Make ‘Em Laugh

I am so grateful for friends who send me things that bring me to tears, and to my knees, with laughter. Those are wonderful momentary lifts.

What’s not part of that…and can’t be right now…..is communal laughter.  Groups of people laughing at the same time, at the same thing, for the same reason. 

Once upon a time, in another land, I was part of a play-reading group.  We joined knowing that when we were asked to take a role in a play, we either said yes or got the boot.  And, oh, the crazy things we did in the name of concession.

The group was comprised of seemingly intelligent and thoughtful people.  People who perhaps should have known better before they committed to the gig.

Requirements for membership were few. Experience wasn’t one of them. We simply had to agree to leave our egos, our pride, our honor and our dignity at the door prior to a performance.

We only did comedy.  For obvious reasons.   Neil Simon and Noel Coward were our go-to playwrights.   We didn’t have to memorize anything but we did have to design our own costumes and highlight our lines in our playbooks.  There was only one, inevitably chaotic, rehearsal. 

We foolishly invited friends to watch us make fools of ourselves.  We plied them with food and drink before, during, and after our performances. Always partaking heartily of the same ourselves.  All I remember from all those years is the laughter. The laughter for, at, and with each other.

I’d do almost anything for a silly night like that right now.

“Watch With Winston”

Winston has over 250,000 faithful Tik-Tok followers who hang on every moment of Winston as he watches his favorite movies. 

Winston’s not into just any old movies.  He has a strong preference, if not a singular focus, for doggy movies.  Movies like Old Yeller,  Lassie,  Lady and the Tramp.   We all like to identify with what we see on the big and little screen and Winston is no exception. 

Winston is a Bea-bull.  In doggy world, that translates to a beagle/bull-dog mix.  Winston was a rescue puppy, adopted by our granddaughter and her husband.  Shortly after he came home, he developed a serious canine-pneumonia.  Bed rest was required to heal him. The question was how to get a puppy to “bed-rest.”

They settled him in with lots of warm blankets and stuffed animals.  They popped some popcorn, put Lassie on the computer screen and, unknowingly, got him hooked on movies.  They also created a Tik-Tok star. 

Winston’s followers love to watch him as he watches the ups and downs, the glad, the sad, the mundane and the exceptional stories of the dogs’ lives.  You see it in his face, in his eyes as he tears up, in his throat as he gulps.  All the while snacking on popcorn.  There’s one exception.  He’s not allowed to watch the ending of Old Yeller.  Wise decision. Old Yeller meets an unfortunate end and there’s no need to bother Winston with that.

There’s something about Winston that would have appealed to my old icons, Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers. He’s obviously sweet and loving. So, let him take you into the world of Tik-Tok, if for just a moment. He’s sure to tickle (or tockle) your fancy.

Click on this to “watch with Winston” for a couple of minutes.

Carolyn Quit!

One day she was here, doing a great job.  The next day?  Gone!  No explanation.  She just up and left us high and dry.  It was, to say the very least, a most untimely event.

There hadn’t been so much as a peep to prepare us.  Not even a squeak.  She’d been with us for years and you know how attached you get when someone’s been with you for so long.  They become, really, a part of the family.

It’s safe to say we felt that way about Carolyn.  And we know there’ll never be another like her.

And, boy, have we looked.  And looked.  You start looking around for kitchen timers these days and they’re all electronic.  Carolyn was mechanical.  Seems no one wants to twist the little knob and hear that loud ring-a-ding when the food’s ready. 

There was nothing subtle about Carolyn.  No escaping her insistence.  You either got your buns to the kitchen when she rang or you’d go deaf.  Her bell never stopped. Thirty years with us and she’d never once let us burn a single piece of toast, overcook a chicken or let a pot of rice go dry.

Finally, and after much serious searching, the new, and mechanical, timer is here.  It’s French and the numbers are backwards. Its little ring-a-ding is quite pleasant. It’s just not covered with years and years of patina, affection and heaven knows what else.  In other words, it’s just not Carolyn.

Is You Is or Is You Ain’t?

Vaccinated, that is.

That’s the question on everyone’s lips these days.  Followed, of course, by many other questions.

When is/was your appointment? 

Where did you go? 

