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.

It’s a Lovely Day in the ‘Hood Today.

No gnats or mosquitoes.  Blue skies.  Temps’ in the 70’s.  

To add to this lovely day, there’s a kid’s regatta out on the sound.  Lots of little ones with their teeny-tiny sail boats.  The competition will be fierce.

And, there’s more! Bags of food sit at the end of nearly every driveway.  No, it’s not a blight on the landscape.  It’s the recognition that we, here, are so terribly fortunate.  Fortunate to live here and fortunate to be able to help those in need. All those bags of food are being picked up later today and delivered to the food bank here on the Island. 

And if that weren’t enough, the truck picking up all that good food will be driven by our son, Chip.   He, and several members of his real estate firm, do this yearly.  They pile in the company truck, gather up all the bags, and help stock the food bank.  And they do all of this with smiles.  They, too, know how lucky they are and they take great pleasure in being able to help those less so.

It is, indeed, a lovely day in the neighborhood.

Stop The World. I Want To Get Off !

That’s always how I’d feel when we’d go to King’s Island, Ohio’s answer to Coney Island.    I went on those outings, not enthusiastically but agreeably.  After all, theme parks are fun.  Aren’t they?

How you answer that question depends on your tolerance for noise, crowds, and big scary rides.  I, personally, have none.  For any of those things. Nada. But we went anyway because that’s what families do.

Families also vote and I have wanted nothing more than to get off the scary vote-counting ride that was our life last week.  But there we were.  In our very own amusement park.  We’d paid our money, put in our two cents and we were going to stay until it was over.

If we’d actually been at King’s Island, we could have ridden the Beast, the world’s longest wooden roller coaster.  Heart pounding ups and downs. Everyone screams, of course. That’s what you do on roller coasters.***

Then, we might pop over to Sling Shot, which launches its riders backwards, 360 feet in the air at 100 mph.  Once you get to the top, it’s head-over-heels time. Over and over. And over. Nauseous.

Delirium, they tell you, will spin you in a 240 degree arc to 137 feet in the air.   Not sure how down happens.  They don’t say.  They also warn that this one is not for the faint of heart.  As if the others are.

Tidy up your day at Drop Tower which zooms 275 ft. in the air.  Then the bottom drops out (of course it does) and you free-fall for 126 stories. All at a rate of 70 mph.

I went back to King’s Island this week. Virtually, of course. I never left the house. I simply turned on the television and hopped on all those rides. One right after the other. I shut my eyes, tight. Sweat poured down my back. My stomach went up and down. My heart skipped beats. I screamed.

All I wanted was for it to be over. But, I must admit it, was one helluva ride.

***You can take a virtual Beast ride at this site.  The old wooden structure is really quite beautiful and fun as long as you’re watching from the safety of your home. The clackety-clack of the wheels on the inclines is quite wonderful. Even soothing. It’s just this click away.

Takin’ the ride drawing thanks to whatsyourgrief.com

Well, here we are.

We’re on the cusp of a momentous election.  On Tuesday night, it will all be over but the shouting.  And the the counting.  And, no doubt, the recounting. 

We voted of course.  Just as we always have.  But, by absentee ballot this year.  So, I hope we voted.  Hard to know for sure.   It’s the first time we’ve not stood in some sort of line, long or short.  Standing in that line, making sure you marked your ballot correctly and getting your “I voted” sticker was always part of the ritual.  You could pat yourself on the back.  Feel good about your role as a citizen.  Go home and await the results.

You knew, you always knew, that no matter the outcome, you’d be in good hands.  Those three branches of government would forever keep us true and firm.  Like a tri-pod, a three-legged stool, we would be balanced.  And strong.  Safe.

But right now, the ground doesn’t feel as solid as it should. It feels tilted. Off-center. This is, indeed, a year like no other. And it is, most definitely, an election like no other.

Ain’t it just the pits?

Nobody wants to be in “the pits” if they don’t have to.  You don’t go there on purpose.  

Unless you are a group of smart women, with a broad base of experience, thought and perspective.  Then being in “the pits” becomes something else entirely.

Not too long ago, a group of women decided to gather.  To talk about politics, issues, and the like.  All from different backgrounds, different political parties, they thought it would be fun to come up with a name for themselves.  One suggested Politically Independent Thinkers.  Another thought that was a great name but, made into an acronym, it became the “PITS.”

And no one wanted to go there.  

Then they, smart women that they are, started to think about pits.

Where would the peach be without a pit?  

Whatever would we do without pit-stops on the road?

Where would the orchestra sit, if not in the pit?

How could we mine stone, coal and minerals without going deep into the pits?

How can you have barbequed ribs without the barbeque pit?  

After some consideration, that group of women decided, wisely and to a one, that pits are an essential and important part of life.    The very core of many good things.

