch-rival Japan landed her triple lutz combo perfectly, eerily dimming the nightlight in the hall bathroom. Then *poof* ... a flash more brilliant than its four watts. Fade to black. Utter darkness. The only sound, a buzz from the streetlights outside zapped black.

A nano-instant later a circular rainbow magically appeared dead center in the fifteen inch screen of my analog TV. Crackle crackle. Not dead after all. No brand new ultra modern flat screen courtesy of Allstate in my future. Damn. And voilà. There she was floating gracefully across the white ice toward the kiss-and-cry area for her scores. The lovely soon-to-be Olympic gold medalist in blue satin and silvery sparkles smiling humbly and waving as the crowd cheered on their feet and petals dropped from the stands like the pine boughs now littering my backyard.

Sirens blared. Too close for comfort. My heart pounded. Memories of swirling black funnel clouds ripping utility wires and cutting a several mile path of destruction. 200 year old trees in Cherokee Park torn from their roots like a razor blade shaving a beard. Cars and houses tossed like beanbags into the bruised sky. Louisville April 3, 1974. Mom and Jason (of the golden fleece ... yet another Labrador Retriever in a long line of adored family pets) hunched in the front seat of the Gran Torino parked hastily under the portico of the fancy, new Glenview East as far under the dashboard as humanly (and canine-ly) possible. Mimi still eating fried chicken from the Colonel in her coat closet on the 12th floor. Me squeezed tightly between maids who had poured out of condos for the bus back to the West End belting out a rousing rendition of 'Sweet Low, Sweet Chariot' as we crouched by the elevators and the freight train whirled overhead. Awaiting their maker. Maker's Mark on the rocks for me.

Segué to flashes of countless violent twister-producing storms two decades later randomly taunting our Oklahoma days. Springs spewing purple-black funnel clouds across the treeless horizon, anvil-shaped with swirling tails dropping to the barren earth from February through summer. Humid heat from the Gulf of Mexico colliding dangerously with frigid arctic air masses sweeping down from Canada. Right over our heads. Tornado alley. Tornado Allie, I met my demons head on. Mother Nature's menacing rage forcing Charlie and me to tuck clumsily into the laundry room of a cellar-less house on the plains. Auntie Em screeching to get inside. The Dorothy in me racing against time to make it to safety. Cocooned in Charlie's bike helmet and my down ski parka, he in his football gear wrapped in the white duvet from my bed we hovered in the teensy space next to the garage too many times. Toby (that's short for Toblerone my favorite candy bar) our alpha-male chocolate Lab shaking like a sissy underfoot. Where's the fraidy hole when you need it? Good god.

With whistling dervishes and dust devils spinning my thumping heart into a frenzy last night, I ran barefoot down my winding staircase crafted lovingly by out of work ship carpenters in the mid-1800s when tall ships sprang up like mushrooms along the Kennebunk River winding to the sea just west of the village. Grabbed my car keys on the sea glass and beads fringe, my shiny yellow slicker from millions of years ago, one of those flashlights that use one gigantic battery and my LV purse and placed them on the floor by the front door ... just in case.

Quickly checked the two sump pumps working overtime in my very damp basement as rivulets bubbled up from cracks in the granite foundation and cement floor. Definitely rivaling the white water scene in River Runs Through It as waters from the Mousam River a block away overflowed their banks and seeped through the neighborhood creating a pond behind my house.

What a mess. Me robeless in my long white nightgown hiked up to my knees, knotted at the waist, my LL Bean rubber duck shoes squishing noisily, my hair in a scrunchy, my flashlight at the ready. And Bailey was loving it. Racing around the backyard as February lightening flashed and boughs of pine fell into the pooling water. Barking at the Mallard family making themselves at home. She was in heaven. Wouldn't come in. My timid rescue dog bedazzled by the thrill. Yelling at the top of my voice above the din scaring myself but not her. Slicker be damned (it was in the front foyer) I raced down the back steps, grabbed her collar and yanked her up the porch steps into the house dripping wet. Both of us. Of course she wanted a treat. She got none.

Upstairs my century old windows rattled in their crumbling casements. The walls shook for hours. My bed, too. Oz at my door. 60 MPH gusts pounding us from the ocean currents five miles away. Petrified I popped two Tylenol PMs then another for good measure and pulled the covers over my head. I would either get smacked in the head by a falling walnut tree crashing through the roof and awaken in The Emerald City. Or not. Butterflies churned in my tummy next to a pit the size of Kansas born from unsettled plans and dwindling coffers. Where are those poppies anyway?

I awoke to a gorgeous almost-spring morning awash in sunlight. Mother Nature's fury dissolved. My muscles relaxed. Only a few fallen branches, a receding waterline in my back yard still boasting ducks swimming and splashing ... and a sopping wet basement. Not too bad. No vortex sucked the life out of me while I slumbered fitfully. My demons at bay. Safe. For now.

Cheers to those of you still with me. Or, tomorrow for those still without electricity. M&Ms all around!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Miss Bailey: Needles, Schmeedles ... Just give me a treat!

I am so excited this morning. First Momma added this nummy gooey egg to my BREAKFAST then tossed one of the big red beef bones for my dessert. What is going on? This is the bestest start to a wet wet wet drippy day. Extra taste treats in my shiny dish. Mmmmm. Nums. What could be better?

Yep. It is nasty outside. But I love it. More things to sniff while I tink. But so oh so much harder to do my morning toilette on the cold white snow. The biggest heaps in the yard are almost gone. No place to get a grip with my too long nails. Momma? We got to cut them down so I don't slide. Please! But hey, I love it. Absolutely love it when I come back INSIDE and you rub me all over with the fluffy towel so I don't puddle the slippery floor. You are such a wonderful Momma. I just cannot stop loving you and getting as close as possible. Please don't be mad if I bump into you. Can't you tell? I am smiling my most beautiful smile. My tail is wagging hard.

Now a RIDE? Whimpering with joy and running in circles. I cannot help myself. I am a dancing fool. Momma, do you really mean it? I am such a lucky girl. Yes! Oh goody. You are pulling the black braided leash off the bamboo umbrella rack. You mean it! My tail wags my entire body. Hurry Momma. Grab your keys so we can go before you change your mind. Oh wow. You just took off my hot pink buzz collar. You mean business. I am so excited. You are the best Momma ever. C'mon hurry. I can't get down the back steps fast enough. Sorry, Momma. Didn't mean to knock into you. But I am so excited. Oh there goes the garage door. Up up to the top. I see the silver car. We are going for a RIDE!

She stopped and is getting ready to get out. The sweet scents of other dogs mix into the air. I am going to push over to the door and just know she will take me, too. I know this place. My wagging tail makes me look like a fool. I am ecstatic and am going in circles in the pouring rain. My black braided leash tethering me to Momma. Her balance is off. I am tripping her. She wants me to tink. But I am too damned excited. That can wait. Yippee. We are going INSIDE.

I know this place. I love this place. Did I say I LOVE IT HERE? I do. There are three other pretty black Lab girls just like me. One even has a white beard so she must be related. Over there is a teeny baby golden fluff ball. One very silly looking dog wearing the funniest white hat around his head is coming over to sniff. I wag my entire butt. Momma is begging me to SIT. She has the strongest hold on my collar. I just can't help myself. I have to smell that bad boy's bottom. Oh they are calling my name: "Bailey, please bring your Momma." I don't want to leave. Not yet. I am whimpering and squealing under my breath. This is way too much fun for lonely me. Momma pulls me into the next room to SIT on the black pad.

