Dining With The Pundits

It was 6:30 pm on an ordinary weeknight and we were “dining” with a group of television political pundits, as they sputtered about President Biden’s attempts to pass his 3.9 trillion dollar spending plan.

They were musing on the Senators Manchin/ Sanders pow-wows.  And on the time spent listening to personal and party-centric opinions.  They wondered if there were too many cooks in the kitchen; too many fingers in the big pot.

Shortly after the commercial break, we heard from Gov. John Kasich of Ohio who is, apparently, a staunch believer in the “make your case and go to the mat for it” management style.   Strong, powerful executives don’t waiver, he says.  It’s a sign of weakness.  Presidents have clout.  They should use that power, that clout, to make themselves clear and leave it at that. 

At that point, my own pundit (the one sitting across the table from me) recalled a paper he had written back in the late 70’s.  He was asked, as he always was, to write a piece for the Chairman of the Charles F. Kettering Foundation to present to the board at its annual meetings.

In that paper of the late 70’s, he suggested that “clout” no longer referred to the ability to go it alone. Rather, he said that “clout is not the ability to go it alone, but rather to muster and support those who – working together – are able to get the job done.”

I liked his position back then. I like it even more now.

Graphic from the cover of a Charles F. Kettering Foundation annual report

An Ode To CaringBridge

I have a love/hate relationship with CaringBridge.   I’m grateful when a new CaringBridge notice arrives in the mail. But then I fear it may not bring good news.

CaringBridge, for the uninitiated, is a site where friends and family can keep up with those who are ill.   I am, currently and once again, following Julia Reichert, film maker and Oscar winner, through CaringBridge.  Her work/life partner, Steve Bognar, keeps us posted as she, once again, struggles with cancer.  This is her third round with the damn disease and the third time Steve has kept so many of us in the loop through the site.

Steve is a wonderful writer.  He brings Julia’s friends from afar into the turmoil that they, the family and near-by friends, are living day to day.  It’s not easy but he “bridges” the fear, the possibilities and the realities with grace and, yes, humor.  He puts us in the front seat of the roller-coaster, giving us hope but making sure we also understand how scary this is.

CaringBridge, it seems to me, is the best of all web sites.  It’s usually restricted “by invitation only.” It has no tolerance for voyeurism or idle nosiness.  

I can’t say enough about the site and its purpose. But this is not an advertisement!  It’s just the place where a lot of my psychic energy is these days. And since it’s my blog…….well, you understand.

I’m Just Wild About Stationery

I love stationery.  Stationery stores, stationery kiosks, stationery catalogues. They all speak to me and I listen.  I look.  I buy.  I order.

I stew over the options. Letter-size or semi-formal notes?  Borders or plain? Regular weight or extra-thick?   Block, script, or Italic font?  Embossed or flat?  White or ecru?

And that’s all before I get to the beautiful ink colors!  So many that one is simply not enough.

But when you are not a stationAry person, stationEry expenses can get right up there.

Twelve times, we’ve moved.  Twelve new addresses.  Twelve new stationery orders.

I’ve decided to emulate a friend who is, herself, no stranger to moving.  She orders stationery with one simple word on it:  “Susan.”  Her elegant stash of beautiful paper follows her wherever she goes.  Her distinctive handwriting fills in the rest of the information as needed.  A wise woman, indeed.

Going From Ahhhh To Eeek.

It was, in my opinion, a perfectly wonderful afternoon on Hilton Head Island.  Steady rain.  Heavy dark clouds.  A fogged-in, mostly invisible, marsh.  The occasional lightning strike.

Toss in a saucy new mystery and 17 pounds of a sleepy, snuggly cat and it just doesn’t get any better.

In my slothfulness and self-indulgence, I had forgotten that our son and daughter-in-law were flying back from a college parent’s weekend.  The Mister, on the other hand, had not forgotten.  And as is his wont, he was following their plane’s progress back to Savannah on his IPad.  He has an app for that, of course.

So, he was doing his thing; I was doing mine.  All was well until he uttered that most alarming of all four-letter words: “Oops.”

Well, oops indeed.  All that “lovely” weather that I was enjoying was causing major issues for the plane our kids were on.  Wonderful went to worried in a hot second.

They had not one, but two, aborted landings.  We watched on the screen as the plane went up, down and around in circles more times than we could count. (See tracking of plane above.) If my tummy was in turmoil, I could only imagine what those tummies on the plane were doing.

All was well that ended well, I’m happy to say.  The third time was, as it is so often, the charm.

And, I must also say, in spite of all the angst and turmoil on land and in the sky that day, I still love my foul weather.   Oopsies notwithstanding, of course.

