It May Be the Littlest Room in the House……

But it’s frequently the most expressive.

I speak of the Powder Room, the Lav, the Ladies’ Room.  It’s a space which can, and often does, express the owners’ decorative styles and interests.  Obviously in small and condensed ways.

For example, an old house’s powder room might be wall-papered with beautifully trellised roses, reminiscent of its heritage. Younger owners might choose broad stripes and bold geometric patterns.  Maps papered on the wall could represent trips taken and enjoyed.  Story books in baskets and step stools by the sink tell us that grandchildren often visit.  

Our “little room” has art.  A fair amount of art.  Each piece meaningful to us for its own reasons.

There’s one particularly unique piece of art, prominently hung in our ” little room” which was re imagined by our artist friend Ted Jordan from an Andy Warhol painting.  (See it above, at the top of the blog.) The little girls are quoted as saying: “His zipper isn’t zipped.”  It makes us smile and giggle every time we see it.  Just like the little girls on the wall.

If that’s not perfect powder room art, I don’t know what is.  So, come on over.  You’ll giggle, too.  I promise.  But, please, keep your zipper zipped!  We can only take so much unbridled jollity.

Winter’s Comin’.

Yes, it is.  Just as surely as day turns into night and summer follows spring, we know in our hearts that it’s gonna get cold.  But we’re prepared.  Maybe overly so.  Read on.

Now, remember.  We live in the south.  Cold is a relative thing.  Sure, we say things like “Cold enough for ya?” but we don’t really know what that bone chilling, deep-in-your-soul cold is all about.  We haven’t shivered in our boots for a long, long time. 

Our preparation for winter is easy-peasy.  We switch out our tees for turtlenecks and our swim suits for jeans. 

And, so it seems redundant, if not a bit excessive, that Beaufort County, seat of Hilton Head and surrounding areas, just spent $35,000 on blankets.  And “weighted” blankets, to boot.

“Why?” we ask.   Why spend $35,000 on blankets?  And super-heavy ones at that.  Surely there are better ways to spend our tax dollars down here in South Carolina.  Where it never gets THAT cold.  Ever. 

The answers are murky.  

There’s definitely a whiff of hanky-banky.  We hear tales of behind-closed-door meetings. Under-cover transactions are suspected.  Lips, according to rumors, are sealed. The debate is heated and we may never get the full skinny.

In the meantime, we hope you’ll come on down.  Winter’s easy here and if you should feel a chill, well, we’ve got you covered.

The State of Maine.

Maine may be geographically large, but it has the feel of a small town whose residents collectively admire, appreciate and respect it. 

Sure, winter can get cold, but that’s part and parcel of the deal.  You pull on gloves, don a parka and take to the slopes.  Or go on a brisk walk.  Come back to a warm house, shed your stuff and sip a hot toddy.  What could be better?

Spring brings melting ice and a hint of warmer weather.  Summer brings breathtaking flowers. And, fall…..well, Maine’s fall colors are like no other.

We have family in Maine.  We understand, intellectually if not viscerally, their sense of being part of a whole.  If you don’t like what Maine has to offer, you leave.  But for those who stay, for the “Mainers”, it’s a wonderful way of life.

This week’s mass murder shook them all to their core. 

They’re not accustomed to multiple sirens blaring in the night.  Of lockdowns.  Of helicopters flying low and overhead.   Of the fear, as one family member put it, not unlike that of 9/11.  They shouldn’t have to experience that.

And neither should we.  When are we going to act?

Photo Courtesy of Tim Crockett

A Slight Change of Pace.

There’s a lot…..maybe too much…… going on in the world right now.  It all deserves our attention and our thoughts . But we recently decided to take a break from all that  and we’re very glad that we did.

During that hiatus, we streamed two perfectly wonderful shows.  Both took us into wildly different worlds and rewarded us for doing so.

The first show was “Unbelievable.”   Produced by Katie Couric, it relates the true story of a serial rapist and how he met his match through the unwavering dedication of two indomitable female detectives. 

The two cops were initially oil and water to each other.  How could they ever work together, we wondered?  But work together, they did.  They decided to make absolutely certain that not even one more woman would suffer at the hands of this cruel man.  Nailing him became their sole focus. 

The show took us step by step, misstep by misstep until…….   Well, you’ll just have to see for yourselves.  I don’t want to give it away.

The second show was “The Burial,“ starring one of my favorites actors Tommy Lee Jones and a  brand new favorite, Jamie Foxx.

Like “Unbelievable” it’s a true story and it has it all.  Courtroom scenes, potential financial and societal ruin, racial issues and persistence.  Oh, and laughs.  Lots of those.  And, no, I won’t spill any beans here either.  Just watch and enjoy.