Whew! I have kept my girlish figure. Even with all the TREATS I beg for. It is so worth it. Sixty-five pounds. Momma hands me another cookie. I am one lucky girl! Oh here is that nice man who kisses me on the head and rubs my belly. Whoa, Nellie. He is sticking that into my leg? I am bleeding. I want to faint. But he has a TREAT in his hand so I will be a good girl. I want that TREAT. Darn. Now he is squeezing my hips and reaching under for a grab. Hey, not there unless you are Shadow. Another stick between my shoulder blades. What the hell is going on? Oh nevermind. Another TREAT. Phew. He stands up. Rubs my head. Yay! A bone-shaped cracker from the drawer.

Now I want to get out of here ... fast. Really have to make that tink. Ooops. Can't help myself. The smells on the mat by the door are just too good to be true. And Momma is taking so long with the ladies and her purse. I squat low so they don't notice. But they do. Oh well. I feel so much better. Whew. Momma is not pleased. Not one bit. She tightens her grip. I never do that on the floor. Never. But, hey, what's a girl to do?

Cheers ... and an extra TREAT for my buddies still in the waiting room at the vet. I am one lucky girl.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Recipe for a Steel Magnolia

Prep Time: 59 years
Serves: Graciously

  • In a cast-iron cauldron stir some spicy confidence mixed with a touch of southern grace.
  • Blend in a schtick of northeastern sophistication and a pinch of sass.
  • Add a soupçon of irreverence, a splash of wit and sprinkle generously with a sense of self.
  • Gently fold in a mixture of humility and compassion letting the mixture soften.
  • Place in a temperate oven overnight to infuse the nuanced flavors.
  • Serve this warm dish with a splash of soul and a dollop of sweet confections.

A delicious accompaniment for friendly buffets, dinner parties extraordinaire or a casual, intimate affair. Also stands well on its own.

Cheers to an old favorite tried and true. Bon appétit!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Building Blocks

As a very small child Charlie adored making castles and roadways and bridges from the heavy wooden blocks in the two wicker baskets in his bedroom. His chubby toddler fingers carefully placed foundations for structures born from a budding cognitive creativity. Brightly colored wooden cars and trucks carried precious buddy cargo traversing intersections where miniature stop signs and S curve warnings marked the way.

Madison, his well traveled, much adored stuffed Dalmatian, always perched floppily in the leading car followed closely by Monkey Doodles draping long tan fur limbs over the rails while Ali Alligator hung on for dear life to the flatbed of the yellow tractor trailer riding the wooden rails. Grumpy ol' Fairfield's red woolen trousers brightly caboosed the procession of the most magical creatures in his beloved buddy family, while we knew that he was most dissatisfied not to be sporting the lovely white t-shirt and jean overall which bedecked GAPpy, the other bear in the entourage.

Next up: Duplos. Oversized primary hued plastic bricks which young dribbling mouths could not resist, but in no way could be ingested by oral-fixated kids. Tort lawyers drooled, too. Multimillion dollar settlements from sharp edges of playground swings and metal spikes attaching Barbie's perfectly coiffed head onto anatomically incorrect bodies (well, measurements anyway ... who the hell had a 17 inch waist? Oh yes. Today's emaciated size zero models and twenty-something fashionistas. But I am way off track. Way.) Product specialization not unlike large print editions of the New York Times for octogenarians or telephone keypads for the visually impaired. A major hit for the under three year old set.

Duplos morphed into Legos. More easily manipulated bricks, characters and vehicles. Gas stations, airports, shopping malls filled the netless ping-pong table in the basement playroom. Hours melted away as Charlie and his closest elementary school friends rode the rails making pit stops and capers along the routes of their vivid imaginations.

Evolution. It is no surprise that my darling son carefully constructs his journey. That he dares to imagine the possibilities. A middle-schooler on the edge of the prairie he rode horses on the plains and breathed in the pioneer spirits and down-to-earth values forged from the ancient wisdom of Native Americans, homesteaders, freed slaves, wildcatters and ranchers. At summer camp in the glorious crispness of the Colorado Rockies where a grueling climb up Longs Peak shaped his self-confidence and offered an unimaginable vista from the pinnacle of a snow-covered mountain in the July of his youth.

Charlie carefully places the bricks. And learns. His deep intellect and insatiable curiosity challenged by the best and the brightest in New England academia, his love of learning honed. His appetite for what lays beyond the horizon whetted. My sweet boy thinks outside the box, around it, through it, over it as only a 6'4" person could do! Sometimes it has fallen off the shelf. He picks it up and thoughtfully places the next block not always in direct alignment but generally connected. Then the next. That upon his foundational experiences he has dared to imagine his life as a citizen of the world surprises me none.

"The jury is still out." His proverbial hat thrown into rings worldwide: Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Moscow, Nairobi. Merchant banks. Asian trading companies. Foreign-based conglomerates. Soon he will know where this remarkable journey leads next. It will speak volumes, his decision. Open doors and opportunities unimaginable when a curved Brio track was placed onto a straight-away and his buddies applauded his structure. His old soul guiding the way. Building the foundation for his future into the unknown.

Cheers, darling son. You are the best of me and my greatest teacher ... and for that I add an extra olive!

Monday, February 22, 2010

My Old Kentucky Home (School)

Periodically they float into my dreams. My childhood friends. Magically grownup but looking not unlike our 18 year old selves. Why impose the effects of aging on my nighttime memories? No Lancôme or Botox needed. No Lady Clairol. We are youthful and slender and quite lovely. Nubile versions of our older selves.

I cherish those nights when deep in slumber I find myself in animated conversation with Les Girls. My Besties. Soul-sisters in adolescence. So long ago. Across millions of miles. And, even more years.

Time melts. Remarkably we are oft engaged in frivolous girly behavior, preteen whims. Slumber parties with giggly sips stolen from the bourbon bottle on silver trays hunt tables in whomever's dining room. Lanz nightgowns. Barbie dolls decked out in garden party dresses and that black and white striped maillot ... waiting seductively for Ken. Grins of metal. But mostly we are our adult selves debating issues we never would have imagined in those daffodil-laced, chocolate milk-infused days. Long before we grew up. Mostly.

In the sixties we shared a sliver, a slice of our well lived lives. Kindred spirits brought together by proximity and the same small girls' school. Bound by fate. Nine month segments for thirteen years of shared classes, illnesses, giggles, pimples and dreams in that lovely old estate on Douglas Boulevard.

The sun shines lemon-yellow on the large grassy lawn where we jumped rope and came of age talking incessantly of boys from Country Day and St. X and our neighborhoods. Back where the trees bordered the campus and we snuck Marlboros and Salems behind the bushes out of sight of our chain smoking teachers. VW bugs and Pintos and Mustangs were parked haphazardly on the edge of the driveway around the circle.

Girls in pastel dresses skip around the Maypole draped with ribbons and a colorful array of tulips, jonquils, lilies and magnolia blossoms snatched in the dark of the night from pre-Derby gardens of our parents' friends. A warm Kentucky breeze blows lightly stirring wide-ruled notebook paper and mimeographed homework assignments from their blue cloth three ring binders tossed casually on the stone steps during recess. The white stucco home of our classes welcomes our innocence, prepares us for our futures.

Jane resplendent in white knee socks, navy clunky heels and mini skirt, sparkly blond hair in a Midge flip bouncing as she runs along the drive to the new building. Diane's colorful eyes kohled dramatically in Mary Quant shadow and Twiggy lashes roll annoyingly at Mrs. Wimp's concoction bubbling in the Petri dish. Laurie, presses her baby blue Pappagallo flats lime green trim on the clutch as she shifts her British racing green MG-B from 2nd to 3rd zooming the few short blocks from her home on Arrowhead to Taylor's parking lot to meet up with the Country Day boys for Friday night lights. Cecily and Chesney's graceful long limbs dance the night away in the yard, high on life and a few beers from Jack Fry's. Anne impishly checks out the scene from the rear-view mirror of my navy blue 1964 Corvair Monza exhaust fumes be damned.