Which kind did you get?  

How’d you get so lucky to get one in January?

Was the line long? 

Did you have a reaction? 

Did your arm hurt/itch?

When’s your second shot? 

How long ‘til you’re immune? 

When have we ever, ever gone down this crazy path?  Vaccinations should hardly be hot topics of conversation.  I mean really. Talk about boring. Who cares about shots?  And whose business is it anyway? 

Turns out, everybody cares and it is very much everybody’s business. 

Because we all want our shots and we all want to get back to business. 

Just as soon as we possibly can.

Syringe drawing courtesy of line.17qq.com

Well, What Would You Do?

Imagine, for a moment, that a very tall street light, down the way a bit, is positioned exactly so that part of it comes directly into your window at night.  Right straight into your eyes.  The reflection from the water between you and it exacerbates its glare and makes it all shimmery/glimmery.  And that makes you nauseous.

Clearly, it’s a situation in need of a fix.

So, what would you do?

Well, you could put a blind/shutter on the window.  (But then you couldn’t watch the stars.)

You could wear eye shades.  You know, like the ones they give you on airplanes. (See above.)

You could call the community and ask them to reposition the light.  (Hah!)

You could ask the community to put in a light that wasn’t quite so bright.  (See above.)

You could do all, or any, of that but you didn’t.  And you had your reasons.  (See above.)

What you did was get a really long extension pole, attach a paint brush to the end of it, soak the brush in black paint, and then, under cloak of darkness, you crept, very slowly so as not to trip, or worse, drip all the way down to the street light and paint out the offending side.

Which didn’t work since paint on glass doesn’t stick unless you prep the glass and you’d need a ladder to get all the way up there and that simply wasn’t an option.  At least according the person who lives with you. So here we are.  And I ask, most sincerely:  “Well, what would you do? “

In Search of a Mantra in the Time of Covid

As I bump into the ever-shrinking walls of our house, I find myself in need of a mantra.  A few words to play with in my head that tell me that I’m doing the right thing, right now.  This continued isolation thing, the scary stats, the sad stories, all call for soothing words. Comforting words.

I actually have a “personal” mantra, which was assigned to me, many years ago, by my very own Transcendental Meditation Shaman. One doesn’t forget one’s personal mantra. Ever. Besides, it’s the same one the Mister got. But it’s not cutting the mustard these days.

So, what to do?  Where to find a mantra? One that reminds me that it’s still better to be safe than sorry?

The Mister’s old school ditty suddenly popped into my head and I think I’ve got it. 

The school’s mascot just happens to be a Purple Cow.  It’s a good school and I’ve always thought their choice of mascot was suspect but that’s another topic.

The “ode” to said cow goes like this:

I never saw a Purple Cow.

I hope I never see one.

But this I tell you here and now,

I’d rather see than be one.

Oddly, this works for me.  Why is another matter.  Entirely.

My Voting Record

I think my voting record has been stellar to date, even if I say so myself. I’ve checked boxes, pulled levers, and tapped screens for 60 years now.  Sure, go ahead and do the math.  I’m that old. And I’ve voted in every presidential election since I could. It was my right, my responsibility and my honor.

During most of those years, however, I think I could be accused of being a somewhat dispassionate voter.  I didn’t research platforms, ideologies, strengths and weaknesses so much as I simply voted for who I thought might best lead us.  Party affiliation never mattered.

There was one exception:  Jack Kennedy.  Like so much of the world, I simply fell sway to his charms, to Jackie’s style, to the world they’d let us peek into.   I figured if they were in the White House, everything else would just fall nicely into place.

I don’t know whether others were as quasi-blasé as I was about voting. The only thing I know, for sure, is that this last election was anything but dispassionate. To put it into double, or triple, negatives: nobody doesn’t not care. 

We listen to opposing views even as we struggle to comprehend them. Then we either swallow our words or harshly spit them out, both with negative consequences. 

In 2016, when passions ran high, I wondered, in this little space, when/if we could reconcile our differences.

It’s four years later and I’ve got my answer.  It’s just not the one I’d hoped for.

WORDS FAIL. ALMOST.

“Well, now.”

That’s what my mother always said at the start of a declaration. Hands on her hips, distaste on her lips.  You knew you’d better listen up.