Image of plane’s path into Savannah and its eventual landing courtesy of FlightAware.com

Head Spinners

By now, in this crazy world, we all know and understand that it’s best not to read, listen to or follow much of the news.  What to believe?  Who to believe?  It’s a little like hanging out with Rosemary’s Baby or the Exorcist.

There are times, of course, when we can’t avoid situations that make us stop in our tracks and ask: “Whoa! What just happened there?”

During this last year, I have often recalled the following bit of dialogue to help me through the crazies.  While head-spinning in itself, it at least brings laughter.

The year was probably 2000.  I was part of a group of women and the new board was assuming its role.

At its first meeting, the Incoming Chairwoman (ICW) asked the Outgoing Chairwoman (OCW) if she had a list of the group’s members.  

OCW said she did indeed have such a list.

ICW asked OCW if she would fax her that list.

OCW said she didn’t have a fax machine.

ICW said neither did she.

I rest my case.

A (Pre)Cautionary Tale

In September 2009, our son Scott and his wife Sarah were visiting us, here on Hilton Head.  Both were supremely healthy.  So healthy that one afternoon, while we were out on our boat, Sarah, being a strong swimmer, dove in the water and rescued a couple whose ski-doo had flamed out.  That’s how strong she was. How supremely healthy.

Later that afternoon, they flew home.

In less than five days after their return to Ohio, Sarah was on full life support and had been air-lifted to the Michigan University Hospitals where, we were told, she had her best chance of survival.  And it wasn’t a very good chance at that. The good doctors in Dayton advised us in no uncertain terms that they could do nothing more for her.

The culprit:  H1N1.  Also known as Swine Flue. A virus few of us had even heard about.  And if we had, we certainly weren’t concerned about it.  It was a just a simple flu, a day or two in bed, a take-two-aspirin-and-call-me-in-the-morning kind of thing.  What me worry?

So, how could a little flu bug like that take down our strong, healthy daughter-in-law? And take her down so far and so fast? 

Here’s how that happened and here’s what worries me now about our children who are getting Covid.

Sarah’s exceedingly strong immune system rallied all her organs and waged war on H1N1.  Surely, they said to themselves, as a group we can beat this thing. But nasty little bug that it was, it fought back and all her systems failed.   Had she not been so healthy, she wouldn’t have gotten so sick.  How does something like that make sense?

It doesn’t. But it’s real.  It happens.  Not frequently but enough for each of us to do our best to make sure that our children and grandchildren are always with people who’ve been vaccinated. Children’s immune systems are strong.  Kids are typically healthy.  They fight off stuff we older people can’t.  That’s why this tale is important.  Too much of a good thing may sometimes be just that:  too much.

As to Sarah.  She’s fine.  She great, in fact.  She spent nearly three months in the SICU in Michigan, with the best doctors on this earth, caring for her, invested in and dedicated to her recovery. They became deeply attached to her family who moved to Michigan for that time. They ultimately unearthed a new drug which turned her disease around.  The time, effort and commitment on the part of all those doctors and nurses to save Sarah was extraordinary. Our hospitals don’t have that luxury these days.   They’re in crisis themselves.  This story would not have a happy ending today.  We can’t let that happen to our children. 

Where Were You?

You know exactly where you were.  We all do.  We’ll never forget.

We remember exactly where we were when the first plane hit the towers.   

We remember who first told us that something terrible had happened.  

We remember when the first tower collapsed.

We remember when The Pentagon came under attack.  We remember when we feared for the Capital Building.  We remember when we heard those words: “Let’s Roll.”

The fact that all that happened on the morning of September 11, 2001 still rocks us to our core. Yes, we promise we’ll never forget.  We also promise to share our stories. Nobody can tell those stories better than those of us who lived through that time. We owe that to all our generations to come.

Some “Consistently Contradictory” Ramblings

Like so many during the recent past, the Mister and I have spent a lot of time alone together.

We’ve experienced more than one deafening silence, especially when we’ve clearly misunderstood each other.  In coming to a renewed peace, we’ve had to accept a few definite maybes, even as we establish even odds on the outcomes of our own little civil wars.

When some of our crazy ideas go over like lead balloons, it seems that impossible solutions may be our only answers. Rarely does one of us have unbiased opinions, so it’s a minor miracle when one of us concedes. Ergo, seeking common ground may be our best if not only choice.

We’ve watched a fair amount of television during the quarantine.  Some of it has been awfully good. Some has been seriously funny and some has been pretty ugly. And, of course, the news is usually old news.

We have appreciated the yummy treats our family has shared with us.  They’ve been so generous that we now find that some things are suffering from freezer burn and it is with sweet sorrow, a touch of the bittersweet and a sad smile that we must throw it out.