So I had to see everyone. Had to. Our fifty-something selves. Jane and I planned a 40th reunion over one of those autumn weekends in Kentucky that reminded us of hockey games in Seneca Park and rehearsals for the junior play. We included anyone who had been in our class ... ever. Plus the boys from LCDS. Why not? We were forever friends after all. We hadn't skipped a beat. Some of us grandparents. Others still single. Childhood chums. What's four missing decades among friends? Nothing!

Cheers! To Cecily, Laurie, Abby, Anne, Diane, Jane, Chesney, Sissy, Cecy, Janey and Edwina ... and to the boys who made our school plays and Friday nights sparkle! With love xo

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fire and Ice

Crimson red. Her favorite color. Always. Dresses. Scarves. Shoes. Sweater sets. And one ridiculous looking felt chapeau. Through the years we could see her coming. Larger than life smile. The straightest, whitest teeth. Framed by Revlon's Fire and Ice reflecting her moods. 1950s chic. Elegant. Sensual. Cool. Nails enameled brilliant. Oh la la. I couldn't wait to stop biting mine so I could wear brilliant nail polish comme ma mere. Magic and adventure awaited.

Every day she'd search the bottom of her large purse until the familiar tube emerged and she reapplied the crimson stain to her lips. Even when she awoke in a hospital bed from an anesthetic-induced haze she begged for me to apply a smear of Fire and Ice to her grey parched lips before her surgeon made his rounds. To be dressed, presentable had little to do with one's attire ... but everything to do with a flourish on the lips.

1980s Manhattan. Enter Red Door Red. Le salon Elizabeth Arden on Fifth Avenue a city block or two from my mid-town corner office in a building of glass and steel. Up to the third floor reverie and quietude. Tres elegant. Tres chic. My darling Cuban manicurist, Anna, filed my nails adoringly every week so I could channel the look found on the most fashionable Paris runways and in midwestern American since the early fifties. And, so she could gossip.

Like my mother, my lips and the tips of my fingers dared all women to adorn the enduring look. To flirt with Fire and dare to skate on thin Ice. That was me. My SATC self. Midnight negotiations winded down and we used the fired up adrenaline to dance the night away at Limelight before cooling down at Odeon for cafe au lait and a sweet then headed back uptown to shower and dress and begin the cycle anew. Red lips and nails still shiny. Provocative. Smart. Sassy. Exciting. In charge.

This afternoon my mother and I went to the local shopping mall to return some lingerie and look for a birthday gift. As we prepared to head out the door of her stunning, antique farmhouse on the river leading to the sea she reached in the base of a brass candleholder on the familiar lowboy in the entry hall and swiped her pursed lips with that familiar brilliant red streak. Memories from my childhood flooded the room. I picked up the black plastic tube with the gold endcap and read the color name on the teeny round paper label on the base with even smaller type: Fire and Ice. And blotted my lips in sisterhood.

"In the factories we make lipstick; in the stores we sell hope." How well Charles Revson knew women. My mother. Her friends. And, well, me.

Cheers to our dreams! Lipstick stained glass rims be damned.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lesson Learning

The teacher has arrived chez moi. Textbooks opened. Pencils poised. Calculators charged. I am abuzz with learning. Need a reality check every so often to spin things back into perspective. Provide a new path. Renew plans.

Well by now you, gentle readers, know that I am in the process of re-imagining the next steps. Who I want to be when I grow up. Don't want to be whooshed into the funnel cloud. Time is a'wasting. The runway is shorter. My wings need loft. Or I need to change aircrafts. A Bell helicopter will navigate the abbreviated tarmac better than a supersonic jet. Lifting straight up. No straight-away needed. Up, up and away.

I need to elevate. Rise up. Float above the clouds for a wider view of the magical possibilities out there. An expansive glance at the array of opportunities. Wow. My goggles unsteam and I peer through the cracked lens. Mother Earth offers up some exciting and innovative options. Contributions await. New memories to create.

But first I need to reflect on the lessons learned. The bits of me that might have been sucked out by the vortex of a waning client base, a transcontinental relocation and a shrinking economy. The bandwidth is limited. Very, very crowded for card-carrying AARP members. Twentysomething whipper-snappers chomping at the proverbial bit to replace seasoned experience with high octane energy and newly minted graduate degrees. But this boomer is not quite ready to acquiesce. Nope not yet. The passion rises up. My heart races. And no, it is not fibrillations!

So in preparation (drum roll) the requisite review of lessons learned in the 21st century just as the window of opportunity falls all too quickly from sashes unbraiding and worn. Gotta pull my fingers away from the sill before it comes crashing down. My timing is good. Always was. No worries here.

Ten things realized:
  1. I have surprised myself by how well I have coped.
  2. I possess a wellspring of enormous resources, inner strength and a strong sense of self.
  3. Even when things are dismal, they are not as bad as imagined.
  4. I am in control of my life ... always.
  5. Humor is the one character trait I cannot live without. Integrity the other.
  6. Fear is double-sided: one motivates; the other paralyzes.
  7. I give of myself regardless.
  8. Disappointment is inevitable. Manage your expectations.
  9. My family and friends surprise me with their generosity.
  10. Dare to imagine the possibilities.
To my darling family and dear friends, and to my twin souls (you know who you are), cheers! Always.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tightening the (Hermès) Belt

I am humbled by ... and appreciative of ... the downturn in my personal economy. It has given me the opportunity to reflect on the excesses. The non-essentials. My perspective altered, I have slimmed down my needs and am the better off for it. I can almost turn on a dime. In fact, if I wasn't a homeowner I know I could.

The most amazing discovery is that I don't feel something really terrible has happened. The shrinking of my client base affords me a glimpse out of and around the box. To refashion my life. Toss out the superfluous. Emotionally. Spiritually. Psychically. Retain the essentials. Treasure the life lessons. Trim the fat. Literally and physically.

There are things I cannot live with out, the essentials, for breathing life through my being. Others make my heart sing and add to my well-being and sense of self. While a few are what my mom would call frivolous, they add to my feeling of self-worth. Others are just plain unnecessary. Over the top for my renewed pick-up-and-go lifestyle. I can improvise and not really miss a thing. Though I am able to play tic-tac-toe from time to time on my 18th century English mahogany bowfront chest in my gorgeous living room.

Essentials that create a full, contented life ... mutually exclusive, each:
  • My darling Charlie, Mom and sisters
  • My dear friends near and far, past and present
  • Exploring life and its infinite discoveries
  • Living as my best self
  • A roof over my head
  • Making a home, a home
  • Traveling to anywhere and nowhere
  • My dreams
  • Imagining the possibilities, always

Other non-negotiables:

  • A valid passport
  • TaB
  • A good manicure and pedicure every month
  • Quadband cell phone
  • Cheryl, my colorist
  • Lotos
  • A new laptop every 3 to 4 years
  • Netflix
  • Sushi
  • A printer and copier
  • Health insurance
  • A gently used Volvo wagon
  • A library card
  • Chocolate chip cookies
  • Entertaining on a shoestring
  • Tylenol PM


  • iPhone, Blackberry or any other 3G souped up phone with aps
  • A fax machine
  • Weekly bunches of freshly cut tulips from December to May (sadly)
  • TV channels above UHF 21
  • A cleaning lady
  • Premium brand cosmetics
  • Middle of the night anxiety dreams
  • Jewels and bling
  • New fashions of the season
  • 500 count sheets and boudoir pillow cases
  • Shopping (so as not to be tempted)

You know ... the universe has a way of sending us messages most sublime. When the student is ready, the teacher will come. She is here. And I have grown immeasurably. But a collagen injection or two wouldn't alter that. Or would it ;-)

Cheers ... clinking the martini glasses proffered at Zayres decades ago!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Broadcast News

On a scale of one to ten today is an eight point five. An almost picture perfect February day. It is nearly fifty degrees outside. The sky cloudless and the color of lapis. Little snow remains from the storm earlier this week. Birds chirp. Squirrels race. I want to not wear my Barbour parka or a scarf on my walk through the awakening neighborhood! Bailey pulls firmly and often on her leash for sniffs in the muddy yards off the sidewalk. Defying tugs to the contrary from her Gentle Leader. I can almost see the purple crocus poking through the softer earth. Soon budding forsythia will emerge from the grey wintermelt. A fresh perspective.