Then she’d elaborate. “Well, now,” she’d say, “I’ve seen it all!”

It might have been alarmum over a friend’s new hair-do, perhaps a comment she objected to, even an errant play at the bridge table.  Whatever it was, it was worthy of serious attention.

During the deeply saddening events of last Wednesday in Washington, The Mister and I invoked her words.  We had, really, nothing else to say.

There was a bit of a difference, however. My mother was always sure of herself. When she said she’d seen it all, she meant it. I, on the other hand, am not at all sure that we’ve seen it all.

Enough Already

Question: “How do I know if I’m an introvert?”

Answer: “You know you’re an introvert if you’re ready to go home before you leave the house.”

Okay. So, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool, born-and-bred, certified (certifiable?), hard-core, bad-to-the-bone introvert.  There were times in the last year that I used (misused?) the Covid guidelines to avoid parties, large groups, grocery stores and other introvert-averse activities.  But at this point, even I, dedicated introvert that I am, feel a touch over-isolated.

I actually long to shake the hand of someone I’ve just met.  I want to touch a shoulder.  I want to sit close to a friend.  I want to play bridge.  I want to pass around a birthday card.  I want to laugh until droplets happen.  I want to leave my mask at home.  I want something on my calendar other than a doctor’s appointment.  

All of those things will have to wait, however.  And wait they will.  Impatience has no reward at the moment.  Which is so annoying since impatience is one of my few  skills.  Nevertheless.

The things I miss and long for are small things.  Little bits and pieces.  Unremarkable moments.  That’s what I want.    And that is big chunk of my hope for 2021.

Family Christmas Presents

Or not.

Once we realized, way back in early December, that we would still be cocooned, isolated, quarantined, or a combination of the above,  we started looking for a little something special to send to our loved ones, far and wide. Something to remind them of us in our total eclipse. The Mister found a charming product in a catalogue and we went for it.  We went for 13 actually since 13 is the number of relatives we wouldn’t see during the holidays.

The gift is called a Fairy Light Spirit Tree and its mythical appeal goes like this:

Lovingly plucked from the far realm of Ireland, the Fairy Light Spirit will add enhancement and wonder to your home as well as offer protection to those who dwell under its roof.  Fairies are kind hearted and playful.  Honor them and welcome them into your home by placing offerings at the base of your tree.    In return, your fairies will protect and heal your sprit in times of need.”

Who wouldn’t be enchanted by that?  Who wouldn’t send Fairy Light Trees to everyone?  Who wouldn’t want a Fairy Light Tree for their very own selves? Not us, that’s for sure.

The Mister put in a call to the fairy reps in California and placed the order.    We could hardly wait to hear everyone’s happy voices when their gift arrived.

So, we sat back and waited.  And waited a little more.  We’re still waiting.

We’re not sure when the Fairy Trees will get to their final destinations.  Their travels have been long and arduous.    Each took his/her own wildly circuitous route.   We believe…or at least hope….. they’ll be appreciated just that much more when they finally get there. It’s for sure they’ll have tales to tell.

In the meantime, for your amusement and our dismay, here is the itinerary of just one….yes, just one…of those little suckers, reading, of course, from the bottom up.  You’ll note the “Arriving Late” specification at the very tippy top.   As if we didn’t already know.

2020-12-21 01:01  In Transit, ARRIVING LATE, 2020-12-20 23:36  CHARLESTON SC PROCESSING CENTER, Arrived at USPS Regional Facility 2020-12-20 21:39 COLUMBIA SC PROCESSING CENTER, Departed USPS Regional Facility 2020-12-20 21:06 COLUMBIA SC PROCESSING CENTER, USPS in possession of item 2020-12-20 01:01 In Transit to Next Facility 2020-12-19 01:01 In Transit to Next Facility 2020-12-18 23:00 LANCASTER,PA, Arrived at USPS Facility 2020-12-18 17:52 YORK,PA, Departed Shipping Partner Facility, USPS Awaiting Item 2020-12-18 10:18 YORK,PA, Arrived Shipping Partner Facility, USPS Awaiting Item 2020-12-17 08:42 AUSTELL,GA, Departed Shipping Partner Facility, USPS Awaiting Item 2020-12-17 00:06 AUSTELL,GA, Arrived Shipping Partner Facility, USPS Awaiting Item 2020-12-07 13:30 NEWYORK – UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Clearance processing complete at GATEWAY 2020-12-07 08:33 NEWYORK – UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Arrived at AIRPORT of Destination,Custom clearance in processing. 2020-12-07 05:15 CHINA, Departure from airport to destination country 2020-12-06 16:40 CHINA, Arrive at international airport SHANGHAI PUDONG INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT 2020-12-06 14:00 SHANGHAI, Departed Facility In processing center 2020-12-05 22:16 SHANGHAI, Shipment has been processed in operational center 2020-12-05 20:34 SHANGHAI, Arrived at Sort Facility SHANGHAI 2020-12-04 12:36 Shipment information received. 