Indeed, they finally said, why not call ourselves the PITS?   They couldn’t come up with a good answer.

And so they did.

TARGETED

Once upon a time, I was targeted.  As in “target-market” targeted.   Stores carried clothes, shoes, cosmetics that were “targeted” to the likes of me. I was of an age when retailers, advertisers and marketers wanted my business.  Happily, I could afford a little more than the bare necessities.  Ergo, I was an economically attractive “target-market.”

Now, some many years later, I’m in a different target-market. All manner of aids are now thrown at me.  Hearing aids, walking-aids, health aids and more.  Not quite as much fun as the other, sexier, market.  But a viable one, none the less.

Now, just when I thought I’d run the gamut of being targeted, there’s Covid. Or more appropriately put, the hoped-for-absence of Covid. Collectively, we want it gone.  Good-bye and good riddance.  The sooner the better. So, we eagerly await a vaccine, targeted directly at that nasty bug.

But while we wait, other responses to eradicate Covid bubble up.  One of those is “herd immunity” which, in its simplest terms, is designed to kill off the weak and enable the strong.

And Boom!  With that, we have a brand new “target market.” And I’m right-smack-dab-in-the-middle of it.  Directly in the crosshairs.  .

The problem is that, with age, I may not be as healthy as I once was.  I could have immunity issues.  Just ask the Foot about my bones. As a result, I may be a reluctant target for that down side of herd immunity.  And that really pisses me off.

I refuse to go down that path easily.  I will not go lightly into that dark hole.  I’m pretty sure there’s another, happier, target-market out there waiting just for me. I don’t know what it is but I surely plan to be there.

Critter in cross hairs drawing by Dan Nelson

To Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749 – 1832)

Dear Mr. Goethe:

You may not know this but I have quoted you, many times, through the years.  It’s just one teeny-tiny little quote but it’s served me well.  Not being a logician, computer guru, scientist, or anything like that, I learn by osmosis. By absorbing. By feeling.  

And so it is that your famous little quote “If you don’t feel it, you don’t get it” has been a mantra for me for many years.  It’s never needed clarification.  It speaks for itself.

But in recent days, when I’ve thought of that little quote, I’ve played with it in my mind.  In one re-arrangement, it can change to “If you don’t get it, you don’t feel it.”  The same but different. 

Now, Mr. Goethe, not to add to your angst but if I twist it around it even further, it might become: “If you get it, you feel it.”   Turn the negatives into positives.

And, to take one more little step into today’s world, I hope that our leaders, specifically those among them who have “gotten it” would then “get it.”

The “it” in this particular case is Covid, of course.  And my hope was that they, through “getting” sick, would surely “get” the loss, the suffering, the economic hardship that this disease has had on our country.  That they’d understand.  That they’d feel it.  Deep in their souls. And that they would “get” the need to “feel” safe and well. And would want the same for others.

Well, Mr. Goethe, happily it does look like the great majority of those who “got” it have indeed “gotten” it.  We see it. And we appreciate it. Others similarly affected? Well, maybe not so much. 

 In the meantime, please hang in there with me, old friend.  I depend on you and your wise words.

Best, as always, Sallie

Political Yard Signs

Ah yes, I remember them well.

Once upon a time, we lived in a community that allowed them.  Even encouraged them. The signs were rampant.  Everybody’s political biases and preferences screamed from their yards. If it needed a vote, it had a sign. Red and Blue co-existed, not just in neighborhoods, but in single yards.

No one cared.  It simply didn’t matter.  Nobody got upset.  No one threw rotten tomatoes or defaced signs.  Really, no one paid much attention unless the signs stayed up until Christmas.  Then there was angst.  But that was more about aesthetics than anything else.  Santas and yard signs didn’t blend in a sightly fashion.

Then, once upon a time in that same community, there was a school/property tax issue.  Money was involved, so everyone cared.  Lines were drawn.  Everyone had skin in the game.   Yard signs were, predictably, everywhere.  Signifying preference and attitude.

It was a spectacularly divisive situation.  Unlike anything we’d ever seen.  Friends took sides against friends.  Many refused to state their position for fear of retribution.  Gatherings were tricky.  In a word, it was ugly.  All of this in a small community which prided itself on its excellent schools.  

The Mister studied the situation, did the math, and suggested a path other than the one that was proposed.   As a result he became the face of one side. He devoted serious time and energy to make the case for what he thought was a better plan.  

Reason and rational battled money and power.  In the end, sound thinking won the vote.  The community and the schools won and that’s what mattered. 

But, we, personally, lost some things in that process.  There were hard feelings. Fractured friendships.  Lasting resentments.

Ah yes, I remember it well. 

I just wish those memories weren’t bubbling up quite so strongly right now.