Today's a day for news. Good news. That elevates the overall score to a nine point five. The judges have pushed it up a notch. Elated, I take a quick, graceful spin around the rink smiling. Arms waving to the exuberant crowd. Thunderous applause. I nod. My sparkles shining incandescent. More cheers. Celebrations of a connection from my career's prior life. New York City. The heady 1980s. MTV-laced innovations. Creative programming. Multiple media platforms intertwined, leveraging the message. Marshall McLuhan smiles. Professor Jeannet, too. This former SATC girl is back with a flip of my shoulder length chestnut hair.

Opportunity to make good where I left off. Telecommunications empires. Emerging technologies. Broadcast media building radio and television groups in the digital age. Viral marketing across networks pixilated. Bytes a buzz. Branding in the brave new e-economy. The confluence of broadcast, interactive and wireless media. A lift. The much needed vote of confidence in all that I was ... and all that I can be.

Am I worthy? Talented enough? Who knows? Who cares? Just let me bask in the moment. Go Team Allie. The A team! Competitors start your engines this girl is back.

Cheers ... and another olive please!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Miss Bailey: Hole in the Bowl

It snowed again. I am so glad. Love to tink and sniff the cold white powder. In fact I seek out the snow when only the tiniest patch remains in my outdoor coop. C'mon Momma. Hurry. Open the door so I can scamper down the back porch steps into the fluff outside. Oh baby. Here I go! It is so much easier to see the tracks when the ground is covered white. Squirrel trails circle around the barn. Ooowee. So many smells. Need to explore every nook and cranny. I am a happy girl. My tail just won't stop wagging.

Oh, did I forget to tell you? Bailey girl here. Momma let me have a spin this morning. She is the best person a dog could ever want. I am always as close to her feet as I can get. Even when her low, mean voice spits out MOVE. I cannot help myself. I have to be with her. She's my Momma after all.

Momma sometimes calls me Bailey Rose for her grandmother Rosie. Momma tells everyone who will listen that my titties hang to my knees. Just like Rosie's. Embarassing. But I know they wobble from having too many pups. Yep. Three times. I come from Georgia. I'm what you polite northerners call a harlot. A barnyard girl. Well darn if Shadow didn't place his front paws on my back and well ... you know. Rode me like a circus animal. I just loved him. Our babies were black as the night. But then they were all gone. Adopted. And there I was alone. My tummy full of even more baby puppums.

Oh here she comes with that big shovel to clear the drive. I am going to get as close as I can so she can toss some of the white stuff on my head. I love that. Oh nevermind. Mackinaw, the pretty yellow dog next door, is outside barking for me to come to my buzz zone for our morning chat. Momma, I'll be right back.

Hey. Where is she? I must have missed her while I was being neighborly with Mac. Poop. I want to go back inside where it is warm. The snow is making my feet freeze. And, I am hungry. Oh goodie. I am smiling big. Momma is coming up the driveway with the shovel and the blue plastic bin for last week's papers. She rubs my neck. My tail is wagging so much I nearly fall over. Can we go inside yet? Pleeze Momma?!

Goodie. I run under her feet as she climbs the wooden steps to the porch door. She loses her balance and steps on me. I almost let out a yelp, but want to go inside so bad. Pleeze Momma don't be mad. At the top of the stairs I sit down blocking the storm door. That way she will have to let me inside. Especially if I am a polite girl. Nope. She squeezes around me and vanishes into the warm kitchen. I want my breakfast.

Finally she lets me onto the cold porch with the screens to keep out the birds and bugs. We play the towel game while she clears the packed snow from between the pads. I smile and wag my tail so she knows how happy I am to be with her and on the way inside. I trip her again as we crowd through the door at the same time. The basket of popcorn under the microwave falls off. Ooops. I race past her slipping on the shiny floor, but rally in a jiffy and head to my crate. My dining room. I sit and stare at the corner like I always do so she will know I want something to eat. Breakfast or supper or a treat.

I smile and wait patiently staring at the corner of the floor in my kennel. Hint hint. My tail goes back and forth on the brown woven rug. Just like on a clock. Tick tock. Hurry Momma. Bring me my breakfast in the sparkly dish. Oh hurray. Here it is. I wolf it down. Fast. Then I look around the bowl. Some must have fallen out. I am still hungry. I move it with my feet looking. Searching. Hoping. This girl is still famished. Reluctantly I lie down staring constantly at the bowl. Maybe I'll be a lucky girl and Momma will add something else. Nope. All done. I let out a big sigh and fall asleep.

Cheers ... lamb-rice-chicken kibble all around. Until supper ...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fat Tuesday

Laissez les bons temps rouler! Oui. Oui. Bienvenue. I am all for that! Bawdy N'awlyuns is dancing in the streets. Rio de Janeiro is smokin' hot. Montreal is hopping. One last day before the diet begins for all church-going folks. Prelude to spring. The rebirth. And all things steaming as we head into the sultry days of summer bare-skinned and loose.

This gal, too. Need to take it up a notch. Dr. John blows his horn. Revelers debauched frolic along the narrow avenues to Dixieland blues. Trumpets. Trombones. The strains of a lone alto sax drifts from the alleyway. It is celebrating time. This is for real. Doubloons glitter. Purple and green jesters bow and leap. Cougars in vests made of bottle tops, velvet and lace bounce in tune with fraternity boys sporting crew cuts and beer. Beignets and cafe au lait and trolley cars and bourbon. New Orleans in mid-February. Best place on earth. Actually a glimpse into the festivities of Hades. All those lost and departed fun livin' crazies. Way too much fun. Bien sur.

Hide behind your glitter and sequined mask. Peer out from behind the curlicue rodiron balconies. The Saints are celebrating big this year. Secrets. Cajuns. Hurricanes at O'Brien's. Lady Shawmut a very naughty girl. Every time she visits this French ville sur la mer. Swamp rats the size of small dogs roam Le Quartier. Mosquitoes as big as hummingbirds spin lazy circles in the damp evening sky. Humid. Hot. Tantalizing. Mossy trees. Bluesy jazz. Bacchanalian energies a'mix with sensual delights. Pralines and chicken gumbo. Crawfish, jambalaya and etoufee. Po'boys and pork boudin. Bread pudding souffle. Mmmm nums! Oh la la. What's not to love? A little something extra for all of us wanting to have a little bit of romance the southern Louisiana way. Lagniappe.

Cheers! Fais-do-do! A demain ...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday, Monday

Ooops. My balance beam is not as steady as last week. Or yesterday for that matter. Shaky. Not anchored securely to the floor. Untethered I bounce, sea-sawing. Flailing arms spread to either side. Palms down. Whew. I steady myself. Shaken. Overwhelmed. It is all catching up with me today. Deep breathing needed. Zen-like words of inner wisdom required. I am teetering and losing confidence. Boot straps tripping my gait. A whiny, sniveling mess today.