Christmas 2020

In ordinary times, a single box of tissues is merely a commodity. An item on a shopping list. Nothing more.

In the middle of a pandemic, a single box of tissues becomes a precious thing. A rarity. Scarce as hen’s teeth.

At Christmas time, a single box of tissues can be a thoughtful present. A really, really thoughtful Christmas present.  

It also provides a handy seque into my Christmas blog.                     

The year was 1961. I was working in Boston at the New England Conservatory of Music as a receptionist. It was, in all respects, a wonderful year. I was in love (still am) and was surrounded by talented, generous and joyful people.

But Christmas was always hard for me. What to give to my parents? My father never wore anything but a suit, had enough ties to last several life times, bought his own socks and had no hobbies. My mother was choosy about the things she wore and the things she had in the house. I always had great angst about what to give them. That year I found a little Japanese porcelain dish which I hoped they would like, but it cost more than my small salary could comfortably bear. Still, I bought it. There wasn’t any joy in the purchase, however. I was worried and poorer…not a good combination.

The Conservatory was, back then, in a less than desirable part of town. It was surrounded by poverty level housing and people. There was a drug store right across the street that I visited on my lunch hour to pick up necessary items.

One day, near Christmas, I was at the drug store, mindlessly purchasing some stuff, not giving it any thought as I stood in line to pay for my items. An older woman was in front of me. She wasn’t dressed warmly enough for the cold Boston December day. It did strike me that she most likely didn’t have a warmer coat, but the thought was fleeting.

And then something happened that I will never forget. As my arms were carelessly full of stuff, I realized she was buying a single box of tissues. And I heard her say to the clerk: “This is for my friend for Christmas. She’ll really like it.”

I find myself as speechless now as I did then. And still a little close to tears. It was a hard reality. She was delighted with her choice of a gift for her friend, confident that it would be given, received and used with love and affection.

And I was worried about an expensive porcelain dish for my parents who needed nothing and would most likely put the dish in a drawer anyway? Not a Christmas goes by that I don’t think about that moment.

Sometimes, I wish our family could just exchange boxes of tissues, carefully choosing ones that might appeal…they come in such jazzy colors and designs these days. Wouldn’t that be fun? We could wrap them up fancifully with pretty paper and ribbons, confident they would be used and appreciated.

Now, I know we can’t….and would never want to…deny our families the joy of Christmas morning and presents under the tree. Santa Claus does exist. But, for me, perhaps, a box of tissues has become a symbol of friendship and love, of a longed-for simple Christmas season, of joy, of an opportunity to share with others less fortunate, and, in its own way, a real meaning of Christmas.

The Mister and I wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy 2021.

They’re Back! Again!

They’re our very own ragtag group of Christmas Carolers. We’ve carefully curated and purchased all of them from the impeccable sources of Walgreens and CVS.  They’ve been part of our Christmases for ages.  They’re old.  Way, way old.  So, in this year like no other, we thought perhaps they should remain quarantined in the basement. But the need for their joyous voices and happy faces bested our strict covid rules.

They had to be checked out, of course.  Tested, as it were. One by one, we pinched their little sensor fingers and wound their little stems to see if they still had life. Several needed battery-boosts.  That part was expertly managed by our in-house doctor, always at the ready with his handy-dandy tool kit.