Having been vaccinated, we hope that our chance of becoming super-sick is gradually growing smaller. Thus, we are finally prepared to rejoin a small crowd of friends.  To let go of the sound of silence.

And so, with all deliberate speed, we make haste slowly, in search of little festive tranquility.

Oxymorons, anyone?

Trying Times….

….call for silly jokes.  Hence, today’s Laff-on-the-May.

Once upon a time, there was a very nice gentleman who lived by himself and decided he would like to have a pet.  He took himself off to the pet store and explained his situation.  No dogs, cats, rabbits, or hamsters, please.  Just something small and companionable.

I have just the thing, said the pet store owner.  The little fella was brought in just this morning and fits your needs to a tee.  He’s an adult centipede, requiring little but a shoebox with holes and some grass.  Great!  Said our friend.  I’ll take him.

And off they went.

Round about five o’clock, our friend says to the centipede: “Hey there, little fella, I think I’ll go down to the bar and get a nice cold beer.  Would you like to come with me?”

Alas, there was no response from the shoebox.  Not so much as a peep.  Our friend was disappointed but persistent. Perhaps, he thought, I should speak a bit louder. And so he says:

“Hey there, little fella, I think I’ll go down to the bar and get a nice cold beer. Would you like to come with me?”

Still nothing from the little box. It’s all so sad, he muses.  So terribly, terribly sad.  But, ever the optimist, he decides to give it one more shot.  Even louder this time.

“Hey there, little fella, I think…..”

Suddenly, a quiet little voice emerges from the box and it says:

“Hey  Mister, I heard you the first time.  I’ve been a little busy puttin’ on my shoes.

.

In the meantime, of course, our hearts and prayers are with all those in the eyes of the horrific storms known as Ida and Kabul.

How Terribly Shocking It All Is.

Why would anyone choose to read books about missing husbands, extramarital dalliances, a wealthy murdered couple, epic crazy wild parties and an abducted presidential daughter?

Apparently a whole lot of us do because those are the topics of the most recent New York Times best sellers. 

I suppose we’re reacting to a bit of the aftermath of the solitude and quarantine of Covid.  During that time, we listened to and read way too much discouraging and upsetting news.  The Olympics didn’t do much to alleviate stress and we’ve streamed all the old movies and British mysteries.  Of course, that’s an editorial “we.”

Yes, I, personally, have read all of those books.  And I found all of them absorbing, interesting, engaging and fun. They took me away from all the angst of the last year.

So why, indeed?   Why do we burrow deep down into books that take us away?  Books that grab us by the throat and take us far, far away from the every-day?

I don’t know exactly why that is but I, for one, will do whatever it takes.  And, again speaking for myself, a grisly murder, some familial deceit, a few missing bodies and an abduction or two seem to do the trick. But wait. If the NYT best seller list has credibility, it appears I’m not alone. There are others, I’m happy to learn, who also seek the occasional and, not so terribly shocking, reading escape.

So, should you wish to join me and the others on our little getaways, that list is as follows:

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

The Paper Palace by Miranda Heller

Not A Happy Family by Shari Lapena

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The President’s Daughter by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Enjoy!

Has “Preppy” Died?

Can it be?  Has preppy has finally met its maker?  Surely not.  Please tell me it isn’t so.

But here we are.  Brooks Brothers has apparently bitten the dust.  Ditto J. Crew.   If that’s not a harbinger of preppy-death, I don’t know what is.

Lily Pulitzer would have us believe otherwise.  She’s still everywhere.  Pastels.  Floral designs. Cute little shifts.  Handbags. The lot.  If you like Lily, you’re still in the groove.

I will quite miss J. Crew.  It was a stand-by, go-to source for certain things.  I always flipped up my collar and tightened my fish/whale/dog belt before I deigned to enter. J. Crew oozed prep from every pore. I wanted to, too.

Then there’s Brooks Brothers. The Mister always fought me tooth and nail about going to Brooks Brothers for suits, jackets, and shirts, even though he always looked quite smashing in their stuff.  He was convinced that they seriously overcharged their customers.  I generally prevailed in spite of his deeply held convictions.

But, there is and will always be, one very important BB item that even he greatly appreciated and depended on. It’s just one little word: Boxers.  Even the Mister agrees that nobody made boxer shorts like Brooks Brothers did.

We’re sorry to see you go, dear friends. But rest assured. Preppy lives in our minds, our hearts, and yes, our closets. We may be old but we’re not senile. We saw the handwriting on the wall and stocked up. Wise old preppy birds that we are.

Everything Old Is…

New again? 

The with-it and up-to-date people are all about podcasts, which bring wonderful stories right to your home or car.  Just like a radio but newer. Open your iphone, buy an app, study the options, make a choice and voila!    An audio delight.  Right at your fingertips.  Sit back, listen, learn, enjoy.