Career in limbo. Dead in the water. Weight loss slowing to a snail's pace. Zero metabolism. My GPS askew. Compass needs a major adjustment. Pronto. Change of direction. Follow those dreams. Right the rights and move along. Who the hell said this would be easy? To be caught out of sync?

Where is that warm steady hand on my shoulder guiding me over the bumps ahead. Gotta reach deep inside for this one. Grab my upbeat, confident self by the ying-yang and pull her back into the sun. Quickly. Head back onto the road motoring through all that ails me with my 'this, too, shall come to pass' joie de vivre. My footing grounded as I tread the slippery slope against the tide.

Apologies, gentle readers, for the momentary set back. Tomorrow is another day. One I will approach with renewed gusto. Gotta scare the heebie-geebies back into remission.

Cheers ... and great appreciation for staying with me. Today's are on the house.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Heart of the Matter

Valentine's Day. Unites the world in a celebration of love. All kinds. A mid-winter romance with a warmer sun and the hint of what's to come. A peek. A tease. A lighter spirit. Unconditional family love despite, well, anything. Friendships spanning time, distance or moods. Neighbors around the corner whose passing smiles and chicken soup are welcome, unexpected gifts. Dear friends. The darling ones who touch my soul in ways unimaginable. Connections appreciated. Cherished.

I'm one of the lucky ones. Single women, that is. Realistic expectations. Boo-hiss on the medieval traditions of European culture and Renaissance declarations of courtly love where St. Valentine is inextricably linked to romance and fleeting passion. Down with the ancient Chinese custom of dining on black noodles to mourn my single life. Thumbs up to our south of the border neighbors where throughout Latin America acts of appreciation are shared generously with friends and family. No lonely old maid here! A vibrant, passionate adventurer delighted in the treasures I love along the way.

Raise your glass of bubbly. Toast love. Not the watered down Hallmark version, but to imagining the possibilities and finding bits of love. Braided together lovingly. A most bedazzled, rope intertwining magical moments from across the years.

Cheers to heart-shaped confections iced pink, chocolate dipped strawberries, deep pink tulips, lacy doilies, satin ribbon and red feathers ... ooops! ... a girl can hope ;-)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

When Pigs Fly

Now it's available! The H1N1 vaccine. For free even. At the Catholic church on Route 1 in my New England coastal village. I pull my silver Volvo wagon into a vacated parking spot and head through the crowded parking lot. Saturday morning residents chatter familiarly while waiting patiently, sipping coffee from styrofoam Dunkin Donuts cups. The columned portico abuzz as we await access through the large white panelled wooden doors to the clinic inside. Familiar memories from another Saturday morning nearly fifty years ago flood my mind's eye as I stood in queue for an innoculation from the next available SMMC nurse.

It was 1962, not sure of the season but it wasn't too hot or too cold outside. My three siblings and I piled into the family Ford Country Squire with the faux-wooden side panels for a routine morning of Saturday errands. Mom behind the wheel. I, the eldest, perched happily in the passenger seat. Our first stop? Saint Francis of Assisi, the century old parish on Bardstown Road in the Highlands where my best friend, Valerie, went to school. Odd. Very. We're Jewish.

Thought we were headed to the Winn Dixie at The Loop for our weekly grocery extravaganza. Not yet. Quiet eerily replaced our noisy bantering. All eyes riveted to the throng of families milling about on the sidewalk. Mom pulled into a space on the side street bordering the church, moved the shift poking out of the steering column into Park, grabbed her purse from the leatherette bench seat sans safety belts and got out of the car. Keys still in the ignition.

Maybe she had to pick up something on the way to the market and would be right back. Instead motioned for us to join her outside. Robin hesitated not quite understanding. Mom reached through the open window and gently cupped her hand around Robin's shoulder so she could join me on the sidewalk. Mary and Willy tumbled out. No explanation needed from this Howdy Doody raised brood. We followed politely.

Inside the granite stone rectory long tables were staffed by nurses in starched white uniforms with even stiffer caps perched on their over-sprayed hair-do's that Daddy often called "hair don'ts". Everything about these women was imposing. Trays held neat columns of hundreds of tiny pleated paper rinse cups from the dentist office. A small white cube rested inside each.

A newfangled vaccination awaited. No shots. No visit from needle-happy Harris, our house-calling pediatrician who scared the bejeezus out of us when he walked in our front door carrying the dreaded worn black leather bag hiding syringes, rectal thermometers and brown glass vials of antiseptics the color of rubies that caused more pain than the scrape it protected. The first of three doses of Sabin oral. Pink medicine on a lump of sugar. No hospital smells here. Candy dispensed drugs that would inspire Timothy Leary and entice my generation into a psychedelic haze. Blotter acid's precursor. But ah, I digress.

Back on point: The burning question of today. Where was the stockpile of this virulent flu vaccine when I really needed it?

Nowhere to be had in July when, arriving at the Beijing Capital International Airport jet-lagged and crumpled after a sixteen hour flight over the pole, a dozen of the tiniest USA-doubting men-children boarded our 767 to register the temperature of entire rows of passengers with an errant wave of a wand over our heads. The slightest deviation from a standard 98.6 Fahrenheit risked a two-week quarantine in some facility deep in the quagmire of the People's bureaucratic labyrinth.

And definitely not available a few months later to prevent three weeks of miseries I succumbed to just as my son arrived home for a relaxing, fun-filled Thanksgiving vacation. Had been inoculated for the seasonal flu in a very public traveler-crowded concourse at the Atlanta airport, my Delta flight home delayed. Had a mani, too. But noooo ... nothing worked. Over-zealous, I partook of every known precaution out there. Every single one. I incessantly wiped germs and the 'good' bacteria from grocery carts and door handles with an inordinate amount of Purell. My sandpaper dry hands flaked like the snow falling outdoors. Every one except the H1N1shot.

That little piggy went we-we-we right into my lungs. Hacking and limp for most of the holiday season. I hadn't been sick in nearly a decade. Proof? The expiration dates on the various cold and flu meds from Walmart's had expirations circa 2003.

Anyhoo. It is a moot point now. Anticlimatic. Useless, really. But hey, I'm card-carrying now. Vaccinated and ready to sit on the tarmac of any airport in China confident that the pigs are locked in their stys ...

... at least until tomorrow. Cheers!

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Fool C'est Moi

The fool, the wide-eyed innocent of the Major Arcana, begins her journey on a new path with the willingness to step off a cliff into the unknown. She brings little provisions with her, ready to create or find what she needs along the way. The sun at her back, her dog to accompany her, the fool's carefree pose stands testament to her search for the new adventure, to the faith she has in herself to forge a new path.

Okay. Okay. Mme. Tarot. I hear you. Loud and clear. I know. I'm dawdling. Complacent. Settled into the routine of shorter days and frigid grey wind-whipped skies My 59th past in a blur. I get it. Enough dilly-dallying in the rest area on the side of the road. What the hell am I waiting for? An engraved invitation on Mrs. Strong's elegant hand beveled, custom color bordered 100% archival cotton note cards? John Beresford-Tipton at my door with that check for one million dollars? A push from my inner self? Yes. That's it. Moi-meme seulement. La fou. Une forte je. Inspiree. Pret. Ensemble. Allez. Ready. Set. Go.

Back to business. Winter's hardened grip loosened. Spirits brightened by milder days and ample sunshine. Jeans promise to fit comfortably in a few weeks time. Wanderlust kicks in. Airmiles in hand. Fodor's at the ready. Research complete. Nerves steeled.

Next step? Mid-March completion of CELTA application for ILA Vietnam in Hanoi. September. The next stop on the superhighway of my well-traveled life. These pages will keep me honest. On track. Okay. Here goes! Places to go, people to meet, adventures wating to happen.