Then.  Sigh.  Alas. Oh, dear, Oh, dear.  Minnie the Mouse was unresponsive. And remained that way even after repeated battery replacements and some heavy-duty shaking to try to wake her up.  Minnie is no ordinary member of the chorus.  She’s special.  Always has been.  She has a little wiggle to her hips when she sings.  Her cheeks light up.  Her tiny voice rises above the others.  She’s our alpha.   But this year?   Nothing.  Nada.  Zip. Was this Minnie’s last act?

I’ll fix her, said the Mister.  You can’t fix her, I said.  She was made in China and you can’t fix anything that was made in China.  Everyone knows that.

Undeterred, he went straight to Amazon and ordered parts.  Many parts.

Unbelievably, all those parts arrived in less than 24 hours.  The Doctor/Mister lovingly carried Minnie downstairs to the OR, opened her up, removed some battery corrosion, rearranged a few internal modules, rewired her vocal-chords, and replaced her micro-activator switch.  He brought her back upstairs and just like that, she wiggled her hips and sang her little song.  There was joy in our house again.

So, here she is.  Ready to share her cheer with you.  Her words are a bit slurred and her song is not as long as it once was.  You’ll have to forgive her.  She’s been through a lot.  She’s doing her best.  I think most of us can appreciate that.

Taking My Own Advice

Last week’s blog espoused the virtues of doing absolutely nothing.   It extolled the value of simply sitting and thinking about nothing, anything or everything, with no expectation for enlightenment, inspiration or production. Sure, one might hope for a small light bulb to go off somewhere, somehow, in that meditative state. But even that’s not necessary.

Thus, one day last week, I sat.  And sat some more. Nary a light bulb appeared.  Not even a flicker. 

Ergo, for the first time since I’ve been doing this, there is no blog, per se. 

But since I believe that everything happens for a reason, my sitting had an outcome. A good one, as it turns out. While I was sitting, doing absolutely nothing, a good friend sent me a video. Maybe she knew I really needed to see that video. Vibes, synchronicity and all that good stuff.

She recommended that I turn the volume up on high, sit back and enjoy it.  I did exactly that and hope you will, too.  It’s a wonderful expression of humanity, art, music and dance.  It takes about 3 minutes to look at and is worth every second.

Here it is:

Time Well Spent or A Waste of Time?

Which is it?

There’s a book out there titled” The Art of the Wasted Day” by Patricia Hample.  She would have us believe that, put together, both of those things have value. That wasted time is, indeed, time well spent.

Ms. Hample wants us to spend more time doing nothing.   Actually, she really doesn’t want ME to do that because I already spend too much time doing nothing.    More would simply be obscene.

I am grateful, however, for her permission to do just that.

I recall that I never felt more productive than when I was pregnant.  All I had to do was sit there.  And I was productive.  That gig has come and gone but I’m still skilled at sitting there.  There’s just no product forthcoming.  Ms. Hample says that’s ok.

So I’ll sit. For a bit. And watch the sky.  And the clouds.  I’ll let my mind wander. Wherever it wants to go. I’ll think about stuff.  About people.  About friends.  About the ones I’ve lost and the ones I’ve gained during these turbulent times. I’ll ask myself some questions and when I start answering them, I’ll move to another chair.  And start all over again.

A Necessary Transition

“DID YOU HEAR ME?    

I SAID PUT DOWN THOSE PHONES!!!!

AND I MEAN RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND.  YOUR COUSINS ARE HERE FROM VIRGINIA AND THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO CATCH UP WITH THEM. FACE TO FACE.”

How many times have those words been said at family gatherings?    And never more often or more forcefully than at Thanksgiving dinners.

But now, as this “Year Like No Other” continues in its very strange way, we give thanks for those phones.

Now we’re more likely to hear this at our Thanksgivings:  

“DID YOU HEAR ME?    

I SAID PICK UP YOUR PHONES!!!

AND I MEAN RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND.   YOUR COUSINS FROM VIRGINIA ARE ZOOMING AND THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO CATCH UP WITH THEM. FACE TO FACE.”  

Our old friend Norman Rockwell might not fully understand this but he would appreciate our concern for family members and friends.  Keeping them safe, healthy and happy was his goal.  And ours. This year’s the same. Just different.