Both shows were ultimately about commitment.   About doing one’s best, no matter how hard or tough the going got.  And, finally about the value of working together despite vastly different approaches.

Our recommendation:  Take a break from the news.  Go for a slight change of pace.  Just like we did.  There’s nothing to be lost and, perhaps, much to be gained. 

TMI.

In my humble opinion, you frequently get just that,Too Much Information, when you dine at restaurants referring to themselves as Farm to Table, locally sourced, inventive or rustic chic.

When we go out to dinner, which is “lesser and lesser” these days, I go for one reason: The Joy of NOT Cooking.  I’m okay hearing the wine is Italian, the bread is French and the strawberries were picked just this morning.  That’s all soothing and appetizing.

But I don’t care a whit about the tomato’s heritage, the lettuce’s country of origin or how lovingly the corn was harvested.  By the time I’ve sat through all that, I’d rather be home, foraging in my own fridge.  Where I could have something on the table in a heartbeat and know exactly where it all came from: Publix.

But the worst, the totally unacceptable, the ultimate TMI, is hearing thoughtful tales about the unsuspecting benefactor of the evening’s filet mignon.  Ditto the dear little lamb whose chops are on the menu.   With that information, my appetite gets up and leaves the room.  And, so do I.

The whole thing makes me want to go back to a favorite restaurant. No reservations were accepted…for anyone!  You sat/stood at the bar until your name was called.  If you were a regular, no menus were needed/offered.  The waitress simply asked what you wanted and how you wanted it cooked.  Onion rings? she’d ask.  And crumbles?  (blue cheese on your salad.)  Absolutely, we’d say.  And that was that!

It was perfect and we could hardly wait to go back.  Never mind the potentially long wait at the bar. After all, that’s where we sated our hunger for fun, friendship and laughter.

Dress Codes

  

They’re a hot topic these days.   Just tune in to the current debate in Congress.

When I was in high school, we wore uniforms.  It was an all-girls’ school so we all looked alike.  All the time.  The uniforms weren’t pretty but we wore them without complaint.  

Getting dressed was easy.  There was no energy, time, nor thought devoted to “what to wear.”  Our job was to attend classes, learn and participate.  The fewer distractions, the better.

“Sartorial statements” were seriously frowned upon and typically resulted in an extended study hall.  Respect for our system kept us on the straight and narrow.

The uniforms/dress codes were great levelers.  Backgrounds never mattered.  Our contributions, or lack thereof, were the meaningful factors.  

Clearly, I’m a fan of dress codes/uniforms.  My school was a microcosm for the success of both. Happily, all those benefits and plusses are easily transferable to larger institutions.

Put simply, we wore our uniforms and tended to business during the week.  Then we let it rip on the weekends.  How easy is that?  It made sense then and it makes sense now.

There It Sits.

Just like its predecessor.  And all those before it. 

And there have been many.  They have come.  And they have gone. 

Some have stayed longer than others.  But eventually, they all leave.  It’s predictable, predestined and inevitable.

It’s not that they’re bad.  Their purpose in life is good. Constructive.  Well intentioned.

Their final resting places are unknown.   All I know for sure is that they had it easier during their stay here than they could ever have imagined or hoped for.

But all good things must come to an end. 

And so it is that we offer it up to an enthusiast of all things healthy. We’ll hope that it finds its true potential with its new family.

I speak, of course, of the stationary bike that’s sitting upstairs in the hall.   

But, wait.  Maybe, just maybe, I should take another look at it. Who knows?   After all, this one’s smaller than the others.  More compact.  Easier to get on and off.   Really quite unobtrusive.

My wheels are turning.  Unlike the bike’s because it has none but this one may be a keeper.  So, give it a whirl, I say to myself.  Nothing to be lost and much to be gained.

It still sits, of course.  As it always will.  I just have to sit upon it.  Aye, and there’s the rub.

What Are We?

A friend’s daughter is married to my daughter-in-law’s brother.  We think of ourselves as sort-of-related. But how?

We certainly aren’t cousins, even several times removed.

We don’t share history, blood types or genes.

We have no lineage crossings.

On the other hand, we share a unique sense of connection.

We’re clearly part of an extended family.

We have a kinship, so to speak.

So, what are we?  

Is there a label for the likes of us?   

Yes, there is and I know just exactly what it is.

We’re friends with benefits!

ALERT!!

If you are under the age of sixty, or thereabouts, stop reading!  Right now!  There could be words in this little message that will have no meaning for you.  They may even appear threatening or concerning.  You will be puzzled and alarmed that there was a life such as this before you.  So, if you proceed, be afraid.  Very afraid.