Cheers ... and an extra olive for good measure.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Romancing the snow

It's gorgeous today in a way that makes me know that winter is losing its icy grip. Mild and sunny. A hint. A tease. Not January thaw material. Thank god, those days have passed. We're pulling up to the turning point. The defining line. A real moderation in meteorological terms. Longer days. Better sunshine. Melting snow. A valentine from Mother Nature herself. A veritable romance!

My muscle memory kicks in. Now, I remember what to do when the temperatures moderate and the crocus receives notification from the warming soil to start reaching for the sun. Head outdoors into the bliss. Like a new lover in those early heady days of infatuation. We're off. Bailey and I. A stroll through our village neighborhood with a spring in our steps and the hope of new discoveries.

Cheers ... to spring eternal!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

To Snow ... Or Not To Snow

A blizzard is brewing. And, for once it is not headed straight up the Eastern seaboard to the Gulf of Maine to blanket us in feet of the white stuff. A respite. By this time of the year, we are storm weary. The days are lengthening. The sun is higher. Spring is in the air. Kind of. The temps have been moderating. Up into the high 30s. A few months ago that spelled winter. Not now. Warmer days herald spring. Warmer, a relative term.

It is everything I can do to refrain from storing the two snow shovels disgracing my screened in porch (my summer al fresco dining room) back on their empty hooks in the garage, pull the reflective glass topped aluminum driveway markers and sow some seed on my browned out lawn. Winters for the past few years defy global warming. Nowhere has it been more frigid and snowy than northern New England.

Not this year. Yes we have had a snow. Lots of it. But we have had several January thaws melting the piles. February has been downright sunny. Freezing, but ample sunshine. Snowbanks are virtually gone. Further south weather is singing a different tune.

Yes, from our nation's capital and the rolling hills of Virginia horse country up to and beyond the emerald city of Oz. Southern Maine and coastal New Hampshire on the cusp. The snow line. Blizzard to our south. Nothing to our north. Wouldn't you know it? Tonight, weather maps and forecasters are predicting precipitation of the white variety. How much? Unknown. Clear skies for weeks now. Goes to figure.

This evening my darling mother is treating me to a belated birthday celebration. The Monterrey Jazz Festival on tour. A much heralded performance at the chic music hall in Portsmouth. On the snow line. A dusting here. Six inches or more there. Our collective breaths are held. Eyes glued to the weather map. Frequent phone calls to the box office forty miles from home. Snow? No snow? Hmmmm. Will we go? Or not go? That is the question of the hour.

Cheers ... and all that jazz!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Banana-fanna-fo-fanna ... fee-fi-mo-mana ... banana!

Okay. The name sucks. That's what I have been hearing. So shoot me. I had a few moments to go on my S-day. Right down to the wire. Late late on my deadline date. January 1. I had, after all, promised myself I would start my musings on the very first day of 2010. How could I fail at my one resolution? Well I also wanted to lose 15 pounds ... but that one is perennial. Get those holiday wrappers off before daylight savings kicks in.

So January 1 was winding down. And there is a time-date stamp on blogspot. I was racing against the clock. Literally. Couldn't be out of sync. Not in lock step with the calendar. No way.

Time was a'wasting. And I hadn't put one word on the page. Not one. Had thrown up all night. Not from celebrating. If only. Nope. A fast moving tummy bug caught me in her vices. So the hours were ticking away and this had to begin. But to begin I needed a URL. My own very unique spot in cyberspace. Where I could pontificate. Hold court. Or, just plain ramble. Couldn't get one word on the page until I chose the name. Unchangeable, to boot. A commitmentphobe, I numbed out. Writer's block. Every creative juice flowing out of my body. A blank slate.

So what's a girl to do? Grab one out of the freakin' air? So I asked my muses. Neither was helpful. They had partied New Year's Eve. I was left to my wobbly seasick grayish-green self. You get the point. I was lost. Nada. Nothing. Rien. Hey, if I couldn't name the blog, how could I pen a daily column? Ended up plagiarizing a greeting card sent many years ago to a divorcing friend. Not even true to its name. Bombay gin martinis here. Not vodka.

Net net ... I am renaming the blog. Can't alter the web address. But can edit the title. Drum roll. Hark loyal readers! A contest. No prizes but the satisfaction you are more clever and creative than I. Name that blog. Choose one from below or doctor one up. Blend a few together. Add a spray of vermouth. Shake. Pour into a stemmed v-shaped glass. Plop in a few olives. Voila. You get the picture. I need a drinkin' buddy. And, a new name.
  • Alice's Adventures Through the Looking Glass [couldn't help myself ... apologies Mr. Carroll]
  • Twas Brillig ... So It Seems! [another nod to Lewis from this Alice in her very own Wonderland]
  • Wanderlust and Lace: The Ramblings of a Sassy Adventurer
  • Sweet Peace and Time Well Lived
  • Magnolias, Skyscrapers and Double Yellow Lines: A Former Southern Belle Takes to the Highway
  • Ramblings From the Road Less-Traveled
  • Musings From A Fork in the Road
  • Amuse-Bouches From A Life Well-Traveled
  • Madcap Ramblings from a Sassy Wanderer
Cheers! Happy noodling ... until tomorrow.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Miss Bailey: Won't You Come Home?

Momma came downstairs from her bedroom this morning smelling all pretty. I wagged my tail and smiled so she would rub my ears and take the gookums out of the corners of my eyes. That sandy stuff that my too long nails just won't get. I love my Momma. So much. So much that I go everywhere in the house she does. Trip her sometimes. But she's my Momma and she loves me most of the time. I am so glad to see her. Wonder what we are going to do today.

Yay! Momma's pouring my food into the dish. I know. I can hear the clink when it hits the shiny bowl. Boring though. No variety. So I just sit in my crate and stare at the corner. Hint, hint. Right where my bowl should be. Hey, Momma, this girl's hungry. If I stare long enough she'll give me a TREAT. And ... if I am really lucky and stare until my eyes cross she hands me a slice of ham or a scoop of cottage cheese. Mmmmm. Nums.

Where is she? Oh there she goes. Momma just disappeared through the door to nowhere. Just vanishes. Okay. I hear the rattling in the place under the house ... and ... oh never mind ... here she is. Wag wag smile. Wow gotta move aside. She is carrying a basket the size of my bed. My tail just can't stop wagging this morning. Now I really have to tink. Oooh, but it feels so good when she scratches my neck. I can hold it a little bit longer. Oh. Okay. Here we go. Across that slippery ground where the big white things hold her treats. Not mine hers.

Oooh ... hurry Momma, I gotta tink. Bummer. My paws are not gripping this morning. I am stalled right before the door that we go through when we go for a RIDE. She helps me through. My tail wags and wags. Maybe, just maybe we are going to get in the car. Nope. The opening to the house where the car is hiding is not rolling up. Poop. No RIDE. Brrrr. It's freezing. Tears come to my eyes. I bop down the back stairs fast. Gotta make my morning tink and sniff around the yard. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

I sniff as I tink. My most fun thing to do is finding the new scents on the bushes. A mouse must have run by the porch steps. I bump my nose. Mouse must be in the house. How does he get there? A new smell. I scamper to the snowbank next to the driveway. Yep. I thought so. That crazy yellow boy, Moby, from next door broke through his barrier fencing and popped over to play. Here's his stink by the garage. Phooey. Wish I had been OUTSIDE. I growled and barked as quiet as I could 'cause my Momma hates me to bellow even though she talks and talks and talks. But no. She didn't appear. That yellow boy is fun to chase. A real whipper-snapper. And, his butt smells pretty darn good if I say so myself.