We did just that recently when we took some quick trips up and back to Charleston, SC.  It was recommended that we listen to “S-town.”  It’s an NPR “This American Life” production. For four hours, our imaginations transported us into that tiny little town in Alabama, where remarkable people live and do remarkable things. The time and the miles flew by.

We’re not going back on the road any time soon but we still have three hours left on the podcast.  In our prior lives, it didn’t feel odd to curl up and listen to the radio, but now it feels a bit strange to sit and listen to an iphone.   

But, listen we will.  We need to hear how this podcast ends.  We need to know what will happen to all those people we’ve come to know, if not fully understand.  We’ve formed pictures of them in our minds and hearts, just as we did when we listened to the radio.

We highly recommend “S-town” for a rousing good time, some rugged language notwithstanding. It’s already been downloaded more than 90 million times. We’re a tad late to the party but, in our minds, better late than never.

Famous Last Words

For some unknown reason, I decided to google “famous last words.” Here are some from across the years that caught my eye.

In 1911, Jack Daniel asked for “one last drink, please.” Of course, he did.

In 1959, Errol Flynn said: “I’ve had a helluva lot of fun.”  Just ask a few of the women he romanced.

In 2001, George Harrison asked the world to “Love One Another.”  True Beatle sentimentality to the very end.

In 2013, Roger Ebert said he’d “see us at the movies.”

In 2015, Leonard Nemoy asked us to “Live long and prosper.” Really, what else could he say?

There’s something whimsical and unique about those quotes.  They’re memorable. Theirs were lives well lived.  Most had few, if any, regrets.

And here we are in 2021 and I’m concerned that many, many last words will simply be:  “I wish I’d gotten that shot.”  

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.

Sometimes that’s easier said than done.  We’re addicted to white noise to get us to that lovely state of sleep. 

Once upon a time, when we lived on a busy street, the traffic introduced us to white noise.  The whoosh and hum of tires on asphalt lured us to slumber.   It also drowned out other really annoying noises such as ticking clocks, rustling sheets, sniffly noses.  

But then we moved to a traffic-less neighborhood and the silence became both deafening and disturbing.   Every little sound was an interruption and an eruption. And there was no sleep for us.

Enter “sleep machines.” You set them to the white noise you want, the volume you want and when you push the “on” button, sleep comes easily.  Reliably.  Soothingly.

Until, of course, our most recent one.  Like our new kitchen timer and our smart televisions, it oversteps its single purpose in life and causes more trouble than it fixes.  Sleepless nights are now not uncommon.  How can this be?

In a nutshell, there are too many options.

How many hours of noise? Two? Three?  Six?  Twelve?  

Which noise?  Wind?  Rain? Waves?  Fans?  Spa? Waterfalls? Trains?

How loud?  Low?  Medium low?  Louder?  Much louder?   Really loud?

The old one was” set and forget.”  The new one challenges.  It regularly demands answers to its many questions. 

And its buttons?  Did I mention that the buttons are barely larger than the head of a pin?  The opportunities for error and frustration cannot be overstated.

And sleep becomes elusive.

Once again.

Image: Thanks to Basil, for providing a sense of scale.

WHEW!

“That thing must weigh a ton!” 

We’re usually pretty sure that “it” doesn’t weigh anywhere near a ton. It’s just something we say.  But when our little newspaper reported that 44 tons…..yes, 44 TONS….of trash were hauled away from our beaches after the Fourth of July weekend, I decided to get a better idea of what a “ton” really looks like.

A ton is 2000 pounds.  So 44 times 2000 times is 88,000 pounds. That’s beyond my ability to fully grasp.  So, I brought it down to single tons and tried to imagine 44 of whatever that might be.

10 adult men add up to about one ton.  That means we’d need 440 men to get to 44 tons.  A movie theater holds about 200 so we’d need two movie theaters packed full of adult men.

An average car weighs in at about a ton and a half.   30 cars gets us to the magic number.  Lined up, nose to tail, they’d take up about 600 feet. Or about the length of two city blocks.

A healthy elephant usually weighs about 4 or 5 tons.    We’d only need nine or so adult elephants to get to 44 tons.  Elephants are big!  And heavy. And we do so love them.

But since a picture is worth a thousand words, I thought I’d find out what one ton of trash looks like.   It looks like this:

This is a picture of exactly one ton of trash, minus one pound. The trash collection company did it to see what it it would look like. We can now assuredly say: ” That thing must weigh a ton. ” Now multiply by 44 to picture what had to be cleaned up from our beautiful beaches after just one weekend.

Alas.

Truck hauling one ton of roadside trash courtesy of Simpsonville.com