We’ll start with a clue in last Saturday’s crossword puzzle.  The clue was: “Shoe salesman’s request.”  “Size” is the correct answer, of course, but the clue took me way, way back.

I wondered when I last encountered a “shoe salesman?”  First, it’s a sexist term in today’s vernacular and second, no one has tried a shoe on my foot except me for who-knows-how-long?

But, it brought back memories.  Good ones. Memories of the Foard-Harwood Shoe Store, owned and operated by David Foard, himself, and the site of many, many special and exciting trips to buy a new pair of Stride-Rites.

Mr. Foard always waited on us.  David, as he was known to my parents, took very good care of me.  The first step was, as always, a trip to the fluoroscope.*  We’d see with our very own eyes that the shoe I was wearing was pinching slightly and new ones were definitely in order.  This was NOT just an idle recreational trip.

Many new and unopened boxes would soon appear from behind closed doors.  The smell of new leather and the crinkle of the tissue paper wrapped around those shiny new shoes was almost too much.  Sometimes a lemon sucker was offered as balm for the overstimulation.

Finally, came the “let’s try this one on for size” time.  On and on it would go.  More trips to the fluoroscope.  More shoe boxes emerging from the back.  More toe pressing to determine proper length and width.  Murmurings between Mr. Foard and my mother as I took a few steps to check for comfort.

We’d leave, eventually and happily, with new shoes.  There were always admonitions that they were to be worn “gently” for a while.  I’d need to “break them in.” 

Foard-Harwood is gone, of course.  Like almost all of our friendly family shoe stores and and their caring and thoughtful shoe salesmen. Alas and alack.

*Have no idea what a fluoroscope is? Chances are, you’re too young.  In any event, you can read all about it here

EVERYTHING OLD IS….

…. all too frequently, still old.

To wit, the title of the op-ed cited above caught my eye.  Not because it’s a new concept but because it isn’t.  It’s old.  Very old, in fact.  It’s a concept that a group of working mothers working on behalf of other working mothers, tried to push forward in the mid 1970’s.  Nearly 50 years ago!

We traipsed from business to business, corporation to corporation, bank to bank, asking leaders to understand and appreciate the constraints on women trying to enter or re-enter the work force and asking for a few changes to ease that process.

The fact that the concept is still seen as fresh and/or newsworthy is deeply saddening to me. That means it never took hold.  Businesses never adopted the idea; never realized its value. 

I will cite the author’s final paragraph of her op-ed in which she nicely sums up our thinking all those years ago:

“As a token of appreciation to working mothers, we should welcome structural changes in labor markets that increase their employment options, encourage growth of the independent sector and redesign benefits to be more portable for a worker.”

Amen, Sister.  Maybe we’ll see some changes after all.  It’s never too late.

Are You Listening? 

Great!  Because we have a couple of things to say on the subject.  The subject of listening, that is.

As I think about listening, the following saying comes to mind: “A friend is someone who asks the second question.” 

The Mister’s somewhat irritating but favorite quote is: “The Good Lord gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.” 

A third voice comes from Murial Wilkins, a Harvard-trained career-consultant.  In a recent podcast, she said: “Stop talking.  Listen carefully and ask questions about the other person.  Listening is the biggest and most underused skill that helps drive empathy and a lot of other things as well.”  She’s addressing the workforce in that podcast but her words are widely applicable.

And last, but not least, is Kelsey Grammer, from the sitcom Frasier.    He’s widely remembered in his role of Dr. Frasier Crane, a radio talk-show psychologist.  In the show, he always answers his callers by saying, simply: “I’m listening.” 

And it is just that simple.  We’re given so many opportunities to listen.  To listen with curiosity and interest. To connect. To ask the second question. Why, then, does it seem to be so hard, for so many?

Oh, My!   Seriously??

The young women above were, respectively, on the covers of The New York Times Style Magazine last week and Vanity Fair this month. I’m so relieved my mother wasn’t around to see them.  She always taught me to cross my legs when I sat.  Or at least my ankles.  It was only proper and ladylike, she said.

The poses they assumed are obviously intended to be provocative and attention-grabbing.  I’m the first to admit I looked twice.  Perhaps more than twice.  And, I wondered:  Is this “womanspreading”?  Like manspreading but wider?    

If I were to suggest that the look is demeaning, I’d be very wrong. It is, most likely, empowering. After all, we say, if men can sit/pose like that, so can we.