Ooops. Careful. I am not paying attention. Definitely don't want to hear that scary shrill beep before the zap to my neck from my hot pink necklace. I have two. I am such a girl. The other Momma calls my sundress. Not sure what that means, but everyone rubs my neck and tells me how pretty I am. So I have two. I love my jewelry. But I am not fond of toys. The squeak startles me. And I get confused when that round thing rolls toward me. They all stand around waiting for me to pick the grimy thing up. No way. I'm a prissy girl. Unless I can chew it and swallow nothin' is going in my mouth. Not this girl.

Yippee. She's calling me to go for a WALK. I love my WALKS around the 'hood. Smells to sniff. Dogs to sniff. I am a sniffing machine. Oh oh. Oh darn. Momma's closing the door as soon as I got into the house. And, oh no, she's making that rattling noise in the hole to keep me inside. Poop. I have no idea whether she'll be gone for little bit or the whole day until it gets dark this afternoon.

At least she hid some TREATS. Yep. There's one by my water bowl. And, one under the collar of my stuffed Christmas bear with the very long body. I am starvin'. Just famished. But I am not going to eat the food in my bowl. Nope. Not yet. Let me root out some more TREATS. Groovy. She placed one under the corner of my smelly, cushy Kalim floor cushion. I love it when she does that. Oh! And there's my BREAKFAST. Won't eat it just yet. Momma might have forgotten to take me. She did say WALK. I don't want her to pop in and I have a mouth full of kibble. She might change her mind.

I'll just curl up in the sun and wait ... and wait ... and wait .. until my Momma comes home.

Cheers, Momma! Come back before tomorrow, please.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Succulent Maine Shrimp

Dozens of thin-shelled Maine shrimp bob crowded in the roiling pot, bodies scrunched into tight V jack knives. It's that time of the year. Six week abundance. A robust harvest this year. Our frigid Maine ocean spewing them forth captured in the wide nets cast from our trawlers by weathered men bundled thickly in quilted jackets, woolen caps and elbow length gloves. Hearty fisher-souls.

Boiling vapors steam from the stove top blanketing the kitchen windows in a misty fog like the February skies outdoors. A storm brewing. These tiny crustaceans tinge pink-red in a nano-second. Sweet. Succulent. Under a dollar a pound. An amuse-bouche from the sea. A winter teaser.

Heaped inches deep, they cover the large white Italian ceramic platter on my breakfast room table. In the candlelight, their beady black eyes peer through me. They see. They know. I merely walk the walk. Talk the talk. Needle-thin antennae pick up my unsettled vibes.

Cheers? Tomorrow's another day.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Wyeth and the Beans of Egypt, Maine

In October, Mom and I jumped into her dark green jeep with the thin red pinstripe just under the windows for our long talked about road trip to view the Andrew Wyeth's autumn inspired collection at The Farnsworth Art Museum on Maine's mid-coast.

The day was gorgeous. Spectacular in a way that artists capture and poets describe. The embodiment of a picture perfect New England fall day. One you could bottle. Treasure. Ephemeral. A final vestige of warmth and color in the fleeting weeks before daylight savings ends abruptly draping afternoon sunshine with winter's grey shroud.

On this day, the cerulean sky cloudless. Dry air defined the crisp edges of each brightly-hued leaf bordering the highway. Breathtaking. I-95, the turnpike that would lead, or so we thought, to U.S. Route 1 and Rockland. Our canvas boat bag packed with a few bottles of Poland Springs and apples from the nearby orchard was tossed casually on the back seat. Ooops. No GPS. No map. No problem. Just follow the highway toward LL Bean and then along the shore road.

Not a happening thing. Not in Maine. I-95 is a north-south highway wending its way north from the tip of Florida through the densely populated megalopolis of the east coast, parallel to the Atlantic Ocean. Right? Uh-unh. It veers left at Portland and heads straight through interior Maine to the Canadian border. North! Who knew north was not along the coast as it was the entire length of this super highway? Who knew the meaning of 'downeast'? Not this mapless Kentucky-bred driving duo beelining on a course directly into moose territory during wild turkey hunting season. If only the sour mash variety.

Lost in animated conversation, unwittingly staying the course on I-95 to the exit for the coastal route. The one that which would lead us through the picturesque antique village of Wiscasset past Bath Iron Works shipyard at the mouth of the Kennebec River (which further upstream was a torrent of white water rapids that our Willy canoed during his childhood summers). Instead, we sailed into the heart of Maine, a comedy of errors.

Ooops. Zoomed past the exit for Augusta. Augusta? The state capitol. Maine's epicenter. The democratic location for every state house in the nation ... except Boston. The toll collector surely would redirect us. But, and this should have been a tip-off, he didn't exactly know the way. No problem. We did what every self-respecting lost driver would do: headed to the nearest filling station to reset the course. I popped inside and asked the woman selling Lottery tickets and slushies at the counter. She rambled off a series of turns, landmarks, route numbers. My ears numbing out the turn right at the blank, then left at the other blank, around the rotary, past the quarry to a route number we never found. I nodded as my eyes glazed over. So deeper into rural Maine we drove. This time on country back roads.

Phew. Mom spied several men in camouflage gear unloading their rifles from the pickup's gun rack. They'd know. Men are so much better at directions. We slowed onto the gravel shoulder, rolled down the side window and hoped the shotguns were not loaded. Smarter now, I jotted their convoluted directions on a piece of scrap paper stained with a crimson lipstick blot. I know they were chuckling as we pulled off on a wild goose chase. Pin the tail on the donkey dizzy. A museum? Yup.

We zigged and zagged past fields and barns and rusty tractors. No route numbers. No signs. Nothing. The double yellow line luring us into a false sense of confidence that this secondary road would take us somewhere. Anywhere. Ahead a farmer pulled his red Ford F-540 dualie to the mailbox on the edge of road. His kind eyes met mine and I knew, the way one knows that his directions would be honest ones. And, we'd be on our way. I explained our predicament to this patient man whose steely grey eyes locked onto my face. When I had stopped talking, he shrugged and shook his head, his hands on his ears indicating he couldn't hear. Pitiful. A deaf mute with a driver's license. We were screwed.

Late afternoon. Our resolve gone. I positioned the setting sun on the right side of the jeep and headed toward what was assuredly the coast. Miles later Mom squealed. Ahead at the bottom of the hill a sign for Route 1. Finally. Not knowing whether to turn right or left to reach the Farnsworth we threw our hands in the air laughing at our trip to nowhere. With growling tummies, we stopped for barbecue at Naked Buck's juke joint outside Freeport.

So, where is this going, this column of mine? To Rockland! To the Farnsworth. Andrew Wyeth's winter collection in the main gallery. This time for real. The correct way. The only way to reach it by land from southern York County. I-95 to I-295 to Route 1. A confident passenger in another classic green automobile heading downeast. My seasoned sailor at the helm. The wind at our backs. The sun in our eyes. The Gulf of Maine at the tip of pine covered peninsulas, scattered with deserted islands on our right looping in and out of view. Monhegan Island appears on the horizon. We are nearing our destination.

Poland Spring water bottles clink. Cheers ... until tomorrow!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Laptop Story Board

I'm lame. Pathetic. Bored with sorting through the scraps of 2009. How do they do it? The CPAs? Stay focused? Over and over and over. Miss entire calendar months year after deadly year. Thank god for their patience, their perseverance. Mine the size of a pea. Dwindling as each hour passes. My green eyeshades askew.

Piss-poor light burns, blurs my vision gluing contact lenses to my eyeballs. The dimmer switch on the vintage ceiling fixture purely for low wattage ambiance. Holiday cocktail party mood lighting. Up and down. Up and down. I wander around looking for busy work. Anything. Yesterday I dusted each and every liquor bottle on the 19th century tea trolley masquerading as a bar. Unscrewed the caps to get every speck.

So I did what any respectable, out of ideas, bored spitless, brain dead warrior would ... unplugged my laptop, grabbed my tax stuff and retreated upstairs to the plush white coolness of my bedroom. Plopped myself in the middle of my queen bed, spread the necessary papers to either side and leaned cozy into a deep banking of pillows. My legs tucked Indian-style, my lapboard across my knees. Ah. Ready. Familiar. My comfort zone. Tens of thousands of hours typing classwork on a Smith Corona, calculating thirteen column spreadsheets with my trusty HP and preparing dense business presentations as college melted into grad school and my MBA program into banking, consulting, board work.

Home base. My laptop centered on my lapboard. My ever-faithful lapboard purchased in the early 1970s at Charette's on Route 128 outside Boston when computer start-ups sprang like mushrooms along the first high tech corridor. Computers the size of my kitchen would have eaten my lapboard. My portable desk splattered with graffiti ramblings, notes and scribbles penned over the years with whatever occupied my writings or analyses. Three and a half decades imprinted on the rough, splintering, unvarnished wood held together by clear packing tape.

My lapboard not only indelibly recounts the story of my adult life, but frames the evolution of the writing implement at the latter part of the twentieth century. Who knew that my lowly lapboard hidden on the dusty floor under my Queen Anne slant front desk would chronicle the history of assorted and sundry pens, pencils and markers while memorializing events, pop stars ... even autographs and missives from former loves? A veritable Rosetta stone.

Bic ballpoints blob faded purplish-blue ink in pop art lettering the names of pets, years lived in various towns across the country, telephone numbers of plumbers and friends forgotten. Extra fine Pilot Razor Points tallied broadcast deals funded replete with debt-equity ratios. Pentel .5mm mechanical pencil lead with removable end caps doodled calculations hastily.

Vestiges of a life lived. Not unlike the bits of paper piled into neat categories on my dining table. Recorded moments in time. The story detailed. An accounting.

An accounting! Geesh. I haven't strayed far. Finish the tax prep already!

Cheers, if you are not snoozing! Apologies, if you are.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pumpkin Squash Soup and Blueberry Buckle

You guessed it! This is a concerted effort specifically intended to further delay attacking the mess on my dining room table. To finish. Hell, I have to begin first. But voila ... more distractions from the task at hand! Thought you might enjoy the recipes for the sweet and savory concoctions I whipped up yesterday. Both are easy, easy, easy. And oh so delish.

Pumpkin Squash Soup

  • In a stock pot over low heat gently saute 1 finely chopped onion with 3 cloves of finely chopped garlic, 1/2 cup finely shredded carrots and 1 finely diced green apple (or Bosc pear) in 1/2 cup chicken broth from a 32 ounce container.
  • Add 2 tablespoons sliced crystallized ginger and 1/3 cup peanut butter.
  • When onions are translucent, add 1 large can of pumpkin, 1 butternut squash cubed plus 2 cups of the chicken broth.
  • Turn heat to medium allowing squash to cook.
  • Add pepper to taste, 1 teaspoon curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin and dash of salt.
  • Mash squash when softened. then add remaining chicken broth.
  • Let simmer over medium low heat for at least 30 minutes.
  • Correct seasoning.
  • Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream, warm crusty baguette and a salade verte.

Blueberry Buckle

  • Beat 1 egg and 2/3 cup sugar well.
  • Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt and set aside.
  • Mix together 1/3 cup milk, 3 tablespoons vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon vanilla and set aside.
  • Alternate adding dry and wet ingredients to the egg/sugar mixture, mixing continuously. Mixture will be thick.
  • Fold in 1 cup blueberries very lightly so as not to break them.
  • Pour in greased 8 or 9 inch round pan. Sprinkle top with blend of 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional).
  • Bake at 365 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.
  • Serve warm with clotted cream or ice cream.

Mmmmm. Nums. Enjoy!

Okay. Okay. I am standing up slowly from the rattan french bistro armchair at my desk, rub Bailey's ruffled tummy on my way, reluctantly, through the sun drenched kitchen, past my comfortable, overstuffed study and into the dining room.

Cheers ... cocktails all around ... but not until tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Tax Man Cometh

Distractions. Lack of focus. Dread. My annual day-after ritual. Post birthday, that is. Those unavoidable, mandatory, all encompassing tax preparations. Time suck required. Now. I know. I know. April 15th is still months away. Early bird discount. The deep deuce if in my accountant's hands before Valentine's Day. His gift to me. Sealed with a kiss? Hardly.

So my gorgeous double banded mahogany dining table with acanthus carved pedestal legs has been requisitioned to serve as ground zero. Mission central. Morphed into a duty not befitting its stature. Piled high with reddish-brown pressboard accordion files, strewn with odd-sized bits of paper in all colors notes scribbled in red and marked with a circled 'T'. Like steer branded for slaughter. Receipts for meals eaten, flights flown, books read and medicine taken are commingled with assorted and sundry pens, pencils, paper clips, staplers and my trusty HP-12C. Difficult to navigate. A jumbled mess.

Post-It notes stick to the precious veneer labeling soon-to-be sections where category organization will take root. Charitable contributions, here. CCG company receipts from a deflating economy as clients bailed and deals unwound, there. An oversize Topsider shoe box for Charlie's giant boat shoes stuffed, the giant rubber band from Staples taut, containing a year's worth of American Express, MasterCard and utility bills paid up to the final moment -- when champagne corks popped and 2009 became a blurry memory.

Faced with the hum-drum minutia and the mind numbing organization of my tax stuff I have been a maelstrom of activity. A goddam marvel. A whirling dervish filing and arranging ancient bank statements tossed haphazardly on the shelf in the back of a downstairs closet into 3 inch black plastic binders preferring the painful finger pinch of the giant d-rings to my dining room table. Doing anything, but.

Procrastination as an art form. Perfected. Better to take an unpleasant stroll through the village neighborhood with Bailey in frigid 20 degree snowy wind than confront the quagmire in my dining room. All I want to do is skirt the piles and jolly-off.

I head straight to my ochre French Provencal kitchen to bake something scrumptious ... blueberry confections and a savory pumpkin soup. Who needs paper cuts from rummaging through the shoe box and accordion files holding receipt from last year? Or, arms elbow deep in a gaggle of papers? Not me. Not today.

Shaking my dry martini like a maraca, ice clinking like a steel drum ... I float away from the mundane task facing me tomorrow. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lettuce Cake and Carrot Candles

The Groundhog has spoken! Puxatawney Phil emerged from his burrow this morning in Pennsylvania and saw his shadow. I saw mine, too. We proclaim that winter will last another six weeks. Up here in a frigid snowy Maine that's an early spring. March 15th. Not bad at all. One or two more snowstorms then *poof* gone. Longer days. Brighter sun. Spring.

And I have more time to lighten up. Fit slimmingly into capris and skimmer flats. When I return home from southern California in mid-March crocus will be peeking purple blooms through the frozen earth under the Rhododendrons on either side of the stone steps leading to my home. Ah... spring.

But first I have some celebrating to do. Today. Cheers! Happy birthday to me! One year to my big 6-0.

Pedal to the Metal

My warm up is complete. I am limber. Ready to go. A full month under my belt. Tomorrow, Groundhog's Day, the road trip to my big 6-0 kicks into gear.

My E-Z Pass flashes at the toll gate as I glance over my shoulder at oncoming traffic. Flicking the left blinker, I point my chassis onto ramp. My foot steadily increases its pressure. With a whoosh I pull into the traffic and ease into the fast lane. Accelerating. The needle of my speedometer inches up. I am zooming to sixty.

Fasten your seat belts! Cheers until tomorrow ...