But since we know that women nearly always do everything better than men, why bother with such unbecoming and in-your-face poses?  In my humble, if not slightly feminist, opinion, women should simply embrace their beauty, their brains and their remarkable selves. 

So, let’s just leave the so-called power poses to the men.  They probably need them more than we do.

Fourteen Years.

It’s been fourteen years since we started our dystonia journey.  Fourteen years since the toes began to curl, clutch and claw.  Fourteen years since we began to seek answers.  Fourteen years without any.

The Mister has been the soul of serious and considered research.  We’ve met and talked with doctors and lay persons from this country and others.  We’ve put the foot through more tests than it ever wanted and fed it more medicine than it could handle.  All to no avail.  We had little reason to be optimistic.

Until now.

We recently met with doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.  Thoughtful, considered, and smart docs.  They were the beginning of a possible solution. The beginning of outside-the-box thinking.

Three weeks ago, we went to Atlanta to meet with the “Dystonia” guru at Emory Medical Center.  We’d waited months to see him. 

After his Fellow, a young neurologist studying under him, touched, watched and evaluated the foot, the Big Cheese finally came in the room.  He sat down and quickly stated the following: “The medical community can’t fix this.  Stop going to white coats.  They can’t help you.  The cure…and I think there is one….is within.”

That sounds harsh but it really isn’t.  He’s saying simply that the foot won’t respond to intrusive hypodermics, physical therapy, drugs, hypnosis, or surgery.  In fact, the Mister and I had plotted a potential path to wellness on our own.  We just hadn’t realized how effective it might be until our recent trips.

The foot’s mother is now low-dosing Ketamine, a psychedelic drug, designed to open closed pathways in the neural system.  It is, simply, that simple. 

Or so we hope. We are not glib. But there’s reason for hope.  We see it every day.  Little stumbles are turning into small steps.  Those small steps allow a peek into a normal world. And, they may, someday, enable a walk with The Mister. 

My fingers…and toes….are crossed.

Role Models.

I’ve had many through the years.  Surprisingly, and happily, two new ones have just arrived.  And in the space of one week!  How cool is that?

They are Jamie Lee Curtis and Michael Cera.  Why?  Well, read on, please.

Jamie Lee Curtis is no stranger to most of us.  She’s glamorous, a great actress, so very, very  Hollywood.

Clearly, along the way in her career, she had “work” done.  Lots of it.  She felt she had to do it to keep up her sexy looks and get roles.  We recently saw her in an episode of The Bear (on Hulu and highly recommended).  She is now seriously wrinkled and gave a performance like no other.  She decided that all those chemicals were no good for her health and she’s embraced her age and her inner beauty.  She’ll be nominated for an Emmy for the performance.  And, it wouldn’t have been the same without the wrinkles.   You go, girl!  I like the way you think.  And I like the way you look.

Michael Cera is new to me and may be to others, as well. He’s an actor and, by his own definition, may be one of the only Millennials without a smartphone.  He refers to himself as a conscientious phone objector.  He watches his smartphone-using peers and his children, all of whom spend hours on their phones, faces buried in their devices, and fears the world is getting very lonely.  I share his concerns.

Obviously, there are middle grounds in both situations.  However, I like knowing that there are people out there, with strong voices, who give at least a little credence to my random thoughts.

Barbie: The Movie. Take Two.

We did indeed go to the Barbie movie last Sunday. Just as planned. There were only six people in the theater, including us. There wasn’t so much as a whiff of popcorn to upset The Mister’s tummy and the reclining chairs were wonderful.  Nap inducing, I might add.  The temperature was perfect.  We quickly and comfortably settled in. Things were looking good.

 We could hardly wait for the Previews of Coming Attractions.  Perhaps we’d even get a glimpse of Tom Cruise in his new block buster movie.  Instead, we were bombarded by 30 minutes of loud, mind-blowing ads and a lame Bugs Bunny Looney Tunes cartoon. We were neither amused nor entertained.

Finally, it was time for the movie. We were primed, pumped and ready to go.  Before too long, it became clear that neither of us was going to understand the movie or its message.  Is it our age, we wondered?  I never had a Barbie doll so perhaps that was the problem.  Maybe subtitles would help. We struggled to understand and enjoy but kept falling short.  Confusion reigned.

About an hour or so into the movie, The Mister whispered three little words into my ear: “Junior Bacon Cheeseburger.”  “When?” I asked.  “Now,” he said.  And we were gone. Poof!  Just like that.

We’ve talked a lot about the movie since then, read more about it, chatted with those who loved it and heard from others who, like us, left early.   Alas, we remain confused. 

Sometimes that’s just life. Or, to invoke the Looney Tunes people: “That’s All, Folks.”